Tag Archives: Media

News That’s Fit To Punt – 08/Feb/2014

Burning Hands, Burning Pants

It’s been a truly crappy few weeks in politics. First there was reportage by the ABC that Royal Australian Navy personnel had burnt the hands of asylum seekers in their recent turn-back-the-boats escapade. I won’t go into how fraught and awful this exercise is in of itself, because we know the politics around it are as barren as the minds that conceived it. What I do want to recount is the extraordinary sequence of events which followed.

First there was the Prime Minister slamming the ABC and accusing them of gross inaccuracy in their reporting, and that somehow the national carrier is institutionally incapable of speaking on behalf of Australia’s interests. Now, this was kind of weird because Australia’s interests in this instance seemed suspiciously to be interchangeable with Tony Abbott’s interests as a politician. If the stretchmarks were showing, it got ugly when there was an announcement made that there would be an efficiency review of the ABC.

The Navy and the Australian government denied the allegations and have continued to deny them since they were first aired.  It has looked like for all money that the ABC journalists on the ground were too keen to couch this as a problem for the Abbott government. In essence, they’re saying the ABC journos involved are liars.

Of course, taken aback by the ferocity of the criticism, the ABC made noises about being more true to the stories they are reporting, but independent of the furor, Fairfax sent a journalist to find these people who allegedly had their hands burnt. It turns out that the ABC didn’t just make this stuff up, it wasn’t an exaggeration of an idle claim.

This week, in the Tanjung Pinang immigration detention centre on a little island off the coast of Sumatra, that changed. Fairfax Media conducted the first extended face-to-face interview with Fasher, who says he was an eyewitness to the incident, and he told his story in unprecedented detail.

His account has been consistent from the first. He says he has no doubt that what he saw at close quarters on about January 3 was three people’s hands being deliberately held to a hot exhaust pipe by Australian naval personnel to punish them for protesting, and to deter others from doing one simple thing: going to the toilet too often.

And here’s the pic.

Burnt Hand of Sudanese man

Late yesterday, the breaking news was that Defence Minister David Johnston called for an inquiry in to the ABC just about at the same time Fairfax was breaking the news corroborating the ABC’s original story. This is pretty stupid stuff so I am compelled to quote here:

”I don’t want to do anything that might complicate that task of stopping the boats and frankly I don’t want to do anything that would cast aspersions on the professionalism of our naval and customs personnel. I have nothing but respect for them … and I have seen nothing that credibly casts any doubts on that professionalism.”

Senator Johnston also said he was happy with assurances given to him by Defence brass.

”I have discussed this matter with senior command,” he said. ”They have assured me that there is no substance to these allegations.”

But he refused to detail measures taken to investigate the claims, instead calling for scrutiny of the ABC.

”If ever there was an event that justified a detailed inquiry, some reform and investigation of the ABC, this is it,” he said.

He said the navy had been “maliciously maligned” by the ABC’s coverage of the matter, dismissing the public broadcaster’s apology as “weasel words” by its senior management.

”I have not said much because, I have to confess, I was extremely angry. I required some time to cool off,” he said.

When asked why his department had not answered a detailed list of questions by Fairfax Media based on a detailed eyewitness account, Senator Johnston said it was a matter for Mr Morrison because it was a ”civil public policy issue”.

”When you give me something to act upon that is more than just hearsay, innuendo and rumour, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.

How stupid is that? No, really, how deeply idiotic is that?

Talk about shooting the messenger. What can we glean from this? It seems David Johnston does not read the news. If he did, he would have to admit that there is much more than “hearsay, innuendo, and rumour”. There’s the photo above for a start. Given that there is the photo now in public with the corroborating report, I don’t see how David Johnston can maintain that he is happy with the assurance given to him by the Defence brass. If he is happy, it can only because he’s one of those docile morons that happily live with the cognitive dissonance of having wildly conflicting information in his head without the need to resolve them.

Be that is it may, he says he’s really angry at the ABC. He still thinks – in spite of the countervailing evidence – the initial report deserves an inquiry into the ABC and not the Defence department. When asked about the blatant conflict of information going, his explanation for it was that it’s a “civil public policy matter”- but he’s angry with the ABC about their “weasel words”.

Sorry Senator Johnson, the only person practising weasel words in this exchange is your awful, awful, awful, stupid self.

And this brings me to the usual gripe. Who puts idiots like these in charge of the Defence department? That would be the same idiots who put Tony Abbott into the lodge: that would be us, the electorate. The government has been in for only 5 months and it seems to go from one policy disaster to the next, and when they get pulled up for it by the press, they scream bias in coverage. This is so pathetic but worse still is the way it reflects on us all. Who could have thought that democracy could yield such ghastly results? The next time I meet a swinging voter who voted for this Coalition, I think I will blame them for all of this.

But Wait There’s More!

