Exclusive menu of independent reporting: Who is Lyle Shelton? US multi-millionaires get cash from Washington stimulus package; Deep South pastor asks for stimulus cheques; Henry Kissinger’s plan to “save” capitalism; The day Laurie Brereton shocked the ACTU Congress; Travel PR puffs aren’t journalism; PLUS Quote of the Week and Pseuds of the Week
Meet the real Lyle Shelton
Lyle Shelton hogged the mainstream media when he led the campaign against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s voluntary postal vote on marriage equality in September 2017. Commercial TV and radio couldn’t get enough of him. ABC Radio and TV fell in love with him too.
He appeared time and again on ABC News, Q & A, The Drum and 7.30. He was the pin-up boy because he campaigned for a “No” vote with a certain flair. A media survey showed that Shelton was mentioned more times than the three leading “Yes” campaigners, Alex Greenwich, Tiernan Brady and Sally Rigg.
He caused media controversy by referring to the children of same-sex couples as a “Stolen Generation”. Despite Shelton’s malign efforts, Australians voted overwhelmingly in support of marriage equality.
During his headline-hogging dash, not a single journalist quizzed Shelton about his background. He was accepted at face value. No one was told nor was it revealed, for example, that Shelton was apparently handpicked to lead the religious crusade against marriage equality by right-wing NSW politician Damien Tudehope, an Opus Dei supporter recently made Liberal Leader in the Upper House on $345,000-a-year.
Shelton contested the 2006 State Election in the seat of Toowoomba North for the Queensland Nationals. He lost. No one told the public about that.
From 2013 to 2018 he worked as managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby. Formerly he worked for the right-wing anti-gay and anti-abortion group as its chief of staff.
In December 2016 he participated in the Cape Town Declaration led by conservative fringe groups in South Africa to affirm the only “true” marriage was between a man and a woman, aka “between Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve”.
In February 2018, he quit the Australian Christian Lobby, to join then Senator Cory Bernardi’s far right Australian Conservatives as its “communications director”. The Australian Conservatives episode was short-lived. It collapsed too.
In September last year when the NSW Upper House voted to support a private member’s Bill which decriminalised abortion, Shelton posted online a statement of his beliefs headlined: “NSW politicians say it is okay to kill unborn girls because they are girls.” The statement read:
“Abortion extremism has reached its high-water mark in Australia. If you are an unborn baby girl in NSW, look out. Your politicians voted last night to affirm the practices of poisoning you or pulling you apart limb from limb in you mother’s womb for the simple reason that you are an unwanted gender.
“I kid you not. The maroon-coloured décor of the NSW Upper House could well have been a metaphor for the dark red blood of innocent baby girls. Abortion is a messy business.
“Last night in the Legislative Council, Liberals and Nationals joined with most of Labor and the Green to vote down an amendment that would have made it illegal for a doctor to perform a sex-selection abortion. The amendment was lost 26-15.
“For daring to point out that elements in the Indian and Chinese communities will seek abortion for unwanted baby girls, Upper House MLC Damien Tudehope was called a ‘racist’ by Greens MLC Jenny Leong.”
[Ms Leong did NOT call Tudehope a “racist”. She followed the Upper House debate via tweets. One of them said: “Okay – I’m back in the upper house chamber watching sex selection debate and Damien Tudehope. I’m calling it #RACIST”. Hounded by her critics, she later issued a clarification. Her opponents called it an “apology”.]
Shelton continued: “This is so typical of the Left. They will not debate the substance but pivot to a virtue-signalling slur.
“Last night politicians said it was okay to kill girls because they are girls. It was one thing for the extremist left-wing Labor Deputy Premier of Queensland, Jackie Trad, to shepherd similar laws through the Qld Parliament a year ago. It is quite another for Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her Nationals Deputy John Barilaro to have collaborated with the extremist green-left Independent Alex Greenwich to push this through the NSW Parliament.”
He ended with a warning from the anti-abortion Christian lobby: “Abortion extremism has reached its high-water mark in Australia. It will be progressively pushed back from here.”
Shelton is now an independent lobbyist but keeping a very low media profile. This is a shame. The purpose of the media is not to silence people with whom it disagrees or give acres of time and space to people they like. It is to interrogate them politely but firmly.
If Shelton appears again on The Drum, Q&A or 7.30 let him explain his far-right associates, clarify his status with Opus Dei, reveal who now pays his salary and re-state the reasons for his fiery opposition to universal marriage rights and a woman’s right to abortion.
FOOTNOTE: The decriminalising of abortion in NSW was made possible the unanimous support of National MPs in the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council.
Washington stimulus gifts to multi-millionaires
More than 40,000 American millionaires will each receive around $1.6 million from the COVID-19 stimulus package passed unanimously in the US Congress by Republicans and Democrats.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was trumpeted by House and Senate politicians as a boost for “working families”.
But the Joint Committee on Taxation has stripped the US$2 trillion Act of its public relations “spin” and uncovered clauses which provide extra money for wealthy business owners. The committee found that 43,000 business owners, mainly in hedge fund and real estate firms, i.e. bludgers, will receive tax breaks amounting to $1.6 million each.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, said it was a “scandal” to “loot American taxpayers in the midst of an economic and human tragedy”.
