Friday, December 20, 2013

Anita Heiss: Is She Black Enough For You?

Given Tim Wilson's new career, reading Anita Heiss' memoir Am I Black Enough For You? turned out to be very topical.

My review can be viewed here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Make a Pledge for Asylum Seekers on Human Rights Day

A video from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for Human Rights Day 2013:

Make a pledge:

"I pledge to fight against cruelty to asylum seekers. This means:
  • no splitting up of families, when they arrive by boat, into different groups
  • no pregnant women should be forcibly separated from her husband and children and sent away to have her baby alone."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Textor's Twitter Farce Follows Revelations of Australia Spying on Indonesian President

"...we now have #Textor’s Law: the most social media savvy spin doctors are only 140 characters away from their inevitable brain snap. It has something to do with wishing you could eat your words."

My latest post for Global Voices looks at the extraordinary twitter moments of Mark Textor
Twitter Farce Follows Revelations of Australia Spying on Indonesian President:
It has taken a “conservative political and communications strategist” to catch the imagination of netizens during the current diplomatic standoff between Australia and Indonesia over spying revelations. Indonesia's president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has tweeted to protest phone tapping by Australia's Defence Signals Directorate, which included his and his wife's phones in 2009.

On 20 November 2013 Mark Textor, pollster and political tactician for Australia’s ruling Liberal Party, experienced one of those twitter moments: ‘Apology demanded from Australia by a bloke who looks like a 1970s Pilipino porn star and has ethics to match’. [The misspelling is his own.] It was an apparent reference to the Indonesian foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa.

His deletion of the offending tweet did not save Textor from embarrassment.

[Reactions from the Oz twitterverse...]


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sorry I won't be around to tell 'em I told ya so.

For those who are still interested in the state of climate change science, a concise video from the IPCC Warsaw COP19 meeting:

For more please see: The actual probability of Earth going to hell in the next few decades

I know we are constantly being told that we will not persuade anyone with evidence or with scary stuff. So do what's recommended and use narrative. Tell them the one about the big bad denier who huffed and puffed...

Global Voices' Andrea Arzaba has a tale from Warsaw worth sharing: COP19: Fasting For The Climate:
Yeb Saño, leader of the Philippines delegation at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change in Poland (COP19), has decided to stop eating until he sees real solutions from negotiators at the summit. He wants the process to bring “climate justice to the poorest countries,” and links Typhoon Haiyan, which has left more than 4,000 people dead and 4 million displaced, to climate change.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Tony Abbott Downplays Sri Lankan Torture Allegations

From my latest post for Global Voices Online:

Australians have been flabbergasted by the contrast between two conservative Prime Ministers over Sri Lanka’s human rights record, namely their own PM Tony Abbott and the UK’s David Cameron.

Cameron put Sri Lanka on notice over war crimes allegations. PM Abbott was far more conciliatory:
"The Australian Government deplores any use of torture. Sometimes, in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen. The important thing is to act as quickly as you can to bind up the nation's wounds."
Many onliners took these remarks at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo [CHOGM] to be tacit approval of human rights violations including torture.

More: Australian Prime Minister Downplays Sri Lankan Torture Allegations

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Climate Action Rally - Melbourne 2103

According to The Age, "Up to 30,000 Melburnians gathered in Treasury Gardens on Sunday to call for stronger action on climate change" on Sunday 17 November 2013.

A glorious solar day at Treasury Gardens.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jeremy Bird at #Progress2013: 'Brick by Brick' Organising

Jeremy Bird's talk to Progress 2013 at the Melbourne Town Hall on 8 Nov 2013: 'Brick by Brick' The Nitty Gritty Organising Work That Turned Out Obama's Coalition

Jeremy speaks about the Democrats grassroots campaigning in 2012. It was based on neighbourhood team leaders organising local volunteers in 5177 locations across the United States. "They turned out voters that they knew."

He emphasised the importance of both using innovative online technologies and reaching individuals face-to-face. Community campaigns must invest in organisers on the ground and in their training.

He stressed why winning matters. It is "about the people we are trying to serve, to organise; about the world you are trying to leave to your grandkids." "Too many organisations rely on broadcast media and treat voters as consumers of a product." It should be about real relationships and talking to people individually.

[I represented Global Voices Online at Progress 2013.]

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wrap Up Video: I'm In! - Progress 2013

Thanks to Digital Storytellers, we had I'm In!, the wrap up video of the Progress 2013 conference, before it was over.

The Centre for Australian Progress and a thousand strong crowd sourced from Oz and OS gave us a great couple of days in Melbourne to plot our collective, organisational and individual futures.

Snapshots of the first day are on Storify.
More later.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My ‘Top’ Ten Tweets from #Progress2013 Day One

My quick picks from the hundreds of tweets from Day 1 of the Progress 2013 conference on 7 November at Melbourne Town Hall:

Day 2 awaits.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Will Family Planning Remain Fertile Ground for AusAid?

Two articles from Kenya's Daily Nation, both published on 30 october 2013, highlight the challenges for developing countries in addressing the link between family planning and population growth:
Kenya has one of the highest fertility rates in the world with a total fertility of 8 children per woman.
Contraceptives uptake reduced due to fertility awareness
The headline is a bit confusing but the content of the story is clear.
Worldwide, 7.3 million of the births are by girls between the age of 15 and 19 years of which two million births of this are by girls under the age of 15. Of the two million births, 90 per cent of them are already in marriage, revealing that girls are being married off at very tender age.

Kenya contributes to this percentage by having 103 in every 1000 pregnancies being attributed to girls between 15 and 19 years.
Teenage pregnancies: Kenya's alarming statistics
[Thanks to Facebook friend Javin Ochieng from Mathare, Naoribi for the links. We met at the 2012 Global Voices Summit.]

