Fairfax woes and a bit more on T Rump

I can’t access the Illawarra Mercury site right now. Is it because of this?

Fairfax staff striking in solidarity with colleagues in protest at plans to cut 120 editorial jobs have said it is time to take a stand.

Key points:

  • Redundancies and cost-cutting measures to hit SMH, The Age and AFR
  • Cuts amount to one-quarter of the editorial workforce, according to MEAA
  • News a “complete shock and a real body blow,” says MEAA CEO

The media firm said cuts would be made through redundancies and cost-cutting measures at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Australian Financial Review…

Revisit this 2013 article in The Monthly:

For Australia, the story is more significant than just the demise of an industry business model. In a small robust democracy with relatively little commercial quality journalism, it has the makings of a civic catastrophe. That’s because the serious journalism of influence in Australia, apart from the government-funded ABC, resides mainly in four newspapers – the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, the Australian Financial Review and the Australian. Between them, these four mastheads provide most of Australia’s coverage of politics, justice, economics, business, science, health, welfare, public policy, international affairs, arts, culture and ideas. Until recently, these four employed around 1500 journalists. Today that number is closer to 1000. Within two years it could be as few as 500.

For most of their existence these papers have been pillars of the Australian democratic infrastructure, sitting alongside the parliament, the bureaucracy and the courts as the enforcement agencies of public accountability and scrutiny. They are the ones who have done the shoe-leather reporting, invested in thoughtful analysis, exposed corruption and maladministration, campaigned on issues they believed in and undertaken the expensive and risky investigative reporting that has held power to account.

When recently I posted They can’t POSSIBLY elect T. Rump, can they? kvd commented:

read that McGeough piece yesterday and came away frustrated that there was no ‘Comments’ button. I have no particular regard for Trump – other than that he seems to be getting all the right people annoyed by his continuing candidacy – but I do think McGeough is just another in a long line of Trump critics who attack the messenger without once spending time on analysing why it is that his message resonates with a significant number of Americans. This is liberal (in the American sense) journalism at its worst; a cobbled together rehash of other journalists’ work stretching back to July last year – the overall consensus being “Trump is an idiot, and his supporters are idiots for supporting him”.

And I find it ironic that McGeough lauds the rise of fact checking; wasn’t that always supposed to be the role of the press – present the facts? And this in a paper which has just sent on leave Paul Sheehan for his complete lack of fact checking in an article linking Muslims to rape.

The other article you quote by Thomas Frank at least attempts to address the underlying ’causes of Trump’ and ends with a quite telling para…

I had indeed  linked to the Thomas Frank piece because it does offer a level of explanation that McGeough does not, even if it  is just reprising the thesis Thomas Frank has long been pursuing about the paradox of US working class folk voting against their own best interests. I read What’s the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004)  some years ago.

I do not object to the McGeough piece. It is after all just one of a number of reports McGeough has written recently on the T Rump phenomenon. It seems quite legitimate to me to home in on the way T Rump presents himself, on his modes of argument, his style, his quite strange body language. After all, we can legitimately hope that a  person potentially with the power a US President wields won’t be some kind of full-on nutter.

To make the link between McGeough and the recent matter of Paul Sheehan in order to diminish the quite shocking results of fact-checking Trump seems a touch unfair, to say the least. Quite right about Sheehan though. He is a strange case indeed, and I have never been a fan ever since reading Among the Barbarians in 1998 and finding therein an appalling misuse of a book by Sang Ye, which I had read and whom I had met. Another good Monthly piece:

The Louise debacle is inexplicable without this context. (For some it’s inexplicable even with it.) Other news organisations are reviewing their own processes in the wake of the scandal, but remain incredulous.

“We just can’t believe it,” says a senior editor at another Australian newspaper. “It’s unthinkable that something like that could end up on page one. It should never – could never happen …

“Sheehan’s reportage has always been a trouble. I remember reading parts of Among the Barbarians [Sheehan’s 1998 book] and thinking, ‘This sounds like bullshit.’ They should have been alert to it.”

And staff at Fairfax were alert to it. Sheehan’s enthusiasm for dubious contacts was well known. Take almost any lunar-right figure in Australia – Cory Bernardi, the Australian Liberty Alliance, Kirralie Smith from Halal Choices – and Sheehan has written a quote-heavy column in their favour, usually rounded out with some kind of oblique endorsement.

