Reality catches up with the Australian

John Quiggin writes about the culture warmongers:

Third, and most importantly, the factoid-based, point-scoring, style of argument that goes with the culture wars eventually leads to complete insulation from factual reality. Any proposition, no matter how ridiculous, can be defended in this way, long after the average person has seen through it. This has been most obvious in relation to climate change and Iraq, but there are a whole string of issues where the culture warriors have imprisoned themselves in an orthodoxy every bit as constricting as the largely imaginary monolithic leftism they are supposed to be confronting.

The Australian‘s war on science has been conducted along those lines. However, when you make war on objective facts about the world, eventually reality catches up with you. Even though opinion polls in Australia consistently pointed to a landslide victory for Labor all year, the commentariat at the Australian kept arguing that the polls showed a swing back to the Coalition and that they could retain power. See for example, this editorial:


Newspoll cannot predict the future but it can provide clues. Often they are hidden beyond the headline figure in an emerging trend. The Australian has proved itself adept at spotting these trends but our woolly-headed critics dismiss this as manipulation. But if history repeats itself and the turnaround reported in John Howard’s Newspoll rating as preferred Prime Minister indicates a bigger swing in support back to the coalition will the on-line commentariat finally admit it is they, not us, who are blinded by bias? As the nation’s leading newspaper we expect our reporting and expert analysis will get attention. But the one-eyed anti-Howard cheer squad now masquerading as serious online political commentary, apart from a few notable exceptions, has all but exhausted its claim to be taken seriously.

Now that Labor has won a landslide victory, will the Australian admit that they are blinded by bias?

The Australian continued:

Smug, self assured, delusional swagger is no substitute for getting it right. When it comes to spotting and properly understanding emerging trends, the evidence is on our side. Our analysis was proved correct in 1998, 2001 and 2004 and we expect it will again this year. We do not know who will win the next election but despite Labor’s big lead in the opinion polls since Kevin Rudd was elected leader last December, history suggests it will be a tough fight.

But Labor won a landslide victory. The Australian got it wrong.

More from their editorial:

Not properly understanding how polls work gives our critics licence to project their own bias onto analysis of our reporting. The Australian is not beholden to any one side of politics and recent election outcomes vindicate our treatment of our polls. So let’s not mince words. We just don’t think many of our critics have any real clue about polling and very little practical experience of politics.

But somehow, the critics were right and the Australian got it wrong: Labor won a landslide victory.

Comments

  1. #1 Thom
    November 25, 2007

    For those of us in the States, please explain. Is the Australian completely right-wing, or is it just the editorials and opinions pieces as occurs in the Wall Street Journal?

    Also, why would they hire someone like Overington? Is she a credible journalist?

  2. #2 Vagueofgodalming
    November 25, 2007

    I dunno about The Australian. However, if it were a British paper, I’d simply assume they were not blinded at all: just lying.

  3. #3 barry
    November 25, 2007

    strangely, Overington is a good journalist, or at least was – she wrote a lot of the investigative reporting about the AWB scandal. I would think working at the Australian during the end of the Howard era would drive anyone bonkers though.

    The Australian is right-wing, though not as wing-nutty as the Herald-Sun or the Telegraph.

  4. #4 markg
    November 25, 2007

    As far as I can tell, The Australian regards itself as an adjunct publicity machine to the Liberal Party. Celebratory cocktails on Saturday night had a little extra pizzazz when I considered the gloom in newsroom at The Australian.

    Thom: The Australia is Australia’s only national paper. It’s got a strong right wing slant that extends from the opinion pages all the way to the reporting.

  5. #5 Jc
    November 25, 2007

    Tim, we get it. We know you hate the Oz. But seriously, if you’re going to quote quiggin as a reference you’ll turn it into clown city.