This news comes at a time of cutbacks to Australia's overseas aid. Coincidentally, on the following day Tanya Plibersek, newly elected deputy leader of the Labor opposition, raised related issues at the Australian Council for International Development. The former Health minister told the 2013 ACFID Council: Driving Change Post 2015:
We believe that a society as wealthy as ours has an obligation to advance the development of the poorest people, communities, and nations, and assist them to a better life.
Tanya warned the new Liberal/National coalition government about its $A 4.5 billion cut to overseas aid:
On coming to government we first abolished the Harradine amendment which prohibited Australian aid money going to organisations which delivered family planning services. Most recently we doubled aid funding for family planning services.

Let me say this very clearly – I will fight any effort by Tony Abbott to strip aid from family planning services in developing countries.
Tanya spoke on the day that AusAid ceased to be a separate entity following its controversial integration by the Abbott government into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

AusAid's FAMILY PLANNING AND THE AID PROGRAM: GUIDING PRINCIPLES, published in 2009, seem very middle of the road at first:
Improving access to appropriate, affordable and safe contraceptives and products is an important component of effective family planning services. By ensuring women and men have access to comprehensive family planning services and advice, Australia aims to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and thereby minimise the need for women to resort to abortion.
However, they clearly sanction abortion in the implementation criteria:
The Guidelines support the same range of family planning and reproductive health services for women in developing countries as are supported for women in Australia, consistent with the national laws of the partner country concerned and in line with the ICPD Programme of Action [International Conference on Population and Development 1994}. The Guidelines place a gestational term limit on abortion of up to 20 weeks.
'Driving Change Post 2015' focussed on 'How can the Australian development sector respond to people living in poverty and help them drive positive change?' The conference title, of course, referred to the UN Millennium Development Goals whose target date is 2015.

In 2000 the United Nations established 8 ambitious Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for the Developing World:

GOAL 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

GOAL 2: Achieve universal primary education

GOAL 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

GOAL 4: Reduce child mortality

GOAL 5: Improve maternal health

GOAL 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

GOAL 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

GOAL 8: Develop a global partnership for development

The elephant goalkeeper in the MDG game has always been population control. The recent BYND 2015 Global Youth Summit in Costa Rica included this in its declaration:
We seek tools to better inform us about healthy lifestyles and health concerns, which help us act on that information, especially in areas of sexual and reproductive health, and in dealing with issues of disability, including knowledge to reduce problems of stigma and fear associated with many diseases
Let's hope that family planning aid does not become a partisan issue in Australia as it has been in the United States with the global gag rule enforced by Republican administrations and reversed under Democrat presidents. Family planning and sexual and reproductive health programs that mention the 'A' word [abortion] or sometimes even just the 'C' word [contraceptive] do not get funded when the rule applies.

The ACFID has over 100 non-government members working in the international aid and development sectors. Some of them will be attending Progress 2013 conference on 7-8 November in Melbourne to further discuss issues and share strategies. A number of the organisations are faith-based and may have their own concerns with family planning projects.

[My posts for the 2010 European Journalism Centre's Th!nk About It - Developing World blogging competition range over many of the issues related to population, family planning and sex education.]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pick up the Hot Potatoes: Asylum Seekers

The Road to Transformation is a film for The Hot Potato campaign of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

It follows the #thehotpotato caravan with 10,000 spuds on its journey from Melbourne to Brisbane:

The asylum seeker debate is the Hot Potato in Australian politics. Everyone’s talking, no-one’s listening. We aim to change that. That’s why we created the hot potato van. And on the eve of the general election we took it on the road. Visiting 10 towns over 10 days, Busting 10 myths, Serving 10,000 potatoes, inspiring 10 million conversations. This is what happened.

These are real conversations about the myths, engaging and embracing the expressed concerns of people. "What they are actually angry about is politics".

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Must Watch: Stop Watching Us

From The Electronic Frontier Foundation in the U.S.:

" is a coalition of more than 100 public advocacy organizations and companies from across the political spectrum. Join the movement at This video harnesses the voices of celebrities, activists, legal experts, and other prominent figures in speaking out against mass surveillance by the NSA. Please share widely to help us spread the message that we will not stand for the dragnet surveillance of our communications.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a nonprofit civil liberties law and advocacy center that has been fighting the NSA's unconstitutional spying for years. Learn more at"

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Progress 2013 Conference to plot political futures

Tony Abbott wants us to repent. Well here’s my confession. I have sinned by:
• chipping in for the Climate Council
• signing GetUp! and petitions about asylum seekers, the Great Barrier Reef and Burger Off’s campaign against McDonald’s in Tecoma.
• voting for @Albo and agitating for Labor party reform
• joining Blog Action Day with a human rights post about Tony’s confessor Cardinal Pell
• posting questions on Our Say Australia’s forums
• commenting on stories at Guardian Australia and the Conversation
• retweeting whether it is insensitive, nay unpatriotic to use ‘bushfires’ and ‘climate’ in the same tweet
• sharing rabble-rousing republican propaganda
• adding to the
• having boorish thoughts about Barnaby Joyce on QandA

