The climate of crazy ideas

The former Australian rugby player, Israel Folau, is in the news again today (not really; he’s only in the Sydney Morning Herald).

Yesterday, he gave a sermon at his church where he suggested the recent bushfires in Australia were a direct result of the godlessness of the country’s population.

Of course, the ever-declining business masquerading as a news outlet has inferred because of this, Folau is a religious nutcase.

Picking on the religious beliefs of others is always a fun pastime, mainly due to the low cost to oneself; a religious belief, by its definition, is one that not capable of being disproven using the scientific method.

I must admit to having never entered the auspicious offices of The Sydney Morning Herald in Pyrmont, but if I did, I would be unsurprised to discover the following demographic boxes and beliefs ticked by the vast majority, if not all editorial employees;

  1. Politically left
  2. Accepting of the concept that the west is a toxic patriarchy
  3. Accepting of the concept that the west is systemically racist
  4. Accepting of the concept of gender fluidity
  5. The concept of Judeo-Christian values or worth is to be dismissed as morally-inferior
  6. Acceptance of every report issued by the IPCC as being accurate, including every prediction and solution

If you are or know someone who is employed in that department and don’t tick one or several of those statements, please do correct me below.

Bills Opinion

We all hold unprovable beliefs.

Sit on a bus or a train and look around you. Do you know even a fraction of the thoughts appearing in your fellow travellers’ minds?

Of course not.

Does it matter?

Not if they aren’t harming you in any way.

Israel Folau isn’t attempting to dip into my bank account, restrict my ability to heat/cool my home, drive a car or take overseas holidays.

Izzy can believe whatever utter garbage he wishes.

The age of Rorschach tests

This is an example of a Rorschach Test image:

Related image

In the movies, psychiatrists show their patients these and try to seek meaning in the answer to the question, “tell me what you see?”.

For the record, in this example I see Lord Lucan recreating the Marty McFly guitar solo part during the cover of Johnny B Goode in the film Easy Rider while Edward G Robinson waves a declaration of cooperation next to an airplane that had recently landed from his meeting with Chancellor Dido.

Some people see a butterfly.

I digress.

These strange situations where people report wildly different experiences when seeing or hearing the same situation are not as rare as one might think.

Recall the “viral” dress that was either blue and black or white and gold?

It’s not limited to visual experiences; here’s “yanni or laurel”.

It’s unsurprising then, to find these differences between our perception of reality elsewhere in life. Some examples we can find by simply watching the news;

– Some people believe there are only two genders and this situation is fixed by the facts of biology. On the other hand, some people believe there are more than two genders and a person can choose to transition between them with the help of surgery and hormones or simply by stating it verbally.

– Some people think it’s highly unlikely an individual or group of individuals can collect and analyse enough data to successfully manage to a national economy. Some other people disagree with this, despite 200 million dead bodies in the ground during the 20th century, and are certain the best three people to undertake this task are called Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott.

Perhaps the pinnacle of this phenomenon of people having wildly divergent views of the same situation are the reactions to Donald Trump’s presidency.

The British have an expression that describes the differing reactions to Trump; like marmite.

Marmite is a salty yeast extract paste (similar to Vegemite in Australia). Nobody is ambivalent about its taste, you either love it or would rather chew your own fingernails off than eat it. A fact the marketing department used to their advantage a few years ago.

Similarly, I’ve yet to meet an American who metaphorically shrugs their shoulders and suggests Trump is neither terrible or the second coming of the Messiah.

Recently, I had a coffee with an American acquaintance and, towards the end of the meeting, she made a comment about how insane her home country was currently under the evil President.

Being an argumentative bugger, I thought I’d probe this opinion further, “ok, I’m not saying you’re wrong, but can you give me your three strongest reasons to persuade me he’s worse than any other previous president?

In order, here they are and the counter points I offered:

  1. He said the Nazis who murdered a woman in Charlottesville were “fine people”. – no, he didn’t. CNN selectivity edited the quote.
  2. He paid off a woman he had extra-marital sex with before he was president. – is that worse than getting the most junior staff member to give him oral sex in the Oval Office?
  3. He’s a dangerous warmonger. – perhaps, but pulling troops out of several current theatres of war and declining the option to bomb Iran suggests otherwise. He’s also running far behind the rate set by Obama.
  4. (She offered a 4th) He’s separating families at the Mexican border. – This has been policy for years and occurs until it can be ascertained the children are actually related to the adults and aren’t kidnapping victims.

