Complaint Against The Australian Newspaper
Complaint Against The Australian Newspaper
John Moffat & Jim Saleam
March 4 2007
We would jointly make a complaint against The Australian newspaper.
The article complained of appeared in the edition of Monday February 5 2007 at page 5. It was authored by Mr. Greg Roberts and was entitled “Party defends Klan sales”. A copy of the article is provided here.
The article resulted from an 'interview' conducted by Mr. Roberts with Mr. John Moffat on Thursday 4 and Friday 5, February 2007.
Mr. Roberts did not seek to contact any other member of Australia First Party, although we understand he caused a false enquiry to be made of the party by a person calling himself Andrew Lester (see e-mail enquiry and reply). This person, who also telephoned a number provided by reply - and within a few minutes of that reply – said he “wanted to purchase T-shirts” (sic) at the Australia First shop, but ultimately, he did not appear at his appointment two days later.
A letter was sent by Dr. Jim Saleam to the Editor of the paper covering some of the points at issue in the article. This letter (as provided) was not published. On this occasion, given that another letter by Saleam, sent for publication in 2005 (and also in response to an item by Roberts), was rejected on the basis it was “abusive”, this letter was worded with restraint.
All documents associated with this complaint are in folios and are tagged for easy reference.
It is the opinion of the complainants that previous dealings with the Press Council and otherwise by Saleam and other persons known to us both concerning the journalism of Mr. Roberts, inevitably meet with the resistance of The Australian newspaper. Certainly, neither of the complainants would have desired any contact with Mr. Roberts after the publication of the article. Contact with the Editor would also have been pointless, given the failure of the letter to be published. As Saleam recalls from his 2005 complaint, the Editor said then that he was “in denial” about his own politics – or more correctly he denied the validity of The Australian's historical scripts directed at so-called 'Right' personalities and organizations.
The proper course is to complain to the Australian Press Council.
Although there are substantial doubts concerning the motives and accuracy of Mr. Roberts on Saleam's part (see an earlier complaint of 2005), there is no need to ventilate that here – other than in one narrow area. It seems that an article upon the Australia First Party web site (Saleam admits to co-authoring it) may establish the precise 'formula' employed by Mr. Roberts in his dealings with his subjects, per the article now complained of. In other words, the earlier Australia First article veritably foreshadows and describes the method of the journalist (which the newspaper reasonably endorses). Quite significantly, this article refers to Mr. Roberts's 'need' to connect Australian 'Right' personalities and groups with the American Ku Klux Klan and similar forces, by means of hyper-tenuous 'links'.
It is possible that Greg Roberts may be operating with an agenda of his own, using his position in the media to smear his political enemies, rather than reporting accurately. In this context, it is essential that Greg Roberts and The Australian confirm or deny whether Mr. Greg Roberts is the same "Greg Roberts" who previously wrote for the Communist Party paper, Tribune, a paper which previously operated the "link" method.
We understand (from the Saleam complaint of 2005) that the newspaper considers Mr. Roberts some sort of expert in the affairs of 'Australian Right' politics (we use that term very loosely). It stands by its man as he is supposed to offer solid journalism. Whether the tail wags the dog, or the dog wags his tail, is an irrelevancy in this case: we deal with the same construction. It is understood that where the action of the journalist is concerned, the newspaper may not be responsible (and vice versa), a matter of importance to Australian Press Council rules and powers. However, it is our submission here that really the two are inseparable in this case. The editor of the newspaper does not 'supervise' Mr. Roberts too closely, because he accepts the accuracy of Mr. Roberts and endorses his material. Mr. Roberts brings his interests and qualities (sic) to his research and material.
Grounds Of Complaint.
Breach Of Australian Press Council Principle 5,
“distorting the facts in text, headlines..”
The article is entitled “Party defends Klan sales …”.
This title is misleading. The Australia First Party sells no item of a “Ku Klux Klan” nature.
The reader would easily assume that the party does sell such things, or some other thing associated with the Ku Klux Klan.
A search of our premises in Sydney fails to satisfy us that we sell “Klan” items. Mr. Roberts has not inspected for himself (as below)
The point is therefore founded upon a non truth. The headline thus prepares the reader to accept assertions that are equally inaccurate.
The newspaper has no evidence that we have perform any “Klan sales” – and thence we cannot “defend” against that which we do not do. Thus the headline distorts the facts.
