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 news.com.au 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?
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?