On 17 October 2022, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program Media Watch broadcast a segment, “ACON and the ABC” (Adams J., 2022b).
The segment has several problems. Here are a few.1
Hello, I’m Paul Barry […]Adams J. (2022b)
Well there’s yer problem! When it comes to problematic treatment of trans affairs, Doak (2022) informs us this isn’t Paul’s first rodeo. Sainty (2015) lets us know it’s not his second, either. That makes it at least his third, and as we learned in Goldfinger (Fleming, 1959): “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”
“PROF CORDELIA FINE”Adams J. (2022b)
Interesting choice! I am familiar with Professor Fine, of the University of Melbourne, partly because of an essay by her, “Agenda bender” (Fine, 2021), published in The Monthly of August 2021. In that essay, Prof Fine:
- frames the “impressive[ly] succinct” proposition that “women don’t have penises” so as to suggest that trans women are (at least) faintly ridiculous;
- presents Dr Kathleen Stock, a British now-former philosophy professor and well-attested anti-trans activist (of whom more later), as a neutral or even trans-allied source, and falsely represents her as having been “smeared, defamed and deplatformed”;
- implies that “a change of pronouns” isn’t sufficient to ‘make’ someone a “woman” (eliding the reality that “a change of pronouns” reflects the reality that someone is a woman);
- claims that “gender identity theory” (i.e., trans existence and inclusion) is a “mandate that society divest itself of sex categories and rearrange itself psychologically, conceptually and practically around gender identities”;
- claims that trans existence and inclusion is a “wholesale redefinition of concepts,” rather than an acknowledgement and integration of thousands of years of history;
- dismisses out of hand any “claims that” the anti-trans ‘gender critical’ movement is anti-trans, and lies that gender critical activists “support trans people’s right to claim and express their gender identity and to live free from discrimination and abuse”;
- suggests that systematic misogyny is a “sex-segregated” oppression in such a way as to imply that trans women are too “male” to experience it;
etc., etc., there’s more but by this far down the article I got bored. The point at which I am aiming here is that it might not be the case that Prof Fine is fully committed to an impartial factual account of events.
People engaged in contemporary debates about sex and gender identity have been harassed, intimidated, verbally abused, gratuitously offended, viciously smeared and forced from positions, roles or other professional opportunities. Some of our participants have been victims of these tacticsFine, in Adams J. (2022b)
For context: as the Media Watch transcript makes clear, Prof Fine is speaking about one of the more recent flashpoints of this campaign — a panel discussion she organised (Ross, 2022), Pride & prejudice in policy: What can our public institutions learn from the UK’s Stonewall controversy?, which took place on 4 October at the University of Melbourne (UniMelb). Those featured at the discussion included both the live panel and presenters on pre-recorded video. In all, the final speakers’ list consisted of (UniMelb School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, 2022):
- Jon Faine AM, moderator
- Prof Alan Davison, panellist
- Linda Gale, panellist
- Dr Julie Peters, of Deakin University, panellist
- Naomi Cunningham, of Sex Matters, on video
- Dr Finn Mackay, of the University of Bristol, on video
- Dr Kathleen Stock OBE, late of the University of Sussex, on video
There were also a number of contributors who pulled out prior to the event:
- Paul Barclay, original moderator
- Nicki Elkin, of ACON, panellist
- Prof Sally Hines, of the University of Sheffield, video presenter
Of the claims Prof Fine made about the participants in the event, the one that seemed most likely to produce a paper trail and therefore be possible to verify was “forced from positions,” so I followed it up. The two panelists to whom I determined this claim could be referring were Linda Gale and Dr Kathleen Stock.
Gale recently made headlines because she was removed as Convenor of the Australian Greens Victoria (AGV), the Victorian state member party of the federal Australian Greens alliance. It seems likely that Gale’s “engage[ment] in contemporary debates about sex and gender identity” did play a role in her removal; as I explained in a previous Twitter thread (Moreton, 2022b),2 Gale has a history of, how do you say, vocal and activist transphobia which likely motivated her opponents to search for an escape route.
While that explains why people wanted to find a reason to remove her, it is not, in and of itself, the reason she was able to be, and was, removed. We know that reason because AGV Leader Samantha Ratnam MLC explained it publicly:
Earlier this week, I took action under the party’s rules to have our recent election for convenor set aside, as the rules for the election weren’t followed correctly.
Specifically, candidates weren’t given the opportunity to communicate with members about their candidacy. […]Ratnam (2022)
That is, Gale was removed because her election was inexplicably conducted in an irregular way which protected her from the possibility of AGV members finding out about her views. She wasn’t illegitimately turfed out for being a brave gendercrit; she was legitimately removed because she had not been legitimately elected. While her opponents were no doubt delighted to find that lever, if the election had been properly conducted, all they could have done was “float and sputter” (Staten et al., 2001).
Meanwhile, Dr Kathleen Stock, who presented by video, is often represented by sympathetic media (e.g., Kirkwood, 2022) as having been forced to resign her position at the University of Sussex. As I explained in a previous Twitter thread, however (Moreton, 2022c), that’s nowhere close to the truth.
To recap briefly: Dr Stock could absolutely have kept her position at the University of Sussex if she’d wanted, as senior University officials defended her with a spittle-flecked passion (see, e.g., University of Sussex, 2021a, 2021b & 2021c). The Guardian — a sympathetic platform for transphobes with an axe to grind if ever there was one (Strudwick, 2020) — relates that Stock resigned because of what they summarise as “a lack of support from her colleagues and the unions” (Adams R., 2021).
They also quote her own words from a BBC Woman’s Hour interview:
There’s a small group of people who are absolutely opposed to the sorts of things I say and instead of getting involved in arguing with me, using reason, evidence, the traditional university methods, they tell their students in lectures that I pose a harm to trans students, or they go on to Twitter and say that I’m a bigot.Stock, in Barnett (2021)
The Guardian further quotes Stock saying that her “personal tipping point” came:
… when I saw my own union branch’s statement, which basically backed the protesters and implicitly made it obvious that they thought I was transphobic and accused Sussex University of institutional transphobia.Stock, quoted in Adams R. (2021)
In short — according to The Guardian, literally a byword for trans-hostile journalism — Dr Stock wasn’t forced out. For lack of a more diplomatic accurate term, Dr Stock flounced because people disagreed with and disliked her. Between Ms Gale’s improper election and Dr Stock’s voluntary resignation, the case for “forcing out” looks pretty thin.
