July 25, 2011 | Graham

Is On Line Opinion a “lefty blog”?

Writing for that right-wing blog The Australian Caroline Overington refers to On Line Opinion as a “lefty blog”:

THE campaign by those affiliated with the ABC to prevent SkyNews from winning the $220 million licence to run Australia Network continues. This week’s contribution comes from one Tania Penovic, who has written an essay for the lefty blog Online Opinion entitled: “Sky should now withdraw its Australia Network tender”. Why? Because, Penovic says, “News (Corporation) has demonstrated a willingness in the past to exploit business opportunities by compromising broadcasting.” For the umpteenth time, SkyNews is not owned by News Corporation. Sky is two-thirds owned by Seven and Nine. News has got a third of the final third. But who is Penovic, anyway? She’s an academic, of course, and she’s a member of the ABC Advisory Council, appointments to which are made by … yes, the ABC Board.

A bit more research might have been in order, although given that we have been in existence for 12 years and I write regularly for The Australian with On Line Opinion in my byline, you would have thought Caroline might have a better idea of the provenance of OLO.

First, we’re not a blog, at least no more than The Australian is a blog. The 12,337 articles that we have published are not “blog” posts, and their 3,910 authors are a who’s who of Australian politics and commentary, and include every prime minister since we started publishing.

Second, we are a modernist and enlightenment project. We apply the scientific method to debate, seeking to publish thesis and antithesis on as many issues as we can. Of course, like most publications we find that those on the left are more prolific writers than those on the right, so we tend to get more contributions from that direction.

As a former state Vice-President and Campaign Chairman of the Queensland Liberal Party I am frequently accused of bias, and in truth, while I think the editing is even-handed, I would expect that exposed to both sides of the spectrum my side of the argument will actually do best.

Certainly our open publishing stance has antagonised many on the left, such as Clive Hamilton, who believes we should be boycotted because of our commitment to exploring the flaws in scientific arguments on climate change. There is some evidence that his boycott has had some success.

Of more success is the boycott late last year of our site by some advertisers because we dared to carry this article criticising gay marriage and the motives of those pushing for it. This was because, despite the fact that we had carried three times as many articles supporting gay marriage as opposing it, gay activists, including this man, Gregory Storer, decided there was only one point of view we could carry. Not only was this action very probably illegal (but who has the budget to find out), but it deprived us of tens and thousands of dollars in advertising dollars, and was the first real experience that I have had of  brown-shirt activism.

At the time The Australian’s columnist Christopher Pearson sprang to our defence calling us “a well-regarded e-journal” (have a word to Caroline Christopher). The Australian Christian Lobby and Jim Wallace also prosecuted our case.

The Penovic article is a case in point of how we operate. I actually found it on the blog of the Castan Centre and asked if we could republish it. Pieces like this by a member of the ABC Advisory Board do not deserve to languish on a university blog site.

I don’t personally agree with it, but that is not the test as to whether something gets published.

In fact my position on the News brouhaha is that it is being hysterically fanned by those who have a vested interest in nobbling Newscorp. And virtually all of those who are capable of publishing articles on the Newscorp problems are either Newscorp itself, or commercial rivals, while those who write them mostly work for News or her competitors. We’re all compromised, I as much as others, although I do manage to walk both sides of the fence.

The Greens and the Labor Party are a different case, with the Greens’ policy containing a disguised intention to nobble News under the guise of competition policy.  (For the Greens’ attitude to free speech see Clive Hamilton above). These are organisations who would be lauding Murdoch if he agreed with them, but want to flay him because he doesn’t, as in a post- and pre-enlightenment view of the world this is evidence of bias.

(In the case of the British Labour Party it is even more complicated. They never complained about Rupert when he supported them.)

So is On Line Opinion a “lefty blog”? I don’t think so, but in the best traditions of the Internet, and the Enlightenment, why don’t you tell me in the discussion thread below?

Posted by Graham at 9:59 pm | Comments (23) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. I really don’t see how anyone could call OLO a lefty blog at all. Regardless from which side of the fence the articles come, there is a group of respondents who will put up an opposing view, and that balances things out anyway.

    I sometimes wonder why some articles are included, because from my own perspective, the writer is out of his/her tree. Perhaps you (Graham) have a perverse sense of order that deliberately wants the respondents to show the writer of the article just how stupid or misinformed he/she is.


