November 24, 2013

ABC Radio National

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Scott Stevens:
Pokemon Go is the harbinger of the end of the world as we know it.
(Pokémon Go: Revolution, Fad or Omen?, The Minefield, 7 July 2016)

Scott Stephens:
Dead Poet's Society demonstrates why Aristotle did not believe that you should teach children to think for themselves.
Because the first thing they need to be taught is obedience.
In other words, respect for a master; someone who knows more than they do.
The next thing they need to be taught is the proper place of the moral emotions.
They need to be able to feel what is good, [to] feel what is beautiful, before they should be empowered to think for themselves — much less [to] think critically.
Dead Poet's Society is this orgy of free thinking and the wilful casting off of tradition.
That is the least moral approach [to] how these sorts of things ought to be taught in schools. …
If we're thinking about ethics as critical thinking … or even [of] empowering kids to think for themselves and simply not adopt tradition, or whatever their parents said, especially at an early age …
This is nihilistic.
This is a recipe for disaster.
And, in fact, it's a counter-ethical or anti-ethical position to take.
(Does ethics belong in schools?, The Minefield>, 13 October, 2016)

Alvin Toffler (1928 – 2016):
Herbert Spencer maintained that 'Education has for its object the formation of character', which, freely translated, means the seduction or terrorization of the young into the value systems of the old. (Future Shock, Pan, 1970, p 377)

I Am Special

Lynne Malcolm:
[A] study of 15,000 college students in the US [by Jean Twenge and Kevin Campbell] showed that those from today's generation scored significantly higher on narcissistic personality traits than those from the two generations before.

Jean Twenge (1971) [Assistant Professor of Psychology, San Diego State University]:
[The] key difference between self-esteem and narcissism [is that somebody] high in self-esteem values individual achievement but they also value their relationships and caring for others.
Narcissists are missing that piece about valuing, caring and their relationships, so they tend to lack empathy, they have poor relationship skills.
[Those] communal and caring traits tend to be high in most people with self-esteem but not among those who are high in narcissism. …

[There] is a book called Good to Great that looks at the CEOs of companies …
[It turns out] that the most successful CEOs were not the narcissistic ones, it was those who were humble and hard-working and gave their teams credit.
They were team players, they got along well with others. …

So in a stock market simulation … when the stock market is going up, people who score high in narcissism, they do well, but the minute it goes down they crash harder than everyone else. …

[There is evidence of a] generational shift toward more narcissism … across many age groups …
  • there is more materialism,
  • that plastic surgery rates have gone up so much,
  • that people are buying bigger houses so each person can have more space,
  • that there is troubles in relationships. …

[People who are narcissistic … are actually less successful [in the long run] because they take too many risks, they are overconfident instead of just confident.
[And they] tend to alienate other people because they don't care about others.

[The] key to success, sure, having some self-efficacy, which is different from self-esteem, thinking — yes, I know I can do this — that's beneficial.
Self-control and hard work, that's beneficial.
And perspective-taking, something that narcissists don't do very well, to take someone else's perspective, to think about what it's like to walk around in their shoes.
That is so useful for getting along with people, whether that's at work or in your relationships.
[So it is] those qualities — self-efficacy, self-control, perspective-taking [— that] are actually more likely to lead to success than self-esteem or narcissism. …

[There] is some indication that is a little more interest in social problems and … caring for others than there was five or six years ago.
So the recession … may put the brakes on some aspects of narcissism.
[The] interesting question is what's going to happen when the economy comes back?
Will the caring and concern for others and interest in social problems and equality fade again as the economy improves?