    Quiggin is now suggesing the recent election result is emphatically the end of conservtive parties in australia. How did he reach this startling conclusion? From the fact that the left won 53/47 on a two party preferred. He ‘s hysterical

  6. #6 arby
    November 25, 2007

    This and other ‘Australian’ articles really depress me. I am old enough to remember when it was one of the best newpapers in the world. Politically left, biting satire, great editorial cartoons, smart, funny, argh. That was in the early 70s, before Rupert became an American. rb

  7. #7 Jc
    November 25, 2007

    Politically left, biting satire, great editorial cartoons, smart, funny, argh. That was in the early 70s, before Rupert became an American. rb

    Too funny for words.Lol.

  8. #8 frankis
    November 25, 2007

    It’s true The Oz is barking mad with its War on Science and support for whatever wickedness Dick Cheney might come up with next – but it did eventually editorialise for Rudd and Labor at this election did it not?

  9. #9 Chris O'Neill
    November 26, 2007

    Jc: He ‘s hysterical

    Wall-to-wall Labor governments must be getting to Jc.

  10. #10 Ian Gould
    November 26, 2007

    So JC I remember you were expecting the LDP to win at least one Senate seat.

    How’d that work out for you?

  11. #11 Jc
    November 26, 2007

    Wall-to-wall Labor governments must be getting to JC

    Not really. I always want the left to hold a commanding majority because in this way they have next to no chance in blaming anyone else for the mistfortunes they will invariably create. Lefties by definition are whiny and usually cannot take reponsibility for their own actions so wall to wall labor is a good thing particularly with the economy at its highs.
    let’s see their policies implemented and find out exactly what an education revolution is all about. I’m always interestd in this one.

    So JC I remember you were expecting the LDP to win at least one Senate seat

    Gouldiechops, I thought you were bigger than that. I thought gloating was no longer part of your make up. What happened? It’s not a varitaion of Tourettes syndrome , is it?

  12. #12 zoot
    November 26, 2007

    Quiggin is now suggesing the recent election result is emphatically the end of conservtive parties in australia.

    No Jc, he actually wrote:

    For once, my electoral predictions haven’t turned out too badly, so I’ll offer one more before we get back to policy: The Liberal Party will never again win a federal election.
    This isn’t a prediction of unending Labor rule, rather an observation that the Liberal and National parties are in such dire straits that they can’t continue as they are.

  13. #13 Jc
    November 26, 2007

    Zoot:

    Could you plese offer an interpretation of that?

    Ssshhhh everyone. Zoot’s thinking about what to say next and he needs the silence to let his brain work. Lol.

    Zoot. this is hardly the end of the world for the two parties. I’ll repeat so you understand. This is a 50/50 nation. A result of 53/47 always means the marginals are up for grabs.

  14. #14 Jc
    November 26, 2007

    I also think the conservatives can well handle life without Quiggin’s well thought out advice…..:-)

  15. #15 zoot
    November 26, 2007

    Is English your second language?

  16. #16 Jc
    November 26, 2007

    Zoot:
    That’s funny coming from you. Stop fighting and just bask in the glory of the win knowing that people are now fully behind the Labor party and what it stands for.

    I’ll take 3:1 that Libs will challenge the 3rd election fro now.

  17. #17 saurabh
    November 26, 2007

    I always want the left to hold a commanding majority because in this way they have next to no chance in blaming anyone else for the mistfortunes they will invariably create.

    This is an odd sentence – in other words, it’s BETTER for you that people create misfortune giving you the opportunity to gripe about it, as opposed to people being unable to create misfortune and being reduced to merely whining about they don’t have power. I.e., you’re more interested in the debate over ideologies than you are in the result of those ideologies?

  18. #18 luminous beauty
    November 26, 2007

    saurabh,

    Jc makes perfect sense to me.

    Assuming Jc is a sadomasochist, that is.

  19. #19 Neil
    November 26, 2007

    Jc’s inability to understand any language really disqualifies him from taking part in any discussion. Quiggin was saying that the liberal party is in such disarray that they will need to transform themselves into a new party – a transformation that he expects will be radical enough that they will not even wish to retain their former name. No doubt Jc will not understand my prose, but there is no prose that Jc is capable of understanding.

