hurricane sandy and the last week of an election

It’s extremely difficult to judge the impact Hurricane Sandy will have on the polls; but it will have an undeniable impact – it has thrown the meticulously planned schedules of each candidate into disarray. Obviously, there is no data in recent US history on the impact national disasters have on elections; but it seems reasonable to suspect that in times of national crises brought about by ‘acts of god’, the gut instinct of the body politic would follow stability and demonstrated leadership, and support Obama. During crises, people don’t necessarily act rationally – which is not suggest that Obama’s policies or behaviour as President in recent months has been irrational, but rather, that voter behaviour in the hurricane’s wake may not be entirely rational.

That said, Obama’s actions during the hurricane and the ensuing cleanup obviously will be a key determinant in impacting the public response. If he handles the cleanup well, appears compassionate, and demonstrates capability, he will logically enjoy a poll bounce. Likewise, he’ll suffer if he appears unprepared, as occurred when the Benghazi crisis unfolded a month ago.

As for Romney; his campaign is potentially threatened on two key fronts by this development. First, he is in danger of making an ill-informed gaffe, which appears to be a habit of his – recall the 47%, and his statements about Libya. Although the media exaggerates the impact these gaffes have on the electorate (Republicans seem to largely agree with his offensive statements or disregard them and continue their support out of selective perception), a big Hurricane Sandy gaffe will probably annihilate his presence from a Presidential race he has a small but not insignificant chance of winning.

Obama has held a small but recalcitrant lead in the key swing states for the duration of this campaign, and that’s all that matters – the popular vote is irrelevant under the American electoral college model of voting.

The primary factor that could work in Romney’s favour is the impact Hurricane Sandy could have on underprivileged minority voters, who overwhelmingly favour Obama. With smaller disposable incomes, storm damage will hit them harder than middle and upper class voters, which in turn may decrease voter turnout. Although most of the Eastern seaboard states are comprehensively pro-Obama, this will probably influence voter turnout in the important swing-state of Virginia, which seems one of the tightest races in the country (according to the latest polls)

thoughts on alan jones and the liberal party a month too late

It has already been media digested down to the bone, but Alan Jones’ speech demonstrates a much deeper repugnancy in the Liberal Party. Jones’s speech was not delivered to a room of crusty chortling old boys. He addressed the party’s young blood. Any optimistic understanding of politics would hope that these were an influx of optimism and progress into the Liberal party; perhaps in a more intelligent and engaged Australia, where the Liberal Party was not willing to employ  a miserable and vulgar asshole like Jones as a curator of its political narrative. But this was not the case. Senior members of the Liberal party were completely at ease to let the next generation of its leaders be told the Prime Minister’s father died from shame. That idea alone should make any reasonable person’s mouth taste of vomit. It is the scent of this unsettling and squalid intellectual undercurrent that many Australians catch on Abbott; and it is this contamination that prevents the party from undertaking a Turnbull-lead modernisation that would guarantee it victory next year. Perhaps the saddest reality is that the party seems likely to win regardless, and will be insulated from any serious moral introspection by simply seizing an easy victory from an inept incumbent Government.

women and abbott

Tony Abbott does not hate women. He is not a misogynist. He has an antiquated understanding of them that is embarrassing and ignorant, but he does not hate them, and it is a falsehood to impute otherwise. The word hatred has a high qualification: it suggests an active and unyielding loathing which Abbott has never demonstrated. Commentators do themselves a disfavour by setting this standard of behaviour for the Opposition leader; as he is justified in denying such a hyperbolic charge, and can take advantage of exaggerated criticism by using it to discredit and discount other more subtle and legitimate observations about his character.

A man who believes that most Australian women identify with the image of a housewife ironing cannot be said to hate women on this belief alone; it is a bizarre and stupid belief, but it does not demonstrate contempt, or loathing, or malice. Rather, it displays a kind of benign and deluded ignorance, perhaps even a misguided benevolence, which, although antiquated, should not be misrepresented as hatred. It would be more rational for his critics to pursue him on the less sensational but still indicting charge of male chauvinism (which is not the same as misogyny) that he undeniably fulfils.

