A discussion of contemporary issues in media ethics, with olives and a twist. Made with only the freshest ingredients, shaken, stirred and poured over ice. I should also mention that I do like the odd, occasional martini. Bombay Sapphire gin and Lillet, dry and plenty of salty olives. Welcome to this cocktail of journalism and alcohol. A fine combination!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Farewell Peter McGregor 1947-2008, revolutionary friend

I was checking emails while on holidays in Bateau Bay on the NSW central coast. My brother and I had just come back from swimming at Shelley Beach with my niece and her friend. A message from Neville asking when I would be arriving in the Blue Mountains, then some sad news:
As you may have heard Peter McGregor has committed suicide. Don't have details yet. Was very sudden because I had an email from him the day before about an anti-Guantanamo demonstration. There's an excellent obit by Tony Stephens in yesterday's SMH.

In a round-about way I've known Peter McGregor for some 20 years, perhaps a bit longer. I can't remember the circumstances of our meeting; I have no doubt he would know. Most recently I'd worked alongside Peter in the School of Communications at the University of Western Sydney in the late 1990s.

We always managed to stay in touch, even though I had moved away from UWS and left Sydney, first to Brisbane and now Auckland.

I always admired Peter's dedication and enthusiasm. He was an activist and a humanist. Perhaps more of an anarchist than me, but nevertheless I will always be proud to call him "comrade".

I'm chuckling at that because it is a term of endearment among socialists of all stripes and at times can even transcend ideological and factional disputes. "Comrade" has a proud tradition and it rings with affection and strength when spoken out loud among good friends. It can be stirring in song, "Comrades come rally and the last fight let us face."

I'm chuckling because for the hard right and even the Liberal right "comrade" is a term of derision and abuse. I've been lambasted on at least one blog for using the word in every day speech. It was incontrovertibe proof of my Stalinist and anti-democratic tendencies.

I'm smiling because for some anarchists it holds similar connotations. Peter never minded me regarding him as a comrade. He was principled and non-sectarian. Peter would work with anyone for a common cause and the public good.

I have been looking for other online tributes to Peter. The first one I found was Remote Control. This is from Lynda Hawryluk; writer, educator, artist, keen disco dance, who was also a colleague of Peter's.

My last interaction with Peter was over his arrest, court case and subsequent total absolution in the whole Ruddock incident, which, in my view, brought shame on a whole bunch of individuals and instutions that I had previously thought better of. I documented his adventure here on Ethical Martini.

So long comrade, so long revolutionary friend, goodbye Pete.

Remote Control - Peter McGregor 1947-2008: 'Thanks for the dreams that I have had with many of you.'

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Facebook and the news

Murder victim opened her heart on Facebook - Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Star-Times

In light of recent posts about Facebook and other social networking sites, I thought it time to give a brief outline of my "theory" about this. I have mentioned previously I'm currently writing a book about news in the digital age.
I haven't settled on a title yet, but it's likely to be something like Journalism in the Age of YouTube.... I'm not sure, but the thrust is that I am writing about how social networking sites; the internet and blogging are impacting on journalism. The types of stories; the sources and even journalists themselves are caught up in this.

I just wanted here to draw attention to the ways in which Facebook, Bebo etc are now being used extensively as a "source" for reporters. Usually in the context of horrible murders, like the one discussed in the SST article linked above. In the print edition the frontpage splash is illustrated with photos taken from Sophie Elliott's Facebook page, including a photo of her with her alleged killer.
I wonder did the SST get anyone's permission, presumably Sophie's family, to use this pic, or any pic of her from Facebook? Or is the assumption that because Facebook is 'public', no permission is required, stuff can just be ripped from there without regard to privacy or copyright issues.

And what about potential contempt of court. A photo of the alleged killer - can this influence potential jurors?

then there's this piece from the SST's sister paper, Sunday News
Another horrible murder and another "news" link with social networking. In this case the brother of the murdered Scottish tourist pleading with her to come home:

Come home Karen
KRISTIAN SOUTH - Sunday News | Sunday, 20 January 2008

The brother of murdered Scottish backpacker Karen Aim had no doubt where he wanted his sister to be when he made an emotional internet plea to her just after New Year.

"Forget this glass blowing carry on at the other side of the world," Alan Aim, 23, wrote on his sister's page on the Bebo social network website.

