After Cologne: ‘It’s multiculturalism’s fault.’

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The truly exasperating and irksome thing about Brendan O’Neill’s Spiked article ‘After Cologne’ is not that he is entirely wrong ­– he’s not ­– but his jaundiced, cramped impractical view of humanity which uses history as a blunt instrument rather than a reflecting mirror. But let’s begin with what is right in the piece.

I agree with him entirely about the silence of the lambs in the face of horrific sexual assaults by gangs of (mainly it seems) North African immigrants in Cologne and similar assaults elsewhere: it is stupid and counter-productive to deny these problems are happening and to lie about their reality.

These young men must be punished for their crimes, swiftly. They must not be left to believe that such crimes are exonerated in the new countries in which they have arrived. But it must go further than that.

When two world views are in collision, then the authorities as well as punishing must educate. Those whose view of the west has been shaped by a warped and medieval interpretation of Islam and the lurid outpourings of Hollywood need re-education in the values of the west. No argument there. And as many of them have been through the trauma of war, bombardment and terror, they will also need psychological counselling. But Mr O’Neill is blind to the historical background to this behaviour or its consequences on the immigrants.

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Firstly, as I’ve written before, Christianity is very lucky that it has a new testament: imagine if our values were shaped by the old one, which is no different to some parts of the Quran in its morality: both are desert religions, and soaked in the values of their times.

But as Mr O’Neill points out, we had an enlightenment. And didn’t that change the way we behave. Nazi Germany. The Balkans. The IRA. Vietnam. The Westboro Baptist Church. So let’s not be too quick climb up on our high horses.

And then there’s the recent history of the Middle East, where the young men came from. Starting with Iran. As then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote in 2000:

“In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran’s popular Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh. The Eisenhower Administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons; but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran’s political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.”

Significant role is something of an understatement. The engineer of this coup, which had taken some years and involved collaboration between the British and the Americans was engineered by the wonderfully named CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt. Thus began the long and brutal reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi which ended in 1979.

Into the gap raced the arch conservative Mullahs led by Ayatollah Khomeini, whose repressive regime left millions of young Iranians uneducated ­ – and during the long and bloody war with Iraq – dead.

Talking of long and bloody wars with Iraq, the website Iraq Body Count conservatively estimates between 150,000 and 170,000 civilian deaths since the invasion in 2003. The complete devastation of Iraq after the disastrous American effort to rebuild the country as a neo-con version of paradise (read Naomi Klein’s Baghdad Year Zero for the whole story) left millions in poverty and despair.

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There’s so much more. Russia’s support for the Assad regime in Syria, the seemingly endless enmity between Israel and Palestine. Not to mention The cumulative effect of incessant drone attacks which kill civilians as well as military targets: since Obama came to power, almost 2,500 people have been killed by overt drone attacks (for the complete story, check ‘Get the data: Drone wars’) It is said that for every one civilian killed by American forces, 100 enemies of America are made. That isn’t scientific, but it rings true. I know if American drones were dropping daily on my city, I would more than likely join a counter-insurgency organisation.

As a result of the accumulated desolation of entire countries, their populations, their economies and their infrastructure, there are now 60 million refugees world wide.

And now, Europe ­– but not, ironically, the main perpetrator, America – is reaping the crop it helped to sow.

But O’Neill does not address the solution to this unimagined or unimaginable world problem, but only the wrong step of suppression of the truth, what he calls ‘the moral silencing wrought by multiculturalism…suppressing politics itself, in politics’ truest sense of being a free, frank, conflictual discussion about values and the future.’

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Seriously? The moral silencing wrought by multiculturalism? A strange place to lay the blame. Multiculturalism I mean. Multiculturalism is the human face of globalisation.

Just as our foods, our goods, our cars and our ideas now come from all around the planet earth, so too do our populations. It is antediluvian to expect there to be pure nationalities: even the Japanese must soon face the inevitability of miscegenation or at least having a variety of non-Japanese neighbours.

Let’s go back to the roots of multiculturalism in Australia, which is easily dated by a reading of Al Grassby’s 1973 paper, ‘A multi-cultural society for the future

In 1973, Australia’s population was just over 13 million, the world’s 3,919 billion. In 2015, it was estimated that Australia’s population was just under 24 million. And the world’s 7,349 billion. Both Australia’s and the world’s populations have doubled in just over 40 years

In advocating for a multicultural society in 1973 ­ – which to many at the time was as popular as a cockroach in the soup tureen – Grassby said that his ideal was for a society that gave ‘full scope for all to develop their personal potential, no matter how diverse their origins, beliefs, wealth or ability’

But in enumerating the ethnicities of the migrants at the time, Grassby showed what a huge change there has been between 1973 and 2015. Not one Islamic country was represented or mentioned.

