Were there any doubt that the atmosphere in Surry Hills is reminiscent of the last days in the Nixon White House (“Goddamn you, Switzer, pray with me you little Swiss boy! Get on your knees, Heidi!”) Chris Mitchell’s rambling response to his sundry critics here and elsewhere has dispelled it.
Hamilton and Marr can speak for themselves, but let me address a couple of central claims: that I was complaining about the series of ludicrous editorials the Oz was writing on Hamilton, Manne etc, and that the Oz has published me “at length, many times”.
Firstly I wasn’t complaining about the editorials, as they didn’t concern me personally – I was criticising the judgement by which a national broadsheet uses its editorial space (rather than the op-ed pages or media section) to mount particular attacks on critics. I suggested that, issues aside, the effect of this was simply to make the newspaper look weak and defensive.
It strikes me that this is characteristic of the limits of Mitchell’s judgement, as evidenced by his notorious attack on Manning Clark in the Courier-Mail – an attack based largely on the word of the impeccably sane Les Murray.
I suspect that attack convinced Rupe that Mitchell had drunk enough of the kool-aid to make him a good leader of the Oz in its cultural warrior phase – and that same obsessiveness will make him useless to Rupe in the new Labor era.
The Mitchell team were cactus once Rupert changed tack – actually went 180 about – on global warming. They’d spent months editorialising that anyone who said the things Rupe now says every day was an apocalyptic doom-monger. And suddenly found themselves part of a corporation whose CEO announced he was going to implant green messages in everyday articles.
As to being published in the Oz – I am published in the ALR . (Murdoch’s papers have a history of allowing the book sections relative freedom because, as Murdoch once remarked to Andrew Neil, I believe, ‘no one gives a sh-t’).
And there was a time I could get pieces in the op-ed section – although opinion editor Tom Switzer was always more keen on pieces attacking other sections of the left than on anything else. The last time, after half a dozen knockbacks, I even bothered to try pitching, over the phone, a piece – around 2004, about Abu Ghraib I think – Switzer sighed deeply and said, ‘Well, uh, look mate, we are a pro-war paper’.
Which is the way the paper works in a nutshell. The occasional dissenting piece as a sop to an enforced agenda. Personally I’m not calling it censorship – I think that term should be reserved for things the state does – but the idea that they present a range of diverse and pluralist opinion, as a sole national broadsheet should, is laughable. Mitchell looks like a wally for even suggesting it – but nothing so much as the wally he looked a few months ago when Rupert suddenly started hugging trees.