"My Orkney road passenger transport ambitions have doubled and could do with a bit of extra resources pulled together!

"Don't reply to this, just get yourself back here."

But instead of flying back to help Alan with his tourist travel business on the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland, 26-year-old Karen stayed on in Taupo partying with friends, working in a glass-blowing gallery and settling into the Kiwi summer.

Her decision to remain in New Zealand proved fatal on Thursday morning, when she was bashed to death just 50m from her home. She told police her name with her dying breath.

The emotional tug of this is palpable. But what about the invasion of privacy? Oh, there is none. Bebo is like a public park. If you stand in the park and have a conversation, and a reporter overhears it, would you expect it to be in the next day's paper?

We haven't seen the end of this explosion of cheap and nasty news based on shameless plundering of Facebook etc.

It should be a warning to us all. In cyberspace, the eyes of the world are on you. This is a surveillance society, even in tragic death.

I am keen for readers of Ethical Martini to draw my attention to stories, from anywhere in the world, that take up the themes that might be interesting for my book. All tips gratefully acknowledged. The best way to do that might be just to drop a few lines into a comment on a post that catches your eye. Or you can email me driect at the address in the top right corner of the page.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

With friends like these ... Why Facebook is not just a pretty face

With friends like these ... Tom Hodgkinson on the politics of the people behind Facebook | Technology | The Guardian

This is a rather scathing and quite scary attack on Facebook. The argument that it is harmless and merely helps people connect is a myth says the author, Tom Hodgkinson. The real motivation of those who set it up (apparently a small group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists) is to promote the consume, be silent and die, ethos of neo-liberalism. Harsh? Maybe, but Hodgkinson is convincing.

Here's a taste:

Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries - and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.

And another, that sets out the neo-con and anti-worker philosophy behind the hugely successful site. Facebook has over 60 million members and counting.

The internet is immensely appealing to neocons such as Thiel because it promises a certain sort of freedom in human relations and in business, freedom from pesky national laws, national boundaries and suchlike. The internet opens up a world of free trade and laissez-faire expansion. Thiel also seems to approve of offshore tax havens, and claims that 40% of the world's wealth resides in places such as Vanuatu, the Cayman Islands, Monaco and Barbados. I think it's fair to say that Thiel, like Rupert Murdoch, is against tax. He also likes the globalisation of digital culture because it makes the banking overlords hard to attack: "You can't have a workers' revolution to take over a bank if the bank is in Vanuatu," he says.

but what then of the arguments that social networking increases democracy and opens up a new virtual, digital public sphere? My experience of other social networking sites, particularly American-based ones are a happy home to gun-nuts, pro-war social conservatives and wierdos.

Cruise into somewhere like Fubar (only open to members) to see what I mean. Fubar operates like an online pub, which is interesting as one of Hodgkinson's arguments is why not just go a real pub if you want to meet people and chat. In the Fubar you can meet all kinds of rednecks who proudly support the troops in Iraq. I joined for a short time to check it out; I couldn't find any anti-war ideas displayed. There's lots up pumped up soldierly-looking guys and even some pornstars pimping their wares with links from their profiles to commercial sites where you can buy their DVDs etc.

Sure, there are some ordinary folk among the 1.5 million Fubar users, but it's really a place for show-offs and voyeurs. Facebook claims to be different for sure, but how different is it really? I'm not sure, but there are plenty of wannabe pornstars there and on MySpace.

You don't have to look for them, or interact, but it's interesting how the adult industry colonises such places rather quickly.

SOS for SBS - no advertising

Living in New Zealand I am familiar with the impact of commercialising public broadcasters. Our national TV network, TVNZ, is partially funded by government, but must also accept advertising in order to pay a dividend back to the central coffers. As a result the programming is not great, the local content is patchy and the News/CAFF division is leaking resources like a rusty tub.
Don't let the same thing happen to the SBS in Australia.

