Media Watch's Holmes on The Drum

Jonathan Holmes

Jonathan Holmes, presenter of Media Watch, writes a lengthy defence of his team’s reporting of the ANU death threats story on ABC’s The Drum. You can read it here.

The only point I am going to comment on is detail is the following claim:

In any case – and this is a factor which The Australian keeps dodging around, although it is crucial – the 11 emails were in fact irrelevant to the ANU scientists being moved to more secure offices, because that had happened 16 months earlier, in February 2010.

The Canberra Times’s Rosslyn Beeby no doubt knew this, but did not make it clear in her report. The ABC and the AAP don’t seem to have taken it aboard, and certainly didn’t report it back in June 2011. Simon Turnill didn’t understand it when he put in his FOI request.

Well actually, it’s nothing to do with understanding – Beeby didn’t make it clear, as Holmes states, if indeed she did “no doubt” know it. In any event, my FOI request was based on the ABC’s reporting of this event, which says:

Several of Australia’s top climate change scientists at the Australian National University have been subjected to a campaign of death threats, forcing the university to tighten security.

Several of the scientists in Canberra have been moved to a more secure location after receiving the threats over their research.

Vice-chancellor Professor Ian Young says the scientists have received large numbers of emails, including death threats and abusive phone calls, threatening to attack the academics in the street if they continue their research.

He says it has been happening for the past six months and the situation has worsened significantly in recent weeks.

I cannot see any way of construing the above to mean anything other than the following: death threats have been received at ANU in the last six months and we’ve moved staff as a result.

Holmes then quotes a number of emails, none of which contain “death threats”, but simply confirm the unfortunate truth that scientists (along with many others public figures) receive abusive emails from a tiny minority of disturbed individuals. This fact should not have been used as a way to tar all critics of the climate consensus as being a bunch of dangerously unhinged lunatics who would resort to sending death threats to climate scientists because they disagree with what they are saying (the inference – intended or unintended – from the Canberra Times and ABC reporting).

Holmes ends thus:

Who you believe on this matter – The Australian, or Media Watch – should have nothing at all to do with whether or not you accept what the vast majority of qualified scientists are telling us about climate change. 

Science by consensus again. And still the ANU haven’t produced evidence of any death threats to any staff at any time. They are welcome to do so whenever they like and then we’d all be happy to see an end to this farce.


  1. How ironic that Holmes should accuse anyone of dodging issues. Media Watch does a merry dance around whether or not death threats were ever received; that is the pertinent point.

    We know they weren’t in the emails in question, yet the ANU maintains that death threats were made. So where are they, and why haven’t they been reported to police?

  2. This fellow is a [snip] of the highest order, if you plan to seriously attempt to harm someone it would do you no favors to let them know of it beforehand.

  3. The fact that he is still trying to tell the world that he was right really just indicates that he knows he has been caught out. How many other times has he had to go to a blog to talk about something he has said on his show? I doubt he ever has. This time he is desperately trying to convince himself, I reckon.

    • The Loaded Dog says:

      “This time he is desperately trying to convince himself, I reckon.”

      No, he’s trying to convince US, using the usual avenue…spin, that he’s right and we’re wrong. Just like a typical bloody sanctimonious leftist..

  4. started reading earlier, but find JH to be basically dishonest

  5. Boof you spelt favour incorrectly. And if you say anything about spelt vs spelled, I’ll tell you to go to the States where they don’t respect the rules of English.

  6. Eh, they shot the English, so them can get speakin how they likes it.

  7. lets not talk of olde english…or the once official language of england, french! ces’t la vie!

  8. Yeah I forgot we shouldn’t support the English, bccause last I read, the carbon tax is a conspiracy by the monarchy to crush to Australian economy so that we can forever bow down to ugly old Lizzy.

  9. Hey, Lizzy was hot in her day, just because she never got them out on film like Beverly D’angelo in her prime does not mean there was no d-merit.

  10. And old lizzy is german…go figure…

  11. and lest we forget…the english we know today as english…we can thank a bunch of politicians…

  12. Re “the inference – intended or unintended – from the Canberra Times and ABC reporting.

    Is this a joke?

    You’re offended by a putative “inference”, which probably exists mostly in your own head, that hypothetically “tars all critics of the climate consensus as a bunch of dangerously unhinged lunatics”?

    And that’s what all this is about?

    • The Loaded Dog says:

      sigh….they can’t win the [non] debate in the normal scientific manner, i.e. with fact, so they resort to smear or smear by inference.

      Please try to keep up…whoever the hell you are..

      • I happen to be a hell of a guy and I do keep up. Yet you’ve got people commenting on this thread who appear to have no idea that Simon’s FOI was for the wrong timeframe, which has been correctly pointed out again and again by Holmes. If you’d read the Media Watch material with something approaching good faith you all might end up with something approaching a clue.