Abbott is a chauvinist. He seems to believe that women are not always as capable as men. Yet despite his at times ridiculous worldview, he has never sought to restrict or curtail the women of Australia’s rights besides the contentious and ambiguous issues surrounding abortion. There is a massive distinction between a man like Abbott, who has a well-intentioned but erroneous understanding of the world, and a man like Alan Jones, who actively perpetuates horrible and vicious ideas about human beings. Men like Abbott at least demonstrate the potential to redeem themselves and update their thinking to the reality of the 21st century. Misogynists do not.

sub judice and social media

The rape and murder of 29-year-old ABC staffer Jill Meagher was a horrible and random act of extreme and disgusting violence. Understandably, news of Mrs Meagher’s death was met with a national outpouring of grief; paralleled by expressions of contempt and loathing toward Mrs Meagher’s alleged rapist and murderer Adrian Bayley. The hundreds of thousands of Australians who use Facebook and Twitter arguably facilitated much of the nation-wide response to this tragedy; and have been actively involved in the case’s development since Mrs Meagher’s fateful disappearance just over a week.

Australian social media user’s reaction to Mr Bayley’s arrest runs the very real risk of compromising the Mr Bayley’s trial. The online response to Jill Meagher’s murder has created an unprecedented intersection in the relationship between social media, professional publications, and the law; an intersection that sooner or later Australia’s legal system will have to both confront and resolve. Through hostile comments and speculation about Mr Bayley’s past, influential social media users expose themselves to contempt of court, and compromise the justice system’s capacity to convict Mr Bayley by creating the possibility for a mistrial. Without an adequate understanding of Australia’s contempt of court laws, many well-intentioned users run the risk of derailing the trial they are so keen to see carried through.

In theory, at least, the Australian legal system guarantees all Australians the right to a fair and unbiased trial. Rumors, slander, falsehood, and knowledge of earlier convictions have serious implications on the implementation of this right. Publications like newspapers and television broadcasts were the traditional vehicles through which potentially compromising information travelled. Historically, this obligation arose in acknowledgement of the clout the media holds over public opinion. If an individual under trial can prove that their right to a fair and balanced trial has been compromised, a mistrial can be called. Depending on the severity of the circumstances, a mistrial can potentially compromise the justice system’s entire capacity to convict the accused.

Contempt of court is the most likely way in which social media (or indeed, any media) can cause a mistrial. To be in contempt of court is to disrupt or disregard the justice system that administers Australian law, and sub judice contempt of court renders illegal the act of publishing information that may unduly influence a trial while that trial is underway – sub judice is the Latin phrase for ‘under judgment’[1]. The Common Law on which the Australian justice system is based developed the doctrine of sub judice contempt of court, a sub-set of broader contempt laws, to insulate the legal system from rumor, gossip, falsehood, and perjury. Besides the potential for causing a mistrial, committing sub judice contempt is an offence under various Commonwealth and State laws, and the Australian media is legally obliged to avoid sub judice contempt of court[2].

The Australian justice system recognizes that social media like Twitter and Facebook are publications[3]. Users of social media websites that create and share content in a public sphere are accountable to the same standards as professional publications. Yet Australia’s burgeoning social media communities do not have the training, understanding, experience, or constraint of major media publications. The parameters of sub judice contempt are extremely complicated; and most publications err on the side of caution in their coverage of court stories. Brutal punishment has been meted out by the Australian justice system in the past to publications that have committed sub judice contempt[4]. With the Mr Bayley’s trial, for the first time, social network users face the risk of being both in contempt of court and compromising a trial.

Commentator Andrew Haslop cited George Paramananthan, a Sydney-based lawyer who specializes in social media, to describe the predominant attitude of the Australian public on social networks: “The prevailing (and incorrect) view of the general public is that social media and the internet is as lawless as the Wild West of the gold-rush era. It isn’t. Laws are changing and adapting to the new world”[5]. Australian courts recognize that social media users have a responsibility not to publish content that would bring them into contempt of court, and could compromise the rights of an individual to a fair and unbiased trial.

Social media has played a huge role in the public response to Mrs Meagher’s death; and when the police arrested and charged Mr Bayley, the reaction online was relentless. According to one article, Jill Meagher was mentioned on social media, both Twitter and Facebook every 11 seconds over the weekend on the morning of Wednesday, September 26[6]. A Facebook group, ‘RIP jill meagher’ [sic], received 150,000 views in just four days[7]. Thousands of Melbournians participated in a rally organized over social media in Mrs Meagher’s memory.