I have signed a petition at www.SaveOurSBS.org to support SBS so that it is properly funded from the public purse without the need to rely on advertising. I am asking you to support this cause so that our public multicultural broadcaster may once again be able to fulfil its Charter responsibilities with high quality, multicultural and ethnic programming. ~ Please click on the direct petition link www.petition.saveoursbs.org and sign the petition there as I did. ~ In short the petition calls for the Minister to immediately require that:- 1) The SBS Board cease disrupting all programs for advertisements; 2) Amend the SBS Act to prohibit advertising and sponsorship on SBS; 3) Fund SBS so it is not dependent on commercial revenue nor supplementation from advertising; and, 4) Introduce a new system of appointments to the SBS Board that will result in Board members being appointed on the basis of merit with a strong commitment to multiculturalism and SBS independence, and, that the Board is independent from the government of the day and commercial influence. ~ The petition will be handed to the Minister soon. ~ Our public multicultural broadcaster is still under threat and your support is needed so SBS can once again be properly funded and not reliant on advertising. ~ Support public broadcasting and SBS and sign the No Ads on SBS petition (NO ADVERTISEMENTS OR SPONSORSHIP ON SBS) petition NOW before it closes. ~ Protect our multicultural broadcaster. Don't let SBS be sold out to commercialism! Click the direct petition link www.petition.saveoursbs.org and sign the petition now.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

How the Pentagon Planted a False Hormuz Story - CommonDreams.org

How the Pentagon Planted a False Hormuz Story - CommonDreams.org

I am grateful to my old friend Rob Elliott in Hobart for passing on this piece.

Do you remember the incident a couple of weeks ago when the Americans alleged three of their warships came under direct threat from Iranian vessels in the Strait of Hormuz? Well, surprise surprise, it ain't what it appears to be at first glance.

This piece from Interp Press Service and posted at Commondreams.org deconstructs the story quite nicely and shows it for what it was - blatant propaganda designed to boost public interest in and support for Dubya's sleazy "peace" mission to the Middle East.

Hat tip Rob, keep'em coming.

Monday, 14 January 2008

MTV sending out citizen journalists to cover campaigns - The Boston Globe

MTV sending out citizen journalists to cover campaigns - The Boston Globe

This interesting snippet from the Boston Globe - MTV, home of reality TV schlock is getting into the journalism business.
They've hired a non-journalist to work on the presidential election campaign with a youth focus.
It will be interesting to see how it pans out.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Britney Spears - queen of the blogosphere

There's little doubt that the story of Britney Spears' disappearance with paparazzo Adnan Ghalib is garnering a lot of attention for the fruitcake singer and her sleazy boytoy (look at me sounding like those celeb-chasing tabloid types already).

The stuff is clogging up the blogosphere and taking up precious minutes in TV news bulletins.

someone is looking to milk this shit for all it's worth. It might even be Ghalib's photo agency, Finalpixx.
The finalpixx site has "exclusive" pictures of the couple and apparently the site didn't exist a few days ago; it's been recently launched to capitalise on the notoriety of Ghalib's "fling" with Spears.

That's it, I can't write any more, but I had to do something.

summer reading #3: not for faint-hearted

Is there something in the wind that might make 2008 an interesting year for progessive/left politics?
I don't put much faith in the US election system, but the "change" mantra is catching on, there's something to it.
Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton are fighting it out for the Democrat nomination, not that either of them will "change" anything fundamental about American capitalism, but the very core of politics seems to be shifting.
The neocon ascendency may be over.

I've just finished Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism and Joe Bageant's eriely amusing Deer Hunting with Jesus. I recommend both of these books to anyone who wants to understand American politics today.

Bageant's book is an insider's view of life in working class America today, in particular in the south. It's not a pretty picture; but as Orwell said, "if there's any hope at all, it lies with the proles".
Bageant is a self-taught journalist, editor and blogger who writes at "The Smirking Chimp",though when I checked on 11 Jan 08, he hadn't posted anything since July 2007. [Ah good, I'm not the only blogger-slacker].
Bageant grew up in the south and he understands the people of his community; he knows why they're obese and sick and smoke and die young and bitch about blacks etc. He pulls no punches, but he also makes the point that without these people, there will be no new American revolution. He's right about that.

On the other hand Shock Doctrine is, in one sense a more academic book. Klein thanks a small army of researchers for helping with the detail in this massive and well-written book.

