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Who Killed “Sharon Gould”?

I know it’s a journalistic cliche, but for a yarn that is of interest to, perhaps, ten thousand  or so Australians the Sharon Gould hoax has it all. As revealed in the Crikey e-mail today, this story has not only cultural warriors, not only cultural mischief making, but also the extra human interest element of an imminent birth. You wouldn’t read about it. Except you have. Its tragic, funny and serious all at once.

Now. Who outed Sharon Gould? Even as I type these words, there is a great deal of boasting on the blogosphere about who tracked down the Sharon Gould-Katherine Wilson link first. Bloggers, pull your heads in. It wasn’t you.

In fact mainstream media journalists Bernard Lane and Justine Ferrari of The Australian made the connection as early as Tuesday afternoon – within hours of Crikey publishing the “Sharon Gould” material. As I understand it, Lane found a comment on a blog here by Sharon Gould, linking to this article by Katherine Wilson. Ferrari set about trying to contact Wilson, but couldn’t find her (she isn’t easy to find), and didn’t feel an allegation of that sort could be published without confirmation.

Quite impressive.

As soon as I heard that Ferrari was on this trail, I thought it was probably a matter of time before others joined the dots and Wilson was outed.

Yesterday, a number of people joined those dots and others all at the same time, helping each other along the way. Guys, impossible to say which of you waas first, so far as I can see. Tom McLoughlin worked it out and after dropping lots of hints couldn’t restrain himself in comments on “Gould’s” story in yesterday’s Crikey.

Minutes later, Nexus 6 , having previously speculated that Prince Charles was Sharon Gould, hopped in on a Larvatus Prodeo comment thread and said that they had identified the hoaxer.

But another blog contributor, Don Arthur, had in the meantime found Wilson’s email address and sent this message about two hours before McLoughlin was on the case:

Katherine, I’m thinking about writing a blog post about the ‘Sharon Gould’ hoax.I noticed that ‘Sharon’ linked to article of yours in a comment she made on the Age’s Your Say forum. So I thought I might as well ask: Did you write the Quadrant article?

Don Arthur

Arthur wrote this blog post at Club Troppo later in the evening. (Wilson did not reply to his email).

Meanwhile the guys at libertarian Catallaxy were also on to it, identifying Gould first as “weathergirl”, which is a name she used in blog debates some time ago. Catallaxy’s work on the evidentiary trail was spoilt by silly schoolboy abuse of Wilson and me by a couple of their contributors.

Catallaxy tipped off Helen Dale/Darville/Demidenko at Skepticlawyer, who updated her previous post on the affair accordingly. Meanwhile Larvatus Prodeo picked up the theme, and Mark Bahnisch disassociated itself from Wilson before saying:

Incidentally, I think this whole affair has brought out both the best and the worst of the blogosphere. But I might wait until some more water has passed under the bridge to expand on that comment.

And I await this with interest.

Meanwhile the debate ran hot on the original LP post.

By now everyone was on to it.  It was on for young and old.

It was clear to me by bedtime last night that Wilson was effectively outed, which had always been a likely outcome in my view.

The question was, would the mainstream media pick up on the story, or would it remain in the blogosphere? And if the latter, how much weight should the blogosphere carry in her decision on whether or not to out herself? Would it still be possible to maintain a veneer of anonymity while only the blogosphere had wind of her identity?

I thought it was only a matter of time before the mainstream media published what was already all over the internet. Crikey was also in a difficult position. If Wilson had held me to my confidentiality undertaking, I would really have had to fall silent on the affair, and that in itself would have likely been taken as confirmation.

I told her this was what I thought, and also that Crikey would at the very least have to report on what the blogosphere was saying.

Meanwhile, since I wrote this morning’s story, I have had fresh news of mainstream media journalists sniffing around the Katherine Wilson name.

Hence the decision Wilson made, and the result you see today.

It has been interesting watching my colleagues cover this story, and try to sniff out my source. I have to say I think the mainstream media has done a good job. All the journos who have rung me have been fair and professional, without necessarily cutting me any slack as I wrestled with the various ethical dilemmas. And they have been hot on the trail of the source. The reporting I have seen has also been fair to both me and the hoaxer, iand for that matter to Windschuttle, in my view.

