Thursday, April 7, 2011

Narrative fun and games.

Once again we got more proof – as if we needed any – that the current Labor Government is completely running the economy into the ground. Coming off the back of the Reserve Bank yesterday keeping interest rates at 5 per cent, the unemployment figures came out today showing unemployment has gone down to 4.9 per cent.

imageErr. Whoops.image

Yep don’t you just hate it when things go according to plan? How can the LNP talk up the ALP’s gross mismanagement if things like unemployment conspire against them?

Bloody data – always is biased to the left…

But seriously, best of all, unlike some of the unemployment results in the past month, this one didn’t come off the back of a decline in participation, or through a swap from full-time to part-time work:

“Employment increased 37,800 (0.3%) to 11,457,100. Full-time employment increased 32,100 to 8,105,600 and part-time employment increased 5,700 to 3,351,500.”

That’s pretty solid – especially when accompanied with the increase of 0.1 pts to 65.8% in the participation rate.

And the final part of the good news was that “aggregate monthly hours worked increased 13.1 million hours to 1,618.3 million hours”.


So the things you want up are up, the overall number that you want down is down, and interest rates are stable – which is actually a good thing because it basically means the RBA think the economy is going along nicely.

The unemployment rate has now been pretty stable, with slight improvement, for the last few months, and we’re still looking pretty good compared to America.


On everyone’s favourite economic meaningless measure – that mixture of the unemployment rate and the cash rate – Grog’s Misery is also looking good – it’s still below 10 which means… err well it means things are going along pretty nicely. Which is kind of a nice narrative for Labor – surely even Swan can tell it?



A couple days ago on Twitter The Oz’s Matthew Franklin had a pretty interesting discussion with a few people over The Oz’s coverage of the Greens. It involved him suggesting the editorial that called for the destruction of the Greens had nothing to do with the way he reported on the Greens.

Now I admit the lines can get blurred between reporting an opinion. And I also admit it can be tricky to know just when you are reading a beat up piece of nothing that is manufactured to look like “news”. So for those who read the Oz – and perhaps those who write for it – I’m here to give you a bit of a guide. Luckily we have a piece from the front page of The Oz to help us sort out the good from the bad.

First let’s look at the headline:

Greens senators caught out over Israel

Now I know journalists don’t write the headlines for their stories, but you know what? Stiff. “Caught out” implies The Oz has discovered them doing something that no one knew about (and the opening paragraph suggests this as well). It must be something good to warrant front page treatment – you know minutes of a secret meeting, a speech given behind closed doors on the hush hush. It think we know what “caught out” means – so this should be pretty damn juicy – and also new (because that is a key part of “news”). Ok let’s get to it.image

TWO Greens senators have publicly supported calls for Australian sanctions against Israel over the Middle East conflict, putting them at odds with party policy and their leader Bob Brown.

OK, now the key thing you have to look for here the 5 ws of journalism – the who, what, when, where and why. The big one missing here is the when. “Have publically supported” suggests present tense. So let’s find out – must have been yesterday or the day before you’d think:

West Australian senator Scott Ludlam last year demanded an arms embargo on Israel, which he described as "a rogue state", while South Australian colleague Sarah Hanson-Young addressed a rally where protesters called on Australia to sever ties with the Jewish state.

Uhuh. So last year Scott Ludlum said this. OK. kind of loses a bit of impact there, I’ve got to say. We still don’t know when Sarah Hanson-Young said her bit, we still don’t know where either of them said it, and certainly no idea of why. So thus far we have “who” and “what”. Let;s keep going:

The stance by the two senators conflicts with Senator Brown's assurance last week that his federal party was not anti-Israel and did not support the NSW branch of the party advocating sanctions against Israel.

OK, so now we know why The Oz is running this story, but we haven’t actually got any news yet – and we sure as hell haven’t got any “caught out” yet.

The follow up is a quote from the coalition and a pro-Israeli body:

The Coalition last night labelled the Greens "reds", while the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council called on Senator Hanson-Young to visit Israel before jumping to conclusions.

Ok, wonderful. They say exactly what we expect them to say, but we still have no idea when exactly and where exactly and why exactly were Ludlam and Hanson-Young saying these things. All I know is it must have been bloody secret because they have been “caught out”. And also, because I have no idea otherwise, I assume they were both at the same place – because if they weren’t I’d assume the journalists would have wanted to make that clear by now.

