When it comes to furious customers and Woolworths there was a fairly routine story about four and a half years ago.
What makes it different from the many other stories on furious customers and Woolworths is that this was a genuine story. Organised bulk buying of baby formula from both Coles and Woolworths had led to concerns of a nationwide baby formula shortage.
Opportunists were bulk buying certain brands of baby formula and shipping it to China where it could be sold at four times the price. Australians urged the two leading supermarkets to enforce purchase limits. Three parents with Asian sounding surnames had their online orders for baby formula cancelled by Woolworths. Korean-Australian mother Sarah Kong had her order for four tins cancelled, being told it was deemed “suspicious”. She had banded together with the other parents to lodge a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. They also sought an apology from Woolworths.
Three furious customers are demanding an apology from Woolworths for cancelling their online baby formula orders and suspending their accounts, accusing the supermarket giant of racial profiling.
Whilst this certainly wasn’t the first story of “furious customers” and supermarkets in an interesting coincidence such stories involving Woolworths (and Coles) steadily began to increase. Four months later news.com.au published Shoppers furious over milk shortage. Two telling aspects were the use of Facebook comments and the fact customers had published images to make their point.
COLES and Woolworths are facing a PR nightmare with shoppers furious that they have been unable to buy alternatives to supermarket milk brands.
The Facebook pages of both supermarkets have been flooded with photos of shelves empty of other brands of milk while bottles of Coles and Woolies-branded milk are fully stocked.
In December that year the Daily Mail Australia broke the riveting story of customers who were “cheesed off” to find they had bought pizzas with most of their toppings missing. It seems that with customers using Facebook to post images and complain about products there are stories for the taking. Customers were about to become frequently furious. In this case the Daily Mail headed the story, Woolworths customers furious after buying pizzas with most of their toppings missing.
On May 24th 2017 Australians learnt of “disc rage” which was due to Woolworths famed Marvel Discs collection of 42 free discs for kids being almost impossible to find in store but available on eBay for up to $800. On Facebook one father wrote;
My two kids are giving me grief over your stupid discs. If you want me to shop at Coles you’re doing a great job.
A week later came a social media campaign on Woolworths Facebook page started by a savvy shopper who wanted to know why Woolworths was locking up its pregnancy test kits. Woolies argued they were preventing theft, but received no sympathy. There were almost 750 comments. Yet these comments didn’t just comment. They complained. Even as complaints they didn’t just complain. These complaints raged. It was reported;
Complaints to the company’s Facebook page raged that it was unfair that women worried they could be pregnant were somehow forced to ask permission from store staff.
A pack of orangey spuds in a [plastic] tray and plastic wrapping!
7,200 comments vented fury at Woolies threat to the planet and rejected their defence of protecting produce through “the supply chain”. Nonetheless the article finished by noting that Woolworths did have one supporter who wrote;
People have nothing better to do with their time then to complain! We should be worried about the more pressing issues in the world!
Could this women have been immune to fury? In any case her sensible demeanor was not catching. B&T reported that she was “suitably roasted” for her comment.
Furious customers took to the Woolworth (sic) Facebook page to demand their money back after they noticed they were missing hundreds of dollars in duplicate payments from transactions made in March.
On October 24th that year we read of Mum’s fury after Woolworths product burns son, following a Halloween face-painting episode. Although mum had tested the $4 product on her son’s wrists with no problem it seems when it came to the face a furious burning followed, requiring treatment.
Last month Chris Kenny used his programme The Kenny Report on Sky News to launch a knee jerk attack against Media Watch and particularly its host Paul Barry.
It would seem that the facts about hydroxychloroquine not supporting the constant praise Donald Trump gave it as a treatment or preventative for COVID-19 did not sit well with Mr. Kenny. He was having none of the notion that these facts and the manner in which the media did or did not report them could be accurately presented on Media Watch.
