Chevy Chase memorial announcement, Frank Devine is still dead. Yes, you may have seen among the acres of space that the former News Ltd editor and long time columnist passed away a coupla weeks back, since then every hack has been given space to commemorate Frank.

That’s par for the course when a journo dies — visible to the public only as a weekly columnist who could hit a light and humorous note unachievable by his more rancorous fellow reactionaries, Devine had been a senior figure of sorts to many of the besieged 40-nothings now piloting News Ltd into the ratings shallows, so he gets the laurels.

That’s not to say that some of the commemorations aren’t frankly strange. Tom Switzer, in the Oz Spectator takes on the “poor me” approach of victim conservatism, bizarrely suggesting that there were “no conservative journalists before 1995” — which would be news to the late Devine himself, editor of The Australian from 1988-89, during which he made an early attempt at bringing US style political culture wars to Australian life.

It would be news also to his leader writer Tony Abbott, to Greg Sheridan, Michael Barnard in The Age , Robert Manne (then in his conservative purple) in the Herald and fah chrissakes BA Santamaria in the Oz . It does sometimes appear that Switzer is 12 years old.

Devine doesn’t really deserve that sort of treatment — he could bang on about political correctness a bit, okay a lot, but he was readable precisely because he never sounded like McGuinness et al, as if their entire career was a long revenge on life for thwarting their deepest desires.

But above all he doesn’t deserve the treatment meted out to his full obituary by the editors of his old newspaper, The Australian. As the obit’s author, Peter Coleman, notes (also in the Oz Speccie):

“[In] The obituary … much of what I wrote was omitted, and much that I did not write was added. Those who care to read what I actually wrote will find it in Quadrant Online.”

When you compare the Oz and Quadrant versions, you can see that this is decorous understatement. In the Quadrant version, Coleman begins:

Frank Devine, who died on 3 July, was the Laughing Cavalier of Australian journalism. His laughter, often noisy, was always infectious. When I asked Rupert Murdoch for a comment, he said : “Frank had a great sense of humour… which he applied to nearly everything in life!” Paul Kelly found him “always engaging, always optimistic and always full of amusing anecdotes.” William Shawcross recalled him as large, cheerful and jovial.

But he was also an indomitable cavalier. A bon vivant who loved long lunches, he was a conviction journalist whose religious faith was central to his life. (He used to pray privately at work: “Jesus Christ, Son of God , have mercy on us.”). His politics were conservative. (He once supported E.G. Whitlam — in 1972 — but not for long.) A family man, his last published essay, in the May Quadrant , honours his wife Jacqueline, his three children, and his fifty years of marriage. He was also a loyal friend: mourners at the funeral of Paddy McGuinness will not forget the sight of Devine weeping as he delivered his tribute to his old atheist friend. He was a sports fanatic….

… and then segues through some other remarks to an outline of his childhood and youth.

In The Australian , the copy reads:

Frank Devine, who died yesterday, was the laughing cavalier of Australian journalism. His laughter, often noisy, was always infectious. Commenting on the former editor of three of News Corporation’s newspapers, including The Australian , chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch says: “Frank had a great sense of humour … which he applied to nearly everything in life.”

The Australian ‘s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell, who was night editor under Devine, says: “Frank was a brilliant writer and brought a wide world view to editing. He happily disrespected all the pieties of Australian public life and I personally found that endearing. Frank was a wonderful supporter of The Australian in retirement and I will miss his brilliant prose.”

John Hartigan, the chief executive of News Corporation’s Australian operation News Limited, says: “Frank brought a wealth of journalistic experience …”

Blah blah, with more Hartigan and Paul Kelly quotes before Coleman’s copy resumes with the McGuinness funeral anecdote.

To be fair, the Oz ‘s editors also saved Coleman from himself, cutting his bitter remark that “Inevitably he figured prominently on the hate list of the Left: right-wing ranter, senile fascist …” and more in the victim-conservatism mode.

But what’s weird is the way in which Coleman’s tribute to a friend is party-crashed by News Ltd’s suits, like a bunch of Brezhnevite stooges trying to get as close to the coffin as possible — and all without any indication that Coleman didn’t write any of those words. Given that an official obit — by Bernard Lane — had already been published, why despoil the tribute by one friend to another?

Well, we know the answer. Whatever love and respect News Ltd’s besotted hardliners give to its dear leader, it is not returned. Both Coleman and Devine exist only so far as they are useful to the project. For there is always one last service you can give to the party.

And how does Devine fit into the News Ltd/Stalinism pantheon? Maybe he’s Bogdanov, who nearly took the leadership of the Bolsheviks from Lenin in 1908, before being utterly outplayed. The inventor of the blood transfusion, he was also a pioneer of organ transplant experimentation, although he started from the wrong end, spending years swapping dogs’ heads between bodies without notable impact. What better analogy could you find for the professional life of a colour-filler columnist?