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Burning crosses and flaming bias

drum slanderMichelle Guthrie, now installed atop the ABC, was widely reported to have been the personal pick and favoured candidate of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Like many things in which our PM's hand is alleged to have been active -- leaking, scheming, white-anting, back-stabbing, stroking Mrs Woolcock and hiring her hubby -- dark motives were denied. Involved or not, as the man who presided over the national broadcaster in his capacity as communications minister and did nothing but indulge its worst inclinations, our latest PM must be tickled even pinker that the new arrival is adhering to the approach of predecessor Mark Scott, who was nowhere near so smart. In one of his first comments, Scott noted that the ABC was a conservative-free zone and stated his intention to change that. He didn't, of course, which gifted Gerard Henderson a recurring theme throughout  Scott's tenure.

Ms Guthrie, it seems, is an order of magnitude sharper, as her first missive to the troops at Ultimo and Southbank eschews the specific in favour of a call to implement a vague and usefully more nebulous "diversity". A conservative host or two might or might not figure in her definition of the word, but who is to know? As Sir Humphrey understood, a savvy bureaucrat can manoeuvre effortlessly and forever in the wide open space of empty words.

"Shaped by my background and work experience, I passionately believe that the ABC should be relevant to all citizens.

"We must extend our reach and our relevance into areas where we are under-represented.

"That means more diversity in both our staff and our content.

"We must collaborate more, with a clear focus on serving the audience, regardless of platform or device."

Whatever Ms Guthrie's intent, her invocation of "diversity" has prompted a Pavlovian reaction on the part of ABC head of radio Michael Mason, who has put to his underlings the four questions reproduced below. Quadrant Online's responses are in italics

    • "Who are the voices we constantly hear on air? Who could we find who might be fresher or could add some different views?"
      We "constantly hear" only those who agree with each other and are universally of green-left persuasion. How about a few conservatives and libertarians to man the microphones? Quadrant has quite the mix of erudite and passionate editors and contributors. Might they not be recruited for that "fresher" gloss? As the editor of Meanjin, our nominal counterpart on the left, is also a Radio National host, this would seem only fair.
    • "Do our experts include a decent balance between men and women? Do they contain a healthy mix of ethnicities and accents? Could we set ourselves a target for finding X number of new voices during this campaign?"
      Surely he means "identify as men or women". Were the ABC actually to include a few conservatives in its programming, the likes of Peter Smith, Merv BendleJim Allan and Steve Kates could be expected to gulp deeply and accept being referred to as Gloria, Doris, even Sweetie Cakes if that concession were to see their views (other than on the gender-neutral use of public lavatories) no longer suppressed.
    • "How do we make sure that we're not basing our scripts and interviews on old ideas and assumptions about the average Aussie?"
      Perhaps by abandoning stereotypes of "average Aussie" who, or so one deduces, is seen as given to blue singlets, meat pies, Holdens and, this being the ABC, bashing wogs and yanking hijabs.
    • "Do we sound like we know that our listeners are people of differing ages, education, affluence, religious beliefs and sexualities? Are people with disabilities being heard?"
      Missing from this list of otherness, as usual, conservatives.

One deficiency Ms Guthrie might wish to address in her quest for diversity is the absence of legal nous and knowledge of libel law among moderators on The Drum's comments threads. Click on the screen grab atop this post to enlarge what was submitted, OK'd and published beneath this recent article addressing the PM's shrinking poll ratings.

Three possible explanations for that comment's appearance suggest themselves:

1/ The ABC has kept things in the family and hired a moderator who is the progeny of parent(s) already employed there. Traditional family values are accorded not much respect at the ABC, unlike family ties. The broadcaster's record in this regard does not suggest maturity and intelligence are key performance indicators.

2/ The ambient attitude at the ABC is so insular, so narrow and so immersed in leftist tropes and stereotypes that the notion of a Quadrant editor being a Klansman with burning crosses on the lawn was regarded by the moderator as entirely unremarkable. Ergo, Quadrant readers are Nazis without a doubt.

3/ Both of the above.

Those who believe they are up to deducing what Ms Guthrie takes to be the meaning of "diversity" can read more via the link below.

-- roger franklin

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Chalk and cheese

racism kidsContrary to what we are so often told, the business of parenthood remains a relatively simple affair: a moment of passion followed nine months later by the bawling realisation that spur-of-the-moment trysts will be problematic from that point on, what with all the decades of distractions and responsibilities that come bundled with baby in his basinet. This tends to be the moment when instinct kicks in with a wallop. Hold the fruit of your loins for the first time and the thought that you will do everything and anything to make the new arrival's life as happy, successful and safe as humanly possible is inevitable if you have the makings of even a halfway decent mum or dad.

Yet according to today's Age, those desires as they pertain to education are nothing less than racism. White parents, we are told, spurn inner-city schools because they don't want their kids sharing classrooms with the children of refugees, other new arrivals, non-English speakers and those subscribing to strange foreign customs.

If you are an Age reporter, what other explanation need there be? Shallow, slanted and pointedly oblivious to other factors that might influence a white parent's choice of school -- or any parent's choice, for that matter -- the report does what The Age these days does best: pushes an ideological agenda to the exclusion of demonstrable motive and fact.

One of the schools afflicted by what The Age terms "white flight" is Mount Alexander College. Why would a parent be reluctant to enroll their child? Abselom Nega explains:

"The white parents don't send their kids to these schools because all they see is black kids," says Mr Nega, who sits on the board of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

That Mr Nega would level such a charge is not surprising, as he seems to see the dark hand of racial bigotry in quite a few places. Then-Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews was a racist for noting the higher incidence of crime and other problems among new arrivals from Africa. Likewise infected with various degrees of intolerance are Victoria Police, high-rise public housing, employers and the education system, which he sees as not doing enough to keep African children at their desks. This last point, as expressed to the ABC, would have been worth mentioning in The Age's report, especially in regard to Mount Alexander College, which is mentioned and where only 39 students undertook VCE exams in 2015.

