Last week the ABC News website ran a story in which the ABC Chair, Ita Buttrose, was quoted saying; “Australia has become too politically correct and we are far too sensitive now”.
Had Ms Buttrose waited just 24 hours before passing the remark and viewed her channel’s Foreign Correspondent program hosted by Hamish Macdonald, she would have borne witness to just how far political correctness had become firmly established within her own organisation – the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster.
In the program titled “The State of Denmark”, Hamish Macdonald travelled to that country with the apparent purpose of highlighting the social implications and effects of Danish immigration.
Unfortunately, Macdonald quietly inserted into his lines of argument a small word with a potentially powerful impact – bias.
That is a word rarely mentioned by the ABC, but nevertheless one that infiltrates much of what we see and hear from the ABC reporting of news and current affairs.
The scheduling of a conventional Foreign Correspondent program involves considerable preparation.
The visiting of geographical locations and institutions is to be coordinated, transport and accommodation requirements are to be arranged and everything from the local weather to public holidays need to be considered.
Most importantly, individuals required for interviews are to be contacted, booked up and researched prior to arrival.
When Hamish Macdonald boarded his flight to Denmark, his detailed agenda for travel, interviews and contacts would have been finalised.
All that remained was putting the story together, and this, it appears, could have been prepared – even completed – on the flight to Copenhagen.
The program commenced with Macdonald interviewing a trendy young woman with a hip personality who described herself as a comedian, a rapper, an actress AND a Muslim.
Here was an individual who was…..just like us. While fully absorbed into the current Danish youth culture, the young woman expressed reservations about her acceptance by the community as being one of “them”.
She looked foreign and this, she believed, worked against her being recognized as a true Dane. The interview was Macdonald’s first, but it provided a strong hint of the program’s conclusion.
This friendly, polite and cool young lady was not deemed to be a “true” Dane because of the inherent racism of the Danish people.
Later, the young woman’s mother was interviewed. A pleasant lady, she fled Iran following the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 and had lived in Denmark for forty years.
While subdued in her expression, she was clearly upset when she claimed Denmark was her country but in the eyes of many, she remained a foreigner.
The interview reinforced the theme established with the woman’s daughter – how destructive racism can adversely affect normal well-adjusted people….. just like us.
Macdonald’s third interview was with a young man with Middle Eastern origins while he was undergoing gym training.
In a similar tone to the earlier conversations, the young man presented well, affirmed his Danish citizenship, and hinted that his social “acceptance” was not as he would like, or expected, it to be.
For Macdonald, the three interviews were complete failures. His performance was weak and accommodating to his subjects.
He allowed the three sets of dialogue to be dominated by the interviewees. They held all the cards and dealt them to greatest effect without interruption or question.
Macdonald could have asked, simply, “why?” Why did they feel they were not accepted? Were they behaving in any way that was disrespectful to Danish customs or law?
Had they made the effort to integrate? Were they maintaining traditions, habits or beliefs that conflicted with Danish, and Western, values?
Did they believe that the excessive crime committed by migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia contributed to any anxieties experienced by ethnic Danes?
Were they aware of the efforts by Islamic authorities to ensure that Muslim children do not integrate?
There were a stack of questions Macdonald could have presented to his subjects that may have yielded some light on the race issue, but he chose to ignore them and to go with the Joseph Goebbels decree of never letting the facts get in the way of a good story.
If this were not the case, Macdonald could only claim total journalistic incompetence.
And here is the tragedy of the program – that the unpleasant facts accompanying Middle Eastern, African and Asian migration to Denmark were unmentioned – hidden from the viewer to portray a national social disorder directed at new arrivals. But the real thrust of the presentation was still to come.
This would be Macdonald’s coup de grace, his all-encompassing deception to drive home his bid to substitute racism for popular concerns creating the new social, and “diverse” direction of the nation.
His final interview was with Rasmus Paludan, a vocal critic of Islam in Denmark and a man who has conducted highly visible public protests against its increasing presence.
Paludan, a lawyer and now a member of parliament, is an unusual character and his antics have created, understandably, a mixed reception, but the bottom line of his anti-Muslim arguments is correct.
His assertions that Islamic society, teachings, culture and community values are incompatible with those in Denmark cannot be seriously contested.
There is a problem with Islam in Denmark, and it is a problem that manages to avoid (as it does in Australia) the most basic of remedies – balanced and respectful discussion. So, inevitably, the “discussion” is brought out on to the streets.
Selecting Rasmus Paludan for an interview on the impact of Islamic immigration into Denmark was a common-sense decision.
Here was an opportunity to understand the judgments and motives of a staunch opponent and to offer the viewer an opportunity to relate these arguments to those of the immigrants.
Unfortunately, Macdonald chose not to give Paludan a chance to present any arguments – no relevant questions and no opening provided to explore the divisive issues.
In order to present him as a common agitator, Macdonald sought a brief interview with Paludan as he publically tossed a Koran around with some friends while surrounded by a police security detail. This was presented as a manoeuvre to deliberately target insults to the Islamic community.
Paludan was attempting to make the case that in Denmark this was a basic freedom (and the Christians cop this all the time), so the Muslims should also accept this principle – or leave.
A more formal interview was held with Paludan indoors, but again the searching questions were absent.
Paludan was depicted as pure racist and little else. This contrasted with the interviews with the three Muslims who were portrayed as innocent victims surrounded by a sea of intolerant ethnic Danes.
The omission of critical probing questions in the interviews strongly suggests that research for the program was virtually non-existent or was deliberately ignored.
From the perspective of the viewers, what messages did Hamish Macdonald and the program convey?
To those who know little of the immigration problems in Denmark, they were effectively told that racism and intolerance of foreign cultures in the country were ingrained.
This is both incorrect and insulting to the Danish people. To those viewers who are aware of the problems created by immigration into Denmark, the program was dishonest and misleading.
It would not be unreasonable to believe that the program’s makers had a deceitful motive that made a deliberate U-turn from the facts.
That conclusions were pre-determined and the program was designed to showcase a particular viewpoint.
A persistent and pervading bias exists in the ABC. This is not a rumour or political gossip – it is a fact. Domestic news issues may carry elements of this bias, but its impact will be limited by other media reporting on the same issues.
When the Foreign Correspondent team travels overseas on an assignment, however, the program is the “sole voice” on the subject covered. “Lying by omission” then becomes an option – and this was clearly demonstrated on the program “State of Denmark.”
The ABC is the voice of the Australian people. The program makers used that voice to malign the people of Denmark, one of our staunchest traditional allies.
If Ita Buttrose can see that political correctness is out of control, then as head of our National Broadcaster, she should fulfil her duty and sack those responsible for this disgraceful slur.