His frequently personal, highly opinionated attack on Paul Barry fails to present necessary evidence whilst liberally applying the very deception he accuses Barry of. Kenny’s numerous contentions have become somewhat more relevant in light of the WHO suspending its trial of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 due to safety concerns. [Update: The WHO has resumed the trial of hydroxychloroquine after the study leading to the suspension was retracted by the Lancet. Full update after post]. However first some background on Trump and a review of the Media Watch segment in question.
The COVID-19 pandemic has produced a veritable cornucopia of weird and wonderful personalities making a range of deceptive, dangerous, conspiratorial or just plain wrong claims.
With respect to hydroxychloroquine as a treatment or prophylactic for COVID-19 the evidence and advice has, from the beginning, been clear. Trials were needed to establish if and how the drug should be taken. Within weeks treatment trials revealed serious problems and fatalities whilst warnings about its use as a prophylactic were unambiguous.
In the latter case warnings were more widespread after Donald Trump began to promote it. On March 19th in a White House press briefing Trump demonstrated a grave error of comprehension. Hydroxychloroquine has been used in the treatment and prevention of malaria for decades. Where suitable it is also prescribed in the management of rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
In a textbook example of why scientific advisors must be consulted by politicians who comment on health matters, Trump’s error of reasoning was to assume this prior, specific use of hydroxychloroquine meant it was apparently safe for other uses. In a March 19 press briefing he said in part;
Nothing will stand in our way as we pursue any avenue to find what best works against this horrible virus.
Now, a drug called chloroquine — and some people would add to it “hydroxy-.” Hydroxychloroquine. So chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. Now, this is a common malaria drug. It is also a drug used for strong arthritis. If somebody has pretty serious arthritis, also uses this in a somewhat different form. But it is known as a malaria drug, and it’s been around for a long time and it’s very powerful.
But the nice part is, it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if it — if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody.
Five days later after taking a form of chloroquine an Arizona man died from cardiac arrest and his wife was hospitalised. They had ingested chloroquine phosphate which is not a medicinal form of chloroquine.
Despite Trump’s enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine Dr. Anthony Fauci had urged caution. The day after Trump’s briefing, during his own COVID-19 briefing, Fauci answered reporters who were querying the use of the drug as a treatment. He stated;
The answer is no, and the evidence that you’re talking about … is anecdotal evidence.
Nonetheless, Trump followed by tweeting the drug was a “game changer” and almost a month later on April 14th Trump was still confusing its prior use with presumed general safety [Media Watch – 16 sec mark];
What do you have to lose? They’ve been taking it for forty years for malaria.
The need for more research into the potential of hydroxychloroquine was reinforced by authorities from the very early days of Trump’s glowing praise for the drug. On the same day as his “what do you have to lose?” comment, it was reported that a high dose trial in Brazil looking at treatment of COVID-19 was abandoned due to a trend toward lethality.
After 11 patients died across both dosage groups, the team halted the high-dose arm of the trial on day six, citing more heart rhythm problems in the high-dose group, and “a trend toward higher lethality”.
Paul Barry does exactly what one would expect from Media Watch. He reported on findings from VA hospitals in the USA of higher mortality in those given hydroxychloroquine and the drug’s lack of efficacy. He stressed that the study was not randomised and hadn’t been peer reviewed, but was being taken seriously. He also reported on the disappointing trial results from Brazil and presented the well known tweets from Trump and Giuliani. The latter claiming a 100% success rate of hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19 was taken down by Twitter. Viewers were also presented with the chorus of hydroxychloroquine support from Fox News and quotes from Trump.
Shining a light on Australian media Barry quite fairly reported on Sky News Australia. After Dr. Fauci and others had warned hydroxychloroquine hadn’t been adequately tested and may be dangerous Sky reporters cited “Trump Derangement Syndrome” as the cause for US media reporting on the problems with Trump’s claims and the facts about the drug.
Rather than present evidence to support Trump’s claims or efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, Sky News contended that it was hatred of Trump that led to reporting of its dangers. Chris Kenny argued that the “real world clinical assessment of this drug at the moment”, was that doctors and dentists were “putting it aside” for themselves or their family.