Bills Opinion

It’s a difficult task to find a person who can express a nuanced view on President Trump, a view that suggests he’s neither the worst or the best holder of that office.

Why?

It’s my opinion that most people take their opinions verbatim from their selected news source.

Why aren’t the news sources presenting this nuance then? Perhaps it’s not in their interests.

The best explanation I’ve heard so far was expressed by Brett Weinstein on this podcast (go straight to the 1 hour mark and listen for about 4 minutes).

It’s an interesting theory that everyone knows the ideas of the last 10 years are insane but it’s not in anyone’s interests to say so publicly, so the madness remains. Weinstein articulates this far better than I, though.

In the meantime, my pronouns are zhe, zher and zhers:

Like China in your hand

History doesn’t repeat itself but often rhymes…..

Here’s a little potted history lesson for those who are too young to remember:


Once upon a time, there was a large superpower that was, in many ways, the antithesis of what the western democracies stood for, or at least claimed to stand for. The west claimed to stand for values such as the rule of law, property rights, freedom of speech, restricted government powers, open and free elections, free men to be judged in a court of law by their peers, non-coerced contracts, etc.

The west and this superpower weren’t at a state of official war but interaction, particularly trade, was extremely limited. A company in the UK, for example, could import or export goods with this hostile superpower and its representatives could travel to and from its territory but there were caveats and restrictions to this.

At a minimum, the traveller would have a safety briefing. In some cases, the security services might give a briefing and require a post-trip debriefing to glean valuable information.

At the extreme, travellers might be wise to follow an informal form of “Moscow Rules”, even if they weren’t spooks themselves.

Why? Because the hostile superpower was a) hostile, and b) open in its disregard for those values we listed in the paragraph above. If you are visiting a country with a total disregard for the rights of the individual, you’d be a fool to wander around blithely assuming you weren’t always in danger.

That country was Russia and its associated satellite states, of course.

In 2019, we have exponentially more trade with a country that shows a similar disregard for the rule of law, property rights, etc., yet we hop on flights to Shanghai and Beijing without a second thought as to the personal, corporate or national risk we are taking. Why? Because, for most cases, we have not had reason to think they are hostile.

Sure, we know they have “re-education camps” where they have sent thousands of their own citizens in internal exile. Yes, we see the increasing use of “social credit” to bully their citizens into silence and conformity. We watch with interest as man-made islands are created in the South China Sea to secure and expand the country’s maritime territories. We witness the implementation of the One Belt and Road trading route with land purchases and infrastructure. We see huge areas of Africa being bought by Chinese government corporations. We point at strange sights such as Chinese Police-branded cars driving around the streets of Australian cities. Finally, this year we can watch on live-streaming feeds, the protests by residents of Hong Kong against changes to the legal system being met with increasingly authoritarian means, in direct violation of the international treaty promising not to do so.


The evidence is compelling that, whatever you might call the Chinese state; Communist, “post-Communist”, mercantilist, or some other suitable noun, it is far from being a free society as a citizen of a western democracy would know the term.

And yet…. corporations and governments have increased the level of trade and interaction on our behalf with the Chinese state without seemingly any commensurate increase in vigilance or precautions.

Why might that be?

Why might a country, say, Australia, be unwilling to publicly criticise any one of the nefarious activities (and more) described above, particularly in the case of clear hostile activities on Australian soil?

Bill’s Opinion

Much is written about cultural differences and how people in the west should treat other cultures respectfully. The classic is example revolves around the concept of Asian cultures setting a higher value on “face” than we in the west might.


Here’s an idea; that is a truly racist attitude. Why? Because the Chinese are an intelligent people with personal and national “agency”. They can observe our culture as much as we observe theirs. In fact, they do, and they choose to still act the way they do.

Pretending the Chinese leaders are delicate flowers whose feelings might be hurt if we publicly and regularly told them to rein in their activities and act in accordance with international law is the ultimate in weakness.

And that’s another cultural observation; the Chinese don’t respect weakness.

