OnPoint by Keith Ng


Cooked goose, chicken, etc.

There's an apt Chinese idiom: 死雞撐飯蓋. That's: "dead chicken trying to open the rice-pot lid".

By that, of course, I meant Deborah Coddington's ‭‬attempt at preemptive damage control in the Herald on Sunday, in which she wrote about the Press Council's damning decision, which comes out today. While Tze Ming is ‭‬raising the flag on the hill, I'm holding down the pot lid here.

"Damning decision? Hardly." Coddington wrote.


I mean, stuff like: "The North & South article has failed to meet its obligation in regards to accuracy and discrimination and the complaints are upheld." That's hardly damning. That's more, like, "condemnatory". Not damning *at all*.

Her argument was that the Press Council can say what they want, but their opinions don't count because they're a bunch of girls. Not literally a bunch of girls, of course. But the sense in which girls are men who are girls and therefore not men, which invalidates their opinion.

And not only are they a bunch of girls, they're mostly not even journalists! Members of the friggin' public, for crying out loud! What right do they have to pass judgement on a journalist?

I guess it's her choice to disregard the decision of the Press Council, a self-governing body established by its members - the press. It's her choice, too, to disregard the opinion of other journalists, who will no doubt judge her harshly. What's not her choice, though, is that North & South is going to have to quaff down a piping hot humble pie and publish the decision, and that's enough for me.

‬454g of flesh, close to the heart, please. Yes, minced.

Still, if there's one thing I've learnt from Coddington, it is that when dealing with people like Coddington, you have to let the whole school of red herrings swim past you first. She spends the whole column trying to discredit the Press Council, she leave but one paragraph of substance:

But the council totally ignored the main complaint - that my statistics were wrong. From this omission, I can only conclude that I was correct all along, and the complainants - as I argued - wilfully used different statistics."

Actually, this is pretty good. Inventive and spectacularly ballsy. Inventive because she sets up a great straw man: none of the complaints said that her "statistics were wrong", we just said that she misused the statistics by taking them out of context (i.e. population growth) to arrive at the wrong conclusion. Spectacularly ballsy because she then quotes the key section:

The key issue is the absence of correlation between the Asian population and the crime rate. Ms Coddington argues she has recorded the rise in the Asian population and it would have insulted the readers to link that with the crime figures. The Council does not accept this argument. The linkage is vital and should have been made explicit."

While omitting the proceeding sentence:

It is abundantly clear and is not effectively challenged by Ms Coddington, despite quibbles about terminology and direct comparisons of her figures with those of her critics, that the rate of offending is dropping pro rata. To then talk of a gathering crime tide is therefore wrong."

Now, this should have been the finishing move - a vindication of everything we've said. But instead, by cutting out the more lethal half and by misrepresenting our accusations, she managed to say that the conclusion didn't address our accusations, which is therefore as good as an exoneration.

That's award-winning stuff, that.

(But wait, is that setting up a straw man or a bait-and-switch? Debaters - help me!)

Incidentally, she's totally right. Russell Brown has it in for her, and I am merely a pawn in his diabolical schemes. Russell found me in a Singaporean crack den in 1990, working as an accountant when I was seven years old. Being the forward-looking trendspotter that he is, he knew that one day he'd become Coddington's nemesis, that his every waking moment would be devoted to her downfall. He also predicted that sometime between 2005-07, the combined factors of ACT's waning political fortunes, declining magazine readership and long-term immigration trends would drive Coddington to write a hatchet piece about Asian crime.

For fifteen years, I was a sleeper agent. Russell would monitor my progress while my programming lay dormant. Unbeknowest to my friends and family, I was actually a ticking timebomb, with "Deborah Coddington" emblazoned on my left buttock. (Actually, the "ton" is carried over to the right one. Let's just say I won't be going back to *that* tattoo parlor again.)

I was activated in 2005, having built a cover story as a "student journalist". For the past two years, I've been waiting for my chance to strike, and now I have.

It's pretty anti-climactic.

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