        [REPLY – In that case you are displaying wilful blindness to the fact that the ABC’s report on 4 June 2011, on which the FOI was based (and which has been pointed out clearly on numerous occasions) – is completely wrong – and remains wrong. Media Watch’s diversion of attention on to the Canberra Times article is a classic distraction to avoid the real issue here which is shoddy and alarmist ABC journalism – of which he forms an integral part]

        • Media Watch didn’t divert attention from the ABC, it showed prominently that the ABC as well as commercial outlets regurgitated an erroneous summary of the CT report that came out of AAP and god knows where else. Try actually reading the MW transcript with a bit of care.

          Incidentally none of the commercial outlets such as The Australian and Herald Sun have posted a clarification or correction on their versions of the story. Are you going to go after them too?

          [REPLY – “try reading the MW transcript with a bit of care” – deeply patronising – is that a death threat?! I can see that you’re desperate to defend the reports of the existence of these threats, because it feeds the lie that sceptics are such an unhinged bunch they will resort to such action when they don’t like what they hear from the vast majority of climate scientists. No wait, that’s just in my own twisted head, right? The reality is that even after nearly a month of intense media scrutiny, NO university has voluntarily provided ANY evidence of ANY death threats to climate scientists to put an end to the speculation. Nothing in the CT article was a death threat, nor anything on the MW web site. Offensive, yes. Unpleasant, yes. Disturbing, certainly. Death threat? No. But the universities are free to release such information and prove me wrong at any time they like, and if there were such death threats, I expect to see the results of a proper police investigation into the commission of a serious criminal offence. But you know, just between us I won’t be holding my breath.]

        • Nothing in your anguished [LOL] reply refutes anything I said about Media Watch’s coverage.

          Media Watch – 1
          Critics – Nil

        • Hi Simon. Why did you delete my last post? It contained a pertinent statement of fact. I thought people here were truth-seekers. Why are you shutting down debate?

          [REPLY – Inadvertently. It’s published now.]

  13. Sean McHugh says:

    And still the ANU haven’t produced evidence of any death threats to any staff at any time. They are welcome to do so whenever they like and then we’d all be happy to see an end to this farce.

    Or all of those responsible the dishonest farce (ANU, ABC, Media Watch, Guardian, Nature and the Canberra Times), submit proper retractions and apologies to all those they have wrongly accused or criticised (Sceptics, Simon and the Australian).

  14. Holmes reminds me of Gletkin, the comissar given the task of interrogating Rubashov in Darkness at Noon. What is right or wrong is inconsequential to the power of the prevailing ideology, dressed up as rational science hence “the vast majority of qualified scientists” comment.

    Koestler would have a field day with these supercilious ideologues

  15. Not sure if ” …disturbed individuals” is entirely appropriate for all 11 of the emails released. Most are reasonably well argued, the rest at most impolite but say what many of us think. Climategate I & II contains far worse, eg conspiracy to “kill” professional status, apparently in some cases successfully.

    [REPLY – Yes, I was referring to those quoted in Media Watch, rather than the 11 revealed by the FOI, most of which were little more than passionate disagreement.]

  16. John Nicol says:

    I have just left a commnet on the Drum site which possibly will not see the light of day. How Holmes can possibly make these claims and rest easy at night is incomprehensible! “He couldn’t lie straight in Bed” applies yet he thinks he can wriggle out of his dishonesty.

    It beggars belief that anyone could possibly interpret the two paragraphs , 1 and 2, which he quptes from the Canbera Times, as not implying that the death threats were made at ANU and that staff were then shifted. NO one from the VC down, said anything which implied that this statement was not correct and left everyone with the distinct impression that these poor climatologists were subjected to horrifying threats. This made it easy claim that skeptics were irresponsible. John Nicol

  17. Charles Johnson says:

    He strikes me as a bit of a twit at the best of times

  18. Whether we believe The Australian or Media Watch on the threats, why should we accept that the vast majority of qualified scientists are telling Media Watch about climate change?

  19. Simon, that paragraph you quoted from JH begs more questions:
    If the scientists were actually moved 16 months earlier, was that as a result of death threats? If so, then the emails that were released by the ANU were the wrong ones – it follows then that ANU did not properly comply with the FOI request – so where are the ones with the death threats?
    If not, then Holmes is still peddling a false story, as there was no connection between the move and the emails.
    The more spin, the bigger the hole you have to dig yourself out of.

  20. Streetcred says:

    I think we are clear on one thing … Holmes is nothing but dishonest and the dishonesty is compounded his insistent ‘defending’ of what is factually known to be a lie.

  21. “Who you believe on this matter – The Australian, or Media Watch – should have nothing at all to do with whether or not you accept what the vast majority of qualified scientists are telling us about climate change. ”
    Well, I’m sorry JH but it has everything to do with it!
    You see it is all about honesty and the obvious lack of it where climate change is concerned. There is something quite pathetic about those who dream up stories of this nature just to push their ideas on people. Couple that with the condescending attitude that anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their ‘club’ is some kind of idiot and what have you got? A sales disaster of biblical proportions. Because that is reallly what this is about, selling an idea that man-made global warming is harming the planet in order to control the world by stealth taxes.

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