Since the initial news of Mr Bayley’s arrest was broken over Twitter, social networks have been flooded with content and commentary characteristic of sub judice contempt. As engaged users investigated Bradley’s past, speculation and conjecture were interspersed among retweeted information about the accused. On Friday September 28, incendiary commentator Andrew Bolt was forced to delete a link that provided information about the accused’s background and history; the revelation of an accused’s antecedents prior to his or her conviction being recognized as a potential form of sub judice contempt[8]. A Facebook group called ‘Publicly Hang Adrian Bayley’ has attracted 44,000 likes since Mr Bayley was charged[9]. A number of less popular similar groups have been created; their comment streams populated with vitriolic posts. The Victorian Police’s Facebook page directly acknowledged the obligations of the social media community with a post on the 28th of September that urged their Facebook followers to avoid publishing material that could compromise Mr Bayley’s right towards an objective and unbiased trial[10].

Nonetheless, it would be extremely unlikely for a single Twitter or Facebook user with no public profile to be charged with contempt of court or interfering with the administration of justice for posting their thoughts and feelings online. In cases of sub judice contempt, courts consider whether material will interfere with the case as a matter of practical reality, rather than as a remote possibility[11]. However, given the broad reach of their content and the influence it has on public opinion, users who make themselves the administrators of Facebook pages or popular twitter users with thousands of followers are particularly exposed to contempt. Through their ignorance of the laws of contempt, the administrators of pages like ‘Publicly Hang Adrian Bayley’ could inadvertently compromise Mr Bayley’s trial.

The trial of Jill Meagher’s alleged rapist and murderer is a pivotal development in the relationship between social media and the Australian justice system. At the very least, it will establish within the broader social media ecosystem an awareness of the responsibilities and rights that traditional media have adhered to for decades in covering the justice system. Although it is unrealistic to assume that Australian social media users will immediately adopt or adhere to the stringent and nuanced constraints imposed by Australian law on court coverage, the trial of Adrian Bayley is the first instance where this relationship has been properly considered in public discussion. As social media grows ever more pervasive in Australian society, it is a discussion that is long overdue. Whether Australia’s Facebook and Twitter communities adhere to their Common Law responsibilities in regards to the trial of Mr Bayley remains to be seen; but it is safe to suggest there are currently many outspoken voices within online communities that have no intention on complying with the courts in the short run.

the internet and a dead monopoly

It’s undeniably ironic that the biggest challenge faced by journalism in modern history has not come from any totalitarian government or omniscient corporation. It has arisen from the democratisation of information, and the challenges this development represents to journalism’s three-hundred-year-old business model.

Since Gutenberg’s printing press, print media relied on its monopoly on the means of producing and sharing information to make money. Prior to the advent of digital media, by the early 1990s, publishers supported the independence of their publications with three pillars of revenue: print sales, advertising space, and classified revenue. As James Murdoch observed in his 2009 MacTaggart address, private ownership and profit are largely responsible for the growth and evolution of journalism in the US and Britain.

Whereas the printed press of continental Europe was largely subsidised by partisan financial support and state money, free market competition provided Anglophone publishers with the revenue to support their independence. The relative absence of political parallelism in US and British press for the most part of the 20th century is testimony to the correlation between independent finance and a relatively objective, non-partisan investigative press.

Such a model was viable up until about twenty years ago, when Tim Berners-Lee figured out a cheap way of using computers to share information at the speed of light. Digital media has destroyed print’s monopoly over information, and with it, the industry’s capacity to support its independence. For the last decade, print journalism has been bleeding cash. With the advent of the internet and the subsequent digitalisation of news media, print sales have plummeted. As consumers yield to free online content, advertising revenue has dropped in tandem with sales. Printed classified sections have almost been rendered obsolete in their entirety by websites that offer essentially the same service without charge to a much broader digital audience.

During the 20th century, this revenue insulated journalists from corporate and state interference and financed independent investigation. But within the new parameters set by digital media, the three-sided print, advertising, and classified sale model is no longer relevant – and the impact its demise has had is both brutal and sobering. Succinctly, the internet’s impact on print media revenue has been iconoclastic.

In The Economist’s recent investigative feature on digital media, veteran European editor Gregor Waller estimated that “by 2020 newspaper circulation will have fallen by 50%, classified advertising revenue by 90% and display advertising revenue by 30%”. In their 2009 book, The Crisis of Journalism, McChesney and Nichols’ catalogued an apocalyptic 29% drop in newspaper advertising revenue within the first quarter of 2009 alone, marking the 12th consecutive quarterly decline in newspaper advertising revenue since 2006 . Between 2007 and 2009, the newspaper market within the US plunged 30%, while Britain’s newspaper market shrunk by 26% over the same period, according to the Australian Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance’s report Life In the Clickstream.

