April 06, 2004


The New York Times is a joke:

In August 2001, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, determined to halt what had become a flood of boat people trying to reach his country's shores, turned away a leaking refugee boat called the Tampa.

Attention, Daniel Okrent! The Tampa is an enormous Norwegian freighter, not a “leaking refugee boat.” At the direction of Australian authorities, it rescued refugees in August 2001. And, as Dissect Left points out, the "prominent Sydney lawyer" quoted by the NYT is an aggressive opponent of the government and an advocate for illegal immigrants. Then there’s this:

Nauru, an area of 8 square miles and 12,000 people, saw its population explode with refugees as a consequence of Australia's policy.

Not so. This was a consequence of Nauru’s policy, under which the island accepts Australian payment to house refugees. Stupid Australia-hating New York Times.


The New York Times, which won a record seven Pulitzer Prizes in 2002, primarily for its coverage of the 2001 terror attacks, earned one prize this year, for public service, in an unusual cross-media collaboration with the PBS program "Frontline" and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on lax enforcement of work safety rules at McWane Inc., a cast-iron pipe foundry.

UPDATE II. Hit the archives and scroll on down for any items you may have missed.

Posted by Tim Blair at April 6, 2004 02:27 PM

That is a great point regarding the misrepresentation of the tampa, but I am not sure that your other criticisms were quite as justified.

Julian Burnside is a big mouthed spokesman for illegal immigrants, and their description of him as a prominent lawyer is not incorrect. From his statement the reader can work out his stance on the issue anyway, so it is not that disingenuous to fail to point out his membership of "A Just Australia" etc.
What amazes me is how Burnside, who opposed the war in Iraq, can talk with a straight face and dripping sympathy about how these people were forced to flee death at the hands of the Taliban or Saddam. If that is the case - doesnt that mean there is moral argument for removing him?

I also think that it is fair to say that Nauru's population did increase because of Australia's policy. Without getting into an argument over causation, it is reasonable to say that were it not for Australia's policy, Nauru would never have accepted the refugees.
I would take more issue with the 'exploded' language - either they are claiming that the refugees were locked away in a camp, in which case their presence would not affect the rest of the population greatly, or else they are mingling as part of the population, in which case it is hardly another version of Gitmo bay.

The article also manages to mention several times how potentially deadly the boats that the smugglers use are, yet never even hints at culpability on the part of the smugglers. The fact that Howard's policy has been wildly sucessful in stopping these death trips is only mentioned rather grudgingly.

Posted by: attila at April 6, 2004 at 02:58 PM

I can understand why the NYT would make a mistake of this nature, given its distance, and its habit of shoehorning stories into its world view.

What is less forgiveable are the Australian papers that make similar errors every day.

Posted by: The Mongrel at April 6, 2004 at 03:13 PM

it is reasonable to say that were it not for Australia's policy, Nauru would never have accepted the refugees.

Would it not also be reasonable to say that were it not for Nauru's policy, Australia would never had sent them refugees?

Posted by: Lawrence at April 6, 2004 at 03:15 PM

Yes they were mainly shias from Afghnistan who had been persecuted for 20 odd years.
As you would know Timbo the Taliban who were in Government were wahhabists who hate shias more intensely than Jews.
I can see why we should have denied them sanctuary.

Indeed most people seking refugee status have come from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.
I can see why you would wish to deny them as well.

Posted by: Homer Paxton at April 6, 2004 at 03:21 PM

Is it reasonable to say that were it not for Australian money, Nauru would never have had this absurd policy? I can imagine the debate in their government - "here's a brilliant policy - we'll take Australia's refugees - er... money!)

And is it reasonable to observe where these refugees are ending up, in the main?

The NYT anti-Australian? Spurious.

Nice pick up on the Tampa, but.

Posted by: Nemesis at April 6, 2004 at 03:29 PM

Raymond Bonner wrote the article.

"It was unbelievable, and horrible," Mr. Sarwari said. "The weather was very, very hot ... There were so many of mosquitoes, they bit us there, there, there," he said, moving his hands over his arms and legs.

Get used to it, dude. My Brit in-laws arrived in Australia forty years ago and they're still complaining about the heat and the mozzies.

Posted by: ilibcc at April 6, 2004 at 03:42 PM

Burnside is a Melbourne lawyer, not a Sydney one.

Australian-hating New York Times was a joke.

And I'm with small t here - that piece is so laden with lazy mistakes that a high school student would be failed on the effort. And completely undermines the points the "writer" is trying to make


Posted by: chico o'farrill at April 6, 2004 at 04:01 PM

Homer you must know in your heart that that is an incomplete argument. We have accepted thousands of refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan over the years. We actively sought them out and paid for their relocation even though not a single treaty required us to do so. It was generosity and not some international obligation that motivated us then and continues to do so (for eg see the record high refugee intake under the Coalition).

Isn't it just possible that Australians do care about their fate? Is it even remotely possible in your mind that the Government honestly believes the Offshore Resettlement Scheme to be the most equitable means of distributing precious refugee places and that onshore applicants threaten the integrity of that scheme?

The only people we are denying sanctuary to are those that are using their money to avoid procedures that have been put in place for the sole purpose of selecting on merit alone.

Posted by: TJW at April 6, 2004 at 04:02 PM

"I can see why we should have denied them sanctuary "

No legitimate refugee has been denied sanctuary. If I'm wrong prove it. But stop with you continued bull shitting. And your hero "bug out Mark" refugee policies in similar to the governments.

Posted by: Gary at April 6, 2004 at 04:06 PM

a flood of boat people

If a coalition frontbencher were to describe themselves as facing a flood of boat people, I suspect they'd be accused of exaggeration.