    Comment by David — July 25, 2011 @ 11:54 pm

  2. “Left Wing” ridiculous!!! I think it’s all a right wing plot. (ha-ha)

    Comment by mike lockhart — July 26, 2011 @ 12:14 am

  3. You should ask if you can republish Caroline Overington’s article.

    Comment by Alec — July 26, 2011 @ 12:58 am

  4. OLO is lovely – all over the place – just as it should be. The trouble with politics as they are constructed is that everything is classified as left or right. Some things of the left are right as they are and some things of the right should only be left alone. What a muddle. The smaller government we have the better. All they do is to waste money

    Comment by Richard Pinsent — July 26, 2011 @ 3:07 am

  5. It is a great tragedy of our times that anything promoting ‘debate’ or diverse ideas is called ‘left wing’. What does this mean for the right wing? That they can never engage in critical debate and only blustering statements promoting archaic truths?

    Comment by Helen — July 26, 2011 @ 5:43 am

  6. Well done, Graham, quite in keeping with the trends in online journalism which hold that ‘transparency is the new objectivity’. Big article in the Economist on that (hardly a left wing rag)

    It is more important to identify sources (not in confidence)and affiliations (as you do above, clearly and simply) than to make ideological arguments. You can at least feel ok about someone who tells you where they are coming from and allows you to verify their information.

    I hope to expand on that in a blog, and agree with previous comment Helen, which asks: what exactly do right and left mean anymore?

    While you and I may disagree on some elements of science, we don’t resort to simple-minded labels.

    Although I do consider myself a certified tree hugger.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — July 26, 2011 @ 7:24 am

  7. The traditional media is feeling very threatened because people on blogs are beginning to think for themselves,hence the need for people like Caroline Overington to pigeon hole the competition into a minority catagory.

    The issues are not about left/right,but about truth,democracy,fairness and freedom of the individual for self determination.Both sides of the traditional left/right paradigm are betraying these basic human rights in the name of their particular ideology.Freedom and democracy are not negotiable under any circumstances.

    Comment by Ross — July 26, 2011 @ 10:33 am

  8. I seem to recall that Overington was the subject of some critique on OLO for her tiresome campaign of vilification of separated fathers. That was not long before the Oz removed her from its pool of columnists and gave her Media affairs and a little blog to play with, so they weren’t real happy with Caroline either.

    Comment by Craig — July 28, 2011 @ 7:23 pm

  9. “Is On Line Opinion a “lefty blog”?” Well no, not in any sense. While the authors represent a broad political and social spectrum, the overriding problem is the moderator, a right-winger who is indirectly a recidivist polluter who denies the medical and evironmental science on emissions of hazardous wastes spewed out by industries on rampage.

    The moderator is well known for deleting the comments of “lefties” or suspending them while abusers who share his political ideology, abuse with impunity.

    The moderator is the problem not the solution. The allegation can be sustained by witnessing the scores of supposed lefties, vanishing from OLO’s radar on a regular basis to make valuable contributions eleswhere.

    Comment by Dryblower — August 11, 2011 @ 7:45 am

  10. Whether the “scores of lefties” who may have decided to leave OLO in high dudgeon have made any sort of contribution anywhere, ever, is a moot point…

    Comment by Craig — August 11, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

  11. Moot only for those who fabricate truth and who were “born to rule.” Thank you for resting my case Craig.

    Comment by Dryblower — August 12, 2011 @ 4:07 am

  12. Dryblower, I suspect that you’ve rested many a case for less sound reasons, but that doesn’t make this one any the stronger.

    Comment by Craig — August 12, 2011 @ 6:04 am

  13. Dryblower is making an assertion that should be clearly put in the rubbish can. Put up or admit you made this up.
    No evidence for me of such tampering, and my blogs get both support and ridicule.

    I also agree with comments that labels such as left and right are passe: we need evidence based policy, and too often the pollies cater to either uninformed voters or overly informed vested interests.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — August 12, 2011 @ 6:43 am

  14. My dear Ronda – “Those who fail to pursue knowledge are a danger to society.” And do not be fooled by OLO’s impressive “User Index.” The bulk of these hapless victims of OLO’s bias have fled. You see one’s name cannot be deleted from the User Index because “the technology does not allow it.”

