ABC: institutionalised bias

Faine and Williams

Two stories, taken together, demonstrate beyond any shadow of doubt, that the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) is a mouthpiece for Labor, the Left in general and the Green agenda. OK, you’re saying, tell me something I didn’t know. Yes, yes, true, but these two examples perfectly encapsulate the blatant and institutionalised bias of the ABC ,which flies in the face of its legal obligations as an impartial public broadcaster, but somehow it escapes any sanction for doing so.

Story Number 1 – Julia Gillard and the Australian Workers Union

Overseas readers will have to bear with me for a little while. This story concerns our (sub-) Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in the days when she was a lefty lawyer in a lefty law firm in Melbourne in the 1990s. She helped to establish an incorporated association through the bank accounts of which a union official, who was also her boyfriend at the time, siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars for his own personal benefit. Gillard managed to have two journalists who dared raise this issue sacked – Glenn Milne of The Australian and Michael Smith, a radio presenter who now blogs at Michael Smith News (and, I must add, is on a personal crusade to get to the very bottom of this shady period in Gillard’s past – add a bookmark).

There are plenty of questions for Gillard to answer, but at the moment, she’s using the stonewalling technique, alternating with the amnesia defence. The Opposition here is pushing Gillard hard for answers, as the issue goes to the heart of her credibility and integrity – and suitability for the high office of Prime Minister.

The ABC refused to even mention this story until this week, despite it having been rumbling on for several months. Emails of complaint were met with brick walls and a bizarre inability to accept that the story even existed! I personally thought journalists were supposed to ask tricky questions, but in the case of the ABC I assume that they should ask such questions only when it’s not something bad for Labor.

On Thursday of this week, Jon Faine, presenter on Melbourne’s Morning show, did his very best to defend Gillard and Labor against these charges. As the ABC blog notes:

Mornings host Jon Faine has had it with a long-running media campaign casting aspersions about Julia Gillard and her alleged role in establishing a union slush fund. He lays into the journalists who continue to push the story, and raises doubts about whether information from former unionist Ralph Blewitt is likely to produce any evidence.

Jon “has had it” – in other words, he cannot abide the fact that his beloved PM may have some awkward questions to answer, and instead pretends that there’s nothing to see and the main witness has no credibility. You have to listen to it to get the full picture. Following this tirade, Michael Smith contacted the show and asked for a right of reply. He got it the next day. Once again, you have to listen to it to fully appreciate the the contempt in Faine’s voice – he was formerly a lawyer at the same firm – no conflict of interest there, clearly – and thinks he knows something about the law.

So here we have an ABC presenter, paid by the public broadcaster, out of taxpayer funds, who has no interest in impartial reporting but simply defending Gillard and Labor. Faine is just beyond belief. The whole thing is breathtaking.

Story Number 2 – Robyn Williams links climate sceptics to paedophiles and crack dealers

Robyn Williams is the presenter of the Science Show on ABC Radio National and has a long list of form of defaming and smearing sceptics (see here). Stephan Lewandowsky, a psychology professor from the University of Western Australia, has similar form for smearing sceptics, most recently equating them with fruitcakes who believe the moon landings were faked. He also works closely with John Cook of Un-Skeptical Pseudo-Science so it’s hardly news that he and Williams are best mates.

“What if I told you that paedophilia is good for children, or that asbestos is an excellent inhalant for those with asthma, or that smoking crack is a normal part, and healthy one, of teenage life, and to be encouraged? You’d rightly find it outrageous. But there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths, again and again in recent times distorting the science.

[Quoting The Economist magazine on the US election] It was a telling moment of denial. Much like the comforting myth that there is no such thing as climate change, or if there is, humans are not involved. Ensconced in a parallel world of conservative news sources and conservative arguments, all manner of comforting alternative visions of reality surfaced during the 2012 election. Many […] involved having to think about unwelcome things, often basic science or economics.”

Lewandowsky is then wheeled in:

“I discovered that those people [sceptics] were not sceptical at all. They were rejecting the science, not on the basis of evidence but some other factor. We basically found that the driving motivating factor behind the rejection of climate science was people’s ideology or personal worldview.


Specifically what we find it that people who are endorsing an extreme view of market fundamentalism are likely to reject climate science.”

I can’t bear to transcribe any more. It’s too painful. You can listen here (if you dare). This, of course, is the moon landing denier paper, rearing its ugly head again for the sympathetic Williams, who will accept it all as evidence of the fact that sceptics are bonkers – and of similar standing to crack dealers and paedophiles.

Once again, it is the same crude characterisation of sceptics as anti-science deniers that we have heard countless times by Williams and Lewandowsky.

