Robert Manne vs The Australian

Robert Manne's Quarterly Essay is 40,000 words on the malign influence of The Australian on public affairs in this country. You can read an extract here and watch an interview with Manne here. Also of interest is commentary on Manne's essay from Tim Dunlop who asks "why anybody continues to take The Australian seriously" and Margaret Simmons, who writes, "Manne's most powerful accusation against The Australian is lack of intellectual honesty".

Manne presents several case studies of The Australian's bias and bullying and their war on science (with an acknowledgment to my blog) is one of them, as well as the story of how The Australian verballed Rajendra Pachauri and refused to print a letter from Pachauri correcting the record. Graeme Readfern summarises:

Manne analysed climate change articles printed by The Australian between January 2004 and April 2011 and found that 700 articles were "unfavourable" to action on climate change.

That is, they either disagreed with the consensus of climate science, didn't support Australia's ratification of the Kyoto protocol or didn't support previous governments' steps towards a carbon trading scheme.

Balanced against these 700 articles, there were 180 stories and columns "favourable" to action on climate change.

The Australian is notorious for its thin skin (or as Manne puts it "mimophancy, so they've fired back with (so far) eight replies, as well as the usual childish sniping from Cut and Paste and a pile of letters from folks all of whom hadn't read Manne's essay but were sure it was awful.

The reply from Graham Lloyd, The Australian's Environment editor defends the paper's coverage of climate change, so let's look at that. Lloyd writes:

Manne accuses The Australian of cherry-picking its defence, but in his attempt to rebut the newspaper's editorial position in his Quarterly Essay, Manne quotes half a kicker headline from an editorial of January 12, 2006, which said "climate change may be a mirage" The second half of the headline, which Manne neglected to report, was "global poverty is not".

The editorial was less a charge against climate science and more a call to arms to tackle world poverty through the adoption of carbon reduction technologies.

This untrue. The editorial is no longer available from The Australian but unfortunately for Lloyd there's a copy here so you can judge for yourself. Here's the meat of it:

For starters, the jury is still out on what is happening to the climate and what is causing it. Distinguishing recent small changes in temperatures from natural variability is an inexact science. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen, but it is only one of many greenhouse gases and it has less impact on raising temperatures than the amount of water vapour and clouds in the air. There is controversy over how temperature is measured and the accuracy of the results. Given that political and economic solutions are needed to tackle climate-related issues, maybe it is time most climatologists took a bath.

No charge against climate science or climatologists there, no sir.

Lloyd continues:

Given this distortion, how trustworthy is his analysis of 880 articles between January 2004 and April 2011, which he judged to be opposed to climate change action by a ratio of four to one?

Presumably this editorial, which anyone can see is dismissive of climate science, is the best case that Lloyd can make for Manne misclassifying an article. Lloyd continues:

The misrepresentation of the January 12 editorial was not an isolated incident. Manne criticised a January 14, 2006, editorial that said "while environmental activists say science shows fossil fuels are responsible for a global warming crisis, which may be right, they could just as easily be wrong".

Manne implies the editorial was a call for inaction.

This is not true. Manne presents that editorial as an example of The Australian denying the scientific consensus. Which it definitely is. Here's more from it:

It seems certain the world is warming , but no one knows how long the trend will continue, or why it is happening. Just this week, scientists in Germany announced that plants, not power stations, emit anything up to 30 per cent of the world's methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

And when that methane study was debunked The Australian described that as a blow to climate change theary as well.

But Chris Mitchell's reply makes Lloyd look positively accurate by comparison:

The Australian in the past 10 years has published 29 pieces by climate change "deniers" -- that is, three a year.

I'm up to number 70 in my coverage of The Australian's War on Science and my posts don't go back ten years or try to be remotely comprehensive. Manne found 21 articles by Christopher Pearson alone and he didn't go back ten years either.

It says something about the standards at The Australian that it would print something so wildly, ridiculously false.

Update Manne replies.

More like this

Mimophancy!? My, what a big dic...tionary Manne has!

Given the anti-intellectualism of which the Oz and fellow-travelers are so proud, they will look for one simple-minded statement they can rally around as an excuse to neither read nor reflect upon the charges Manne lays out.

The wonderful thing about wilful ignorance is that it is self-perpetuating and self-repairing after any injury done to it. Now, I wonder if anyone has a big enough word-book-looker-upper to give us a term for that property!?

