ISSUE NO. 15 of Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog

STOP PRESS: Judy Moran On Remand

The Melbourne born MWD is very worried about the impact on Melbourne’s cultural life by the decision of authorities to charge Judy Moran with being an accessory after the fact to murder. You see, Ms Moran is not only a colourful Melbourne identity. She is also a published author — having her biography My Story (Random House Australia, 2005) to her name. Why, Judy Moran was even interviewed at the time by Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National Breakfast.

But there is some hope on the literary horizon. The word is that MUP has commissioned Melbourne colourful identity Mick Gatto to write his own memoirs. MWD is not into predictions – but it is fair to anticipate that Mr Gatto’s life story — which is scheduled for October — will be the subject of favourable reviews.

NANCY‘S PICKS OF THE WEEK

Arise Beatrix Campbell OBE

ABC Radio National Late Night Live presenter Phillip Adams AO (1992), AM (1987), Hon. DUniv (Griffith), Hon. DLitt (ECU), Hon. DUniv (SA), FRSA – all this according to his approved entry in Who’s Who in Australia 2009 — was the first to announce Down Under that Dr Beaxtrix Campbell (Stalinist, retd.) had been gonged as an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. This is the very same self-proclaimed Marxist Bea Campbell who appears regularly on LNL discussing British politics where she bags British Labour and the British Conservatives from a Marxist perspective.

In Issue 2, MWD drew attention to the fact that, as a young sub-editor on the Communist Party’s Morning Star newspaper in London, Dr Campbell used to take holidays subsidised by the odious communist regime in East Germany, when the Berlin Wall was still in place.  In those days Bea just loved Erich Honecker and the other totalitarian dictators who ran the East German police state.

Writing in Crikey, former Arena Magazine editor and one-time comedian Guy Rundle came to Campbell’s defence. He implied there was nothing much wrong with this behaviour. After all, what’s a few freebies when the Stasi is picking up the tab? But would Mr Rundle have said this about a 60 something conservative commentator who, say, took freebies from General Franco’s authoritarian regime some four decades ago and headed off to Spain for the summer? Not on your nelly.

It seems that the honours-in-confidence lot in Britain have taken the Rundle line with respect to the one-time member of the British Communist Party. Hence the Order of the British Empire gong for the continuing Marxist who has little time for order or, indeed, the British Empire. But the good news is that Dr Campbell went all emotional concerning this momentous occasion and went close to weeping on air. Witness the initial exchange between Campbell OBE and Adams AO (1992) AM (1987) etc, on LNL last Tuesday.

PA: Now Bea. First of all, the OBE.  I’m so proud of you. Were you astonished?

BC: Um, when I was warned, my nearest and dearest said, um: “Now you’re in for a shock. Sit down. Not a bad shock. But it is a shock.” [Much laughter – led by PA and accompanied by BC]. I wanted to cry.

PA: Oh, isn’t that lovely? But look, it does my old heart good. We must talk about it more quietly on another occasion. But, look, great waves of congratulations from your Antipodean Fan Club, of which I’m proud to say I am the treasurer.

Shucks. Here is the tough-minded Bea Campbell — sworn enemy of Tony Blair (who she invariably calls “The Beau Blair”) and George W. Bush, got all teary at the thought of getting a gong at the Palace in the presence of one or more members of the Royal Family. What retired Stalinst wouldn’t emote at such a prospect? Nancy says WELL DONE BEA OBE. [Careful could this be a hoax? Check whether this particular OBE might stand for Old Bolshevik Elite. Ed]

John Westacott In “No Apology” Zone

At Wednesday’s Mid Winter Ball in Parliament House, Canberra, it was announced that Lyndal Curtis is the recipient of the Paul Lyneham Award for Excellence in Journalism.  The late Mr Lyneham is perhaps best known for his 60 minute long report on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes titled “The Keating Millions” which went to air in 1999.

Last Monday Jane Schulze reported in The Australian that retiring 60 Minutes executive producer John Westacott has revealed that Kerry Packer was reluctant to run the story on Mr Keating’s investment in a piggery but was encouraged to do so by Lyneham. What was absent from Mr Westacott’s recollection was a recognition that the Lyneham hatchet job on Keating was a complete crock. No evidence was ever produced that Keating had done anything unlawful. In fact, Keating was cleared of any wrong doing by the Attorney-General in the Howard Government.

The truth is that Mr Lyneham’s journalism never reached anything close to excellence as is evident to anyone who has read the posthumously published Paul Lyneham: A Memoir (ABC Books, 2002). The fact is that Lyneham had contempt for almost everyone — from prime ministers to manual workers. [For a really, truthful review of the Lyneham memoirs see The Sydney Institute Quarterly, July 2002]. John Westacott belongs to the wide-spread tradition of journalists who refuse to admit making — or presiding over — mistakes.

NON-NEWS OF THE WEEK

It’s been a busy week for news. So busy, in fact, that such events as the continuing crises in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan have been downplayed in order to cover what’s really important. Fair enough, too.