But look bugger those “facts”, what we really want to know is the whole story behind the story. Just how did The Oz catch out Ludlam and Hanson-Young (boy they must be so embarrassed thinking that no one would find out what they said). Hit us with it:

Nationals senator Ron Boswell yesterday produced photographs of Senator Hanson-Young and Senator Ludlam addressing rallies organised by the Friends of Palestine organisation.

Hang on. Ron Boswell gave you the photos? And you put them on your front page? Did you ever think that maybe Boswell is not a disinterested party in this story and that by running with the photos in the front page you are basically being his little sock puppet?

Ron Boswell gave you the photographs? Seriously? Wow. NIce detective work by the Senator to get his way into this oh so secret rally.

But here’s the thing. The rallies were not secret at all. But obviously they were not known to Matt Franklin and Lanai Vasek because they don’t anywhere describe the reason for the rally that Scott Ludlam attended. So let me help them (and the readers) out by linking to a story on the Perth Now website (it’s a one, so you know you can trust it – but if you want, you can also try the ninemsm story on it):

WA rally blasts Israel over aid ship deaths

  • From: AAP
  • June 06, 2010 4:09PM

MORE than 300 protesters gathered outside the US Consulate in Perth today to denounce Israel's killing of nine people aboard Turkish aid ships bound for Gaza this week.

Shouting anti-Israeli slogans and waving Turkish and Palestinian flags, the demonstrators marched through the city before stopping outside the US consulate, which they claimed was a de facto Israeli mission.

The march was organised by the Friends of Palestine WA movement in support of similar protests around the world this week.

I guess Scott Ludlam wore a disguise… oh wait:

Mr Whisson said the killings were not just a ``Muslim or Arab issue ... but a human rights issue''.
He said the marchers had been joined by WA Labor Senator Louise Pratt and WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, and called on the Australian government to impose sanctions on Israel.

So yep. The reason Senator Ludlam was at the rally (in June last year) was to protest the killing of nine people on Turkish Aid ships during the blockade by Israel. You know who else was against the killings? Oh the UN, the EU, Britain. Try this:

Israel was called on to explain its use of “disproportionate force” against the humanitarian workers and Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, said that he was shocked by the killings and demanded answers urgently.

The European Union unanimously condemned the violence and demanded an impartial inquiry. European Governments summoned Israeli Ambassadors while protesters flocked to Israeli and US embassies to vent their fury.

Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s Ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council: “These events are clearly very serious, but we cannot view them in isolation . . . Israel’s restrictions on access to Gaza must be lifted. The current closure is unacceptable and counter-productive.”

So sure Ludlam was there, and so too was it organised by the Friends of Palestine , but wouldn’t it have been nice if the journalists today in The Oz had provided us poor saps reading their paper with some actual context – you know so that we might gain greater understanding (I used to think that was the role of the media).

And as for “caught out” – well only if you discount the fact that the rally was public and attended by the media. But yeah, other than that it was all secret. I have no idea how The Oz found out (oh yeah, whoops – sorry it was Ron Boswell).

For the record Ninemsn using the same AAP report covered it with this headline:

Australians blast Israel over aid deaths

Yes, how disgusting that Ludlam was there with Australians…

Now what about Hanson-Young? What secret meeting was she “caught out” doing? Well in the twelfth paragraph we find out it was in 2009 (though not the month – let me tell you that  - it was January – but hey that’s just facts…). And it is not until the third last paragraph do we actually find out what the rally was protesting:

An organiser of the rally attended by Senator Hanson-Young, Jeanie Lucas, of the Australian Friends of Palestine group, said the Greens senator had been invited to attend.

She said a number of people had spoken at the rally, which was a protest against the Israeli bombing of the Gaza strip at the time.

Ahh. So she was there protesting against the bombing of Palestine by Israel – an attack which at the time involved widespread reporting that a school had been bombed (in pretty reputable outlets such as Time Magazine). A couple months later it was revealed that the deaths had actually occurred  outside the school grounds – but the deaths were not disputed. There was also vision at the time on British TV:

Now as with every war, truth is the first casualty and as Time Magazine writes in its retraction:

The original version of this story said the the United Nations Relief and Works Agency school in Jabalya was hit by Israeli bombs. That was based on a preliminary UN report on the Jan. 6 incident that referred to "the shelling of the UNRWA school." That report was later clarified to indicate that the shelling and the fatalities took place outside the school.