According to the VCE performance ranking of Victorian schools, Mount Alexander College's performance comes in at #282 out of 528 schools. Only 3.9% of its VCE candidates achieved 40-points or more, with the median score being 26.

This where the parental instinct kicks in, or should. Does a dutiful parent regard exposure to foreign cultures as the cornerstone of academic achievement, or should the desire to give a child every possible opportunity and advantage be the driving force?

According to The Age, wanting the best for kids, up to and including placing them at schools where progress toward VCE success is expected, rather than merely hoped for, is racism pure and simple.

Allowing that the youngsters who now staff Fairfax newsrooms are old enough and sufficiently interested in heterosexual reproduction to have children of their own, it would be interesting to know how many send them knowingly to schools with less-than-average performance.

At the link below, the full VCE ranking of Victoria's secondary schools.

-- roger franklin

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Our PM's incompetent elves

i f stoneThe late American journalist I.F. Stone (above) was an unashamed leftist and, quite likely, an agent of Soviet influence as well, but a source of valuable insight on some matters all the same. Take the way journalism is done, for instance, which he bemoaned as differing little from the relationship between cats and owners. The journalist gets fed a tidbit, a self-serving leak about this topic or that, and purrs with gratitude while going to press with the line his or her sponsor wishes to promote. If you want to get to the truth, Stone advised his bought-and-paid-for colleagues, don't be a supplicant; rather, dig through government documents while keeping a sharp eye for contradictions and inconsistencies. Somewhere in there is the truth, but it will not be found while waiting to be petted and flattered by politicians using the press for their own ends. Stone died in 1989 but events in Canberra and at a Sydney radio station over the past 72 hours suggest his advice to be as relevant on this side of the Pacific today as in the Washington of the Sixties, era of the Pentagon Papers.

Briefly, the Sydney Morning Herald's Jacqueline Maley wrote a column accusing the Prime Minister of "mansplaining", a term currently enjoying immense popularity among cossetted, upper-middle class, arts-degree'd feminists -- the sorts who take gross offence at a man's blue tie but utter not a peep about young girls being brainwashed and bullied into cover-all sacks by the male-enforcers and patriarchal norms of a misogynist creed. This picayune and highly selective outrage amongst the media set is easy to understand. Hailing, say, Julia Gillard's parliamentary rant about Tony Abbott's alleged sexism as a defining moment in the fight for equality gets you in thick and sweet with a source. As that same source is also gung-ho for the alleged glories of multiculturalism and ethnic-bloc votes, best not to mention anything, not ever, about flaws in the doctrine of cultural relativism, as such an indiscretion might ruffle the relationship.  But complaining at length about a man's tone of voice, that's perfectly OK, especially if he is in the wrong party. Mansplaining happens, if you don't know, when an XYer is subjectively perceived to be addressing his XX interlocutor as if she is a simpleton. Given that Maley is a representative specimen of the newsroom sisterhood, the real wonder is that we don't see and hear a lot more mansplaining.

After the column appeared, 2GB's Ben Fordham received a call from Malcolm Turnbull's office urging him, by the radio host's account, to drop a bucket on Maley for her "sexism". Here it is difficult not to laugh out loud. Turnbull's topic was negative gearing, but it was not the pros and cons of allowing property owners to write off losses on their investments -- a right accruing to every other area of investment, just by the way -- that sparked the synaptic connections between Maley's brain and pen. There is an election coming, so tagging the Prime Minister with the same misogynist label that worked so well, spawned such a useful and pervasive meme against Abbott, is a no-risk  idea for any lazy essayist. No need to investigate the merit or otherwise of negative gearing. No need to sift fact from fancy. No need to do any legwork. Just settle at the keyboard for an hour or so, muster the right buzzwords, dress subjective appraisal as universal truth and -- presto! -- another picture byline, another few inches of column space filled. It's great work if you can get it, work done and dusted until the next column requires its latest quota of patron-approved cliches to be wrangled into order and sequence.

This is part of the reason why it is worth following the link at the foot of this post, where you will find the audio of Fordham's reaction.

He notes, for starters, that Turnbull has consistently refused invitations to appear on 2GB, quite likely because its listenership is not of the PM's trendy stripe and he might well be informed by callers that he is not much liked by many in his party's conservative base. This is the same base which Liberal pollster Mark Textor dismissed upon the Turnbull ascension as being of no consequence. The latest polls suggest he was mistaken -- a thought that must by now also have occurred to the Fickle Fifty-Three who decided that, whatever few principles Turnbull believes in, they could believe in them as well if such a conversion might save their electoral necks.

Fordham's second and greater point is that seeking a proxy with a microphone and 800-watt transmitter to whine about Maley's "sexism" is itself a more potent indictment of the Turnbull style than any dubious, by-the-numbers complaint about the tone and emphasis of prime-ministerial diction. Not only does it accept as its premise that mansplaining is a valid criticism -- though not of the PM, according to his whispering office elves -- it also cedes the choice of battlefield and weapons to his opponent.

Follow the link below for the Fordham monologue. His criticisms of the Turnbullian operatives' ineptitude becomes more pointed, and much harder to refute, as the rant proceeds. What Izzy Stone might have made of Jacqueline Maley-style journalism is anyone's guess. What he would have said in praise of Fordham's acumen and independence of thought is much easier to imagine.

-- roger franklin

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