Today, integrating those 60 million refugees – most of them Muslim – in Europe, Asia and Australia is a monstrous undertaking that dear old Al Grassby could not have foreseen, as foresighted and enlightened as he was.

O’Neill goes on to say that ‘Multiculturalism is…the sacralisation of moral and cultural relativism. It makes a virtue of the vacuum in the heart of the modern West’ and the failure [of the west] to stand up for the values of Enlightenment by instead saying, ‘All cultures are equally valid’. Which in O’Neill’s world, they’re definitely bloody not. Ours is way ahead.

This is not a good way to handle the problem of 60 million refugees. “Right. The first thing you have to realise is that your way of life, your religion is shit. Ours is better.” He’s beginning to sound like a mid 20th Century Australian assimilationist, assimilation being that strange policy that Tim Rowse wrote in his book White Flour, White Power ‘both wooed and compelled, invited and manipulated.’ We are going to have to be a lot cleverer than that with these 60 million refugees from the wars of the enlightened.

Quite frankly, this little Aussie doesn’t have the answer. And neither does O’Neill. But to attribute to the inevitability of multiculturalism (remember globalisation?) a core instinct that is ‘a driving force …to shush and stifle, to elevate self-censorship and denial of difficult reality of allowing open discussion and, worse, a judgement of and between values’ is a massive distortion, an ugly and closed minded view of an inevitability of the modern world. I much prefer Grassby’s vision looking from 1973 to 2000:

‘My vision of our society in the year 2,000

foreshadows a greatly increasing social

complexity, in which the dynamic interaction

between the diverse ethnic components will be

producing new national initiatives, stimulating

new artistic endeavours, and ensuring great

strength in diversity.’

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I hope we’re up to it. Because if we’re not, Hanrahan will be proved right.

 

 

 

 

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The Uninvited Guests

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There’s a knock on your front door. You open it. There’s a stranger there, pleasant enough, say’s he’s looking around the neighbourhood for somewhere to live. You invite him in, give him a cup of tea. He goes on his way.

Some time later, he appears at the door again. This time with several friends, some of whom you really don’t like the look of. Somewhat reticently, you invite them in. Gradually, they begin to take over your house. Where you thought they only wanted to look around, it becomes obvious they’re not going away.

They bring in their own food, spread themselves around all the rooms, trash your furniture, clog up your plumbing and generally wreck your house while hardly taking notice of you.

Eventually you find yourself sleeping in the backyard.

They’ve taken over completely.

This is, more or less, what happened in what we now call Australia when the first Europeans arrived, although as an allegory, it doesn’t begin to describe the impact and the devastation that European invasion visited on the original Australians and the land that they had turned, over millennia, into what historian Bill Gammage has called ‘the biggest estate on earth.

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First we barged in.

It was on the 12th of November 1777 that the ships which would become known as The First Fleet weighed anchor in the Cape of Good Hope and set sail for the country that they would eventually name Australia.

They had come half way around the world to an unknown land, officially to establish a colony. But that was not the real reason for the journey. As Robert Hughes writes, ‘In their most sanguine moments, the authorities hoped that it (the voyage and subsequent ones) would swallow a whole class – the “criminal class.”’

But there was another agenda, as expressed by Lieutenant Watkin Tench in his first book A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay. As Tench saw it, upon leaving the Cape, they ‘soon left far behind every scene of civilisation and humanised manners to explore a remote and barbarousland and plant in it those happy arts which alone constitute the pre-eminence and dignity of other countries’

A good start what? No pre-judging there. One could understand ‘remote’ but ‘barbarous’? How did they know that? The only reports they would have had from Cook and Banks’ visit eighteen years before did not indicate barbarity, rather temerity. The first indigenous Australians they saw threw rocks, or threw spears (darts Cook called them) or ran away. The first Europeans they saw fired guns.

As we have subsequently learnt, the original Australians had extraordinary methods of communication and doubtless stories like Philip’s capture and chaining of Arabanoo which, although the man came to no harm, would have been alarming. This was not how guests behaved to their hosts.

The first Europeans didn’t arrive empty-handed. Along with ‘trinkets for the natives’ they bought a considerable amount of food and livestock.