But that is the context of the rally. And as for the rally, was this some little secretive thing? Why no:

Thousands march in Melbourne against Gaza war

Andra Jackson

January 19, 2009

THOUSANDS of demonstrators marched through the city yesterday, declaring the unilateral ceasefire Israel called in Gaza hours earlier did not go far enough.

Speaking below the steps of State Parliament with a sea of protesters around her, former Democrats leader Lyn Allison said: "I cannot get excited about the ceasefire because, like you, I know it doesn't involve the people of Palestine. Gaza will remain occupied."

The rally was organised by Australians for Palestine. Its public advocate, Michael Shaik, estimated the crowd at up to 12,000, while the police put it at about 3000.

Earlier, outside the State Library, federal Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said: "We've heard there is a ceasefire but Israeli military have not retreated from Gaza."

That was in The Age. You would think The Oz didn’t need Ron Boswell to get them some photos. But you know, the story feels less old, I’m sure I have read it somewhere else. Oh wait it was in The Drum last week. Glenn Milne (he used to write for The Oz, so you’d think they’d have done him the courtesy of reading his piece) wrote:

On January 18, 2009 3,000 demonstrators marched in Melbourne to condemn the unilateral ceasefire announced by Israel in the Gaza strip. Their complaint was it did not go far enough.

The rally was organised by Australians for Palestine. According to a report in The Age newspaper at the time Sarah Hanson-Young addressed the protestors outside the State Library.

But guess who else crops up?

In terms of the racist charge against Abbott, veteran National Party Senator Ron Boswell has offered up some pertinent observations.

Ah good old Senator Boswell – he’s like the Deidre Chambers of anti-Greens article – he’s always sure to pop up – “Ron Boswell, what a coincidence”.

So the upshot of the story?

Well Ludlam and Hanson-Young attended two rallies. Both were seen at them by the media, both events were reported on at the time, and both did not hide their attendance.

Caught out? Err not quite.

A news story? Not even close – it was old, previously reported on and not in dispute. If that is front page stuff, the The Oz is really going to struggle when the paywall finally makes an appearance.

A beat up? You betcha.

It was even more so when you see that today Bob Brown at a press conference supported their attendance at the rallies, and agreed with Ludlam’s call for an end to arms trade – especially with regards to America’s trade in small arms. 

Now Franklin is ever at pains to say he is “just a journalist” and that he is not influenced by the editorial policy of The Oz (or that there even is one). But if this is the best he can do then sorry, but it seems that he knows The Oz’s line on the Greens and he knows how to toe it.

He tells me on Twitter that tomorrow he is doing stories on “Bob Brown's call for a wind back of Fringe Benefit Tax on company cars and his call for Australia to stop its defence exports”. No doubt he’ll keep to the facts, and not leave anything important till the third last paragraph, and I am sure he won’t want be pushing any editorial narrative…


Anonymous said...

Pure pwnage. Where do you get the time to do all of this?

Anonymous said...

Hmm, a real gotcha on the master gotcha artist. Well done.

Rhiannon Saxon said...

Also well done on more Aus movie references.

L said...

Impressive how they come out looking not just nasty and dishonest, but completely incompetent in their nasty dishonesty.

Also I'm pretty sure "a wind back of fbt on company cars" is not really on Bob Brown's want list. I know Twitter is a short, punchy medium but the word "exemption" belongs in there somewhere after "fbt".

Doug said...

As the King said to the Wizard of Id: Remember the Golden Rule - whoever has the gold makes the rules.
As Lord Acton said: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
As Paul Keating said: Always back self-interest - it's the only horse with an honest jockey.
As Porky Pig said: That's all, folks.

Anonymous said...

Thing is, Grog, "Unemployment at a two-year low" is part of the GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS and you just don't know it.

According to their ABC.

Anonymous said...

You won't be reading about this in the Murdoch (or Rinehart) media:

big cuz said...

almost as impressive as the news that Augusta National has been added to Tiger Woods 12

Anonymous said...