I know: Wikipedia! Yes, yes, due caution needed. Nonetheless I do suggest it is well worth reading the entry on Donald Trump and asking: can I really envision that man in the White House? Well worth digging deeper and checking the origins of the Trump empire under Fred Trump. And on The Conversation site Woody Guthrie, ‘Old Man Trump’ and a real estate empire’s racist foundations is an interesting story.


Oh: the Illawarra Mercury site is now accessible. And a big local story: Dark days for miners as Peabody in the red.

Workers at Peabody’s Metropolitan Colliery at Helensburgh face more uncertainty about their future after the company revealed it is facing a struggle to survive.

The US-owned miner has told the regulators that it may have to file for bankruptcy protection if it cannot find a solution to satisfy its lenders….

Though I see the story is dated yesterday.

And some post-scripts on T Rump:

First a Quadrant writer, Daryl McCann:

The time might have come, argues George Lakoff in his thoughtful new essay, “No One Knows Why Trump Is Winning. Here’s What Cognitive Science Says“, to make sense of Trumpism in ways that go beyond George Clooney’s “xenophobic racist” designation.

Lakoff is no apologist for Trump but insists that the business mogul’s pragmatic conservatism, political incorrectness and direct-causation thinking – put a tariff on imported goods and save American manufacturing, etcetera – combine in a way that appeals to moderate conservatives and moderate progressives alike.

Moreover, certain kinds of negative campaigning against Trump, according to Lakoff, actually work to his favour: “It doesn’t matter if you are promoting Trump or attacking Trump, you are helping Trump.” …

And today’s Fairfax has Waleed Aly:

The incessant media focus on Trump’s outrages masks the fact that he’s also running a seriously protectionist campaign: ironically suspicious of free trade and protective of an American underclass for whom the triumphs of capitalism seem only to flow elsewhere. It’s not arguing that the system never works. It’s that it always works for the same people: the establishment who write the laws for the benefits of their friends and themselves. If that’s not you, chances are you feel thoroughly disempowered, whether you live in the world’s most powerful nation or not.

So, “Make America Great Again”. Or to cast it in Brexit language, reclaim Britain’s sovereignty, even freedom. In each case, it’s really a promise of power and control. Even if those promises are completely overblown and doomed to fail (and I think they are) it’s hard to deny their attraction.

It’s also an explicit rejection of the gospel of the last 30 years. It’s a long time since we’ve seen mass movements in domestic politics gather around something quite that radical.

That’s what makes this a big moment: the sense that everything right now is up for question; that elite wisdom may no longer count as wisdom at all. Trump’s politics of scandal and political incorrectness works because it’s really a war on orthodoxy. And if Britain can leave the EU, perhaps it will be a sign that we’re in the age of the heretic.


2 thoughts on “Fairfax woes and a bit more on T Rump

  1. Neil, I think it is good that you have addressed some part of your distaste for Donald Trump, even if to thereby recuse yourself almost immediately from any sort of thoughtful commentary by your continued use of “T Rump”. That is just schoolboy stuff – which is, of course, your right.

    I now look forward to your equally clinical eye being cast upon the the HRC and Sanders candidatures – because, as you say’ “Well worth digging deeper and checking the origins”. Fair and balanced, and all that. (And in that regard, compliments for the great pic you chose for Trump, so maybe use the ‘barking dog’ video for Hillary? Just trying to be helpful 🙂

    But if I could correct one thing you wrote: I made no “link between McGeough and the recent matter of Paul Sheehan in order to diminish the quite shocking results of fact-checking Trump”. I simply pointed to the irony of McGeough’s lauding of fact-checking in contrast to:

    1)his colleague’s absolute lack thereof, and
    2)isn’t that what our newsgatherers are supposed to do anyway?.

    This is quite a separate issue, and very important for the Australian press (as you yourself point out!), irrespective of anyone’s feelings about Trump. Any fair, unbiased reader of my comment would see that.

  2. Looks as if we really agree that the fact-checking in McGeough’s story did yield interesting results after all. I frankly just find Donald Trump very very scary, something that (believe it or not) I never felt about Reagan, though I disagreed with much he said/did. I am not a great fan of HC either, but she is probably the most appropriate candidate for the job so far. Sanders I do respect, but I can’t see him surviving the US political system as President. The whole spectacle actually makes my heart warm to Elizabeth II and our system as it is.

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