From England they had brought carrots, potatoes, lettuce, asparagus, onions, broccoli, beans, peas, watercress, wheat, barley, rye and oats. Also apples, pears, plums, cherries and a selection of citrus including navels, Seville oranges and Tahitian limes. Everything they needed to re-create home, including cattle.

So the uninvited guests arrived with their own food and their own methods of agriculture from the other side of the planet – methods that would prove disastrous. But first, they had to steal the land.

 

Then we stole their land

The British treated Australia as terra nullius—as un-owned land. Under British colonial law, Aboriginal Australians had no property rights in the land, and colonisation accordingly vested ownership of the entire continent in the British government. The doctrine of terra nullius (by whatever name) remained the law in Australia throughout the colonial period, and indeed right up to 1992.

By proclaiming the land empty, in the eyes of the law – and by extension, the eyes of the European populace – Aboriginal Australians did not really exist. How did this illogical and immoral doctrine come about in the first place? Nowhere else in the world, neither in New Zealand nor North America, had the British propounded or adopted such a policy. The reasons for the adoption of terra nullius are complex, and tied, in a great part, to agriculture: that is, its invisibility to the colonisers.

Those who arrived in Australia in the late eighteenth century believed that ‘a society without agriculture was therefore a society without property rights in land.’ Because the local peoples were assumed to have no agriculture, and therefore no farms, no fences, no stock, no gardens, they had no property rights. This was not a new way of looking at society, at property. European thinkers like Adam Smith posited that all societies passed through four stages: hunting, pasturage, farming and commerce. Each of these stages corresponded to a set of political and economic institutions, one of which was property. Hunter-gatherers, as the indigenous Australians were thought to be, owned no property, did not know the meaning of property and, therefore, had no property rights. As we have begun to discover, although these stages of society were essentially correct for the much of the world, Australia, before 1788, was the exception. But there was more to the application of terra nullius than the perceived lack of agriculture.

The first settlers damned the locals as dirty, indigent, lazy and not quite human. On returning to England, William Dampier reported ‘The Inhabitants of this Country are the miserablest People in the World…. setting aside their Human(e) Shape, they differ but little from Brutes.’ As for their diet, he wrote ‘There is neither herb, root, pulse, nor any sort of grain for them to eat that we saw; nor any sort of bird or beast that they can catch, having no instruments wherewithal to do so.’

Can the settlers be blamed for their disdain of the original Australians ? Can we judge them by the standards of today? A difficult but perhaps not a relevant question. By any standards they treated the people they found here as little better than animals and ignored their human rights. Not all agreed.

In 1802 the French explorer Nicholas Baudin was in New South Wales, and he took the opportunity to give Governor Philip Gidley King a piece of his mind about terra nullius. “To my way of thinking,” Baudin declared, “I have never been able to conceive that there was justice and equity on the part of Europeans in seizing, in the name of the Governments, a land seen for the first time, when it is inhabited by men who have not always deserved the title of savages or cannibals which has been given them, whilst they were but the children of nature and just as little civilised as are actually your Scotch Highlanders or our peasants in Brittany….’ Baudin reproached King for “seizing the soil which they own and which has given them birth.”

But the prevailing viewpoint is expressed in this editorial from the Sydney Herald in 1838:

‘This vast land was to them (Aborigines) a common – they bestowed no labour upon the land, their right, was nothing more than that of the emu or the kangaroo…..The British people…took possession…, and they had a perfect right to do so, under the Divine authority, by which man iscommanded to go forth and people, and till the land.”

And verily they did.

 

Then we trashed their food.

In his book Tukka, Australian native food chef and restaurateur Jean Paul Bruneteau wrote ‘The total disregard of a civilisation’s cultural basis was evident from the theft and fencing of land within traditional cultivation areas. Unless a food could be cultivated, it was considered to be of no real value.’

We occasionally we ate native produce and game. Tench believed that a drink made from native sarsaparilla (Smilax glyciphilla) saved many from scurvy. But we never really took to the native foods, treating them, as best, as substitutions for ‘the real thing.’ In Barbara Santich’s paper on early colonial experimentation with native produce, it is this idea of substitution which puts native produce in its place. In writing of her use of murnong (yam daisy), Santich quotes settler Katherine Kirkland remarking ‘ I have put it in soup for want of better vegetables before we had a garden.’

But how did we steal their food if we didn’t eat it? By trampling all over it with an imported and, as we are now discovering, totally unsuitable method of agriculture. Just one example.

