Oh, it’s not the potion, it’s the magic that I seek… Is it time for a Charter of Rights for welfare recipients?

One thing that the #NotMyDebt hashtag was good at was raising the profile of welfare recipients who felt like they were being treated unjustly.  The media routinely presents people on welfare as being slouchers and parasites, those who steal your hard-earned cash to live a life without work.  And although I disagree with their philosophical commitments, the Australian Unemployed Workers Union has also been performing a similar function, creating a lightning rod for harnessing the energy of people who, by all accounts, are treated badly by capitalism.

Where these platforms — #NotMyDebt in particular — were less helpful was ‘practical’ advice for dealing with Centrelink.  NMD delivered a lot of straight up incorrect information, and a number of the key voices behind that campaign are known vectors of nonsense across a range of policy areas (such as asylum seeker policy).

In this post, I want to move away from the rhetoric of activist groups and specific controversies, and into a broader problem: should we institute a charter of rights for welfare recipients?

Continue reading “Oh, it’s not the potion, it’s the magic that I seek… Is it time for a Charter of Rights for welfare recipients?”


People you hate will get their hooks into you… Responding to @mjrowland68 on the criticism of journalists

Michael Rowland is a co-host of ABC News Breakfast.  To its credit, the show provides an alternative for audiences who watch the sort of breakfast television that’s dominated by mediocre white Baby Boomers and not (as is the inspired choice) by cartoons.  If you really must have the television on in the morning (and you hate cartoons), then you can avoid the commercial offerings of explicit hatred towards minorities by flicking over to the ABC with its implicit erasure of them.

Like many of the old white people haunting the ‘legacy’ media, Rowland thinks there’s a problem with social media: not enough respect for journalists.  In a weirdly written article on the ABC’s website, Rowland uses his national platform to say that journalists don’t think people on Twitter are being nice enough:

Twitter is a double-edged sword for political journalists.

It’s an invaluable source of breaking news and allows us to keep track of campaign developments in real time.

For good and bad, it’s a forum for politicians to make unfiltered announcements or respond to criticism from the other side, all of which provides fodder for news stories and commentary.

Importantly, it allows voters to have their say — and this is where things are getting particularly willing.

“Twitter is a peanut gallery of hyper-partisan tools,” Uhlmann laments.

That is unintelligible nonsense.  Rowland then asks the views of Chris ‘Jewish intellectuals are an intellectual virus’ Uhlmann, Patricia Karvelas, Dennis Atkins, Katharine Murphy, and Leigh Sales.  All of them complain that people on Twitter are too mean and don’t give them enough respect.

At no point does Rowland ask the vital question: do the critics have a point?

Continue reading “People you hate will get their hooks into you… Responding to @mjrowland68 on the criticism of journalists”

Close your, close your, close your eyes… Is truth the right standard for defamation law?

The decision in Geoffrey Rush’s defamation case against the Daily Telegraph was handed down this week. This, of course, got many people all a-chattering about defamation law.  Particularly journos.  Many felt that this was yet another example of the law’s failures, a key reason why the ‘me-too’ movement hadn’t taken off in the way that it had overseas.  After all, when was the last time a newspaper won a defamation case?

Followers of defamation law would know that only a month earlier we had the case of Charan v Nationwide News, a resounding victory for the newspaper.  Most people would not have heard about that case because the newspaper won…

The high profile losses recently have often skipped over any criticism of the newspaper’s conduct. In the Rush case, the Court found the newspaper published the allegations in ‘an extravagant, excessive and sensationalist manner’: ‘It is difficult to see how the front page image could possibly be considered to be justifiable in light of the relative paucity of the information apparent from the content of the articles.’ Further, the Court found that the newspaper was ‘reckless as to the truth or falsity of the defamatory imputations conveyed by the articles and had failed to make adequate inquiries before publication’.

Another major case was decided this year, Chau v Fairfax.  The Court again found that the newspaper had been unreasonable in the way it went about forming conclusions about Dr Chau.

This is a problem because public perception of the law is, of course, influenced by the way it is presented in the media.  Here, the media has a clear interest in presenting the law in an unfavourable light, just as all industries argue against regulations which get in the way of their profits.

Framed differently, a reasonable and cautious publisher could have printed the stories about Rush and Dr Chau in a way which would not have fallen victim to defamation law.

Rather than grill through the legal aspects of the case (which are fascinating, don’t get me wrong), let’s get wild and run naked through the fields of legal theory: is ‘truth’ the right yardstick for defamation law?

Continue reading “Close your, close your, close your eyes… Is truth the right standard for defamation law?”

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street… A theory of protest

Every internet philosopher has a theory about authority, as if one of the central problems of political philosophy would be solved by an undergraduate white guy who hadn’t done the tutorial reading. The question is simple: why must we obey the State?  The answers — or, even, partial answers — are complex.

It’s against that backdrop of complexity that we sometimes — as we did today — have to discuss when it is justifiable to protest. That is, when is it okay to disrupt somebody else for a political cause?

Continue reading “It’s coming from the sorrow in the street… A theory of protest”

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin… Problems with ‘Under the Radar’

In fairness to Four Corners, there’s not a lot of information to go on about the Christchurch incident. But instead of having the sort of discussion that I think could be constructive, ‘Under the Radar’ sought to discuss the ‘exposed deep flaws in the counter-terrorism strategies of Western nations like New Zealand and Australia’.  It, of course, didn’t.

It is worth reflecting on a few points about the documentary that are really worth critiquing because they reinforce tropes which, in my view, are counterproductive in security discussions.  Not least (and where I will start) is the fact that no women were interviewed as experts.

Continue reading “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin… Problems with ‘Under the Radar’”

Cause all we need is candlelight, you and me, and a bottle of wine… Low information responses to crisis

The Lindt Cafe siege took place in December 2014.  Was the flag of the Islamic State flown in the window?  One hostage called a radio station to criticise the response from authorities.  Had bombs been planted around Sydney?  There were fears that news agencies were helping the terrorists by broadcasting the location of police.  Was this a terrorist event?  December 2014.

The official report was released in May 2017 and, even today, there remains expert disagreement about key issues of the day.  The report took two and a half years.

It certainly didn’t stop a lot of journos and internet detectives immediately starting up some spicy takes about how they would have simply dealt with the situation.  They, somehow, knew exactly what Monis wanted, and they definitely knew who’s fault it was.  Why was Monis out on bail?  Clearly, this was more proof that everybody’s intuitions about bail were undeniably correct, and more proof that everybody’s intuitions about Islamic Australians were correct, and more proof that everybody’s intuitions about the effectiveness of ASIO were correct, and more proof of whatever people intuited immediately prior to the siege.

In a sense, the siege was unnecessary.  It was an excuse.  There were all these hot takes slowly going cold and they needed something to justify reheating them.  It was days before people were saying we needed to change laws about bail.

There is a puzzle that is worth exploring: how do we respond to situations like this (or like Christchurch) when we’re operating in an environment of very low information?

Continue reading “Cause all we need is candlelight, you and me, and a bottle of wine… Low information responses to crisis”

Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her… How to solve the problems with Australian media

Following the horrific tragedy in Christchurch, some people correctly began to discuss the role that the media had played in radicalising the attackers.  The Washington Post — which recently ran a completely insane take on the Dismissal — had a theory:

It remains unclear whether he had established links to far-right groups, but such groups have been active in Australia for decades. Some experts say that anti-Muslim rhetoric has been normalized by mainstream right-wing news outlets, many of which are owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch.

There’s two issues which emerge from this.  First, is it true?  Second, what do we do about the media?

Continue reading “Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her… How to solve the problems with Australian media”