Kenny also demonstrated the same grave error of comprehension as did Trump. On April 2nd he was promoting the claims of Dr. Vladimir Zelenko who had published a YouTube video making unverified claims about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine given with zinc and antibiotics to treat COVID-19. The same method is known to cause cardiac problems.
Chris Kenny informed his viewers;
Now we know this drug is safe. People have been taking it for these other conditions for decades. So this does hold out great hope.
Zelenko’s claims, however, rest solely on taking him at his word: He has published no data, described no study design, and reported no analysis.
Zelenko’s video was rightly removed from YouTube. Kenny “wondered” if this censorship was due to Zelenko signing off his video with over the top praise for Trump. He professed his love, blessings and hope that God protects [President Trump]. It is now known Zelenko falsely claimed the trial he was enthusiastically promoting as successful had FDA approval. This has brought him to the attention of a US Federal prosecutor.
Paul Barry went on to note Alan Jones thought hydroxychloroquine should be “rushed into the front-line”. Again, as with Trump and Kenny we see the same lack of basic critical thought. Yes, Jones argued;
...given the drug has been around for more than 50 years, it’s approved, the data on it is well established it’s perplexing that we don’t instruct the use of the drug now with the monitoring of existing coronavirus cases to see the results.
Barry continued the segment by including a response to Jones from Professor Peter Collignon of ANU in which he warns of the drugs toxicity and stresses the need for more trials. He finished with playing the footage of Donald Trump’s comments about injecting disinfectant.
Chris Kenny seems to have taken great offence at the content of this Media Watch segment, despite what is the demonstrably factual content. On The Kenny Report of March 28th he launched an attack at Paul Barry, Media Watch its researchers and funding, and the ABC itself. He spent seven minutes of his time on air to do so claiming the ABC and Paul Barry had a “bizarre new enemy to attack”. Namely hydroxychloroquine.
In last months post on government cuts to ABC funding I touched on some points that are relevant to this post. Namely the terminology used by Sky News and Chris Kenny to convince viewers that the ABC has a leftist ideology. This is a bold claim and when attacking Media Watch the onus is on Chris Kenny to present not just peer reviewed evidence, but a scientific consensus based on the same to defend climate change denial and now the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19.
What is immediately apparent is Kenny’s frequent attacks on ABC funding. In the seven minutes he refers to taxpayer funding of the ABC and Media Watch five times. It’s difficult to imagine even his most devoted fans simply swallowing that. Each time he repeats a version of viewers being presented with “ideological deceit, deceptive tosh, rot, etc”. Kenny begins by telling his audience that Media Watch, “gets a lot wrong – deliberately wrong”. He continues;
One of the most over-resourced shows on television it uses taxpayers money for an ideological platform. It’s supposed to be a media watchdog standing up for truth, accuracy and the like, but what it does is distort the truth and promote inaccuracies in order to promote its own ideological agenda. This breaches the law of course, it breaches the ABC Charter.
This final claim about the ABC Charter is a calculated low blow designed to create significant problems for the ABC which is presently enduring a three year freeze of funding that began in June 2019. This will cost the ABC $83.7 million over the three years. 800 staff have lost their jobs. Yet most significantly as I wrote last month, the ABC has already stressed that the present cuts threaten delivery of the ABC Charter. Yet Kenny contends he is unveiling an “ideological agenda” of Media Watch. Speaking of which, he continues;
Barry and Media Watch preach global warming alarmism, promote leftist climate policies, defend the ABC and attack anyone right of centre. Especially if they work for News Corp – owners of this station. I’ve detailed their deceptions many times before, and I won’t stop.
He goes on to present a “recent example documented in detail by Andrew Bolt”. This is apparently how Media Watch acquitted the ABC over its “obsessive, biased, unfair, relentless and clearly wrong headed persecution of Cardinal George Pell over many years”. He presents an edited clip of Paul Barry speaking on Media Watch. Barry states;
And did the ABC get their judgements on Pell one hundred percent right? Probably not. Was it a witch hunt and a dark day for journalism? I for one do not think so.