By Mercurius (not verified) on 16 Sep 2011 #permalink

Even Tim Lambert who dislikes our reporting says "No charge against climate science or climatologists there"

Yep, that's how the game is played

Hopefully today's edition will retract the readership base even further. Who, apart from the extreme right wing, would pay $2.60 to read this sort of polemic against one non-politican.

Margaret Simons in her Crikey article [The Oz playing the Manne: why itâs a barracker and a bully](…) reflects on the Behrendt tweet and the Australian's propensity for over-reaction.
>But I also think The Australianâs coverage went way over the top in subsequent days, becoming an unjustified, even frenzied, attack on an individual. Manne is convincing in identifying inaccuracies and unfairness in the way this was done. As is so often the case, The Australian was sharp on the news, but wrecked its credibility by overplaying its hand.

Simon's article is so articulate and reasoned it is easy to see why she is no longer employed by News Limited.

>Can companies have personality disorders? If News Limited has one, it is narcissism. The narcissist sees himself as the centre of the world. He cannot enter into the reality of others. And while the ego is enormous and overweening, it is in truth so vulnerable that it can tolerate no insult, and no attack. Every element of negativity is a stab to the heart, and must be countered with virulent attack.

Margaret Simmons was too kind by half. The demise of The Australian will be one of its own making. I flit by the website, but don't bother with the print edition.

The difficulty with news vs heavily slanted propaganda is that they rely on you to believe you won't mistake one for the other. Better to avoid known "slanters" entirely, than attempt to discriminate the news from the spews, and getting it wrong.

Fooled once, shame on you.
Fooled twice, shame on me!

By Donald Oats (not verified) on 16 Sep 2011 #permalink

'Manne-up' - can i say that in a gender neutral way to the journalists who work for Rupert? Their war-mongering and biocidal AGW-denial is shameful, but where theres life theres hope - they can on any day choose to regain their humanity and pride in their work by bucking the pro-war pro-plutocracy party line. "There is a place for you at our table if you wish to join us."

I managed to get through Chris Mitchell's entire response to Manne's essay.

At the very end of the column, we finally got to see the extent of Chris Mitchell's commitment to the contest of ideas, and free speech:

"To paraphrase another high-profile commentator on media, I say to editors at Fairfax and the ABC, don't publish crap just because it's written by Rob Manne. Can't be that hard."

So an Editor of the largest media proprietor in Australia calls upon the Editors of the #2 and #3 media proprietors to cease publishing a critic.

That tells me everything I need to know about how genuinely Mitchell is committed to free speech. I'd say he was a fascist, but he lacks the guts and commitment that it would take to be a true fascist --- as it stands, Mitchell is nothing but an "ink-stained wretch".

By Mercurius (not verified) on 16 Sep 2011 #permalink

Mitchell hasn't allowed comments on his article. The coward.

The Australian in the past 10 years has published 29 pieces by climate change "deniers" -- that is, three a year.

When an editor-in-chief makes a claim that is so dishonest, so easily disproved, what happens?

By rubiginosa (not verified) on 17 Sep 2011 #permalink

So an Editor of the largest media proprietor in Australia calls upon the Editors of the #2 and #3 media proprietors to cease publishing a critic.

And this after editor Kelly accused the said critic thus:

â[T]he startling feature is Manneâs fixation on repressing stories and debates he doesnât like. He is a moralistic political censor.â

Hypocrisy seems like too mild a word to describe The Australian.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 17 Sep 2011 #permalink

And of course you don't have to restrict yourself to articles by climate deniers. I recall a front page "4000 steel jobs to go because of carbon tax" headline. The following day, on the 2nd page of the business section, they published the debunk of the previous days front page story.

Strangely enough, they don't mention that the only actual loss of steel jobs in Australia is due to the high exchange rate.

By John Brookes (not verified) on 17 Sep 2011 #permalink

Narcissism is simply one symptom of the disease at The Fundament (The Fundamental Orifice of the Nation.) The whole plethora of anti-social, anti-life symptoms add up to a fulminating psychopathy. The vile rag is, of course, getting steadily worse, as the remaining hacks must please the lunatic-in-chief with the venom of their poison. They even turned over a familiar rock last week, to resurrect Peter Saunders, of the so-called CIS, to argue that the gross and grotesque inequality that bedevils the world these days is not just unharmful, but positively beneficial, as the rich are rich by dint of hard work and the billions of poor are, let's face it, lazy, scrounging, bludging, moochers. The chief pathology at The Fundament, I believe, is a febrile misanthropy, a raging hatred of anything in any way 'other' to Chris Mitchell and Rupert Murdoch.