    1) John Quiggin:
    Just about everybody these days knows about Godwin’s Law, and its standard corollary, that the first person to introduce an allusion to the Nazis into an Internet debate automatically loses.

    Not, it would seem, Graham Young, chief editor of Online Opinion. In the course of an article denouncing the ABC’s Robyn Williams, he takes a sideswipe at me, calling me a brownshirt. Not content with his automatic loss, he goes for the quinella in this companion post, accusing Williams of being a communist.[1] Bizarrely, Young admits in comments that this allegation (now widely reproduced on the Internet) is untrue, but does not bother to correct the post, let along apologise.

    2) Tim Lambert – On-line abuse:
    Last year Graham Young, accused me of being blatantly dishonest for writing that Peiser had admitted to making multiple errors, even though Peiser had confirmed this in an email to Young.

    He ended up writing 20 comments denying Peiser’s admission. Now Young has lashed out at me in a post at On Line Opinion. He calls me a “bully” and a “tick” and claims I use “brown-shirt tactics”. (If you don’t know what brown-shirt tactics are, see Sturmabteilung.) My crime?

    3) CJ Morgan @ Club Troppo:
    Graham Young, as sole moderator of the OLO Forum, has never erred in a moderation decision – just ask him.

    One aspect of this debate that hasn’t really received enough attention (except by Kim and one or two others around the traps) is the partiality with which Young utilises the delete button and punishes those whom he deems as transgressors. In this instance, those who argued against the blatant homophobes were held to a much higher standard than those who were allowed to continue to post comments that clearly constituted vilification.

    Mind you, the same can be said of comment threads at OLO concerning climate change/AGW, asylum seekers, Muslims and just about anything to do with gender issues.

    Comment by Dryblower — August 12, 2011 @ 10:42 am

  15. You might like to reconsider that last example. CJ Morgan was one of a group that set up a blog called “Cyberia” to hurl his slings and arrows at Young and OLO. One of the more memorable efforts was a picture of Young to which had been appended a “hitler” mustache, along with many references to Young as a nazi and numerous “humorous” (to a developmentally-delayed 5 year-old) renderings of Young’s name in various insulting forms . I think in any discussion of Godwin’s Law, Morgan’s is a particularly good example and far more egregious than anything published on OLO. Thanks for bringing it up.

    I’ve had my run-ins with Young, but it’s his site, not mine. If I wished to be bothered putting the time and money into doing something similar I’d probably behave less well. While Young’s background and predilections are obvious influences in his moderation, I’d suggest that your own prejudices are far more obviously on show.

    Not to mention that you have appalling research skills.

    Comment by Craig — August 12, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

  16. Excellent duckshoving Craig and I particularly like that sidestep shuffle and the ad hom.

    “While Young’s background and predilections are obvious influences in his moderation….,”

    Um….that’s precisely what I said Craig. Perhaps you should try going easy on the Schnapps before publishing your next oxymoron?

    Comment by Dryblower — August 13, 2011 @ 4:04 am

  17. Dryblower, “influences” are not the same as “prejudices”. Perhaps the reason that some of those “hordes of lefties” left is that they are unable to discern the difference?

    Comment by Craig — August 13, 2011 @ 7:38 am

  18. @ Craig: “Perhaps the reason that some of those “hordes of lefties” left is that they are unable to discern the difference.”

    Definition of Allegation: An unproved statement or assertion, especially one in an accusation without substantiation.

    Definition of Predilection: A tendency to think favourably of something in particular, partiality, preference.

    Synonyms of Predilection: bias, leaning, predisposition

    Definition of Aliterate: Able to read but too lazy to do so. Stoops to supposition and innuendo

    Comment by Dryblower — August 13, 2011 @ 8:18 am

  19. Congratulations, you found Dictionary,com. I note you didn’t look up “influence” and “prejudice”.

    I especially liked the reference to aliteracy, given that you seem to have been unwilling to read anything in your “research”.

    Comment by Craig — August 13, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

  20. Craig – Your ad hom that I am prejudiced has zero relevance to the topic: “Is OLO a “lefty blog?” As a result, it would have been better for you to remain silent and be thought an idiot rather than opening your mouth and removing all doubt:

    Excerpts of posters comments on Online Opinion:

    1) Having read Hamilton’s article, coupled with the pile of negative responses, then Graeme Young’s…. I too have decided that OLO has declared its editorial bias.