Why would we, therefore, constantly offer this as our response?

Of course, the elephant in the room for Australia is the economic master/servant relationship. China could ruin Australia’s economy for a generation simply by deliberately reducing the Chinese GDP by one or two percentage points and pivoting to African countries to satisfy its demand for minerals and resources. In fact, the land grabs in Africa are presumably part of a strategy to reduce reliance on pesky western economies and their annoying conversations about human rights.

Perhaps it won’t be long before our one reason for not standing up (diplomatically, I’m not suggesting warfare) to China is removed by China anyway?


At which point, we will be simply a weak parody of Neville Chamberlain.

Conspiracies are what our razor was made for

Joanna Schroeder is a “writer, editor & media critic with a special focus on gender in the media. Comics nerd, mountain biker, snow & ocean-loving mom of three”. We know this because it’s on her Twitter bio and she has a blue tick so it must be true.


She’s also extremely concerned her sons are about to become white supremacists and is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame because of saying so in a viral Twitter thread.

I too have concerns about my sons, but white supremacy tendencies aren’t trending particularly high on the list this week. In fact, if I were to rank order in terms of concerns, “becoming a white supremacist” would be quite far down the list close to “enjoying Michael Bublé’s Christmas Album”.

That’s not to say turning towards white supremacy isn’t a risk, after all, if an Orthodox Jew such as Ben Shapiro and an African American such as Candace Owens can fall into the white supremacy cult, it’s a risk for all of us. It just doesn’t seem particularly likely compared to lots of other, more tangible, issues children have to overcome.

Many people have commented on Joanna’s assertions, mainly these take the usual dull red team/blue team positions. We’ll let those battles impotently continue.

Joanna’s prognostications about to how to guide a child to find something funny are particularly amusing though and just a little disturbing to me. It’s always deeply worrying when someone thinks they can police what someone else finds funny. When they find they can’t, they often try to find more intrusive ways to stop you laughing.

Perhaps the funniest assertion is right at the top of her rant:

I’ve been watching my boys’ online behavior & noticed that social media and vloggers are actively laying groundwork in white teens to turn them into alt-right/white supremacists.
Here’s how:
It’s a system I believe is purposefully created to disillusion white boys away from progressive/liberal perspectives.
First, the boys are inundated by memes featuring subtly racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic jokes.
Being kids, they don’t see the nuance & repeat/share.

Let’s unpack that, shall we….

According to Joanna, there is an active conspiracy underway, a system, to purposefully….disillusion white boys away from progressive/liberal perspectives.

Does that sound reasonable? Does it sound like a rational statement one could back up with evidence?

If she claimed there was one vlogger or social media account who was doing this, we could nod sagely and point at the problem with her. Her claim is there is a system, however. Multiple people all conspiring to achieve the same goal.

How are they managing this feat of manipulation and persuasion that would leave even the best advertising agency in a state of awe and professional envy?

By being funny, dammit.

Worst of all, this insidious humour with its nefarious ability to amuse people is leaving such comedy geniuses as John Oliver and Trevor “When I grew up under Apartheid” Noah struggling in its wake.

Bill’s Opinion
The explanation requiring the fewest number of assumptions to be true is usually the correct one.

Consider then two possibilities:

1. There is a massive, but as-yet unproven, global conspiracy on social media and YouTube to direct impressionable young boys towards non-progressive ideas using humour, or
2. Young boys think the stuff their mothers find funny isn’t at all amusing.

Comedy is very similar to illicit drugs in the way that it tends to operate closely to the precepts of a free market. Just like the street price of an ounce of marijuana has mainly tracked real inflation over countless decades, comedy tends to find ways to get a product to the consumer in line with demand.

Joanna Schroeder has confused the fact a comedian has been given a prime-time TV network show with being popular with the consumers, i.e. funny.

In the meantime, her sons have discovered far more interesting, amusing and edgy content on less-regulated channels and it’s this they talk about in the school yard, not John Oliver or Trevor Noah’s latest rant about who the latest person is who is being judged as “literally Hitler”.

In the 1980s in the UK, the comedy “establishment” consisted of dinner-suited men telling risqué and racist jokes. This left a gap in the market for a counter-movement which ended up being labelled “alternative comedy”.
Joanna might want to consider the possibility that her sons are simply following the traditions of the generations and pushing back against the establishment. Her choice of comedy, the left’s version of comedy, is the establishment.