The blogosphere, on the other hand, has been as you would expect very variable in its fairness, accuracy and capacity for detective work. Much of it okay, but a fair bit of unsubstantiated speculation about me, WIlson, Crikey and even Windschuttle.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the nimbleness and immediacy of online blogging has made the mainstream media look slow. The stuff that has been in the morning newspapers has been known to people following the story online for hours and hours before it goes on the printing press.

So, it would be nice to chalk this story up as a good one for the bloggers, but I’m afraid that, as usual, its more complicated than that.

Journalists are still of some use, after all. It’s the slowness of the medium that holds them back.

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  • 1
    David Havyatt
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Margaret

    I want to claim some kind of prize. As I describe in my blog today, when discussing what point the hoax was trying to prove, I used the example of the use of “science” in the discussion of health effects of EME.

    As I also post it transpires that Katherine Wilson and I had a heated Crikey exchange on that very topic last year.

  • 2
    Mark Bahnisch
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Journalists are still of some use, after all. It’s the slowness of the medium that holds them back.

    I’m not sure about this reasoning, Margaret. What difference does it make if Bernard Lane did a bit of googling on Tuesday and Don Arthur did a bit of googling on Wednesday? Given that there’s a delay in publication from the MSM, it’s immaterial to the issue of when Wilson’s identity was revealed. It seems to me that quite a few folks were on the same trail at the same time. I don’t think the “bloggers v. journos” construction you’re putting on this makes a lot of sense in this context.

    It may well be that the blogosphere stuff is accompanied by a lot of speculation as to motives, and personal comments, some of which are unfortunate. Although perhaps one could defend the publication of this sort of material on the basis that it does expose the fact that there are personal links and connections and histories between some of the actors, which don’t come out in journalistic commentary where events are reported without fully tracing their context.

  • 3
    gavan
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Agree with Mark. Why turn this into another blogger v journo thing? Also, what do you mean by “The blogosphere, on the other hand, has been as you would expect very variable in its fairness, accuracy and capacity for detective work. Much of it okay, but a fair bit of unsubstantiated speculation about me, WIlson, Crikey and even Windschuttle.” From your earlier comment about being attacked in comments threads, it seems you are conflating those who comment on blogs with those who write the actual posts, all under the term “the blogosphere”. Hardly fair, and you wouldn’t do the same thing with the regular media: that is, conflate commenters and letter writers with the journalists and other contributors. Maybe a bit more care with terminology would help. As to how fair your journalist colleagues are being with you, that remains to be seen I would think. As you say, their response time is slower.

  • 4
    Mark Bahnisch
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Yep, that’s a good point, Gavan – Don Arthur’s post at Troppo, for example, is a good piece of writing and he doesn’t jump to any conclusions about things he doesn’t know, and reports what might be the case from what he does know – ie the previous career of Sharon Gould online.

    There are a lot of other reasons why it’s quite wrong to see “the blogosphere” as an undifferentiated mass on one hand or a single entity on the other, and those sorts of conflations contribute to the limited analytical utility of most of the “blogger v. journo” arguments – which I’ve been suggesting for a long time largely miss the point and are really badly framed.

  • 5
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Fair point, Gavan, about conflating posters and commenters. And the abuse has been mainly in the comments. But there have been some posters who have made unsubstantiated assertions as well. I don’t mean to winge too much about this. Heat, kitchens etc. Just pointing it out.

    Mark, my comments were related to the fairness/accuracy issue as much as to whom googled first and most effectively. And while I would agree that publication of links/connections/histories etc can be valuable, when the links and connections are not accurate, it isn’t helpful. As in the assumptions that there is a Crikey plot behind the hoax.

    I didn’t really mean to set this up as a whole big blogger v mainstream thing, though I can see why it is being taken that way. It is my reflections on what it has been like watching the story develop, from my very particular position within it – watching the bloggers work it out, knowing the Oz were nearly there too, and so on. And also a reflection on a constant preoccupation of this blog – what do journos do (if anything) that Cit Js and bloggers don’t (usually) do.

  • 6
    Mark Bahnisch
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Just pointing it out.