The tubers of the Murnong plant (Microseris scapigera), or yam daisy, were an important food source. They were abundant and easily collected and one of the staple foods of Victorian Aborigines. G.A. Robinson, in north-central Victoria in 1840 saw ‘women spread over the plain as far as I could see them….I examined their bags and baskets on their return and each had a load (of murnong tubers) as much as she could carry.’18 But murnong grew in the rich soil of that country and favoured for grazing livestock. By 1831, 700,000 sheep were grazing across Victoria, eating the leaves and digging up the tubers of the murnong. In 1839, a Goulburn Aborigine Moonin-Moonin pointed out that ‘plenty eat it murnong, all gone murnong.’

The transformation of the land to grow more European food would lead to degradation. The cattle and sheep and imported agricultural methods did more than ruin the land: they broke a profound spiritual connection with it which enabled Aboriginal Australians to care for the entire continent – and to ensure an abundant food supply.

 

 Then we took their culture and their health.

Gammage writes ‘Aboriginal landscape awareness is rightly seen as drenched in religious sensibility, but equally the Dreaming is saturated with environmental consciousness. Theology and ecology are fused.’

You’ve probably heard of totems. Each individual in pre- 1788 society had a totem. This totem carried a multitude of responsibilities, primeary amongst them to ensure the survival of that totem. Gammage writes of one man he met whose totem was the maggot, a most important link in the chain of creation. Gammage’s book painstakingly gathers and lays out the evidence that ‘collectively (the original Australians) managed an Australian estate they thought of as single and universal…’

What exactly did we take from them? According to native Australian food merchant and nutrition scientist Vic Cherikoff, ‘The average Australian (today) would be eating 70 to 80 different foods a year – in the cities. The gourmand who’d be eating white asparagus when it came into season, all the mushrooms, Asian vegetables, herbs and spices – you’d be touching 100 ingredients a year. Move away from the city they’ll eat 40, sometimes less

The Aboriginal people in traditional times, in the western desert, 150 different foods in a year. Move up into the tropical north, 750 different foods.’24 And, according to recent CSIRO and RIRDC research, the nutritional density of these foods far surpassed our cultivated foods today.

And what happened to the diet of the original Australians when they were removed from their land, when they could no longer hunt or dig for murnong? Michael Symons writes that they ‘drifted into the mining settlements, stations and coastal towns’ and ‘became tragically dependent’, their diet came to ‘consist of white flour for damper, white sugar for tea, camp pie, salt and beer.’ Considerably less than 150 different foods. The result? Diabetes, third world mortality rates, and other problems only too well-known, many of which are specifically linked to poor nutrition.

 

Was that any way for guests to behave?

So we came and stole their land, their culture and cut off their food supply. To add insult to considerable injury, we refused, for over 200 years, to eat the food that grew here.

This began early – and in many ways, still goes on The annals and journals of those who explored the Australian outback make compelling reading for their encounters with native foods. They often ran out of the supplies they took with them, and had to make decisions about ‘going native’, often with disastrous results. The tragedy of Burke and Wills who refused, until the very last, to touch the food of the ‘savages’ is perhaps the best know of these stories.

Anne Gollan writes of the death of a man called Brooks at the Carlo Border Netting Camp near Mulligan River who insisted on eating only his European food. ‘It is strange and sad to think of him dying so bravely, in his lonely grave, when all around him were wild yams, anyeroo nuts, growing prolifically in the sand hills, and the various wild bananas and nuts of the region’

Have we changed? I recently interviewed Raymond and Jennice Kersh, two contemporary pioneers of Australian native cuisine in their three consecutive restaurants called Edna’s Table, the last of which closed in 2005.

At their first location in Kent Street, chef Raymond Kersh used native ingredients, but he told me ‘you couldn’t put it on the menu what you were using because nobody knew what they were anyway – we were just using them to create flavours.’ When they moved to their next restaurant, in the MLC Centre, they began to name the ingredients on the menu, and, as Raymond said ‘… that scared the living daylight out of the customers.’

Raymond went on to recount a story from that time. ‘We had a customer who was a real regular. He was a fantastic customer when we were at Kent Street. He came to the MLC and ate the same food and read on the menu what he’d been eating all along and he turned around and said to me “what are you using this Abo shit for?” That was the late 1990s, and that was, the Kershes told me, a common reaction.

So, finally, we stole their land, their culture, their spirituality, and their food. Which we not only refused to eat, but thought of as ‘shit.’

Have we been good guests? No. But all indications are that we’re getting better. Which is what I’m currently engaged in writing about.