John Oliver and Trevor Noah might also want to consider trying to be comedians rather than simply activists for a change.

This ends badly for everyone

A young person privately expresses views that are incompatible with those of their employer.

Someone notifies a national newspaper of these views.

The national newspaper publishes the correspondence.

The young person is fired and will likely struggle to find future employment in a similar field as a consequence.

A columnist writes a follow-up sarcastic opinion piece on the newly-unemployed person.

The public interest to justify publication; his brother cousin is famous.

No, seriously.

Let’s put it another way:

A private citizen had their private religious views made front page news and the newspaper contacted his employer for comment, presumably with the expectation the employer would act upon the information.

That’s the world in which we find ourselves in 2019. If you have impure thoughts you will be cancelled and, presumably pour encourager les autres, your family will be similarly targeted.

Bill’s Opinion

As we’ve previously stated, it is now clear that the Israel Folau case is the left’s chosen battleground for the culture war this year.

That his brother cousin, Josiah, has been targeted in this way further supports this hypothesis. It’s a tactic from the Soviets – not only do we want you to be punished publicly, but your family will be in our sights too.

That there seems to be little shock or surprise from the commentariat is also deeply worrying.

Peter Fitzsimons, for example, clearly didn’t think for one moment of what the consequences of this approach might be for his children, Billi, Louis and Jake. With two famous parents, this new standard makes them fair targets for analysis and scrutiny for thought crimes.

We will not enjoy where the road takes us if our private thoughts at the age of 23 are now legitimate front page material to serve one side or the other in a culture war.

UPDATE: Thanks to those who pointed out my reading comprehension skills are dusty and that Josiah is, in fact, Israel’s cousin, not brother. Of course, that’s even worse, isn’t it? What next, targeting the religious beliefs of their neighbours?

And the 2019 Pulitzer Prize goes to….

Kate McClymont, Investigative Journalist, Sydney Morning Herald.

Kate has an enviable track record of fearless and relentless inquiry, speaking truth to power in the fine tradition of her profession.

No, that’s not sarcasm; she’s one of the few proper journalists remaining in the nation. Her work has resulted in some high profile cases being prosecuted through the courts as a consequence of the facts she unearthed. The Eddie Obied scandal being one excellent example. If she retired tomorrow, she’d be remembered as one of the finest and noblest journalists of her generation.

Today, Kate has turned her attention to Israel Folau’s church and its teachings.

You can follow the link above if you’re really interested in her findings. Spoiler alert; a fringe denomination of Christianity has views that are outside of mainstream dogma.

We could engage in whataboutery at this point and wonder when the investigations are scheduled to inform us of the religious beliefs other famous people, particularly those of faiths other than Christianity. That would be a fallacious argument, obviously; Folau’s version of Christianity is under the spotlight precisely because of his statements, he’s made public what most people keep private.

What is interesting about the media and commentariat’s major obsession with the Folau case is “the dog that isn’t barking“.

What’s meant by this aphorism is, can we identify what subjects aren’t being offered to us?

In the example of McClymont’s exposé, what haven’t we been told that we might have reasonably been expecting from a deep dive into a fringe religious organisation?

Here’s some church-related issues that spring to mind based on decades of scandals here and overseas;

  • Financial irregularities
  • Sexual abuse of minors or the vulnerable
  • Ostracism of the relatives of the congregation
  • Brainwashing of the congregation to remove themselves from society
  • Demagoguery or authoritarian behaviour by the leaders
  • Calls to violence against detractors or a designated scapegoat

Check Kate’s article for yourself but I couldn’t find evidence of any of the above list.

Flip that on its head; if you wanted to run a takedown piece on a religious institution, what would be the easiest topic to target to be able to ask awkward questions and spray innuendo?

Financial irregularities would be my choice. It’s the simplest job in the world to run a rule through financial accounts and drop hints of unreasonable expenses or unexplained transfers of funds.

That someone of Kate’s calibre and obvious skill hasn’t written anything along these lines suggests one of two reasons;

  1. The church is “clean”, and/or
  2. Kate’s heart just isn’t in it.

If my analysis is correct, there’s hope for at least one individual in the profession we used to call journalism.

