There’s nothing like the possible collapse of your magazine to concentrate an editor’s mind wonderfully. Returning Quadrant editor Keith Windschuttle might have been willing to tough out the scandal arising from online editor Roger Franklin’s late-night first draft of history, in which he mused approvingly about someone setting off a nail-and-bolt bomb in the Q&A studios. With both ABC boss Michelle Guthrie and Arts Minister Mitch Fifield condemning the post, and the original version referred to the AFP, Windschuttle had no choice but to cede ground, initially making clear that the article was indefensible:
“… I accept your assurance about the offence it caused you and your staff. You have my unreserved apology for any concerns it might have given you.”
Those are bullshit weasel words, and obviously so. Note how quick the right is to take up the language of “offence”, when it suits them — as if Franklin had made an off-colour joke. The article and the journal deserve condemnation not because they caused offence to specific individuals, but because the article mused approvingly about blowing up a crowded TV studio with a nail bomb — and then slavered over how a particular human being would be eviscerated by the blast:
“Mind you, as [Q&A panelist Lawrence] Krauss felt his body being penetrated by the Prophet’s shrapnel of nuts, bolts and nails, those goitered eyes might in their last glimmering have caught a glimpse of vindication.”
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Goitered? Franklin was making some remark earlier in the article about Krauss having some thyroid condition or something. The rhetoric is obvious: Krauss as alleged poor human specimen being killed in great pain and horror.
That pathetic death-masturbation fantasy is still in the article, and it’s the key to it. The odd comment from left or right of “someone should put a bomb under X” doesn’t matter. The detailed imagining of it does.
The right is now all in a tizz about this. Nick Cater, Quadrant board member, had to come out and denounce the article. Andrew Bolt, despite his habit of focusing on comment 9741 “Bushitler should be shot” of any online piece and asking “what is it with the left and violence?” has called the article “magnificent” (and then had a hilarious argument with himself, which he lost. Reproduced below).
Chris Kenny defended the article, then got scared, and like a good little doggie, turned tail and condemned it, while also saying the ABC was worse, or some nonsense.
This is another body blow to Quadrant, but I hope the poor old groaner survives. It’s been so bad for so long — since Robert Manne was edged out as editor after he attempted to take it in a more pluralist direction, after its original Cold War mission was concluded — as to be show up the right in their true character. What followed Manne was seething right-wing ressentiment, personified in its two editors, Paddy McGuinness and Keith Windschuttle. Some reviews and the poetry aside, it is head-bangingly awful, sheer unpleasure, a magazine made out of the comments strings of The Australian. That one of its editors fantasises at length about the violent death of his fellow citizens is no aberration but an inevitable product of the politics they have pursued for nearly two decades. If they were sensible, they’d knock the whole magazine on the head. They won’t. And this will all happen again.
The Boltiad: Our Andrew on Roger Franklin:
At the end of a piece on Q&A, Bolt notes:
“Roger Franklin is magnificent in his anger at this Q&A sophistry.”
Once in a witness box I was grilled on the meaning of a clearly satirical phrase. I knew then that I was in strife. So for the determined-to-be-outraged and the desperate-to-be-offended I point out what I should not need to: that Franklin is not seriously advocating the blowing up of the ABC headquarters, and not even an idiot would take him to be doing so.
My goodness. They took it seriously? They seriously believe someone will act on Franklin’s satire?
The ABC has called the article “a new low in Australian public debate” and demanded an apology and the removal of the article from the Quadrant website. In a strongly worded letter to the editor of Quadrant, the ABC managing director, Michelle Guthrie, said ABC staff had to be reassured of their safety and safety experts had to be called in to assess if there had been any damage to security from the inflammatory words.
Yet the ABC hires and promotes apologists for Islam. Which is the more dangerous?
I guess, on reflection, that Franklin should not have – satirically – said he wished the blast went off at Ultimo instead of Manchester. It is certainly not what I would have written. I still believe it would on no remotely sane person’s reading have been interpreted as a desire or genuine exhortation that the ABC be blown up. But it has left Franklin open to a criticism that distracts from his message. it allows the ABC to scream of double standards while not fixing their own. And, in these days where radical Muslims don’t do satire, it allows them to draw a phony parallel and excuse. In this way, too, is our own speech made to modify.
Franklin has rewritten his sentence.