Make no mistake: Andrew Bolt is Australia’s answer to Donald Trump — a devastating commentary on the moral and intellectual decline of conservatism in this country, declares Mark Latham.
Ex-Labor leader Mark Latham has turned his special skills toward analysing blogger Andrew Bolt’s crusade to bring down Julia Gillard over the Slater & Gordon AWU story. Latham claims to have uncovered a series of false, ridiculous and “outright outrageous” information on Bolt’s blog, a claim rejected by Bolt in a lively exchange of emails and telephone calls between the pair.
Welcome to round four of Latham’s Bolt Watch …
Bolt’s claim: “[Blewitt’s] sister has dumped on him from a very great height … there is no doubt the man has had a very chequered career and his credibility would not be very high at all. He is a self-confessed party to fraud … this scumbag.” (Radio 2GB, November 22, 2012)
Latham’s response: A feature of lunar Right politics is the indiscriminate making of allegations. Cover-up and conspiracy theories are fired off on a regular basis, much like a political Gatling gun. Most people glaze over at this nonsense, but in the case of Andrew Bolt, vigilance is required. His coverage of the Slater & Gordon matter has shown him to be a right-wing media fanatic, specialising in wild allegations, conspiracy theories and the politics of smut (such as his constant demand for the media to investigate Julia Gillard’s relationship with Craig Emerson 10 years ago — whenever the Slater & Gordon smear is not going well for Bolt, he falls back on this smear).
Monitoring Bolt’s false claims is an important part of lifting the standards of our democracy — in encouraging News Limited to focus on facts, rather than slurs, to debate issues of national importance, rather than the s-x life of the Prime Minister. Bolt Watch is tough work: reading and listening to his repetitive psycho-babble on Slater & Gordon can be painful, but somebody has to do it.
Especially when, as often happens, Bolt’s claims collide with each other — a journalistic train wreck in slow motion. Take the case of the corrupt former AWU official Ralph Blewitt. Bolt uses Blewitt in a two-track strategy to attack Gillard. On one track, he criticises Blewitt as a crooked scumbag (see quote above), asking how Gillard could have associated herself with such a person. Here’s Bolt on his blog on Saturday:
“But it makes me wonder again: if Blewitt is indeed a crook and, as ABC broadcast Jon Faine suggests, a sleaze, why was he a friend of Gillard’s in the 1990s, receiving even free legal help? Why was the even dodgier Wilson, a con man, Gillard’s boyfriend? Strange company for a future Prime Minister.”
On the other track, in wanting Blewitt to go to the police and smear Gillard’s reputation, Bolt depicts Blewitt as a good man and a credible witness. He has even argued for Blewitt to receive immunity from criminal prosecution (how many “scumbags” has he done that for previously?) On his blog on November 21, for instance, Bolt declared: “The Bagman returns … good on him. But what Blewitt tells police may take time to leak out.” Then on Radio 2GB the following day:
“There is a ring of truth and authenticity in how [Blewitt] presents, and the fact is too that what he says is strictly limited to what he knows … the wild boy [has] come good, making a clean breast of it.”
In the strange, tortured world of Bolt, Blewitt is the world’s first credible scumbag. What about Blewitt’s partner in crime, Bruce Wilson, who came out in defence of the Prime Minister on Sunday? You guessed it, for Bolt, Wilson is in scumbag territory, an unreliable witness to what happened 20 years ago. Here’s Bolt on his Saturday blog:
“[Wilson’s statement] is helpful to Gillard, if — as Wayne Swan said of Ralph Blewitt — you want to rely on the word of a man who allegedly committed frauds netting up to $1 million.”
The purpose of Bolt Watch is to put the two tracks of Boltism together and highlight the intellectual train wreck that follows. It is called accountability and transparency, concepts Bolt applies to his political enemies but deeply resents when it is applied to him. He has complained on his blog that I am “stalking” him. Like all right-wing media vigilantes, he cannot deal with the thought of his own actions being monitored.