Maintained by former journalist Erica Smith, Paper Cuts collates job losses in the press industry across the United States of America. In 2009, over 14,000 print media jobs were destroyed across the US. Compounded with the data collected up until present day, around 25,000 jobs have been lost over the last three years. Although the Australian print news industry contracted by a relatively mild 3% in 2011, Fairfax shed 1,900 jobs in June. From any angle, print journalism’s forecast is bleak.

Diminished revenue is not the only challenge undermining independent journalism: technological progress is arguably undermining entire fields of the profession itself. Stijn Debrouwere has written a number of polemics that argue cultural journalism is in the process of being replaced by programs and websites that provide a customised, considered flow of content directly to users. At the most basic level, he argues, a single optimised search on Google surpasses the capacity of most music critics’ to cover the length and breadth of, say, a musical artist’s career.

Spotify’s ‘radio’ function interprets user’s listening behaviour to recommend and play music. iTunes, the biggest online music retailer in the world, now provides a similar service. Film and rental website Netflix recommends films to users based on their purchase history, while Wikipedia offers users a considered critical and historical summary of whatever content they might be chasing. Soundcloud and Myspace let music producers and consumers curate private artistic communities. In each of these instances, the role and relevance of cultural criticism has been diminished by technology.

Besides providing raw content, such websites and programs let users critique and share material both on-site and through social networking. Individually, each individual application is not a substitute for professional music or film journalism. But as a whole, they stress the superstructure of an industry already buckling under pressure of an increasingly unprofitable financial situation.

Furthermore, although digital media services like Spotify and Netflix argue they are optimized to provide users with the best browsing experience possible, there is no guarantee that sponsors, partners, advertisers and other affiliated corporate influences do not interfere with ratings or recommendations. A music or film critic is accountable his or her peers; a music or film program is beholden only to its programmers, and in turn, their employers.

Online advertising provides some revenue, most digital publications have been reluctant to raise paywalls around their content. Those that have raised paywalls have not enjoyed robust success: as of 2011, the Australian Financial Review has accumulated a paltry 10,872 paying subscribers. The Australian has had more success, with around 40,000 subscribers paying $4.50 a week. This figure is poor compensation for the paper’s $3 daily broadsheet price. Not only do paywalls drive users to competitors that offer content for free, but they also compromise the page-views that form the basis of online advertising revenue, further starving a publication of income.

It is inane and tautological to say financial viability is essential to any profession; this is true of all professions. But to journalism, finance has a unique role. Without finance, the press’s independence and investigative capacity are in danger of being compromised. Regardless of their employer’s objectives, an accountant is an accountant, an engineer is an engineer, a worker is still a worker. But if journalists can’t be paid by the free market for labouring on behalf of enquiry and exposure, they will have no choice but to labour on behalf of whoever can pay.

Digitalization has drastically compromised the news media’s revenue, and indirectly, it is compromising its independence. As a result, journalists have become increasingly instrumentalised by advertisers and public relation departments.

The impact of diminished financial independence is already evident in the Australia print media, with the nation’s mastheads increasingly reliant on pre-packaged and research public relations bundles as a source for stories. After analysing a five-day working week in the media across 10 hard-copy papers, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism and online publication Crikey found nearly 55% of stories in their study were driven by some form of public relations. The Daily Telegraph relied most heavily on PR, with 70% of stories in their analysis driven by press release, while The Sydney Morning Herald demonstrated the most editorial independence, with only 42% of its story originating as PR material.

The internet has broken the model which print publishers have used to finance their independence for centuries. Digitalisation is the only model the press can adopt if it intends to survive as an institution. But preserving the revenue vital to the industry’s independence will be an incredibly challenging undertaking, and one that journalism is unlikely to endure in its present form. Ultimately, unless the changes brought about by digitalisation are incorporated into a viable financial model, journalism will  increasingly find itself beholden to the purse-strings of advertising and promotional agencies.

the contradictory argument against plain packaging

The non-smoking world is pretty pleased about the High Court’s decision to uphold the Gillard Government’s plain packaging legislation. The World Health Organization wants to take the idea global, New Zealand’s Government has called it a win in their own fight for plain packaging legislation, and a couple of other countries who are brawling with Big Tobacco have stated their support. In a sorely-needed victory for Julia Gillard, the impression is that Australia has shown international leadership and decisiveness in shackling an industry more lethal than the international arms trade.