    Sure, Margaret, but just as there is good and bad journalism, isn’t there good and bad blogging? It just doesn’t seem to me to be either accurate or helpful for understanding what’s going on to tar “the blogosphere” with one brush. It’s a very common move in most of these debates – excellent investigative journalism is always a metonym for journalism as such while flippant or aggrieved or nasty comments stands in for the blogosphere as such. It should be reasonably clear why it’s a bad process of reasoning, and how it smuggles value judgements into the unstated premises of analysis.

  • 7
    Tom McLoughlin
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Oh actually I had it from Tuesday arvo under this alter ego on the first story comment string

    Mmm
    Tuesday, 6 January 2009 4:32:32 PM

    I didn’t want to use my own name because being a greenie that would lead to other greenies perhaps and be too much of a clue again as I waited to see how this all shook out.

    As to the covert ID I actually spilled the beans on that rarely used alter ego by coincidence only on January 5 09 while reading a sledge of me by Venise, and praise by JamesK. These are all on a string that was top of the crikey page stories over the holidays by Bernard Keane about Rudd’s year crikey published last week of 2008.

    I was trying to mitigate my rough syntax in “opaque” comments blaming Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves when I was 10 years old. And mentioned my comments were not just under my own name but also “Mmm” on rare occassions when I was concerned about personal security.

    In this case of the Hoax Story I didn’t want to cramp Ms Wilson’s fame because I really liked her work on genetic engineering. I sat on it a day. But I realised eventually it would become a race and she’d got the big splash already, so good on her. Never met her either.

    I put it down to recognising my home ngo green movement turf, not exhaustive but pretty broad coverage all the same. For instance I remember when The Oz’s Natasha Bita was an environment reporter. Now that’s collecting cobwebs.

  • 8
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Sure, Mark. I agree. But I was commenting on the particular treatment of this particular issue over the last two days – not on all of journalism or all of blogging.

  • 9
    Mark Bahnisch
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Yep, Margaret, but comments like “Journalists are still of some use, after all” really do reinscribe what you’re saying back into the broader frame. I think it’s implicit in the way you’ve written the post that this sequence of events is some sort of case study about the broader issues regarding journalism and the blogosphere. So implicit, in fact, as to be almost explicit! ;)

  • 10
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Yes, okay. Perhaps I should have written it more carefully/clearly.

    I AM however, interested all the time these days on what it is that journos do that will remain relevant/useful in the future. As in this post: http://blogs.crikey.com.au/contentmakers/2009/01/01/lets-do-lists-whats-good-and-bad-about-old-style-journalism/

    And if some of the people interested in the current post would like to put their oars in there, I would be very pleased!

  • 11
    Mary Garden
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Agree with Mark & Gavan. You are also contradicting yourself. The so-called ‘mainstream’ media use the internet and the blogosphere. These distinctions and comparisons between print vs online / mainstream vs online are becoming tiresome, if not childish. It’s not a competition, though commentators/journalists for online news sites and many media and journalism academics (for example John Quiggan) make it to be. If anything, the blogosphere is becoming mainstream. How on earth do you think Bernard Lane and Justine Ferrari made the connection? BTW it was so nice to get a PRINT copy of The Australian this morning and read the story and letters to the editor while drinking a cup of coffee. Some of the information I had already accessed online, but it reads better on paper. It can be such a waste of time reading the voluminous amounts of material written by online journalists and those posting comments.

  • 12
    Mark Bahnisch
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    I AM however, interested all the time these days on what it is that journos do that will remain relevant/useful in the future

    In which case, I’m not sure your point about journalists in all this stands up, particularly since – as you say – the mechanisms of the press meant that publication of Wilson’s identity was via blogs first. The only difference I can see is that it’s now “broadcast” to a wider audience, but that raises the question of interest – I strongly suspect the majority of people who actually care a lot about this story would have been following it in the blogosphere.

    In any case, from my point of view, I think there are some deeper issues around the efficacy and ethics of the hoax, which could lead to a more productive debate than the journos v. bloggers frame.

    I’ve been discussing those on this thread at LP from here down:

    http://larvatusprodeo.net/2009/01/06/windschuttle-sokaled/#comment-600815

  • 13
    Tom McLoughlin
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Ah yairs, as CK would say in the day.

