The failed estate: Tick Tick Tick

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, April 24th, 2016 - 22 comments
Categories: journalism, Media, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: , ,

Channel nine lebanon child abduction

Reprinted with permission from the failed estate.

Watching the scandal over 60 Minutes’ apparent complicity in a violent child abduction in Lebanon, I’m struck by two things – the cynicism of Channel Nine in using a child custody dispute for ratings and the complete ignorance of journalistic ethics among its defenders.

It’s depressing that supposed professionals need to be reminded of this, but journalists are supposed to be witnesses to the news, not creators of it. They are supposed to cover the story, not be the story.

It’s true that tabloid television “current affairs” shows like 60 Minutes have always put the theatrical possibilities of the medium ahead of the journalistic imperatives to the extent that the “stories” are as much about the glamorous reporters as they are about their subjects.

But the calculated fakery, carefully constructed set-ups and sing-songy pieces to camera were easier to accept when they merely involved Liz Hayes making moon eyes at (gay) Ricky Martin or Jim Whaley doing jowl-trembling stand-ups in a flak jacket (with price tags still on) from the rooftop bar of a central African Hilton, having been flown in that afternoon.

The news-as-entertainment thing we get. But bankrolling a desperate mother in a bitter custody dispute to fly to the Middle East, hire a gang of thugs to snatch the children away from their own grandmother on the way home from school takes the participatory news thing just a tad far.

In recent days, Nine’s PR machine has been rolling out its “personalities” to somehow characterise the effluent coming out of this broken down old relic of a TV station as somehow related to actual journalism. Here’s Karl Stefanovic, who after a quick Google search on the definition of journalism, told us that Tara Brown and her producers had the most noble of motives.

“Journalism – by definition is the work of collecting writing and publishing news stories and articles. Who, what, when, where, why are the cornerstones of journalism. It’s brilliant in its simplicity and it’s so easy to remember. Armed with those tools we go out into the wide world and ask away. At its most basic, we inform. At its best, it’s powerful. We can expose the wrongs. We can make a difference. It all though starts with a question.”

Well, here’s a few questions for you, Karl. What financial role did Nine play in facilitating the kidnap in Lebanon? Is it true that the network paid a dodgy London-based child abduction recovery service $115K to snatch the kids in the street? If Nine’s first concern was the poor mother, why didn’t you advise her to go through the Australian government?

But Nine doesn’t want to answer those questions because Nine and its heavily hairsprayed stars still live in an ancient Goanna time when the public could be expected to remain complicit in their own manipulation by “journalists” whose first responsibility is to their prime-time advertisers.

It is also very, very hard not to see the racial undertones in this case. A blonde Australian woman denied her custody rights by a swarthy man of Middle Eastern appearance. It just ticks every box of the low-to-middle brow demographic Nine targets with 60 Minutes, a show whose format hasn’t changed in 35 years.

Dollars-to-donuts that when Tara Brown and the crew are let out, we’ll be treated to Midnight Express-style “Tara’s Torment” stories for months both from Nine and the limpet-like, dimwitted magazines which act as its publicity arm.

In the meantime,  I find it incredible that defenders of Brown and her crew cannot see the ethics breaches in this case. The children were exploited, mistreated and terrorised, the “money shot” of the abduction was clearly set up by Nine, the mother was manipulated and the racial component was played up.

Oh, and in case you missed it, they broke the law.

22 comments on “The failed estate: Tick Tick Tick”

  1. dv 1

    What do you think might have happened if the husband had arranged a kidnapping of the kids from the street in sydney!!!!

    • RedLogix 1.1

      Well if the husband had obtained a court ordered custody agreement in a country that was also a signatory to the Hague convention , as is Australia, … the question you pose would not arise.

  2. Visubversa 2

    While not supporting in any way the chequebook “journalism” of Channel 9, the comment that the mother of the children could go through the Australian government overlooks the fact that Lebanon is not a signatory to the Hague Convention which deals with the custody of children.

  3. Tricledrown 3

    Right up their with News of the World

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    If Nine’s first concern was the poor mother, why didn’t you advise her to go through the Australian government?

    It’s entirely possible that she’d already tried that because the father kidnapped the children from Australia in the first place:

    She has said al-Amin had moved the children from Australia to Lebanon without her permission last year.

