May 30, 2003


Me in The Australian:

Fewer than 12 hours after Saddam Hussein's statue had been torn down and turned into a target for liberated Iraqi footwear, John Highfield, host of ABC radio's The World Today, went to air with this: "Well, dawn has broken over Baghdad, welcoming day one of the new freedom, but if this is liberty, then it's far from perfect."

Neither was France immediately after World War II. Or France now, for that matter. Highfield's misery was reflected throughout the ABC; the Bad Guys had triumphed, and poor Iraqi citizens would be forced out of their torture chambers and made to live in a democracy. Pity them. We all know how dull elections can be.

And Senator Richard Alston in The Age:

Despite Pentagon officials indicating that US troops had no choice but to defend themselves, Mottram proclaimed that: "The deaths undermine the Pentagon's claim that it's waging a compassionate war."

Reporter John Shovelan immediately followed with dripping sarcasm from Washington: "Oh, the civility of this US military. The daily Pentagon briefing begins with an illustration of its mercy and kindness."

Posted by Tim Blair at May 30, 2003 03:14 AM

Prediction: comments to follow from Niall, Homer, and that other loser whose name I can't remember. You know, the AC/DC kid. And probably old Rex as well. Get lives!

Posted by: tim at May 30, 2003 at 03:18 AM

"You know, the AC/DC kid."

Who, Butt-Head?

Posted by: Steve Gigl at May 30, 2003 at 03:28 AM

John Shovelan lies about Christmas ornaments. That kind of man would say anything.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at May 30, 2003 at 03:54 AM

Which lie would you have us believe Tim?
That this a war about the removal of WMD or this was a war of liberation.
John C

Posted by: John Crockett at May 30, 2003 at 04:39 AM

You are supposed to wait until after they've commented before you sledge them Tim.

Please don't discourage Niall from commenting.

Posted by: Scott Wickstein at May 30, 2003 at 05:16 AM

John C.-
It wouldn't matter. If the U.S. went to war for any reason, anti-americans would protest. It doesn't matter what the war was about. If WWII happened all over again, people would be whining that the U.S. is fighting against a duly elected leader in a sovereign nation.

Also, why must it be one or the other? Is war so simple, you can reduce its motivating events into one word to describe what it's "about"? I hope you don't mislead people by claiming to be open-minded. I think I can see what simple cause motivates you.


Posted by: Courtney at May 30, 2003 at 05:21 AM

So, was the American Civil War about the union or about slavery? Can't be both eh? This isn't 4th grade history class. Wars occur as a result of a complex chain of events. They have multiple causes. Politics is not physics. There were several good reasons to prosecute this war. So what if they include liberation and destruction of WMDs? If liberation is a side-benefit of WMD destruction, is that a bad thing? Or vice-versa?

Posted by: Humphrey Bogus at May 30, 2003 at 06:12 AM

I've been waiting for someone to make an analogy with the Civil War in one particular way. One thing the Civil War brought America was the transcontinental railroad-- neither the North or the South wanted it built in the other part of the country, knowing it would be a major engine of economic power. So it was stalemated, like so many things, all through the 1850s.

Along comes 1860 and a railroad lawyer gets elected to office. (By less than half of the American people!) War immediately breaks out (due to his bungling inexperience and belligerent cabinet) and what do you know, work starts right away on that railroad-- along a northern route. Making lots of Republicans with ties to the administration rich rich rich.

Can there be any doubt that the Lincoln Administration has no interest in actually freeing the slaves, and that it's ALL ABOUT THE TRAAAAAAAIIIIINNNNN!

Posted by: Mike G at May 30, 2003 at 06:46 AM

All the furore has missed some of the most glaring examples of ABC bias. In fact, the examples in the Alston report were fairly tame and made only a fairly weak case.

How about this: in the weeks leading up to the war, The J Files ( a high-profile Triple J program which each week plays a collection of songs with a particular theme - usually songs from a particular band, though last week was songs about trains ) dedicated an entire show to "Anti-war songs".

It would have been quite easy for them to make a token attempt at balance by making it "songs about war" and playing basically the same songs with a few pro-war or neutral songs, but... nope!

Posted by: Jorge at May 30, 2003 at 09:42 AM

John C, so you don't believe there is a threat of al Qaida attacking Washington or London with WMD?

And you trusted Saddam (a) not to run a covert WMD program and (b) not to supply biological and/or chemical weapons to al Qaida?