    I reveal my “Mmm”, not to be confused with Hilary Bray, on the string here:

    2008: Dashed dreams and mouldy political compromise, Friday, 19 December 2008

    By Bernard Keane

    2nd last comment in the string and dated 5th of January all of 2 weeks down the track, waiting for the first newsletter of the year 09. I often return to old strings to see how the crows are jostling over the peckings, or return to one’s vomit, as you please. Venise was a bit mean I noticed, and shocked to have a right wing shock jock’s embrace, but I feel better now making the pick early.

  • 14
    andy george
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    I’m pleased that the reporting on the outing of this fraud is more balanced, even that of the Spencer Street Soviet of The Age. I think that there’s a recognition that the fraud by the Fitrzroy organic veggie farmer PhD raises many ethical issues (and how appropriate that such a person should figure centrally in a Crikey story – Fitzroy thinking for a Fitzroy crowd). What are the takeaways:
    1. Windschuttle and we all need to recognise that every writer is a potential fraudster liar and deceiver, not just histoiry professors like Lyndall Ryan and Stuart Macintyre (why, even Robin Williams of the ABC with the notorious ‘global warming will cause the seas to rise 100 metres’ fraud might cause the ABC to check its facts or the veracity of its content makers)
    2. Margaret Simons and Crikey should consider their journalistic ethics, or else we’ll all let them shill for crooks conmen and fraudsters
    3. I repeat, Margaret Simons who writes in a blog pretentiously called the Content Makers, sort of a Crikey media Watch. should think long and hard about her role and her moral position in this.

  • 15
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    @andy george: Oh, exactly the same comment on this post too? Copy and paste is such a handy debating tool, eh?

    (Forgive me, Margaret, for lowering the tone, but trolling like that deserves no more respect.)

  • 16
    Tom McLoughlin
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    that was very enjoyable, thanks for the comment facility.

  • 17
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Dear commenters. Please play the issue, not the person. I am fair game as author of this blog and as a journalist, but please don’t abuse each other. I have just unapproved a post for unacceptable personal abuse of andy george. Please resubmit minus the personal abuse. I want as many people as possible to participate here, and that kind of thing won’t encourage them.

    Having said that, how is it, exactly, Andy, that you think I have behaved unethically? If you can tell me that, i will happily try to respond. As I think is clear from previous posts, I HAVE thought long and hard about this. Doesn’t mean everyone will agree with what I have done, but it has not been done without thought.

  • 18
    John Quiggin
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    A brief correction to Mark Garden above. I’m not a media/journalism academic, I’m an economist, and I was writing for the Financial Review long before I (or anyone) had a blog, so, while I’ve criticised traditional media on lots of occasions, I don’t think I can reasonably be accused of being a blog triumphalist.

  • 19
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Come off it Margaret. Abuse is spectrum. What you are really saying their are acceptable ways of being bloody rude and insulting and indeed villifying as George is above, and so called unacceptable ways.

    As a pomme once told me: The English are very clever at being rude.

    Well you know what professional criticism is actually personal criticism. And a bit vice versa when you think about it. We are but the whole of our being not some job on, job off fiction.

    True to say there is a degee of white collar versus blue collar going on here and as a generalist person with experience of both worlds I reckon blue form of abuse is often more honest and sincere. It was certainly that.

    Having said that, I have really no need or desire to resubmit. Fact is it’s war, and he knows it. We won the last battle in the federal election, suck on it Mr George. Revealing too that Stilgherrian refers to same as “trolling”. See what I mean about white collar abuse being acceptable. Case closed on the flame tangent.

  • 20
    ja
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Margaret:

    Are you aware Wilson wrote a piece at LP accusing the US government of the 911 attack and many other conspiracy stories?

    Also would you be good enough to explain how much invlovement you had in this hoax. Did you contact Wilson or did she contact you with the idea. It would also be good to know Crikey’s exact invlovement in terms what inducements/encouragment etc. you and Wilson were offered beforehand.

    thanks

  • 21
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    Getting back to the main question in the headline “I said the city, as a civic duty, I killed [Sharon Gould]”

    From Pete Seeger’s “Who killed Norma Jean” on Broadsides, LP

    WHO KILLED NORMA JEAN

    Who killed Norma Jean?
    I, said the City, as a civic duty,
    I killed Norma Jean.

    Who saw her die?
    I, said the Night, and a bedroom light,
    We saw her die.

