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Front Page Faux Pas: JIHAD BLUDGERS! GLOBAL COOLING!

Sunday, 14 September, 2014

I bet that caught your attention. If one of those classic read-all-about-it news guys were to yell these things out on a street corner somewhere, you would probably assume he’s straight up imagining shit and rightly keep your distance. However, this little anecdote is not so far from reality.

For the fifth Front Page Faux Pas—a belated welcome back to all of you, by the way—we’re going to rewind to August 14. The day wasn’t a great one for News Corp.

We’ll start with the Herald Sun front page. ‘JIHAD BLUDGERS’ dominated the August 14 edition of the tabloid newspaper, below a tiny section (an attempt to counterbalance?) related to the Australian humanitarian effort in Iraq. The subtitle for the story, ‘Suspected Aussie terrorists have welfare cut off’, was only slightly better. The problem here is that “jihad bludgers” is sensationalist drivel. The story labelled more than a dozen Australian people jihadists, and thus directly associated them with Islamic extremists, because, as the story revealed, they travelled to Iraqi and Syrian war zones and are now ‘suspects’. Nice going.

On the same day The Australian allowed Maurice Newman, chief business adviser for the Abbott Government and former ABC chairman, to discuss the threat of global cooling. ‘We’re ill-prepared if the iceman cometh’ appeared on page ten, and although this is not a front page story, it is still beyond worthy of a mention.

The opinion piece read: “What if the last 50 years of peace, cheap energy, abundant food, global economic growth and population explosion have been due to a temporary climate phenomenon? What if the warmth the world has enjoyed for the past 50 years is the result of solar activity, not man made CO2?” This train of thought raises some serious existential questions such as ‘what if we listened to business advisers rather than climate scientists on global warming?’—which is the equivalent of asking whether or not we should believe everything we read in stories that are clearly native advertising. This, of course, could lead to a whole discussion on weight-of-evidence reporting, but if you want to read more about that there is a great chapter on it in a book that is accessible online (Chapter 9) through the University library. Alternatively, you can check out John Oliver representing the same thing visually with added jokes here. To make matters worse, Newman strengthened his argument by basically saying ‘people are so naïve and we shouldn’t treat science as if it were religion’. Stop drinking the fluoride, sheeple!

Never fear though, The Newsroom is getting ready to return and soon we will all be able to cover our ears, like tantrum-throwing children, and run away to a fictional universe wherein good news prevails.

Finally, here are a few suggestions for some less harmful, more beneficial stories that the News Corp. publications could have picked up:

  • There are some people in Australia throwing buckets of ice over their heads for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) without knowing it is actually called MND (motor neurone disease) in Australia. I would have gladly commended either newspaper if they had jumped in early and incorporated a PSA of sorts on this.
  • Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman (The Doctor and Clara) visited Sydney on August 12 and a little more hype for the show’s return in Australia wouldn’t have hurt anyone. The new season of Doctor Who has since begun and so far Peter Capaldi is kind of batshit crazy, but still far from the likes of Nicholas Cage. The episode also featured more throwbacks (spoilers!) than the amount of #tbt posts people are forced to endure in an average week, which I thought was pretty great. Also, it’s about time this resurfaced. Killer kangaroos. Never forget.
  • A story that just read “I am Groot” over and over followed by this link. There is now a similar Hodor extension as well.*

*If you hate me for jabbing at News Corp. again (it’s only fair given the coverage) feel free to Grootify or Hodor this article so you can read it and laugh to yourself as I imagine Andrew Bolt does in his head each time he says / writes something along the lines of “this is not racist, but…”