The Ministry of Truth left the building some decades ago

Almost as depressing as the evident plagiarism in HillBillySkeleton’s post-truth politics post is its unremitting, one-eyed left wing bias. The Political Sword is the ideological mirror image of Andrew Bolt’s blog only much less entertaining.  The most recent post there is a lengthy and even more one-eyed diatribe against Tony Abbott by “Ad Astra”.  I seldom visit that blog and only did so as a result of Don Arthur’s exposure of HBS’s liberal unattributed borrowing practices.  I should have known better.

How could anyone with an even marginally discriminating intellect fail to notice that Abbott’s relentless negativism and lack of regard for truth has an equally long pedigree in ALP propaganda?  Labor’s opposition to the GST over a decade or so was hardly noteworthy for its positive approach or regard for truth, given that Paul Keating had lobbied hard for a GST only a few years previously.  Moreover, as we now know, a GST is a perfectly sensible and innocuous tax and part of a balanced tax mix.  One day we’ll all realise the same is true of a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme, although whether Julia Gillard’s prime ministership will survive its implementation remains an open question.  Why is it any more outrageous for Abbott to fear-monger and misrepresent a carbon tax than it was for Beazley et al to do the same over GST?

Then there was Labor’s campaign against WorkChoices, the mother of all fear and smear campaigns and chock-full of untruths and gross exaggerations.  Oh yes, and asylum seeker policy.  As we now know, Labor is entirely prepared to embrace a minor variant of John Howard’s Pacific Solution when the cold hard political reality of the alternatives slams them in the face often enough.  You can bet they would have done the same as Howard in 2001 had they been in government.  Labor led the “tough on asylum seekers” charge throughout its period in government, but at that time its policies had bipartisan support.  Might Labor’s desperate and cynical abandonment of a longstanding tacit bipartisanship on immigration policy be one of the reasons why Abbott can happily ignore their current squeals of outrage about his appalling negativity and “post-truth politics”?

The game of “my your party is more dishonest than your my party” may provide a warm inner glow of self-righteousness to the hard core lefty audience at The Political Sword, but it’s otherwise completely pointless.

Much more interesting would be an exploration of how (if at all) one might go about engineering more informative, honest political debate on all sides.  One way might be to legislate to subject political advertising to the misleading and deceptive conduct provisions of the Australian Consumer Law (there are currently almost no truth constraints at all on political advertising).  Another might be to educate kids more thoroughly in critical thinking and expose them to the existence of cognitive biases like confirmation bias which tend to convince us of the unquestionable correctness of our own opinions and close our minds to evidence suggesting otherwise.

However, even if we do all those things and more, spin and hyperbole will remain staples of the political process.  That’s because we humans will remain contrary, stubborn, prejudiced and “tribal” creatures.  Even worse for the prospects of informative civil discourse is the fact that most of us are almost entirely disinterested and disengaged from political debate, and therefore readily susceptible to capture by glib propaganda lines on the rare occasions when an issue impinges on our consciousness. The best any system can do is to moderate the extremes of such conduct.  And the best we engaged centrist individuals can do is keep away from ideologically extreme blogs like The Bolta or The Political Sword, or maybe better still keep reminding ourselves that they’re just mildly entertaining caricatures.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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john
john
10 years ago

In my more ,preserve our bodily fluids , moments I sometimes wonder if all these extremists are actually coming out of the same office/algorithm the “wedge the center algorithm”

Alan
10 years ago

Ken

Have you not just vented a centrist diatribe as dubious as anything at HBS? I agree that the ALP is just as guilty of truthiness as Abbot (indeed I agree with John Hewson that Gillard might find it easier to sell climate mitigation had she not opposed under Rudd and added her idiotic statement that there would be no carbon tax under her government) but I do not see how it logically follows that Abbot’s truthiness becomes more justifiable as a result.

john
john
10 years ago

Obviously , this is really about ‘Orwellian’ uses of language, it covers things that are not all that new.