It all seems very passive and dispiriting – not saving the planet, not even the backyard, but at least it keeps some of us off the streets. Or is that the problem? These are dark days indeed for progressive activists in Australia as we are rolled back to the Howard and Menzies years. Time to ask the experts.
For all is not lost. There is light in the hall. Melbourne Town Hall, that is. The Progress 2013 conference in Melbourne on 7 & 8 November is beckoning:
‘Progress 2013 is about what’s next: the issues, the people, and the strategies that will define Australia’s non-profits and social movements for years to come.’
Progress 2013 conference
There will be lots of the usual suspects coming: Jane Caro, Tim Flannery, Robert Manne, Sam McLean, Miriam Lyons, Anna Rose, Rachel Perkins, Will Stefen, Tim Costello.
It’s a very catholic gathering with specialists in: human rights law, the environment in all its manifestations, Asia, refugees, cancer, disability, indigenous peoples, film, the Middle East, public health, population, participatory democracy, international aid, the web, wilderness, women, workplaces. To paste but a slice, and that’s just the speakers.
As you would expect at this kind of get together, there are plenty of process people on the agenda: researchers, social entrepreneurs, communications nurds and social media geeks, digital natives [not my terminology], community organisers and campaigners, crowd funders, political campaigners.
There is at least one: singer/songwriter, union organiser, NGO CEO, refugee activist, charities, journalist, LGBTI advocate, columnist, feminist, digital strategist, marriage equality, youth group, philanthropist, academic, political sociologist, economist, publisher, B-Corporation (had to look that one up!], pastor and at least one citizen journalist. Some shade under multiple hats.
There are even a couple of parliamentarians coming: Wayne Swan and Scott Ludlam. The conference is not cheap, unless an organisation is sponsoring you, but it might be tax deductible. The pollies normally cover these events through their parliamentary allowances but that’s another story.
The OurSay  participatory democracy platform has 3 forums operating before the conference. The top questions will be asked of speakers during their sessions.

OurSay is also giving away three tickets to the winning question at each forum. There is still time to post a question as voting closes on 2 November. It is very democratic. You get 7 votes to spread around or give to one question. [Confession: I’m in the running]. So vote early and vote often, as was oft heard around the Collingwood or Richmond town halls of yesteryear.
One of the forums is Words Count. The questions are for ‘Messaging guru and author’, Anat Shenker-Osorio.

Timely given the insistence of Immigration Minister Morrison that asylum seekers be labelled “illegals” when they arrive by boat and “detainees” when he’s locked them up out of sight in our latest version of purgatory.
Finally, if you’re a follower of fashion then the flavor of the month is orange, part of the livery of Cathy McGowan’s successful Federal election campaign for Indi. Since we are having trouble getting our act together globally, we are all now thinking locally. Community campaigning is the rage since her triumph.
Ben McGowan, co-founder of Voice for Indi will be there. A drink or two with Ben and Obama field campaign director, Jeremy Bird, should be a door prize but you’ll have to elbow past me to be part of that round. There is a conference party for ticket holders at Thousand Pound Bend that will be opened by local member of the House of Reps, Adam Bandt. All expenses paid perhaps – if so it’s his shout.
Following last Saturday’s NSW Miranda by-election, I fancy an orange firies’ suit for any kitchen table talk.
Anyway, come along and help plot a progressive future. If not then follow @ausprogress#progress2013 or the Facebook page.
* The conference is organised by the Centre for Australian Progress ‘a new organisation dedicated to building the advocacy capacity of Australia’s civil society’.
For further coverage of Progress 2013, please watch this space.

Update: A list of Who’s coming to Progress 2013

Update 30 October: Video - 7 days to go - will you be there?

Cross post with No Fibs.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Support the National Day of Climate Action 17 November 2013

"The last month was the hottest on record.
The last 12 months were the hottest on record.
The last summer was the hottest on record, breaking 120 records.
This year? Summer has come early and bushfires are burning.

Meanwhile, Tony Abbott and our new Government are already going backwards on climate change. They've cut the climate department, abolished the Climate Commission, and are getting ready to try repeal a price on pollution and renewable energy funding.
Politicians have severely underestimated how much Australians care about climate change. Right now, it is more important than ever before that we make it clear that the majority of Australians want climate action.

Chip in at and help us make this massive climate action project a reality."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Australian Catholic Cardinal Centre of Child Sexual Abuse Scandal

This Human Rights post is part of Blog Action Day on 16 October 2013. It is a cross-post at Global Voices Online.

Two sisters were repeatedly raped by their parish priest in an Australian primary school. One later committed suicide. The other became a binge drinker and is disabled after being hit by a car. Their parents want laws to make the Catholic Church look after victims properly. Their mother told the story in her book Hell On The Way To Heaven.

Since its publication in 2010, action is finally being taken. There are currently three government inquiries in Australia into institutional responses to sexual abuse of children.

As Clerical Whispers reported in May 2013, the State of New South Wales investigation followed police whistleblower Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox's allegations of Catholic church cover-ups in the Hunter Valley region.

In the State of Victoria, the Family and Community Development Committee of parliament has the task of reporting:
...on the processes by which religious and other non-government organisations respond to the criminal abuse of children by personnel within their organisations

The committee was set up after admissions by the Catholic hierarchy of forty suicides among 620 victims of child sexual abuse by its clergy. It is due to report in November 2013.

Then Prime Minister Julia Gillard established the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in late 2012. The commission is examining: institutions with a responsibility for children have managed and responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse.

...any private, public or non-government organisation that is, or was in the past, involved with children, including government agencies, schools, sporting clubs, orphanages, foster care, and religious organisations.

Despite the broad brush of the terms of reference, the Catholic church has taken the brunt of public criticism so far. In particular, the Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell has been the centre of the controversy for his approach to offenders and victims over an extended period. His appearance at the Victorian committee in May 2013 created a storm when he admitted church cover-ups.