Moreover, Professor Fine refers to anti-trans activists being
harassed, intimidated, verbally abused, gratuitously offended, [and] viciously smeared.Fine, quoted in Adams J. (2022b)
Now, as a trans woman on the internet, I can’t imagine what that must be like (!) (Collins & Tenbarge, 2022; #DropKiwiFarms, 2022; etc.). No, but really, it’s unfortunate that anti-trans activists are experiencing events they don’t like. The end goal of my activism and many others is for these folks to go away and leave us alone, and they won’t do it if they can’t be happy.
The reason I find the inclusion of this quote from Prof Fine interesting is because it illustrates that Media Watch considers these things to be newsworthy when they happen to cis people, whereas the destruction of trans people’s lives by the same tactics is commonplace, everyday, not worthy of note.
a difficult conversation we need to haveBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
Mm … not that difficult for Paul Barry, apparently, who as previously noted has been carrying it on without obvious interruption for the better part of eight years.
Faine lamented in The AgeBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
I was previously aware of this, and even wrote a Twitter thread about it (Moreton, 2022i).3 I am interested to note that Media Watch doesn’t write its own factual summary of events and instead quotes Faine, even though his article (which is clearly marked ‘Opinion’), omits and misleads in several places, including:
- characterising the UniMelb School of History and Philosophy of Science in such a way as to avoid mentioning its status as a hotbed of anti-trans activism;
- suggesting “[n]obody was questioning gender dysphoria itself” when, for example, Dr Stock’s trademark position is doing precisely that, as the Booktopia blurb for her book Material Girls (Stock, 2021) makes clear (Moreton, 2022k);
- suggesting it was ludicrous to expect that even “one word undermining the lived experience of transgender and gender-diverse people” “was ever going to be” “uttered at the forum,” without also mentioning that four panelists and the event organiser, Prof Fine, had either a record of activism in, or an outright formal involvement with, anti-trans organisations and related causes;
- suggesting, via post hoc ergo propter hoc, that Linda Gale’s removal as AGV Convenor was because “trans lobbyists objected,” which is inaccurate for reasons already given;
- suggesting it was “hard to comprehend” how “life-long feminist leftie” Gale could be transphobic, which was similarly inaccurate for reasons already discussed.
simply for wanting to have a discussionFaine (2022), in Adams J. (2022b)
I said this in my teardown of Faine’s piece (Moreton, 2022j), but I’m going to repeat it here: Anything done solely through the use of words by one or more parties can be characterised as a discussion. That doesn’t mean that such a characterisation is honest or fair.
two trans activists had pulled out of the discussion, because they refused to share a platformBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
This is a tad libertine with the facts. I like a bit of libertinism, but not with the facts.
Prof Sally Hines, who withdrew, publicly explained why:
When I agreed to take part in this event I was unaware that it was a ‘debate’ with, as [Dr Hannah McCann] says, extreme anti-trans activists, or that it had such a specific focus on trans inclusion in LGBT EDI policy in HE. I am no longer taking part.Hines (2022)
It looks rather unavoidably as if event organisers curiously failed to advise Prof Hines of a few materially relevant facts when they secured her participation. Under those circumstances, it’s a little puzzling that Media Watch chose to represent Prof Hines’ withdrawal as, in effect, a flounce. Apparently “this is not what I agreed to” is only a valid reason to withdraw if it wouldn’t deprive the Right Kind of Person of the opportunity to debate you.
It’s even more puzzling to represent the withdrawal of Nicki Elkin and ACON as a flounce, given that Elkin and ACON withdrew because, according to their statement which Media Watch published and therefore presumably read,
Following a reassessment of risk, we determined that our participation in the event could compromise the safety of our staff and people in our communities.Parkhill (2022)
Given Media Watch‘s later approving reference to “caution and safeguards,” one might have thought that they would consider concern for other people’s safety to be a good thing. Apparently this is not always the case.
with people they claimed were anti-trans activistsBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
Realistically, there is no actual question: that claim is true. as I explained in a previous Twitter thread (Moreton, 2022l). Of the announced panel and complement of presenters,
- Naomi Cunningham is chair of Sex Matters. Sex Matters is best known because its executive director, Maya Forstater, believes conversion “therapy” — the practice of attempting to force someone to change their gender or sexuality — should be legal to force on trans people specifically (Forstater & Joyce, 2022).
- Linda Gale, already discussed, was sufficiently well-known for her transphobia that at least 6 Greens elected officials unequivocally backed the call for her to resign (Baj, 2022);
- Dr Kathleen Stock, already discussed, was sufficiently well-known for her transphobia that 600+ of her colleagues in academic philosophy signed an open letter protesting her OBE on the grounds that she was “best-known in recent years for her trans-exclusionary public and academic discourse” (Bettcher et al., 2021).
(Prof Alan Davison has his own problems, but we’ll talk about them later.)
Any debate about whether these people really were anti-trans activists was long past its best-before date by the time this Media Watch episode went to air.
the ABC’s Paul Barclay had also stepped down from hosting the debate after getting slammed on TwitterAdams J. (2022b)
This is when Mr Barclay stepped down. Despite what I suspect Media Watch would like us to see, it doesn’t actually tell us why. Now, I was not able to locate a public copy of Mr Barclay’s reason for withdrawing from the panel when I went looking on the morning of 18 October. As far as I know, at date, 20 October, it has not been made public.
As I have mentioned on Twitter before, however (Moreton, 2022e & 2022g), in this kind of journalism the simple and apparently innocuous word “after” has a surprisingly checkered history because it can so easily be used to facilitate post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”), a particularly underhanded and probably fairly legally defensible way of leading people to your preferred false conclusion while all the while claiming you only ever told the truth. At this point, I question any usage of “after” that could possibly imply a causal link, as a matter of principle alone.
Incidentally, both of my excerpts I cited in the previous paragraph are with reference to articles about the closure of the UK paediatric gender service at the Tavistock Clinic, a subject which also comes up later in this very article. This may have something to do with Paul Barry’s apparent great interest in dealings there, e.g.:
what exactly was the debate they wanted shut down?Barry, in Adams J. (2022b)
It’s interesting that Media Watch tries to use its flimsy available excuse to force the framing of “wanting the debate shut down”; even at a first glance, it doesn’t quite fit.
The Media Watch piece earlier mentioned “eight or nine noisy trans activists” who wanted to shut down the debate. I’m hearing conflicting stories about them from trusted sources; I don’t know who they were, where they were, or what they did.
Luckily for me, Media Watch doesn’t seem to either, because it gives them no focus at all. Instead, it focuses on the 2 panellists who withdrew, and the 3 individuals quoted as a representative sample of Paul Barclay’s critics on Twitter.