Emerson visited Britain in about 1850 at the peak of it’s almost complete monopoly over world trade. He wrote of a sense that too much power was already silently corroding the edifice; that decline and fall was not that far away. He thought that Britain was already dominated by a kind of managerial “submind” one that exercised “all skills at a secondary level” He felt that it was Like walking in a great hall :” standing on a marble floor where nothing can grow”
V S Naipaul used these words of Emerson to end an essay about a new kind of political language that was being born around the time of Ronald Reagan’s second term. This new language was/is very much the opposite to open source traditional languages like English. This new kind of language was/is controlled – no recursive calls ,no irony and no surprises like, novel reuses of ideas formulated years ago , it is a language without memory.

The essay is in the collected essays “the Writer and the World” .

Mr Denmore
Mr Denmore
10 years ago

Ken, the difference between Abbott’s truth manufacturing and that of the ALP in Opposition is that Abbott has the media as a hand-in-glove collaborator.

The fact is politicians will be loose with the truth and exaggerate and catastrophise as much as journalists allow them to. You’d have to be living under a rock not to see that Abbott has been given an especially long leash.

I also dispute that somehow this blog is the voice of moderation and reason between crazy polar extremes. There are way too many grumpy old Tories and barking libertarians around these parts to make that claim.

Mr Denmore
Mr Denmore
10 years ago

Ken, I never said there was a golden age. I’m just saying journalistic standards have slipped. Even journalists (like me) recognise that.

They’ve slipped because there are far fewer of us in senior editorial positions. Sub-editorial ranks have been thinned, as have reportorial resources at the same time as demands for more and more output have escalated.

Commercial pressures have increased as a result of a busted business model and the Chinese walls that once separated advertising and editorial are notably thinner. Training and craft standards have deteriorated, while the most astute operators now work in communications and PR.

Work opportunities are limited beyond the News Ltd monolith, which means journalists still inside the machine are loathe to point out the obvious flaws.

The news cycle has sped up considerably in recent years to the point where journalists are writing analysis of events BEFORE the events have actually occured, as I have written about on my latest post.

The result of this is a dumbing down of political discourse to the point where the substance of issues is rarely argued – rather the conflict itself.

I’m not alone in thinking this. I firmly believe it to be true. I respect that you have a different opinion. And I’ll leave it at that.

john
john
10 years ago

Do you remember this one from 1974?

‘If Gough walked across lake Burly Griffin , how would the Australian report it?”
Answer
‘Gough can not swim’

john
john
10 years ago

Mr Denmore
Amongst the people that I know,the concern about the government is not ideological , rather it is more that: ‘they do not seem to know what they are doing’ and ‘that they just do things’.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
10 years ago

Nice rant Ken,

Agreed.

Mr D, I’m as outraged as anyone about the decline of the media, which I agree has got even worse, but reducing the level of left wing bias on the ABC is a plus at least. It’s much more balanced now than it was a decade or so ago.

Mr Denmore
Mr Denmore
10 years ago

john, yes I agree the concern with the government is more about their inability to prosecute a case and communicate the benefits of a policy change. There’s a general lack of conviction on both sides, which is a consequence of them all being professional politicians.

Nick, I’m not sure the ABC is more ‘balanced’ – just more commercial. In my perspective, they just over-compensate now by running lots of IPA opinion pieces on the Drum and ritually running Opposition talking points. That’s not balance. It’s just lazy journalism, aimed at getting the culture warriors off their backs.

They should throw away the stop-watches and concentrate instead on producing good citizen journalism, irrespective of its supposed ideological bent.

john
john
10 years ago

My concern about them is not about rhetoric, I make things for a living, this Government mob create process .
A hall of mirrors signifying stuff all.

john
john
10 years ago

Speaking of making , I am off.

A fearless prediction; Tony Windsor will surprise them all.

Incurious and Unread (aka Dave)
Incurious and Unread (aka Dave)
10 years ago

Ken,

“And the best we engaged centrist individuals can do is keep away from ideologically extreme blogs like The Bolta or The Political Sword…”

Why? (I mean, apart from the obvious, that they are just rubbish and life is too short.) Are you afraid of losing your purity? Of being inadvertently brainwashed into believing something objectionable?

Surely the best way to avoid confirmation bias is to engage with a range of ideas: the good, bad and ugly. To think critically but objectively about the arguments made, and why, specifically, you disagree with them.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
10 years ago

Mr D,

Agreed that running ‘they would say that’ Opposition and IPA fluff (or any other think tank’s fluff) is lazy journalism. But Counterpoint is a big plus (excepting its lack of discrimination on greenhouse matters – and that’s a big caveat) and lots of other programs are more curious about the right of centre critique of the world, and don’t talk about it with the kind of giggly nervousness that they used to.

