December 22, 2011

Andrew Bolt

Blue Army: Persons of Interest

Charles Darwin (1809 – 82):
[Ignorance] more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge …
(The Descent of Man, 1871)

David Marr (1947):
[23 June 2003:] Andrew Bolt of the Herald Sun publishs details from a highly classified report by Andrew Wilkie, who had left the Office of National Assessments to blow the whistle on dodgy intelligence used to justify the Iraq war.
[John Howard's] office had already spread the story that Wilkie was mentally unstable.
Bolt mocked Wilkie's ONA predictions of civilian deaths and refugee numbers should war break out as "fairytale."
(The figures proved conservative.)
[Alexander Downer's] staff was widely assumed to be responsible for the leak, but no culprit was ever found.
(His Master's Voice, Quarterly Essay, Issue 26, Black Inc, 2007, p 56)

Isaiah Berlin (1909 – 97)

[Even in the most liberal societies, individual freedom is not] the sole, or even the dominant, criterion of social action.
We compel children to be educated, and we forbid public executions.
These are certainly curbs to freedom.
We justify them on the ground that ignorance, or a barbarian upbringing, or cruel pleasures and excitements are worse for us than the amount of restraint needed to repress them.
This judgement in turn depends on how we determine good and evil, that is to say, on our moral, religious, intellectual, economic and aesthetic values; which are, in their turn, bound up with our conception of man, and of the basic demands of his nature. …

To protest against the laws governing censorship or personal morals as intolerable infringements of personal liberty presupposes a belief that the activities which such laws forbid are fundamental needs of men as men, in a good … society.
To defend such laws is to hold that these needs are not essential, or that they cannot be satisfied without sacrificing other values which come higher … than individual freedom …

The extent of a man's, or a people's, liberty to choose to live as he or they desire must be weighed against the claims of many other values, of which equality, or justice, or happiness, or security, or public order are, perhaps, the most obvious examples. …

To preserve our absolute categories or ideals at the expense of human lives offends equally against the principles of science and of history; it is an attitude found in equal measure on the right and left wings in our days, and is not reconcilable with the principles accepted by those who respect the facts.

(Two Concepts of Liberty, Four Essays on Liberty, 1969)

John Stuart Mill (1806 – 73)

Undoubtedly the manner of asserting an opinion, even though it be a true one, may be very objectionable, and may justly incur severe censure. …
The gravest [offences of this kind are:]
  • to argue sophistically,
  • to suppress facts or arguments,
  • to misstate the elements of the case, or
  • [to] misrepresent the opposite opinion. …

Acts injurious to others {are fit objects of moral reprobation, and, in grave cases, of moral retribution and punishment [ie:]}
  • Encroachment on their rights;
  • infliction on them of any loss or damage not justified by his own rights;
  • falsehood or duplicity in dealing with them;
  • unfair or ungenerous use of advantages over them;
  • even selfish abstinence from defending them against injury

And not only these acts, but the dispositions which lead to them, are properly immoral, and fit subjects of disapprobation which may rise to abhorrence.
  • Cruelty of disposition;
  • malice and ill-nature; …
  • envy;
  • dissimulation and insincerity, irascibility on insufficient cause, and resentment disproportioned to the provocation;
  • the love of domineering over others;
  • the desire to engross more than one's share of advantages …
  • the pride which derives gratification from the abasement of others;
  • the egotism which thinks self and its concerns more important than everything else, and decides all doubtful questions in its own favour;
— these are moral vices, and constitute a bad and odious moral character …

[Should an individual infringe] the rules necessary for the protection of his fellow creatures, individually or collectively [such that the] evil consequences of his acts do not then fall on himself, but on others …
[Then] society, as the protector of all its members,
  • must retaliate on him
  • must inflict pain on him for the express purpose of punishment, and
  • must take care that it be sufficiently severe. …

Whenever, in short, there is a definite damage, or a definite risk of damage, either to an individual or to the public, the case is taken out of the province of liberty, and placed in that of morality or law.

(On Liberty, 1859, emphasis added)

Wendy Bacon (1946)

[Bolt] plays a significant and strategic role in the production of climate scepticism in Australia.
He is employed by [News Limited's Herald Sun] and Channel Ten and feature[s] on John Singleton’s right wing radio station 2GB.
News Corp heavily promotes Bolt as Australia’s “most read columnist”.
(p 93)

[The strategies he uses to cast doubt on climate science] include
  • personal abuse,
  • cherry picking specific findings to refute the entire body of findings of climate scientists,
  • portrayal of advocates of climate action as ideologically motivated with totalitarian tendencies and
  • criticism of journalists who report on climate science.
(p 94)

(Climate Science in Australian Newspapers, ACIJ, October 2013)

Fact vs Opinion

Andrew Bolt:
For at least a decade the planet has not warmed even though emissions have soared.
(p 3)

Australian Communications and Media Authority:
[In] the course of the interview it was made clear that there is debate over levels of warming and its causes.
The ordinary reasonable viewer would have understood that this is a contentious issue and that other viewpoints exist.