Ian Richardson's reaction was typical of the twitterverse:

Rock in the grass was incensed by the Cardinal's moralising:
Sam Butler made the inevitable comparison with Rupert Murdoch’s evidence in 2011 to the British parliamentary committee concerning the phone hacking scandal:
It was just one of a multitude of tweets linking to well-respected journalist David Marr’s report for the Guardian.

Meanwhile Cartoonist Jon Kudelka had his usual eye for The Details:

The Details - Cartoon courtesy Jon Kudelka
At The Conversation blog Judy Courtin assessed Pell’s apology:
If we were to rate his performance as an actor with his apology he would have just passed as an actor. The apology, along with any empathy or compassion, was entirely lacking.
Subsequently David Marr has written an in-depth essay for the September Quarterly magazine: The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell (Essay 51):
He [Pell] knows children have been wrecked. He apologises again and again. He even sees that the hostility of the press he so deplores has helped the church face the scandal. What he doesn’t get is the hostility to the church. Whatever else he believes in, Pell has profound faith in the Catholic Church. He guards it with his life. Nations come and go but the church remains.
Jeremy von Einem's tweet is representative of the general reaction to Marr’s essay:

John Lord captured the revulsion and the anger that many readers felt:
Whilst reading it I had to stop many times and reflect on the enormity of the sins of the fathers. More than once I shed a tear whilst uttering the word, bastards.

But this essay is as much about Pell (I don’t feel the need to be particularly aware of protocol and use his title) the man as it is about child abuse. When all is stripped back we see a man of very little love for flock but great love for the institution of church, the privileges that come with it and the power it commands. Consequently Pell is adored by the church but despised by the people.
Cardinal Pell responded to the essay with a written statement:
A predictable and selective rehash of old material. G.K.Chesterton said: 'A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; a bad novel tells us the truth about its author'. Marr has no idea what motivates a believing Christian.

The Prince has its critics. Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor at Eureka Street, the online publication of the Australian Jesuits. In his analysis Marring the Cardinal's image he sees the essay as “elegant” but “unfair”:
The limitations of Marr's account are the obverse of its virtues. It is not a dispassionate judgment but a prosecution brief. It sifts Pell's motives and words but not those of his critics, and simplifies complexities.

Kate Edwards at Australia Incognita is a critic of Cardinal Pell but thinks Marr missed the ‘Real Story’:
The article provides no new insights on the Cardinal's various disastrous interactions with victims and the laity in relation to the scandal; no new insights into just why he and many others in the Church were so reluctant to listen or act. To me that seems a great shame.

Despite being the central player in the sordid history of abuse and cover-up, the Catholic Church was not first case study off the rank at the Royal Commission public hearings. That dishonour went to the Scouts, reinforcing a long-held stereotype.

The Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council has made a lengthy submission to the Commission’s Towards Healing processes. Meanwhile, an appearance at the inquiry by Cardinal Pell is eagerly awaited by both critics and supporters.

Outside the Victorian inquiry, support group CLAN (Care Leavers Australia Network) spoke for people brought up in "care":

Care Leavers Australia Network outside Victoria's Parliament House.
Courtesy CLAN website

The Royal Commission is expected to take several years to complete its investigations and make recommendations to the Federal government.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Story of Stuff: Not Just More - Better!

From the Story of Stuff Project

The Story of Solutions:
...explores how we can move our economy in a more sustainable and just direction, starting with orienting ourselves toward a new goal.

In the current 'Game of More', we're told to cheer a growing economy -- more roads, more malls, more Stuff! -- even though our health indicators are worsening, income inequality is growing and polar icecaps are melting.

But what if we changed the point of the game? What if the goal of our economy wasn't more, but better -- better health, better jobs and a better chance to survive on the planet?

We definitely need more game changers!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Crowd-funding Revives Oz Climate Council After Government Axe

My post for Global Voices Online:
One of the first actions of the newly elected conservative government in Australia has been to axe Labor’s Climate Commission on 18 September 2013. Its purpose was “to provide all Australians with an independent and reliable source of information about the science of climate change”. Thanks to crowd-funding online, its ghost has arisen as the not-for-profit Climate Council with the same board members chaired by former Australian of the Year, Tim Flannery.
More: Crowd-funding Revives Australian Climate Council After Government Axe

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tecoma Protesters Take #BurgerOff Campaign to McDonald's Chicago HQ

My latest post for Global Voices Online: Melbourne Protesters Take Campaign to McDonald's Chicago HQ

Photo courtesy Michel Pickard flickr
(Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Opponents of building a McDonalds in Melbourne are taking their case to Maccas headquarters in Chicago on Wednesday 18 September 2013. Approximately $40,000 in funds have been raised through an online campaign. Global Voices reported on the conflict in March 2013 Australia: Locals Fight to Stop McDonald's in their Hills

As well as social media, the protesters have used traditional direct action methods such as roof occupations and blockades. These resulted in court action by McDonalds against the so-calledTecoma 8, which has now been withdrawn although injunction applications are apparently ongoing.

An online petition has over 90,000 signatures.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Gatekeepers: Israel "Winning the Battles, Losing the War" Film Review

My film review of The Gatekeepers: Israel "Winning the Battles, Losing the War" at the Cinema Takes blog.

When we were in Jordan last month (Aug 2013) we spoke to a Palestinian who lives and works there. He had gone to an Israeli university before moving to Jordan. He remarked that if they did not have enemies, they would tear themselves apart. His comment reverberated after watching Dror Moreh's documentary The Gatekeepers

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Should Australians be Shocked by Secret Use of Personal Digital Data?