At the same time the right have IMO lapsed back into their ‘stupid party’ shtick with all sorts of dreadful nonsense – in areas like greenhouse and opposition to the stimulus.

Stephen
Stephen
10 years ago

“Why is it any more outrageous for Abbott to fear-monger and misrepresent a carbon tax than it was for Beazley et al to do the same over GST?”

A little thing called the fate of the planet?

Marks
Marks
10 years ago

@ 13 the problem with some blogs is that they are really nag blogs. ie you just get the same stuff served up in a different dish (sometimes). I have every confidence that if I were to go to Bolt’s blog, I would see the same arguments about the same issues as I read there a month ago. (The rabid left blogs are no different.

If you go to a blog and look at the headline and know exactly what they are going to be arguing, one is not meeting a range of ideas, but being nagged with the same ole same ole arguments.

Still, unlike paying for a newspaper, I can visit the appropriate blog and get my confirmation bias(es) stroked for free, and that has to be good. And unlike the personal form of nagging which is hard to avoid at times, I can just click away from any site that nags me.

To that extent I agree with Mr Denmore: Once I got news, now I get nagged – and they expect me to pay to be nagged? *snort*

Incurious and Unread (aka Dave)
Incurious and Unread (aka Dave)
10 years ago

Marks,

I agree and there is really no point in visiting those “nagging” blogs, whether they stroke your bias or rub against it. And, perhaps, almost by definition, “extremist” blogs are always naggers. So I might agree with Ken after all on that, although maybe for different reasons.

But nevertheless, there is also a range of thoughtful blogs with diverse positions which one can disagree with but still respect. It was those, rather, that I was thinking of.

Acerbic Conehead
Acerbic Conehead
10 years ago

Ken Parish: “the best we engaged centrist individuals can do is keep away from ideologically extreme blogs like The Bolta or The Political Sword”.

What’s your problem, Ken?

Ad astra a better writer than you? The Political Sword gets more traffic? You’re a plain jane and can’t get anyone to take you to the prom, whilst the pretty girl is spoilt for choice?

Tell us, why the sour grapes? Claiming The Political Sword is “an ideologically extreme blog” is a sure sign you’re either jealous, or have gone, like your blog name, truly troppo.

reb of Hobart
10 years ago

Hi Ken,

What a remarkable coincidence. I used to occasionally participate in the discussions over at TPS, and my own blog was regularly featured in their daily list of “recommended reading.”

However all this changed when I expressed my disapointment over Julia Gillard’s stance against same-sex marriage despite overwhelming public support in favour of it.

I was immediately pounced upon by a host of regulars there and accused of “wanting to push a gay agenda” that was deemed as a mere “minor perihperhal issue” by the prevailing opinion at TPS.

Next, I criticised Gillard’s pandering to religious lobby groups to reassure them of her staunch opposition to gay marriage and euthenasia and was attacked once more for attacking what the people at TPS refer to as “Our Julia”.

More recently I bemoaned the lack of any criticism of the so called Malaysia Solution and the deafening silence from the left both on the blogosphere and on the twittersphere, highlighting that if it had been a Coalition policy proposal there would’ve been riots in the street.

Last night, one of TPS’s regular contributors “Patricia” alleged that the reason I was “upset” with Julia Gillard, was because I was a “disgruntled” homosexual whose own blog had been ovverun by homosexual activists!!

They really don’t like any dissenting opinions at TPS.

Which prompted me to pen this piece this morning..

“We’re not popular with the other blogs anymore”

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
10 years ago

You’d have to be living under a rock not to see that Abbott has been given an especially long leash.

I remember feeling the same way about one fellow. Name of “Rudd”.

Adam
Adam
10 years ago

I must disagree.

To ignore opinions because they are staunchly left or right will mean you are ignoring or refusing to acknowledge certain points of view.

I happily read many blogs, both left, right and centrist. But I also ignore certain columnists (eg Bolt / Ackerman). I don’t ignore them and their articles because I disagree with their point of view. I ignore them as they constantly use false statements, lies, exaggerations and hyperbole in order to confuse the facts.