The problem is that none of those individuals were agitating for the event to be shut down. Hines and Elkin chose not to participate because they felt they would be legitimising transphobia by doing so. Twitter users @EleanorEvenstar, @engagedpractx, and @nick_nobody expressed similar sentiments. Media Watch appears to have inflated this in order to help Faine victimise himself.
Anecdotally, this is representative of a broader pattern I’m witnessing in trans-hostile media coverage: if trans people or allies offer anything less than enthusiastic consent, journalists spin this as aggression justifying an overwhelming, full-spectrum counterattack.
high-profile BBC radio host Stephen Nolan published a 10-part podcastBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
This is referring to Nolan Investigates: Stonewall (Nolan & Thompson, 2021). The reference is, naturally, uncritical. It does not mention, to take one example — and I do mean one; I can see at least seven, but I don’t want to get derailed — that Nolan Investigates heavily features Malcolm Clark, co-founder and a director of LGB Alliance, an anti-trans pressure group reported by openDemocracy in April to have intimate access to senior UK ministers (Ramsay & Bychawski, 2022), which among other factors has led some prominent UK-based analysts — such as Moore (2022b) of Trans Safety Network — to characterise it as state-backed.
Clark’s leadership role at LGB Alliance seems relevant given that LGB Alliance Australia, which to the best of my ability to determine is not autonomous from its UK parent, has been identified by the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (2022), a US-based team of analysts originating from the Southern Poverty Law Center, as a hate group. If I were recommended a podcast on Islamic theology, I’d like to know if they used Pauline Hanson as a primary source.
It also seems relevant because even among LGB Alliance directors — charitably a rather motley lot — Clark’s views are especially Uhhh Hmmm. For instance, he is on record saying the presence of LGBT+ clubs in schools is “unnecessary and potentially dangerous” because “the vast majority of children have not settled on a sexual orientation” and therefore LGBT+ clubs “would be an unnecessary encouragement” to “predatory gay teachers” (Parsons, 2020). Hell of a take from a guy whose mission is purportedly “asserting the rights of lesbians, bisexuals and gay men” (Hurst, 2019) against the onslaught of the tranny horde.
(Media Watch also doesn’t mention that Nolan Investigates‘ episode on British law heavily refers to Dr Kathleen Stock, but that’s understandable; it might give the correct impression that transphobes are not a popular mass movement founded on genuine concern but rather a small, malicious clique with unexplained power.)
which topped the charts on Apple and SpotifyBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
This statement is slightly over-egging, but don’t worry (!) — it’s for a purpose. The impression this seemingly inconsequential statement seeks to give is that there is a “trans debate,” and that investigations into that “debate” have an organic popularity reflecting real public concern. This doesn’t quite match up with the facts.
First, this claim appears to be linked to a specific reference date, 23 October 2021, on which Nolan Investigates was respectively #3 and #4 in its relevant charts, according to podcast aggregator Chartable (2021). However, the charts in question were for ‘news podcasts in Great Britain,’ which is a slightly less earth-shattering accomplishment than “topped the charts” might be seen to imply.
In ‘all podcasts in Great Britain’ for the same date, Nolan Investigates made it to #32 at Apple and #80 at Spotify. For perspective, on Spotify’s chart for today, the same position is next to Baker Terry’s TV retread of new-’10s internet esoterica classic Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared (Chartable, 2022b).4 This is particularly remarkable given that, as Media Watch knows very well given that it’s in the Variety article which at this point in the broadcast they’re just about to cite, Nolan Investigates‘ marketing was backed by the full weight of the British political and media class:
The podcast, which was the culmination of an eighteen month investigation, quickly rose to the top of the charts on both Apple and Spotify after its release last month and garnered numerous headlines as well as comments from members of parliament.Yossman (2021); emphasis mine
More generally, claims in this genre (“best-seller,” “most-listened,” etc.) tend to float around any transphobic screed published by someone who knows the right people; I noted this last year (Moreton, 2021) at the release of Trans: When ideology meets reality (Joyce, 2021), by The Economist executive editor Helen Joyce. The thing about “best-seller,” for its part, is that it can mean, among other things:
- ‘book placed in the store in the position which will best sell it’ (Atkinson, 2022);
- ‘book the store is best paid to sell’ (Atkinson, op. cit.);
- ‘book bought in bulk by the author or their supporters with the intention of “hacking” the bestseller list’ (Barnett, 2020).
I have no specific reason to believe anything analogous happened with Nolan Investigates, but I will gently suggest that podcast listening figures might not mean quite as much when, as King (2021) reports, they’re faked often enough that Spotify has started cracking down on it (at least when the little people do it).
This had reportedly turned up: ‘numerous instances of BBC internal policy and editorial output that appeared to breach the corporation’s own impartiality guidelines’Barry, in Adams J. (2022b)
The Variety article in question is Yossman (2021). Under the circumstances I think this is a particularly interesting choice of pull quote. You see, when I watched the Media Watch episode, I saw this —
— which allows the viewer to take away the impression that Variety independently verified that those “instances” were indeed there.
However, I read the Variety article myself because I’m a pathologically suspicious and paranoid bitch, and I noted that the full paragraph reads as follows:
In the podcast, Nolan and Thompson questioned whether the BBC was too close to Stonewall, providing numerous instances of BBC internal policy and editorial output that appeared to breach the corporation’s own impartiality guidelines, as well as the Equality Act 2010, following communication with Stonewall in connection with these schemes.Yossman (2021)
That is to say, it restates the original claim without comment, rather than — as Media Watch would seemingly like to convey — backing it up.
These included Stonewall being consulted on the BBC’s style guide and recruitment languageBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
Far be it from me to oppose Aunty’s brains trust, but as far as I can tell, engaging brand style consultants to develop your corporate style guide seems … pretty normal (Upwork Team, 2022).
Moreover, if I wanted to develop LGBTQ+-specific style guidance, literally my first port of call would be the largest and oldest LGBT rights organisation in Europe, which … wouldn’t you know it, appears to be Stonewall, as hostile source Churchill (2021) admits.
they had appointed the first-ever LGBT+ news correspondent and first gender and identity correspondent in BBC NewsThompson, in Adams J. (2022b)
Based. That’s all.
we’ve corporately adopted the term LGBTQ+, Stonewall’s termThompson, in Adams J. (2022b)
Oh, I didn’t realise it was Stonewall’s term; Ring (2016) says it was GLAAD’s term, and judging from Ring (op. cit.), GLAAD appears to think so too. I imagine they’ll be devastated, but I’ll let them know.
