Friday, July 08, 2011

Henderson loses it

readers of Crikey might know that Mark Lathamm has started subjectting Gerard Henderson to a bit of an attack over accuracy and pedantry.

Personally I've been finding the monothematic approach of Henderson's Media Watch Dog more of a concern.

His offering today brings out both.

The first is this effort to question the credibility of a person whose account Henerdson wants to discredit.

Scrafton was asked by Labor’s Senator John Faulkner whether he had “checked privately and personally” with his dinner companion as to the number of calls which he had with John Howard. Let’s go to the Hansard transcript:

Mr Scrafton: No, I have not checked – for two reasons. One is that the two very expensive bottles of wine we had were both drunk mostly by her, getting angry while I was away from the table talking to the Prime Minister.

Senator Faulkner: This is a real-world note for our committee.

Mr Scrafton: She probably had less recollection than I do of what happened that night.

You can say that again. Mike Scrafton’s evidence was that his calls with John Howard (he claimed originally that there were three but later conceded there two) occurred over a period of no more than 20 minutes.

There are 14 standard drinks in two bottles of wine – including “very expensive” brands. Since, in Scrafton’s own words, his female companion consumed most of the wine – it is reasonable to assume that she downed no fewer than 10 glasses in a 20 minute period. This is at the rate of a glass of wine every two minutes.

The simple error is that the time period of twenty minutes is listed as how long the calls covered, not necessarily how long Scrafton and the saucy tart were together for.

The second howler is when he seems to confuse his comedians called Dave;

You see, Melbourne comedian Dave O’Neil has just had a vasectomy (Go on. – Ed]. Mr Hughes – father of three, age 46 – started off his column by declaring:

I never really wanted to talk about my vasectomy.

But he did. For another 700 words. Readers learnt what the surgeon said to Dave, what Mrs Dave said to Dave, how Dave was present at the birth of his three children and stayed awake on two of those occasions and how Dave had his private parts shaven.

The rest of the piece talks about Dave - so we are never sure which Dave really had the vasectomy - but then again I couldn't see the point of the entry at all, rather than perhaps to suggest men shouldn't be allowed to write about vasectomies.

Gerard, please note, the media is free to write whatever trivial stories it likes. Stick to concerns of accuracy.

Gerard had started his daily spray by pointing out that political commentary that criticises both Labor and Liberal from the left isn't balanced - though he used the much nicer and more accurate term "pluralist".

But then he decided that Bob Ellis and John Quiggin don't deserve the right to express a leftist opinion because of Gerard's current obsession with "taxpayer funded" jobs. I happily agree with Henderson's general assessment of Ellis - as a writer largely beneath contempt and highly irrelevant. But that's the criticism to make - not that Ellis is soft on sexism so long as it is "balanced".

As for the criticism of Quiggin, it is hard to understand the relevance of a complaint about taxpayer funding of Quiggin when what was being questioned was presumably paid for by the entirely not Government funded Fairfax Media. Indeed it is a surprise that Quiggin still has that gig given how non-pluralist the AFR opinion pages have been of late.

He then finds objectionable the observation that Tony Abbott won't find much support from Australian economists - despite the fact it is true. I can tell Gerard that one economist - Frank Stilwell from the University of Sydney - does support Abbott's direct action plan. That is based on his paper Environmental Policy: Beyond the Market presented to last year's Contesting Markets Symposium. But this provides the delicious irony that Abbott's only support comes from the anti-market Left.

It is a pity to see the only Australian conservative who seemed to have a grasp on informed discussion getting so distracted.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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