My latest weblog for Global Voices Online: Secret Use of Personal Digital Data Shocks Australians

It covers reactions in the twitterverse to the Four Corners program In Google We Trust:
A current affairs exposé, In Google We Trust, has caused a flutter on twitter in Australia. The ABC TV Four Corners episode, broadcast on 9 September 2013, looked at how individuals’ digital data is being collected and used. The extent of breaches of privacy, lack of online security, commercial use of personal information such as shopping habits, and even police tracking and storage of car number plates, came as a shock to many viewers.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Jordan's Azraq Wetland a Continuing Ecological Disaster

In August 2013 we visited Azraq Wetland Reserve in eastern Jordan. It was a heart wrenching experience as little is left of this once magnificent wetland.

The bright new visitor’s centre belies the sorry state of this ecological disaster. The aquifer dried up in 1992 following decades of exploitation by the government to provide Amman’s needs. Recent allocations of water are insufficient to win back the hundreds of thousands of migratory birds who visited the area until the 1970s or restore its original 25 km2.

Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) has not yet achieved its aim of reaching 10% restoration, partly because of 500 illegal wells.

Pressure on water resources are bound to increase as Jordan is setting up a new refugee camp to take 80,000+ Syrians.

The story of Azraq is clearly an allegory for our struggling planet. If it isn’t clear enough then Wikipedia has more here.

Water scarcity and conflict over existing resources are a continuing part of the Middle East region. Israel and Jordan have continuing problems over the Jordan river and the Negev arabs struggle to get a share of water in their desert home.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Spin the Voter Propaganda Wheel: Power & Persuasion

Play the Spin the Voter Propaganda Wheel

Propaganda: Power and Persuasion is an exhibition at the British Library, London
(17 May - 17 September 2013)

The Basic Techniques explored are:

Establish authority

Link a person or idea with existing symbols of power and authority, which people understand and are comfortable with. Using appropriate symbolism can generate deep psychological resonances.

Exploit existing beliefs

People are much more receptive to messages that build on attitudes and beliefs they already hold dear. Use this technique to play on class, cultural, religious and national stereotypes.

Appeal to patriotism

Play up to nationalist sentiments and emphasise benefits to the nation. People often fail to question ideas linked to the emotive but general sense of patriotism.

Create fear

In a state of fear your audience is more likely to believe you. This technique is particularly effective if you play on existing anxieties and prejudices against people, groups or behaviours.

Imply everyone agrees

The desire to fit in is a strong one and many people go along with the crowd. Combine with apparent plain speaking, an appeal to the ‘average’ person, and deliver in a style which suit your audience.

Disguise the source

Carefully plant stories and faces so that they come from an independent source your audience trusts. They will have less reason to question the messages your are spreading.

Use humour

Making your audience smile or laugh can make powerful people, countries and ideas seem less threatening and even ridiculous. Humour is particularly useful if you are politically weaker than your opponent.

Make false connections

Start with an uncontested statement and link it with something more controversial. Many people will not notice that there is no logical link between the two. Alternatively link a person or idea with a more general truism, either good or bad.

Be selective about the truth

Control how and when information is released. Ensure only stories that support your position are reported. Where an event is controversial, make sure only the facts and testimony that favour your interpretation are heard.

Hammer it home

Decide on your message and stick to it. Saturate your audience, repeating it in as many different media as you can mobilise. Constant repetition will overcome initial scepticism.

Establish a leadership cult

Encourage the population to think their leaser is solely responsible for all successes. Eventually more people may come to believe that their personal fate and that of the nation is inextricably bound up with that of the leader. For advanced practitioners only.

Spin the wheel above to choose a technique and then pick your favourite examples from Australian (or other countries') politics and/or election campaigning to match it. Responses can be added in comments below or using the hashtag #spinthevoter in a tweet or on Facebook. You might like to add the #auspol hashtag if there's room.

Thanks to: Sue Keogh at Sookio for the text of the British Library pamphlet & Wheel Decide for the template.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Oz Security Storm Surrounds Convicted Egyptian Asylum Seeker

The political stoush surrounding convicted Egyptian asylum seeker Sayed Ahmed Maksoud Abdellatif last week has its roots in the Interpol Red Alert process. At its best it seems to be a lame duck against run-of-the-mill criminals. At its worst it's the dictators' tool for harassing their political opponents. Ironically, I could not find him on the current Interpol's Egypt database.

However, it's not all bad news as the Red Notice Law Journal reported on 6 June 2013:
Readers... know that one of the stories we've been following has been the plight of the non-governmental workers who were charged with crimes related to their journalistic activities in Egypt.
The reason that this story is appropriate for a blog about INTERPOL is that Egypt sought Red Notices for those workers who had left the country prior to the charges being filed.  INTERPOL properly rejected Egypt's request for those Red Notices because of the political nature of the charges.
Now we have the disappointing news that 43 NGO workers, both Egyptian and non-Egyptian, have been found guilty of the charges.  The story is here.

More on my weblog for Global Voices Online:
Australia: Security Storm Surrounds Convicted Egyptian Asylum Seeker

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sandwich Gate: Julia Gillard Better Take Cover

The mainstream media have been accused of trivialising political coverage in Australia over an incident involving Prime Minister Julia Gillard and a sandwich on 8 May 2013. Apparently, it even went viral overseas both in the press and online. 
...The whole incident seemed preordained as the Prime Minister was visiting a school fundraiser for breast cancer charity Australia's Biggest Morning Tea. Lyrics from Down Under by the iconic Men At Work area are apt: 
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich 
And he said,
“I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover.”
...Now if you think that #sandwichgate is inconsequential, the #skywhale narrative is the latest Oz happening to trend internationally. It is something else that might cause politicians to take cover.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spencer and Gillen's Extraordinary Online Legacy

Spencer and Gillen A Journey through Aboriginal Australia is a new website launched at Museum Victoria on 5 May 2013.

