Seriously, who is putting the Oz‘s Cut and Paste together? If we went to the C and P office, would we find a monkey banging a control panel with a spanner? I only ask, because Wednesday’s gobbet had this double-team about the Fitzgibbon affair:

Zhang Xin and Li Xiaokun, in China Daily, spout the official government line about anti-Chinese Australians:

Several political actors have misrepresented Chinese and Australian leaders’ friendships to serve their own interests, Chinese scholars have said of emergent anti-Chinese sentiment in Australia.

Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has become another target. In 2002 and 2005, Fitzgibbon took two undeclared trips to China, paid for by Beijing-born businesswoman Helen Liu.

Crikey.com.au yesterday falls into line with the official English-language mouthpiece of the People’s Republic:

It is rare that such an open and shut case has been presented to the Australian people for judgment. There cannot be a shred of doubt: Helen Liu is … um, something. You know. Like, a bit, sort of … you know what we mean … what is the Opposition trying to suggest with its constant reiteration of loose factoids connecting the Rudd Government with China?

Yeah, those damn mouthpieces. Soon they’ll be saying stuff like:

…. there is no evidence of anything untoward in Fitzgibbon’s behaviour. …The campaign against [him] is baffling….other dynamics are at work. …My provisional guess would be that there is a middle-level person… in Defence, who came upon some information and decided to try to harm Fitzgibbon. … the more or less permanent Defence mandarinate, including a number of the key academic commentators, see themselves as an elite priesthood, possessing a kind of gnostic insight denied to mere ministers. They want ministers to do as they’re told.

That’s Red Greg Sheridan this morning, playing a tune for his Peiping paymasters, with an all stops out conspiracy theory against Defence tangerines (orange on the outside, orange on the inside. No…hang on….). Actually, it seems a cogent piece. Maybe Red Greg should have a word with the Cut and Paste bits Gibbon, to avoid having his own paper mock his position before he’s even written it.

Online publishing has given us many things, from instant feedback about what angry shut-ins think of one’s writings, to the thoughts of Lindsay Lohan. But the Spectator has a new first, an apology and a correction which hits the screens before the article in question hits the streets. Checking out the website in the late hours of last night, one saw a correction which clarified that “Michael Wolff was allegedly targeted for revenge by the New York Post, not the Wall Street Journal”. Who? What? The Speccie wouldn’t hit the news-stands till the following morning, with an incomprehensible story from Wolff’s (the author of a critical biog of Murdoch) mistress, a freelancer named Victoria Floethe so disturbed at being the subject of transatlantic gossip that she’s written a two page article about it in an international magazine, in passing blaming the wrong one of Murdoch’s organs for the interest in hers and Wolff’s.

But the correction was more interesting than the article — and perhaps a future business model is to publish increasingly racy corrections without an article at all. “In the Nathalie Bassingthwaite story appearing next week, Crikey would like to clarify that the watermelon was owned by the archbishop, not Daryl Somers. Apologies to all concerned.” No story could ever live up to that, but why would it need to?

Still, Floethe’s piece had a point, about the new American puritanism (and that Victoria Floethe is available to write slightly racy filler at scale rates, and has a taste for older male editors). By contrast, in the Spectator Australia, we learn that Oscar Humphries had problems buying a train ticket to Birmingham(the well-known Australian city), Barry Cohen had difficulties renewing his passport, Peter Coleman went to a party at the Opera House and likes a Bruce Beresford film released decades ago, and Christian Kerr likes Newspoll, the pollster owned by his employer. There. You all owe me 5% of the hour of your life I just saved you.

With London in lockdown against anarchist heavies this week, few noticed that one of their number had infiltrated the city government and become mayor. On Monday night, Channel Four aired a Dispatches documentary, which included a full playing of the legendary audio tape in which Lord Mayor Boris Johnson has a conversation with an old friend, improbably named Darius Guppy, who was planning to beat up tabloid journalist Stuart Collier. Guppy’s calls were being recorded by a business associate. The transcript has been around for a decade, but even now it’s pretty shocking:

Boris: How badly are you going to hurt this guy?
Darius: Not badly at all.
Boris: I really I want to know because…
Darius: Okay let me explain to you.
Boris: If this guy is seriously, I am going to be f-cking furious.
Darius: I guarantee you he will not be seriously hurt.
Boris: How badly hurt will he be?
Darius: He will not have a broken limb or a broken arm and he will not, er, he will not be put into intensive care or anything like that. He will probably get a couple of black eyes and a, and a cracked rib or something like that.
Boris: A cracked rib.
Darius: Nothing which you didn’t suffer in rugby okay…

The rugby remark is the clue to why Johnson was never prosecuted. Pure class privilege ha ha ha a journalist will be assaulted old bean.

It’s a double-standard similar to Planet Janet’s tut-tutting about London anarchist Chris (K)night’s remark that the G20 protests were going to hang bankers in effigy, though others might tackle the real thing — rather less than Miranda Devine’s remark that if people were looking for anyone to hang from lamp-posts after the Black Saturday fires, greenies would be the best bet.

Not a peep from the conservatoriat about Devine, the girl who went on a “take your daughter to work” day and stayed. But it’s good to know where the bar is set.

Catallaxy, the blog with more departures than the main terminal at Tullamarine, appears to have been taken over by a law firm named Sinclair Davidson, who offers the neatest example of right-wing circular thinking I’ve found to date — in a link piece spruiking a paper about how Wal-Mart stepped into provide supplies during Hurricane Katrina, when the government didn’t. The title: “Markets work well, government doesn’t”.

No Messrs Sinclair Davidson. The lesson is that the Bush government didn’t work, so people sacked it, and hired someone who thought that well-run and efficient government had an essential role in national life (in the management of all-encompassing natural disasters for example).

(Sigh) Let me explain. If you crash a car into a wall, the conclusion to draw is not that cars don’t work, it’s that you don’t. The Right’s failure to appreciate this is why no-one sees them as fit for government unless, a la David Cameron, they cease being that sort of Right. The high point of this was Bobby Jindal’s “reply” to Obama, in which he mocked Obama’s stimulus plan for spending money on volcano monitoring, a month before Anchorage was bathed in ash from Mt Redoubt, choking the city, and giving an indication of future earthquake probabilities.

A sign from God clearly that the Right may eventually recognise. Took the UK Tories a decade, so don’t expect an eruption of good sense anytime soon.

Peter Fray

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