Seriously, though, the fact that an entity uses or recommends a term does not mean that term belongs to that entity. That would stress me out enought that I’d be curled up in my bedroom (Shakespeare, 1600/2020, 2.2.57), puking (Shakespeare, 1623/2020, 2.7.151).
That they’re all issues that Stonewall have lobbied on and that BBC has moved on, so that is prima facie evidence of Stonewall having some successThompson, in Adams J. (2022b)
What are the rest of us fags and trannies, chopped liver? Anecdotally I was using LGBTQ+ years ago, when I’d never heard of Stonewall the charity and had barely heard of Stonewall the riot. Stonewall the charity are heroes in my book, but they are very much rowing with the current here; they are not the prime mover.
Cultural change cannot be mandated from a single privileged point in the command hierarchy, no matter how high, and I think both the BBC and the ABC are fully aware of that fact.
Many will say those changes are goodBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
To recap, the changes in question are:
- “first-ever LGBTQ+ news correspondent”
- “first gender and identity correspondent”
- “corporately adopted the term LGBTQ+”
- “raising awareness of the importance of gender pronouns”
… Y– yeah, actually. I do think they’re good. Is there some reason they’re not good? Has something changed? The memo hasn’t reached me.
one BBC journalist, Samantha Smith … [said] the BBC’s absolute core principle … was impartialityBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
I am going to gently suggest that given the somewhat crude pronouns joke in her Twitter bio —
— Samantha Smith (@misssamsmith) may not be impartial on this topic.4
I am going to less gently observe that Paul Barry already knew this, because he was following her on Twitter — presumably related to him asking her to follow him only several days prior so he could send her a Direct Message.
Nobody was pulling wool over Paul’s eyes here.
And paying money for StonewallSmith S., in Adams J. (2022b)
… One typically does pay money for consulting services, yes (?)
and using Stonewall’s languageSmith S., in Adams J. (2022b)
I am tempted to remark that it’s Stonewall’s language; we’re just speaking in it. See #15 and #16, above.
How is that independent? How is that impartial?Smith S., in Adams J. (2022b)
I will be refraining from ordering Domino’s pizzas from now on, given the possibility that it might prevent me impartially reporting when they take an hour and a half to arrive.
the AIDS Council of New South Wales, or ACONBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
This is a thorny one. This is indeed the original expansion of AOCN’s name, but that appears to be deprecated; its current legal name is ACON Health Ltd, and its current trading name is ACON (Australian Business Register, 2019/2022).
On the one hand, it does neatly explain why it’s called ACON. On the other hand, it is clearly not being quoted here in the context of its original purpose as an HIV/AIDS charity, and indeed it is unclear why that purpose is relevant. I would like to assume the best, but in an environment where transphobes often refer to trans people as a contagion (see, e.g., Bauer et al., 2021, p. 224), well …
a women’s anti-trans group called ACON ExposedBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
This is an interesting claim. ACON: Exposed (n.d.) notes on its about page that feminists are members, but doesn’t appear to consider itself a women’s or feminist group; it refers to itself as “a loosely affiliated research group with no political links … [consisting of] ordinary individuals who believe that sex matters” (ibid.).
Of course, “anti-trans” is obvious — that’s the most symbolically loaded banana I’ve ever seen, and it’s not close.
By tacking on the descriptor “women’s,” Media Watch appears to be pursuing either or both of two goals:
- adding legitimacy by presenting this as self-defence by an oppressed demographic, namely women;
- galvanising support by allowing it to be understood that women are disproportionately or only on the side of which ACON: Exposed is part, from which viewers could very reasonably infer that the opposite side must be misogynistic and hostile.
Unfortunately for Media Watch, the numbers don’t stack up: the women-versus-trannies binary doesn’t actually exist. Even on “TERF Island” itself, cis women have voiced majority support for trans rights by a margin which if applied to an Australian election would be considered an obliterating win (Sonoma, 2020).
ACON’s ABC relationship manager offered editorial tips, including adding a help numberBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
This is fairly standard practice on stories about queer or trans issues which are potentially distressing or triggering, which these days seems to be most of them. Thomas (2022) provides an example published in August in the venerable Sydney Star Observer.
regardless of how good or worthy these programs are … having them scored by a lobby group raises questions about ABC impartialityBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
First and extremely relevantly, as Switchboard Victoria CEO Joe Ball (2022) points out, ACON is not a lobby group; it is a health promotion charity. This is an important difference which I’ll get into in a second, but I am aware that it is true partly because up until all this bullshit I knew of ACON primarily for its health promotion efforts: ACON’s TransHub provides information about Australian trans healthcare to a quality and completeness which is, as far as I know, unparalleled.
What Media Watch is doing here is implying the existence of an improper relationship by relying on you to conflate “lobbyist” with “lobby group” and “state broadcaster” with “public service”. Here’s the shortest version I could get after a couple hours tearing my hair out. This is based on
- the Charities Act 2013 (Cth), hereafter in this section the Act, which governs ACON; and
- the Lobbying Code of Conduct, hereafter in this section the Code, which governs lobbyists and the Government.
The deal is this:
- Both “lobbyist” and “lobby group” are descended from an original common-language verb, “lobby” (“attempt to persuade public officials”).
- “Lobbyist” is a term of legal significance defined by the Code: it is an entity which communicates or engages people to communicate with Government representatives on behalf of a third-party client (Code ss 5(1), 5(2), 5(4)).
- “Lobby group” is a common-language term meaning “group participating in public discourse in order to influence policy”. To avoid confusion with actual lobbyists, such groups are often referred to as advocacy groups, campaign groups, or special interest groups.
- ACON is a charity (Australian Business Register, 2019/2022), so it is not permitted for it to be a lobbyist (Code ss 5(3)(a), 6(1)(a)) and it would get its ass kicked if it tried (Act s 11). It has specific nonpolitical charitable purposes (health promotion) and is permitted to engage in extremely specific advocacy about policy changes that would make its job easier or harder (Act s 12(1)(l)).
- However, this is irrelevant, because the “Government representatives” bound by the Code are ministerial staff, ADF personnel, and people employed or otherwise engaged by agencies which employ under the Public Service Act 1999 (Cth), i.e., public servants and public service contractors. ABC staff might work at the state broadcaster, but they aren’t public servants or public service contractors, so the Code does not govern them.
All this is of fundamental importance because, as this quote demonstrates in black and white, the bulk of Media Watch‘s argument is simply saying that ACON being “a lobby group” is prima facie evidence that its relationship with the ABC is improper, knowing that the viewer will assume the terms “lobby” and “ABC” have the meanings and implications necessary for that claim to be true.