All at the taxpayers expense.

ABC's loathsome propaganda machine

Double whammy

The fact that the national broadcaster has a well-known and self-confessed climate alarmist as the presenter of its “flagship” science programme, The Science Show, is a perfect example of the ABC “groupthink” Maurice Newman exposed so clearly in March 2010. Robyn Williams is well known to the readers of ACM, having achieved a veritable litany of guest appearances (see here for a few examples) and is someone who accepts the politically motivated pronouncements of the IPCC, cobbled together as they are from environmental advocacy groups’ tatty leaflets, without a hint of scientific impartiality or healthy scepticism. So it is little wonder that whenever climate matters are discussed, it is invariably from the alarmist viewpoint, with generous helpings of “denier”, “flat earther”, “Big Oil”, “tobacco” and all the usual tedious ad hominems hurled at sceptics thrown in for good measure.

Oddly, for some strange reason, the audio and transcript from the 1 January 2011 programme, which opens with Williams wishing everyone a Happy New Year, has already been published on the ABC web site (making readers feel like they have tunnelled through some space-time wormhole), and therefore I can advise you to AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE [and avoid the following week’s show even more, for reasons which I will discuss later – Ed]. For Williams’ guest on the show is none other than that other ACM favourite, Tim “Flannel” Flannery, whose name is almost invariably prefaced by “Australian Alarmist of the Year”  to add a bit of street cred. However, since the alarmists love to do this, I will just point out, purely for the record you understand, that Flannery isn’t a climate scientist, he’s a mammalogist and palaeontologist (according to Wikipedia), but despite that he is a “global warming activist” and since he’s plugging the consensus/IPCC/ABC/Labor view, that’s just fine. We only worry about qualifications when it’s a climate realist we’re talking about, right?

To an extent, the details of the interview are irrelevant (the transcript runs for a mind-numbing 20 pages), but as would be expected, Williams gives Flannery a free ride to plug his new book and spout all the usual misrepresentations about the current state of the climate. The two of them seem perfectly happy to inhabit this cosseted world, insulated from reality, where they can stew in their own alarmist juices. There’s lots of Gaia talk, a theme of the new book, which Flannery tries to argue has some scientific merit, which shouldn’t surprise anyone, since it has the same level of pseudo-scientific credibility as catastrophic AGW:

Robyn Williams: So there you’ve got an image of the earth, the planet as a god, but also a very sophisticated and credible scientific idea.

Tim Flannery: That’s right. I was tempted in the book to simply give in and call it Earth System Science, because Gaia is earth system science and in many university departments around the world, as you’ll know, Robyn, earth system science is a very respectable science. But as soon as you mention Gaia of course, the scepticism comes out. I didn’t do that though, because I think there’s a certain elegance to Gaia, to that word and the concept, and also because I think that within this century the concept of the strong Gaia will actually become physically manifest. I do think that the Gaia of the Ancient Greeks, where they believed the earth was effectively one whole and perfect living creature, that doesn’t exist yet, but it will exist in future. That’s why I wanted to keep that word.

“Physically manifest”? “It will exist in the future”? But that’s just the start – things get even more astrological, straying dangerously close to “energy crystals”, tarot cards and ouija boards, accompanied by the stench of patchouli wafting from the monitor screen. Williams actually dares ask a tricky question, but then doesn’t follow through:

Robyn Williams: How will it exist in the future? Because an organism is one thing; the earth is complicated, but it is after all a lump of rock with iron in the middle and a veneer of living things outside, and a very thin atmosphere. It’s not an organism, so how is the feedback system such that it stabilises things, temperature anyway, like an organism?

Tim Flannery: That’s the great question. I must admit that as I wrote the book I was unable to come to a clear landing on the extent of Gaian control over the system, because much of the data is equivocal. I think that there is clear evidence for something that I call in the book geo-pheromones, which are elements within the earth system, which when present in very small amounts have very large outcomes, a bit like ant pheromones. But they often do multiple jobs. Some ant pheromones do as well, but many of them are specific. One of those is course carbon dioxide, a trace amount in the atmosphere, four parts per ten thousand is enough to keep the earth habitable. Ozone is another one present in just a few parts per billion. Human-made CFCs are yet another one. Atmospheric dust may well be another one. So these elements in the earth system have a profound impact on the system, and there is some evidence that there’s some sort of homeostasis established, if you want. But you don’t have to look very far into earth history to see that homeostasis change. When I say homeostasis, that’s like my temperature is always at 98.4˚ or whatever it is.

Robyn Williams: As are your body fluids largely maintained.

Tim Flannery: Yes, all balanced and everything.