In the context of the segment in its entirety, the ACMA considers that it was clear that the assertion about the warming of the planet over the last decade and the rate of such warming was contestable, and a matter of opinion.
As such it was not required to be accurate. …
(p 6)

The ACMA must assess whether the relevant statement would have been understood by the ordinary reasonable listener/viewer as a statement of fact or an expression of opinion.
[Inferences] made from observed facts are usually [also] characterised as factual material …
(p 18)

Statements in the nature of prediction as to future events would nearly always be characterised as statements of opinion.
(italics added, p 19)

[Licensees] are not required to present all factual material available to them …
[However,] if the omission of some factual material means that the factual material actually broadcast is not presented accurately, that would amount to a breach of the clause.
(p 18)

(ACMA Investigation Report 2709)


Cherry Picker?

Dumb & Intolerant Person?






Would you like to know more?

Andrew Bolt (1959)

  • Press Council Adjudication, 13 December 2012.
  • ACMA Investigation Report 2709, Ten Network, 23 May 2012.

    Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice (2010)

    [Broadcasting] news and current affairs programs … must present factual material accurately and represent viewpoints fairly. …

    An assessment of whether the factual material is accurate is to be determined in the context of the segment in its entirety.
    (p 3)

    According to the ACMA, only a statement made which cites supporting evidence qualifies as an assertion of fact.
    Any unsubstantiated statement is to be taken as a statement of opinion; and, for Code purposes, is not required to be accurate.

    Bolt offered a graph of satellite temperature readings for the period 1995-2011 as evidence for his statement that there has been no warming.
    This was a false inference.
    When properly analysed the graph does not support this conclusion:


    A least squares trend analysis of the data Mr Bolt referred to revealed a warming trend over the period of 0.13 degrees C per decade or 1.3°C per century. …
    However, to be fairer to Mr Bolt if we limit the period to January 2001 to December 2011 we find a warming trend of 0.09°C per decade or 0.9°C per century.
    (p 3)

    Statement 1

    For at least a decade the planet has not warmed …

    The Graph

    (p 5)

    Climate trends cannot be meaningfully assessed over time scales less than 25-30 years.
    This is because sources of short to medium term natural climate variability (eg solar activity, the El Nino Southern Oscillation and volcanoes) are superimposed on the temperature record.
    These must be corrected for before a judgment can be made about the underlying climate trend.
    Using 10 year rolling averages filters out some of the short to medium term "noise" in the climate signal:

    Figure 4
    Even the highly “cherry-picked” 11-year period starting with the warm 1998 and ending with the cold 2008 still shows a warming trend of 0.11°C per decade.
    (The Copenhagen Diagnosis, Climate Change Research Centre, 2009)

    Furthermore, heat trapped by greenhouse gases is distributed between atmosphere and ocean (mostly the ocean).
    The heat trapped in the climate system as a whole has been rising steeply and consistently since 1975.


    The ACMA notes that without a clear understanding of the data considerations in the graph, such as
    • the data validity,
    • the way in which tends are interpreted,
    • measurement scales and
    • the application of appropriate tests …
    the ordinary reasonable viewer would not have been able to draw their own inferences from the graph as suggested by the licensee. …

    The context of the segment in its entirety

    Richard Lindzen (1940)

    [Since] 1995, there hasn’t been much warming, certainly not that can be distinguished between noise. …
    (p 6)

    For governments, they want taxes and they know people don’t like to pay them …
    [If] they can possibly confuse people into thinking that they are doing it to save the earth, they’ll do it more willingly.
    (p 17)

    Statement 3

    The omission of additional information relating to the wheat study


    The licensee did not breach [the Code] in relation to the omission of additional information relating to the wheat study.