When plain packing legislate was announced back in 2010, a parade of arguments and defences were thrown up by the ‘Alliance of Australian Retailers’, a front for the country’s three biggest tobacco producers: Phillip Morris, British American Tobacco Australia, and Imperial Tobacco. British American Tobacco Australia CEO Dave Crow has argued plain packaging would lower prices as cheap imitations flood the market, leading higher smoking amongst young people. Besides indirectly admitting his products are highly dangerous, Crow has also stated that he would tell his own children not to smoke cigarettes, because they’re unhealthy. BATA have argued that cigarette taxes aid piracy and terrorism and attempted to liken Government’s regulation attempts with Stalinism. Besides age and time, smoking kills more people than anything else on the planet. Statistical analogies to the number of deaths caused by smoking related disease per year include: a full airliner crashing into the ground every minute every day for said year, the deathtoll of the worst infectious microbial outbreak ever, or the combat casualties of the Second World War during the peak of the conflict. Yet smoking is still a multi-billion dollar industry.

Not all of the tobacco lobby’s arguments against Government regulation and taxation, past or present, have been ridiculous.  Half the price of a packet of cigarettes in Australia is derived from a Federal excise tax. Smokers are hit hard by these taxes, and are a juicy target for a populist, pre-election beat-up. Smokers generally come from relatively marginalized voter-groups (hipsters, bikies, homosexuals, old people and white trash) that confuse and occasionally frighten Australia’s doughy middle-class centre. There is a statistically observable concentration of smokers among blue-collar workers and indigenous Australians.

Furthermore, the Government profits indirectly from legalized and highly taxed nicotine. The demand for cigarettes is price inelastic; statistically, it has been shown that increases in price are met with only moderate decrease in demand. Yet rhetorically, arguing against a tobacco tax-rise on behalf of addicted smokers is also difficult, because of the ease with which the position can be aligned with that of the tobacco multinationals who benefit from addictive cancer-causing toxins. Smokers are a low-risk, high-reward target. Smokers can be squeezed by the Government for both popular appeal and financial benefit, with little chance of electoral repercussions. Without disregarding the 30 billion dollar health care bill smoking imposes on Australia each year, the Government’s zealousness is not as pure in motive as it hopes to portray.

The Federal Government’s sanctimony on the taxation of cigarettes would be more legitimate if it pursued other healthcare cost-sinks with equal vigor. As the second fattest nation on the planet, it is absurd that McDonalds and KFC are spared the Federal government’s excise tax squeeze. Heart disease is poised to overtake cancer as the Australia’s leading cause of death by non-natural cause. Smokers endure a 54% mark-up on the price of cancer-causing cigarettes, while the fast food outlets and junk food manufacturers at the core of Australia’s obesity epidemic are arguably insulated from scrutiny by their proximity to middle-class comfort. It is hypocritical that BATA and Phillip Morris are taxed and targeted so heavily by the Federal Government, while other companies that profit from health-trashing products get by without a cent lost.

But the ‘Australian Retail Alliance’s arguments against plain packaging are contradictory and flawed, principally because they run contrary to earlier arguments the smoking lobby has raised in its defense. In the 80’s an early 90’s, when the Government’s lawhammer was slamming into the excise tax, Big Tobacco argued against the intervention along the basis of consumer rights, which are vouched in the idea that consumers are informed and make relatively rational decisions. Cigarette companies in the Western world invariably cite consumer rights and small-government rhetoric in defense of their lethal products, and consumer rationality is the spine of the argument against Government regulation. In essence, Big Tobacco has always argued that smokers are smart enough to know what they’re doing, In light of BATA and Phillip Morris’s arguments against plain packaging, that position is turned inside out.

Allegedly, the tobacco lobby’s rage against plain packaging legislation is couched in intellectual property law and property rights. In the plain packaging legislation passed by the Federal Government, cigarette companies have had their intellectual property confiscated and their property rights infringed. But these legal technicalities conceal what is at stake. The tobacco industry isn’t defending IP out of some abstract, newfound passion for philanthropy or legal activism. IP is about branding, and branding is about sales: sales that manifest when consumers link images and ideas to products.

Since (now former) Minister for Health Nicola Roxon proposed stripping tobacco companies of their branding power, the tobacco lobby has effectively argued that brands are necessary for sales. On the back of this logic, BATA and Phillip Morris have argued that plain packaging risks flooding the market with cheap imitations and nameless brands. In taking this position, the big players of the tobacco industry have been forced to admit that thoughtful consideration and rational decision-making aren’t what drive the sale of their product. Instead, brand recognition and social pressure  alongside nicotine addiction are what push the sales of cigarettes.

