IS THE C WORD NOW COOL?

By mike welsh

At Friday’s hastily organised climate rally in Canberra’s traditional meeting place, Garema Place ,many of the protester’s signs had a clear message for Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Several placards clearly featured the word FUCK but a couple went hard (depending on your point of view) featuring the contentious C word to express their obvious low opinion of the PM.

In 2015 three protesters at an Anti Homophobia rally in Sydney were charged by police for yelling “fuck off” and “fuck Fred Nile” aimed at Christian Democrat leader Fred Nile. But later a judge dismissed the charges deeming the “F” word was as no longer offensive. But is the “C” still contentious?

From under my rock I was (until recently) firm in the belief that use of the C word (widely used as an insult to express utter contempt for someone) was still taboo and restricted for a very small section of society.

A female millennial suggests the casual use of the word is “more about breaking down the double standard that it’s ok for men to use the word but not “lady like” for a woman to use it’.

If I walked through the heart of any Australian city holding aloft a sign suggesting the PM of the day-or anyone else for that matter- was a See You Next Tues would/should I be arrested?

Up to twenty police officers kept an eye on the large crowd

The most common argument for the casual use of the “c” word is that it’s about ownership.

One protester had a double sided banger message for ScoMo but as far as I’m aware she was not arrested.

One angry protester had a double sided insult for ScoMo

MURDOCH COPS A GLOBAL CLIMATE CANING

FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES JAN 8

How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate 

Damien Cave

By Damien Cave Jan 8 2020 New York Times

WOMBEYAN CAVES, Australia — Deep in the burning forests south of Sydney this week, volunteer firefighters were clearing a track through the woods, hoping to hold back a nearby blaze, when one of them shouted over the crunching of bulldozers.

“Don’t take photos of any trees coming down,” he said. “The greenies will get a hold of it, and it’ll all be over.” 

The idea that “greenies” or environmentalists would oppose measures to prevent fires from ravaging homes and lives is simply false. But the comment reflects a narrative that’s been promoted for months by conservative Australian media outlets, especially the influential newspapers and television stations owned by Rupert Murdoch.

And it’s far from the only Murdoch-fueled claim making the rounds. His standard-bearing national newspaper, The Australian, has also repeatedly argued that this year’s fires are no worse than those of the past — not true, scientists say, noting that 12 million acres have burned so far, with 2019 alone scorching more of New South Wales than the previous 15 years combined. 

And on Wednesday, Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp, the largest media company in Australia, was found to be part of another wave of misinformation. An independent study found online bots and trolls exaggerating the role of arson in the fires, at the same time that an article in The Australian making similar assertions became the most popular offering on the newspaper’s website.

It’s all part of what critics see as a relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet to do what it has also done in the United States and Britain — shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.

“It’s really reckless and extremely harmful,” said Joëlle Gergis, an award-winning climate scientist at the Australian National University. “It’s insidious because it grows. Once you plant those seeds of doubt, it stops an important conversation from taking place.”

Firefighters waiting at a police checkpoint in Cambewarra, New South Wales, on Saturday.
Firefighters waiting at a police checkpoint in Cambewarra, New South Wales, on Saturday.Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

News Corp denied playing such a role. “Our coverage has recognized Australia is having a conversation about climate change and how to respond to it,” the company said in an email. “The role of arsonists and policies that may have contributed to the spread of fire are, however, legitimate stories to report in the public interest.”

Yet, for many critics, the Murdoch approach suddenly looks dangerous. They are increasingly connecting News Corp to the spread of misinformation and the government’s lackluster response to the fires. They argue that the company and the coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison are responsible — together, as a team — for the failure to protect a country that scientists say is more vulnerable to climate change than any other developed nation. 

Editors and columnists for News Corp were among the loudest defenders of Mr. Morrison after he faced blowback for vacationing in Hawaii as the worst of the fire season kicked off in December. 

In late December, the Oz, as the News Corp-owned paper is known here, heavily promoted an interview with the government’s energy minister, Angus Taylor, warning that “top-down” pressure from the United Nations to address climate change would fail — followed by an opinion piece from Mr. Taylor on New Year’s Eve.

Other News Corp outlets followed a similar playbook. Melbourne’s Herald Sun, for example, pushed news of the bushfires to Page 4 on New Year’s Eve, even as they threatened to devastate towns nearby and push thick smoke into the city.

Days later, residents in a town nearly flattened by the fires heckled and snubbed Mr. Morrison during a visit to assess the damage. A new hire for Mr. Murdoch’s Sky News channel, Chris Smith, branded them “ferals” — slang for unkempt country hobos. 

