Category Archives: Politics

Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica, and Why It All Matters

Over the past several months, a series of three articles by a journalist named Carole Cadwalladr have appeared in the Guardian. These articles detail the connections between the US billionaire Robert Mercer (now notorious as the money behind Trump), the data firm Cambridge Analytica (which he owns), and a vast, extraordinary campaign of psychological profiling and manipulation, conducted over the internet, and intended to alter beliefs and voting behaviour on a massive scale. The articles touch on a remarkable range of problems and questions, from the probability of large-scale intervention in the Brexit referendum and 2016 American election by a small nexus of reactionary individuals centred around Mercer, to the landscape of international cyberwarfare and how cutting-edge technology is evidently being used to sway elections in unprecedented and frightening ways. Continue reading

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What to make of Australia’s Newest Newspaper

The times have long been ripe for The Saturday Paper. With News Corp Australia accounting for nearly two thirds of national newspaper circulation, and with Australia’s credibility as a liberal democracy taking some hard hits overseas, due in part to the lack of diversity in the national media, there has for some time been a growing feeling in educated and left-wing circles that some form of new, independent, progressive national news service ought to be launched.  The appearance of the Guardian Australia website last year went some way towards plugging the gap. What simpler way could there be to solve the problem, after all, than just importing the major British left-wing newspaper and modifying it for the Australian market? Yet Melbourne publisher Morry Schartz, who is the man responsible for The Monthly and the Quarterly Essay (via his Black Inc. press), has gone one better: launch an entirely new, homegrown weekly newspaper all of our own. The first edition of The Saturday Paper came out today. Continue reading

Unprofessional Conduct: Abbott and the ABC

Earlier today, Prime Minister Tony Abbott spoke in a radio interview with 2GB about what he believes is the bias in the ABC’s political coverage.[i] He remarked that the ABC “instinctively takes everyone’s side but Australia’s”; he said of the network’s Edward Snowden coverage that it “seemed to delight in broadcasting allegations by a traitor”; and he said of the recent controversy over the Navy’s treatment of asylum seekers that “You can’t leap to be critical of your own country”. I will leave it for others to explain exactly why it is so wrong to imply that a news service should be on anybody’s “side” at all, let alone the side of a nation state. Plenty of journalists are already at work detailing what is so dangerous about the suggestion that the media ought to take national loyalty into consideration when reporting the news. Plenty of people have already pointed out that for Abbott to pressure the ABC to alter its coverage is for him to compromise its independence, because he has the power to slash its budget if he so chooses. There are a great deal of very serious reasons why the Prime Minister’s comments today have made my blood boil. Continue reading

The Trouble with ANZAC Culture: Why “Supporting our Troops” may not be the Right Idea

Less than eighteen months from now, we (Australia) are set to enter upon a genuinely phenomenal series of commemorations and ceremonies: the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign in 2015. Already the hype is building, already the ANZAC legend is assuming an even more central place in the national consciousness than is usual; and thus, already, it is becoming clear that the 2015 commemorations are going to embody many of the more troubling aspects of the way we remember our military history. As it stands, it seems that the centenary will bring nothing other than an extension and elaboration of current practice. And this is unfortunate, because there are many, many questions that need to be asked about Australian memorial culture. Continue reading