Kenny returns with;
How about that for fairness and courage? What a whimp.
The deception employed here by Chris Kenny to create the bogus impression that Paul Barry is biased in favour of the ABC and against George Pell is highly significant. The out-take is from the lengthy Media Watch segment, Pell – The final verdict. When viewed in its entirety we see Barry is critical of ABC identities and programmes when warranted. We also learn that the story of an investigation into Pell was broken by Andrew Bolt’s own paper, the Herald Sun, in February 2016.
Paul Barry also argued against two respected ABC identities that claimed Pell was not “innocent”. Rather it was found there was insufficient evidence to convict. Barry responded to this as follows;
Technically that may be right.
But the principle of our legal system is you’re innocent until proven guilty. And after a unanimous seven-nil verdict from the High Court, you surely can’t argue that Pell is not innocent of the charges.
There are other examples of Barry criticising the ABC. Such as Louise Milligan and Four Corners for not canvassing Pell’s defence, but rather focusing on those who condemned Pell. Or of Barry citing the ABC’s fairness. ABC’s 7:30 did consider if Pell’s conviction was wrong, interviewing Frank Brennan. When Pell’s first appeal was dismissed The Drum had lawyer Richard Beasley appear and he raised concerns that reasonable doubt wasn’t found.
Over the Pell trial and appeals the ABC gave airtime to a large number of Pell supporters. Added to this must go the number of times his supporters turned down an invitation to appear on the ABC. There are many examples of the ABC’s fairness and bipartisanship with respect to Pell. What stands out is Paul Barry’s dedication to applying the same standards to the ABC as to anywhere else. More so in the spirit of Media Watch he has a right to examine if the Pell case was in the public interest and deserving of in depth coverage. Indeed it was, particularly in view of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This is what Pell told that Royal Commission;
My own position is that you never disbelieve a complaint. But then it has to be assessed as to see just whether it is valid and true and plausible.
– Revelation, ABC, 2 April, 2020
Thus Chris Kenny’s attack against Paul Barry with respect to Cardinal George Pell and purported ABC bias is without foundation. More so, Kenny has deceived his viewers by using a Media Watch clip out of context. The significance of this rests not least on the accusations of deception Kenny goes on to make against Paul Barry.
Kenny moves on to hydroxychloroquine, claiming the ABC and Paul Barry “don’t like the bloke who speaks positively about it”. Despite the evidence of hydroxychloroquine dangers outlined above, Kenny contends the ABC and Barry are, “actually lining up against drugs that are being trialled around the world. Why? Because the US President hopes they’ll work. I kid you not the left have become that nutty over Donald Trump”.
Kenny contended bias by omission because Paul Barry didn’t include two Australian trials, one of which is currently looking at the prophylactic application of hydroxychloroquine. Kenny made much of the fact he would be speaking to that trial’s lead investigator Professor Marc Pellegrini of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne. Unfortunately for Chris Kenny it’s not at all clear why ongoing trials support his contention that hydroxychloroquine should be considered safe or that Barry is misleading viewers.
At the time it was known the subjects – all healthcare workers – would be well, fit and rigorously assessed prior to entering the prophylactic trial. To fast forward, recently after the WHO stopped the hydroxychloroquine research of the global Solidarity trial on COVID-19 patients SBS reported that Prof. Pellegrini stated;
The WHO Solidarity trial is worlds apart from what we are doing. Understand that it’s very, very different.
Pellegrini said: “COVID SHIELD is gold standard in its design as a multi-centre, randomised, double-blind study.
“The trial is focused on our frontline and allied healthcare workers who are at an increased risk of infection due to repeated exposure caring for sick patients. Our aim is to help these people stay safe, well, and able to continue in their vital roles.”