Breach of Australian Press Council Principle 1 “should not publish what they know or could be reasonably be expected to know is false or fail to take reasonable steps to check the accuracy of what they report”; Principle 5, “not misrepresenting or suppressing relevant facts..”
The article says that “The Australia First Party has defended its sale of merchandise featuring Ku Klux Klan symbols …”
Now the tone changes. It is no longer “Klan sales”, but merchandise featuring symbols. The reader could assume that this was in fact Ku Klux Klan material. This is certainly not the case even by the subsequent drift of the article itself. However, the point is unclear and a reader could easily (and incorrectly) assume at any point that it was actually specific KKK material under discussion.
The Australia First Party has not “defended” anything. Because the Australia First Party sells no such thing.
The Australian newspaper has not established its supposed facts. The Australian newspaper did not attend the shop. The Australian newspaper has not viewed the T-Shirt. So reasonable steps were not taken to establish the facts. The Australian newspaper, given the history of the Australia First Party and the other content of its web site (including criticism of Mr. Roberts), should have considered it unlikely that the “Klan sales” were being made. The newspaper has changed line in the article, moving to “merchandise featuring” symbols from actual sales. The editor failed to properly supervise Mr. Roberts's effusive text and therefore failed in his responsibility to achieve accuracy.
In Mr. Roberts's personal case, we doubt that he would have cared.
Breach of Australian Press Council Principle1: “should not publish what they know or could be reasonably be expected to know is false or fail to take reasonable steps to check the accuracy of what they report”; Principle 5, “not misrepresenting or suppressing relevant facts..”
The article says: “The AFP web site shows the party is selling T-Shirts displaying the Celtic Cross with the slogan 'Our Race Is Our Nation'. The cross and the slogan have long been associated with the Ku Klux Klan.”
Of course, none of that proves that the material came from the Ku Klux Klan, nor that it was copied from them. It is only now that the reader might opine that the material might not specifically be Ku Klux Klan material, but it is still open for the reader to conclude that it was. The overall tone of the article would suggest that it was.
In point of fact, the T-Shirt sold in the shop has specific qualities:
a. It was designed by a local Australian person.
b. It was made as a product extolling “Celtic” pride, hence the words “Celtic Warrior” displayed on the shirt. The web site mentioned that phrase ”Celtic Warrior” too, but Mr. Roberts ignored that. In this way, the reader was denied important information.
A proper investigation may have established these facts. If this matter proceeds to the Council, the Shirt will be formally produced with an attestation from its creator.
Mr. Roberts has not established the material came from the Ku Klux Klan or that it was copied from them. He has, at best, a T-Shirt that has a similar slogan etc. to something which he purports, has Ku Klux Klan origins and is used by them. Moffat avers that Mr. Roberts asked nothing about the phrase “Celtic warrior”.
If Mr. Roberts had enquired about the phrase “Celtic warrior”, he would have gleaned information to the effect it was a folkloric shirt. This is the “race” being referred to. The phrase is colloquial – ie. “the Celtic race”. Such warriors might have considered themselves a great people – or in our parlance, a “nation”. Some people consider the Celtic achievement remarkable, but that does not make them KKK supporters (sic)
Moffat did the interview, but was not aware of the origins of the shirt, but he had seen it. Of course, it is unlikely that Mr. Roberts would have contacted Saleam personally for any clarification, but still the newspaper could have caused enquiries to Saleam or others to be made.
The newspaper should have understood it was at best drawing a parallel, but one affected by the reference “Celtic warrior” and that it was not (the shirt was sight unseen) necessarily of Ku Klux Klan origin.
How would the editor, in exercising his supervision of Mr. Roberts, know if the material he was offering was false? He obviously went by Mr. Roberts's advice.
Therefore, the newspaper was careless to associate Australia First Party with the Ku Klux Klan. Given the newspaper's history of reliance upon Mr. Roberts, this may have even been deliberate, if in fact the article was reviewed at all. . This is a misrepresentation of the party that suppresses a number of other pertinent facts (as in this section and as follows).
Breach of Australian Press Council Principle 1: “should not publish what they know or could be reasonably be expected to know is false …; Principle 5, “not misrepresenting or suppressing relevant facts..”
The article says: “Mr Moffat yesterday said that he was not concerned about the association of the slogan and symbol with the KKK. “A lot of people are using that slogan these days.” “It represents what we stand for.”