7.30 Report and The Beatles

Last Tuesday and Wednesday the 7.30 Report devoted much time to running a pre-recorded interview between Kerry O’Brien and Sir Ken Robinson — who was presented as a leading thinker on education, creativity and innovation and who was visiting Sydney for — you’ve guessed it — a conference.  Sir Ken headed what the 7.30 Report described as “a high-powered commission for the Blair Government to define an education strategy for the future [That did a lot of good – Ed]. He is the author of The Element. During the interview, Sir Ken effectively played down the importance of schools focusing on maths, science and languages.

Among the hold-the-front-page gems elicited from Sir Ken by Mr O’Brien were the following:

“There was a time when Paul McCartney, so to speak, was not Paul McCartney.” [When was that? Ed]

“I mean, I always think this. Kids who start school this year in Australia will be retiring about 2070.”

“Kindergarten begins in kindergarten.”

“A three-year-old is not half a six-year-old. A six-year-old is not half a 12-year-old. They’re three.”

And so on. The first night of the two-part O’Brien/Robinson interview witnessed the following exchange between two great minds who were focused, believe it or not, on the concept of anxiety:

Ken Robinson: “I was told recently by some people at Apple that the most powerful computer on Earth at the moment has the processing power of a brain of a cricket. I don’t know how they know that, you know, but — I don’t know any crickets. But it’s an attractive …

Kerry O’Brien: Or haven’t spoken to any.

Ken Robinson: And they don’t reply….

In his answer Robinson went on to predict that “within a relatively short amount of time” computers will “effectively start to think for themselves”. Unlike, apparently, 7.30 Report executive producers who believe that such tosh is a proper substitute for real current affairs and allow Kerry O’Brien to get away with such self-indulgence by doing long boring interviews on subjects which are not topical and in which he has no particular expertise.

(Alleged) Felineicide in Double Bay

Then, on Thursday, Crikey’s Top Story was written by Richard Ackland and headed “Love’s letter lost: Malcolm Turnbull’s dead cat scrawl unearthed”. In fact, the feline to whom young Malcolm addressed a letter in 1987 was called Nessie [Does Nessie have an AO, AM or OBE? Ed]. It seems that, in his (then) capacity as jilted suitor, Turnbull had taken to writing to Nessie to ask her owner — a certain Fiona Watson — to renew a relationship.  All this a mere two decades ago.

The Sydney Eastern Suburbs Set is replete with wild stories — especially about prominent people. So it came as no surprise that the (false) rumour circulated that Turnbull had strangled Nessie circa 1987. Ackland’s piece in Crikey — which was taken from The Justinian — ran for over three pages. [They strangle cats in Iran, don’t they? Ed]. The rumour had re-surfaced following the publication of Annabel Crabb’s Stop At Nothing: The Life and Adventures of Malcolm Turnbull (Quarterly Essay, Issue 34, 2008). It’s good to see that Ackland and others are really on to the big (Eastern Suburbs) stories.  By the way, Ackland told Crikey readers that, so far, all his “warnings and declarations about this man have fallen to deaf ears”. Perhaps no one cares about rumours — or even about Nessie RIP.

GEORGE NEGUS — FAWN AGAIN

Last week MWD examined George Negus’ amazingly fawning interview with the man he terms Lord Nicholas Stern. Thanks must go to a MWD reader — who advised that the man’s proper title is Lord Stern or Baron Stern of Brentford. On Sunday 14 June, Dateline did a follow-up interview with Professor Wangari Maathai who runs a line similar to the Baron of Brentford. Let’s go to the introduction of this interview in the SBS website:

Last week on the program, Dateline interviewed one Lord Nicholas Stern, the British economist whose report on global warming and climate change pretty much set a benchmark for debate on the whole contentious issue. Dateline copped a barrage of criticism from climate change sceptics, deniers and the economically cautious. In fact, it was one of the biggest and most vitriolic responses we’ve had to a Dateline interview. That said, our interviewee tonight — Nobel Prize-winning Kenyan environmentalist Professor Wangari Maathai — could well provoke a similar response. That’s what we’re here for, quite frankly — to create debate on world issues that matter. Earlier this week in Melbourne, George Negus put the sceptical view of climate change to a woman known as “The Tree Lady” for her worldwide Plant a Billion Trees campaign.

So this is “debate”, SBS style. On 7 June Dateline presenter George Negus did a fawning interview with the eco-catastrophist Lord Stern.  And on 14 June Dateline provided additional “debate” on this issue by interviewing another eco-catastrophist — except that, this time round it was promised that the eco-catastrophist interviewer George Negus would put a “sceptical view on climate change” to The Tree Lady. So, how did your man Negus go? Here’s how:

George Negus: Let me put this one to you — the Pew Research Center has said that when they tried to rank 20 major public concerns, climate change was last in the list of 20.