Bolt’s claim: “How come you can count about half-a-dozen senior members of this government that were intimately involved in this scandal, in the cover-up?” (Radio 2GB, November 21, 2012)
Latham’s response: Cover-up, cover-up, cover-up — this is Bolt’s mantra, symptomatic of the lunar Right. On 2GB, Bolt said he would name these members of the government in his newspaper column the following day. They are Nicola Roxon, Bill Shorten, Robert McClelland, Martin Ferguson, Joe Ludwig, David Feeney and Chris Hayes.
There is, of course, no evidence that any of these MPs were “intimately involved in this scandal, in the cover-up”. Bolt has produced no material to verify his reckless allegations. As with so many matters, he just made it up. Apparently this is what News Ltd and Radio 2GB regard as an acceptable journalistic standard.
The allegation is particularly harsh on McClelland who, in 2010, twice accepted Gillard’s invitation to be the attorney-general, the first law officer, in her government. As a lawyer proud of his integrity and standards, it is inconceivable McClelland could have accepted this role if he thought the Prime Minister he was serving had done anything wrong during her own time as a lawyer.
Bolt’s claim: “The cover-up is over, the ABC 7.30 Report [is now doing stories on Slater and Gordon].” (Radio 2GB, November 21, 2012)
Latham’s response: Cover-up, cover-up, cover-up. This time, according to Bolt, the ABC was part of it — with each of its current affairs programs over many months acting to protect the Prime Minister. Poor, innocuous Leigh Sales and Tony Jones, who in terms of journalistic heavy-hitting, couldn’t knock the skin off a custard, have been roped into Bolt’s fantastic obsession with cover-ups.
Again, there is no evidence to support Bolt’s claim. He lives in a fantasy world were anyone who is not dedicated to Gillard’s political destruction over Slater & Gordon is part of a conspiracy to cover-up the “truth”.
Bolt’s claim: ”I am told a fourth set of documents has gone missing. If what I’m told is true — and given the alleged place from which they disappeared — this will become a very big story.”(November 18, 2012) / “A box for the Federal Court files in Queensland was found, but was empty. And a police investigation may be needed into what seems a cover-up.” (November 19, 2012)
Latham’s reponse: Nothing makes Bolt happier than a senior Liberal hatching a new cover-up and conspiracy theory against Gillard. Imagine his joy, therefore, when Julie Bishop came forward with one of the most bizarre conspiracy theories imaginable. In the best traditions of the lunar Right, she identified a “a sinister cover-up” relating to the way in which files from the early 1990s could not be found at the Slater & Gordon law firm in Melbourne, the Western Australian Archives and the Federal Court in Queensland. According to Bishop, “somebody is deliberately destroying documents” and therefore it justifies a police investigation.
A few days later, the contents of Bolt’s empty “box for the Federal Court files in Queensland” were found by court officials, highlighting the absurdity of Bishop’s and Bolt’s claim. As for Bolt’s “very big story”, as ever, we are still waiting … and waiting …
Bolt’s claim: “It might be time the Prime Minister finally answers questions about her role in what seems to be an absolutely disgraceful cover-up … Complete this sentence: in the end it’s the cover-up [that causes the bigger problem]. This stinks to high-heaven.” (Radio 2GB, November 21, 2012)
Latham’s response: Despite numerous police investigations into the AWU matter, the Liberal Party first raising allegations against Gillard in the Victorian Parliament 17 years ago, various newspapers examining thousands of pages of documents and an extensive smear campaign by Bolt, Michael Smith and The Australian newspaper over the past three months, for Bolt, the failure to achieve Gillard’s political scalp can mean only one thing: (another) cover-up.
This is one of the defining features of the lunar Right’s methodology. When their claims are exposed as empty, when the evidence doesn’t materialise, they fall back on an all-purpose excuse: cover-up, cover-up, cover-up. In the dark, freaky recesses of Bolt’s mind, this is how he rationalises Gillard’s continued tenure in The Lodge: we know she’s a crook, but the Prime Minister, the Labor Party, the unions, the ABC and the document-thieves in Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane conspired to cover-up the obvious.
Make no mistake: Bolt is Australia’s answer to Donald Trump — a devastating commentary on the moral and intellectual decline of conservatism in this country.