Although a cynical exercise, when the costs of smoking-related disease are considered, the taxation and regulation of cigarettes and tobacco is entirely legitimate. Plain packaging does not deny consumers choice or any real enjoyment of their tobacco and cigarettes. Effectively, Big Tobacco has spent the last thirty years telling the Australian Government that smokers are smart enough to understand what happens when they fill their lungs with highly addictive toxic gas. With the defence they’ve put up against plain packaging, they’re arguing that smokers can’t even read the side of a packet. Tobacco companies exploit the social appeal of smoking to sell a product that kills its consumers. Denying them a limb of this appeal through plain packaging is essential if the international community is serious about curbing the planet’s most lethal consumer product.

herald sun and an intern: how to ruin a good article

Last week, a (now ex) journalism intern published an expository piece about her two-week experience at Melbourne’s Herald Sun in Melbourne Uni newspaper Farrago. Fans did shit hit. We’ll call the intern Anon. The Herald Sun‘s journalists crucified Anon, naming her in public, and paraded the fact she used the word ‘heteronormative’ among other indictments as evidence she represented some alien form of hairy-armpit gender radicalism.

Was it all fair?

Breaking her article down, Anon raised several valid issues with the Herald Sun newsroom. It’s concerning, for instance, to read that  a female journalist argued a science article needed to be written by a woman, and her rationale was offensive: ‘otherwise, female readers will glaze over Space and History‘.

But these observations were compromised by Anon’s obvious bias and undermined by her confusion of patronising but banal behaviour with real injustice.

Injustice, if we have any intention of maintaining the potency and relevance of the word, considers (among other definitions) the abuse of power and/or the failure of rational morality. Anon’s article pretty much trashed any pretence of objectivity, and compromised her assertions in doing so. That journalists at the Herald Sun called her ‘kid’ and opened doors on her behalf is so far removed from the orbit of this definition that the only reasonable response is skepticism.

Likewise, Anon’s hearsay report of a journalist ‘mocking the grief of a footballer’ is worth reporting; but taken out of context and filtered through her subjectivity, it loses most of its impact. Quoth Anon:

I had fairly low expectations of the publication going in to the experience, but a lot lower of the whole industry coming out… I’ll never be employed by The Hun [Herald Sun], but that’s not something I mourn. I usually feel sad when poring over decreasing readerships and closed mastheads. But any force— declining revenue, ethical maelstroms, onlinecompetition—that can injure this publication, should be met with party poppers, streamers and a piñata of a certain “climate skeptic’s” head.

You’d think Anon was writing about Die Sturmer. Opinion doesn’t have much place in an investigative report. Journalism is built on a pledge towards investigative objectivity and accuracy, and Anon clearly intends to be an actual, parliament-cracking investigative journalist.

Anon not only published the article anonymously, but denied her subject any response to her torrent of criticism. Unilaterally slandering any person or institution–especially from the comfort of anonymity– is crap form for any writer who aspires to be respected as a journalist. If Anon had the courage in her conviction her attitude implies, she would have given the Herald Sun a right to reply and balanced her investigation as such. Anon seems to believe that the rules of objectivity can be bent because she is in the moral right, and this is not a belief any serious publication should be indulging.

The Herald Sun‘s editor dropped an avalanche of criticism on Anon through a letter to Melbourne University, identifying her failure to offer their publication a right to reply as the core weakness of her article. Melbourne’s other daily, the more sober Age, was also hardly cryptic in its dismissal of Anon’s article. The article it penned in response plugged the gender studies lexicon (i.e., the word ‘heteronormative’) that peppered Anon’s article to underline its implicit derision.

Conversely, NewMatilda.com was militant in its defence of Anon’s article. But it falsely equates the audacity of her position with the validity of her argument, declaring:

“Dishing the dirt on journalists doesn’t make you popular and many revealed their glass jaws. Those who weren’t taking potshots at Burden for being precious and pretentious stuck to being condescending”

while dismissing the media’s response as reactionary, and conveniently neglecting to discuss Anon’s bias and bad journalism. (Also, it begs the question: isn’t it semiotically impossible for a senior journalist to address a junior intern in any way other than patronising?).

So far, it’s been up to the Sydney Morning Herald to serve up the most balanced appraisal of the whole affair.

Anon meant well, and the defence of queer and gender equality should be a priority of modern journalism. But the righteousness of a position never legitimises crap journalism. Stretching facts and conflating inconsequential details does little else but damage any cause, and this is all the more unfortunate when it damages a valid cause like Anon’s.

Although it was well-intentioned, Anon’s article was trashed not because it was bold or revolutionary. It was trashed because it was trashy.