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Andrew Bolt

Mar 11, 2011

Bullying the vulnerable not a good look, whether the target’s real or not

Apparently there's a pair of "professional journalists" who are getting all excited by a "hoax" blogger being published by another journalist with whom they have a long-standing antipat

Apparently there’s a pair of “professional journalists” who are getting all excited by a “hoax” blogger being published by another journalist with whom they have a long-standing antipathy.

One of them, our old friend Andrew Bolt, wrote a post on on Tuesday that, to the untrained eye, looked suspiciously like a prominent media figure abusing his power to bully the hell out of some vulnerable woman who wrote a personal political blog.

By the time of his updates, Andrew seems to have suspected (or had been told) that his target was not real. But did he know at the beginning? You read his original post (above the updates) and tell me.

And whilst the subsequent justification for the orgy of self-congratulation is that this character was subsequently published at The Drum, as best we can make out that had not happened when these two “journalists” first got stuck in. Bolt, for example, didn’t include a reference to it until his second update.

So – there are two possibilities, neither particularly edifying:

The first is that Bolt knew when he wrote that post that “Alene” was a fiction, and he was – well, what’s a nice way of putting this? Fooling his own readers. Engaging in political debate by bashing a straw-person version of his political opponents. Putting it up alongside, and indistinguishable from, his attacks on real people he dislikes – and apparently not minding if his readers believed it was true.

The second possibility, the only one we can see remaining, is even worse: it’s that he did not, at the time, know any such thing. That as far as he knew, Alene Composta was real, and who she said she was, and he was sending his keyboard warriors to mock and bully this apparently vulnerable woman – insincere-sounding “please, be genlte (sic) in communicating with Alene” line aside – having either not thought about, or indifferent to, the result to her. He regularly boasts about his “million hits a month” or whatever it is – did the potential consequences of unleashing these numbers on a solitary ordinary person blogging from her computer bother him?

Apparently not.

But it has to be one or the other, Andrew – which is it?

And now, in an update to his post today, he reveals the name of a person from whom the photograph for “Alene” appears to have been taken. And details about her.

If this is a hoax, and Bolt now knows it’s a hoax, then why no criticism of the hoaxer who’s taken this other person’s image and used it for the purpose of mockery? Does Bolt think taking someone else’s face and pretending to be them is something to be encouraged? Throughout that post, Bolt revels in the deceit – but when confronted with (apparently) a real person who has been misrepresented and (apparently) a victim of “identity theft”, what does he do? He mocks the victim. (Or: who knows? Maybe he knows that this new person is also fake – I suspect she is – and we are yet to discover whose face the wacky hoaxster has really stolen. Which isn’t much better.)

Question: Does any of this represent appropriate behavior for a professional journalist? As Bolt himself would put it – will the Press Council police its own?

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25 thoughts on “Bullying the vulnerable not a good look, whether the target’s real or not

  1. Jacob

    Jonathan Holmes had a piece published today regarding “the Composta impostor” fiasco. He wonders inter alia whether “Composta deliberately set out to entrap [Jonathan] Green, with or without the connivance of bloggers like Blair and Bolt…”

    An interesting question, particularly seeing Blair first made reference to Composta in the following brief post the day before Green made his dubious decision to publish the ‘moose’ article:


    Tim Blair – Monday, March 07, 11 (04:26 pm)

    Leftist readers who tire of this site’s relentless carbon racism and celebrations of individual greed are invited to go here instead.

    It seemed odd that Blair would gratuitously use his blog to set his blairbots onto someone who, as many have commented, seems so “vulnerable”. Note again, this was a full 24 hours before the ABC Drum sh*tstorm. He was never above that sort of nastiness, but you’d hope now he’s on a platform with a ‘respected’ media organisation he would at least exercise some scruple.

    I smelled something right away, as the Composta blog has same sh*tful, lame feel as the infamous Margo Kingston parody site, which so amused Blair and his imbecile followers back in 2005. As Holmes remarks in his piece, seeing Green step into it was “like watching a train wreck.”

  2. defixio

    I have to agree with SHV here.

    I absolutely, steadfastly refuse to give Bolt one more click-through. I’m not contributing to his web traffic, certainly not. Same with other News Ltd sites, as much as possible, but definitely not Bolt. One of the reasons I come to PurePoison is my appreciation for the effort you guys put in to trawling through and tearing apart all his bullshit. I’m glad someone is willing to do that, cuz I sure am not.

    So a link to the Drum article, even if it’s not the main point of your article, even if it’s just to provide your article with a sense of context, would have been really helpful.

  3. Jeremy Sear

    When I’m doing something for Crikey, of course I identify myself on that basis.

    Elsewhere in my life, not so much.

    Perhaps you should read the post in the above trackback. You might take some questions back to Andrew’s site, like – do you believe pseudonyms are wrong or somehow deceptive, now? So – you’re going to stop posting stuff by people using pseudonyms? And you’ll be demanding that all callers to your talkback gig fully identify themselves? (That’d be a fantastic development for MTR – the first talkback station to demand full details of all callers before putting them to air. Because their identity is IMPORTANT.)

    When you’ve done that, if you still don’t understand, pop back to ask me again. But probably best to do it over at An Onymous Lefty on the above link, since what you’re asking about has nothing to do with Crikey.

  4. dudette

    Talking about professional ‘journalists’ (or at least professional web sites), isn’t … “‘Hi, it’s Jeremy from Cikey” -thus-legitimate-questionair… meant to identify himself when calling Andrew Bolt’s radio station?