Bill’s Opinion

To repeat my previous full disclosure on the subject of religion;

It’s probably worth clarifying my personal faith regarding this issue first; I’m an atheist who enjoys the benefits of where the Judeo-Christian tradition arrived in 2019. Perhaps a “cultural Christian”, if you will. I have no animus whatsoever toward homosexuals, to use the cliché, some of my best friends, etc.

What is most irritating about this sorry, pathetic little kitchen sink drama is that the media coverage has become more divisive than the subject it is reporting on.

What I mean by this is, previously, I could go to the rugby and cheer my team, I could go out for a beer after work with my gay friend and I could have Sunday lunch with my devout Christian relative.

Those three worlds were never in conflict. In fact, that last paragraph describes at least half a dozen weeks of my life last year, where I did all three of those activities in the same weekend.

I didn’t have to choose between them. It never crossed my mind that I would have to.

Why do we have to choose? Why is the media coverage of this so keen for us to make that choice?

Why is a national newspaper making a habit of going into a fringe denomination’s house of worship and reporting on their beliefs? And, whataboutery, why aren’t we offered the corollary view from the Lakemba mosque?

Perhaps the last word is best taken from Kate’s article, from a quote by Australian Christian Lobby managing director Martyn Iles;

Mr Iles also said: “The unity we share for the cause of free expression is the key issue driving the need for Israel’s legal fight and public campaign. All of us may one day find that our beliefs stray outside of the narrow band of political correctness and that will be a day when we treasure our freedoms.”

Quite.

Crikey! Where fallacies live

Australia has two “new media” organisations of note; Quillette and Crikey.

They could hardly be more different. The stated aim of Quillette is to publish “heterodox” ideas and be “where free speech lives“. A grand and quite brave claim for a website hosted in Australia, a country where the right to not be offended has been invented and given higher priority than the right to speak.

Crikey is a left of centre website with a focus on Australian politics.

Australian politics is not a hugely interesting subject, being mainly a real life case study of the Dunning-Kruger effect and venal opportunism in an extremely small fish pond. It’s like Lord of the Flies re-imagined with middle-aged characters and less violence.

Hence I tend to read more articles published by Quillette than Crikey.

This one by Guy Rundle has done nothing to change that.

He’s written about the Israel Folau saga….. because what the world really needs right now is yet more partisan speculation on that case, right?

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of his article is the style of rhetoric he employs for the argument he is trying to make.

Thinking about the subject matter, one could probably write in a choice of styles that might look something like the following list (or a combination of it):

  • Factual; straight reporting of who said what, known relevant legal precedent and process, likely next steps and timelines.
  • Reactions; reporting how a range of stakeholders claim to feel and have responded to the case.
  • Measured opinion; based on the case, here’s my personal view of the morality of each stakeholder and my prediction for the future.
  • Sketch; poking fun at those involved in a way designed to amuse the reader.

The first two are what we’d hope objective news media would produce, the latter two are classed as “OpEd” and are, by definition, subjective. Here’s the rub though, if you claim to be a serious professional, even a subjective opinion requires the underpinning discipline of accuracy.

I’ve read and re-read Rundle’s article several times. It takes a while to understand what’s being presented to the reader on the page. What follows is an attempt at deciphering The Rundle Code (tm) :

First paragraph;

How is the right’s push on religious freedom going? Terribly! It’s really great to watch — a bright spot in an otherwise bleak political landscape. There’s no way it can end well for them, and whatever happens will in someway benefit the left. As an added bonus, they are actively damaging previous successes they had in securing the autonomy of religious institutions in hiring practices. I’m loving every installment of this.

Ok. Ignore the two spelling mistakes… He’s correctly framing the case as a culture war battleground and he’s chosen his team.

Second paragraph;

Let’s do a quick recap. During the same-sex marriage plebiscite, one of the right’s more desperate tactics was to allege that a “yes” vote would be an assault on religious freedom in this country, for reasons they couldn’t explain. Discrimination on the basis of sexuality was already outlawed — same-sex marriage simply added one more area in which they couldn’t be discriminated against.

People did explain. You rejected their explanations. Here’s mine at the time, for example, and a subsequent follow up confirming my concerns were correct.