  20. #20 Jc
    November 26, 2007

    Neil:

    What’s the offer price of the bet you’re offering?

  21. #21 Hank Roberts
    November 26, 2007

    The killfile feature is nice.
    But, oh, I miss being able to kill the whole thread of followups to the killfiled posting.

    When will the Web catch up with the 1980s-era newsreaders?

  22. #22 Jc
    November 27, 2007

    3:1 my favour, Neil. I’m sure you would find those odds attractive seeing you’re siding with Quiggin as he’s often right about most things he writes about.

  23. #23 Chris O'Neill
    November 27, 2007

    Jc: wall to wall labor is a good thing particularly with the economy at its highs

    So that’s where Howard went wrong when he said “Now is not the time …”

  24. #24 Ian Gould
    November 27, 2007

    JC,

    Go google “United Australia Party”. The conservative side of Australian politics has experienced repeated upheavals in which parties appeared and disappeared – Free Trade; Fusion; Commonwealth Liberal; Nationalist; United Australia…

    So long as the Nationals represented rural communities and the Liberals represented the cities, there was a logical basis for their coexistence. Now the Liberals hold more non-metropolitian seats than do the Nationals (or did before the last election).

    When the National Party was the dominant conservative party in Queensland, there was a logical basis to resist amalgamation since it would mean giving up influence (and patronage). This factor also no longer applies.

    Hell, as a supporter of the LDP you should welcome the possibility of a realignment of the right-wing parties. It might not give the LDP more influence but it could hardly end up with less than it has now.

  25. #25 Babson
    November 27, 2007

    “Lefties by definition are whiny and usually cannot take reponsibility(sic) for their own actions…..”

    Funny. This from a supporter of the party who turned squirming out of taking any responsibility into an art form – “I wasn’t told”, “I had no knowledge of that”.

    Ministerial responsibility – not a “core promise” apparently.

  26. #26 Jc
    November 27, 2007

    Goudliechops:

    Most, not all… MOST political parties around the world have a fairly young pedigree. Unless I’m mistaken the two oldest parties are actually the Dems and the GOP… and possibly the UK conservatives (?).

    I very much doubt the Liberal party will cease to exist. Gouldie, stop being so duplicitous as that isn’t normally like you :-). I saw you disagreeing with the Quiggmeister over this very issue. Yes?

    As Arnie used to say… “they’ll be back”.

  27. #27 Ian Gould
    November 27, 2007

    I think John is probably mistaken but it’s a real possibility – and as I’ve pointed out a couple of times there and here John very specifically says he DOESN’T expect Labor to government in perpetuity.

  28. #28 Jc
    November 27, 2007

    Hell, as a supporter of the LDP you should welcome the possibility of a realignment of the right-wing parties. It might not give the LDP more influence but it could hardly end up with less than it has now.

    I think hell would have to freeze over first. the Libs have no affinity for libertarian values. Big government conservatives are really not that much different from big government lefties. I’m like a battered wife I keep thinking the libs will eventually follow their own policy manifesto, but they never do.

    You ought to look at the LDP’s environmental policy, Gouldie, it’s the best on the street.

  29. #29 Nick Barnes
    November 27, 2007

    Hank Roberts@21: Killfiles will be threaded when blog comment threads are threaded. Which seems to be: when hell freezes over. Blog comment threads at the moment are like Usenet before threaded newsreaders. Which would be ‘nn’ and ‘trn’, in about 1984. Everything old is new again.

  30. #30 aw
    November 29, 2007

    Not really. I always want the left to hold a commanding majority because in this way they have next to no chance in blaming anyone else for the mistfortunes they will invariably create.

    Um, what?

  31. #31 Chris O'Neill
    November 29, 2007
    Not really. I always want the left to hold a commanding majority because in this way they have next to no chance in blaming anyone else for the mistfortunes they will invariably create.

