Poor old Gerard “Gollum” Henderson. His stock in trade for many a year has been picking up on petty errors among his foes, yet these days he’s having so many senior moments that his gotchas often as not end up being “gotcha (Media Watch) Dog caught in your fly”.

Here he is, on April 7, in an interminable piece picking up Rob Manne on some alleged inaccuracy or other (tb;dr) in a contribution to a recent anthology:

“Robert Manne’s chapter titled ‘An Academic’s Dozen: 1975-1988’ covers Professor Manne’s first 13 years at La Trobe. [I get it. It seems that ‘the butcher’s dozen’ has now become ‘the academic’s dozen’. What fun — MWD Editor]”

Fun indeed, except that a baker’s dozen is 13 (an extra roll added), while the far more obscure butcher’s dozen is 11 (the 12th cut omitted as the meat is wrapped). Why the slip? Well, Gollum was defending a few people from the murkier depths of the post-WWII right, where Vietnam was a noble cause, not a high-tech slaughter, Suharto’s 1965 coup was sensible politics, not genocide, and apartheid was to be defended to the hilt. Butcher’s dozen indeed.

He didn’t do much better on Good Friday, noting that in the Middle East Christians are being persecuted and slaughtered in large numbers (as a result of the chaos after the Iraq invasion, though he doesn’t mention that). That is comparable, apparently, to the situation in the West, where Christianity is being “sneered at” on Q&A. God no! Not sneering! How will the religion survive? Apparently exercising your free speech rights in the West is the same act as denying them to someone in the Middle East, if the target is an approved right-wing victim.

Curiously enough, the question of whether Gollum himself is still a believer is an open one. Curiously, some years ago, on Q&A, his wife Anne, Bonnie to his Clyde, said that she was a “cultural Catholic”. “That’s cheating, surely,” said the late Christopher Hitchens, who was also on the panel. And it is. It’s using religion to underwrite right-wing politics, without feeling the need to respond to any of relgion’s ethical demands. The injunction against lack of charity, for example, which sin is characteristic of everything Gollum says and does in public. — Guy Rundle

Peter Fray

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