A man in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, sprayed water on New Year’s Eve as fire consumed the house next door.
A man in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, sprayed water on New Year’s Eve as fire consumed the house next door.Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

As is often the case at Murdoch outlets around the world, there have been exceptions to the company line — an article about the Australian golfer Greg Norman’s declaration that “there is climate change taking place”; an interview with an international expert who explained why this year’s fires are unique. 

But a search for “climate change” in the main Murdoch outlets mostly yields stories condemning protesters who demand more aggressive action from the government; editorials arguing against “radical climate change policy”; and opinion columns emphasizing the need for more backburning to control fires — if only the left-wing greenies would allow it to happen. 

The Australian Greens party has made clear that it supports such hazard-reduction burns, issuing a statement online saying so. 

Climate scientists do acknowledge that there is room for improvement when it comes to burning the branches and dead trees on the ground that can fuel fires. But they also say that no amount of preventive burning will offset the impact of rising temperatures that accelerate evaporation, dry out land and make already-arid Australia a tinderbox. 

Even fire officials report that most of the off-season burns they want to do are hindered not by land-use laws but by weather — including the lengthier fire season and more extreme precipitation in winter that scientists attribute to climate change. 

Still, the Murdoch outlets continue to resist. “On a dry continent prone to deadly bushfires for centuries, fuel reduction through controlled burning is vital,” said an editorial published Thursday in The Australian. It went on to add: “Changes to climate change policy, however, would have no immediate impact on bushfires” — a stance that fits hand in glove with government officials’ frequent dismissals of the “bogey man of climate change.”

A DC-10 dropping water on a fire front in Tapitallee, New South Wales, on Saturday.
A DC-10 dropping water on a fire front in Tapitallee, New South Wales, on Saturday.Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

It’s that echoing between officialdom and Murdoch media that has many people so concerned. 

“Leaders should be held to account and they should be held to account by the media,” said Penny D. Sackett, a physicist, astronomer and former chief scientist for Australia.

Timothy Graham, a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology who conducted the study of Twitter accounts exaggerating the role of arson in Australia’s fires, said media companies also needed to be cognizant of the disinformation ecosystem and stop contributing to the problem. That includes mainstream outlets, like ABC News, sharing inaccurate maps that exaggerate the reach of the fires. 

But in the case of the arson issue, he said, scores of bots and trolls — many of which previously posted support for President Trump — have joined conservative media like the Murdoch outlets in promoting the idea that Australia’s fires are not a “climate emergency” but an “arson emergency.”

“Maybe 3 to 5 percent of fires could be attributed to arson, that’s what scientists tell us — nevertheless, media outlets, especially those that tend to be partisan, jump on that,” Dr. Graham said. 

Of course, it is often hard to know just how much influence any media company has. Gerard Henderson, a columnist for The Australian, said he didn’t think there was much need to address climate change because it was already a focal point across the rest of the media.

“It’s hard to distract from climate change because it’s spoken about constantly,” he said.

But there are signs that the Murdoch message is making headway — at least in terms of what people make a priority. Many firefighters working the smoky hills south of Sydney hesitated to state their views on climate change this week (some said senior leaders had told them to avoid the issue). But they were quick to argue for more backburning. 

Similarly, in Bairnsdale, Tina Moon, whose farm was devastated by the fires, said she was mostly furious about the government’s failure to clear the land around her property.

“I don’t think it’s climate change,” she said.

It’s all part of what critics see as a relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet to do what it has also done in the United States and Britain — shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.

CANBERRA WRITER’S TAKE ON THE CURRENT CLIMATE GOES INTERNATIONAL

Canberra author of Little One and Son of Mine Pete Papathanasiou has had opinion pieces on the bushfires published in the Chicago Tribune and the Toronta STAR

Dispatch from Canberra, Australia, where the air is thick with toxic smoke, politics and climate debates

By PETER PAPATHANASIOU CHICAGO TRIBUNE |JAN 07, 2020 | 11:03 AM 

Greetings from Canberra, Australia’s capital city. Surrounded by native bushland and replete with parks and greenery, we are normally a picture of health and vitality, of cleanliness and purity. But since the beginning of 2020, we have the unenviable honor of being the world’s most polluted city.