Third paragraph…. where Rundle claims to be able to read the minds of two other people;

The “religious freedom” scare came from a section of the conservative right identified with both elite Catholics like Paul Kelly — who see religion as a glue to bind society together whatever their real attachment to belief in God — and Protestant politico-cultural hysterics like Andrew Bolt, who believe the pagan endtimes are upon us. 

Quite what the definition of a politico-cultural hysteric is remains a mystery Rundle doesn’t help solve. I think it means he disagrees with something the person said.

 Fourth paragraph;

This gang has rode out before, in the great 18C debacle — remember 18C? — and had their arses handed to them by Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party, petrified of the reaction from Big Multiculturalism. They lost on 18C, and they had a lot better material to work with. The best they could come up with on religious expression was Israel Folau.

Nice use of the vernacular there. What a Big Multiculturalism is goes unexplained.

Do we detect a hint of sarcasm in the line, “the best they could come up with”? What’s the inference? That Folau isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer? Ah, the bigotry of low expectations.

Are all Pacific Islanders stupid, Mr. Rundle, or just this one? To quote Ali G, “is it ‘cos he is black?

Fifth paragraph;

Personally I don’t think sports people should have to trade away their citizenship freedoms to do what they’re good at. But Folau appears to have flouted a contract he knowingly signed and it’s a far-from-ideal rallying point. Luckily for the right, the cultural left has come to their rescue, turning Folau’s childish just-so story pronouncements of “burning in hell” into potent political statements, by constructing them as potent hate speech.

Ignore the missing comma. Right then, which clause in Folau’s contract are you referring to? Oh, you haven’t seen the contract? Ah….

And we’ve decided stupid, brown Folau is childish now? Keep digging, son.

Paragraphs six, seven, eight and nine attempt to delve into the nature of rights. It’s safe to say these are not going to be challenging the USA Federalist Papers for intellectual robustness any time soon.

Rights that Rundle rejects are labelled content-based junk rights. It’s interesting that Rundle puts forward a strawman argument that there is a movement to legislate a right to Religious Freedom. I’m not aware of this, unless he’s referring to the removal of existing restrictions.

Paragraph ten, wherein Rundle goes full ad hominin on two people he doesn’t agree with;

In The Australian, Katrina Grace Kelly — her name at time of writing — noted that Folau’s claims were unlikely to succeed given the lean towards employers in such laws, but that if they did, they’d reset employment law entirely. The Institute of Public Affairs’ John Roskam is running a little dog ‘n’ pony show around the right (word is still out on whether Roskam is pony or dog), and Freedom Boy Tim Wilson made a cute little comment on the push by getting sworn in on a copy of Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom

That first dig is a reference to the fact that Ms. Kelly recently changed her name from the one she was given when she was adopted. The inference Rundle is offering is this won’t be her final name change. I’m not sure how that is in any way relevant to the Folau case, so will have to conclude he’s just being mean because he’s a misogynist (see what I did there?).

As for the line about Roskam being a dog or a pony, that tells us more about Rundle’s character than Roskam’s.

The final two paragraphs go on to predict Folau will lose and the right will whine.

Bill’s Opinion

I spotted the following fallacies used by Rundle, see if you can find any more; ad hominin, strawman, slippery slope, tu quoque, cherry picking.

However, this article is extremely informative, actually because of its form not it’s argument. Rundle has acknowledged this is the battleground for the culture war and, through an astounding inability to argue his side’s case without reverting to use of fallacies, has demonstrated his concerns about the weakness of his team’s position.

Better still, professional journalist Guy Rundle had to revert to the bigotry of low expectations, racism and misogyny to make his arguments.

How fun!

Publish and be damned

This might be nothing or it might be quite significant. I’ll defer to our regular legal expert for the definitive opinion in the comments.

A defamation case has just concluded in Australia where the judge found in favour of the plaintiff’s claim that Creepbook page owners are liable for comments made under their content.

There is a very lengthy but highly-informative Twitter thread here with a detailed breakdown of why Creepbook page owners are simply unable to comply with the ruling. In summary, the tools aren’t made available to control the content and it is currently impossible to switch off comments…. wait for it… unless you are a pharmaceutical company.