This was not a fair and proper report of the interview. The quotes are therefore, in their context, false. Moffat says that the interview was not consistent or thorough-going, but patchy and repetitive. Moffat says that Mr. Roberts repeatedly asked him to pose in the shirt or that he be allowed to photograph Moffat near one of the shirts (he offered to send a photographer only to the shop). Moffat declined and asked him why he wanted that. Moffat says that he remonstrated with Mr. Roberts that there was no 'link' with the KKK. Moffat said that there was some discussion about the slogan itself.
Hence the first part of the quote arose, given to Mr. Roberts to show him that his direction was incorrect, but now used by the newspaper to show the insouciant attitude of Moffat to a supposed KKK slogan. Moffat knew that these words had appeared elsewhere and had read of them, but could not recall where. A search did not reveal whether any Klan group had used the words. We are prepared to accept that some KKK person may have used the words, but it is incumbent on the newspaper to show these words are a generalised thing of long standing use.
Moffat says that the second quotation was in reference to the Celtic and folkloric aspects of the shirt and that he is therefore quoted out of context.
Moffat has no interest in the Ku Klux Klan, nor any desire to appear to be receptive to it. This is reasonably his position and the newspaper should know that members of Australia First have no connection – ideological, political or organizational – with any manifestation of the Ku Klux Klan movement. Certainly, other than their current claim, the newspaper will not be able to establish any 'link' (sic).
The article led the reader to conclude that Moffat would use KKK slogans and symbols if they supported his ideas (sic). That was not Moffat's intention in doing the interview, nor were these Moffat's full words, nor his nuances either. Moffat avers that at all points, Mr. Roberts must have been aware of this.
The newspaper must have accepted Mr. Roberts's article without review. This was a misrepresentation and distortion of the facts. The newspaper should have known that no member of the Australia First Party would have sought to allow the association to be made. If The Australian made the association, then it has published false material that it should have doubted as to its accuracy when Mr. Roberts presented it.
Breach of Australian Press Council Principle 1: “should not publish what they know or could be reasonably be expected to know is false or fail to take reasonable steps to check the accuracy of what they report”; Principle 5, “not misrepresenting or suppressing relevant facts..”
The article refers to “the Ku Klux Klan” in the context of the “Celtic Cross”.
The fact is that there is not any such entity as “the” Ku Klux Klan, but there is a myriad of small sects, cults and grouplets, which in the United States of America, employ this label. There may be as many as forty separate groups using this name with a maximum combined membership of 5000.
Mr. Roberts has not established which, if any, of these groups utilise the Celtic Cross, or the slogan, although we will, in part, do that for him. The newspaper must be pressed to show if a miniscule sect alone, has chosen to do so for reasons of an uncertain origin, whether or not this could have any real significance to the present issue. The mere appearance of something somewhere does not prove 'association'. It could be highly coincidental.
Our research shows that the usage of the Celtic Cross is not generalised amongst the groups. Quite the contrary.
Research conducted on the Internet with the web sites of the Imperial Knights of America (IKA) shows no use of the Celtic Cross. The IKA was once at the centre of Mr. Roberts's fabricated KKK infiltration of Pauline Hanson's One Nation in 1999, so the group must be familiar to him. It is agreed that a Celtic Cross did appear on a Texas KKK site (the White Camellia Knights), but not in the context of it being an emblem of the movement, but more a reference to a 'links page'. A mini group called the 'Brotherhood of Klans Knights of the KKK' did use a Celtic Cross, but called it a cross-wheel. The group has a web site still – but seems not to exist. Pastor Robb's Knights of the KKK (this is the largest Klux fraction) uses several symbols. A sun wheel (which is like a Celtic Cross, but without the arms of the cross being outside the circle) did appear on its flag sales page and was reputedly used as a badge of sorts. Interestingly, the same page sold the St. Andrew's flag of Scotland and the Irish Republic Tricolour. This same sun wheel symbol appeared in 1980 in the Knights group when the famous David Duke was still associated with it. This seems to be the earliest use we can detect for any emblem 'like' a Celtic Cross.
So much for the real facts.
This article therefore misleads the reader into believing that the use of the slogan and the Celtic Cross are actually KKK self-defining brands. Rather, the usual long-term symbol of the KKK groups is a red tear-drop which represents blood. Sometimes the American flag or the Confederate States battle flag are employed. There is also a Christian Cross on a red circular field (with the tear drop or not), but the arms of the Cross neither extend to the edge of the circle or pass outside of it (as the arms of a Celtic Cross).