Media Watch assumes it will get away with this based on a belief which it may or may not sincerely hold but which in either case it believes the Australian public to hold. The belief in question is, to paraphrase Vossen (2019), that there are two kinds of relations to gender: cis and “political,” i.e., that by existing, trans people are engaging in a political campaign, and thus that ACON’s advocacy for trans health makes it more likely to be true that any engagement with ACON is problematically political in and of itself.
Media Watch does all this to mask the fact that suggesting that an entity passing public comment on the ABC inherently compromises its impartiality is blatantly absurd; by that standard, I compromised the ABC’s impartiality with the thread this post is based on, and am compromising it further now by publishing the post. Guess I’m the Managing Editor now. That’s free speech for ya!
The obvious follow-up argument is “But it’s different because they’re paying,” to which the answer is apparently not actually. For instance, every company on US-based GLAAD’s Social Media Safety Index is rated fucking abysmal and doing fuck-all about it, despite the fact that they’re all paying to be there (Smith A., 2022). The fact is that you can’t make a corporate big boy do anything it doesn’t want to.
Media Watch knows this. This means that what Media Watch is objecting to is the fact that the ABC wants to be inclusive. That’s a significantly darker and more worrying discussion.
Imagine … the ABC paying thousands of dollars to Greenpeace and winning prizes for running stories attacking the fossil fuel industry. Or paying money to the Australian Republican Movement and being rewarded for stories criticising the monarchyBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
Media Watch implicitly sketches out a purportedly problematic editorial approach at the ABC by drawing attention to the following 9 specific actions:
- ABC News reporting “having ABC staff march in Mardi Gras”
- “the series First Day [Isdale & Stradling, 2020–2022], about a trans child”
- “the ABC podcast series, Innies and Outies [Schafter, 2021–present]”
- “adding a help number”
- “fail[ing] to cover the … closure of the … Tavistock gender clinic” (more on that later)
- “scant coverage of the [UK] High Court case [Bell v Tavistock]” (more later)
- “ignor[ing] legitimate medical debate about caution and safeguards” (more later)
- an alleged “lack of balance” in a Q+A panel (more later)
- not citing a specific study in a story in April (more later)
Of these, I am excluding #8 because there’s literally zero chance that anyone making that complaint was acting in good faith (more later). Of the remainder, each can be categorised as being, from the point of view of critics, either ‘positive trans programming’ or being overcautious about risk of harm to the trans community. I can very well imagine circumstances in which the latter could be a problem. That’s not the issue.
The issue is that the hypothetical examples given both imagine attacks on an identifiable entity — “the fossil fuel industry” and “the monarchy,” respectively — which, notwithstanding that they would be objectively based (I’m doing sedition on WordPress! Hi AFP!), could give that entity credible grounds to claim having been harmed. None of the actual actions taken by the ABC and cited by Media Watch are attacks.
The implication here seems to be that either promoting positive programming about trans lives or protecting trans people from harm is itself an attack on someone else.
what if the ABC also steered clear of debate on contentious matters, as it arguably does on transgender issues?Barry, in Adams J. (2022b)
… are we to believe that trans issues are not contentious? You’re contending about them right now, and not only that, you’re contending about other contention! I’m contending additional to my original contention your contention about their contention! The conclusion here seems pretty clear!
the ABC had failed to cover the controversial closure of the UK’s famous Tavistock gender clinicBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
This raises two questions:
- In what way was it controversial?
- Why should it have been covered?
The process of closing the Tavistock Clinic was initiated pursuant to a May 2021 recommendation from the Cass Review (Cass, 2021). In short, Dr Cass recommended abandoning the overloaded single central clinic in favour of regionalised services. It’s not in any dispute, by the way, that this is why it was closed; even The Guardian, famously transphobia central, has no problem admitting it (Brooks, 2022).
Transphobes were, at least initially, overjoyed at the closure because “the Tavi” was their bête noire; they were led to believe they Got Our Asses and that the clinic was closed To Save The Children (I haven’t checked whether they have yet discovered that this wasn’t the case).
However, trans people were also pretty happy about this, because the Tavi sucked. It was factional, unreliable, chronically and deliberately underfunded, and kept many kids from receiving care until the wrong puberty they had been trying desperately to avert had already irreversibly hit them. Regionalised care, on the other hand, whips the llama’s ass. No one is unhappy about there being more care.
It seems like trans people not creating controversy is controversial itself, the same way when we don’t debate, we’re suppressing debate, and when we don’t say what we’re told to, we’re killing free speech. It’s like being a Millennial teenager all over again.
To the point, though: why would we have covered this? What the UK did was literally switch to our model. We already have regionalised care: the Royal Children’s Hospital Gender Service in Melbourne; the Queensland Children’s Hospital Gender Clinic and Queensland Children’s Gender Service; etc. There is no news for us here. There is nothing to learn.
it had given scant coverage of the High Court case against the clinic from Keira Bell [i.e., Bell v Tavistock]Barry, in Adams J. (2022b)
This whole passage is just relentlessly Interesting™ from start to finish. For instance, I am Interested™ by Media Watch‘s decision to use the term “High Court,” without clarifying. To any Australian, that has a specific association: the High Court of Australia, the Commonwealth’s highest (“apex”) court.
If that’s what a “High Court” is — as is often the case — then that must be newsworthy, without doubt. There was no question at all that, for instance, apex-level US cases like Obergefell v. Hodges were of significant material interest to Australian viewers.
The problem is that in this case, a “High Court” is … not that. The court which heard Bell v Tavistock is HM High Court of Justice in England and Wales (“EWHC” in the reference list), the highest trial court and second-highest appellate court for England and Wales. In practical terms, suggesting the ABC had a duty to cover any decision of the High Court of Justice is effectively equivalent to suggesting the BBC has a duty to cover decisions of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
who alleged she had been rushed into treatment with puberty blockers without due careBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
Bugger me, that seems pretty serious. Well, what did they find— oh, she lost.
Specifically, the High Court of Justice (“Divisional Court,” in legal jargon) found in Bell’s favour, but in Bell v Tavistock Appeal, the Court of Appeal (“EWCA” in the reference list) reversed, repeatedly asking the Divisional Court what the fuck they thought they were doing, not in those words (see the reference list entry for pinpoint citations). The UK Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal. The case is resolved, and not in a way which left any questions unanswered.