    So, as of today I too am deleting OLO from my computer, there is not enough intellectual quality in the climate debate in this form, just masculine head butting.

    Good bye and good luck. Posted by gecko,

    2) Graham – …..But that little spray about “postmodernism, theory and forms of Marxist analysis” in the final paragraph was a bit bizarre, too. What is that, if not your own theory?

    The main reason why postmodernism and Marxist analaysis have worked so well in “some areas of the humanities” is that they make strong philosophy. You don’t have to like them — or even agree with them — to see that.
    Posted by Tom Clark

    3) Graham,

    Now I understand why you requested Clive write his piece. You wanted to attack him and have the last word. How much credibility did you gain OLO doing that? It certainly couldn’t do much worse than publishing Harris and McLeans blatantly fallacious piece. Posted by T.Sett,

    4) Graham

    I totally agree with Gecko. You’ve clearly shown your political bias in this article, but unlike him I’ll be sticking around more determined than ever to do my little bit in injecting some balance into this site. I would sincerely urge him to do the same. Bronwyn

    5) Young: “His article is full of ad hominem diatribes.”

    Ye gods! Here are some (of) Young’s own quotes:

    “Because he deals in reputations, facts have no power over him, to change his mind or otherwise.”

    “The idea that truth is relative has taken over some areas of the humanities through postmodernism, theory and forms of Marxist analysis. That’s the school that Clive’s argument on global warming comes from.”

    Objecting here to Hamilton using the term “denialist”, a few short weeks ago, Young was throwing ad hominem abuse around like confetti: spikey

    6) I think the most interesting thing out of this exchange, however, is the manner in which Clive has been pilloried for his decision to leave. Sure, he sort of invited it to some extent, but it’s still very unfortunate and does nothing to recommend OLO. Cameron R

    7) OLO does a pretty good job of silencing dissent. Graham’s belief that one has to have a thick skin and tolerate personal attacks silences those who differ from this opinion.

    Some people believe (myself included) that a person with an ounce of self-respect, and those like CH wishing to preserve their academic integrity, simply will not comment or engage in a forum that often just becomes a slag fest.

    If you ask for help from Graham Young to curtail the bullies he will turn on you with his nonsense about his own objectivity and your lack of a thick skin. Moreover, OLO has allowed itself to be hijacked by lobbyists whose agenda is to skew the truth (by force of numbers and popularising “dissent” and doubt?). GY’s bias allows this. verso

    Indeed Craig, you are a pitiful aliterate in denial, relying on ad homs, innuendo and supposition.

    Nevertheless and at your request, I am happy to provide much more documented evidence that is already on the public record but even you would not be that stupid, or would you?

    Comment by Dryblower — August 14, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

  21. As I see it, OLO has a rather large audience and provides a venue for many authors on all sorts of topics. A far wider range of topics than represented by the Hamilton oeuvre. Does anybody listen to Clive anyway?

    If I was asked, I’d say that the biggest editorial issue is perhaps a a lack of sufficient interesting topics for discussion in what is, after all, a small and somewhat provincial nation with a placid populace and somewhat bucolic outlook.

    Perhaps if you were to put your mind to it you might try contributing something other than a whinge? Who knows, you might be the Pied Piper for the “hordes of lefties” return?

    A piece on the creative use of the whinge might do it…

    By the way, for future reference, complaining about an ad hom then ending with one isn’t a good look, even for a “leftie”. No, don’t bother to thank me.

    Comment by Craig — August 14, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

  22. “Does anybody listen to Clive anyway?” Such pity Craig that you must ask the question when you could have googled “Clive Hamilton” to receive 1,070,000 hits. Seems like everyone’s talking about Hamilton except you but then there’s that aliteracy problem again……..

    But thank you for your contribution to the topic craig, a contribution where the value has been precisely zero. An illicit process to corrupt debate and distort the facts by ignorance, denial and obfuscation.

    Comment by Dryblower — August 15, 2011 @ 10:35 am

  23. I just googled bumfluff and got 355,000 hits. Mr Hamilton must be chuffed to know he’s more popular among lefties than such an iconic item.

    Comment by Craig — August 15, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

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