Now we patiently wait for someone employed by The Oz to write something up attacking you.

Anonymous said...

Now the Oz is linking Norm Sanders as a founder of the Green movement and the Greens.

Norm worked for the Democrats for his entire political career, I know because I did too.

And the latest crazy kids to join the BDS are the British Society of Quakers.

Go figure. I do believe the Bishops conference supports it too along with most unions in the world.

Mendes and a couple of other mendacious cowards are saying the BDS hurts the "arabs" too, but it wsa the "arabs" who asked for it.

The problem with the Murdoch media is that they don't think any of us are capable of reading.

Lloyd said...

Isn't Matthew Franklin just a shill for the coal industry? From memory that was his previous job and then the Oz employed him as their 'environment' reporter.

He's a joke as a journalist. I don't believe anything he writes, he ALWAYS has an agenda.

Everything he writes is bidding for the master.

Bushfire Bill said...

The interesting thing about Franklin is that he calls his critics "hate mongers", "lunatics" and "ill-mannered". They run squealing to their mothers when it all gets too hard for them: "That nasty person said I wasn't a proper journalist, Mummy."

I heard him on 2GB yesterday giving the Greens a BIG serve. I assume he fells more relaxed on shock-jock radio. His basic argument is that the Greens are now a serious party and they should be able to "take it".

Presumably "take it" means be prepared to have their words twisted, to have bullshit stories written about them, ansd fabrications run all as part of an OZ agenda that doesn't exist.

I got the impression from the Twitter thing the other day that Matt thought his paper could declare their enmity for the Greens, indeed their quest to destroy the Greens, but that he was able to put that to one side and just write the facts m'am.

Amazing stuff.

Notus said...

Todays Australian headline "Mining Hides Flatlining Economy".
Grog, it seems you know them too well.

Greg Jericho said...

No Lloyd - Franklin has never worked for the coal industry. Am not sure who you're thinking of, but Franklin is and has always been a journo.

Link said...

Take employment stats with a grain of salt.

It's very hard to find a job these days (outside the APS) that will actually give you enough hours to support yourself. But hey, yay, this month, we've got stacks more people, in work if living well below the poverty line.

Anonymous said...

If you are interested in a GetUp campaign to have the ABC return to its Charter, then please vote and comment at here:

Lloyd said...

I was thinking of Matthew Warren who moved from NJSW Minerals Council to environment reporter with the OZ.

Apologies to Matthew, though I stand by everything I said about the quality of his 'journalism'.

@AndySHastings said...

Link said... "Take employment stats with a grain of salt."

Labour undertilisation would be a better number. That was 11.9% in Feb. (unemployment + underemployment).

Anonymous said...

Typical of those supposed "journalists" at The Australian, to leave out critically important facts, in order to completely twist a story.

All I can say is... nasty little hobbits'

Anonymous said...

Strangely, Lloyd, Matthew Warren is now working as head of the Clean Energy Council.

Matthew Franklin said...

Why would The Austtralian want want to attack Jericho? I've got no problem with him expressing a view. I don't agree with this post. I don't think it is balanced. I think he is doing the same thing he is accusing me of _ ignoring the political context, in this case the NSW elections and the Greens' support in that state for an Israel boycott. I'd have been just as quick to write a story if I had a picture of a Liberal or Labor politician involved in a protest for a cause they later said they did not embrace. Say I had a picture of Julia Gillard protesting in favour of same-sex weddings for example. This is just a straight issue of the media asking politicians to reconcile their words with their actions. And as to the argument that you can go to a protest without agreeing with the sentiments of every other person in attendance, the Greens appeared to argue the opposite when they attacked Tony Abbott for his attendance at a carbon rally where he was photographed in front of a sign describing Julia Gillard as "Browns bitch''. You can't have it both ways. I think it's fair for the media to call politiicans on hypocrisy, or at least ask them to account for it. I know many of Grog's followers disagree. But can we keep it respectful? I've never worked for the coal industry. I am not a monster. I like to read Jericho because even when he is slamming me, he doesn't get personal. Sometimes, as in this case, I would accuse him of selective use of facts, but that's fine. Those of you who enjoy his writing, as I do, would be well advised to follow his rules of engagement and drop the bile. I like debating my harshest critics. But geez, you make it hard sometimes.