    Um, what?

    Bizarre, isn’t it.

  32. #32 luminous beauty
    November 29, 2007

    Panglossian, it is.

  33. #33 Dr Zen
    December 2, 2007

    Hang on, what? Disaster for the conservatives? I don’t think so. They won, didn’t they? Disaster for the neocons, maybe.

  34. #34 Jack Strocchi
    December 14, 2007

    Tim L. says:

    But Labor won a landslide victory. The Australian got it wrong.

    THe Australian is right and Tim L. is wrong, at least about one thing. The ALP did not win a “landslide victory”, defined by historical standards. Tim L. does not know how to read election results in comparative perspective.

    2007 was the Ruddslide that did not happen. The ALP’s overall parliamentary advantage is now 84-64, hardly overwhelming.

    The ALP got a 5.6% swing, which was pretty good but not exraordinary. This was the sixth biggest swing a major party received since 1946. But it is normal for long tenured govts to go down hard.

    It got a 36 seat turnaround on the 2004 election. This is the smallest seat turnaround in the last four changes of govt (1975, 1983 and 1996).

    Its 20 seat parliamentary advantage (56%) is in the middle (12th of 21) of AUS govt parliamentary margins won since 1946.

    Also, calling Culture Rightists “insulated from reality” is a bit of a joke. The Cultural Left, for the most part, denies the reality of Darwinian evolution as it applies to the biological differentiation of hominids. This is probably the single biggest intellectual crock-up in modern times.

    Fortunately there are intellectuals who are rectifying this, in the face of Cultural Leftist denialism and delusionism about the evolution of human nature.

    PS This “Culture Warrior”-cum-psephological blogger was not “completely insulated from reality”. I made the earliest and most accurate call of the election result amongst all participants in Ozblogistan.

  35. #35 Tim Lambert
    December 14, 2007

    Jack your link that denies that there was a landslide goes to … the Australian. Thanks for demonstrating my point.

    According to the [table you linked](http://www.mumble.com.au/howard_conf/web/CHRON_SMALL.htm) Rudd got the third biggest swing since 1946. You have to follow the Australian’s trick and redefine landslide to say this wasn’t a landslide.

    You also write in the linked thread:

    >Seats are not a good index of true political popularity due to gerrymandering and marginal seat vote buying.

    but then go on to use seats as an index of political popularity in your comment.

  36. #36 jack Strocchi
    December 15, 2007

    Posted by: Tim Lambert |December 14, 2007 8:12 PM

    Jack your link that denies that there was a landslide goes to … the Australian. Thanks for demonstrating my point.

    Sometimes a thing is true, even if the Australian says it is true. Your “landslide” point is false because it fails both the smell test and historical comparison. I am happy to thank you for your slipshod defence, “for demonstrating my point”.

    Most of the talk about “landslide [or Ruddslide] victory” came before the election, where most analysts (not me) were deluded by the polls. Or they came on election night before polling was finished, in the first flush of victory.

    Now that the numbers have been counted the result looks good, but not extraordinary. It is OTT to describe it as a “landslide”, unless you are confusing a mountain for a hill of beans.

    Tim L. says:

    According to the table you linked Rudd got the third biggest swing since 1946. You have to follow the Australian’s trick and redefine landslide to say this wasn’t a landslide.

    No, try counting properly. The 2007 election produced the fifth, not third, biggest swing in the LN/P era. There were four bigger swings, in the 1949, 1955, 1969 and 1975 elections. The ALP’s 2007 swing does not make it into the upper quintile of the data set, implying a fairly normal result.

    In 2007 the ALP won 43.38% of the primary vote. The LN/P won 41.27%. That is a 2% advantage in raw preference. Statistically insignificant.

    In 2007 the ALP’s winning margin is 2.92%. That is the 12th smallest in the 24 federal election since 1946. Right in the middle of the distribution.