Professor Wangari Maathai: You know, people have a right, of course, to put questions in the minds of people and to tell them that you should not worry, but I, personally, want to say that the majority of people are observing that there is climate change, that, if you go to the islands in the Pacific and you see water literally coming from under the ground and you see people being evacuated from the islands because the islands are flooding, when you see what happened recently in Bangladesh or in India, when you see those things and then people tell you it has nothing to do with climate change, then you want to say, “OK, what is the reason?”

GN: Why do you think it is, then, that there is this re-emerging group on the whole question of climate change and global warming so keen to pull down the argument that climate change is a serious problem?

WM: Probably there are people who truly, genuinely believe that it is not happening. Remember even, if I may take a very good example, Galileo — there were many people who believed he was crazy and there were some people who said, “Well, maybe the man is right. Let us try to investigate and see…”

GN: We used to think the Earth was flat too.

WM: It turned out he [Galileo] was right.

GN: We used to think the Earth was flat too.

So the advertised Negus sceptism did not last long. Within a short time, Negus was linking anyone who disputed the Lord Stern position on global warming with those who believed that the Earth was flat. Negus also used one question to editorialise about how Australia was “late” in signing to the Kyoto Protocol. [Presumably he meant “ratifying”, Ed].  The interview ended with — believe it or not — Negus apologising to Professor Maathai for the cold weather.

AL GORE’S COLD FRONT

For her part, Nancy is not surprised about the current downturn in temperatures in many parts of Australia. After all, the news is out that former US vice-president Al Gore will arrive Down Under next month to warn about global warning. It is a fact of life that quite a few of Mr Gore’s fly in/fly out visits to lecture a global warming are associated with a cold front or two.

Be that as it may, Nancy wants to know what Al Gore is doing using up all those carbon emissions to visit the Antipodes. What’s wrong with video-conferencing? MWD will keep you in touch on this one.

NO SALES

While on campaigns, MWD is still awaiting a response from Lateline presenter Leigh Sales about any evidence she might have to support her view — as stated in her magnum opus On Doubt (MUP, 2009) — that Martin Luther, the founder of the German Reformation, was afflicted by self-doubt. See Issue 14. So far Ms Sales is in “thank you for your view” mode. MWD will keep trying to elicit what could well be history-changing information which will lead to a re-evaluation of the Protestant Reformation — along with the Lutheran Church.

NANCY‘S SEND THE BOYS TO MECCA CAMPAIGN — AN UPDATE

MWD’s “Send ‘The Boys’ to Mecca” appeal continues apace. The idea is to raise enough funds to buy one-way air tickets for Julian Morrow and The Chaser Boys to travel to Saudi Arabia so that they can fly — with the approval of Rob Simpson at ABC Legal Services, of course — an offensively worded blimp over the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. Just like they did recently — with Mr Simpson’s approval — in the Vatican.

Money is flowing in. But so is support in kind. This week Nancy received, from a reader in Canberra, a promise to provide two body bags. Only another three are needed for the return trips. If all goes as expected, of course, and the mullahs of Mecca are less tolerant of Chaser humour than the bishops in Rome.

Meanwhile in the Sydney Morning Herald on 13-14 June, The Boys indicated that they were in on the joke about Amanda Duthie’s demotion at the ABC following her decision to approve The Chaser’s skit about dying children (see Issue 14). In its regular SMH slot, The Chaser ran the following headline under the lead titled In Other News: “Unemployment rises, especially in ABC comedy department.”  So — like almost everything except The Boys themselves — Ms Duthie’s demotion is just a joke. This is consistent with The Boys’ delayed development — in that they believe that their own errors of immaturity are all someone else’s fault — and that someone should supervise and interdict their own poor judgement.

MARK SCOTT AS TARGET

Meanwhile a MWD reader has forwarded a copy of the North Shore Times of 10 June. A report by Andrew Priestley reveals that the ABC managing director Mark Scott was attending a council meeting at Knox Grammar School in Sydney when Craig Reucassel entered the school property. This particular Chaser stunt focused on allegations of serious sexual abuse by teachers which is said to have occurred at Knox in the 1980s.

Here’s how the North Shore Times reported the incident:

The Chaser’s War on Everything team has given ABC managing director Mark Scott a few grey hairs, not least when they turned up at his alma mater.

“While The Chaser were doing a skit set at Knox Grammar School, I was there at a council meeting. That’s the irony of life,” he said. “They’re good fellas, even though they do send me grey.” While Mr Scott was in the council meeting, Craig Reucassel walked into the school carrying a box labelled “naked boys inside”, asking bemused staff to sign for the package.

The Chaser, Mr Scott said, was an example of fearless and confronting broadcasting that made the ABC what it was.

In which case, why demote Amanda Duthie? The fact is that ABC management has been approving The Chaser’s behaviour — including trespass on private property and jokes aimed at the disabled, the unfortunate and the uneducated – for eons. The ABC apparently believes that sexual assault of young boys is a suitable theme for Chaser humour. Why is this so different from laughing at the imminent death of young boys and girls with terminal cancer?

Until next time.

Peter Fray

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