Another American who doesn’t believe “we’re all this together” is Matt Taibbi, political columnist for Rolling Stone magazine. “Ordinary people receive aid through programmes that are piecemeal, complex and riddled with conditions. Meanwhile, ‘relief’ programmes [see above] aimed at top income levels are immediate, staggering in size and scope, and often appeared as grants rather than loans.”
Steve Wamhoff of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy said many of the measures only befitted a select group. “It has to be stressed that this exclusively helps wealthy people,” he added.
Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett doesn’t buy the slogan that “we’re all this together” either. “The cost of caring for this small slice of the wealthiest 1% is greater than the CARES Act funded for all hospitals in America,” Doggett, a reforming activist from Austin, said. “It’s even greater than CARES provided for all state and local governments.”
Even the normally Trump-supporting Wall Street Journal owned by Rupert Murdoch said the package amounted to “the Fed [Federal Reserve] is protecting Wall Street first. The goal seems to be to lift asset prices, as the Fed did after the financial panic [in March], and hope that the wealth effect filters down to the rest of the economy.”
Here we go again – the old “trickle down” rort. Does anyone still believe in “trickle down”, apart from Scott Morrison and Paul Keating, that is?
Marcus Stanley from Americans for Financial Reform said with crushing logic: “The Fed’s perspective on this to create normalcy in financial markets. What ‘normalcy’ means, however, at a moment when many businesses are closed or careering towards bankruptcy, is not clear. This heads-I-win, tails-the-Fed-loses is resulting in win after win across the financial sector, some more malodorous than others.”
Update on Pentecostalism
Pastor Tony Spell, a Pentecostalist from the Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has devised a way to keep his congregation free of the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic.
He is urging followers to donate the US Government’s US$1,200 coronavirus relief cheques to Christian fundamentalists like himself. “I’m donating my entire stimulus of $1,200, my wife is donating her stimulus $1,200 and my son is donating his stimulus of $600.”
Spell released a video in which he said: “Donate it [stimulus cheque] to evangelists, North American evangelists who haven’t had an offering in a month; missionaries who haven’t had an offering in a month; music ministers who haven’t had an offering in a month.”
In March Pastor Spell held a service in breach of the Louisiana’s order banning public gatherings. His personal lawyer was later hospitalised with coronavirus.
I wonder if Pastor Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, will launch a similar scheme among the faithful at his Horizon “church” in Sutherland?
Members of the Hillsong-style congregation could give up their stimulus package cheques as “offerings”. In that way, Commonwealth taxpayers, i.e. us lot, would be helping to pay for Pastor Morrison’s “church”.
Kissinger’s call to save the Western world
Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State to Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, has let the cat out of the bag. In a 3 April article for Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, Dr Kissinger, aka Dr Strangelove, said Western world leaders must act promptly to save the capitalist system because the coronavirus pandemic threated to “set the world on fire”.
The COVID-19 pandemic had “struck with unprecedented scale and ferocity” and the US needed to work quickly to find a solution to rebuild the capitalist economy and protect the “liberal world order” [imperialism].
The 96-year-old Kissinger, an adviser to US Republican leaders since the 1950s, made no reference to the current mantra that “we are all in this together”. Through the fog of academic bullshit which he learned at Harvard, Kissinger urged President Trump to stop the COVID-19 killer virus “as quickly as possible” and return US imperialism to its role of world leadership. Kissinger, who once referred to the elderly as “useless eaters”, is responsible for millions of deaths across the globe as he directed US foreign policy during the era of the “killing fields”. To this day he remains an unindicted war criminal living in a Manhattan penthouse surrounded by a permanent guard of armed secret servicemen and women.
Kissinger supporters rally – in wheelchairs
Kissinger’s message which echoed President Trump’s slogan of “let’s make America great again” was warmly welcomed by Pat Buchanan, the failed presidential candidate and America’s leading far right Christian evangelist.
Buchanan, aged 81, supported Kissinger’s clarion call that Americans must “struggle to heal the wounds to the world economy”. His only reservation was that Kissinger should have flayed the People’s Republic of China for starting the COVID-19 epidemic.
The Lord Rothermere-owned Daily Mail Online grabbed Kissinger’s Wall Street Journal opinion piece and reduced to it a set of sensational “grabs”:
- Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has warned of global economic doom;
- He has issued a dire proclamation that “failure could set the world on fire”;
- The 96-year-old believes the White House has done “a solid job in avoiding immediate catastrophe”;
- He says the US needs to work quickly to find a cure [to the pandemic], pitch in to rebuild the world economy and protect the “liberal world order”;
- Kissinger writes: “Not even the US can in a purely national effort overcome the virus.”
The Daily Mail Online’s coverage was composed with Foreign Office precision: it was meant to be read by PM Boris Johnson and No 10. When Kissinger urged US leaders “to work efficiently and in a far-sighted manner to regain America’s trust but also the world’s trust”, he was speaking directly to Boris Johnson as well.