No, really….. go to the bottom of that Twitter thread to find that gem and shake your head.

The ruling seems to hold a page “owner” liable for anything anyone posts in reply. Unfortunately, Creepbook doesn’t provide the ability to disable comments on pages (“groups” have this function though) and the keyword blocking function is far from watertight.

There’s much debate currently in the USA about whether the social media giants have become the de facto “public square” and therefore should be subject to the First Amendment or they are publishers curating content and therefore have liability for anything which breaks a law or incurs libel cases.

The general position of the tech companies is that they are common carriers like the postal system or a phone company. Except there’s a major inconsistency with their actions; the phone company doesn’t cut you off if you say something it disagrees with.

Somewhere between these three positions the US courts will eventually rule. Many other commentators have written and spoken extensively on this dichotomy and have speculated on how it might land. My voice isn’t going add much either way.

In the meantime, it looks like an Australian judge may have hurried things along a little.

Bill’s Opinion

It might be argued this ruling has restricted free speech in Australia. However, regular readers will likely concur that ship sailed from Australian shores a long time ago.

My personal position is one of free speech near absolutism; with the exception of calling for violence, I’m generally ok with people saying whatever the hell they want.

That’s not to say they can say it without consequence, public opinion and libel laws are useful moderators.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean the right to an audience though. If social media giants “de-platform” voices they dislike, that’s fine. Those voices will find a way to be heard, particularly if what they are saying resonates with others as being virtuous and true. We should have faith in our fellow humans in being able to discern mendacity from honesty.

This Australian case might result in changes to Creepbook globally, it might result in changes only to the way Australian companies engage on Creepbook, or it might result in very little change at all. Anyone who claims to know is deluding themselves and you.

Creepbook and its page owners might be liable for what’s written by others or they can remove opinions they dislike. I don’t care either way, I’m not on Creepbook so was unlikely to read it anyway.

Yet somehow I manage to keep myself informed of a diverse range of opinions. It’s almost as if, I dunno, there’s an entire world outside of Creepbook.

Kill it with fire

Sorry, but this saga isn’t going away and nobody is covering themselves with glory;

Christian charity to be investigated for helping Israel Folau.

Yes, Tom Decent was less interested in Australia’s progression to the cricket World Cup semi final after defeating England yesterday but continued his single issue activism journalism.

In a worrying omen for Folau, Gillian Triggs, the previous Australian Human Rights Commission president has offered words of support for his cause. Why is this worrying? Well, Triggs is one of those cultural bellwethers like Peter Fitzsimons; on any given issue, if they’ve made a public prediction about it, you’re usually safe to assume the opposite will occur.

Back to the inconvenient Israel Folau; he’s raised a further $1.2m in the previous 24 hours via a Christian charity donation website. Given that the previous money hasn’t been refunded yet, he’s probably well over the $2m level.

Understandably, this has really annoyed the people who are correct about these things. So, rather than bother letting due process play out, they’re trying to close him down again.

A number of complainants, however, have confirmed to the Herald that they have raised their concerns with the charities commission over the fundraising role played by the ACL.

In a statement, the commission said it “expected all registered charities to meet their obligations under the ACNC Act and the Governance Standards”.

“The ACNC can investigate concerns that a charity has breached the ACNC Act or the Governance Standards,” the statement said. “This may include not pursuing its charitable purpose, not operating in a not-for-profit manner, or providing private benefits to members.”

Presumably these complainants are hoping to help Folau raise a further $3m next week by going out of their way to annoy everyone who ever let a religious thought enter their head into donating in a act of defiance at being told what to think?

At least the Christians have realised the media aren’t their friends;

ACL’s managing director Martyn Iles was contacted for comment.

Quite right. Declining calls from Tom Decent is the smart thing to do at this stage; he stopped trying to pretend he was “Independent. Always” some time ago.

Bills Opinion

It’s not beyond the realms of belief that the Charities Commission will shut this latest fundraiser down. I don’t have any insight into the organisation but there’s a good chance it’s a captured institution given that it’s (a) public sector, and (b) not a meritocracy (but I repeat myself).

If they do, which direction does this saga tack next? People are increasingly wanting to offer Folau support and have shown they will find a way of doing so.