I forgot to mention the bit where Fairfax asked 21 pertinent questions to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. This bit is good too.

Here’s the full text:

Scott Morrison’s response
‘‘The government does not give credibility to malicious and unfounded slurs being made against our navy personnel and rejects outright any allegations of unprofessional conduct by our people serving in Operation Sovereign Borders. If media outlets wish to give credibility by publishing such unsubstantiated claims, that is a matter for them.

I know and trust that our navy and Customs and Border Protection Service act in accordance with their training and lawful orders and would only use force where necessary and appropriate to deal with threatening and non-compliant behaviour, as appropriate.

There are clear rules and guidelines to govern their behaviour and use of force and they are well trained  to act in accordance with these rules.  I’ll back their professionalism and integrity every day over the self-serving claims of those unhappy that they were denied what the people smugglers promised them.’’

It is also not the government’s policy to give people smugglers a ‘how to guide’ on our operations by providing responses on the issues raised. To do so would put both the people who protect our borders and the operations that are successfully stopping the boats at risk.

The government is aware of reports on Tuesday, 7 January, 2014, of claims that four people may have fallen overboard from a suspected illegal entry vessel inside Australian waters.

These claims were rigorously assessed and acted on at the time they were made, and I am confident that they were not true.

It is important to note that the claimed incident occurred well before the suspected illegal entry vessel had been intercepted by Australian authorities.
For operational security reasons, the government will not go into further detail on this matter.’’

If you believe that you’ll believe anything this bunch says. What’s more worrying – apart from the tone of the reply as well as the brazen disregard for developing any kind of discourse on the subject let alone addressing fairly specific questions, is this notion that what the government does is legitimately covered in some secrecy and therefore above and beyond the citizenry and its desire to be informed. No matter how you look at it, it’s a cynical attempt to dress up something that is shonky as good and pathetic as profound. Again, we must ask ourselves how did we get here? … and we can only blame ourselves once again.

All the same, you do wonder about the education of these mendacious semantic lightweights posing as statesmen of our commonwealth. They’re shills for special interests.

They Want You To Lose Your Shirts

If you want even more evidence that they are just shills for special interests, try this one about the changes they want to make for financial planning. Pleiades sent in this one of Bernard Keane on Crikey observed behind the paywall:

First, there was the reversal of Labor’s decision to require better record-keeping and reporting for fringe benefits tax on novated leases. Note that this wasn’t a tax rise, as widely portrayed, but merely a requirement that people currently avoiding, or possibly in some circumstances evading, tax demonstrate they are doing so for the legitimate reasons they claimed. It was designed to end a straight-out tax rort perpetrated by the parasitic salary packaging industry, at the expense of every taxpayer without a novated lease. Hockey has reinstated the rort, at a cost to the rest of us of $1.4 billion over four years.

However, that’s as nothing compared to the government’s plans to reverse Labor’s Future of Financial Advice reforms, quietly revealed right before Christmas by Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos. Sinodinos proposes to dump the “opt-in” clause for financial advice fees that requires financial planners to actually get their clients’ permission to automatically skim off fees every year for advice clients have never sought and don’t want. Sinodinos also wants to get rid of requirements for advisers to reveal fees to existing clients and dramatically water down requirements designed to end the conflict of interest in which financial planners push clients into products planners stand to benefit from.

While much of the financial planning industry, large and small, is eager to move to a professional model for the financial advice that would turn away from the decades of self-interest and fee-gouging of clients, a rump of planners with close ties to the Liberals want to retain their ability to exploit the disengagement of most Australians about their superannuation in order to skim off a never-ending line of fees. The Liberals, in any event, strongly support the retail super sector of the industry, run by the big banks and AMP, which routinely underperforms the industry funds despised by the Liberals for trade union involvement.

Sinodinos’ changes may cost financial planning clients, i.e. ordinary consumers, $130 billion in lost retirement savings, which the age pension system of the future will have to help make up. It puts all other handouts by government in the shade.

At the same time, the government has also scrapped Labor’s plan to tax superannuation earnings over $100,000 a year for high-income retirees (i.e. Liberal voters) at 15% — while dumping assistance for low-income earners to increase their super contributions (i.e. Labor voters).

This government’s pretty cynical about who it helps and who it condemns. The whole process whereby they let GM close Holden’s factories in Australia and let Qantas dangle in the wind tell us that they are very much interested in smashing unions by making union employees in particular, unemployed. It sure would be one way to smash the unions if you could destroy the jobs that give them strength. So even without resorting to Work Choices which was front end bludgeon against the unions, Tony Abbott and his scabbie crew can wreak havoc on the union movement through simply letting their jobs fade.

This is some radial Thatcherite shit. No doubt there’s Rupert Murdoch cheering on this kind of thing although you wonder if all this ideological manoeuvering would be so aggressive if Murdoch wasn’t distorting the Liberals and their base into some kind of Tea Party clone.