The trial will recruit 2,250 participants who will receive hydroxychloroquine or a placebo tablet over four months.
The other QLD study was part of a national trial looking at both hydroxychloroquine, and lopinavir-ritonavir (a combination treatment used to treat HIV) in the treatment of COVID-19. There were no available results at the time and Paul Barry was not hiding the truth. The focus of his Media Watch segment was media. Not a discussion of various hydroxychloroquine trials.
Well before Kenny went to air the FDA warned of severe heart problems in patients given hydroxychloroquine. Still Kenny attacked Media Watch researchers and bemoaned their funding claiming Barry selectively omits items if they don’t fit “his thesis”.
Kenny worked hard to whip up anger over taxpayer funding of the ABC. He returned to his comment that the real world clinical assessment of hydroxychloroquine was that health professionals were “putting it aside”. This was because he knew that Paul Barry’s “large research team” had received this correspondence from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. In it the PSA president notes that there has been an unprecedented demand for hydroxychloroquine following some promising data on the treatment of COVID-19 and Trump’s support of the drug.
It goes on to mention reports from pharmacists that doctors are prescribing for doctors and their families, as are dentists. Non-medical prescribers are prescribing bulk amounts. There is no mention of conclusive data supporting treatment of COVID-19. Key parts of the correspondence include;
If this medication does indeed have the efficacy that we would desire against COVID-19 then it needs to be prescribed and used judiciously. […]
Our strong advice to pharmacists at this point in time, until further advice is available, is to refuse the dispensing of hydroxychloroquine if there is not a genuine need, and that need is for those indications for what it is approved for – inflammatory conditions or the suppression and treatment of malaria. […]
The only way this [treatment of patients who genuinely need the drug] is possible is for prescribers to not write prescriptions for this medicine as a ‘just in case’ measure and for pharmacists to refuse the supply outside of these indications at this point in time.
I’m quite baffled as to why Kenny thinks this letter supports the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine or why he thinks Paul Barry should have included it in his segment. Barry did not accuse Kenny of lying about GPs and dentists grabbing a supply of the drug. Rather, the issue is that Kenny believes such rash behaviour by some health professionals is a “real world clinical assessment of this drug at the moment”. The fact is such off-label prescribing is most certainly not a clinical assessment and to tell viewers this, may have serious, dangerous consequences. TGA amendments to hydroxychloroquine prescription give a clear picture now and did so at the time Kenny went to air.
Kenny was also concerned that Media Watch didn’t mention his interviews with the PSA, Peter Doherty and a number with Professor Peter Collignon of the ANU. This is unusual given what Collignon had said on Alan Jones’ breakfast show on April 9th as reported on the very Media Watch segment Kenny accuses of being selectively and deceptively biased. Collignon stated;
The reality is it’s hard to believe why this drug would work. Now, like all other drugs, I think we’ve got to have an open mind and study them. But there’s as many reports showing it doesn’t work as there are, and it’s not a drug that hasn’t got any toxicity. People have already died from heart conditions by taking this drug in inappropriate dose.
Professor Collignon later told Media Watch by email that larger and more definitive studies were needed and that;
I am even more sceptical as more data is coming in.
Yet Kenny omitted this instead telling his audience;
Paul Barry has deliberately hidden and distorted the truth in order to pretend that we have been misleading you. It’s that brazen, that unhinged and it’s done with your taxpayers money.
Kenny also decided to leave out any mention of Vladimir Zelenko despite him being previously mentioned to support Kenny’s claim of left wing bias against Trump, hence bias against hydroxychloroquine. Zelenko has recently labelled negative data on the drug as “garbage”. Nor did he mention Dr. Anthony Fauci or his position on the drug. He does mention Paul Barry’s reporting of Trump suggesting injection of disinfectant. Kenny then observes;
That’s the level at which Barry operates. Like a kid on Twitter he wants to pretend that the President recommends mainlining Dettol. It’s that inane.