In fact, the Celtic Cross is also a symbol found on Roman Catholic institutions and even in graveyards. Some Church of Scotland churches used the Cross as did Presbyterians.
More salient to the present discussion, it is extensively used by a number of European nationalist political movements over five and a half decades. Saleam can state with academic assurance that its first major usage was with the French 'Jeune Nation', founded by the Sidos brothers in 1951. Produced with this complaint are European publications that have used it over long periods. It is ridiculous to say they have any connection with the Ku Klux Klan.
Mr. Roberts should reasonably know of this wide usage of the Celtic Cross. He did not say that the Celtic Cross 'was associated with movements of the 'European radical Right' (sic). We concede he could have done that with more accuracy, although we might have no 'links' with them either. (Example: the current Italian Forza Nuova at www.forzanuova,org). Rather, Mr. Roberts went in the direction of a Ku Klux Klan connection, which obviously serves his interest and which is adopted by the newspaper.
More disturbing for the credibility of his article, we say that the web site of the Australian-Irish Heritage Association (www.irishheritage.net ) sports the Celtic Cross on its index page. Worse for Mr. Roberts, the Association gives the 'Brendan Award' (a bronze Celtic Cross) and describes this award and the use of the Celtic Cross as expressing essential Irish heritage.
At best – and in the reverse – it might be thought that some American Klux sect eventually decided (for whatever reason) to use it too given they had seen it used by other political groups.. The historical facts show that the European nationalist use is extensive and long standing and more established than any American usage. The facts is that the Celtic Cross has a generalised significance and can be used by anyone (see also appendix to this complaint).
The KKK reference was therefore a high distortion of the facts which also misrepresented and suppressed other facts and in this manner the newspaper misrepresented Moffat and the Australia First Party.
Breach of Australian Press Council Principle 5, “not misrepresenting or suppressing relevant facts..”
The article says: “Anti racism campaigner Cam Smith said Mr. Moffat should dissociate himself and the AFP from the KKK.”
This is an example of Mr. Roberts's false technique. The Australian endorses this deceit by previously proclaiming (and undoubtedly on this complaint also asserting) that Mr. Roberts an expert on the subject of the 'Australian Right'. To disentangle the misrepresentation and suppression of truth is difficult.
Cam Smith is a commentator from Fight Dem Back web site with which Mr. Roberts has enjoyed a symbiotic relationship, quoting them as a 'source' for earlier journalism. We attach herewith a collection of quotes from the site's former director Matthew Henderson-Hau whom Mr. Roberts has employed personally before as a credible source.
It is clear neither Henderson-Hau nor his site could have been seen as credible by any reasonable person. The quotes establish this person as a drug user, sexual fetishist, egoist and a violent bully against 'fat' people (sic). But the average reader could not know that. The newspaper should reasonably be aware that material from this source is severely tainted.
To use Smith as “flummery” to puff up the article is intrinsically dishonest. Smith has inherited the site from its former director.
Mr. Moffat does not have to dissociate himself from the KKK because he is not associated with it. This is putting words against Moffat by using a strawman source. This action conceals and misrepresents facts.
Mr. Cam Smith could not have known that Moffat was 'associated' with the KKK (sic) unless Mr. Roberts told him. It is necessary The Australian describe in detail who telephoned who. If Mr. Roberts told Smith then he was feeding Smith to create his article's credibility. If Smith contacted Roberts, then he could only have done so if he was assured of a favourable reaction and a good quote.
Either way, the use of the quote is a deception of the reader. The facts concerning the nature of the web site are concealed. Mr. Roberts has a relationship with the web site – which was also concealed. The newspaper should reasonably be aware that Mr. Cam Smith is not credible for any purpose and that his use in the text creates an impression in the reader which would be utterly false.
Breach of Australian Press Council Principle 5, “not misrepresenting or suppressing relevant facts..”
The article carries on, quoting Smith : “The use of this slogan and symbol makes it clear the first loyalty of these people is to their race not to Australia.”
Mr. Roberts may quote (in one sense whomsoever he chooses). However, this reference also misleads the reader.
The Shirt is about the Celtic Warrior and not about the (and let us 'verbal' Mr. Roberts) “the white race” (let alone an expression of the white supremacism which Mr. Roberts and The Australian often ascribes to others).
Mr. Roberts has created a statement ascribing a certain ideological position which was not put to Moffat or to the Australia First Party to clarify.