    In this election 18 seats changed hands from LN/P to ALP. That is 12% of the total number of seats were turned over. The LN/P have to win back only nine seats to return to office in 2010. Not exactly a landslide shaped cushion, is it?

    Oh, and the ALP failed to win control of the Senate. It’s a funny kind of landslide victory when the government fails to control the Upper House.

    You have to follow Tim L’s “trick and redefine landslide to say this was a landslide”.

    Unfortunately there are a few on the Cultural Left who are trying this con on. The Left, of which Tim L. is a relentlessly partisan fellow-traveller, have been busily building themselves an ideological cocoon election in the post-election triumphalism.

    First trying to make out that it was an overwhelming victory or landslide. When in fact it was just a good average one. Second pretending that it represented a rejection of Howard’s policies. When in fact the ALP presented the biggest example me-tooism in AUS political history. And third performing a ridiculous victory dance to celebrate the end of the Culture Wars. When in fact the dire straits of indigenes and continuing settlement problems for refugees show that this war will continue to flare up, despite the artful dodging of cultural elites.

    Tim L. says:

    You also write in the linked thread: “Seats are not a good index of true political popularity due to gerrymandering and marginal seat vote buying.”but then go on to use seats as an index of political popularity in your comment.

    I will spell out my point since you are being deliberately obtuse. Seats are not as good an index as properly preferenced and distributed votes. They are some kind of polling index, however. ‘Twas ever thus for gerrymandering and marginal seat vote buying so it is reasonable to use seats counts to make inter-temporal comparisons.

  37. #37 Tim Lambert
    December 15, 2007

    Sorry Jack, but the result was widely reported as a landlside or a Ruddslide, hence the need for you and the Australian to deny it.

    >The 2007 election produced the fifth, not third, biggest swing in the LN/P era. There were four bigger swings, in the 1949, 1955, 1969 and 1975 elections.

    Wrong. the swing in 1949 was 4.7% and in 1955 was 4.9%. You already admitted that Rudd got a 5.6% swing.

    >In 2007 the ALP won 43.38% of the primary vote. The LN/P won 41.27%. That is a 2% advantage in raw preference. Statistically insignificant.

    And you don’t know what statistically insignificant means. The difference is hugely statistically significant.

    >In 2007 the ALP’s winning margin is 2.92%. That is the 12th smallest in the 24 federal election since 1946.

    Wrong again. You’re not very good with numbers are you?

    Bottom line is that the size of the swing and the final 2pp result is similar to what Howard got in 1996, and even the Australian calls that one a landslide. Deal with it.

  38. #38 haiku
    December 15, 2007

    Jack, I think Peter Brent may have called it much earlier, though his estimate of the 2PP may have been a bit higher than yours.

    The word “landslide” is not ideal for Australian elections, where compulsory voting, seat distributions and 2PP mean that “landslides” in the US or UK context are virtually impossible. (eg Reagan’s electoral college landslide was massive, as was one or two of FDR’s wins).

    In the Australian context, I would agree that this is not so big a win that it is automatically a landslide. But I wouldn’t spend too long arguing the point if someone (incl the media) decided to use the word …

  39. #39 Whig
    January 4, 2008

    Labor didn’t really win in a landisde. The Coalition had 47.44% of the two party preferred vote.

    The Australian actually backed Labor as its editorial line.

    If you had to say the Australian had political leanings they would be Labor Right or Liberal Moderate. People like Mike Sketekee, Noel Pearson, Sid Marris and Mike Costello have obvious Labor leanings, Paul kelly and George Megalogenis not so obviously, and Phillip Adams is a former member of the Communist Party.

    What was that you were saying about objective facts?

    The fact that people here of left-leaning are angry that newspapers would dare represent 47% per cent of Australian opinions says a lot about left-wing politics. Lefties have the SMH and Age, righities have the Daily Tele and Herald Sun, and moderates have the Australian. Get over it.

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