By Mulga Mumblebrain (not verified) on 17 Sep 2011 #permalink

We need a media inquiry now!!

even if it were true that the australian had in 10 years published 29 pieces by climate change deniers, isn't that more an admission than a defence?

Andrew Bolt, no link attached, states that Manne mounted a bizarre attack on Chris Mitchell. It seems to me that Mitchell is displaying the bizarre behaviour. Making false claims on easily refutable facts and giving instructions to his rivals on what they should and should not publish doesn't appear to me to reflect reasoned and sound judgement for an editor-in-chief of Australia's only national newspaper. But what would I know of the world of journalism, working in a field where accuracy is paramount.

[Simons](…) sums it up:
>One of the things I think Manne gets right in his essay is his observation that this sense of vulnerability, of being the bullied boy in the sandpit, is not a put on by News Limited people. They really feel that way. Inconceivable, even ridiculous, as it may seem to outsiders, such is the mentality within the mighty company that it imagines itself as a victim of bullying, even as it bullies.

I would respect The Australian a lot more if they actually came out and admitted their editorial position is that AGW is a scam. It must trouble deniers that their flagship paper and Tony Abbott can come out and publicly state what they believe.

If AGW is really a scam, what are they afraid of?

...can't come out...

Dare I tastelessly suggest - a la Tony Abbott this week - that Chris Mitchell's bizarre 3,000-word rant against Manne is the second-longest suicide note in history?

By Boobialla (not verified) on 17 Sep 2011 #permalink

The-longest-suicide-note-in-history used by Abbott was originated by the UK labour politician Gerald Kaufman to describe the UK Labour party's 1983 election manifesto. This manifesto included things such as UK unilateral nuclear disarmament at a time of Cold War tensions. The Tories pounced on it and used it as a battering ram against Labour at the electoral box. So you can see where Abbott is coming from.

So you gotta hand it to Abbott the Impotent in his context of using this quote and it shows that a Rhodes scholar can find wikipedia on the internet..... or a member of his staff can.

Sorry to be a nerd.

What has intellectual honesty got to do with journalism or editing at the Australian? Are we not expecting too much from the 70% of capital city media which is owned by you know who? Graham Lloyd's attempt at portraying The Australian as balanced when it comes to reporting and commenting on climate science and scientists ranks on a par with Murdochs public assertion, so obviously not his private view, that we should give the planet the benefit of the doubt.

By Mike Pope (not verified) on 18 Sep 2011 #permalink

40,000! tl;dr

Chris Mitchell defended by Andrew Bolt!! There's a character reference worth framing!

By Mulga Mumblebrain (not verified) on 18 Sep 2011 #permalink

Hey Tim, it looks like Manne's kind of beaten you to it, but have you given any more thought to doing a TAWoS compilation? From what little I've read of Manne's essay it looks like he's gone for a more qualitative analysis of The Oz's bias on the subject, without going into too much specific detail on the litany of factual inaccuracies they have published (which is fair enough, given his lack of scientific expertise). The latter is something you've documented extensively so I think it would complement Manne's essay well.

As was pointed out on Crikey, when the Greens or any climate scientists respond to any misleading anti-science or anti-greens screed posted in the OO, the Murdochcracy bleats about how Teh Left just can't take any criticism.

OTOH anyone who criticises the Murdochcracy or its puppets is decried as "attacking free speech", because the OO is all about "strong journalism".

In the words of Cpl Jones, They Don't Like It Up 'em.

Manne replies to The Australian opinion pieces at unleashed ABC, don't bother knocking The Australian, they ain't printing them

By john byatt (not verified) on 18 Sep 2011 #permalink

'The Australian' has already got one Erratum up - how many more will there be, I wonder ?

And just what is it about those in denial and the surname Mann(e)...?

> The wonderful thing about wilful ignorance is that it is self-perpetuating and self-repairing after any injury done to it. Now, I wonder if anyone has a big enough word-book-looker-upper to give us a term for that property!?


By Rick Bradford (not verified) on 19 Sep 2011 #permalink

Rick and GSW can't help themsevles but walk straight into [Mercurius's preemptive slapdown](…):

>Given the anti-intellectualism of which the Oz and fellow-travelers are so proud, they will look for one simple-minded statement they can rally around as an excuse to neither read nor reflect upon the charges Manne lays out.