Or maybe you think that the UN inspectors would have found the mobile labs?

You don't think that Bush and Blair, and their advisors, take the WMD threat seriously?

Is that because you're one of those sophisticates who knows it must be all about the oil?

I'm just curious. Did you think there was any threat to New York and Washington on September 10, 2001?

And why do you think that the US has a 'shadow government' at a secure location on the East Coast?

Just interested to hear your response to these questions.

Posted by: Hoover at May 30, 2003 at 09:43 AM


Spot on with your prediction mate. Congratulations!
Once again your evidence of bias is completely ridiculous and contrived. There is no bias at the ABC and that why you don't like them.

What you say is bias, I say is simply an expression of uncertainty. Would you expect a professional organisation to be as gung-ho and pro-war as you?
Expressions of uncertainty and scepticism about the outcome of the war as it was occurring is not a demonstration of bias. It is a demonstration of conformance! Conformance with the 60-70% of Australian who were against the war and were fearful of the outcome.


PS. Get a life? Tim baby. I only live for you!

Posted by: Rex Ringschott at May 30, 2003 at 09:50 AM

Humphrey Bogus, some other analogy is in order.

Human action is physics mainfest, thus politics too.Physics is simple in this regard, a limited number of elegant theorems.

The theorems of physics, however, elucidate: the universe as apparently chaotic.Events,structure, dimension, formation of things , occuring because of general abstract principles of interaction - a relational universe.

To say, politics is more complex than physics involves Descartes mistake - the univers is a concrete block, mere matter,man is some ethereal lumpenmasse instantiated in so many mere material bodies. This leads to further nonsense, one reason why France is backwards, economically decadent, and committed to socialism. But, there are rather a large number in Australia who believe the same nonsense.

As a suggestion, one could say, politics is not a dick and dora story or an equally infantile ABC Playschool- as a tot one could not fathom why friends could watch what, even at that tender age, was clearly unmitigated tripe.

Posted by: d at May 30, 2003 at 10:09 AM

"Expressions of uncertainty and scepticism about the outcome of the war as it was occurring is not a demonstration of bias."

Except that is not what the ABC was doing. The ABC was expressing disappointment that a perfect social democracy did not spring into existence full grown as Saddam's statue hit the pavement. The ABC was saying, on the day the statue came down, that the war was, in effect, a failure.

Posted by: T. Hartin at May 30, 2003 at 10:14 AM

I don't recall any promises of a compassionate war. I do remember promises of a terrible, swift war, however.
I think Mike G has the analogy nailed. I'm a southern American who works for the offspring of the (eastern/southern) B&O railroad. That northern route still prevails in transcon traffic. And yup, Lincoln was a lawyer for the Illinois Central, a very powerful job.

Posted by: Velociman at May 30, 2003 at 10:37 AM

Not only was Lincoln a lawyer for the Illinois Central Railroad, he received the first $5000 fee in US history from them. However, he had to sue the railroad to collect. ;->=

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at May 30, 2003 at 11:09 AM

I agree. It's very hard to discern a left-wing bias in on ABC Radio. Oh, unless you listen. I mean going to those sort of lengths is just unsporting. Makes it too easy.

Posted by: Journo Dave at May 30, 2003 at 12:07 PM

The is a difference between being anti-American and not being pro-American.
Being a 'loser' I am happily to proclaim in the ?War in Iraq I was the latter.
In the imposition of a constitution I am happily to be in the former.

Timbo to be fair your effort is no better than Dicky.

For petes sakes ( or anyone elses!) of course there will be bias at the ABC put up some quality so the ABC has to reply to it and change its methods.

Mediswatch should be applauded by 'conservative' journailsts etc as it SHOULD mean they have to maintain higher standards than others.
I for one applaud this as it should eventually mean greater quality from right writers (!)
This is not the case at present.
Now I am going to share carrot juice and chant with Niall and the other loser whom I can't remember.

Posted by: Homer Paxton at May 30, 2003 at 12:25 PM

That piece in The Australian was kinda lame. It offered no real evidence apart from some out-of-context remarks, or analysis as to why the remarks were any different to what other media was saying at the time.

For example, the quote "all is not going to plan . . . difficult new questions for the Coalition . . . embarrassment for the White House" was hardly unique to the ABC at the time. I'm pretty sure I read a few articles in The Australian at the time that expressed the same sentiments on the progress of the war, yet no one would accuse them of being anti-US.