(The Narcissism Epidemic, All In The Mind, 21 December 2014)

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November 9, 2013

Australian Centre for Independent Journalism

Green Army: Research and Development

Kim Carr [Minister for Science]:
We don't have to accord superstition and wishful thinking with the same status as science.
This is much more than fairness requires, and much more than reason permits.
(Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, 2010)

Philip Chubb [Associate Professor of Journalism, Monash University]:
… I'm accusing The Australian of ideological bias.
All the evidence is there.
It's absolutely clear.
It has ceased to function as a news outlet according to the ordinary meaning of that term.
(George Munster Award Forum, Big Ideas, ABC Television, University of Technology, Sydney, 2 December 2010)

Wendy Bacon [Investigative Journalist]:
The underpinning of journalism is the pursuit of the truth. …
(Climate Change Policy, A Sceptical Climate, 2011, p 19)

James Painter [Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University]:
Australia had the most articles, and the highest percentage of articles with sceptics in them, ahead of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Norway and India.
This finding tallied with a previous report we had published which strongly suggested that climate scepticism was common in the English-speaking media in countries like the UK, USA and Australia.
It is nothing like as common in the media in developing countries, such as Brazil, India and China, and in France.
(Climate Change in the Media: Reporting Risk and Uncertainty, I B Taurus, Oxford)


Wendy Bacon

[No] reports that could be called exaggerated or alarmist were found in this sample [Feb-Apr 2011 and Feb-Apr 2012].
(p 213)

An Australian Purge

[Mike] Steketee examined the [climate change] sceptic claims and found them wanting in evidence and logic.
He then investigated the issue of what interests might be behind them.
This is exactly what a independent and professional journalist might be expected to do.
Some time later, Steketee was told the paper no longer wished to publish his column.
Not long after that he left News Corp. …

Other journalists who had written strong reports on climate science had also left.
One of these was rural reporter Asa Wahquist who left the paper in 2010.
Crikey later reported that she had told a journalism education conference that it was “torture” trying to report climate change at The Australian.

In addition … Leigh Dayton a well respected science reporter who had written many reports on climate science left the paper in 2012.

The Australian’s coverage of climate change has come at a cost.
It has [been forced to sacrifice] some of its best reporters [in order] to pursue its political agenda on climate change.
(p 171-2)

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News Corp Australia vs Fairfax Media in Melbourne and Sydney

The newspaper that most actively promotes climate scepticism is also the biggest selling newspaper in Australia, the Herald Sun. …
The next most sceptical publication is The Daily Telegraph
(p 91

[Audiences] of The Age and the SMH are more likely to read news about climate science and reports of peer reviewed research and features quoting a range of sources with competing perspectives.
They rarely receive climate sceptic material and are more likely to have read investigations of the economic interests underpinning climate scepticism. …

[On the other hand, climate] science reporting in the News Corp tabloids [the Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph,] is dominated by [sceptical commentary and scathing attacks] on journalists and scientists who research and publish material that accepts the climate consensus position. …
Apart from occasional news stories based on press releases from climate research organisations, readers receive almost no information that would enable them to understand the complexities or likely impacts of the impact of climate change domestically or internationally.
The research findings of climate scientists are largely rendered invisible for News Corp audiences [and there is] no critique of the sceptic position.
(p 133)

[In other states,] Hobart’s The Mercury and Brisbane’s The Courier Mail did not promote scepticism [during the study period (Feb-Apr 2011 and Feb-Apr 2012).]
[However, since] Brisbane editorial director David Fagan left News Corp in June 2013, The Courier Mail has begun to publish Andrew Bolt’s columns including a number of sceptic ones about climate change.
(p 211)

Australia Leads the Way

  • Australia … emits more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than any other country in the OECD.

(p 5)

  • Australia may have the highest concentration of [climate change] scepticism in its media in the world.

(p 20)

The Australian

  • Publications targeting high-income readers, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian, provide more coverage of climate science than those targeting lower income readers [ie the tabloids.] …
  • The Australian … is Australia’s only national newspaper targeted at a general audience {[and] casts itself as a national agenda setter.}

(p 11)

  • [Out of 602 articles making a significant mention of climate science published across two three month periods in 2011 and 2012, The Australian] produced 24% … compared to 15% in the Sydney Morning Herald, which had the second highest number of articles. …
  • Nearly half (47%) of the articles and 50% of the words in The Australian’s coverage did not accept the consensus position. …
  • While only 5% of articles [rejected] the scientific consensus about anthropogenic climate change [45%] of articles [questioned] the scientific consensus [or asserted] that its validity was a matter of debate.