    Who’ll catch her blood?
    I, said the Fan, with my little pan,
    I’ll catch her blood.

    Who’ll make her shroud?
    I, said the Lover, my guilt to cover,
    I’ll make her shroud.

    Who’ll dig her grave?
    The tourist will come and join in the fun,
    He’ll dig her grave.

    Who’ll be chief mourners?
    We who represent, and lose our ten percent.
    We’ll be the chief mourners.

    Who’ll bear the pall?
    We, said the Press, in pain and distress,
    We’ll bear the pall.

    Who’ll toll the bell?
    I, screamed the mother, locked in her tower,
    I’ll pull the bell.

    Who’ll soon forget?
    I, said the Page, beginning to fade,
    I’ll be the first to forget.

    Words by Norman Rosten
    Music by Pete Seeger
    TRO (c) 1963 (renewed) and 1964 (renewed) Ludlow Music, NY

  • 22
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Give me the link or the date, ja, and I’ll look at it.

    I have been explaining, as I go and some would say at too much length, my involvement. Please read the following:

    http://www.crikey.com.au/Media-Arts-and-Sports/20090108-Outing-Sharon-Gould-Crikey-reveals-.html

    and

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/contentmakers/2009/01/06/more-on-the-hoaxing-of-keith-windschuttle/

    Its all there, and if you have any questions after reading it I’ll try to answer them. To answer your specific questions here, she approached me AFTER the article had been accepted by Windschuttle, and when the relevant issue of Quadrant was already on its way to the printers. I knew nothing about the hoax until this point.

    And there were no inducements or encouragement.

  • 23
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    …but I am going to bed now, and because of the amount of deleting I have had to do of comments on this issue, have put the whole thing on moderation. So the answering of questions will have to wait for a while.

  • 24
    Aaron
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    If there is any instance to highlight what is so wrong about the blogosphere, it’s this absurd ongoing drama that, realistically, has little relevance to anyone but a cyber clique. I’ve enjoyed following this story in mainstream media, but to come here (and the other Cyberleft sites) makes my head hurt. The politics, and the personal, and the spite… I wonder if anyone realises how completely impenetrable this all is to the general reader?! You would hope these sites, etc, were primarily aimed at a broad readership, but this has just turned into a shitfight between a bunch of people who are all interconnected, and it’s so painfully obvious.

    Which is what this shows up about the blogosphere. To me, one good thing about standard avenues of journalism is that, while there’s a mountain of other problems, the content is never polluted by personal politics and (therefore) does not distance the reader in the way all this rubbish does. Not to this extent, at least. I don’t know whether to feel sorry for both Margaret and Katherine (I do, in many ways) or shrug and just think, “Well, that’s what was always going to happen when you used such a vehicle of delivery”. There’s clearly now a great value being placed in “taking down” those involved in the hoax and its reporting, and I find it sad, because I don’t believe it’s really as much about the actual issues, as it is about the interpolitics at play. It’s certainly not very becoming to anyone who would be considering this kind of alternative media.

  • 25
    Mary Garden
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, John Quiggin. Not only did I spell your name wrong (as you did mine!) but I got you mixed up with another academic (also a John) from U of Qld. Many apologies.

  • 26
    Mary Garden
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    YES, it’s exhausting. All the fighting and squabbling, the labelling (left right left right left right), the personal attacks that characterise the blogosphere. If anything, it makes me value print newspapers more. Margaret, in 2002 you said “How rare, and therefore how beautiful, it can be when people actually drop the name-calling and manage to engage with each other in real discussion. When there is, heaven help us, the possibility that people might even think, might even change their minds, as a result of talking to their fellow human beings.” But that also includes Keith Windschuttle.
    Aside from the blogopshere, the point that keeps on being missed (in both online and print reports) is the motive of Katherine’s hoax, which sets it apart from similar hoaxes. It was designed to be a personal attack on Keith, to humiliate and hurt him. It was not designed to challenge his ideas. I felt sick when I read (in the Oz) that Robert Manne had tears rolling down his face on hearing the ‘good news’. What the hell is going on with public debate in this country?

