29 September, 2010

Who will be the next Grog-gate?

Followers of Australian political ’blogs will no doubt be aware of the outing of the beloved Grog’s Gamut by a Newscorp journalist writing for the Australian. I will not link to the article. You’ve probably seen it already and if not, you know how to use the Google. The day after revealing Grog’s identity, James Massola wrote another article defending his decision to do so. This is the classic phase-2 of gutter journalism: make your story the story – make yourself the story.

Massola’s defence is lame.

Jericho blogged as a hobby outside work hours. But he sent literally hundreds of partisan political tweets out, during work hours, many of which were ad hominem attacks on the side of politics he did not agree with.

Is this, of itself, inexcusable? No. But nor is it appropriate. Jericho's decision to "live blog" the Media 140 conference (was it a sick day, a day in lieu, annual leave, did he clear it with his supervisor?) made my mind up.
Following that second article, Grog explained that he had taken a day’s annual leave to attend the Media 140 conference. Massola could have checked this if he was really concerned, but instead chose to feign a principled stand based on a grubby assumption. Massola expressed concern that Grog was influencing public debate because ABC managing director Mark Scott has responded to Grog’s criticism. How does Mr Massola know that Mr Scott was not responding to Grog as a taxpayer, not a public servant? And if Grog should not be influencing public debate, then who should be? I think we know the journalists’ union’s answer to that one.

Despite protestations to the contrary, it’s hard not to form them view that professional journalists felt threatened and chose to strike at Grog’s Achilles heel: the fact that he works for the Australian Public Service – a fact that Grog never hid. As if public servants are not also taxpayers. As if public servants are not also voters. As professionals public servants leave their personal views at the door, but it is clear from the timing of his postings that Grog ’blogged in his own time. It’s also ironic that commenters on his ’blog who accused him of writing on the public dollar, or being compromised in his work, did so anonymously – as did the journalists who responded to his criticism.

The fact is, Mr Massola, I’m less concerned about a public servant writing media criticism in his spare time than I am about journalists who write about ’bloggers as their day job. Was there no real news that day? Did Paris Hilton sleep in?

There’s much more to be said on this issue, but it has already been said far better by many others. Craig Thomler has collated them HERE.

I’d like to pursue a slightly different angle. James Massola claims he acted in the public interest. Apart from knowing Grog’s name and department, I don’t know what’s changed. However, I notice that at time of writing, Mr Massola follows 641 people on Twitter, including Grog’s Gamut. I notice also that he has 2695 followers, which leads me to believe that he does not engage in reciprocal following and therefore chooses who he follows. Furthermore, I notice quite a few people he follows are anonymous and/or fake characters. Whether he follows these people for professional reasons, to see what these faceless influencers are up to, or just for fun, I am not in a position to guess. However, if we accept that it is in the public interest to reveal the identities of anonymous or pseudonymous commentators, then I shall expect a series of exposés. Otherwise, we will have to wonder if Massola and The Australian were motivated more by vindictiveness.

In the public interest, here are the other anonymous and/or fake characters Mr Massola follows, and their Twitter bios.... or at least the ones that I’m aware of...

Fake Tim Mathieson

Australia's First First Bloke. Father. Ex property agent. Hairdresser. Lover of Levi jeans, marble interiors & red-headed Prime Ministers.

Queen's English 50c

A translation service for English-speaking 50cent fans.

Peter Lalor

(no Bio)


(no bio)


Just another staffer


(no bio)
(This person writes for The Australian. Public interest?)

The Boatphone

(no bio)


Australian Political Observer
(This account was an anonymous source of polling data that would be leaked onto Twitter the night before publication. Public interest?)

Not John Bergin

Not the Director of Digital News, Sky News Australia

The election Troll

Born under a bridge but found a home at Parliament House in Canberra!


(no bio)

Death Star PR

The Galactic Empire has been getting a bad rap recently. We're here to set the record straight.
(Make your own joke.)

Pirate Party AU

Pirate Party Australia
(The party is real and its website lists the authoriser's name and address, but many posted on the website are submitted by "anonymous.")


I was empty chair with a mind of it's own. Now Harry is back. I tweet during #QT. Dislike P.O.Os, Dixers - dislike for manager of opposition business

Steve Jobs

I don't care what you think of me. You care what I think of you. Of course this is a parody account.

Little Miss SciFi

My radio is my heart. We live as one two ways at once.

Friends of the ABC

Australian democracy and local culture depend on the survival of a healthy independent public broadcaster. FABC represents the public's interest in the ABC.
(A worthy cause for sure, and their board is listed on their website, but the articles do not have by-lines)

Bronwyn Bishop

Member for Mackellar
(It's my understanding that this is a fake account, although it's a very dry one and anyone could be forgiven for thinking it's real)

Barnaby Joyce

Future Minister of Finance, son. Try to keep up.

Fake John Howard

Prime Ministers were better in my day.

Possum Comitatus

The snarky polling marsupial and Crikey blogger. Doesn't play well with others.
(UPDATE: I’m told that Pollytics is Scott Steel and that’s been known for a while. Thanks Matthew.)

Fake Penny Wong

Minister for everything Garrett wants and can't have

Fake Steve Fielding

God's representative in Parliament

Fake Andrew Bolt

Blogger. Social commentator. Broadcaster. Great in bed. This is the account the real Andrew Bolt tried to shut down.
(The original fake Andrew Bolt has done interviews, so somebody knows who he is.)

and of course,

Blogger on politics, movies, books and sport.
(I think he only changed his name to Greg since the outing, but I could be wrong about that)

I don’t suggest this is a complete list. If anyone knows of any I missed, please let me know. I look forward to the public interest being served by outing all of these characters. One a week should make a nice series.


  1. Couple of things, a) @Pollytics' name is Scott Steel - he's been out for maybe a couple of years here, but only has his name on his blog.

    b) i'd add to this list @s_dog @miltonfriedmans and @wogblogger

  2. Thanks Matthew!
    I'll update them when I'm more awake. I shouldn't have missed miltonfriedmans - I'm already aware of his work.

  3. I checked again and it would appear that James Massola does not follow those accounts on twitter. In fairness to him, I will not hold him accountable for the entire internet, merely the bits he has taken an interest in.

    The fact that he follows @AussieTeaParty is of particular interest, since that person lays claim to the spirit of Peter Lalor. It's a claim that is as gross a misrepresentation of history as the American mad hatters.