The inorganic nature of Media Watch‘s concern is rather highlighted by the fact that none of this is news anymore. The High Court of Justice decision was in December 2020, and the Court of Appeal decision was in September 2021, over a year ago, yet only since this August has Media Watch seen fit to bring it up.
We also noted that the ABC had ignored legitimate medical debate about caution and safeguardsBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
The episode to which Media Watch is referring here is Adams J. (2022a). They may be characterising themselves a little bit charitably. (P.S.: “Safeguards”? We’ll come back to that.)
What Media Watch noted in that story is that a number of other media outlets were reporting on the story. They referred, and only obliquely, to one primary “medical” source: the Interim Report of the Cass Review (Cass, 2022).
The Interim Report identifies several points of disagreement. Rather inconveniently for Media Watch, however, despite the Interim Report‘s commitment to a non-judgemental, neutral tone, reading it quickly puts to bed any question of a “legitimate medical debate”.
Every point of disagreement identified in the Interim Report has a well-established, international-consensus-backed answer:
- But what if they stop being trans? (s 1.7): They don’t.
- But don’t we need a working definition of what being trans is? (s 1.24): We have one. Look in the DSM-5.
- But are trans kids really trans? (s 2.15): Yes. See #1.
- But what if they stop being trans? (s 4.15): See #1.
What the Interim Report does, grudgingly and more or less against its will, is confirm (e.g., s 2.15) the existence of a right-wing faction of white-ant clinicians who will simply keep re-asking the question until they get the answer they want.
What it does not do is present any basis for the ABC to report or comment. Neither its context nor its content are applicable here.
Two days later, ABC Sydney’s Josh Szeps invited Dr Philip Morris, who urges caution, to talk about these mattersBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
First of all, lol, a doctor named Philip Morris. Whoever’s the god of nominative determinism, they’re having a perverse little giggle about that one.
Like everyone else, Dr Morris is entitled to have an opinion on trans healthcare — God knows I can’t stop him — but there’s no obvious reason why that opinion should be promoted as authoritative. Recall again that this is about paediatric trans healthcare. According to his website, Dr Morris specialises in addiction medicine, dementia, forensic psychiatry, general adult psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, medicolegal assessment, and memory disorders (Morris, n.d., “About Dr Morris”). It’s unclear where trans healthcare of any kind comes in.
Dr Morris is usually quoted in Australian mass media as president of the National Association of Practicing Psychiatrists (NAPP). This may have been avoided here because the ABC gets a bit more scrutiny than the publications usually associated with that trick, which are broadly acknowledged to be rags.
Since Media Watch doesn’t explicitly mention it, I won’t get too deep into NAPP, but I am intrigued to note that Dr Morris used NAPP to effectively self-publish a paediatric trans care “guide” (Morris et al., 2022) co-written with, among others, Dr Roberto D’Angelo, an affiliate of the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine (SEGM). I have written before on SEGM. To recap:
- they are effectively the executive politburo of a much broader-based anti-trans organisation, Genspect (Moore, 2022a);
- of their major characteristics, one is anti-trans activism in a professional context that could be described as intense, bordering on frantic (see e.g. D’Angelo et al., 2020);
- the other one is being funded by the internet equivalent of large suitcases full of unmarked bills (Moore, 2021).
Note that I am referring to Dr Morris as “effectively self-publishing” through NAPP on the assumption that they are fairly closely linked; as I noted in the original thread, the main contact number for NAPP is the same number given for Dr Morris’ mobile phone on his website:
complaints from women about the lack of balanceBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
One wonders if “women” was the most specific descriptor Media Watch felt they could get away with.
The first source quoted here is Angie Jones. I will settle for pointing out that Angie’s Twitter bio identifies her as co-host of a production (a YouTube vlog, as it happens) called TERF Talk Downunder (Jones, 2022) — wonder what that’s about (!)
The second source quoted is Astra Niedra, a wellness influencer who appears (Niedra, 2022a & 2022b) to be a fan of multiple anti-trans activists, including anti-trans dating app founder and failed scriptwriter Sall Grover (Grover, 2020; Runnels, 2020), British author Milli Hill (2021), and British author and failed scriptwriter J.K. Rowling (Rowling, 1997 & 2020; Miller & Erbland, 2018).
A panel of MEN & one womanJones, in Adams J. (2022b)
This is a quote from Angie, but its significance here is that Media Watch doesn’t correct it, and indeed implicitly endorses it as correct by calling it a “concern” which the ABC went on to “meet”.
An Internet Archive snapshot (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2022a) reveals that the announced members of the 25 August Q+A panel at the time of Jones and Niedra’s complaints (22 August) were Kieren Perkins, Hannah Mouncey, Joe Williams, David Lakisa, and Catherine Ordway, all of whom had been announced 19 August. That includes two women: Hannah Mouncey and Catherine Ordway.
Angie’s Tweet obviously requires that one of the two women on the panel, Hannah Mouncey or Catherine Ordway, was a man. Dr Ordway is, to my knowledge, cis; Ms Mouncey, however, is trans (Zeigler, 2022). When the host of TERF Talk Downunder said one of them was a man, it’s pretty clear who she meant. Media Watch seems to think that’s fine.
ABC then added a female athlete to its panel at the last minuteBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
Once again, one wonders if “female athlete” was the most specific descriptor Media Watch felt they could get away with. According to the Q+A transcript, the new panelist was weightlifter Deborah Lovely-Acason (Grant, 2022).
Not just any female athlete, our Deb, as we are informed by Binary Australia (2021) — like LGB Alliance Australia, classified by the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (2022) as a hate group. As the cited press release from Binary attests, Lovely-Acason’s primary belief of current political note seems to be feeling wronged by the existence of trans woman athletes, most prominently her competitive rival Laurel Hubbard.
Of course, that’s current political note. Even Binary, normally so direct, is a little evasive on this one; in order to present the narrative that Deb was an apolitical professional radicalised by being screwed over, they don’t mention she was a failed Family First candidate at the 2012 Queensland state election (Electoral Commission Queensland, 2012).
N.B. I’ll be brutally honest, I didn’t have to do this research ex nihilo; I had the fortune of running into Deb when she was haunting Facebook comment sections last year. She doesn’t like transfem athletes at all, and she really wants everyone to know.
campaigning Liberal senator Claire ChandlerBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
Ah yes, Senator Chandler, who in February this year said “her ‘Save Women’s Sport’ bill would give clarity to sports clubs that want to exclude transgender women from competition in women’s sport” (McLennan, 2022). Did Media Watch think we’d forgotten so soon?
a study showing transwomen in the US Air Force ran on average 12 per cent faster than biological womenThe Daily Telegraph, in Adams J. (2022b)
I have to imagine Media Watch were drooling over the chance to fit the terms “transwomen” (no space) and “biological women” into this piece. (We know there’s no space because Media Watch displays pull quotes on screen; this one shows up at approximately 10m14s:)
The study in question is Roberts et al. (2020). As it happens, I am familiar with this study, but it took some frustrating digging to find because seemingly no source wanted to mention the name of the ABC article it was cited in.