  • 27
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Mary, I agree entirely with Aaron and yourself about the fighting and the squabbling. I have had enough of blogs that descend in to the equivalent of a brawl in a pub, and don’t intend to allow this one to turn in to that. And of course what you say applies to Keith Windschuttle as much as to anyone else in public life. Including me.
    Can I just point out that my role in this, despite what Windschuttle and others have said, was as a REPORTER of what Wilson did. I did not construct the hoax. I did not advise on the hoax. I heard about the hoax, and reported upon it. It was a legitimate news story – as evidenced by the rest of the media following up on it. If people would please read my previous posts on the ethical dilemmas involved in this, and engage me in debate about it, I would be very happy to respond. It is difficult to respond sensibly when people assume that I have done things that I have not done. At present the Quadrant site still carries material implying that I, and/or Crikey, are responsible for constructing the hoax. This is not the case, as has been repeatedly stated, but does not seem to be heard. I am not pretending the last week has been ethically easy, but as my first post on this blog on the day the story broke demonstrates, I have thought long and hard about the issues of journalistic ethics, and would be glad to debate them. I do not appreciate being accused of things that I have not done. I am prepared to answer for the things I have done.

  • 28
    Mary Garden
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Yep, applies to you as well Margaret. Not accusing you of anything. I had meant to include your name after Keith’s, because of the attacks on you in this forum. As for ethics, I am uncomfortable about the hoax itself, what Katherine did, and not the reporting of it. As journalists we should be ‘playing the ball, not the man’. And that should also apply to those posting comments. Why can’t Crikey have a policy of deleting comments which, rather than responding to the issue or argument, resort to personal attacks?

  • 29
    ja
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Margaret

    Please stop playing games. you know very well Wilson demanded that all her posts at LP be removed. Asking for a link is frankly an attempt at deception. Ask her for the 911 post or ask the siteowner at Larvatus Prodeo as someone has it.

    I thought you were a journalist, Margaret, not this helpless lil girl you’re trying to portray.

    When exactly, what date were you aware of tghe attempted hoax?

  • 30
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Mary, I replied to your previous post in a grumpier tone than I had intended. I’m sorry. Re personal abuse – I am in the process of drafting some rules for this blog, which will include the principle that people should play the issue, not the person, and that personal abuse is not allowed. I am prepared to wear a greater degree of abuse myself than I will allow to be directed at other commenters. I think that is fair enough, since doing this blog is part of my paid work, and I am a professional journalist. But even where I am concerned, there will be limits.

    I said in my Crikey story on Thursday that I would not myself have done a hoax like this – even if it had occurred to me, which it didn’t. I too am uncomfortable with it. Yet I can also see that hoax is sometimes a way of making a comment. Like satire. The Chaser boys, for example, rely almost entirely on hoax for their humour, which is often cruel but also very pointed and sometimes illuminating. What Wilson did, I think, did make a point – her point, not mine. She is sincere in her beliefs. I think Keith Windschuttle is too, or at least I have no reason to think otherwise.

    Others elsewhere have argued that the hoax should have been “better” or “cleverer” or different in some way in order to make some other point, or make her points differently. As I said in the Crikey story, this seems like a strange argument to me, but in any case it is largely for others to argue, now, about what she did and what it meant. The fact of the hoax was a legit news story. That is how I covered it. I have not advocated for the doing of hoaxes.

    Now, as for personal abuse – ja, I am not playing games. I know Wilson asked for her LP posts to be removed. I also know that they are nevetheless accessible through the NLA’s Pandora archive, and that people have been trawling through this. I have seen the allegations about what she has said previously. Many of these allegations are unsubstantiated despite the trawling through the archive that is going on. IN some cases, people are relying on memory and interpretation of things said a long time ago. I have not seen this particular allegation substantiated, and have not been able to find any substantiation of it myself – and I have looked. If you point me to evidence, I will look at it. Until and unless this is found, what you say is merely unsubstantiated allegation, and if you are concerned about journalists’ ethics, then you will know that such things are not normally reported.

    I won’t grace your personal abuse with a reply, but I will answer your specific question. I found out about the hoax on Friday 12 December. This was about three weeks after Windschuttle had accepted the “Sharon Gould” article for publication.

    The date I found out was, as I have said elsewhere on this blog previously, three weeks before Quadrant came out on Friday 2 January, and three weeks and four days before Crikey published my first story on the affair, on Tuesday 6 January.