Kenny goes on to disapprove of Barry’s salary which he’s paid, “to produce fifteen minutes of deceptive tosh a week”. He’s not happy that, “up to a dozen researchers” are paid either. Research, Kenny contends, that is, “left out if the facts get in the way of [Barry’s] thesis”. He finishes off with more of the same, this time including a taunt;
The ABC spends, what, two or three million dollars a year on this programme of ideological deceit. And then they scream for more funds – more of your taxes. Good luck with that Ita.
Kenny’s performance is really worth watching. The evidence shows that the one omitting relevant material to deceive his audience is Chris Kenny himself despite his proclamations about Paul Barry. He may have a predetermined, erroneous notion of what Media Watch should be and how it should run. Yet given the many deliberate and malicious references to ABC funding and the motivation of Paul Barry it’s a safe bet that Kenny’s intentions are nefarious. He’s lashing out at Paul Barry and Media Watch because the facts aren’t to his liking or his ideology.
The denial of evidence can always have serious consequences and regarding climate change already has. However at the present time with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic orchestrated deception like that presented by Kenny is not only outrageous, but immoral. The fact is that today so much of right wing rhetoric is anti-science and indeed post truth. That Kenny would cling to his anecdotal belief that the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine can be gleaned from it being snapped up by some health professionals is a failure of critical thinking. That he tried to defend this by tacking together various claims that Paul Barry had omitted material he felt supported his belief gives disturbing insight into the logical fallacies he entertains.
There is really no doubt. Hydroxychloroquine has not been shown to be of genuine benefit in fighting COVID-19 as data stands. Hydroxychloroquine should not be used for COVID-19 outside of clinical trials. Donald Trump was wrong to promote it. Sky News journalists are politically motivated in defending Trump.
Chris Kenny is wrong. He failed to present the evidence. Paul Barry and Media Watch are right. The evidence in this case is what the ABC presented.
At the time this post was published The Guardian had previously reported that Australian researchers had raised concerns about the origins of data used for the Lancet study. The same researchers stressed there was no evidence that hydroxychloroquine was safe of effective.
A recent article posted by Orac examined the fallacious story of FBI raids on the USA Centre for Disease Control.
What’s concerning here is that such stories aren’t just bogus claims or cherry picking from evidence or misrepresenting of reports and announcements from authoritative sources. Nope, these stories are utter nonsense with no basis at all in verifiable events.
They aim to advance malignant and anti-social agendas. In the case of the above lie that the FBI raided CDC offices, it’s clear purpose was to exploit the drooling anticipation of the anti-vaccination lobby. Mainly that with “vaccine/autism/tweeting” Trump having been inaugurated the evil masters behind mass poisoning-by-vaccine would get theirs.
A second very useful purpose is that very few people check the source of the material. Within 24 hours the fake news story may have been read by tens to hundreds of thousands. Even if the piece is refuted with evidence and thoroughly debunked, it is unlikely readers drawn to the key message will invest the time and intellectual discipline to ascertain a. the facts and b. how readers were deceived.
Do read Orac’s piece. It focuses on the FBI/CDC issue nicely. Not only was this fake news story published but was followed up with further fake news boasting articles with headlines proclaiming “Confirmed”.
Fake news isn’t new to those dealing with anti-vaccination lies. The anti-vaccine lobby has been publishing deceitful articles and “announcements” for years.
It seems in the present climate it is likely we will see more fake news from a range of anti-science, far right wing, bigoted groups that are finding a damaging voice to Western democracy.
In the afternoon Dorey popped up again on ABC 666 Drive speaking with Louise Maher. Again she seized the opportunity to launch into rapid fire fiction on pertussis infection and vaccine efficacy. This trick has been picked apart a few times here. So, I shot off a long complaint with references, tables and tactics laid out. To my delight the dedicated folk at ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs waded through it and the complaint was upheld. With their permission I’ve copied the response below.