The only logical course to prevent these despicable people from supporting bigotry is to prevent Folau from enjoying the privileges of owning a bank account and accessing the internet and telephone networks.

Anything is reasonable in response to discovering Emanuel Goldstein in our midst, after all.

Australian hypocrisy’s name is Lisa Wilkinson

Christ, can we please all just shut up about Israel bloody Folau?

No? Ok then, here’s our 3rd sodding blog post in a week about the ridiculous saga…..

For those who care enough to continue reading this blog and this specific post but aren’t bothered enough to keep up with the news, which I suppose is probably the square root of bugger all people, the latest update is as follows;

Go Fund Me have taken down his donation page because it breaches their terms of service.

The money will be refunded to the donors.

The Sunday Project (“prow-ject” in the vernacular) host, Lisa Wilkinson, berated a God botherer in a hard-hitting interview last night because he was of the wrong opinion.

Firstly, the Go Fund Me terms and conditions are linked on our previous offering on this subject if you’re curious. They really don’t explicitly exclude Israel’s campaign, but have a big clause about the website’s discretionary powers which would allow them to shut him or anyone else down at a whim. The reporting of this that tries to claim a breach of terms is either wrong or duplicitous. At this stage of the culture war, it’s probably going to save you time if you just assume the latter.

In summary, they are a private website and the contract you sign when you use it allows them to do whatever the hell they want. That isn’t the same as pre-emptively banning on principle Israel Folau’s campaign or similar campaigns.

Refunding the money will be interesting, however. As commenter, Sgt 73rd Regt mentions on our previous post, the inference is that the money goes straight to a trust bank account and doesn’t sit on the Go Fund Me account earning interest for them. I will be able to confirm what really happens shortly as I, ahem, may have considered it worth an amusing tenner to donate under Lisa Wilkinson’s beta male husband’s name….

Which brings us on to the increasingly haggard, post-menopausal La Wilkinson….

Last night on a TV show nobody was watching, she gave a 30 year old God botherer a proper lesson in investigative journalism. Nah, not really; she just did the easiest thing in the world and ran logic rings around someone with faith. If this is important work, there’s a billion people in India who believe God looks like a blue elephant whom she could doorstep with a willing camera crew.

Picking on God botherers is fine, if that’s how you want to make your money but we would like to point out two reasons why La Wilkinson is being incredibly hypocritical;

  1. Her co-host on The Prow-ject is an outspoken muslim  who has struggled in the past, on camera, to explain his faith’s doctrinal view of homosexuals. Presumably, her hard-hitting interview with Waleed will air later this week?
  2. A very lucrative part of Lisa’s annual salary is earned from hosting “Carols in the Domain” each Christmas. One assumes she’s spotted the underlying religious element of that TV program?

Bill’s Opinion

I promise this is the last missive on this subject until something halfway interesting occurs (and that doesn’t include faux legal advice in the comments from a failed civil engineer).

It’s probably worth clarifying my personal faith regarding this issue first; I’m an atheist who enjoys the benefits of where the Judeo-Christian tradition arrived in 2019. Perhaps a “cultural Christian”, if you will. I have no animus whatsoever toward homosexuals, to use the cliché, some of my best friends, etc.

If I could be so inclined, I could seek out discussions with people of faith and run logic rings around them just for fun. In fact, when I was younger, more foolish and cruel, I often did, asking my Christian relatives what they thought about those awkward fossils in the Natural History Museum and what the implications were for their reading of the Old Testament, for example.

What seems odd to me is that Lisa is applauded for poking fun at someone of a particular faith, especially as she’s very fucking happy to take their coin every Christmas. We can play the whataboutery game here too; why doesn’t she ask the question of other religions, for example the bloke she sits next to several evenings a week?

If you don’t believe in the tenets of Christian faith, why would you care about whether it teaches some people will go to a place you don’t believe exists?

Those who suggest this is no longer just about a kick and clap football player and his employer are correct. This is a cultural war being played in AND BY the media. Go Fund Me were bullied into closing down the campaign after a concerted effort by the a small subset of the media. It will be interesting to see where the battle is fought next.

Next week on the Sunday Prow-ject, Lisa Wilkinson angrily confronts Harry Potter fans who claim she can’t travel to Hogwarts.

Take it away, Waleed;