Alice in fake-news wonderland
Fake news, as you know, emerged during the last American presidential election campaign. It was the deliberate placing of false information on the internet about political enemies, in the hope that it would go viral and damage them, the most infamous being a purported news story that Hillary Clinton ran a child-sex ring out of a Washington pizza parlour. Yes, obvious nonsense to you and me – but that story really did circulate and damage her. For the most part the Australian political process has been spared that, but it looks like the barest whiff of it has shown up this week, with a fake Facebook page having been established with the name and image of Alice Thompson, the independent candidate for Mackellar. In the words of Thompson, who contacted me, “It is attributing to me views I do not hold and is designed discredit and marginalise my campaign. Features of the page suggest a level of sophistication including blocking my ability to report, identify the page owner or contributors. Additional fake accounts have been created and linked to the page. We have seen these kind of dirty tactics deployed in the US and Brexit, but now we are seeing the beginning of this in a grass-roots campaign in Mackellar.”
For the record, I know her Liberal opponent, Jason Falinski, quite well and don’t believe for a single second – and I really mean it – that as good a man as him would have been involved in such skulduggery. But it looks like someone out there is playing hard ball.
Murdoch comes up Shorten
“I never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel,” a former governor of Indiana once said, elucidating a principle that has seen politicians, as a breed, bow down before newspaper barons – and no-one more than Rupert Murdoch.
It was why there was considerable surprise last week when Bill Shorten let it be known that he wouldn’t be making the now-traditional pilgrimage of Australian prime ministerial aspirants to sup with Mr Murdoch in New York. When I asked the ALP leader about it, he laughed lightly. “I don’t see the need to go to America to talk to the heads of News Limited,” he said. “If there are any issues that arise, I can deal with its representatives here.”
Out of order
Last week, TFF published what was intended as a very light-hearted piece about the «colourful» Sydney names showing up in a class at a very elite Sydney private school. The theme was, «how very Sydney», and no ill-will was intended. And it is very Sydney. Now, while it is problematical to publish a correction when no names were mentioned in the first place, there were two problems. The piece had a harsh headline, not of my making, that implied the presence at the school was powered by ongoing colourful activities. And I described one student as the grandson of a notorious name, when he was the grand-nephew, and in fact comes from the impeccable side of the family. In any case, they have my abject apologies. And for the record, having talked to the patriarch of family concerned, he proved to be very understanding, and a lovely bloke!
JOKE OF THE WEEK
Many aspects of human sexuality are very puzzling. Take celibacy. This can be a choice in life or a condition imposed by environmental factors. While attending a Marriage Encounter Weekend, Tom and Mary listen to the instructor declare, «It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other.»
He addresses the men: “Can you each name and describe your wife’s favourite flower?”
Tom leans over, touches Mary’s arm gently and whispers, “Self-raising, isn’t it?”
Thus begins Tom’s life of celibacy.
“It will only happen if Kate is the member, and I want to make that clear because we’ve worked our guts out to build a strong budget and we want to make sure Orange gets its fair share.” – Premier Gladys Berejiklian promising Orange a $25 million stadium, but only IF they elect Nationals candidate Kate Hazelton. Highly dubious, in my view. Taxpayer money should only used for the good of the people – not absolutely naked pork-barrelling.
«I didn’t see it coming. And I didn’t get up off the floor after I was hit.» – Robert Brown, stalwart of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, about being removed as the party’s lead candidate for the NSW upper house just weeks before the election.
“It’s quite difficult to be a, you know, unassuming sort of person and be in a very assuming position. I’m trying to be humble and I’m finding it easier to just hide, so I’ve been spending a lot of time on my own – not networking, which is a real waste of my moment. Yeah, it’s been a lot.» – Comedian Hannah Gadsby on the trouble with fame. Bloody hell she is impressive.
«We’re a month into it [the fire season] now, and it’s not going to be over in a month. We’ll be fighting these fires into April and May.» – Tom Andrews, a Tasmanian volunteer firefighter who has already missed Christmas, New Year, his second wedding anniversary and his son’s first birthday with his duties. About 3 per cent of Tasmania has already been burned out.
“After Gerry’s death, Quadriga’s inventory of cryptocurrency has become unavailable and some of it may be lost.” – Jennifer Robertson after her husband, Quadriga CX chief executive officer Gerald Cotten, died, aged 30, from complications of Crohn’s disease, taking all the Canadian company’s security with him. The online startup can’t retrieve about $C190 million ($A201m) in Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ether and other digital tokens held for its customers.
«Specially at times like this, you’ve gotta try and help anyone out you can.” – Townsville resident Rohan Hurst as he and some mates delivered sand bags around the flooded town.
«From today, the banking sector must change and change forever.» – Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as the banking royal commission delivered its report. Sorry seems to be his hardest word.
«Just selling the Big Issue, guys, alright?» –ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott, to journalists, in a seeming attempt to look like one of the good guys on the morning the royal commission report was released.
Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.