By all means, have an opposing opinion about something that you consider important, and be willing to defend your point of view with facts when questioned.

As such, I will continue to read blogs such as TPS as it gives me fresh insight on various issues before us. Whether or not I agree with their point of view will depend on the facts and actions in front of me.

Patricia WA
Patricia WA
10 years ago

I can see no moral equivalence between Labor opposition to the GST and Coalition opposition to the carbon pricing and an ETS, which as Stephen @ 15 points out is concerned with survival of the planet. Nor would I as ‘an extremist’ of the left persuasion agree even today that the ‘GST is a perfectly sensible and innocuous tax and part of a balanced tax mix’ when there is no balance or fairness at all in our current tax mix as evolved over a decade of John Howard’s government.

As someone with a slightly more than ‘marginally discriminating intellect’ I do ‘fail to notice that Abbott’s relentless negativism and lack of regard for truth’ has an equally long pedigree in ALP propaganda.’ If the GST campaign as waged by Kim Beasley is your idea of ‘relentlss negativism and lack of regard for truth’ remotely resembling the dishonesty around the Coaltion case against the Carbon Tax I would question your common sense and moral judgement.

Your somewhat smug self satisfaction at uncovering what you see as plagiarism by Hillbilly Skeleton at the Political Sword is nonsensical. She is not one of your students writing a paper for your rigorous academic critique, nor indeed an academic writer of any kind. I see that you ‘seldom visit that blog’ site and only did so on this occasion because of your friend Don Arthur’s great find of ‘unattributed borrowing practices’ by HBS. Your focus on this and gleeful congratulations to him on his find smacks of malice. HBS is a prolific TPS contributor who usually quotes sources of ideas and links appropriately. Both the title and reference to ‘Post-Truth Politics’ are in inverted commas and underlined with a probable intention to link to that US article. That she failed to do so on this occasion is not the sin in the blogosphere it might be in academia.

By the way if you were more than an occasional visitor to either TPS or Bolt’s blog you would know there is no comparison at all between the two in terms of quality of writing, open-ness to contrary opinions, commentary and general civility towards visitors. Efforts to de-rail a thread will ultimately result in censure from the blogmaster. It is after all what it is and has the right, as does Club Troppo, to maintain its identity and focus. Though, judging by this article, I feel that Club Troppo has somehow already lost its ‘radical centrist’ perspective enabling it to achieve an “intense resolution of the tensions between opposing principles.”

Jason
Jason
10 years ago

Ken,
As one of the “regulars” at the TPS when did we “one eyed lefty’s” become such a political force? as far as I know one of the leaders of the left from Victoria admits had he not retired at the last election he still would have lost the seat,and that’s what Tanner said! so he wasn’t “left enough”
However who made you commissioner of the thought police?

reb of Hobart
10 years ago

Skipped your medication again Patricia? You know that’s not good for you…

reb of Hobart
10 years ago

It’s nice to see the TPS cheerleader squad motivated into action. What next? New sneakers for the “Ad Astra” followers..?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven's_Gate_(religious_group)

Mr Denmore
Mr Denmore
10 years ago

Reb, time for your banjo practice,
isn’t it?

reb of Hobart
10 years ago

That’s cute Mr Denmore. Although I’m originally from Sydney. Perhaps you could give me a few tips on the banjo, or the harmonica…?

reb of Hobart
10 years ago

Once again thank you “Mister Denmore”

On the other hand, perhaps I am doing myself a dis-service and like you should demand to be referred to as “Mister Reb” with a suitably accompanied black and white photo of me in a sophisticated pin stripe suit.

I mean surely then, my opinions would be more highly revered and adulated than compared to those with less superior monikers, is it not so..?

Or would that just be calling, what Autrlians might say “a wanker” “a wanker” Mister Denmore?

Jason
Jason
10 years ago

ken,
As we are the hot bed of “leftism” at the TPS and are on par with bolt(your words)go and cast the same eye over gutter trash, or better still what about some of the real big “left” blogs such as poll bludger or pure poison? do you dare to take on Grog? or is it the smaller ones you feel more able to deal with?

Ol' Sancty
Ol' Sancty
10 years ago

As one of Ken’s suffering students, I quite like this meeting online in quite different circumstances.

