Thursday, 20 December 2012

Adjudication 1555

Being offended by something James Delingpole says is like deciding to sit next to the crazy person on a train, and being surprised when they start licking your face. You really ought to see it coming. Delingpole focuses on generating a visceral emotional response in his audience, and he's quite good at it. 

The mechanical predictability of Delingpole's rhetoric does not exonerate The Australian, a relatively established centre-right broadsheet printed by the Murdoch press. In May this year, they published an article named 'Wind Farm Scam a Huge Cover Up', in which Delingpole deployed his standard array of outright falsehoods and near-comical hyperbole, all in orbit around his festering hatred of wind energy.

Yesterday, the Australian Press Council (APC) released Adjudication 1555, in which they found that The Australian had breached several Press Council codes of practice. Let's look at the three key findings.

Renewable Energy Certificates
"[The Press Council] has concluded that even if the REC scheme has the weaknesses alleged in the article it cannot tenably be described as a “kind of government-endorsed Ponzi scheme”. The REC scheme does not have an essential characteristic of a Ponzi scheme, namely criminal fraudulence, and is not reasonably analogous to such a scheme."
Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are issued by the government to the generators of renewable energy, as incentives for the production of energy that does not generate carbon pollution. The scheme has its critics, but Delingpole's disproportionate hyperbole is patiently debunked by the APC. 

It should be noted that RECs are issued by the government per MWh of generation, not by installed capacity. If, according to Delingpole, wind farms produce 'very little power', then they must not be issued very many RECs. 

I suspect this conflict does not gnaw at Delingpole's conscience. 

Gag Clauses
"Second, it has concluded that the claim that a law firm sought gagging orders has been publicly denied by the firm and, in the absence of any supporting evidence, constitutes a breach of the Council’s principles concerning misrepresentation. The newspaper’s prompt publication of the law firm’s denials prevented aggravation of the breach but did not absolve it."

There is no evidence that wind farm operators insert 'gag clauses' into agreements with landowners - these mythical clauses are suggested by anti-wind lobbyists to be the reasons that wind turbine hosts do not issue health complaints about wind turbines. 

Weirdly, the letter from Slater and Gordon denying that these clauses exist is confusingly used by anti-wind groups to demonstrate that they do exist - see here and here

"Third, it has concluded that the report of the anonymous remarks concerning paedophilia, a very serious and odious crime, were highly offensive. The Council’s principles relate, of course, to whether something is acceptable journalistic practice, not whether it is unlawful. 
They are breached where, as in this case, the level of offensiveness is so high that it outweighs the very strong public interest in freedom of speech. It was fully justifiable in the public interest to convey the intensity of feeling by some opponents of wind farms but that goal did not require quoting the reference to paedophilia."
I've covered this paragraph previously, in this article. It's unsurprising that Delingpole made the remark, but it's telling that both The Australian and hundreds of other anti-wind websites re-published it, including this rural vet practice

Delingpole's original remark, quoted in the finding and below, is an unambiguous insult. There is no nuance, and no room for misunderstanding. 

Delingpole's Response

Delingpole was quick to publish a blog in response to the APC's findings. His tactic remains unchanged - he reasserts his claim that the wind industry is akin to a paedophile ring, after a brief foray into homophobia:
"I stand by every word of the piece – especially the bit about paedophiles. I would concede that the analogy may be somewhat offensive to the paedophile community."
Both Delingpole and The Australian deploy an ugly gambit in response to the finding. They refer to statements made by ABC broadcaster Robyn Williams, when he used paedophilia as a hypothetical example in his discussion on climate science in late November:
"What if I told you that pedophilia is good for children, or that smoking crack is a normal part and a healthy one of teenage life, to be encouraged? You'd rightly find it outrageous. But there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths again and again in recent times, distorting the science."
As is obvious from the example, Williams is not accusing climate skeptics of literally being paedophiles. At most, one could state that Williams was stating that climate skeptics would make the claim that paedophilia is good for children (which itself does not quality one as a paedophile). 

He illustrates some absurd hypotheses, and then states that climate denialism is just as absurd. His choice of example is awkward and excessive, but there's an objective difference between Delingpole and Williams. 

Williams' remarks are not the point, however. What is clear from The Australian's response is that they are likely repulsed by the concept of admitting fault. Reverting to a loud declaration that another institution 'did it too', in response to being found guilty of publishing extremely offensive and insulting material, is profoundly juvenile. 


I find it odd that Delingpole would even respond to the ruling. He is a true automaton - one cannot hold him responsible for his claims, just as one cannot be truly angry at the wild-haired nutter on the train running his tongue across the face of those foolish enough to sit nearby.

The Australian would do well to consider the tactic that most of us employ - do not sit next to that guy. Let him mumble quietly to himself, stroking a shoe in his lap, and scratching intermittently at his beard.

Update @ 18:42 21/12/2012:

James Delingpole demonstrates the method I described above on Twitter in a tweet directed at me. Thanks JD!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Ketan, that a really great summary and illustrates the double standards of News very well.