Klein's thesis is simple, yet effective. global capitalism has, for the past 30 years, thrived on crisis. In fact, one of the key drivers of profit and sustaining the system is the use of shock tactics against entire nations and peoples.
It begins with psychological torture and physical torture of the body in the 1940s, and quickly moves on to show how Milton Friedman took these tactics into mainstream economics thanks to the "Chicago Boys".
Latin America was their first laboratory -- think Pinochet and the other dictators; then the shock doctrine was applied in Eastern Europe and China during the 1980s and early 1990s; but today it's in Iraq and New Orleans where the shock doctors ply their evil trade.
What I really found interesting was the excellent economic analysis of capitalism, even though Klein is not an avowed Marxist.
I was also pleased to see her writing about surveillance. Her arguments about the hollowing-out of the state and the privatisation of government functions (everything from Blackwater to reconstruction in New Orleans) and the rise and importance of surveillance for both commercial and political means, echoes the arguments John Harrison and I make in Communication and New Media: From Broadcast to Narrowcast.

The surveillance economy and disaster capitalism are part of the same reordering of capital in order to maintain hegemony. You can read more about Klein and the shock doctrine at her website

However, back to the good news for 2008. It seems the class struggle has not gone away and Klein's upbeat assessment of the resistance in Latin America was pretty convincing and I'm a real skeptic about the revolutionary potential of Hugo Chavez.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

News reporting faces web challenge, warns NYT editor : CyberJournalist.net

News reporting faces web challenge, warns NYT editor : CyberJournalist.net

Bill Keller, the executive editor of the , warned last week that reliable news reporting is dwindling, speaking at the Hugo Young memorial lecture in London. Keller said bloggers, internet search engines and satirical talk shows had blossomed across the world but could never replace reporting.

Bloggers and Journalists: Friends or Foes? : CyberJournalist.net

Bloggers and Journalists: Friends or Foes? : CyberJournalist.net

Audio and video of the blogging panel from this year’s Society of Professional Journalists Convention:

Legal action against bloggers has skyrocketed during the past three years. While some cases have merit, most are lawsuits designed to suppress free speech. Meanwhile, journalists have sought to differentiate themselves from bloggers through self-regulation and legislation. But should they? As new organizations have begun to embrace blogs and user-generated content, the “blogging v. journalism” debate has begun to dissolve, replaced instead by a greater awareness that what threatens bloggers today may well threaten professional journalists tomorrow.

Watch video (67.2 MB, 33:34)
Listen to or download audio

Citizen Journalism at War

Citizen Journalism at War
Video sent by 18doughtystreet

Broadcast Journalist David Heathfield's report investigating the impact of citizen journalism on war.

Vermouth, the whole truth and nothing but Vermouth

I'm enjoying a bit of holiday reading, Frank Moorhouse's memoir - Martini.
I'm realising how little I actually know about this most impressive of alcoholic bevvies.

For instance: What are the correct proportions of gin to vermouth? And let's not even get started on the pros and cons of bastardised versions, what Moorhouse calls the "Crazy Drinks"; chocolate martinis and the like***

Getting back to the vermouth question: How much is too much?
There are those who believe a martini is basically gin with a threat of vermouth. In my opinion they might as well drink their gin neat. I've always been one for a generous splash of vermouth and I agree with Moorhouse that it's purpose is to smooth out, or 'sweeten' the drink.

I also agree that a martini made with sweet vermouth is a travesty, though some people like them that way.

Moorhouse says his preferred mix, and the domestic version of the martini he makes himself, is 5-1 (gin-vermouth). This seems about right to me, though I sometimes make them at three-one. And I have, on occasion, told barkeeps to make sure they don't pour the vermouth off before adding the gin to the shaker.

Partly this is the Yorkshireman in me; I've paid for a martini and it has vermouth in it; don't pour my vermouth down the sink! But also it's about the mix, the taste, the impact etc. A martini is a blend and I want to taste the blend. If I want neat gin, I'll ask for it.

Here's a recipe for those who like their martini mostly gin, with very little vermouth. I'll try this in the next couple of days and let you know what I think.

The Montgomery Martini
According to Moorhouse this is named after the British general, Montgomery, at least as mentioned in Ernest Hemingway's novel Across the river and into the trees. It is so-called because Monty was famous for never attacking without overwhelming numbers.

15:1 (gin-vermouth).


As Moorhouse writes: "My secret agenda in this book is to bring back the vermouth to the martini."
I'll drink to that!