It is the result of a collaboration that has involved a large number of institutions around the globe.

'This website showcases notebooks, films, audio recordings, illustrations and photographs collected during Spencer and Gillen’s studies in anthropology between 1875 and 1912.'

This impressive collection currently contains 5314 objects including 1858 of their photographs, 26 audio recording, 16 moving images and 1199 documents. Documents such as journal and diary entries and letters include the original plus a transcript. All objects can be magnified for easy inspection.

The work of Baldwin Spencer and Frank Gillen, and their extraordinary legacy, are a vital part of Australia's heritage that all of us should learn more about.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Australia: National Disability Insurance Scheme Funding At Last

Australia: National Disability Insurance Scheme Funding At Last (Global Voices Online):

NDIS campaigning logo

(NDIS campaigning logo – Courtesy: Every Australian Counts)

On the trending twitter hashtag #NDIS, there have been lots of people prepared to pay the levy whether it’s really a tax or not. Weezmgk is amongst them:
‏@weezmgk: Show me a person who begrudges the 0.5% #NDIS levy & I'll show you a person who failed ‘sharing’ in kindy & never has learned the lesson.
RubyRainbow is not happy with the media meme that it has been all about political advantage:
‏@ColouredView: Most journalists simply cannot comprehend, let alone report, that the Govts support for an #NDIS may be because it's the right thing to do?
The OzPolitic forum has been busy discussing its merits. Its New NDIS Levy thread soon became a popular one. John Smith led off:
I personally don't mind paying a little extra for this type of service, especially if it can help a lot of my opponents on this forum, who will most likely complain about it.

The funding of a National Disability Insurance Scheme has been a political football in Australia. Legislation for the NDIS passed with unanimous support in March 2013. Both sides of politics had argued that it should be funded from general revenue. However, the opposition questioned whether the national budget could afford new spending.

On 1 May 2013, Prime Minister Julia Gillard opted for an increase in the Medicare levy instead. She threatened to make it a
key issue in the Federal election in September unless Opposition leader Tony Abbott agreed to pass legislation for the levy beforehand. He has relented and given it conditional support.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Black Humour from Inside Syria

Syria Inside is looking for support for its movie of the same name. Donations or other help greatly appreciated.

Not sure about it - check out their website and watch the video below:
'Syria Inside is a black comedy movie - assembling the most tragic stories and the most funny creative productions from Syrian activists and artists.
Presented in a new technology "Syrian 3D" and with the typical unique Syrian black humour.
You will get an insight to what humans are able to do - both good and bad - that let you see yourself in a different light.

The producers Tamer AlAwam (Syria) and Jan Heilig (Germany) decided 2011 to collaborate in a production full of unbelievable hilarious situations.
In August 2012 Tamer was shot in Alleppo /Syria in the middle of the production. The Syrian webshow-producers WithYouSyria and the German producer decided to finish the project.'
You can donate here.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Al Gore: Peril and Opportunity of the Climate Crisis

Thanks again to Mary Vincent at Smart Tech News:

"On April 23, 2013, Al Gore gave a riveting and engaging Stanford University lecture on the topic 'Peril and Opportunity: Solving the Climate Crisis and Reinvigorating Democracy' during the 1st Annual Stephen H. Schneider Memorial Lecture. I recorded a 20 minute video excerpt, and it's below for your reference."


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Climate One Video Montage: Not an Academic Exercise

Video: Stephen Schneider Climate One Montage:

'A montage of the former Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow and renowned climate scientist Stephen Schneider discussing climate change.'

Thanks to Mary Vincent at Smart Tech News.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Let's Have a Book Burning Party

The mad men from Leo Burnett advertising created this campaign. Watch it anyway!

From their YouTube channel:

"The city of Troy, Michigan was facing a budget shortfall, and was considering closing the Troy Public Library for lack of funds. Even though the necessary revenues could be raised through a miniscule tax increase, powerful anti-tax groups in the area were organized against it. A vote was scheduled amongst the city's residents, to shut the library or accept the tax increase, and Leo Burnett Detroit decided to support the library by creating a reverse psychology campaign. Yard signs began appearing that read: "Vote to Close Troy Library on August 2nd - Book Burning Party on August 5th." No one wants to be a part of a town that burns books, and the outraged citizens of Troy pushed back against the "idiotic book burners" and ultimately supported the tax increase, thus ensuring the library's survival."

Is it spin to just flipping the story?

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Great Broadband Wagon

Great Broadband Wagon Rolls on in Australia is my latest weblog for Global Voices Online:
The Opposition’s national broadband policy, released on 9 April 2013, was always going to be highly contentious in Australia. It is not just for geeks but also looms as a major issue in the Federal election to be held on 14 September 2013.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Reflecting on Media Reform

Media Reform on Life-support is my first post for Australians For Honest Politics:
The near capacity crowd at the Centre for Advanced Journalism’s session The Post-Mortem on Journalism Reform: What Happens Now? belied the conventional wisdom that media reform in Australia is dead (Details and the live blog are here). The venue was the aptly named Elisabeth Murdoch theatre at Melbourne University.

...the forces of light will be looking for help in keeping the media honest. Margaret Simons, Director of Centre for Advanced Journalism, indicated that university journalism schools could only have an educative role, not a proactive one. It is a challenge for the many students who attended the forum and the others around the nation who would like to see change happen sooner than later.

So it’s over to you. Don’t let the barons wear you down!


Friday, April 12, 2013

Thrilling News: James Price Point Saved from Gas Hub

James Price Point is a very special place. It has been the centre of a major dispute about where to put a LNG Gas Hub in North Western Australia.