If TPS wanted to reclaim even the seeds of credibility, they would remove the stolen piece from their page. Patricia, plagiarism is intellectual theft, pure and simple, and the congratulations for the “thoughtful piece” that the plagiarist lapped up without comment or attribution merely confirms that it was not inadvertant but deliberate in full anticipation of not being discovered.

It’s telling that the piece remains up on the site as I write.

Ol' Sancty
Ol' Sancty
10 years ago

Aw shit, Ken’s online. I’m studying, Ken, I really am!!!

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Go on Ken, take on LP whilst you are it – I know you’d never dare!

Ol' Sancty
Ol' Sancty
10 years ago

Patrick, no one has the time to take on a federal public servant in a blog war.

Ol' Sancty
Ol' Sancty
10 years ago

There I go mixing up my blogs….

Jason
Jason
10 years ago

No! not Gerry’s son and as strange as it may seem no relation either!
However I fail to see apart from what you say may be plagiarism how and why did a small blog get the ire of you?
there is one other along with me on the blog that I know for a fact that is a card carrying member of the ALP! so what? most of those that go on the TPS know I’m a member, and if you seem to be arguing about others and their leanings why aren’t all your memberships etc posted on here? not that I care your site your rules.
You do a home invasion on AA’s virtual home and basicly demand he toe the agressors line, why?

Jason
Jason
10 years ago

Ken,
That’s fine I respect your decision, and I’ll leave it at that!

Hillbilly Skeleton
Hillbilly Skeleton
10 years ago

Just as well this guy isn’t one of your students:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosencrantz_and_Guildenstern_Are_Dead
Tom Stoppard

He included direct quotes from Shakespeare! Mark his work as a Fail!

murph the surf.
murph the surf.
10 years ago

That is some thin skin for a skeleton.

Fyodor
10 years ago

I blame homosexual activists Teh Gays, Murph.

The thing you have to realise is that Sillybilly here is an artiste on a par with Tom Stoppard and the Beastie Boys, and thusly unbound by the bourgeois conventions of intellectual property. Why, just the other day Sillybilly wrote this pome about Our Joolia’s Malaysian Solution:

She’s got a gold tooth –
You know she’s harcore.
She’ll show you a good time,
Then she’ll show you the door.

Quality inter-blog stoush, folks. Really takes me back.

john
john
10 years ago

Copying a picture is fine , forging a signature is not.

Hillbilly Skeleton
Hillbilly Skeleton
10 years ago

‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Hillbilly Skeleton
Hillbilly Skeleton
10 years ago

What a load of sanctimonious pontificating goes on here. Oh, that’s right, it’s ‘Academia’, where those things are a learned behaviour. Same goes for the pathetic attempts at supercilious, sneering denigration. But you see, I’m a Skeleton, and I don’t have skin to be thin. Have a nice day, guys, harumphing around the Staff Room Lunch Table about me. :)
Don’t forget to get your magnifying glasses and ‘plagiarism programs’ out when I put up a new blog next week. If you can stand to get down and dirty with us ‘Common People’ of the mouth-breathing Left. :)

FDB
FDB
10 years ago

HBS – it’s my understanding that Stoppard published the text to Rosecrantz… with a reference section, in which he made plain that he had quoted extensively from another’s work.

Your piece did NOT contain direct quotes from another’s work. A direct quote must be properly referenced, otherwise it’s not a ‘quote’ at all. It is a piece of stolen intellectual property.

Hillbilly Skeleton
Hillbilly Skeleton
10 years ago

By the way, it obviously hasn’t occurred to your learned, plagiarism seeking selves yet, that if I wanted to keep my source opaque I wouldn’t have put the name up in lights at the head of my blog. If people were interested enough in what I had to say in my blog to go in search of more information about the subject and find the wellspring of my inspiration, even better. It’s all for the better to get the message as widely disseminated as possible in my books. Post Modern Citizen Journalism I call it. You can call it what you want. I don’t care. It’s the ideas that are important to me to get out there as widely as possible about the worst, most dangerous Opposition Leader in Australia’s political history. Much, much worse than you make him out to be. But that’s only my humble opinion. Sadly, I fear, you’ll only wake up to the fact when it’s too late. At least I’ll be able to rest assured I have tried everything that I know, call it what you will, in order to get that message out.