It’s amazing that this current incarnation of the Coalition don’t want to govern for all Australians, but to remake the landscape so that they only have to govern for sectional interests. Case in point is this business of giving money to Cadbury while denying a similar amount of money to SPC Ardmona. Eric Abetz – Grand nephew of NAZI Otto Abetz – was on Insiders last week (another dismal mendacious self-congratulatory and nasty-minded effort) claiming there was a world of difference between the Cadbury and SPC situation and even threw in the Carbon Pricing as a reason these companies were  struggling (*UGH*). It might just be that Australians are lot more sadomasochistic than previously imagined and this is some grand BDSM Theatre of the absurd dressed up as politics.

Well, I for one wouldn’t mind whipping the dying snot out of this sorry lot.

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Secrecy Makes Us Stupid

‘Need To Know’ Basis Is ‘Need To Be Dumb’

The big sensational news in the last couple of days has been Wikileaks’ big leak of US military files which has put a detailed picture of how the war is being fought in Afghanistan, as well as placed Mr. Julian Assange front and centre in some people’s scopes.

Today’s response was this idiotic claim in this article here.

ADA executive director Neil James said much of the 92,201 assorted US military, intelligence and diplomatic documents leaked by Wikileaks would not be new to anyone familiar with the Afghanistan war or wars in general.

But this latest material went well beyond justifiable whistleblowing, he said.

“Put bluntly, Wikileaks is not authorised in international or Australian law, nor equipped morally or operationally, to judge whether open publication of such material risks the safety, security, morale and legitimate objectives of Australian and allied troops fighting in a UN-endorsed military operation,” he said in a statement.

Mr James said there were many alternative avenues available for legitimate dissent which did not endanger our troops.

“Moreover, as an Australian citizen, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange may also be guilty of a serious criminal offence by assisting an enemy the ADF is fighting on behalf of all Australians, especially if the assistance was intentional,” he said.

You can almost feel the mouth-breathing reactionary blow-hard breath of the man through the monitor. 🙂

First of all, the kind of security reasons for secrecy people are ascribing these documents is frankly, overblown.The other point to be made is that Mr. Assange’s position is not of dissent as Mr. James understands it, but of disclosure.

We as a democratic nation are deprived of these documents that describe just how this war is being fought on our behalf. As most of it is covered under a blanket of ‘security’, and military secrecy, we are forced to bracket all notions of our conduct of war as we consider our options in Afghanistan. In that light, it’s hard to argue the risk put on our troops is so much larger than the risk the secrecy puts upon our democracy.

And this is the wider problem we already have with our democracy. The politicians of our day are necessarily dumbing down the discourse to the point that they become simple soundbites for the 6 o’clock news. We have entered an age of endless superficialities and an abhorrence of detailed analysis by the media. This has left the public largely wonder why there is such a gap between the high-minded rhetoric and the actual reality of how policies are carried out.  The truth – and somebody did say it was the first casualty in a war – is that when we as a society enter into agreeing with the power that there ought to be secrets that we as a citizenry are not privy to, we are essentially saying we aren’t good enough to know. And this deliberate state of ignorance makes us easier to control for the state but also absolves us of the hard task of considering the problem at hand.

Mr. Assange himself has let blast at the blogosphere. He says that most bloggers do not run with the provided information.

It’s all bullshit. It’s all bullshit. In fact people write about things in general if it’s not part of their career because they want to display their values, to their peers who are already in the same group. Actually they don’t give a fuck about the material. That’s the reality. So very early on we understand from experiences like this that we would have to at least give summaries of the materials we were giving. … and if we didn’t put it into a summary and into a context, it would just fall into a gutter, never to be seen again.

I am chastised, Mr Assange. It is true, my stupid little blog is so inadequate, I write about such inconsequential things; it is written for my friends who are in most part, not even amused – for they barely share my values anyway – and yes, I am part of the exact bullshit of indifference you so despise, but I am in support of your position. Please continue.

As for Mr. James at the ADA, he’s barking up the wrong tree.

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Cricket Stuff – 10/01/10

C’arn Mr Roebuck!

I was at a barbecue gathering last night with some folks at Puncher And Wattman and the subject inevitably turned to cricket. It prompted a quick discussion on what people thought of this column by Peter Roebuck.

On the form shown at the SCG against Pakistan, Ricky Ponting and his team will be hard-pressed to recapture the Ashes. At present, they ought to be cast as outsiders. England have a long batting list and are managing to retain a narrow lead over a reviving South African outfit.

Admittedly, the Poms have frailties of their own: they lack a fast bowler, and need Kevin Pietersen to recapture his former powers, but they will not wilt in the heat or be cowed by Australia’s victories this season.

On paper, it looks good: four wins in five attempts and every reason to expect a clean sweep against shattered opponents in Hobart. But the tally is misleading. Australia ought not to read too much into their dramatic triumph at the SCG.