Some background at: The fight over Kimberley gas

Also: Hands Off Country

Today's news Environmentalists welcome scrapping of LNG project is thrilling.

We took these photos while camping at the point in 2007.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Whistleblower Fires Coal Seam Gas Debate

My latest post for Global Voices Online:
Whistleblower Simone Marsh has added fire to ongoing arguments about the environmental impact of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry in Australia. 4 Corners, a current affairs program on ABCTV (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) on Monday April 1, 2013 aired Gas Leak! It was no April fool’s joke, with allegations of government fast-tracking of CSG developments without adequate environmental impact studies.


Australia: Whistleblower Fires Coal Seam Gas Debate

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Video: ThinkBrigade's Multimedia Journalists

A message from some of the people who have been reporting for ThinkBrigade from around the globe in the last year:  ThinkBrigade's Multimedia Journalists

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Big Mac and a Coke: No Thanks!

A Big Mac and a Coke have not been some Australians' idea of happiness in recent months. Something about the fast food and drink mob inflames the passions. Two of my posts this week for Global Voices Online look at activists' responses to the two biggest global names - McDonald's and Coca Cola Amatil.

Firstly, some old-fashioned protest action:
Residents’ opposition to a new McDonald’s in the Melbourne hills suburb of Tecoma has linked direct action with online campaigning. In October 2012 an administrative tribunal overturned the local Council’s unanimous decision to reject a Maccas’s proposal for a new fast food outlet.
Australia: Locals Fight to Stop McDonald's in their Hills

Plenty of fire on both sides. In a rare response to the increasingly personal debate, Global Voices closed comments at 293, after removing a few that had been flagged.

In separate action, Coca Cola has faced a national campaign:
A nationwide campaign against Coca Cola has followed their successful legal challenge on March 4, 2013 to container deposit legislation in the Australia's Northern Territory.
Coca Cola Machine ‘Out of Order’ in Australia

An anonymous Facebook group 'Out of Order' have been encouraging people to put the signs on vending machines. The Australian Coca Cola facebook page has nearly a million Likes. Can't help feeling that the protesters are just nipping at the heels of the transnationals.

First Dog on the Moon responded at Crikey:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Social Media Wars: Police Brutality Claims at Sydney Mardi Gras

From my web roundup for Global Voices about the claims of police brutality at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras:

Sydney Mardi Gras police contingent 2013
Image courtesy: Zsoolt – flickr, NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license
Video involving participant Jamie Jackson at the iconic Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on March 2, 2013 has sparked claims of police brutality. There were more than 1.6 million views in the first week of this version, taken by a press photographer for the parade.

...The Sydney mardi gras began in 1978 with confrontations with police.

...It is a safe bet that the police contingent marching in the parade were glad not to get caught up in the trouble.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

How Climate Change is Destroying the Earth Infographic

An infographic from Learn Stuff How Climate Change is Destroying the Earth


They would welcome feedback.

Israeli/Australian Prisoner X - Ben Zygier: Mystery Remains

Questions remain about the life and death of Israeli/Australian, Prisoner X - Ben Zygier, a Mossad spy. He apparently committed suicide whilst in secret solitary confinement in an Israeli prison in 2010.

Reporter Trevor Bormann of Australia' ABC TV'S Foreign Correspondent was interviewed on Radio National's Correspondents Report on 24 February about the great piece of investigative journalism that broke the story:

I think the big question remains, what on earth did Ben Zygier - Ben Alon, Ben Allen, Ben Burroughs - what did he do?

What was the nature of his work with the Mossad? How did he seemingly cross that organisation to end up in jail?

And what were the circumstances of his death?

The audio and transcript are available here: Prisoner X story continues to unfold

He took the words right out of my mouth:

For more please see my original web roundup for Global Voices: Secret Life and Death of Mossad Spy ‘Prisoner X’

Monday, February 18, 2013

Global A to Z: Navigating Elections 2013

If you get sick of local politicking 2013 style, consider taking up global poll-watching instead. There will be more than figurative blood on traditional news and current affairs platforms, but to get the definitive stories, please join us at Global Voices Online. There will be updates from time to time.

Here’s an incomplete A to Z:

A is the ABU movement in Malaysia. That’s Asalkan Bukan Umno (Anything But Umno). Umno is the largest political party in the ruling coalition, not a mob to be crossed apparently (see X below). Despite all the current posturing and chest-beating, their poll isn’t due until June.

Australia's election is set for 14 September if the hung parliament doesn't implode before then.

Armenia's President Serge Sarkisian was re-elected on 18 February with approx. 59%. Opposition claimed fraud.

B is for ballot, secret, rigged or otherwise. Expect plenty of protests from the disgruntled and the robbed. They often have a colour associated with their movement. People have already bagsed* these: orange (Ukraine), green (Iran), purple (U.K.), yellow and red (Thailand). [*laid claim to]

B is also for Bulgaria and its PM Boiko Borisov whose government resigned on 20 February. Not clear if July election will be brought forward.

C is linked to D. The first round of presidential voting in Cyprus on 17 February was inconclusive, with the run-off on the 24 February. A pro-bailout conservative is favoured to beat a leftie. Like Georgia below, part of the country is occupied by a foreign power, in this case by Turkey since 1974. Don’t expect re-unification soon. Our own favourite upper-class twit, Alexander Downer is the chief United Nations mediator. Citizens of the whole island, which is a member of the EU and Eurozone, are eligible to vote and voting is compulsory on penalty of a fine. Now that’s an empty threat for those on the north side of the Green Line.

In Latin America, Chile has its presidential election in November and Sebastián Piñera, the incumbent president, is ineligible. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was re-elected on 17 February, which may or may not be good news for Julian Assange’s asylum bid. Julian plans to run for the Australian senate as part of his bid to avoid extradition to Sweden.

