On Monday Media Watch castigated The Australian for refusing to correct its misrepresentation of the opinions of Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC.
It’s worth emphasizing the crucial point about the background: Warren’s interpretation can’t be taken as a bit of sloppiness with respect to detail, or the fumbling of a naive cadet who isn’t quite across the politics of the issue. It is brazen and systematic distortion. The first line states that Pachauri specifically ‘backed the Howard Government’s decision to defer setting a long-term target for reducing greenhouse emissions until the full facts are known.’ The second sentence reasserts that Pachauri ‘agreed with the approach’. Later he tells us that ‘Malcolm Turnbull last night welcomed Dr Pachauri’s endorsement of the Government’s approach’; by now the endorsement is no longer just somebody’s interpretation, but rather an uncontested fact — the real issue being how this or that politician will respond to it.
As we know, having (for the most part) abandoned the doomed policy of pooh-poohing AGW, the Coalition’s strategy for the last half-year or so has been to portray itself as the party of good sense, balance, rationality, caution and so on, in contrast to which Labor appears as the party of Al Gore, Nicholas Stern, hysterical exaggeration and economic recklessness. This is just the picture that Warren takes pains to reproduce in his article. Dr Pachauri is in favour of (in Warren’s words) ‘informed debate based on rational thinking and rigorous analysis of the impact of different options’, and against (in his own words)’emotional and political responses that may or may not be the best’. And guess which of the parties wants to make a careful assessment, and which one wants to intervene precipitately? Well,
Labor committed to a 60 per cent cut in greenhouse emissions by 2050, while the Coalition will wait until next year for detailed analysis to be completed.
Indeed it’s quite likely that Warren’s question was a trap in the first place (as Pachauri later concluded himself), and it’s unlilkely that Pachauri knew enough about either the local politics or the newspaper itself to recognize this.
But even if Warren’s questions were innocent, even if he feels that Pachauri’s response does somehow correspond to the Government’s position — and this was main point of the Media Watch story — the fact of the matter is that Pachauri wrote a letter to The Australian to correct the misinterpretaion, but the paper did not publish it.
If the paper had any good reason to not publish the letter, they have not supplied it. Tim Lambert has already discussed yesterday’s developments, namely the ‘4672 words blasting Media Watch, including the entire editorial, stories from Caroline Overington and Matthew Warren and an opinion piece from David Salter’. But What Tim doesn’t point out explicitly — and this is the only justification for my post, given that other bloggers have examined the business from every angle — is that no excuse is offered, either in the editorial or in Warren’s response to Media Watch, for the failure to publish the letter, a letter that would have been very useful for any reader who had read the original piece. The editorial ignores the point completely. Warren’s apologia, on the other hand sidesteps it by mentioning that Pachauri, in the letter, demanded a correction, which Warren did not think was warranted (as if that was a reason for not at least publishing the letter and letting readers make up their own minds); and by mentioning that the editor, Paul Whittaker, had replied to Pachauri with some questions of his own, to which no reply had been received (implying that the ball is in Pachauri’s court — as if, again, this justifies delaying publication of the letter).
Notwithstanding that a few of its individual writers still behave professionally, in terms of its editorial policy, The Australian has discarded any pretense of objective reporting or even-handed analysis, and decided to position itself firmly as a PR agency for the Right. Gosh, and I’m the first person to notice!