Jim Wallace’s pro-censorship lies and distortions

The Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace is on the Fairfax news sites today, telling the same old lies to support compulsory Internet filtering. Sigh.

Since Wallace promotes himself as a representative of good Christian values, I’ll allow that he may just be ignorant rather than a deliberate liar. Ignorance is no sin: it can be cured with knowledge. But he does use the familiar fraudulent propaganda techniques: misrepresenting his opponents; cherry-picking numbers; failing to explore the implications of those numbers; citing the same suspect Australia Institute report; and wrapping it up in the same old “protect the children” cant.

Those of us who’ve been covering this issue for more than a year now are getting sick of responding to the same easily-rebutted debating tricks. But, as I keep saying, politics is a marathon event. So if Jim’s rolling out the same material, we’ll point out the same flaws.


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Who do you nominate for “Cnut of the Week”?

Image of King Cnut, labelled Cnut of the Week

Stilgherrian Live, my live Internet program, returns tomorrow night, and I need nominations for this week’s “Cnut of the Week”.

If you missed the last two episodes, well, the segment “Cnut of the Week” is dedicated to the memory of King Cnut the Great, also known as Canute, a Viking ruler of England and Denmark, and Norway, and of some of Sweden variously from 1016 to 1035 CE.

Cnut is best known for attempting to hold back the tide. As 12th-century chronicler Henry of Huntingdon tells it, Cnut set his throne on the shore and commanded the tide to halt — but of course it didn’t stop. Cnut leapt back and said:

Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.

He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again.

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Sit up! You’re on the Web!

It’s either independent discovery or suppressed memory. Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen’s latest Alertbox column explains something I’ve been saying for years: that people sit up to use a website, and that changes their behaviour.

Unfortunately he’s been saying it for years too, so maybe I got it from him and then forgot.

Anyway, in Writing Style for Print vs Web he says:

I’ve spent many columns explicating the differences between the Web and television, which can be summarized as lean-forward vs. lean-back:

  • On the Web, users are engaged and want to go places and get things done. The Web is an active medium.
  • While watching TV, viewers want to be entertained. They are in relaxation mode and vegging out; they don’t want to make choices. TV is a passive medium.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t have entertaining websites or informative TV shows. But it does mean that the two media’s contrasting styles require different approaches to entertainment and education.

The differences between print and the Web may not seem as strong, but to achieve optimal results, each requires a distinct content style.

The very useful article then gives examples and good advice before spruiking his $1000+ per day seminars.

Nielsen is a smart man — though he isn’t always right on everything, as some of his fans believe. Still, if you’re considering the audience’s needs (and shouldn’t you always be doing that?) he’s spot on.

Of course I’m a complete hypocrite, because some of my posts have 1000 words of straight text. Rules were made to be broken.

Slavedriver Rudd fails the exploitation test

My good friend Stephen Stockwell asks whether, after a week of reports that our new Prime Minister is driving his public servants too hard, we could call Rudd the Australian Federal Government’s answer to Jason Calacanis? Perhaps he’s onto something.

In The Age today, author and lawyer Dr Mirko Bagaric reckons the ultimate test of character is when a person has unchecked power. “That is why at work you can get a pretty good gauge of the character of your bosses but not your underlings,” he says. “They are too busy being nice to you to try to get ahead.”

So what does Bagaric make of the many, many reports of public servants complaining that Rudd has turned their lives into a “nightmare” through overwork? Bagaric says, “Rudd has spectacularly failed the exploitation test.”

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Am I a hypocrite for using PayPal?

Given what I’ve written about eBay Australia and PayPal recently, is it hypocritical to have added a “donate” button to my website which works through PayPal? I don’t think so. After all, I did say that for small businesses setting up online, PayPal is “often the most cost-effective way to accept credit card payments, and the easiest to set up technically”. And it is. I got that “donate” button set up in 10 minutes. The gripe was about eBay forcing its sellers to use PayPal, which they own. What do you think?

Lesson from Iraq: don’t ignore international law

Photograph of Mary Ellen O’Connell

Of all the writing about the 5th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, one of the more interesting pieces is by Mary Ellen O’Connell (pictured) of Notre Dame Law School. In Learning from the Iraq War: The Wisdom of International Law, she argues that the most tangible lesson is that the US ignores international law at its peril.

Going into Iraq, we ignored the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of force except in self-defense or with Security Council authorization. Once in Iraq, we ignored the Hague Regulations, requiring us to put a stop to looting and to make only necessary changes to local law and government. We ignored the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit secret detention and abuse of prisoners of the kind we saw at Abu Ghraib.

The talk on Iraq is all about what went wrong, whether the surge is working, and when we can get out. We hear virtually nothing about international law and look set to repeat our mistakes. Violating the law has cost our nation and Iraq dearly. It has denied us the guidance of rules based on long experience and moral consensus. We have lost standing in the world, a literal fortune, and precious lives. Rather than internalizing the lesson of law violation in Iraq, we continue to defy the law in serious and self-destructive ways.

At some point, sooner or later, America needs to understand that international law does indeed apply to everyone — including America. Otherwise any US action against any other nation breaking the law is nothing but hypocrisy. (Hat-tip to Blog Them Out of the Stone Age.)