The only other point (related to media correspondence) I’d like to cover is that I also sent a synopsis of Dorey’s pertussis and autism tricks to Tiga Bayles prior to her appearance on hisLet’s Talk show. It had my name, phone number and email address. He didn’t raise any of the points as Dorey recited exactly what I’d warned him she would, choosing to feign surprise and smooth her path. He did however mention “the haters” and “sad small-minded people” who “hide behind anonymity too”.
Dorey agreed that her opponents were “cowards”, members of a “hate group” and guilty of a range of lousy transgressions, primarily around suppressing free speech. Without sounding too small minded, I did feel this was most unhelpful on Tiga’s part. Others also wrote openly to him and still more had articles published on widely read publications, such as The Drum and Mamamia. Meryl Dorey’s critics are not anonymous.
With that out of the way, we can enjoy knowing that both of Dorey’s appearances on ABC on November 25th have resulted in upheld complaints.
Reprinted with permission of ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs.
Dear Mr. Gallagher,
Thank you for your email of November 27 concerning the interview of Meryl Dorey conducted by Louise Maher on radio 666.
As your correspondence raised concerns of misleading and inaccurate content, your email was referred to Audience and Consumer Affairs for consideration and response. The unit is separate and independent from ABC program areas and is responsible for investigating complaints alleging a broadcast or publication was in contravention of the ABC’s editorial standards. In light of your concerns, we have reviewed the broadcast and assessed it against the ABC’s editorial requirements for accuracy, as outlined in section 2 of the ABC’s Editorial Policies: http://www.abc.net.au/corp/pubs/edpols.htm. In the interests of procedural fairness, we have also sought and considered material from ABC radio.
On Thursday November 24 Louise Maher spoke to the ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly about a measles outbreak at a Steiner school in the ACT. The following day she looked at the government’s announcement that day that from July 2012 up to $2100 of the family tax benefit per child will be conditional on a child being immunised, and spoke to Dr Julie Leask, from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and senior lecturer at the School of Public Health at Sydney University and Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network.
The program team believed that Ms Dorey would have something to add to the discussion about the Government’s initiative. Unfortunately, she added little and took the opportunity to promote a case against the use of the pertussis vaccine based on distorted and selectively presented information. As this was not anticipated, the presenter was not in a position to effectively challenge Ms Dorey’s assertions. To her credit, Ms Maher recognised this and acted to get expert advice to air from the Chief Medical Officer of the ACT.
That interview was ultimately aired on the following Monday. The effect of that delay was to potentially mislead listeners about the effectiveness of the pertussis vaccine. This was exacerbated by the fact that the introduction to Ms Dorey did not adequately contextualise Ms Dorey’s comments by informing listeners that she is a campaigner against vaccination who has no medical qualifications and her organisation has been the subject of a warning by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission for providing misleading information to the public.
Notwithstanding the team’s efforts to address claims made by Ms Dorey, it is our view that she wasn’t introduced with sufficient context to ensure listeners were not misled by her unsubstantiated claims.
Radio management apologises for this lapse. It advises that it will again communicate to radio staff the importance of providing listeners with all relevant context and information when presenting controversial and potentially dangerous viewpoints – particularly if they propose to interview Ms Dorey again.
Accordingly, Audience and Consumer Affairs conclude the broadcast was not in keeping with the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy as outlined in section 2.1 of the ABC’s Editorial Polices. Please be assured that your comments and this decision have been conveyed to ABC Radio management and the producers of the program.
Thank you for taking the time to write; your feedback is appreciated.
I think it would be good for Australia if Tony Abbott was the Prime Minister of Australia
– Alan Jones, influential conservative “shock jock” media identity, climate science denialist and Abbott supporter –
Leigh Sales of ABC’s 7:30 Report hosts an extended interview with radio broadcaster, climate science denialist and beacon for conservative anger, Alan Jones.
