The dodgy One Notion chief of staff to Pauline Hanson, James Ashby, and Queensland state leader of One Notion, Steve Dickson (a former Liberal member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly), have been caught in an elaborate sting by news network al-Jazeera. The sting was not so much aimed at One Notion, but to uncover how the US National Rifle Association (NRA) handles public opinion after deadly mass shootings. Australian, Rodger Muller, a member of al-Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, posed as a gun lobbyist, set up a front organisation (Gun Rights Australia), and used a hidden camera to record a series of meetings between representatives of the NRA and other organisations, and the two One Notion patsies, held in Washington in September, 2018. This was part of a three year investigation, which moved into the orbit of One Notion only as late as 2017. It was at that time and subsequently, that Muller sucked James Ashby into believing that the NRA could provide cash for the upcoming 2019 federal election campaign1.
Ashby and Dickson were recorded on hidden camera seeking a $20 million donation to One Notion. When interviewed about this yesterday, Ashby and Dickson said they had been on the grog for three or four hours prior to these conversations. They also were recorded having a meeting with Koch Industries, which funds conservatives and climate change deniers in the US. They stated that they were unsuccessful in obtaining any US funding. In a sign of their desperation, they accused al-Jazeera of being an agent of the Qatari government, and they stated their remarks had been taken out of context1,2 (they hadn’t; they were recorded on camera). One of the odd things Ashby mentioned was that Pauline Hanson wouldn’t be commenting because she was “quite ill”. It turned out that Hanson had reputedly been bitten on the face by a tick. After people heard this, most online concern was for the health of the tick, while others thought it may have been code for botox.
Eventually, Hanson did tweet that she was shocked and disgusted with the al-Jazeera “hit piece”. “A Qatari government organisation should not be targeting Australian political parties”. She said this had been “referred to ASIO”. These comments by Hanson are ironic given that Ashby and Dickson were asking for money from a foreign organisation precisely to attempt to target Australian political parties, most notably the Greens, who according to Ashby are “f#$%tards” and the “worst people”.
Now some (but not all) of the Murdoch hacks are piling on al-Jazeera. One of the silliest is Prue MacSween, who tweeted: “So this is the new form of ‘investigative’ journalism in Australia. Masquerade as a US lobbyist, infiltrate & inveigle yourself into One Nation. Groom its representatives to record conversations, give the recordings to your media mates here & influence the Fed election. Bingo!”4 Apart from the mangled English, MacSween gets facts wrong (Muller masqueraded as an Australian lobbyist; the One Notion representatives did not record conversations, Muller did.). Furthermore, MacSween doesn’t seem to be aware that the One Notion idiots were trying to obtain money from the NRA precisely to influence the Federal election. In addition, investigative journalists and law enforcement organisations have been using such techniques for as long as I can remember. When all sorts of cricket match fixing stories and perpetrators have been uncovered, few complained about the ethics at the time5,6. The reason some ultraconservatives are upset about this episode, is because it is a political party on their end of the spectrum, and which provides preferences to the Liberal Party, which has been pinged. One can only imagine how dramatically the response from Murdoch hacks would differ, if representatives of the Greens or the Labor party had been caught in this sting. Given how Sam Dastyari was hounded for several hundreds of dollars from a Chinese national, I bet it would have been very different.
The stupidity of Pauline Hanson and Murdoch hacks like MacSween makes one shake one’s head in disbelief. Strangely, I keep being reminded of the Dunning-Kruger Effect whenever I bump into utterances from people in One Notion, or their supporters in the Murdoch media. The stupid overestimate their abilities. Especially those to do with cognition.
PS: In a case before the High Court (Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd), footage of the slaughter of possums for meat was obtained by animal rights activists who installed hidden cameras without Lenah’s knowledge or consent. That footage was passed to Animal Liberation Ltd, who passed it to the ABC. Upon learning of the ABC’s plan to broadcast the footage, they sought an injunction to prevent the broadcast. The High Court found in favour of the ABC and decided that the fact that the footage was obtained improperly in the first place, did not taint the use and publication of the film for every other person into whose hands the film may fall7.