This kind of pagan Earth-worship stretches credibility as thin as it can go. And as always, Flannery goes on to presents the bog-standard alarmist climate arguments – faster, bigger, badder, worser:

Tim Flannery: … The climate science is getting more dismal at the same time this is happening. We’ve seen the IPCC projections are now ground truthed against real world change, and we see that we’re tracking the worst case scenario, which is 6˚ of warming.

Robyn Williams: Six! [Why does that surprise you, Mr “100 meters of sea level rise by 2100” Williams?]

Tim Flannery: Yes, that’s for the early part of the curve. You know what happened in 2001, the IPCC produced these projections and they indicated that if we double CO2 above pre-industrial levels there’s a 60% chance that the result will be a 2˚ or 3˚ rise in temperature, a 10% chance of a 1˚ rise and 10% rise of a 6˚ rise. Because those projections were done ten years ago, scientists are now going back and looking at the real world data and saying were the projections right or not? It turns out that they were wrong. They were too conservative, at least for the early part of the projection curve. We’re seeing the worst case scenario unfold.

Is this an outright lie? I guess not, because Flannery is relying solely on the UHI-contaminated, corrupted and fudged surface temperature record, which conveniently fits the alarmist cause (wonder why, with Jimmy Hansen in charge?). If he actually stopped to consider satellite records, which cannot be “adjusted”, global temperatures are tracking well below IPCC projections. But that’s not going to grab any headlines, and it certainly doesn’t fit the ABC’s groupthink agenda.

But as I said, all this detail is irrelevant. When you have a flagship science programme hosted by a presenter with a blatant political agenda to push, it is no longer science, but propaganda – precisely what Maurice Newman was keen to avoid at the ABC. Flannery is happy to smear a geologist, Bob Carter, for not looking at the “appropriate timescales” when considering climate – the ultimate irony, given that geologists have a far better understanding of timescale than climatologists or politicians – but why doesn’t Williams actually bite the bullet and invite Carter on his show? I mean, his arguments are paper-thin, so clearly he will simply make a fool of himself, right?

But it’s not that simple. This isn’t about being persuaded by facts or rational argument – this is all about religion and faith. Just as billions of Christians put their faith in the Christmas story and the Bible, so Williams and Flannery are devout followers of the Church of Global Warming, and anything that contradicts the holy scripture (An Inconvenient Truth) is heresy. Maurice Newman should kick Williams out of the ABC – nothing prevents him from making a career as a ecotard activist or Green politician, that’s his right as a citizen in a democracy, but there is no place for him at the national broadcaster.

You can read the transcript here.

And the reason you should avoid the following programme?

“Next week on the Science Show, the dynamic Naomi Oreskes at the University of NSW on merchants of doubt – how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming. I’m Robyn Williams.”

Lumping climate realists with Big Tobacco… the ABC propaganda mill grinds ever onwards, at your expense. More on this next week, no doubt.

ABC's stitch-up of Bjorn Lomborg

This is Bjorn Lomborg, I wanted to bring you a picture of Howard Friel, but I couldn't because there's not a single picture of him on the internet

UPDATE: Howard Friel responds personally to this post in the comments section (see here)

Interview? More like an ambush, as Robyn “100 metres” Williams on ABC’s Science Show devotes a long segment of the programme to Howard Friel, who has been embraced by the warmists for having written a book criticising Bjorn Lomborg’s book Cool It. Before we even start, you kind of know people are really desperate when they have to write an entire book just for that purpose. But anyway, we’ll let that pass.

Firstly, however, and I’m sorry to ask … but just who the hell is Howard Friel? I cannot find anything about him other than he is an “author”. Take a look at his Wikipedia entry – blink and you’ll miss it. [UPDATE: An answer is provided by commenter Pat B: “Mr. Friel is a hard-left idologue, an Israel-hater, and a minor satellite in the Chomsky system. He is drearily predictable, and his mode of entry into the climate debate is consistent with his established practice of attacking the ‘moderate’ left from the perspective of the ultra-left. His previously published work, all from Verso, an avowedly leftist publisher, attacks the New York Times for spreading George W. Bush’s ‘lies’ and its cover-up of Israel’s “crimes” against the Palestinians. Now he attacks Bjorn Lomborg – not by mistake, but because there is nothing the hard left hates more than the ‘soft’ left.”] He has no history of writing about climate, no knowledge of climate science that I can find, no qualifications whatsoever in fact to write such a book. Ah, hang on a minute – qualifications only matter if you’re a sceptic, right? That must be it – Al Gore gets a free pass to say whatever he likes – but every utterance of a sceptic is scrutinised to the last letter, including his qualifications. So I think we’ll do the same, just for balance: where are yours? [Read more…]

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