An interesting opinion article from new Crikey co-owner Eric Beecher appeared in the Adelaide Independent Weekly a couple of weeks ago. Beecher applies the tabloid “Howard-hater” label to Robert Manne, Alan Ramsey and Mungo MacCallum and tells them it’s time to “move on”. He also quotes from a recent Shaun Carney article in The Age (12/2/05), in which Carney makes the point that Howard has discovered that he and his Government are now virtually scandal-proof; most people basically don’t care about issues of political integrity any more, and this has changed forever the political landscape of Australia.

I found a few things disturbing in Beecher’s article. Firstly, we all know the term “Howard-hater” is a very effective way of silencing any criticism of Howard policy by directing attention away from the issue and simply labelling the opponent, as if it is their problem. It is an insult to someone like Robert Manne, especially, who has worked tirelessly to analyse the big issues of recent times and whose arguments are carefully crafted and expressed in the language of rational, analytical moral argument. I can’t work out why Beecher sees fit to denigrate three commentators who have dedicated themselves to exposing the cynicism and rampant dishonesty of the present Government. To reduce their work to “Howard-hatred” is to avoid the serious issues their writing addresses.

Secondly, Beecher also takes a swipe at the contributors to New Matilda, calling them “whingers”. New Matilda was set up in response to what John Menadue called one of the greatest institutional failures of our time: the Australian media’s failure to take its responsibilities seriously. Why would Beecher dismiss Menadue and people of the calibre of Julian Burnside as “whingers”? And given the support Crikey offered New Matilda in its setting-up phase last year, what might this mean for Crikey’s relationship with New Matilda and other new media which challenge the dominant cynical commercial paradigm?

Lastly, Beecher’s rendition of Carney’s argument seems to assume that we should all just get over it and accept the fact that political scandal will never again move Australians to vote against their Government, therefore those commentators who continue to take the Government to task should just move on. This seems a strangely apathetic argument from someone with such a strong journalistic background.

I’m not sure what all this portends for Crikey readers, but it certainly raises some concerns.

CRIKEY: The outgoing editor asked Eric if he had a view on whether this get a run and he replied “I don’t want to interfere at all”. So here it is! The old guard amateur is predicting the new professional Crikey will be a much better publication but in such a visible business as journalism, we’ll all get to make a judgment from this Thursday

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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