    The one that should be going to jail is the father. Once in Lebanon he knew damn well that the Lebanese law would help him and not enforce the Australian court order that gave custody of the children to the mother.

    And, no, I’m not defending the actions of the mother/Channel 9. What they did was basically stupid.

    • mpledger 4.1

      The stupidity gets worse… what I heard was that the mother hadn’t changed the password on her ipad and the father was able to see the e-mail exchanges between the mother and everyone else.

    • D'Esterre 4.2

      Draco T Bastard: “The one that should be going to jail is the father. Once in Lebanon he knew damn well that the Lebanese law would help him and not enforce the Australian court order that gave custody of the children to the mother.”

      I couldn’t agree more. What people have lost sight of in this case is that the father has behaved like a shite. Islamic law favours the male, and that law prevails in Lebanon; I know of somebody else who fell foul of it. He breached an Australian custody agreement: no surprises then that the mother resorted to desperate measures. So would many of us who found ourselves in that unhappy position. And he’s won. Just ghastly altogether; my sympathies are with the mother. And the children…. poor little mites, being brought up in Lebanon instead of Australia!

  5. It is also very, very hard not to see the racial undertones in this case. A blonde Australian woman denied her custody rights by a swarthy man of Middle Eastern appearance.

    Racism my arse. In every Muslim society, the husband is legally head of the household and the wife his subordinate. They’re his kids, first and foremost. Courts will enforce that, and if the husband’s family has a lot of influence, the court won’t have too much regard for what the law says in enforcing that family’s preference over the wife’s. If the wife wants custody, she can forget about using legal means to achieve it. The ethnicity of the participants has nothing to do with it.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Racism my arse. In every Muslim society, the husband is legally head of the household and the wife his subordinate. They’re his kids, first and foremost.

      Which is why, as soon as he lost custody in Australia, he grabbed the kids and flew back to Lebanon.

      • D'Esterre 5.1.1

        “Racism my arse. In every Muslim society, the husband is legally head of the household and the wife his subordinate. They’re his kids, first and foremost.”

        I’m infuriated by the racism epithet being flung around here. As is so often the case, in this instance it’s being used in an apparent attempt to bolster the author’s argument. And the effect of it being used is always to make people back off from criticism, because they don’t like being accused of it.

        Just to be clear: people’s prejudices against, or indeed their critique of, the practices or beliefs of particular ethnic groups, isn’t racism. It may be well-founded; but even if it isn’t, it’s bigotry, xenophobia maybe. Racism it ain’t.

    • weka 5.2

      The racism is because the story is directed at white Australians who already are struggling with Anglo vs non-Anglo issues.

      • Psycho Milt 5.2.1

        Letting Australian women know that there are risks involved in marrying a Muslim which won’t be explained to them beforehand is a public service, not racism.

        • veutoviper 5.2.1.1

          Your comments at 5 and 5.2.1 make a lot of assumptions – eg that Lebanon is a Muslim society, and that the children’s father is a Muslim. Re the latter, I do not recall seeing anything that has confirmed that the father is Muslim. I do recall that he teaches surfing in Lebanon – not that this excludes him from being Muslim.

          Over the years I have known many Lebanese in NZ who are Christians and according to Wikipedia:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Lebanon

          “Religion in Lebanon (est. 2014)
          Islam (54%)
          Christianity (40.4%)
          Druze (5.6%)”

          “Lebanon has several different main religions.The country has the most religiously diverse society of all states within the Middle East, comprising 18 recognized religious sects.[1] The main two religions are Christianity (the Maronite Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the Protestant Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church) and Islam (Shia and Sunni). There is also the Druze minority religion, which under the Lebanese political division (Parliament of Lebanon Seat Allocation) the Druze community is designated as one of the five Lebanese Muslim communities (Sunni, Shia, Druze, Alawi, and Ismaili).”

          “Lebanon thus differs from other Middle Eastern countries where the Muslims are overwhelming majority and more resembles Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania, both in Southeastern Europe, in having a diverse mix of Muslims and Christians that each make up approximately half the country’s population.”