For most of the contest, Ricky Ponting and company were outplayed by the world’s sixth-ranked side. Certainly it was an extraordinary victory, but sober reflection removes it from the list of great wins likely to remain in the memory. Australia’s performance was too flawed to carry the weight assigned to it.

We just couldn’t agree with Mr. Roebuck’s position on the lesson to be drawn form the test. The way I saw it was that the pitch was diabolical, but Australia can still bat down to the tail. The Pakistanis were tentative and inexperienced and susceptible to the inevitable pressure. Ricky Ponting himself assessed that given how difficult the pitch was, he thought what the Australians were likely to do on the first day with the bat was going to be better than what the Pakistanis were likely to do on the last day.  As events panned out, Ricky Ponting was right.

You’d be hard pushed to argue the toss with a result that worked out just as planned, even if the process looked ugly. Given that part of the thinking was that the process would be ugly, it’s a bit much to argue that the ugliness of the process proves the side is deeply flawed.

But then Mr. Roebuck goes on to argue this point:

Certainly, Australia recovered from a much weaker position but even that tells a tale. Historically, turnarounds on that scale can only be achieved by incredible partnerships (Dravid and Laxman in Kolkata, Steyn and Duminy at the MCG) or momentous innings (Lara in the West Indies, Botham at Leeds) or stunning interventions with the ball. No such inspiring efforts were produced at the SCG.

None of the bowlers surpassed themselves, and Peter Siddle was downright ordinary. Nathan Hauritz invited batsmen to plunge into folly, and they obliged. The pitch did not break up, Pakistan did. Australia did take two commendable catches. Had Kamran Akmal had even a moderate match, though, the hosts would have been crushed. It was that close to calamity. Pakistan were the better side but did not believe it.

We just couldn’t come at how this was even a point. The way I see it, it’s a very well balanced side that can churn out runs with an even spread. They don’t come along very often. Ditto with the bowling. At most, it says the Australian team is not built on the ‘Stars & Scrubs’ model.

I remember those sides in the mid to late 1980s, back when the batting was Allan Border, David Boon and waiting on the potential of the Waugh twins to blossom, plus some serious scrubs. Even with Border mounting many a rescue, those sides lost a lot until the side got more balanced with the addition of the likes of Healy and Tubby Taylor, and then the Waugh twins finally did blossom.

Conversely, I wouldn’t want to count on single big partnerships and momentous innings all the time for a come back. If anything, the way the Australians did it shows the side is quite good and without an obvious weak link. But Mr. Roebuck argues this:

Nathan Hauritz’s contribution was almost as hard to pin down as Hussey’s. Clearly he has improved but he’s not suddenly Jim Laker reincarnate. Rather he is a fine cricketer and a game bowler. But batsmen won’t keep slogging catches to deep fieldsmen. All told, Pakistan lost eight wickets to skied hits.

Suddenly, Hauritz has taken five wickets in consecutive Test matches, results indicating the welcome and unexpected restoration of finger spin and flight. Yet he is no demon. He was never as bad as he seemed, and is not now as good as recent returns indicate.

The same applies to Australia. Alongside the misfiring Marcus North, the top performers seen at the SCG had been regarded as the team’s weakest links. Apart from Brad Haddin’s catch, the highlight of the match was Ponting’s decision to persist with Hauritz after lunch despite his previous over costing 12 runs. Otherwise it was a mixed bag. Did everything change? Or nothing?

Wouldn’t this suggest that the degrees to which the weakest links are considered weak, are a little over-stated? That, maybe the people they’ve selected are good at some aspects of the game enough to warrant their selection? The joke this summer has been that Hauritz has been the replacement level player, and anybody can get a 5 wicket haul once in a while, but the guy’s done it several times in quick succession lately, I think it’s possible he’s getting the hang of playing at the Test level.

Anyway, we all agreed the column was a real headscratcher from a writer we all respected, and wondered if he’s welcome in the Aussie clubhouse at all.

And One More Thing

Here’s another Roebuck column where he suggests Ponting is in decline. Judging from his age, it’s not surprising if he was, but then Allan Border and Steve Waugh played well, well into their late 30s, so I wouldn’t dismiss Ponting just yet.

Anyway, the thing I’ve noticed is the media vitriol against Ponting has been more snarky than when Kim Hughes was Captain and his side kept losing. A lot of it is criticism about his personal style, which I can live with because I don’t care if he’s a bit dismissive to journalists as long as he can play. But this business has been going on some time now and the guys at Puncher And Wattman thought it was because Ponting lost the Ashes in England twice.

It’s kind of weird to be singling out the winningest Test Captain on record and slamming him for the loss ledger. It’s like the practice of American sports journalists where they single out the best player of a team and blame them for a losing season, as if to say they should have been a super-duper star to bail out a bad team from itself all the time – which is the similar kind of analysis to Mr. Roebuck’s above. It’s just absurd.

