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Sep 19, 2012

Eric Campbell v Greg Sheridan: it's not over yet

An update on #sheridanchallenged, the bid by ABC Foreign Correspondent reporter Eric Campbell to get The Australian's foreign editor Greg Sheridan to give examples of "sectarian" interests.

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Now for an update on #sheridanchallenged, the bid by ABC Foreign Correspondent reporter Eric Campbell to get The Australian‘s foreign editor Greg Sheridan to give some examples of “sectarian” ABC employees who support totalitarianism in the wake of David Marr’s Quarterly Essay.

For those coming in late, Campbell, currently holidaying in Vienna, was peeved with Sheridan’s column in The Weekend Oz that alleged: “… the political lexicon of the ’70s works for Marr and many in the ABC.” What “lexicon” was he referring to? “If you thought the Soviet Union abused and threatened human rights, you were obviously a wild reactionary. If you happened to be a Catholic — worse, a Catholic who played football — you were the most dangerous conspirator in the pack.” He also cites the view of campus leftists apparently partial to the idea that Pol Pot’s atrocities could be explained away by the odorous analogy that “in order to make an omelette you have to break some eggs”.

Overnight, British Labour MP and Rupert Murdoch critic Tom Watson upped the ante, writing that Sheridan had accused the ABC of loving “genocidal commmies”. Sheridan isn’t happy. In his regular fortnightly appearance on Jon Faine yesterday, he stated unequivocally he didn’t believe anyone in the ABC supports totalitarianism:

Faine: Eric Campbell, one of our foreign correspondents has taken great offence at your suggestion in the paper that there are many people at the ABC who support totalitarianism and he’s challenged you publicly to say who those people are and in what way they support totalitarianism.

Sheridan: I’ve never … well no this the first I’ve heard of it I must admit … where did he … I don’t know … but anyway look the point is I never said anyone in the ABC supports totalitarianism.

Faine: Yes you did, you wrote “many in the ABC support totalitarianism”.

Sheridan: No I never said that ever, that’s absolutely wrong Jon. When did I ever say that?

Faine: It’s in your article.

Sheridan: It’s not, it’s absolutely not. I said many in the ABC support this sectarian attack on Abbott. I said at the start of my piece I said the battle against totalitarianism, Milan Kundera said, is the battle of remembering against forgetting. And the Cold War as rendered by Marr in its dimensions on Australian campuses … he was giving a completely distorted and untrue version of this and that furthermore his attacks on Abbott had been given massive publicity by the ABC and there was an element of sectarian anti-Catholicism about this … but certainly I don’t believe anyone in the ABC supports totalitarianism, I do believe a lot of people in the ABC by their excessive focus on these ridiculous allegations from 35 years ago are giving vent to a sectarian prejudice against a practicing conservative Catholic having a position of national leadership.

A coterie of late ’70s Sydney Uni SRC luminaries have weighed in over the last week to give their take. There was 1976 president David Patch in The Sydney Morning Herald who says he witnessed “the punch”, followed by an anonymous student pollie the next day. Lindsay Foyle then re-hashed a tale of a pub brawl — narrowly averted by Sheridan — with Abbott over abortion on New Matilda. Then came Sheridan in The Oz, SRC law faculty rep Irving Wallach on Q&A, Sheridan on the same episode of Q&A and then Foyle again yesterday responding to Sheridan’s claims about the role of Bulletin editor Trevor Kennedy.

The gripping saga is expected to drag on for weeks. “This one will play to the end,” Campbell wrote menacingly on Twitter overnight. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Andrew Crook —

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

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