Covering issues from mining, to respect for the office of PM, to potential for sustainability, to denial of climate change Jones argues Australia is “entitled” to a better Prime Minister. Side stepping a few points such as flaws in the science challanging climate change vs the wealth of science supporting it, Jones suggests topics choose him. His science illiteracy and propensity for ad hominem attacks against those of differing opinion is at times mixed liberally with logical fallacies as Jones insists on maintaining the upper hand.
Whilst denying using abusive terms Jones immediately defends those he uses as justified. Rob Oakeshott is “brain dead” for supporting climate change agendas and will unlikely get another job. On Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, calling her “a fool is flattering… that’s flattering”. One would have been delighted if the irrelevant anti-Greens sentiment – indeed anti-Left sentiment – buoyed by claims of anti-Right climate conspiracies could be supported with evidence.
Perhaps most regrettably Jones falls back on the commonly debunked climate science denialist tactic of citing ICPP emails as legitimising any and all denial of climate change. Now well established as a careless use of language entirely divorced from the volume of data, the leaked emails are of no moment. One can only imagine if Aussies applied the same logic to Jones’ illegal “cash for comments” scam [Wikipedia entry]. Should his criminal conduct and breach of media codes be seen as cause to mistrust his transparency?
Unusually, despite the platform of the ABC and given the impact of his show on community opinion, Jones produced not one cogent argument to support his irrational position on climate change. His best appeal to authority is to reference interviewing “some of the leading scientists in the world… finest minds” who said anthropogenic climate change affirming science is “a hoax”. Having interviewed a senior IPCC scientist, Jones completely loses track by noting he “agreed with most of the statistics I offered”. Then his famous fallacy gets a run.
Quoting the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere, the percentage of that arising from from emissions and the percentage of that which is derived from Australia, he triumphantly reinforces the 0.000018% of atmospheric CO2 attributable to Aussie emissions. The child-like reasoning here is shocking. It’s a little number thus cannot be of menace. That climate is certainly effected by tiny, cumulative changes leading to dramatic and devastating consequences seems beyond him. As is the impact of only a couple of degrees increase in average temperature. But is he really serious?
CFCs make up a tiny fraction of 1% of our atmosphere. Yet CFC-11 has 17,500 times carbon dioxide’s capacity to trap heat in the atmosphere. That 0.04% of CO2 Jones loves to quote. Jones has no problem with the science of ozone depletion, nor action taken to preserve the ozone layer. Surely then, a bright chap like him could further appreciate the power of minor changes to atmospheric chemistry. Though there’s no political gain to be found in denying ozone preservation. No cleverly crafted junk science making up cushy rebuttals. What if we applied this dismissal approach to human health?
The size of the HIV or Ebola virus is microscopic. The percentage of body surface area opened by a bullet wound is insignificant. The number of cardiac cells to misfire and lead to a lethal infarction is minuscule compared to the total. A tiny blood vessel amongst hundreds of thousands, effecting 0.000018% or less of brain neurons can change a life, wipe memory, destroy speech, render us blind and so on. No doubt he could comprehend such simple notions. Suffice it to say it pays to remain skeptical of Jones’ motives. Or indeed, respect how effective the climate change denialist movement has been.
There was of course, no defence of the scurrilous and unconscionable abuse of science behind the entire denialist movement. For example, consider this from an article by Donald Prothero published in e-Skeptic, late last September:
As Oreskes and Conway documented from memos leaked to the press and published in their book Merchants of Doubt, in April 1998 the right-wing Marshall Institute, SEPP (Fred Seitz’s lobby that aids tobacco companies and polluters), and ExxonMobil, met in secret at the American Petroleum Institute’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. There they planned a $20 million campaign to get “respected scientists” to cast doubt on climate change, get major PR effort going, and lobby Congress that global warming wasn’t real and was not a threat. Then there was the famously cynical 2002 memo from GOP pollster and spinmeister Frank Luntz to the Bush White House: The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science… Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.
Incredibly Jones says at one point he “finds it hard to believe people in politics behave the way they do, and expect people to take them seriously”. It’s a brilliant example of Poe’s Law colliding with the Dunning-Kruger effect.