The proper understanding should be that the Australian side is in a rebuild and it’s going to take some time to shake out the guys who are going to be there for the long haul. The task is harder all the more because Hayden, Langer and Martyn over-stayed their welcome and McGrath and Warne departing in quick succession has meant the side is starting from scratch. The Australian side hasn’t been this young since the Kim Hughes days or the 1980s Border sides before the ’89 Ashes tour. And you have to admit, Ponting has won a bit more than those guys in that era.


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Is It News?

Tiger Woods Shags Women

I’m sort of bemused by the degree of sensationalism invested in this week’s news item that Tiger Woods had a car accident as a result of running from his wife who was swinging a golf club at him because he has had extra-marital relations. while his image to date has been incredibly polished and free of such scandals, I’ve been wondering if it’s really all that surprising that any of this is going on.

Regardless of whether he’s a Stanford University product or he is generally considered a spokesman for his sport, the man’s most salient contribution to our world has been as a golfer. That’s it. He’s a jock. And we all know jocks get up to hanky-panky when on the road; And we know that WAGS have a terrible time of it; And we know everybody’s got something to hide except John Lennon and his monkey. So it seems like the news media are getting on to this as if it’s “man bites dog” when clearly it’s a case of “dog bites man”.

I understand that people think it’s a moral issue, but is it a moral issue that needs public scrutiny? A lot of people I’ve run into in the last couple of days have said to me that they think the news media is overstepping the line. They really should leave this stuff alone.

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Perplexed With The Google-Plex

The Shoe On The Other Foot

It hurts when you can’t manipulate the market like you used to. At least, that’s the message I’m getting from this article in the SMH.

With nearly 10 million visitors a month Google is the most visited website in Australia. Nine out of every 10 searches made on the internet is through Google. Those eyeballs translate into an estimated 90 per cent share of search advertising – the fastest growing area in online advertising as the number of advertisers using the service soars close to 50,000 in Australia. Google’s revenue is estimated to be $700 million and fast heading towards $1 billion as more advertisers divert their budgets into a medium that delivers them measurability and sales leads. Soon Google will have the ability to sell and serve richer display brand ads on 62 per cent of Australian websites. A suite of products from maps and mobile phone applications to computer operating systems, video traffic on YouTube and cheap telephone calls only helps rust consumers onto the Google brand.

The more time we spend on the internet, and hence on Google, the more money it makes. All of which is making the Australian media, already grappling with the structural changes the internet has wrought on it, deeply uncomfortable. Now it is plotting its revenge; how it goes about exacting it is another thing altogether. But while Google’s monopoly of information is not in doubt, to date there is scant evidence of Google using its muscle to distort the market, only a fear that it might do so in the near future. That has not stopped a growing chorus of voices expressing concern at Google’s dominance, but such is the might of Google, few are prepared to go on the record. Telstra’s Sensis, News Limited, Ninemsn and Microsoft all declined to publicly air their grievances because some of them still do business with Google.

One that did, though, is the man who arguably has the most to lose from Google’s continued dominance and the most to gain from its downfall: Rohan Lund, the chief executive of Yahoo7!, Google’s main competitor in search.

He says all he can see is a future where the Google Death Star, as he dubs it, will reign supreme. “There needs to be a conversation in industry and government about Google’s role in the market and what this means for business and consumers both now and in the future,” Lund says, adding that Google may now be Australia’s largest media company by reach and profit.

”Commentators in the US are concerned that Google has a 60 per cent share. Let’s not forget that in Australia that climbs to nearly 90 per cent share, even after the Yahoo! and Microsoft search businesses join forces.”

I’m going to digress a bit and talk about the example set by the music industry.

Once upon a long time ago, Robert Fripp the guitarist from King Crimson folded up his band in 1975. There were many reasons to his decision, but one of the ones he discussed was the nature of technology pointing in a different direction to the way the music industry was structured. Through 1975-1980, Robert Fripp expressed the view that the music business with big Rock bands going on tour was a dinosaur and only small intelligent units were going to survive the technological changes.

As such, he saw his own band as an unwieldy contraption that was not going to survive and proceeded to build a catalogue of albums as a solo musician working small partnership. When King Crimson returned, it was as a stripped-down 4 piece with a more technology-driven approach.

Since then, Robert Fripp has been shown to be right. As technology changed, the music industry was found to be a dinosaur as small intelligent units – mp3 players and pirated music files destroyed the business model of the record labels. The key of course was distribution. Which is why this bit caught my eye:

”Distribution is key. Once you start locking up distribution your reach gets bigger, then the revenue per search gets bigger and then as that gets bigger the more you are able to pay others to lock up distribution,” says Lund, who has spoken out despite pleas from Google for him to remain silent on the matter.

It doesn’t matter what you sell, whether it is advertising space or little discs that make music when placed in a player, distribution of your product and service is the most important aspect of any business.