Anyway, Tim, I'm sure you can do better than this effort. I'm sure you know that it was more diatribe than an objective piece of analysis (I'm suprised The Australian saw fit to publish it, actually).

Given more time, I'm sure you can come up with something more substantial, discussing what should have been reported, allowing for the lack of information and deliberate misinformation that was available in a war zone, and compare and constrast with other media efforts.

Posted by: Geoff Elgey at May 30, 2003 at 12:59 PM

You rang?

I love the ABC - I think they did a fine job filming the filmclip for "Long Way To The Top" for us. Did you know I actually played snare in the pipe band, not bagpipes? True.

Posted by: Bon Scott at May 30, 2003 at 01:22 PM

Hold up. A Japanese government education board has decided the U.S. started WWII, and the reason guessed it -- OIL!

Read it here.

Posted by: Courtney at May 30, 2003 at 01:37 PM

I'm afraid I agree with those who have observed that the examples of ABC bias outlined in the last week are pretty pathetic. While there is no doubt that the ABC leans to the left, this comes across more in general tone, selection of guests etc. than the types of examples here.

The government has had its chance to infiltrate the ABC through its board and MD and hasn't gotten very far. It may take decades to change the culture.

I'm much more concerned that a flunky in the Communications minister office has nothing better to do than trawl through transcripts of AM, when the private sector (Tim, Uncle, Bunyip) fisks so much more efficiently, as you would expect. Privatise you office, Mr Alston.

Posted by: Wayne Errington at May 30, 2003 at 01:57 PM

The ABC is a little lefty biased, I agree. But most of the examples floating around are crap. Point in case:

"Fewer than 12 hours after Saddam Hussein's statue had been torn down and turned into a target for liberated Iraqi footwear, John Highfield, host of ABC radio's The World Today, went to air with this: "Well, dawn has broken over Baghdad, welcoming day one of the new freedom, but if this is liberty, then it's far from perfect."

Given the state of affairs in Baghdad shortly after the coalition took over this is a fair and accurate statement.

Posted by: Stewart Kelly at May 30, 2003 at 02:41 PM

People who use "it's far from perfection" to describe any endeavor on this earth should at the very least have one week's suspension without pay.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at May 30, 2003 at 03:25 PM

The most blatant example of bias was stopping the overnight TV coverage (admittedly BBC feed) just as coalition victory became inevitable. After all, can't have the public seeing all those communard pundits' predictions of slaughter and quagmire going bellyup.

Posted by: slatts at May 30, 2003 at 03:45 PM

I think you Tim are still angry because the great Phillip Adams gave you a dressing down in The Australian on Wednesday. He exposed the real reason you loathe the ABC. You just couldn't cut the mustard.

Posted by: mike hunt at May 30, 2003 at 05:46 PM


Oh, please. I was attacking the ABC before I ever set foot in the place. Re the cutting of any mustard ... the show got more pro mail than it did anti. Maybe one in three of the programs was actually pretty good.

And the ABC keeps inviting me back, which might say something.

Posted by: tim at May 30, 2003 at 06:07 PM

What's with the huffing and puffing? All anyone need do is listen to or watch ABC reportage for a few minutes to pick up the bias.

Don't we all know that the moral high ground is perpetually occupied by the left and that it takes much less thinking, and effort, to be a creature of the left (than of the right)? Why paddle against the tide when you can coast with it?

Posted by: ZsaZsa at May 30, 2003 at 06:40 PM

Couldn't agree more Mike. I listed to Tim's show on the ABC and it was the Right's equivalent of Green Left Weekly. If only Phillip Adams wrote a blog.

Posted by: Richard Pullar at May 30, 2003 at 07:08 PM

News Radio is OK...and BTW I liked Tim and Imre's show. I went out of my way to listen to it each week. I discovered the show by accident and found it a nice change from the usual boring, precious Radio National with Phat Phil and friends. The intro music sucked and blowed bigtime though.

Posted by: AussieJoe at May 30, 2003 at 07:54 PM
It wouldn't matter. If the U.S. went to war for any reason, anti-americans would protest. It doesn't matter what the war was about. If WWII happened all over again, people would be whining that the U.S. is fighting against a duly elected leader in a sovereign nation.
Actually, they did. Posted by: Tatterdemalian at May 30, 2003 at 08:12 PM

Mike "Beef Curtains" and other friends of Phat Phuc Phil,

I hate the ABC too and I never worked for it. The problem with Alston's report is it doesn't contain any searing indictments. However, the tactic used by the ABC is more commonly known as "White Anting". It's about picking away at your enemy little by little. It involves spreading thousands of little lies and half-truths which are individually ineffectual and not worth rebutting, but collectively devastating. It is usually delivered in a sneering, superior tone (which the ABC is quite good at). The tactic was brilliantly employed by the Hanoi Regime and fellow travellers in the Vietnam War and is currently being effectively employed against the US and Israel in particular.