By special arrangement, Kissinger’s opinion piece was given to the Daily Mail Online’s Washington correspondent a day before it appeared in print in the Wall Street Journal. Everything possible was done to make sure the coverage hit London as well as Washington.
As an exercise in coordinated messenging, it was executed with great precision. But it was all too late. Within a week, the US was swept by the killer virus, bodies were starting to pile up, stocks of food and essential medical equipment had run out and desperately long queues were forming outside welfare centres and hospitals.
New York was being called “the epicentre” of the pandemic in the United States with the death toll climbing as fast as Italy’s a few weeks earlier. Kissinger’s warning that “failure could set the world on fire” had become a reality.
The day Laurie Brereton unloaded on Howard’s cronies
On 29 September 1995, Sydney Federal MP Laurie Brereton addressed the ACTU Congress and made a scathing attack on Liberal reactionaries in the Commonwealth Parliament.
He accused them of “shamelessly” blaming working men and women for the size of Australia’s external deficit although it belonged overwhelmingly to the private sector.
Sounding like an apologia written by his friend Paul Keating, Brereton bravely tried to explain that the wage-cutting “social contract” was a piece of splendid policy. It was – if you were an employer!
“The Federal [Keating] Government is proud of these Accord initiatives and achievements. I know that as our partners, the unions are just as proud.”
He went on: “John Howard seeks election under false pretences. Pretences like being a friend of the battlers, like being the answer to foreign debt owed by Australian corporations. Let’s not forget the rest of his ‘battler-friendly’ team. There’s the author of Fightback, Peter Reith, who believed in both the GST and no dole after nine months. There’s the Dollar Sweet’s man, Peter Costello. Suddenly, we’re supposed to believe all these sworn hardliners, these founding fathers of the HR Nicholls Society, have become industrial marshmallows. Well, it just doesn’t wash.”
Well, yes it did wash. Voters didn’t believe the ALP Prime Minister, his Foreign Minister or any of others who said one thing at election time and kicked voters in the teeth when they were in office.
When travel PR becomes “news”
It seems like only yesterday that the British and Australian media were pouring out stories that their respective countries were among the world’s best tourist destinations for 2019-20.
The Australian media, particularly Rupert Murdoch’s “platforms”, devoted pages of space, plus editorials, to celebrate the tourist wonders of Oz. Talk about cultural cringe; it was nauseating stuff.
The gushing coverage was based on the release of a Lonely Planet survey of world tourist destinations. It coincided with the publication of the Best in Travel 2020 which compiled a list of destinations based on “topicality, unique experiences and wow factor”. In other words, it was a piece of unvarnished advertising posing as “news” and probably deserved a mention in a couple of paragraphs on one of the inside pages or in the weekly Travel section.
But in these days when trivia and utter tosh is regularly served up as “exclusive” and “sensational news” the Lonely Planet press release became the “news of the day”. Almost every section of the media fell for it.
Australian media deluged its readers and viewers with luscious aerial photographs of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, Bondi Beach, Uluru, Fraser Island and the Great Barrier Reef.
Today all these venues are closed. Tourists are banned. If anyone breaks the ban, they face instant fines and, in serious cases, they can be arrested and detained and find themselves with a criminal record.
When the “world’s best destinations” report first came out the British media fell into Union Jack triumphalism. From the Lonely Planet press release came these sparkling words: “Brexit uncertainties have dominated the headlines in recent years but one constant amid all the confusion has been the timeless treasures that England is famous for: the historic castles, the quaint villages and rolling countryside, and of course, the seaside. Take a bracing walk on a windswept pier, eating delicious fish and chips, searching for marine life in rock pools, finding fossils in ancient cliffs, building sandcastles and dolphin-spotting on picturesque beaches are just some of the activities offered by the English seaside.”
Some of this may have been true in the 19th century but Britain’s seaside is now awash with plastic bags and beer cans, the exorbitantly priced fish and chips are inedible even by the seagulls and building sandcastles at Blackpool or Brighton requires a pneumatic drill. As for the “bracing walk on a windswept pier”, all public and private piers are closed. In any case, what holidaymaker wants to parade along a pier in pissing wind and rain? Do many Brits regard this as a “wow factor”? I very much doubt it.
Headline of the Week
Nine pickle jars destroyed as woman ‘loses control’
- Powys County Times, a weekly Welshpool-based newspaper covering Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire
Pseuds of the Week
Arsenal fans have become trapped in a self-fulfilling cycle by which their own anger creates the condition to justify that anger, as though Sophocles were producing Arsenal Fan TV.
- Jonathan Wilson, soccer reporter, writing in The Guardian
There’s something about being present, experiencing the legend of Madonna, as she sits confidently with her legs wide, as classical music blasts, teasing: “This is what it’s like to have Mozart come out of my pussy” – witnessing the mesmerising balance of this icon, over 60 but ever in control, ever sashaying along knife’s edge between self-perception and narcissistic.
- Katie Columbus writing for The Arts Desk, a British arts journalism website