If anything, the advertising industry should be in more shock than the media that provides competing ad space. If you had a small business providing a very specific service, then it is far more effective to place an ad through Google than it is to place it in any media outlet. If you had a meager advertising budget, the place you should put that money is Google. Everything else is relatively speculative compared to the certainty of Google Ads.

The fact of the matter is, there are numerous companies on the planet that do offer very specific goods and services that can now reach a wider target through the internet and especially through Google.

Another way of putting it is that the advent of technology has made sure that the media advertising space has been found out to be overpriced for the effectiveness they possess. The only good that advertising space in Newspapers and Free-to-Air TV can achieve would be branding and specific announcements, while carefully targeted adverting all takes place through the internet – and in particular through Google.

But even with branding ads, Google has something coming:

Google has yet more weapons in its armoury. Later this year when it turns on its DoubleClick ad serving platform – which it bought for $US3.1 billion in 2007 – it will be able to serve up display ads, such as banners, pop-ups and videos, to advertisers who are looking to do brand ads online. To date, Google’s focus has been on selling search keywords to advertisers and text ads to small businesses. DoubleClick, which serves and measures the effectiveness of display ads to half the websites in the world with more than 1 million unique monthly visitors, delivers Google advertisers from the big end of town. It also pits it once more against its key customers; the publishers and the media-buying agencies who each year earn their bread and butter from a market worth $500 million a year. Google insists it is not about to cut their grass and that its priority in Australia is on building search advertising revenues. It adds that, even it it wanted to, it doesn’t have the skill sets of either a publisher or a media agency to undertake such a task.

But, as one internet advertising veteran, who asked for anonymity, says: ”What worries them [the media] is the sheer volume and quality of data about customers that Google will own and how that can be used in other advertising models. There’s a real danger that Google does everything that they do only they’d do it much better and more efficiently.”

I would hate to be in the print ad or TV ad business going forwards. It’s like working for Kodak Film in an age of digital photography by the masses. And I keep thinking Robert Fripp had it absolutely right – technology has slain the dinosaurs.

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Why The Economist Is Cool (Sometimes)

Maybe It’s Just This Lexington Dude

Here’s something very droll and funny.

Obama Derangement SyndromeA recent Pew poll showed that public opinion about Mr Obama is sharply divided along party lines. Some 88% of Democrats approve of the job that he is doing compared with only 27% of Republicans. The approval gap between the two parties is actually bigger than it was for George Bush in April 2001. Bush loyalists, led by Karl Rove, have duly over-interpreted this poll in order to soften their former boss’s reputation as America’s most divisive president. Today’s Republican base is significantly smaller than the Democratic base was in 2001, so surviving Republicans are more likely to have hard-core views. But there are nevertheless enough people out there who dislike the president to constitute a significant force in political life.

As The Economist went to press, the bestselling book in the United States was Mark Levin’s “Liberty and Tyranny”. Mr Levin frequently denounces Mr Obama on his radio show as an exponent of the second of those two qualities. The new sensation in the world of cable is Fox News’s Glenn Beck, who has already attracted 2.2m regular viewers since his show was launched in January. Mr Beck recently apologised to his viewers for saying that Mr Obama’s America is on the path to “socialism” when it is really on the march to fascism. Media Matters, a left-wing organisation that monitors the media, reports that, since the inauguration, “there have been over 3,000 references to socialism, fascism or communism” in describing the president.

Rush Limbaugh claims that he has seen an uptick in his audience since he announced that he hopes that Mr Obama fails. He has no time for the idea that all Americans should wish their president well (“We are being told that we have to hope Obama succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles…because his father was black”). Mr Limbaugh is not the ankle-grabbing type. He has also added Robert Mugabe to the list of people to whom Mr Obama can be likened.

Why are some people so angry? For all his emollient manner and talk of “post partisanship”, Mr Obama is just as much an embodiment of liberal America as Mr Bush was of conservative America—an Ivy League-educated lawyer who became a community organiser before launching a political career in one of America’s most cosmopolitan and corrupt big cities, Chicago. Mr Obama almost lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton because of his lack of rapport with white working-class voters. In the general election he did worse than Michael Dukakis in the Appalachian states of Kentucky and West Virginia.

Not only did the cartoon crack me up, the notion that Obama is Fascist coming from the fat, white guys on the right… I mean, come on. It’s not as if the last 8 years under George W Bush was liberalism Heaven for fuck’s sake.

Lexington sure makes it sound tragic, but then he has this other article that elicits a laugh too.