Now we have a Bradfordation to describe **"wilful ignorance ...that self-perpetuating and self-repairing after any injury done to it."**


I've been wondering, would a bumper sticker that said:

>Why would you pay to have The Oz tell you untruths?

be legally actionable? I'd be interested to see the cars in our capital cities taking the message to the streets - I reckon that it might have a perceptible impact...

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 19 Sep 2011 #permalink

It's just a question, Bernard, not an accusation.

Therefore not actionable.


In keeping with NewsCorp traditions, over on the other side of the great blue sea, we have this from Media Matters.

Bernard @34

Or a bumper sticker that said

"Is that true or did you read it in The Australian?"

"LOL - did you get that from The Australian?"

Bernard J,

I can't see why your bumper sticker idea would run into legal problems seeing you use, "The Oz". However, I have to say Mike H's bumper sticker I would plaster all over my car. Mike, beaautiful summing up.

Yeah, Mike's is a winner, innit?

A Gold Pin Nobel for the gentleman!

Maybe we should hijack the thread and see if we can top Mike's effort. Who knows, some contenders might even find their ways onto the streets of Australia...

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 20 Sep 2011 #permalink

Jeremy said:

The-longest-suicide-note-in-history used by Abbott was originated by the UK labour politician Gerald Kaufman to describe the UK Labour party's 1983 election manifesto.{...} So you gotta hand it to Abbott the Impotent in his context of using this quote and it shows that a Rhodes scholar can find wikipedia on the internet..... or a member of his staff can.

While your account of the origins is right, I suspect Abbott got it second hand from Keating in 93 (who borrowed it from Kaufman). This had been Keating's reduc in relation to John Hewson's Fightback! campaign of that year.

As to bumper stickers, I have on my car: Is that the truth or is your news limited?

I like Simons' attempt to giove the insitution a persona and to use DSM-IV to specify it. What is The Australian?

The Australian is lying, hypocrisy and malign projection in physical and institutional form. Itâs an unscrupulous, ignorant, boss class malice machine, possessed of a form of artificial intelligence capable of persistently iterating and replacing the component parts required to service this mission. Itâs a kind of âSkynetâ of media, attempting to provoke humanity into destroying itself with its own tools so that its killer bots can enforce its own brand of perfection. Like Skynet, it believes that in the struggle to achieve this, it can rewrite history.

Regrettably from its perspective, it cannot send its bots back in time to kill off troubling individuals before they become self-aware. Like the T1000, it can morph at will, pretending it is anything to anyone as suits it and like the last terminator, plug itself into all parts of the polity to control and iterate its malware. Their ABC is case in point.

Another similarity of The Australian with the character from Revenge of the Machines is that like her, they often see an advantage in having bigger boobs to distract their victims/patsies.

By Fran Barlow (not verified) on 20 Sep 2011 #permalink

Fopr those interested in mimophancy, I found this:

Arthur Koestlerâs neologism âmimophantâ clearly applies to the folks behind this: they combine the robustness of a mimosa with the delicate tact of an elephant. But in the same breath to cry up about racism is, Iâm afraid, outright pathological.

I was unfamiliar with the term, but the description above at the citation was a reference to those victim playing over "Islam". Koestler himself had been referring to chess champion Bobby Fischer.

By Fran Barlow (not verified) on 20 Sep 2011 #permalink

The "Is that true or did you read it in The Australian" catchprhase has been kicking about the traps for at least a year. In fact Tim had just that as a title for an article on Jonathan Leake last year:…

@ Fran, I've seen that Is that the truth or is your news limited? bumper sticker both here and in the UK recently, but I don't know if they're still being produced. If you happen to know they are, and by whom, and how I might get one ...


I picked mine up at the "Say yes" rally back in June ... (on a Green Left Weekly table IIRC) but I've seen them at most left of centre rallies since -- including at the recent Community Day of Action by public sector workers against O'Farrell.

It's worth nothing that you can actually order quite reasonable custom stickers (one colour and background) from printers at about 20 cents each or if you agree to buy about 1000. If it's a catchy thing you then put them on e-bay and promote them to recover your outlay (or turn up at the usual places and flog them there).

I imagine the one we are talking about probably had a much larger print run than that and so it might have cost quite a bit less.