As Kirsti Miller, former national sports star and trans woman, pointed out in April (Miller, 2022), the study isn’t as broadly applicable as it’s made out to be, because the trans women and cis women groups weren’t height-matched. Trans women might appear to have an athletic advantage simply because they are taller — a quality which cis women are actually not forbidden from having. How do we know that this might be the reason? Because the study says so (Roberts et al., op. cit., p. 5), and because the lead author firmly restated it to PolitiFact (Valverde, 2021).
Many sources for a popular audience will waffle about height not being an advantage, such as Fritscher (n.d.) for Gannett’s AZCentral, who notes that “the relative advantages of height are frequently offset by other factors”. However, based on Khosla (1985), Fritscher also noted that “In medium-distance running, height may become an advantage” — including in the 1,500m, the exact event length studied by Roberts et al. (op. cit.).
the concern here is that it is not impartial but one-sidedBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
No way. The ABC, one-sided (Moreton, 2022a)?
Really (Moreton, 2022f)?
… I suppose I can see it (Moreton, 2022h).
does it accept that its partnership with a lobby group, ACON, could be a problemBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
Passing over the “lobby group” lie for a second, well, it depends. A problem for whom?
insisting the newsroom remains in control of all contentBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
I like this tactic because it’s a neat way of implying that the newsroom does not, in fact, retain control of all content, while evading the responsibility of actually making that case.
I am particularly tickled because the ABC FOI Disclosure Log (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2022d), which lists requests compelling the ABC to disclose information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) and provides the information that was disclosed, has an entry for the disclosure used for this story, #202223-003. That disclosure yielded 204 pages of documents and correspondence in 2 PDFs (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2022b & 2022c). You’d think if there was an impropriety there’d be a slam dunk about it in there somewhere, but apparently not.
it’s worth noting their representative pulled out of that Melbourne debate, claiming it was unsafe to take partBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
Unsafe for whom? Here is the relevant part of ACON’s response to Media Watch‘s questions, which one would hope Media Watch had read.
[Q.] Why did ACON/Pride in Diversity withdraw from the Uni of Melbourne panel discussion, Pride and Prejudice in Policy?
[A.] The health and wellbeing of our staff and communities are paramount. Commentary on social media about the panel discussion in the lead up to the event had turned into a debate about trans people rather than our diversity and inclusion work.
It is harmful for our communities when their right to exist is debated in a public forum. Following a reassessment of risk, we determined that our participation in event could compromise the safety of our staff and people in our communities. Safeguarding the welfare of our people was our top priority.
It should be noted that other panelists also withdrew from this event.Parkhill (2022)
The phrasing used by the Media Watch episode suggests that Elkin confected a tall tale of personal danger as a flimsy cover for pulling out from raw cowardice alone. However, ACON’s statement makes unambiguously clear that the actual concern was the wellbeing of others. In cis people, such concern would typically be considered not cowardly, but laudable.
Was the poor phrasing in the ABC’s report unintentional? If so, accidentally conflating “danger to trans people collectively” with “danger to Nicki Elkin,” and presenting both as cowardice, still implies that Media Watch considers trans people interchangeable and danger to them not worth avoiding.
We also asked ACON if the ABC had ever lost points in the Australian Workplace Equality Index for critical or negative editorial coverage. And they told us:
“The manner in which the ABC covers LGBTQI issues editorially, or the tone or angle in which they are presented, does not impact their AWEI assessment.” (-Email, Nicolas Parkhill, ACON CEO, 14 October 2022)
However, the ABC has won points and awards for positive programming.Barry, in Adams J. (2022b)
It’s not actually clear how these two things are supposed to be incompatible, which is the clear suggestion given the point vs. counterpoint phrasing here. The only example of points-winning positive programming cited by Media Watch was First Day (Isdale & Stradling, 2020–2022), which is a drama series. That means it’s fictional. That means it doesn’t interact with ABC journalists’ editorial approach in any way.
This whole quote is like saying that it’s incompatible for me both to be aware that the BBC is a viciously transphobic institution and to be delighted when Doctor Who (Strevens et al., 2005–present) does stuff which is extremely trans and cool as hell.
emails … show an ABC journalist … receiving advice from ACON on the correct definition of the word familyBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
Oh fuck, really? “They’re letting fags and trannies redefine the family?” I already sat through the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, I don’t think I can do this again.
changing the language and internal culture of a media organisation may still influence editorial values and programs’ story selectionBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
If you persuade people not to be arseholes, they’re less likely to do arsehole things. Wait one, new wire story coming in from the Associated Press: SKY SUBJECTIVELY BLUE, WATER WET.
Professor Alan Davison of the University of Technology SydneyBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
For the sake of decorum we’ll pretend I assumed Prof Davison must have extensive relevant experience. After reviewing his résumé (University of Technology Sydney, n.d., “Prof Alan Davison: About”), however, I was unable to determine from which part of his accomplished academic career in, apparently, musicology, it was supposed to derive. (My degree is also in music, but as proud as I am of our shared field, it has limits.)
I therefore consulted UTS’ record of Prof Davison’s publications (University of Technology Sydney, n.d., “Prof Alan Davison: Research outputs”), whereupon things became somewhat clearer. I was enthralled to note that Prof Davison’s most recent publication had the short title “Multiculturalism, social distance and ‘Islamophobia’” (Davison, 2022); I thought the quote marks around ‘Islamophobia’ were a particularly spicy choice.
My eyes were drawn, however, to a somewhat less recent publication in the same journal: “A Darwinian approach to postmodern critical theory: or, How did bad ideas colonise the academy?” (Davison, 2020).
As Wallace-Wells (2021) illustrates in The New Yorker, in 2020s political discourse, the academic meaning of critical theory observed by its original theorists has been decisively overtaken both in popular and academic discourse by its status as a floating signifier — no fixed, uncontested strict, meaning, but only a string of connotations, “hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, [and] elitist,” making it “the perfect villain” (Rufo, quoted in Wallace-Wells, op. cit.). This is particularly true of the subject with which Wallace-Wells is concerned: critical race theory (CRT).