Posted by: Andjam at April 6, 2004 at 04:10 PM

"Is it reasonable to say that were it not for Australian money, Nauru would never have had this absurd policy? "

The policy worked didn't it?

Posted by: Fadzil at April 6, 2004 at 04:18 PM

"Stupid Australia-hating New York Times."
Don't take it so hard, Tim. They hate America, too.

Posted by: Reid at April 6, 2004 at 04:27 PM

The Tampa is an enormous Norwegian freighter, not a “leaking refugee boat.”

Maybe this Okrent chappy was getting his metaphors confused - you know, the 'flood' of illegal immigrants bursting out of a 'leaking' boat.

Posted by: TimT at April 6, 2004 at 04:33 PM

Okrent is the NYT ombudsman, hired in the wake of the scandal of Jayson Blair, Howell Raines, & whatzisname.

Posted by: ForNow at April 6, 2004 at 04:38 PM

"I can see why we should have denied them sanctuary."

Actually, Homer, the best reasons I can think of for denying them automatic sanctuary are the 13 million refugees already confirmed by the UNHCR who have been rotting for years in camps that make Nauru look like the South Pac Club Med. The ones that make it to Nauru, Baxter, Woomera etc. - though unfortunate - are, relatively speaking, the lucky ones.

Posted by: fidens at April 6, 2004 at 04:49 PM

"Yes they were mainly shias from Afghnistan who had been persecuted for 20 odd years."

It's tough being a plumber in Pakistan.

Posted by: Craig Mc at April 6, 2004 at 05:25 PM

"Stupid Australia-hating New York Times."

Don't worry. They'll love you again as soon as you bounce Howard, declare yourselves fervent followers of Spain's Ayatolla, er, Prime Minister Zapatero, surrender in the war on terror, and donate 95% of your GDP as reparations for all your past sins -- including returning Mel Gibson to us. A small price to pay for the love of the NYT.

Posted by: Lewis at April 6, 2004 at 07:10 PM

Yeah, so-called "Tim Blair" ....

You ought not blame Okrent for every little NYT crime. The dude is a funny, talented baseball writer and is on a short-term contract with the NYT. (His web writing is the funniest stuff on nytimes.com.)

Anyway, if you idiot Aussies could ever get ANYTHING right about the USA, I might feel a little bit sad about the No. 3 U.S. newspaper screwing up something about wherever the hell you live. You have penguins, right? And "roos" of some sort? And ... oh, who cares.


You are the bitches of the Aliens.

Posted by: Ken Layne at April 6, 2004 at 07:35 PM

"You are the bitches of the Aliens."

Does make us Scientologists or their enemies?

Posted by: Peter Ness at April 6, 2004 at 10:09 PM

can we send you modo as proof of our love? pretty please?

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at April 6, 2004 at 10:37 PM

...his web writing is the funniest stuff on nytimes.com...

Golly, what a compliment. Sorta like being the most credible Dem presidential candidate.

Posted by: Byron_the_Aussie at April 6, 2004 at 10:54 PM

Hey Tim!

Burnsides's not just another "prominent Sydney lawyer" scumbag (actually, Melbourne, as Chico points out). He's a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1082424.htm">fucking living treasure, OK?


Posted by: Bob Bunnett at April 7, 2004 at 12:04 AM

Let's try that again ... living treasure?

Posted by: Bob Bunnett at April 7, 2004 at 12:07 AM

Bugger it! Cut n' paste time ...


Posted by: Bob Bunnett at April 7, 2004 at 12:09 AM

The NY Times is not anti-Australia, it's just anti anything that does not fit their particular world view. Daniel Okrunt would need twenty assistants to do his job seriously. As Sulzberger sees it, the role of the Times is not to inform her readers but to make sure they vote Left (but not far left, just properly combed, technocrat-run, EU-style, professoriate-sanctioned, center-Left).

See, for example:

Posted by: Sergio at April 7, 2004 at 12:35 AM

I doubt the NYT has any especial animus towards Australia - but this is very lazy reporting.

But why are we surprised , I am sure all of us have experienced the strange sense of uv ejad that comes from watching the media report on an event that one has attended or on a subject that one has reasonable knowledge and observing the strange parralel universe that is the media representation.

Of course the moment the media start reporting on something we know little about or on events whith which we are not directly involved we forget this experience and credit the reporter with at least getting the story roughly right - even when we might disagree with their assumptions or their angle or their editorialising we somehow are prepared to believe that the facts get checked. The alternative - that reality and the omnipresent media's representation of it are only coincidentally related - appears too uncomfortable a leap for us to make.

Posted by: Johan at April 7, 2004 at 01:10 AM

If Australia votes in Latham, drops out of the war on terror, opens wide the gates to illegal immigrants and hands over its sovereignty to the UN it will instantly become a darling of the NYT. It will prove that Australia then has a government of "nuance" and "sophistication". Then the NYT will be filled with stories about the wonderful new multicultural sensitive Australia and its nuanced multilateral foreign policy.

Posted by: Bruce at April 7, 2004 at 01:17 AM

Gee. The NYT misrepresented you.

Welcome to our world.

Sincerely, an American conservative

Posted by: Richard McEnroe at April 7, 2004 at 01:31 AM


Because we recognize that one man's "leaking refugee boat" may be another's "enormous Norwegian freighter," we have decided that from now on the Tampa shall be referred to as an "ark."

-- Organization of News Ombudsmen

Posted by: ONO at April 7, 2004 at 01:43 AM

So sad that poor little Australia's pristine international reputation for extending a helping hand to the poor, the weak, the helpless, our neighbours, regardless of creed or nationality - all good Christian values - should be tarnished by bad journalism... good journalism would have sufficed.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at April 10, 2004 at 09:57 AM