    Why the secrecy over identity? What’s to hide?

  5. Pyrrhic “gotchas” | An Onymous Lefty

    […] hiding behind pseudonyms doing their dirty work for them. And the second should remind everyone of the questions Bolt still hasn’t answered on his favourite hoax – did he mislead his readers by attacking a strawman lefty he knew wasn’t real, or did […]

  6. returnedman

    I still don’t get how it’s supposed to be funny.

  7. sholto

    I think Alene could well be ‘real’. Her utterances and logic would not sound greatly out of place from any ‘human rights’ commission or humanities faculty, or many a (real) lefty blogger. If so, she runs a nice line in bile and personal denigration herself, so can’t complain if she gets repaid with interest (unsavoury though it was).
    If not, well it was a less than hilarious prank but no one was bullied.

  8. Rohan

    People, you don’t get it. Andrew Bolt is always right. He’s on the Right, and consequently, he’s always right. That’s why they call it the Right, see? James Delingpole said as much (you weren’t silly enought to think he was engaging in some self-deprecating humour, were you?)

    By the way, my otherwise inexplicable use of the the word “consequently” in the previous paragraph means I don’t actually mean anything I just said. If you claim I do, that just shows how little integrity you have.

  9. DeanL

    My opinion only: It’s seems clear to me that he is rewriting this to appear as if he wasn’t taken in. I can only marvel at the apparent ego of a man that will dedicate so much time to such a trivial matter and carry out a revision exercise when he has a case to defend in court. Bizarre.

  10. Skiman

    Bolt is now getting stuck into the Drum editor asking how he could have been so silly as to fall for this parody. Neatly ignoring the fact that he {EDIT: appears to have – we don’t KNOW he did – Jeremy}, as well.

  11. SHV

    I understand the context, it was the reason I was questioning. Hence “why?” rather than “when?” do you link.

    I don’t need a picture of Bolt everytime you write about his inanities to understand the context. I don’t see why I should have to click through to them in order to make sense of a post. Seriously, that’s why so many people read blogs like this, so they can keep up with what the dark side is up to without giving them clicks.

  12. Jeremy Sear

    …when the link is the subject of a post?

  13. SHV


    Let’s be very specific:

    Why do you link to News Ltd?

  14. Jeremy Sear

    Because I didn’t think that blogger was the point. Or, really, the rather asinine “gotcha”. The point was the highly questionable behaviour of a pair of “journalists” working for the biggest media company in the land.

    And I do provide other links, when the story is about something other than the behaviour of News Ltd.

  15. SHV

    Why do you always provide News Ltd links but nothing else?

    I refuse to ever click a news ltd link, so I had to go a-googling to work out what the hell this was all about (especially the fact that Rupert’s ABC version of his other online crapmachine ran a piece by this blogger “Verdant Hopes”).

    Why can’t you ignore murdoch links? Why didn’t you link to the blog in question?

  16. Brizben

    When reading some of the comments even some of their long time supporters did not get the joke. It makes the defence of Windshuttle over the Quadrant hoax a farce.

    I don’t think Bolta knew and I don’t think he would pull a prank like that, it is not his style.

    The confused prank involves NSW state politics. It seems to me like someone from NSW is being cocky.

  17. Sancho

    Let’s be specific about this, Monkeywrench: Bolt was outraged that exaggerated, over-the-top extremist tweets clearly intended as satire were so similar to his genuine comments that his readers wouldn’t know the difference.

  18. Angra

    Bloods05. He says “statement A is true” and a bit later says “I never claimed that statement A is true”. But if anyone dares to claims he is not telling the truth they get threatened with defamation.

  19. Bloods05

    All right then, he’s a person who may be capable, perhaps, sometimes, in a weak moment, of trying to fool his readers, but probably not. There’s probably some other explanation. It would certainly not be accurate to call him a fool, not at all, never. That would be defamatory. We can raise questions about his character, but we can’t answer them. I’m beginning to understand the law.

  20. Rich Uncle Skeleton

    The worst part is Bolt mocking someone who suffers panic attacks and depression as “crazed” and stipulating that they should be shut out of debate.

    And he fell for it too.

    Many lols.

  21. Angra

    Alene Composta is an anagram of “Moose Placenta”

  22. Supersmirk

    I vote no. 2, he did not originally know if it was a hoax or not, but being notoriously thin-skinned, had a go anyway.

    He also had a blog entry devoted to ridiculing Tim Dunlop today, and later highlighted a reader’s comment comparing Dunlop to “Alene”.

    Seems to me that Mr. Boltemetric’s minions are very keen to keep him informed of anyone who mentions his name in any way, especially if it is not flattering. And he returns the favour as he sees fit.

  23. Eponymous

    I have absolutely no idea what any of this means. Bolt goes off on these absurd crusades then stands and waits for applause. Please just make it stop.

  24. rechoboam

    Look im not sure whether you have read the blog in detail but there is no way it is real. It is quite clear that it is broad satire and my only criticism of Andrew here is that he appears to have taken it seriously for way longer than was justified. You seem terribly confused as to what the sin is although I admire the way you are able to list about half a dozen scenarios, all of which reflect poorly only on Andrew Bolt who is after all simply an amused spectator. As for the ABC actually publishing it, the mind boggles….i notice that the ABC who actually published a picture of this person and propogated the theft of her identity havent provided any explanation at all…let alone an apology…

  25. monkeywrench

    And this from the man who was outraged at a fake Twitter Bolt. No epithet low enough to sum him up.