Trans people will already be familiar with such empty signifiers; most will have dealt with an absolutely mindnumbing onslaught of cries of “gender ideology,” a slogan invented by the Catholic Church in the early-to-mid-1980s and going strong ever since. With the rise of CRT, however, right-wing activists are explicitly trying to link the two (see, e.g., Kao, 2021).
Davison (2020), boldly going where no (well, probably almost no) musicologist has gone before, certainly had plenty to say about critical theory, specifically postmodern critical theory (PMCT), its application in the social sciences (Agger, 2012). In the abstract alone, he calls it
a peculiar set of misbeliefsDavison (2020)
prevailing antirational explanatory models(ibid.)
religious-like performativity and self-validating arguments(ibid.)
I strongly suspect a combination of the political moment and Prof Davison’s publishing record, more than any relevant specialist expertise, may be the primary factors explaining his presence on the panel.
we’re not suggesting the ABC should abandon its commitment to diversity and inclusionBarry, in Adams J. (2022b)
Fair enough. You are simply suggesting that everything it does ot implement that commitment is evidence of bias, or even institutional capture. That’s not the same thing at all.
The problem here is a media group partnering with and being rewarded by a lobby group — any lobby group. And how that could lead to perceptions of bias in coverage or to bias itselfibid.
… You know, I’ve changed my mind. I think I can see the problem now.
For anyone not sure what they’re seeing here: fuck, I wish I was you. No, but seriously … but I am being serious. No, but for real:
- This is a collection of receipts from the private Facebook discussion group for the Coalition for Biological Reality.
- The Coalition for Biological Reality (here “CBR”) are an anti-trans hate group. (see, e.g., Jones J., 2022).
- Nastassja Freischmidt (“Stassja Frei”) is CBR’s founder (Frei, 2022).
- Catherine Anderson-Karena (“Kat Karena”) is or was a community liaison for LGB Alliance Australia (see, e.g., Anderson-Karena, 2022).
- Rachael Wong is the CEO of Women’s Forum Australia, an explicitly anti-trans lobby group (see, e.g., Women’s Forum Australia, n.d.) which incidentally is named suspiciously closely to the rather more legitimate and reputable International Women’s Forum‘s Australian branch.
- Kit Kowalski is a conspiracy theorist who was as of Saturday 15 October — anecdotally as of Tuesday 18 October, but the 15th is the last archive snapshot — contending in her Twitter bio that “ACON controls [the] Aussie govt” (Kowalski, 2022a). As of 19 October she had changed it to the rather more innocuous “AMA about ACON and the ABC” (Kowalski, 2022b), possibly because I had rather inconsiderately pointed it out the previous day (Moreton, 2022n).
Between them, based on their remarks, Anderson-Karena, Freischmidt, Wong, and possibly a few others appear to have effectively ghostwritten the episode through Media Watch‘s “senior producer,” who they refer to with she/her pronouns — suggesting they probably mean supervising producer Gabrielle Clark (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2022e).
I cannot say this surprises me overmuch; as I mentioned earlier, I noticed the piece referred to “safeguards,” specifically “safeguards in treating gender dysphoria in children”. “Safeguard” is a common word, but in the context of “the trans debate,” and especially the “debate” around paediatric trans healthcare, it is a specifically British term of art (see, e.g., Care Quality Commission, 2022) meaning looking after the welfare of vulnerable people, particularly children.
“Safeguarding” is often used by the British government, via “think of the children,” as a way of illegitimately-to-outright-illegally blocking trans people from accessing medically necessary care (e.g., Topping, 2022). It doesn’t have an organic presence in specialised or general Australian English; it gets here exclusively through people whose brains have been marinating in British TERFism for a while.
To the point, however, this makes it a lot easier for me to agree with Media Watch. This case is open and shut: The ABC has indefensibly compromised its impartiality and balance by partnering with a lobby group and giving it wholesale editorial control! Just not the one Media Watch meant.
I can certainly see how this would lead to “perceptions of bias in coverage,” given that it clearly led to “bias itself”! Given that this clearly cannot continue, the question — with all due respect — is:
What the fuck does the ABC intend to do about it?
I obviously set about reformatting this from a Twitter thread and therefore had to build a proper reference list and in-text citations.
Superscript numerals are for footnotes.
Most citations are in APA 7 style (the style given by the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th edition).
Per APA style, legal citations are in AGLC 4 style (the style given by the Australian Guide to Legal Citation, 4th edition).
A few too many self-cites in this piece [gigantic jerking-off motion]. Sorry!
I reported Faine’s piece as being in The Sydney Morning Herald. This has to do with a technical quirk in Nine Entertainment’s web presence; namely, they serve a central corpus including at least most of their op-eds separately under all of their mastheads, which include both the Herald and The Age, and the Herald version is the one that reached my inbox. Given Faine is in Melbourne, describing events that took place in Melbourne, The Age version (Faine, 2022) is presumably the canonical one. (They are identical.)
I like steelmanning, so I would normally have used Apple’s chart here because, as noted, Nolan Investigates ranked much higher on that one. However, Spotify’s chart was the only one which contained a nearby “landmark” that I recognised. The nearest production I recognised in Apple’s chart (Chartable, 2022a) was Off Menu with Ed Gamble and James Caster (24 spots above, at #8).
Since “Samantha Smith” and “Sam Smith” are common names, yes, I’m quite sure it’s the same one. @misssamsmith has previously noted having “used to edit politics programmes in one of the BBC regions”. Devaney (2017) writes in HuffPost concerning Inside Out South West, a newsmagazine program broadcast by BBC South West, one of the BBC English Regions, in the context of focusing on Samantha Smith, its editor.
Smith is quoted as saying “long experiences of … both reporting and presenting”. An archived 2014 webpage for Inside Out South West (British Broadcasting Corporation, 2014/2021) identifies an extremely similar-looking woman also named Sam Smith as its presenter.
Rather more prosaically — and infuriatingly after all that detective work — I found an Archive Today snapshot from close to nine years ago (Smith S., 2014) which establishes that at that time Samantha Smith @misssamsmith was the presenter of Inside Out South West. Oh well.
Interestingly, if Devaney (op. cit.) is an accurate representation then Ms Smith seems to have a newsworthy record of opinions about what her colleagues should look like, characterised by being conservative about skirt length and not overfond of “PC”.
P.S. If you wish to, you can financially support whatever it is I’m doing here through Ko-fi. However, please don’t feel obliged.
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5 responses to “Several problems: “ACON & the ABC””
I am hugely disappointed in MediaWatch, and very grateful for this valuable and reasoned take on why they done fucked up so fuckin’ bad.
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