Located in Australia’s southeastern corner, Canberra is deep within Australia’s most catastrophic bushfire zone. For the last six weeks, Canberra has had fires burning to the north near Sydney’s Blue Mountains, and to the east on the New South Wales South Coast. And now, with temperatures forecast to hit 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit) and high winds, the fires are massing to the south and west, creeping up from the Snowy Mountains. Our small city is surrounded, and people are worried. More than worried in fact, given the memory of the deadly 2003 bushfires still fresh in mind. People are prepping and taking drastic measures in case the situation escalates.Editorial: Australia burns as the planet bakes »

Pic by Mark Baker

As the father to three young sons ages 4, 2, and 5 months, and the son to a mother who is 89, I find myself caught in the middle, caring for those most susceptible to the hazardous bushfire smoke. The ultrafine particles lodge in their vulnerable lungs and make breathing difficult. Mum’s eyes sting, her throat burns, her voice is hoarse. Both she and her grandsons have been confined indoors during this time, which is especially frustrating for energetic young boys who want to play outside. All I can do is apologize to them and find another board game or picture book or stream another cartoon show.

During the month of December, I was glued to the particulate matter readings of Canberra’s Air Quality Index, or AQI, that are reported hourly from three measuring stations. Hazardous air quality is considered 200 or above. In this period, Canberra’s air quality exceeded 200 on at least nine occasions, with the highest reading of 1,413 on Dec. 21. It was around this time that hardware stores across town sold out of P2/N95 particulate filter masks. Only these could offer protection from the toxic bushfire particles in the air.

And then, on New Year’s Eve, the NSW South Coast bushfires flared disastrously. Located 90 minutes to the east of the capital, this is normally the region where much of Canberra spends its summer holidays, so the sleepy coastal towns and idyllic beaches were at their busiest. At 8 p.m. on Jan. 1, following a day’s worth of wind, Canberra’s AQI hit the terrifying mark of 5,185. This is 25 times worse than what is considered hazardous and earned our city of 400,000 residents the undesirable distinction of being the world’s most polluted city, surpassing such metropolises as Delhi (population 30 million) and Kolkata (15 million) in India, Lahore (10 million) in Pakistan, and Shenyang (7 million) in China.

Such dirty air has created an eerie end-of-world feeling in what is normally rated as Australia’s most livable city ahead of overcrowded Sydney and Melbourne. The streets are deserted. Public pools and major tourist attractions have closed. Sporting events have been postponed. Department stores sold out of air purifiers. Businesses suspended trading. Such was the level of concern that the Australia postal service stopped all deliveries to Canberra to protect their outdoor workers from the toxic air. So much for those who had ordered P2/N95 masks in the mail.

With fires still burning, a political debate raged alongside. The Australian government remains enamored with coal as its primary source of energy production. The 2020 Climate Change Performance Index recently ranked Australia worst of 57 countries on climate change policy. When the bushfires were increasing in intensity before Christmas, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison went on a family holiday to Hawaii. After the new year, he visited devastated bushfire zones, but some residents refused to shake his hand.

With the NSW South Coast being evacuated, a wave of “climate refugees” began arriving in already-strained Canberra. Long queues formed at petrol stations, supermarkets sold out of bottled water, bank ATMs were emptied of cash. I was soon receiving messages from friends outlining their prepping arrangements: “We have seven days of food and water, both cars fully fueled plus an extra 50 liters in jerrycans, a thousand in cash, torches, batteries, radio, firefighting gear, and go-bags packed.” It was enough to scare the living daylights out of me.

Eyeing the smoke cloud sitting dolorous and heavy from our living room window, and watching the TV news channel for regular updates, I would explain it all to my sons as best as I could, and silently apologize for the future we’re leaving them. Theirs, hopefully, will be the generation to properly tackle climate change since all ours could do was squabble as to its existence.

THE MOST DANGEROUS AIR ANYWHERE

As a result of relentless NSW bushfires we have some seriously deady air here in the capital.

The official reading has been rated as “the worst in the world”. The IQAir AirVisual website, which collates air quality information globally, ranked the nation’s capital above “the likes of Kolkata and Delhi in India”.

New Years Eve in Harrison ACT
A screenshot of the IQAir AirVisual rankings at 9:30am on Wednesday.

Many Canberrans have opted to wear a facemask when venturing out. There was a long queue of locals outside a suburban building supply company at 7am today wanting to stock up on heavy duty face masks which had already run dry at Bunnings and other retail outlets. But things get serious tomorrow (Sat Jan 4) when the temperature is predicted to reach 42 degrees and stong winds are forecast.

Shoppers in Civic taking no chances with poor air quality

Chief Minister Barr has declared a “state of alert” as a “precaution” in the event of a local bushfire threat

For most of the year Canberrans, like many in other parts of Australia have staged rallies protesting the inaction of the LNP government on climate change.

Canberran Emily who suffers from a chest complaint is very concerned and frightened about the quality of the air, described the recent days as “apocalyptic and just foreshadowing how much we have let go in terms of what we really value”.

EMILY