Since the T-Shirt is folkloric, it is not about loyalties but sentiments. The newspaper has misrepresented and suppressed the facts.
Breach of Australian Press Council Principle 5, “not misrepresenting or suppressing relevant facts..”
The article says: “.. Mr. Moffat has posted messages attacking Muslims on the extreme right-wing National Vanguard web site. National Vanguard leader Kevin Strom has appeared before a court in West Virginia on child pornography and witness tampering charges.”
Mr. Moffat avers that this was a poor interpretation of the words used in an uncertain, confrontational and rambling conversation from both sides.
It does not fairly and accurately report what was said. Mr. Roberts asked Moffat what he thought about the arrest of the man Kevin Strom, editor of the National Vanguard web site, on the said charges. Moffat says that he told Mr. Roberts that the matter was not relevant to whether he had forwarded an article to the web site. Moffat says he told Roberts that he has no idea whether the man was guilty or not by virtue of just a charge. Moffat says he asked Roberts “aren't you drawing a low bow?” in reference to trying to link the two.
The article is not balanced. The man Strom (so we have determined) alleges his estranged wife placed the material that caused his arrest onto his computer. Who knows? And we do not really care.
This material was introduced into the article in a way that misrepresented Moffat's authorship of some articles.
This material is capable of being read in a way that establishes Mr. Moffat as someone reckless in allowing the publication of material on a site run by a putative pornographer. This misrepresents the facts.
General Summation: The Public Interest
The complainants say that the offending article is a composite falsehood.
What is our belief? It is our belief that Mr. Roberts has, yet again, set out to smear an individual and a political organization. His smears are endorsed by the publication which refuses to discipline him, but is complicit in his falsehoods. We do not care whether it is the newspaper or the journalist behind the falsehoods – the effect is the same.
Of course, this complaint is not about our beliefs, but about the complaints system of the Australian Press Council. And we must keep to that.
We were denied any reply by The Australian, which obviously has a 'line' to pursue and which will do so regardless. So we have brought this complaint.
The specific issues we raise are defined in Principles One and Five of the Australian Press Council's Statement Of Principles. We have raised these matters.
However, there is also the general matter of “public interest”.
The public interest is served by journalism, not by propaganda. This article reads as a petty hatchet job, using distorted information to suggest some connection between Moffat and the Australia First Party with the ideology and politics - as expressed in a symbol and a slogan - of the Ku Klux Klan. Any reasonable reader could conclude that there could be such a connection. Of course, there is no connection.
For the record – and for Mr. Roberts's next epic – Saleam would offer this 'quote':
“The fractions of the movement in America, currently calling itself Ku Klux Klan, present as largely - lumpenproletarian dross accompanied by a few most misguided souls. Whatever they do or say affects the politics of the Australia First Party as much as an ideological intra-party squabble in Burkina Faso.”
Appendix: The Celtic Cross In Australia: Response To Misuse
The misuse of symbols of cultural significance by political movements regularly occurs. From 1985, the Celtic Cross was also misused in Australia – by the neo-nazi Jack van Tongeren in his 'Australian Nationalists Movement'. He chose it as a means to disguise parts of his ideology with a particular cultural imagery. In 1988, Australian National Action, in reply to van Tongeren's misuse of the cross, deliberately produced a Southern Cross design which incorporated stars on a blue background into a Celtic Cross – and made a badge out of it. It is understood that van Tongeren was 'discomforted' by the action.
The point is that there is no control over the misuse of such symbols, nor is there always any certainty as to why they are used by offending movements. It is pedestrian in the extreme to then allow the symbol to be besmirched by an undesirable person/group who/which misuses it.
March 15 2007
To: Australian Press Council
I was the person who screen-printed the T-Shirts in the dispute between Jim Saleam and John Moffat with The Australian newspaper.
I received the artwork of the Celtic Cross and the words 'Our Race Is Our Nation', many years ago and cannot now recall the situation.
It seemed to me that the design idea was about the Celtic identity (I have Irish ancestry) so I added to the artwork with the words 'Celtic Warrior'. I then designed the back of the shirt to reflect Celtic weapons.
While I have printed a few shirts in white and black, I usually print them on a green shirt to highlight the Irish aspect. The shirt produced with this letter is from the few in the Australia First shop. Over the last several years I may have printed a hundred of these shirts. No one has ever said to me that the Shirt has something to do with the Ku Klux Klan.
Name removed for confidentiality