The writers of the Onion are unencumbered by any obvious party loyalty. To fit in, you have to hate everything around you, muses Joe Randazzo, the editor. Hence the headline that greeted Mr Obama’s election victory: “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job”. The Onion News Network, an online video venture, did a segment entitled “Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters to Realise How Empty Their Lives Are”. The camera showed pitiful young campaign volunteers lying comatose on a couch or wandering aimlessly through a park. “Who will take care of these people?” asked the anchor. “We really don’t know. Many have already driven away their friends and family with months of endless praise for Obama’s latest speech and constant reminders to vote,” said the breathless correspondent on the scene. “That does sound annoying,” said the anchor.

The Onion lampooned previous presidents, of course. No prizes for guessing who inspired the headline “New President Feels Nation’s Pain, Breasts”, or who regaled dinner guests with an impromptu oration on Virgil’s minor works. What sets the Onion apart, however, is that Mr Obama has not blunted its barbs at all. On the contrary, the way more serious journalists fawn over the new president offers an irresistible target. “Media Having Trouble Finding Right Angle on Obama’s Double Homicide”, the Onion reported last month. “‘I know there’s a story in there somewhere’,” said the editor of Newsweek, after Mr Obama brutally murdered a suburban couple. The Onion is better at spotting good yarns, which is why, despite the recession, it is prospering. The main threats it faces are that its staff might grow up—or that the earnest papers it parodies may go out of business.

Pretty cool.

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Gruen Censor

ABC Censorship Hoopla

God, you know it’s a good week when the ABC censors something and there’s a circus on the internet. The Gruen Transfer put up a brief for “selling the unsellable” – except this time it was for selling being fat. Please note, that’s got to be a joke about being fat, right?

So the ad agency The Foundry put together a pretty sharp, serious piece of advertising likening discrimination against fat people as being equivalent to discriminating against Blacks, Jews and gays. The ad was deemed so confrontational, the ABC censored it from broadcast.

IT was banned from TV last night, but hundreds online have watched an “insensitive” segment of The Gruen Transfer that jokes about Jews, black people and homosexuals.

And public and expert opinion is divided on whether the controversial ad produced for the ABC show was racist and discriminatory, as deemed by the ABC.

The powerful ad, part of a segment in which two ad agencies tried to sell “fat pride”, has also forced the show’s host, and comedian, Wil Anderson to reconsider his habit of telling “fat jokes”.

Shot in black and white, the ad – produced by Sydney agency The Foundry – features three people each telling extremely offensive jokes.

If you want to know what the offensive jokes were, you’ll have to click the link. I’m not reproducing them because it’s not worth my while getting bogged down in discussions about taste. People, there is no such thing as a victim-less joke that works. Humour is sadistic. That’s the point of humour. Somebody has to get it in the crotch, and when it hits you in the crotch, it hurts. But, that is point of the ad – that it’s pretty bad discriminating against fat people, just the same as it is discriminating against other types of people. It’s not exactly a difficult concept.

You can see how it got played out here.

This segment of The Gruen Transfer was scheduled to appear on the ABC-TV program on May 13, 2009. It was not approved for broadcast by the ABC. We are grateful for the ABC’s consent for us to put the material on this website, as it facilitates further debate and discussion.

This is a confronting ad. We at Gruen feel that it may be offensive to some people, but we stand by the fact that The Foundry agency made it with a considered and legitimate intent to persuade Australians to reconsider their prejudices.

It is clearly an anti-discrimination ad, an argument for tolerance, not divisiveness. As road safety advertisements sometimes use horrific accident images to make a point, so too this ad uses shock to drive home the ugliness of prejudice. It was made by a highly experienced advertising creative, winner of a Cannes Gold Lion, one of advertising’s greatest honours, for a previous anti-discrimination campaign.

As a show about advertising, we feel that it is appropriate for an audience, with fair warning, to consider and judge the ad for itself. And so we are making it available for viewing through this site.

To provide a clear context for the ad,The Foundry and JWT agencies were asked to come up with a campaign for the idea of Fat Pride, to end shape discrimination and make overweight Australians feel less humiliated by the constant public disapproval of anyone who isn’t a size 10 or under.

The following video includes not only The Foundry’s ad, but also a panel discussion with its creator about the reasons for the ad’s approach.

If you are likely to be offended by issues of discrimination in race, religion, sexuality or body size, please don’t watch.

Oh my word. Talk about a lame caveat, but there’s no pleasing the extreme radical faction of the politically correct. And the discussion that follows the ad is just bizarre. Todd Sampson makes no sense. He says the ad doesn’t work because it’s too shocking and then might be perceived to be condoning other types of discrimination by mistake. I think his political correctness switch melted down during the first joke. God knows how he’ll ever survive listening to Frank Zappa. To say the jokes are nasty, therefore the ad doesn’t work is a crappy argument that lacks any understanding of what is laid bare by the jokes. As a result Todd comes across as being a lot less intelligent than I previously thought. Well-meaning but thick as 6 planks of wood.

Wil Anderson seems almost apologetic to have kicked off the segment with a fat joke, only to see an ad Agency that took the brief ultra-seriously and come back with a very hard-hitting product.