    Have you read my explanations of Crikey’s involvement elsewhere on this blog? You demand explanation, but don’t seem to have read those already provided.

  • 31
    Ja
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Margaret:

    Ask Wilson for the copy of the 911 truther post. If she refuses to give it to you ask the LP people if they still have it. If the LP people are reluctant for some legal reason then ask Wilson to approve LP disclosing her posts. If Wilson doesn’t have anything to hide that should n’t be a problem.

    As I said, you call youself a journalist so I would have expected you to at least go the easy route which is to ask her and LP for the relevent posts.

    Please, the National archives are not that easy to access as you require the date the posts were made so most people don’t have the time or the inclination to trawl through 3 years of her time at LP.

    You seem to be deeply invloved in this hoax so how about you find the 911 piece and post it here?

    As a journalist I would have thought that would be quite a scoop for you in terms of writing then uncloaking a hoaxer that actually believes 911 was a US government conspiracy. No?

    There’s no abuse here, Margaret. I’m just showing some impatience with your reluctance on certain issues.

  • 32
    Mark Bahnisch
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Just with regard to this alleged 911 truther post. If it’s supposed to have appeared on LP, I don’t recall it. I suspect it’s a myth.

    And “LP people” don’t “have” Wilson/Weathergirl’s posts. They were deleted at her request, and when you delete a post from WordPress, it’s gone and can’t be recovered.

  • 33
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    JA. You are assuming,wrongly, that I have made no such checks.

    There was another allegation circulating about Wilson – that she had previously tried to hoax Quadrant with an article claiming the Port Arthur massacre never happened. That claim has been traced to a comment thread, and goes nowhere. The exchange on which it is based is clearly ironic, in which she was trying to make a point about Quadrant’s role in the history wars.

    The link is http://larvatusprodeo.net/2006/05/04/party-bohemians-welcome/#comment-72499 .

    At Comment number 14, “weathergirl” says:

    “[Quadrant] never accepted my article about how the Port Arthur Massacre was a hoax. Still, I like the issues where they deny that Aboriginal massacres ever happened.”

    Then, at comment number 21, she says:

    “To David: remember irony? Compare and contrast two propositions: (1) The Port Arthur Massacres never happened. (2) Aboriginal massacres never happened.

    Which one outrages you?”

    Now, this other claim, about 9/11, began with people saying they thought they remembered the post, but couldn’t be sure that it was weathergirl who had made the post. From this people have moved to a position of certainty, and in your case, allegation, but without having the evidence. This is about blog exchanges that happened some years ago, so memories are unreliable. Despite checks, including by me, no such post has come to light. If it does come to light, I will write about it then. So far, it is mere unsubstantiated allegation. You can put your name to it if you wish. I will not.

  • 34
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    And to add to Mark’s, I should say that the link I have provided above is from the NLA’s Pandora archive, not from LP itself.

  • 35
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    JA: If Crikey hadn’t first reported the ‘hoax’, don’t you think The Australian or the SMH would have grabbed the chance to be the first if KW had offered it? The mainstream media have now given the story a good coverage, but none of their journalists are airing these allegations about KW (9/11 & Port Arthur). They’d check them out first before publishing them, as they verge on defamation if KW did not make them. You also claim Wilson wrote many other conspiracy stories at LP. Many? I think you are expecting too much of Margaret. Keith Windschuttle didn’t even bother googling Sharon Gould’s name, or ringing her. Wasn’t he curious about other articles she had written? One of my first articles published was held up for publication (in the US) as the editor wanted to check I really was who I said I was and she couldn’t find my name anywhere on the Internet. That was years ago.

    Margaret: Some good stuff here re rules of blogging (and what the heck does it matter if he posts on skepticlawyer, which I discovered via your commentary on The hoax!) http://legalsoapbox.wordpress.com/2007/04/10/taking-it-personally-2/

    Legalsoapbox writes: .