    The complainant submitted that while the presenter’s statement that the wheat study found ‘about a 20% increase in yield because of elevated CO2’ was factually correct, he failed to state that the study ‘also found that elevated CO2 contributed to a decrease in crop quality, lower protein levels, and an increase in soil nitrogen uptake which could impact on fertiliser costs.’
    (p 10)

    [The] ACMA considers that the ordinary, reasonable viewer would have understood that the purpose of citing each study was to highlight the fact that each product grew ‘faster’, ‘quite well’ and ‘better’ in high levels of carbon dioxide.
    This is an accurate representation of that part of the study.
    (p 11)

    Although the factual material was ‘cherry picked’, the program was confined to a discussion about increased carbon dioxide levels in the context of the carbon tax debate and [did not purport to analyse] the impact of global warming on farming and crop quality. …

    In current affairs programs [there is] not the same requirement for fairness and impartiality that applies to news. …

    [The] presenter used the factual material in the study only to argue the effect of carbon dioxide on plants. …

    The ACMA is satisfied that, taking into account the context in which the findings of the study were presented in the program, the omission does not affect the accuracy of the factual information that was broadcast.
    (p 12)

    The National wheat Free Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment (FACE) study did find ‘about a 20% increase in yield because of elevated CO2’; however, this was not the purpose of the study.
    As the ACMA points out, the purpose was to determine the overall 'impact of global warming on farming and crop quality'.
    Glenn Fitzgerald:
    [While] we’re seeing about a 20% increase in yield because of the elevated CO2 … you also have to have sufficient water and nitrogen still to grow the crop …
    [If] this area of Australia … has decreases in rainfall then we may not see the responses to be quite that dramatic in the future …
    [The increase] in biomass and yield is because carbon dioxide acts as a fertiliser to plants.

    [We] see a decrease in the plant nitrogen content [which translates into less protein in the grain.]
    [Total] nitrogen extracted from the soil increases … because there’s more biomass.
    [This] has potential impacts [on] fertiliser requirements.
    Bolt cites an isolated finding of the FACE study as evidence that the carbon tax is unnecessary.
    It is reasonable to assume that the "ordinary reasonable listener/viewer", given that they are unaware that Bolt had "cherry picked" the study, would conclude that the FACE study as a whole supports the proposition that the the carbon tax is unnecessary when, in fact, it does not.
    The Code fails in this instance to ensure the citizenry are accurately informed on a matter of major public importance.

    Would you like to know more?

  • What Cost News? Melbourne Writers Festival, 21 September 2012.
    Matthew Pinkney: Head of Content, Australian Football League, Victoria; formerly at the Herald-Sun.
    Bronwen Clune: Digital News Consultant; Founding Member, Public Interest Journalism Foundation.

    Matthew Pinkney:
    The single most successful analyst in News is Andrew Bolt.
    And there was a real debate about taking his brand and putting it behind a pay wall because we assumed that most people would pay for that.
    But when we did customer research and when we spoke to Andrew, the view was that by putting him behind a pay wall, and diminishing the size of that audience, from a mass audience to a tiny one, that he simultaneously loses the ability to [set the agenda if you like.]
    His value then goes down …
    So you’ve got your number one analytical asset who you can’t …

    Bronwen Clune:
    I wouldn’t call him an …

    Matthew Pinkney:
    Well he is. …
    He sells newspapers.
    And you can’t monetise him, other than through newspaper sales.

  • Smarter folk are more likely to be sceptics, Herald Sun, 5 October 2011.
    Andrew Bolt:
    The less you know about science, the more likely you are to believe man is warming the planet dangerously.
    From a new study by Professor Dan Kahan and others:
    [The] most scientifically literate and numerate subjects were slightly less likely, not more, to see climate change as a serious threat than the least scientifically literate and numerate ones.
    Bolt purposely omits the main finding of the study …
    Abstract continues:
    More importantly, greater scientific literacy and numeracy were associated with greater cultural polarization …
    [As science literacy and numeracy increased:]
    • Respondents predisposed by their values to dismiss climate change evidence became more dismissive, and
    • [And those] predisposed by their values to credit such evidence, more concerned …

    Dan Kahan:
    I have no quarrel with anyone who, after thoughtful and fair-minded engagement with our studies and our interpretations of them, comes to the conclusion that our findings support inferences different from the ones we make on the basis of our data.
    But … I very much do resent it when I am misdescribed as having drawing conclusions I have not drawn by people [on the Left …]
    And I resent it just as much when the dumb & intolerant person doing the mischaracterizing is a conservative [ie Andrew Bolt] who is chortling over a simplistic misreading of our work that supposedly shows that people with liberal views are stupid.
    Would you like to know more?

  • Eatock v Bolt, Federal Court of Australia, 1103, 28 September 2011.
    J Bromberg.

    Collectively, eighteen individuals are named in the articles. …
    Each of them genuinely identifies as an Aboriginal person and has done so since their childhood.
    Each was raised to identify as an Aboriginal person and was enculturated as an Aboriginal person.
    None of them "chose" to be Aboriginal.
    Nor have they used their Aboriginal identity inappropriately to advance their careers.
    Each is entitled to regard themselves and be regarded by others as an Aboriginal person within the conventional understanding of that description. …

    I have concluded that from the perspective of fair-skinned Aboriginal people, the messages (or what lawyers call "the imputations") conveyed by the newspaper articles which Mr Bolt wrote, included that:

    1. There are fair-skinned people in Australia with essentially European ancestry but with some Aboriginal descent, of which the individuals identified in the articles are examples, who are not genuinely Aboriginal persons but who, motivated by career opportunities available to Aboriginal people or by political activism, have chosen to falsely identify as Aboriginal; and
    2. Fair skin colour indicates a person who is not sufficiently Aboriginal to be genuinely identifying as an Aboriginal person.