But here’s the thing: Executive Producer Andrew Denton was quoted as saying The Foundry missed the point of the brief: “to sell being fat as a positive”. …and in the calm light of day, The Foundry missed that point. Their ad says end fat discrimination; it doesn’t say it’s good to be fat. The rest of the discussion about the nature of discrimination is somewhat tangential and redundant.

Me? I know what real discrimination is like. It’s not the jokes they tell about your ethnicity or the way you look or the way your accent might betray your native tongue. The jokes in the ad might be shocking to some, but frankly, I’ve heard worse in every which direction. Jews in Nazi ovens, Blacks riddled with drugs, homosexuals being the object of scorn and ridicule, fat people caught in the eye of a needle, all being standard tropes for nasty commentary and stereotyping. These are all things that get said and hurt.

But real discrimination is a whisper you don’t hear. It’s the quiet agreement to lock you out of the ‘mainstream’. It’s the procession of blondes on TV in a multi-cultural Australia while all the ‘ethnics ‘get paraded on SBS; it’s the coming second to a white kid at school because the duxe has to be a white kid – and if the 2 leading candidates are not white, heck, they just cancel the duxe that year – Yeah, I’ve seen that one somewhere. 🙂 The jobs you don’t get because the other candidate is white; the breaks or opportunities or the lenience from the law you don’t get because you’re not white; over and over and over again.

My point is, if those 4 white men thought those jokes were the beginning and end of discrimination – and I should include the ABC censors in on this, I have to say they have no fucking idea what discrimination is in this country. NO FUCKING IDEA.

The ABC Has No Balls

I’m trying to get my head around the ABC that censors that above ad, and the Four Corners they aired on Monday night where the trial-by-media circus has resulted in the public scapegoating of Matthew Johns.

I don’t intend to defend what Johns did. My opinions on Matthew Johns are already stated in my previous entries here and here. He did a crappy thing. The way the media has been carrying on about it, you’d think he killed somebody. So far, the New Zealand police have said they won’t re-open the case, and charges were never laid. The general public I’ve run into are of the opinion that this scapegoating is highly suspect and hypocritical.

The things I heard at the local lunch tuck shop today:

  • After all, there must be some TV journos who get laid just because they’re famous. Why don’t they get outed?
  • There are some regular folk who go cruising for pro athletes for sex. What about those people?
  • It’s not just Matthew Johns, so why don’t they out those other players?
  • Has there ever been a sport like NRL where the sport just keep stabbing its supporters in the heart over and over again?
  • how is this supposed to end? With the Johns marriage breaking up or as Johns as a drug addict, derelict and homeless and dead in the gutter?
  • Who is this woman ‘Claire’ and why is she saying this stuff now? Got to be money, right?
  • Didn’t this woman know better than to hang around footballers?
  • It was consensual, so why are they dredging this up now? If she can change her mind, can there ever be ever-lasting consent?
  • Why is the media reporting about athletes’ sex lives? Why do we need to know, even if there was a revolting culture in NRL?

If you thought I was conflicted about Roger Clemens, these people were incredibly pissed off by the whole thing from Johns to Gallop to Gyngell to the Sharks to the woman ‘Claire’.

So, hooray for the ABC who were too scared to air some racist jokes that were clearly portrayed as smug, but were brave enough to throw Matthew Johns under a bus without trial, devil may care.

I’m really, really unimpressed with the ABC this week.

That being said, I’m fascinated by the fissures that are being exposed in our society as result of these two things this week. Clearly the media on the whole is out of touch with community sentiment and I’m not alone in thinking they’re fucked up.

Oh, and then there’s this:

A former work colleague of the woman at the centre of the Cronulla Sharks sex scandal involving Matthew Johns claims her co-worker bragged about the incident.

Tania Boyd has told the Nine Network that the woman in the ABC’s Four Corners report, identified as “Clare”, had boasted to her workmates about bedding several players and only contacted police five days after the alleged incident.

“She was absolutely excited about the fact. She was bragging about it to the staff and quite willing, openly saying how she had sex with several players,” said Boyd.

“We were quite disgusted about it. There was no trauma whatsoever.

“I’m disgusted that a woman can all of a sudden change her story from having a great time to then turning it into a terrible crime.

“One minute she was absolutely bragging about it, she did not know names. These names only came to light to us in the last day.

“We all just thought it was hilarious until five days later the police came to work and were horrified she had now changed her story to say she was now a victim of crime.

“It was definitely consensual, absolutely.

“She is saying she is still traumatised et cetera, well she wasn’t for five days, or four days at least, after that affair.

“I can’t work out what’s happened. Does it take five days for it to sink in?”

Make of that what you will, but that’s somebody corroborating Johns’ version of the character of ‘Clare’. The confusion alone suggests the public bonfire of Matthew Johns may have been set alight too quickly.

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