Friday, February 26, 2016

Journalists in Glass Houses

"A tissue of lies: Paul Sheehan & 'Louise': The most perfunctory of checks would have shown Paul Sheehan's allegations were almost certainly untrue. But he couldn't help himself"

So runs the headline for Richard Cooke's 25/2 post on The Monthly's Greasy Pole blog.

According to Richard's twitter account, he writes for "The Monthly, The Saturday Paper, The Guardian, The Chaser & The Check Out."

Although I saw nothing in his piece that I'd disagree with (and even learnt a few things about loopy Louise), I nonetheless found myself wondering whether he was really the best qualified to write it, given the old adage that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

I mean, I can overlook a young scribbler's working for Morry Schwartz's 'Don't talk about the Occupation' publications. Jobs are hard to find after all.

But that crap he once wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2005 about Gaza and Hamas, where he referred to occupied Gaza as a "troubled territory," and the Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, as a "terrorist organization," (Hamas vs The Lions Club, 13/9/05), was a classic example of a smartarse journalist tackling a serious subject that he knew absolutely SFA about.

However, it's an episode from 2006, in which Richard managed to display what seems to me something of a malicious streak (as well as confirming his truly abysmal ignorance of the Palestine problem), that reminded me of the old injunction about glass houses and stones. Did he, I wonder, even for a moment, recall his own particular fall from journalistic grace at this time as he wrote about Sheehan's?:

"Asked why he sent a cartoon by Michael Leunig to a Holocaust cartoon competition launched by an Iranian newspaper, freelance journalist Richard Cooke pauses. He is an articulate person, and the pause is an awkward break in an otherwise fluid conversation. 'I'm not sure a can give you a good answer to that,' he said yesterday. He was, however, able to explain how the cartoon, which was rejected by former Age editor, Michael Gawenda, in 2002, found its way onto the Hamshahri website. The newspaper contest - to find a cartoon on the Holocaust - came after a Danish newspaper published caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, angering Muslims around the world.

"Cooke, 26, who contributes to the satirical website The Chaser and has been a contributor to various Fairfax publications said he read about the Holocaust competition on the web and remembered the Leunig cartoon. He then found himself wondering 'what would happen if these two things were brought together.' The Leunig cartoon stirred 'multiple feelings, some of them conflicting' within him, he said. The first frame, Auschwitz 1945, shows a man with the Star of David on his back walking towards an arched entrance bearing the words 'Work Brings Freedom.' The second frame, Israel 2002, shows a man with the Star of David and a rifle. He also walks towards an arched entrance, this one bearing the words 'War Brings Peace.' Cooke says he is personally unsympathetic to the sentiments in the cartoon. Of Leunig he says: 'I don't think he is an anti-Semite but I think that work could be interpreted by some people... in a way that he hadn't intended it to be taken.'

"Cooke did not send the cartoon itself to the Hamshahri competition, but he sent the link to Media Watch and an accompanying note purporting to be from Leunig. The consequences of writing a note in the cartoonist's name was not something he thought about because 'it never occurred to me that it would be quoted.' But Cooke was seriously mistaken. He saw the cartoon - the first entry in the competition - and the faked note posted on the site about 1am on Tuesday. At 2am he rang the Fairfax switchboard in Sydney wanting to pass on the anonymous message that the words on the website did not belong to Leunig but he could not raise anyone. At News Ltd he found only a security guard at the Daily Telegraph. Later on Tuesday morning, when he checked Google, he found 150-related stories on the Leunig story.

"Cooke knew that because he had left the telephone number of The Chaser on the email - 'not the smartest move' - the hoax would be traced to him. 'If I had gotten a second opinion I probably wouldn't have done something so stupid.' He spent much of Tuesday watching more stories on the hoax being posted on the web. 'My feelings at this point were confused,' he says. 'A lot of them were nervous feelings.'

"On Tuesday evening, Cooke received a telephone call from Julian Morrow, executive producer of the television satire, The Chaser, who asked what he knew about the hoax. Morrow said he knew nothing of it until he received a call from The Age that night. Morrow advised Cooke to apologise to the cartoonist, something Cooke said he had wanted to do when the controversy began to erupt. Cooke does not remember exactly what he said to Leunig, but he recalls 'that he mainly seemed to be relieved that it wasn't a neo-con pressure group who had posted the cartoon, just a dipshit from The Chaser.' He also admits he has played pranks before... Morrow said when he found out on Tuesday night that a person connected to The Chaser website had perpetrated the hoax, he was particularly unhappy that Leunig had been misrepresented. He was pleased that Cooke's apology had been accepted by the cartoonist." (Satirist wishes he got a second opinion before starting Leunig hoax, Katherine Kizilos, The Age, 16/2/06)

What a goose...

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