Rating Rundle

Gerard Henderson writes: Re. “Media briefs: Fairfax paywalls … radio ratings … Hendo howler …” It’s always nice to be noticed by Guy Rundle, my favourite  Marxist comedian.  I still fondly remember Rundle inviting me for coffee at the Sofitel Wentworth some years ago, arriving late and leaving me with the bill. Fortunately, my life experience indicates that not all former Brighton Grammar School graduates are deficient in manners.

Yes, Guy Rundle identified an error in my Sydney Morning Herald column yesterday — where the date of William McMahon’s marriage in 1965, “at aged 57 on the eve of Sir Robert Menzies’ retirement as prime minister” was incorrectly typed as “1975”.  It was corrected online before Crikey ran Guy Rundle hyperbolic rant claiming that I had suggested that “the Whitlam government never happened, and our Sir Robert governed for 26 years, retiring gracefully at the age of 81”.  Well, Rundle is a comedian and a former editor of the hysterically funny Marxist journal of opinion Arena Magazine.

Such a correction is a  bit much coming from Rundle, who in Crikey on June 4, 2013 bagged Labor for considering David Feeney for preselection in Batman since he (allegedly) opposed gay marriage. Even a cursory fact-check would have revealed that Feeney supports this cause — as Crikey later noted in a correction. Unlike my error, this was not a typo. However, I consciously refrained from scoring a point against Rundle in my Media Watch Dog blog.

There are so many exaggerations and misstatements in Rundle’s piece yesterday that it is not possible to respond to them all in the space available.  Consequently, I proffer a few comments only:

  • It is a myth to describe me as “Bob Santamaria’s former golden boy”. When I worked part time for Santamaria in 1970 and 1971, I agreed with him on foreign policy but I frequently disagreed on socio-economic matters. My 1982 book Mr Santamaria and the Bishops (initially published by Ed Campion’s Studies in the Christian Movement series) was broadly critical of Santamaria.  Moreover, like Rundle, the late B.A. Santamaria was a critic of my weekly column.
  • I have never claimed that 25% of people who voted for Gillard in 2010 suddenly got religion and traditional values in the last three years, sufficient to change their vote. Rundle just made this up. In yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald column, I wrote that “Gillard’s political demise was primarily due to her broken promise on the carbon tax”. I have argued this position for over two years.
  • The Left did put around in the late 1960s and early 1970s that William McMahon was a closet homos-xual. I am not aware that John Gorton ever made such an allegation, and Guy Rundle has provided no evidence that he did so.

The language of feminism

Roger Kelly writes: Re. “Religion v feminism: which has done more for humanity?” (yesterday). I applaud this article. All of it had to be said. This kind of “truth and reconciliation” recognition of historic culpability needs to be constantly revisited if a time of truly equal opportunity is ever to be achieved. I rejoice in these times that seem to have stopped treating religion as unquestionable. The list of social crimes is even wider. It extends to genocide.

In the interest of adding momentum to feminism, can I comment on “male feminism”?

Initially, as a hippie baby boomer, I had no trouble assimilating feminism simply on (what should have been) obvious egalitarian terms. In late teens I marched against the Vietnam invasion, and I marched against s-xism. If I had supported socialism, I would be a socialist. In supporting feminism, I am a feminist.

Your article adds weight to the fact that feminism still has a long way to go — a long way — but there have been some inroads.

In your opening sentence you mentioned “men” as the culpable collective. For many years now I have been wondering if this — which is common — risks restricting the support of male advocates. The elimination of s-xism needs all the support and press it can get.

For decades I, and most men I know, have stoically taken it on the chin: being lumped with the guilty, because it was necessary. While I was a teacher we went through a period in the early ’90s of “positive discrimination”, where women — staff and students — were given advantage. We all supported this, and I saw it introduce real and pleasing change. I think that we may now be at the time when the significant percentage of aware men are taken into the fold by coining some new term that would separate them from the implied and laboured concept that (all) men = bad. You did this in your opening sentence.

Perhaps something more creative that “s-xist males”, but the desired effect would be to separate aware males from the stupidly s-xist. It may induce some of the culprits to want to be identified on the other team.

It should be much less likely to diminish support from “beleaguered males”, and it is my feeling that the percentage of supportive men is significant, relevant and not guilty.

Bruce Graham writes: The extract from Jane Caro’s essay caught my eye.  My mother was named after a suffragist, so I have always cared about the history of activist feminism. And yes, by modern definitions, there have been acts of terror.  Small beer, no doubt, but any error weakens the argument.

Numeracy skills?

Rory Robertson writes: Re. “Deceit for a cause: fact-checking indigenous literacy PR” (Monday). WAMUT, the “Fully (sic) blogger”, disputes the ALNF’s claim that “four out of five” indigenous kids in the bush can’t read (well). On the figures he charted, the claim perhaps could be fine-tuned to (say) “two out of three” can’t read (well). Fair enough, but at least the problem of bush kids in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 struggling to read well is starting to attract strong and helpful remedial action. Spare a thought for senior scientists at the University of Sydney — no one is helping them to lift their maths skills to year 4 standard.

Peter Fray

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