(p 23)

  • While scientists overwhelmingly agree on anthropogenic climate change, The Australian represents climate science as matter of opinion or debate …
  • The Australian was more sceptical in 2012 than 2011 …
    [In 2012,] 59% of the words allocated to climate change coverage either suggest[ed] doubt or reject[ed] the scientific consensus …
    {[In particular, commentary] about climate science … increased in 2012 and was more sceptical [than in 2011.]}
  • A substantial proportion of the articles that [accepted] the consensus position were written in ways that undermined the credibility of climate scientists and those that support climate change policies opposed by The Australian.
    [Articles which ostensibly] accepted the scientific consensus position or specific scientific findings … underplayed their seriousness [and the] need for urgent action. …
    {[Findings] that suggested climate change impacts [might] be less than previously reported [were highlighted. …]}
  • News articles published by The Australian were less sceptical than commentary
    [That being said, the] news articles that questioned the scientific consensus position [were, on average,] 51% longer than [those] that accepted it. …

    {News selection tends to favour angles that are negative towards climate science organisations and climate scientists.
    [Coverage focuses on] scientific findings that suggest less urgency or cast doubt on the reliability of climate scientists and advocates for action.
    (p 145)}

  • Commentary about climate science published by The Australian was almost equally divided between [that which accepted] the consensus position [and that which] did not. …

(p 24, emphasis added)

  • The Australian attacks journalists at Fairfax Media and the ABC who [accept] the scientific consensus position …
  • The Australian promotes … the work of climate sceptics without critiquing their work or the interests they promote. …
  • The Australian frames the climate science in terms of an ideological battle and its critics as dogmatists who threaten free speech and rationality.

(p 25, emphasis added)

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Wendy Bacon

Market Share by Readership

(Adapted from Figure 1, p 23)
News Limited3,707,00065%
Seven West Media547,00010%

[Conservative / neoliberal newspapers control 75% of the media market including 65% by a single owner.]
News Ltd [the Australian subsidiary of News Corporation,] dominates the newspaper market and in four state capital cities owns the only metropolitan newspaper.
Fairfax controls one national business paper and three metropolitan newspapers, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times. …
(p 61)

The two biggest News tabloids — The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph [combined readership 2,282,000 or 40% of the market] — have been so biased in their coverage that it is fair to say they ‘campaigned’ against the [Clean Energy Future package] rather than covered it.
[Furthermore,] The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph columnists are syndicated across News Ltd mastheads including some regional ones.
They also publish blogs, which carry a large amount of material in similar vein to print material and regularly appear on television and radio, supported by corporate marketing techniques designed to amplify their impact. …

Bias is an editorial accomplishment achieved through a variety of journalistic techniques including
  • headlining,
  • the selection and prominence of topics and sources,
  • [the] structuring and editing of stories, [and]
  • [the] selection and promotion of commentators, editorials and cartoons or other visuals.
(p 62)

The issue is not one of free speech or the right of a few individuals to push their ideas but the market power of a dominant company to build support for particular policies and ideas. …
Particularly important is the media’s role in determining the visibility or invisibility of groups and sources and the ways in which different audiences are told (or not) what interests are at stake.
[Business] sources were afforded far more access than those of civil society …
Little space was given to sources, including business sources, which argued that the carbon policy would bring economic and environmental benefits.
The fossil fuel business lobby were featured prominently, often with little scrutiny of their claims. …

[That] 31% of news and feature articles [relied on] no more than one source indicates that many sources [were] not held to account. …
[This] opens up possibilities for well-resourced interests to gain high visibility for their views through press releases including commissioned research and consultants reports tailored to the news cycle.
Private power as well as government power needs to consistently scrutinised by journalists.
[The] success of big business sources is certainly aided by their interconnected advertising, public relations and lobbying activities.
(p 63)