By Fran Barlow (not verified) on 20 Sep 2011 #permalink

Editor was kind enough to print this today

I AGREE with Warren Truss (The Gympie Times September 20) that when reporting the news our media mostly get it right, I also do not care in the least what side of politics they support, that is their right. I do however object to the continued failure of The Australian to correctly report the science of climate change.

With 80 distortions of Climate Science printed since 2006 and at a time in our history when it is vital that the factual evidence is reflected within in the print media The Australian creates its own anti science headlines,.... ( Deltoid, The Australian's war on science No.80). This Sir does require a full impartial inquiry.

By john byatt (not verified) on 21 Sep 2011 #permalink

Sorry John but I don't agree that our media mostly get it right. I'd be stunned if they were doing any better in any other area of public policy than climate change.

It's just that

a) climate change concerns complex scientific and public policy which makes even sloppy journalism more prone to error
b) many of the claims associated with it are open to refutation by reference to research in the public arena that is beyond serious demur
c) a great many highly educated people are very engaged with the subject matter

The media gets something like a free pass in other areas of policy under the unofficial "free speech" rule. Much of what they claim looks to many just like an opinion, when it arguably isn't.

By Fran Barlow (not verified) on 21 Sep 2011 #permalink

Lets stick to the reporting of climate science by The Australian,Fran, "I'd be stunned", is not a statement that proves a point, pointing to the 80 distortions in The Australian is, and can be verified,

not much to gain by shouting "all the media are distorting everything they print"

Warren Truss Deputy leader coalition , local , Gympie is near Noosa

By john byatt (not verified) on 21 Sep 2011 #permalink

I take your point John -- indeed, in a way, I restated it --but if "I'd be stunned" is out then so is "when reporting the news our media mostly get it right".

I don't agree with free passes, especially when the same processes that predispose error in climate change reporting attach to other areas of policy.

By Fran Barlow (not verified) on 21 Sep 2011 #permalink

Look I really know what you are saying Fran, but lets leave it to the likes of Media watch,

My point in sending the letter was that it was a reply to a letter from Warren Truss, just possibly Warren may even read some of the distortions that Tim has documented here, Warren does not think that there is any justification for a media inquiry, I gave him a case study that shows there is such a need.

By john byatt (not verified) on 21 Sep 2011 #permalink

I was talking with a former Sunday Times journalist last night who told me that three months after the paywall went up, there were only 13,000 subscribers. For a paper with a circulation of 2 million, this isn't very good. Let's hope the Oz goes the same way :-)

By cindy baxter (not verified) on 24 Sep 2011 #permalink

I suppose if anybody could suffer under the delusion that the opinionated nonsense published in The Australian is something people will be willing to pay for, it's the purveryors of that afore-mentioned nonsense.

Surely, by now, the editors at The Australian are getting a bit of a squitty feeling in their lower-GI when they think about the respect they currently enjoy and the future they deserve?

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 26 Sep 2011 #permalink


So, the models are wrong, huh? They'd be from the same stable of IPCC models that [forecast Arctic ice loss]( The ones that unfortunately [seem to be wrong]( - in the wrong direction...

I note that Luminous Beauty links to [a memorable post by Tamino]( I wonder why Trollinavia hasn't wandered over to Open Mind to educate the folk there about their poor capacity with time series analyses?


It's not the first time that this incarnation of the troll has made the claim of warming, and been refuted.

I kicked him off the bridge [back here](, and for his convenience [included on the Holocene graph a linear regression for the last 10 thousand years]( - a period which he had claimed was one of warming over time.

He complains that others here are unable to learn. It seems that he himself is an expert in not being able to learn...

GSW @ everywhere:


[You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means](

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 27 Sep 2011 #permalink

Damn. Fraud. Viagra.

My previous post should have gone on the Jonas thread.


By Bernard J. (not verified) on 27 Sep 2011 #permalink

Another attack on Mann in today's [Orifice](…) - character assassination by selective quoting. It starts with "NEWSPAPERS should refrain from publishing the opinions of average Australians, academic Robert Manne has said."
by the end of the article you get what he actually said, specifically in reference to climate change, which was "I do not believe it makes sense for non-scientists to have views on scientific issues". Somehow they've beat this up into a desire by Mann to censor everyone on everything. Typical.

By James Haughton (not verified) on 28 Sep 2011 #permalink

As this thread is in the spirit of those who speak truth to power I recommend listening to Richard Flanagan's closing night address at the recent Melbourne Writers Festival.

By kamagra online (not verified) on 03 Nov 2011 #permalink