    I am satisfied that fair-skinned Aboriginal people (or some of them) were reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to have been offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated by the imputations conveyed by the newspaper articles. …

    At the core of multiculturalism is the idea that people may identify with and express their racial or ethnic heritage free from pressure not to do so.
    People should be free to fully identify with their race without fear of public disdain or loss of esteem for so identifying. Disparagement directed at the legitimacy of the racial identification of a group of people is likely to be destructive of racial tolerance …

    I have not been satisfied that the offensive conduct that I have found occurred, is exempted from unlawfulness by section 18D {because:
      (i)   it was not done reasonably and in good faith in the making or publishing of a fair comment [or]
      (ii)  for a genuine purpose in the public interest …}
    The reasons for that conclusion have to do with the manner in which the articles were written, including that they contained errors of fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language.

    In coming to that view, I have taken into account the possible degree of harm that I regard the conduct involved may have caused.
    Beyond the hurt and insult involved, I have also found that the conduct was reasonably likely to have an intimidatory effect on some fair-skinned Aboriginal people and in particular young Aboriginal persons or others with vulnerability in relation to their identity.
    I have taken into account that the articles may have been read by some people susceptible to racial stereotyping and the formation of racially prejudicial views and that, as a result, racially prejudiced views have been reinforced, encouraged or emboldened.
    In the balancing process, I have also taken into account the silencing consequences upon freedom of expression involved in the Court making a finding of contravention.

    [Nothing] in the orders I make should suggest that it is unlawful for a publication to deal with racial identification, including by challenging the genuineness of the identification of a group of people.
    I have not found Mr Bolt and the Herald & Weekly Times to have contravened section 18C, simply because the newspaper articles dealt with subject matter of that kind.
    I have found a contravention of the Racial Discrimination Act because of the manner in which that subject matter was dealt with.
    (Italics added.)

    Would you like to know more?
  • Andrew Bolt, Wikipedia, 13 December 2011.

    June 2003, Bolt published an article criticising Andrew Wilkie in which he quoted from a classified intelligence document written by Wilkie as an intelligence analyst for the Office of National Assessments.
    [Unauthorised access to, and dissemination of, classified material is a federal crime.]
    It was claimed, but never proven, that someone in Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's office had leaked the document to Bolt. …

    … Bolt claims that there were no large-scale removals of [Aboriginal] children "for purely racist reasons".
    After Bolt challenged [Robert] Manne to "name just 10" children stolen for racial reasons, Manne gave him a four-page list of names which, Bolt states, includes children rescued from sexual abuse and removed for other humanitarian reasons. …
    Bolt noted multiple instances of contemporary Aboriginal children being left
    in grave danger that we would not tolerate for children of any other race because we are so terrified of the 'stolen generations' myth.

  • White fellas in the black, Herald-Sun, 21 August 2009.

    [This person] whose confusion about his identity leads him also to declare he's both a "proud gay" and a "proud father" — has received all the special help you once thought, when writing the taxman another cheque, would at least go to people who looked Aboriginal, but which is increasingly lavished on folk as pink in face as they are in politics. …

    [We're] so refreshingly non-judgmental these days … that the federal Human Rights Commission wants our laws changed so a man can even call himself a woman, should he feel like it.
    Hear it from the HRC itself [Note 1]:
    The evidentiary requirements for the legal recognition of sex should be relaxed by … making greater allowance for people to self-identify their sex. …
    Soon there'll be no end of white men claiming prizes meant for black women.
    And don't dare then tell the HRC's anti-discrimination police you object.


  1. Sex Files: the legal recognition of sex in documents and government records, Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), March 2009:
    Based on its consultations with the sex and gender diverse community, the Commission has formed the view that the medical evidence currently required to support a person’s change in legal sex is unnecessarily demanding.
    The Commission therefore recommends that the relevant evidentiary requirements need to be relaxed to make the system more accessible and make greater allowance for a person to self-identify their sex. …

    The Commission recommends that the following documents should be adequate to support an application for a change in legal sex:
    • One statutory declaration by a doctor or medical practitioner outlining the sex affirmation treatment the person has received or is receiving or confirming the person’s sex identity, and
    • One statutory declaration from the person requesting the recognition of sex declaring that they identify as a particular sex and intend to do so permanently.

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