*** I am actually partial to the fruity, choclately martini. I have previously mentioned the Musket Room in Ponsonby Road (Auckland); they have excellent Crazy Drink martini derivatives.

Friday, 4 January 2008

France’s News 24 ‘Observers’ citizen media project : CyberJournalist.net

France’s News 24 ‘Observers’ citizen media project : CyberJournalist.net

Another quick entry that will grow over the next few months. At least I hope so.

Citizen journalism dominates online news in 2007 : CyberJournalist.net

Citizen journalism dominates online news in 2007 : CyberJournalist.net

I will come back to this, it's the story of the year for 2007.
Professional journalists are getting the wagons in a circle, and quickly too. Is this a good thing.
This is really grist to the mill(stone) of the book I'm writing now. I said earlier last year (is it that time already) that I'd blog the book and this is the first entry.

China's net video crackdown could hurt YouTube - web - Technology - smh.com.au

China's net video crackdown could hurt YouTube - web - Technology - smh.com.au

This piece from the Sydney Morning Herald today continues to mark the declining standard of human rights and free speech in China.

YouTube and other video-sharing websites are the latest to come under direct censorship. I particularly like this:

Video that involves national secrets, hurts the reputation of China, disrupts social stability or promotes pornography will be banned. Providers must delete and report such content.

"Those who provide internet video services should insist on serving the people, serve socialism ... and abide by the moral code of socialism," the rules say.

What is a "moral code of socialism"? From my understanding a moral code of socialism would allow the greatest expression of human rights, including sexual freedoms; the right to free speech and criticism and freedom of assembly and distribution of political materials.

Of course there's also capitalist morals, such as these demonstrated by a sycophantic YouTube spokestroll. The company's interest in China is to continue to keep Google and YouTube profitable:

YouTube hopes the rules won't cut it off from the rapidly growing number of Chinese residents with internet access, spokesman Ricardo Reyes said.

"We believe that the Chinese government fully recognizes the enormous value of online video and will not enforce the regulations in a way that could deprive the Chinese people of its benefits and potential for business and economic development, education and culture, communication, and entertainment," Reyes said.

If you want to know what Korea's Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, thinks of socialist morals you can read this disturbing screed.

Summer reading, some are drinking

Ah, dear reader:
It's been a long time between posts. I must say that there's a small amount of guilt attached. If one is going to blog then one must do so regularly. To do otherwise is to leave the blogosphere to others and to render oneself invisible again.

I am to begin this new year as I intend to continue - by posting on a regular basis. I'm also keen to enlist the talents of others who share my interest in politics, media and martinis.

It's also humbling to realise that the martini is more than the sum of its parts. A quick search on Amazon.com uncovers a whole genre of writing about martinis that I, a self-proclaimed afficionado, knew next to nothing about.

I stand in the shadow of some giant literary figures who have not only enjoyed drinking martinis (something I can honestly claim to share with them) but who have also written extensively of their passion.

One such is my new literary hero, Frank Moorhouse. I remember reading some of Frank's novels while at university some 30 years ago; but I didn't realise how important his work would be in beginning my own education into the rituals and rich history of the martini.

I bought my copy of Martini: A memoir, several years ago and intended to read it, but didn't get around to it. However, prompted by a friend who's just read it, I fished it out the box where it lay dormant for the past year and plunged in.

Like an ice-cold, fresh smooth martini it was pleasure from the first word. I drank in the opening essay and silently apologised to Mr Moorhouse for neglecting this masterpiece for so long.

I'm not really far into it yet, but Martini is a book to be savoured, sipped and coddled.

In the first piece, Martini City, we are introduced to Moorhouse's drinking companion, Voltz; an expert on the history and passion of the martini. The two men discuss the 'martini city' - a place where the martini is well-made and appreciated. I like to think that some of my haunts in Auckland are such places: the bars and nightspots that make my new home (I've been here a year now) a delightful place to drink a martini and enjoy the lively ambience of this Pacific-rim town.
Moorhouse also includes this wonderful short ditty from Dorothy Parker:

'I like to have a martini
Two at the very most
After three I'm under the table
After four I'm under my host.'

I clearly have a lot of learning to do and I'll start by finishing Martini and then reading some of Moorhouse's other books in which the martini is both a character, a lubricant and an anaesthetic.

Happy New Year, and "cheers"