    … the less confrontational medium of the blog can allow people to hide behind anonymity and be really nasty towards other bloggers (in ways which they wouldn’t dare in the “real world”). One thing I dislike is personal attacks on other bloggers … (Even where that blogger has personally attacked others, or doesn’t listen to others.) The problem is that it’s sometimes hard to draw a line between someone’s beliefs and someone’s personal life – someone’s beliefs can be intrinsic to their identity. It is particularly difficult where a blogger discloses personal details about himself or herself on the web. By making these issues public, are they fair game? Only to an extent. I would suggest that the following types of conduct are inappropriate:

    Invasions of privacy (publishing a blogger’s home address and personal details);
    Related to the above: attacks on (and revelations about) third parties associated with a blogger (particularly a blogger’s family);
    Racist, sexist and homophobic abuse (so, for example, a blogger may say, “I strongly disagree with the concept of gay marriage”, but one should not say “Gays should be exterminated”);
    Comments which are generally abusive and do not respond constructively to comment threads or the arguments of others.
    It seems to me that in the end, it all comes down to good old-fashioned manners. Respect your fellow bloggers, and treat them as you would have them treat you.

  • 36
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Mary. I am hoping that some of the other blogs where commenters have spread and given credence to these rumours will find their way to this thread. Making allegations without evidence is never a good look. Doing it anonymously looks worse, in my view.

  • 37
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    By the way Mary. Where did you dig up that 2002 quote from? It sounds like me, but I have been wracking my brains…

  • 38
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Margaret: that 2002 quote is from the transcript of a Radio National program “Name Calling” Friday 12/4/2002 http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/perspective/stories/s529153.htm

  • 39
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Ah yes. Thank you!

  • 40
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    The NLA only archives blogs — even big ones, like LP — once a year, and they often can’t obtain all the relevant files. I was one of the people — like JC at Andrew Norton’s place — who had recollections of a 9/11 post. Don’t know where, don’t know when, there you go. The most incriminating things people have dug up have been comments on blogs — one at LP via the NLA (the Port Arthur massacre comment) and one on Leftwrites (the 9/11 Troofer comment). Although irony does not work very well when one only has pixels to go on, I read both comments as ironic, not as any sort of confirmation of belief.

    I’m at the point now where — even though KW went after me hard and often, and for something that she’s now done herself — this fervid attempt to dig up dirt has to stop. The loose way that the word ‘fraud’ is being bandied about is also concerning. This is not fraud, nor anything like it.

    For those interested, here is the NLA’s archiving schedule for LP:

    http://pandora.nla.gov.au/tep/56373

    And here is the Andrew Norton thread where the Port Arthur/911 business originally came up. Read the material and decide for yourselves:

    http://andrewnorton.info/2009/01/did-katherine-wilson-aka-sharon-gould-hoax-the-wrong-magazine/

    Now, as I’ve already had more than enough moderating to do over at my own blog, I’ll bow out here as my appearance will no doubt mean Margaret finishes up with more moderating than she’d like.

  • 41
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    One other thing — Legal Eagle (my co-blogger) is a she. It goes without saying that her advice is very good, too :)

  • 42
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Ah, you beat me to it, SL. :) I must write like a fella – I’m always being mistaken for one in the blogosphere.

  • 43
    JA
    Posted January 13, 2009 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Margaret;

    Why don’t you simply ask her. Ask Wilson about he 911 truther post.

  • 44
    Margaret Simons
    Posted January 13, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    JA, I have. She says there is no such post.

13 Trackbacks

  1. ...] From Margaret Simons of The Content Makers: [...

  2. By Crikey! - de minimis ago curat blog on January 8, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    ...] hoaxer (who’s since been identified as a lefty-freelancer who goes by the name Katherine Wilson) put together a quite the elaborate [...

  3. By Feeling fine | Darlinghurst Nights on January 10, 2009 at 11:30 am

    ...] haven’t been exposing hoaxers or Indian IT firms. We have been busily eating great food and exploring the neighbourhood and [...

  4. By Things Get Nasty in Blogland - The Content Makers on January 13, 2009 at 10:56 am

    ...] I have said before, I am in the process of working out some simple rules for commenting on this blog. Interesting, [...

  5. By gatewatching » Journalists use telephones. on January 15, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    ...] something that needs pointing out, though. I think I agree with Margaret Simons that the “unmasking” of the hoaxer showed that there are some important, relevant and [...

  6. ...] I think about this. Although I (unwittingly) kicked off the whole bloggers v journalists thing in this post I confess I haven’t thought the whole thing through thoroughly. Indeed, the original post, [...

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