(In this piece I’ve quoted extensively from Bill Gammage’s very important book The Biggest Estate on Earth: how Aborigines made Australia.)

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Newton vs Akerman: and my opinion of him

UnknownSearching through my 2012 diary for something, I came across this. It was never published. Until  now. Akerman has not changed. Neither has the science.

 

Thursday 17th May 2012: Today I attended a meeting of the Australian Press Council’s Complaints Committee over a complaint that I had made against a column written by Piers Akerman. A very strange and somewhat amusing experience.

Here are the two complaints under discussion, taken from a column of Akerman’s entitled, in typical temperate fashion: Greens and their crazy cronies are holding a gun to our head.

In it, in addition to the usual loony anti-climate change ranting, he made what I asserted and the APC agreed two what could be assertions of fact which, I was there to maintain, were demonstrably false. They were:

1. ‘Much of the world has now woken up to the reality that the UN’s global warming bogeyman was created by members of environmental activist groups working within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.’

And

2. ‘The US, Russia, China, India and Japan and other important economic powers have walked away from the IPCC.’

As most of the discussion in the room hinged on the APC General Principle 6, here it is:

 Transparent and fair presentation

Publications are free to advocate their own views and publish the bylined opinions of others, as long as readers can recognise what is fact and what is opinion. Relevant facts should not be misrepresented or suppressed, headlines and captions should fairly reflect the tenor of an article and readers should be advised of any manipulation of images and potential conflicts of interest.

 Let me state a fair and honest opinion based upon observation: Piers Akerman is an arrogant, pompous and self-important prick.

I arrived at the APC offices first and was seated in the foyer when he arrived with his minder. Charles  Miranda who I thought was a lawyer but turns out to be a journalist. When they entered, I stood up, introduced myself and held out my hand. Miranda took my hand, introduced himself and smiled back. Akerman reared back as if I was the anti-Christ and seemed of two minds whether to take my hand or not. Eventually he took it as though it was a stinking sardine and immediately dropped it. I said something about courteous discourse and asked whether we could agree to disagree. He reared up and in his best orotund and stentorian voice boomed “I certainly agree to disagree with you!”

At that exchange, the nice lady who sat at the front desk whisked me into an office and closed the door. I then sat listening to them discussing old mates in the APC  and felt distinctly on the outer.

We were ushered into a large meeting room around which sat the complaints committee, the only faces I recognized were the chairman, Julian Disney, and the APC’s Jack Herman, who I had been communicating with. There were about eight in all, including Disney, a mixture of journalists and members of the public – and only one woman.

We were told we’d each have five minutes to speak, then we would be questioned by the panel, then there would a two minute summing up at the end. I read from my prepared notes (which are too long to include in this  post) and handed over to Akerman.

He began by asking “have any of you ever worked for or advocated for Greenpeace or the World Wildlife fund?” There was a stunned silence. “Well, you all know where I’m coming from, I think it only fair if you let me know if you bring any agendas into the room with you” or something like that. This was ignored. We were then treated to a potted version of the Triumphs of Piers Akerman, which included the fact that had once sat on the board of the APC “when it meant something.” I think this was his way of getting the panel on side.

It wasn’t just what he said, it was the pompous way he said it. I had the feeling looking around the table that some members of the panel would have liked to smack him.

His rambling dissertation did not once touch on the matters under consideration but pounced on the fact that his column is headlined opinion, and that if it was in his column it was an opinion. Most of the questioning went to this point, with all questions to Akerman on this topic. One questioner wanted to know did he feel he owned the facts in his column. Another asked if he stated that the sun came up in the west would he defend that as an opinion or a fact.  Akerman stumbled over that, Miranda dived in and suggested it could be used as a metaphor, but Disney dismissed it.

I tried to speak succinctly and to the matters in hand. A number of times Akerman went wondering off onto the wilder shores of denialism, quoting all manner of obscure American denialists which was not really within the parameters.

He set himself up as a defender of the freedom of the press. That is, the freedom of the press to twist and weave and tell porkies if it so suits them.

The line between fact and opinion was discussed at length and I briefly told the story of the Blues Point Café (ask me) and the general principle of defamation law, which we all  agreed was a bit shaky but attempted to delineate the two.

I reckon the result of the committee’s deliberations will hinge on three words: ‘walked away from.’ At the very end Disney asked me what I think was meant by them: that the countries in question had left the IPCC; that they had dissociated themselves from the reports of the IPCC or that they had turned their back on the IPCC. I said all three but certainly the first two.

It would be interesting for the IPCC’s representatives in Australia to take the little weasel to court  – but he really isn’t worth it.