Back in Europe, the Italian (24-25 February) and German (22 September) elections should be poles apart in more than just their entertainment value. Their impact on the health of the European Union and the euro will washout in the global economy.
Update: Italy has given markets an inconclusive result that is also intriguing in both senses of the word. Bookmakers should clean up on bets about who forms the next government and when it happens. That's what happens when the clowns don't have a script.

Lots of us would have difficulty finding G on a U.S.A. map, much less the one in the South Caucasus. Infamous for giving Joe Stalin to the world, Georgia has been a political and military battleground since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. President Mikheil Saakashvili is in the same boat as his opposite number in Iran, in a second and final presidential term. Some may remember the military occupation of South Ossetian and Abkhazia by Russia – the rolling tanks dominated international news for days in 2008. Georgia has been an ally of the United States and is a largest non-NATO contributor to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The new Cold War may hot up a bit this year on Russia’s southern border.

Anyway, the first I and J elections have come and gone. So far we’ve survived clouds of election fallout from Israel, Japan. The pundits got the Knesset wrong but it’s a hard call whether Middle East peace is a step closer or the path to Armageddon is just as entrenched. The Japanese turn to the right has produced an odd mixture of nationalism/militarism and Keynesian economics. Deteriorating relations with China seem inevitable. It’s hard to say if the absence of Sino-democracy is a plus or minus in this equation, as the pressure of populous politics is not as acute. At least Japan’s economic stimulus is a change from austerity-lead recessions.

Iceland has the most romantic appeal, given its history since the global financial crisis. 163,251 votes were cast in last year’s presidential election. It would be theoretically possible for a candidate to shake hands with a clear majority and kiss a fair percentage of the babies as well. Parliament is elected on 27 April.

K is for the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, the real ruler of Iran. Their presidential election is scheduled for 14 June. The results in 2009 were widely condemned as fixed. It culminated in a violent crackdown on protesters. It’s not easy to become a candidate. Current president and much-vilified Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is no longer eligible because he has served two terms. You have to get the nod from senior Islamic clerics and other bigwigs* to be able to stand. Last time it seemed impossible for western media to stay objective, with BBC TV and others barracking at times. Looking forward to more evidence and less generalized speculation. [* legal pun intended]

LoL: Lebanon has parliamentary elections later in the year. Libya elects the president and parliament after a constitutional referendum. You’d have to be a half-glass-full-of-whisky person to think that there won’t be the kind of turmoil so beloved by the media. Lots of luck!

Mmm?! Come July the successful presidents of Mali and Madagascar may be wondering why they bothered.

P’s are problematic. Pakistan has parliamentary elections in May. The campaign is certain to add significantly to their almost daily political and religious bloodshed. Like the Philippines and Tunisia, it has a history of assassinated opposition leaders.

The Philippines elects all the members of the House of Representatives and half the Senate on 13 May. President Benigno Aquino’s six-year term finishes in 2016. His namesake father was assassinated in 1983. Without the closet full of shoes or film star antics, we can only expect coverage if there are ghoulish graphics. Perhaps Madame Imelda Marcos will do her part to turn politics into show business, as she’s a candidate for congress again.

Once part of South America’s junta hell, Paraguay’s poll is on 23 June. It has been a bumpy year over there with impeached president Fernando Lugo replaced by his vice president Federico Franco last June and the death of a candidate in a helicopter crash on 2 February 2013.

P is also for pontificate (see V below) and psephology.

Spring is the Arab kind. Egypt goes to the polls in April to elect their parliament, which was dissolved last year. Before that there should be early parliamentary elections in troubled Tunisia. Assassinating opposition leaders can be counter-productive, especially in a fragile, fledgling democracy.

S is for Silvio, plus sex of course. Angela adds some northern sobriety (see Europe above).

U for Uchaguzi (and Ushahidi). Kenyan elections will be held on 4 March. There are attempts to keep these elections democratic: free, fair, honest, open, non-violent. From Kenyan poet Njeri Wangari:
…an online election monitoring and mapping platform …launched the same day as the presidential debate. Uchaguzi, a joint initiative between Ushahidi, Hivos, Creco, Umati and SODNET, will rely on citizen observations to shine sunlight on the electoral process in near-realtime, which has been marred by violence and fraud in the past.
Activists in the Nairobi slums of Kibera and Mathare have been using social media and mobile phones to avoid the kind of massacres that occurred in 2008.

Mathare’s crowdsourced map.

V is for the Vatican (plus vendetta and vote-rigging). Iran is not the only election with candidate restrictions or religious factors. The Roman Catholics’ top job has a very limited franchise. It’s possible for the Holy See’s conclave to elect someone as Bishop of Rome from outside their Cardinal College, but apparently only clergy are eligible. Women’s suffrage has a long way to go in the papal stakes.

Xtraordinary: South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon’s enforced exit from Malaysia  is a reminder that Australia isn’t the only place having contentious national elections this year. If Nick’s worried about the parlous state of democracy there, he should focus on neighboring Singapore’s de facto one-party state. They have political match-fixing down to a fine art.

Yemen is supposed to have elections before February 2014 but don’t hold your breathe.

Finally Z. Zimbabwe has rhymed with Mugabe since 1980. The presidential election is expected in July following a referendum on a new constitution. At 88 years old, Robert Mugabe is older than Pope Benedict. It’s along shot, but he may finally step down. We may still see the kind of violence from his ZANU-PF party supporters that forced current Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change to withdraw from the 2008 run-off.

If any of your favourite 2013 polls are missing, please add them in comments.