Posted by: AndyM at May 30, 2003 at 08:51 PM

I heard you talking on 6WF before midday about bias on the ABC. It's interesting that you seem to think it was OK for Fox Cable TV to keep broadcasting nonsense about the Jessica Lynch case because "it was a good story" but that apparently the ABC must not only be 100% accurate all the time, it must also reflect your point of view on all issues.

Posted by: Sam at May 30, 2003 at 10:22 PM

Getting savaged by Little Timmie is like being attacked by a half dead sheep.Really Tim you are the simpleton incarnate , an Uber moron .Let's take the latest decomposition of logical howlers you collected to call an article in the Australian 30/5/03 .I was for our involvement in the Iraq and some of the ABC reporting did make me feel uncomfortable. They had a heart-felt oppositon to the war which was'nt in general well thought out , nor did they understand the mechanics of the war .
The last thing we want is the press to be a cheer squad for government actions , and this is something your adddled libertarian brain might dimly perceive .The press's main job must be to get the facts right .

Posted by: Peter Weatherall at May 30, 2003 at 10:54 PM

Sam obviously didn't listen very closely to that interview. Too bad they don't have slow-talk radio for the comprehension impaired.

Posted by: tim at May 31, 2003 at 12:04 AM

Mr Weatherall,

Was it possible for the ABC to present factual information if its staff did not understand the mechanics of the war and its opposition to the war was not well thought out?

As for the ABC's heartfelt oppostion to the war, what's the old saying about good intentions and the road to hell?

Nattering nabobs of negativism.

Posted by: ZsaZsa at May 31, 2003 at 12:25 AM

-- Reporter John Shovelan immediately followed with dripping sarcasm from Washington: "Oh, the civility of this US military. The daily Pentagon briefing begins with an illustration of its mercy and kindness." --

I remember listening to that report at the time. "Dripping sarcasm" is way too mild a term. The depth of Shovelan's anti-American bias, and even hatred, was truly jarring.

This sort of experience - actually being shocked by the depth of bias - happens all too often when listening to the Radio National current affairs flagships AM, World Today and PM. Yet it amazes me how many seemingly intelligent, left-leaning people can miss quite gross examples entirely. I guess they swim in a warm sea of shared opinion with Radio National most of the time and just don't notice when Shovelan et al go over the top.

I still listen to Radio National every morning simply because there is no other radio news & current affairs service I know of that has the same scope and depth of coverage of national and international news. I quite like not having to listen to ads, too. Most of the time, its selectivity and the persistent leftish stance taken by many of its journalists are fairly easily dismissed. But every now and then, it just goes beyond the pale and Shovelan's report, as quoted by Alston, was a classic example.

"You had to be there" is all I can say. It was so excruciating listening to Shovelan destroy his credibility as a journalist so comprehensively that I immediately thought "this is simply unacceptable, the ABC must act on this". Maybe Alson was listening and thought the same.


Posted by: Bob Bunnett at May 31, 2003 at 01:21 AM

I did listen carefully Tim. Please don't substitute invective for argument - that's a cop out.

Posted by: Sam at May 31, 2003 at 03:46 PM

Sam, you didn't post anything that was even vaguely debatable. If you want an argument, post facts. If you want invective, post dumbass strawman arguments, like you did above.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at May 31, 2003 at 11:41 PM

The Natives AND Bwana seem restless tonight.

Posted by: Norman at June 5, 2003 at 12:16 AM

"... a warm sea of shared opinion", and a previous comment to the effect of "going with the flow". Excellent. Really does put the ABC culture in perspective. If you're cognitively enveloped by a particular perspective you may even find yourself genuinely surprised and affronted when individualists draw attention to your pre-formed opinions and assumptions.

But then there are the "gurus" who harness and corral this naivety, sometimes by some serious re-engineering of information (see Phil the Phabricator work his magic on his Jewish-American quarry in the TB archives) - they are the ones who need slapping around a little.

Posted by: The at June 5, 2003 at 11:06 AM