Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt dipped his toes into the blogosphere this week and if you can follow the saga that followed you’re doing better than we are.

Blogger brawl in Pandagate putsch

Subscriber email November 10 Andrew Bolt and the granddaughter of one of Australia’s most unrepentant old Coms battling it out online? Sounds speccie. Welcome to Pandagate.

Federal politics is in a lacunae, but a spectacular brawl has erupted in the Australian blogosphere, mainly among the new political blogs that flourished like Mao’s hundred flowers in the lead up to the election.

It’s been dubbed Pandagate – and started with a somewhat sophomoric article in the Age by Misha Schubert that mentioned Young Lib Miranda Airey-Branson’s blog. (Airey-Branson is sometimes known as Miranda Panda, hence the tag.)

Soon other bloggers pounced – and things got very messy very quickly. Threats against employment were made, more dirt was excavated than in the heyday of the Whitehouse Plumbers and an interesting range of accusations against Labor MP for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby – along with photos of his partner – appeared online.

Eventually, they conscripted Andrew Bolt to their cause, who wrote this column about it.

Bolt was later asked about where the idea for his column came from, and he denied knowing the Liberals concerned. However, he was called on that one because he was interviewed by Miranda Airey-Branson for the Melbourne University newspaper, Farrago. After that, he stopped answering emails about the column.

But some of his emails turned up. It seems that the Liberals had been sourcing their information from two fictional characters – one of whom Bolt had an email conversation with before writing his column.

A Labor blogger has put the trail up here. Leftie Fitzroy bore Marieke Hardy, granddaughter of Stalin fan and Power Without Glory author Frank Hardy, scriptwriter and proprietor of the rather bemusing “Joan Kirner is the new Betty Page” Polichicks fashion label www.polichicks.org has got in on the fun, too.

Readers can follow the whole saga by starting at the bottom of this page and working your way up. Still, it’s very odd that Bolt saw fit to involve himself in such a spat. Isn’t it below him?

Andrew Bolt fires one back at Crikey

The Crikey editor has not read or followed the apparently childish blog bunfight involving Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt but we naturally get the personal blame and happily publish his typically feisty rebuttal:

Why can you be relied upon to inevitably tell untruths, Stephen, provided those untruths are to the detriment of people who know you for what you sadly are?

Here’s just three of the untruths in your most recent abuse of me:

  • No, I was not “conscripted to their cause” – the cause you identify as being the fight between some Melbourne University students and Michael Danby, a friend of mine. I have not written a word on that dispute, and have no intention of doing so. Indeed, I deplore some of the baseless slurs Michael has been once again subjected to since that dispute began – slurs I have gone in print to expose as false some time ago.
  • No, I have never met any of the students you mention, although months ago I did a Q and A interview via emails with one of them for Farrago, in which I talked about writing and politics. It is on this interview, I believe, that Mischa Schubert based her claim on Insiders that I’d given political advice to these students, seeming to suggest- falsely – I had advised them in the tactics that upset Michael.
  • No, I did not have any communications with a fictional character before writing my article, or write a syllable based on information provided by such a source. After my article appeared, I exchanged emails from someone posing (illegally) as a solicitor. The question now is how those emails came to appear on the site of a staffer for a Labor Senator, and why that staffer publishes highly defamatory and false material about several people in what seems to me to be largely a politically inspired campaign for Labor. This man may well be your own source, and we may well ask you about your own associations and motivations.

That you have published again such snide untruths, without seeking to establish the truth, or refused to judge my article by the arguments contained within, instead of by your jaundiced guess at my fancied motivations, should tell your readers all they need to know about the moral morass that now passes for your conscience.

Please publish this, so that the record is corrected.

Andrew Bolt
Web site: www.heraldsun.com.au/andrewbolt

And the mysterious Simon Hollins set the record straight

Dear Crikey,

I have no interest in helping clear Andrew Bolt’s name, albeit tangentially, but even as a fictional character I feel I must contact you in the interest of the truth.

You wrote: “It seems that the Liberals had been sourcing their information from two fictional characters – one of whom Bolt had an email conversation with before writing his column.”

This is incorrect. Robert Corr did not obtain or publish the dates and times of the e-mails concerned, but I can confirm that Bolt did not contact this address until after his column was printed. However, Bolt did have e-mail contact with Alex Lew the day before publication. I believe Bolt will be especially keen for you to correct this sequence of events.

I must say I found it extremely surprising, not to say amusing, that while Bolt’s own research turned up no trace of Diana Elgar, he was nevertheless still eager to engage with me, a fictional person’s fictional solicitor.

More surprising again is Bolt’s latest effort: contacting Robert Corr’s employer and accusing Corr of defamation, impersonating a solicitor and blackmail (“wrongly, I might add,” to quote Bolt himself). Threatening Robert’s employment in such a manner strikes me as astoundingly hypocritical, given Bolt accused me of threatening Alex Lew’s future employment.

Yours fictitiously,
Simon Hollins

PS. I understand you may have concerns about obtaining information from a self-confessed non-entity. I’d like to state for Robert’s sake that I am not Robert Corr, nor does Robert Corr know who I am. Robert Corr has had no involvement in the Diana Elgar/Brett Kleinitz/Simon Hollins correspondence.