What’s with all the Andrew Bolt?


By Barry Tucker                    7 April, 2014

Something strange is going on in the world of Andrew Bolt. The federal government, commercial media and the tax-payer funded ABC (which he loathes) are going out of their way to promote him.

It’s strange because Bolt has been convicted under Section 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act for remarks he made about fair-skinned persons who he claimed were describing themselves as Indigenous in order to claim financial benefit and kudos. It’s strange because the word “controversial” usually accompanies any mention of him. It’s strange because while he says he’s a climate change doubter he pushes the lines of the climate change deniers, those who have framed the “doubt over reason” campaign.

It’s strange because Bolt generally pushes “Liberal” party policies, which are increasingly like those of the USA’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. And it’s strange because Bolt, with radio, TV and newspaper column spots, hardly needs any additional publicity.

Or does he? After all, his friend Attorney-General Senator George Brandis is attempting to rewrite the Sections 18C and 18D that Bolt fell foul of. In addition to saying he believes in free speech (after trying to get a book banned), Brandis told the Senate “Everyone has the right to be a bigot.” Ouch! Everyone agrees that he is right, in principle, but wouldn’t it be best for all if bigots kept their mouths shut and their opinions to themselves?

The judge who found Bolt guilty of racial discrimination really nailed him for sloppy journalism and failing to check his facts. In his TV show, The Bolt Report, Bolt tries to give the impression he is impartial and merely searching for the truth, with neither fear nor favour. You have to watch the show to see what a joke that is. Bolt’s technique is to throw his Liberal guests a cue, like “people say your education policy stinks”, and sit back while they go to town plugging the policy line. He allows his Leftie guests to have a say, then contradicts everything they have said. Fair dinkum, no favour at all.

During last year’s federal election campaign a row developed over a claimed lack of Conservative presenters on the ABC’s news and current affairs programs. I cannot recall that any names, facts or data were produced to support the claims. That affair was part of Murdoch’s campaign to tear down the ABC. Towards the end of it, Bolt suggested that he should be the next presenter of the ABC’s Media Watch. I hope he was joking.

Channel Ten, party owned by Bolt’s employer, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, through his son Lachlan, and Gina Rinehart, has this year dropped Meet the Press (a counter to the ABC’s Insiders) and extended Bolt’s report to one hour. The new format includes a media watch segment. News Corp paid for the production of both shows. Why would News Corp do that? Maybe because Ten’s going broke, maybe because Murdoch thinks Bolt is more effective, more focused on the party line.

The first guest commentator on Bolt’s media watch segment was Gerard Henderson, creator of The Sydney Institute, a current affairs forum that is overwhelmingly a platform for Conservative views. Henderson’s institute publishes a quarterly media watch review. His newspaper column (which moved from The Sydney Morning Herald to The Australian last December) includes Media Watch Dog, news media criticism written from the point of view of Lucy, a Blue Heeler canine. A Conservative, Henderson was a director of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in South Australia and NSW before he resigned and formed The Sydney Institute. He served as Chief of Staff to former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard.

For some reason I probably will never understand, the ABC’s One Plus One recently interviewed Bolt. Jane Hutcheon is an excellent interviewer. She manages to draw her guests out with her relaxed and gentle style. The Bolt interview was a waste of taxpayer’s money. It came at a time when Bolt was in the news again (talk of repeal of 18C), but the interview gave us little, apart from the fact that Bolt had parents and a childhood.

He was questioned on climate change. Actually, the subject was mentioned. He said he was a doubter, he believed in doubt and was worried about those who didn’t. He’s not a doubter on climate change. As I wrote above, he pushes the campaign of “doubt over reason” — a dangerously deluded campaign. It’s not actually deluded. It cherry-picks facts, focuses on errors and flogs them far and wide. It is dangerous.

I hit the roof! I asked Hutcheon why she had wasted oxygen on Bolt. “I’d hate to think our program was predictable,” she said. That’s not a serious attempt to answer what was a serious question. The interview is on the record, people can judge for themselves. The Right wing generally loves Bolt, the Left generally disregards his work.

This was going to be about something else, about Labor identity Mark Latham and what he’s up to. I’ve been itching to write something about Bolt, and got carried away.

Mark Latham recently got carried away too. He’s doing a series of articles on figures in Australian politics and he met You Know Who for lunch. It was supposed to be a profile of Bolt, but it reads more like a restaurant review. There’s practically nothing in it. It’s so bland I can’t recall what was in it. Which begs the question of why Latham bothered in the first place. Which brings me back to my first point: What’s with all the Andrew Bolt?

Why is this clown being promoted all over the place? I wouldn’t describe him as a respectable opinion maker, but it’s pretty obvious that someone is opening doors for Bolt in an effort to present a clean-cut image and attract a wider audience for his views. I’m sure it’s also part of the Murdoch/IPA/Liberal party push against the ABC, to have it cut up and sold off, or at least to have its budget slashed.

Bolt is especially critical of the ABC’s taxpayer-funded status. He also pushes the absolutely absurd line that the ABC is infested with Left-wing loonies who never say anything nice about the Liberal party. It’s all part of the campaign to denigrate the ABC in the eyes and ears of the public, preparing them for its flogging off. If the Liberal party attempts that it will get a sudden shock from a wide section of the community that loves the ABC to death.

The next item on Mark Latham’s menu was Michael Smith. And this is where my weird story gets weirder. Michael Smith is another not very nice character who insists that he is. In his latest profile Latham takes him apart. Why Latham found Bolt’s views less interesting than his sirloin steak and coffee beats me, but what he has to say about Smith is almost unrepeatable. Now that is a good read.

Latham is known as a colourful character. After the Labor party fell apart, wandering around in a confused state, it appointed Latham as its federal Opposition Leader. Those were fun times as the loose cannon rocked the House. He did punch a cabbie’s lights out once and nearly scared Prime Minister John Howard to death with an aggressive handshake, but that was nothing compared to the violence of Tony Abbott. Latham has even written about himself, in The Latham Diaries, which kicked off another fuss. When I discussed Latham’s Bolt story with a colleague he said Latham had “mellowed”. He might have mellowed, but has he found his direction yet?

Latham Howard

Latham Diaries

For more on Mark Latham

Update, 3 May, 2014

Having lunch with Bolt must be trending. Fairfax journalist Gay Alcorn had lunch with him recently. She had to dig deep to get Bolt to go along with it and she dug deeper than Latham. Bolt expounded on what he was trying to achieve with his articles on racial identity.

His claim that it is divisive of people to identify themselves as a certain race is idiotic. It is a fact that there are different races, different cultures. This diversity is natural and it is a good thing. I suspect Bolt wants to continue writing about race because he knows it is an issue that appeals to his rather red-necked audience.