The Editors:
For a newspaper to censor or deliberately avoid points of view, such as these, because they conflict with or undermine its own position would be a fundamental breach of trust.
Fairfax editors must hold their readers in such low esteem that they will only share with them information that will help shape pre-determined opinions.
What a deceptive manipulation of public discourse and an insult to the readers.
What disregard for the essence of news and journalism. …
(The Australian, June 2011)
[The] results of this study [indicate] that both the SMH and The Age [are] more likely to be neutral and [evenly balanced] than The Australian. …

It is clear that The Age is a more progressive than The Australian but there is no evidence in this study that The Age engages in censorship.
Indeed it appears to be considerably more balanced than any News Ltd paper. …

To be positive or negative towards a policy does not imply that a journalist loses impartiality, fairness or a critical approach.
Columnists such as the News Ltd’s Mike Steketee, Fairfax’s Ian Verrender and Peter Hartcher wrote a range of incisive pieces making critical points about both sides of the carbon policy debate.
The SMH’s Lenore Taylor held Abbott’s policy and the claims of industry up to scrutiny more consistently than nearly all other journalists.
(p 65)

{[Thirty years ago,] the Norris inquiry into Victorian print media had also found dangerous levels of concentration but no definite evidence of bias.}

[Twenty] years ago, a Parliamentary Select Inquiry investigated the Australian print media and found that while the media was highly concentrated and this had an impact on diversity, the Inquiry could find no evidence that the media, in particular News Ltd was biased. …

Is it in the public interest for a media organisation that dominates the market to ‘campaign’ as The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun have done, on an issue which a huge majority of the world's scientists have found threatens the lives of millions?
In what circumstances does a lack of diversity and balance, represent a threat to democracy?
(p 66)

[The evidence] suggests that many Australians did not receive fair, accurate and impartial reporting … in relation to the carbon policy in 2011.
This suggests that rather an open and competitive market that can be trusted to deliver quality media, we may have a case of market failure.

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November 7, 2013

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Green Army: Research and Development

A World Without Hunger?

Tim Wheeler & Joachim von Braun

Crop yields are more negatively affected across most tropical areas than at higher latitudes, and impacts become more severe with an increasing degree of climate change.
[Those] parts of the world where crop productivity is expected to decline under climate change coincide with countries that currently have a high burden of hunger.
[There] is a robust and coherent pattern on a global scale of the impacts of climate change on crop productivity and, hence, on food availability …
[Climate] change will exacerbate food insecurity in areas that already currently have a high prevalence of hunger and undernutrition.

(Climate Change Impacts on Global Food Security, Science, Vol 314, 2 August 2013, p 511)

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The Human Dimension

Noah Diffenbaugh & Christopher Field

Terrestrial ecosystems have experienced widespread changes in climate over the past century.
It is highly likely that those changes will intensify in the coming decades, unfolding at a rate that is at least an order of magnitude — and potentially several orders of magnitude — more rapid than the changes to which terrestrial ecosystems have been exposed during the past 65 million years.
In responding to those rapid changes in climate, organisms will encounter a highly fragmented landscape that is dominated by a broad range of human influences.
The combination of high climate-change velocity and multidimensional human fragmentation will present terrestrial ecosystems with an environment that is unprecedented in recent evolutionary history.

However, the ultimate velocity of climate change is not yet determined.
Although many Earth system feedbacks are uncertain, the greatest sources of uncertainly — and greatest opportunities for modifying the trajectory of change — lie in the human dimension.
As a result, the rate and magnitude of climate change ultimately experienced by terrestrial ecosystems will be mostly determined by the human decisions, innovations, and economic developments that will determine the pathway of GHG emissions.

(Changes in Ecologically Critical Terrestrial Climate Conditions, Science, Vol 314, 2 August 2013, p 490)

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