It is interesting, when you see him pontificating and fulminating, you wonder has he ever asked himself  – “what if I’m wrong?”

I don’t think Mr Akerman has ever experienced a moment of self-doubt or even self-examination. He epitomises the Socratic maxim ‘the life that is unexamined is not worth living.’ Mr Akerman’s life is not examined, but rather blustered through on a series of poorly examined but stubbornly  held prejudices.

Who am I to believe on the matter of climate change science: Piers Akerman, Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones – or the 1250 scientists who submit peer-reviewed articles and papers to the 2007 assessment report of the IPCC?

Gosh, what a dilemma.

Monday 2nd July 2012: I have received the judgement from the Australian Press Council (see below) and it is neither a win nor a loss for either of us. As I see it he weaselled out with ‘turned their back on’  as I predicted, but was given a limp-wristed rap over the knuckles towards the end of the piece.

Adjudication by the Australian Press Council

Adjudication No. 1542

The Australian Press Council has considered a complaint by John Newton about an article headed “Greens and their crazy cronies are holding a gun to our head” in The Daily Telegraph on 8 March 2012.

The article, by columnist Piers Akerman, stated amongst other matters that “much of the world has now woken up to the reality that the UN’s global warming bogeyman was created by members of environmental activist groups working within the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)”. It also stated that “the US, Russia, China, India and Japan and other important economic powers have walked away from the IPCC”.

Mr Newton complained that these statements were inaccurate and misleading. He said the IPCC consisted of independent scientists and he referred especially to its Third Report in 2001 which he said represented the scientific consensus on climate change as shown by its explicit endorsement by eminent scientific academies in many countries. He said these scientists and academies could not accurately be described as “environmental activist groups”. He also said that each country mentioned in the article still endorsed the 2001 report and the only government which had denounced the consensus was Canada.

The newspaper responded that the column was clearly the writer’s opinion, based on a range of sources. It referred in particular to a recent book which disputed the strength of expertise involved in preparing the IPCC report and claimed many of the authors had close links with environmental activist organisations. The newspaper said that the named countries had “walked away from the IPCC” in the sense that they had failed to endorse its call for action at the Copenhagen Conference in 2009 and at subsequent meetings related to the IPCC’s findings they had not decided to implement its agenda.

The Press Council’s principles require that in an opinion article of this kind relevant facts must not be “misrepresented or suppressed”. Free public discussion is a matter of such importance in the public interest that, even where there may appear to be strong arguments that misrepresentation of facts has occurred, the Council may sometimes consider there has not been a clear breach of its Principles. This may occur, for example, because there is some tenable scope for doubt about the relevant facts or about the meaning of the words used to assert them.

The Council has concluded that Mr Akerman’s assertions about environmental activists and the role of the IPCC are not sufficiently clear breaches of its principles for this aspect of the complaint to be upheld. This conclusion is based on its view that the assertions are insufficiently specific to be established as irrefutably accurate or false.

The Council has concluded that the assertion about countries having walked away from the IPCC is also not a sufficiently clear breach of the Council’s principles for that aspect of the complaint to be upheld. This conclusion is mainly because the words “walked away” do not necessarily connote formal disengagement from the IPCC. They can also be used to mean, for example, a substantially reduced commitment to the organisation’s proposals for action and it is tenable to argue that such a reduction has occurred.

Accordingly, neither element of this complaint is upheld. However, the Council emphasises that this outcome is due largely to the assertions in question being insufficiently specific for their accuracy or falsity to be established. The outcome does not imply acceptance or rejection of the assertions by either the columnist or the complainant in relation to the IPCC.

As the Council stated in a 2004 adjudication, while columnists and other writers of opinion articles have a wider licence than applies to news stories it is “not unfettered”. For example, it said, they must not publish what they could reasonably be expected to know is false. Moreover, the Council’s principles of fairness and balance require that if extensive coverage is given to a particular view on a strongly controverted issue, commensurate opportunities must also be given for coverage from other viewpoints.

 Relevant Council Standards (not required for publication by the newspaper):

This adjudication applies the Council’s General Principle 6: “Publications are free to advocate their own views and publish the bylined opinions of others, as long as readers can recognise what is fact and what is opinion. Relevant facts should not be misrepresented or suppressed, headlines and captions should fairly reflect the tenor of an article and readers should be advised of any manipulation of images and potential conflicts of interest”.

And finally, a  little evidence of Akerman’s assiduous relaying of misinformation on the the subject of climate change