          • Psycho Milt 5.2.1.1.1

            Sure, I’m making assumptions, but not evidence-free ones. I’m assuming that a guy named after Muhammed’s son-in-law, who was the first imam according to Shia Islam, is likely a Muslim. I’m also assuming a Muslim interpretation of the law is likely to be taken by a judge whose name translates as “servant of Allah.” And I’m assuming that a guy related to one of Lebanon’s ruling families is likely to get preferential treatment, based on previous experience with just how pervasive influence-peddling is in the Middle East. It may turn out I’m wrong, but I’m not just leaping to conclusions.

            • D'Esterre 5.2.1.1.1.1

              Psycho Milt: ” I’m assuming that a guy named after Muhammed’s son-in-law, who was the first imam according to Shia Islam, is likely a Muslim. I’m also assuming a Muslim interpretation of the law is likely to be taken by a judge whose name translates as “servant of Allah.” And I’m assuming that a guy related to one of Lebanon’s ruling families is likely to get preferential treatment, based on previous experience with just how pervasive influence-peddling is in the Middle East.”

              Exactly so. Moreover, as I understand things, Islamic law is the default system in Lebanon. The individual I knew of who lost custody of offspring was Christian.

  6. Keith 6

    For reasons best known to the Herald they kept this crap at the top of their internet page for days and for reasons of vacant reporting and in general, brain dead content, I read none of it concluding some egotistical celeb drama queens masquerading as journalists were having a reality TV episode.

    Still its slightly better than reading another moronic Heather DuPA opinion moment where she confirms everyones suspicions that she knows absolutely nothing about anything or the terrifically super “mate of the nation” (fingers down my throat) Hillary Barry and her bloody air points ir whatever that inane drivel was about!

    • aerobubble 6.1

      Crap covers over whose shit.

      Herald hasn’t been a guardian for a very long time.

      Why read their publication you just consent to their views by doing so.

      Here’s what a journalist would have dine, explained why children can travel to countries without being signatories and must in future be accompanied by both parents. Why are men allowed to just grab kids and take them to countries that wont protect them.

      I mean MPs seem great at making laws to protect each other from paying tax globally.

  7. Incognito 7

    Perhaps it is time to introduce an ethical licence with mandatory renewal every 5 years or so. And I am not thinking of just journalists …

  8. Jenny Kirk 8

    The question that seems to be being asked in this post is : was it ethical for the TV channel to get involved, and be filming at the time of the supposed pickup of the kids.

    And I’m not having a lot of trouble saying No. Not ethical. In fact – damn stupid.

    I’m also asking myself – how the heck could a TV crew go filming a pickup of the children without everyone around knowing what was going on ?
    Why – if they had to do it, didn’t they do it more discretely with tiny cameras pinned to their clothing .

    As it is, they’ve alerted the Dad to the fact that the mum is coming to get the kids, they’ve really upset the kids, (and the mum of course), and goodness knows if she’ll ever be allowed to see them again – under supervision or not. Just a total balls-up.

  9. tc 9

    Channel 9 have been doing these kinds of stunts for years, getting involved where they should not all for ratings that tickle their low brow audiences fancy.

    The satire ‘frontline’, whose first series had Bruno Lawrence playing exec producer is pretty much based on the antics of channel 9’s current affairs shows 60 minutes and the week nightly ‘a current affair’ at the time.

    Look who owns them now, private equity, so the moral compass is probably still in the mail arriving soon.

  10. Malconz 10

    I see in today’s Herald that Tara Brown is saying “we were just journalists doing their job.” Sorry Tara – if you truly believe that, then you’re not a real journalist. Your job shouldn’t involve being PART of the story, which is how this thing seems to have been “organised” from the start.
    A real journalist occupies a kind of parallel universe alongside the one the rest of us inhabit, and should never intrude into this one. Hiring a British snatch team crosses that line in spades.
    And before anyone trots out the line that “it’s all very well for you to talk, from the safety of little old NZ etc etc..,” I should add that I’ve taken film crews into some very scary places and situations (South America, the Middle East, Asia) and always got them out safely – largely because we were “clean,” with no agenda other than to show what was happening. In other words, we were REAL journalists.

  11. Philj 11

    Real journalists ! Do we still have real journalism in NZ? I hear RNZ is making more cuts.

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