Andrew L. Urban
“The other day I saw a news report in which a Palestinian woman in Gaza accused Hamas of taking all the aid delivered to Gaza “into their homes”. This was my rejected comment which I posted on the December 10, 2023 column by foreign editor Greg Sheridan at The Australian. I was responding in particular to his par saying: “Every human being feels compassion for the people of Gaza. The moral responsibility for their suffering lies 100 per cent with Hamas.”
“Anti-Semitism is downplayed or ignored in some quarters where racism is found in every nook and cranny…” I posted the day earlier, commenting on Paul Kelly’s column Labor’s moral leadership on Israel and anti-Semitism is missing in action. That comment was also rejected.
A few days earlier, I had commented “Can any reader please help me find a story reporting Penny Wong urging Hamas to keep locals in Gaza safe? The only one I could find along these lines quoted Hamas spokesman saying that wasn’t their job but the job of the UN…” in response to a piece by Anthony Bergin, Israel is playing by the rules. Rejected.
I’ve been reluctant to publicly question several similar decisions by moderators at The Australian until now, having been a freelance contributor to the paper in various forms since the mid 1980s. But my loyalty may be better served by speaking out than staying shtum. I have complained to the moderations editor a couple of times in the past, and even wrote to the Editor-in-Chief about my concern that some moderating decisions appear to contradict the editorial policies on display. Of course, there is the get-out of the ‘comment guidelines’, but if the comment examples above contravene the guidelines (which I have read, of course) I suggest the guidelines need to be upgraded. Either that, or the moderators need to be upgraded.
The rejections reveal a mindset that is incompatible with the rest of the paper.
But the reason I am finally ‘coming out’ with my concerns is that the decisions reflect badly on what is otherwise a commendable media platform for a variety of opinions about a variety of topics. I suggest that conflict is undermining the loyalty of other readers who have had similar experiences. (I’ve read such comments in other publications, eg Quadrant.)
The result is chilling, at least on me. I’ve found myself self-censoring at times, pre-emptying what I perceive as creeping censorship, not ‘moderation’.