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Aug 25, 2017

Rundle: the ABC should dump political editor Chris Uhlmann

Chris Uhlmann embodies a power-hungry, truth-averse approach to politics that makes him wholly unsuitable for his current job.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


ABC News journalist Chris Uhlmann

Chris Uhlmann strikes again. The ABC’s political editor, who warned us that a bunch of eggheads known as the “Frankfurt School” had ruined fine upstanding Western culture with their virus of critical notions, and Greenie-backed wind farms had destroyed the energy security that Judeo-Christian coal mines had given us, has come out swinging in favour of ASIS chief Nick Warner. Warner, a public servant, is getting criticism for showing clear support for Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, a leader who has endorsed extrajudicial killing on a mass scale. Allegedly directed at drug dealers, Duterte’s vigilante wave has left at least 7000 dead, many of them wholly innocent people targeted for retribution, gang warfare, or theft, with the drug dealer crackdown used as cover. It’s not for a head of ASIS to be seen endorsing any leader, but especially a thuggish one such as this.

Uhlmann’s defence is everything we’ve come to expect from this Christian happy-clappy and ex-trainee priest — sentimentalist and engorged with fantasy. He presents an earlier Warner operation — part of our military/police operation in the Solomons — as an unquestioned success, when many have seen it as stoking the very tensions it was allegedly sent in to assist in quelling. It gets worse. In defending co-operation with Duterte, mentions some scene in 1992, in Cambodia in 1992, when he saw a CIA station chief and a Khmer Rouge officer breaking bread together. Here’s how Uhlmann puts it:

“Many images are burned in my mind from that visit to war-ravaged Cambodia in 1992, particularly children who had lost their limbs to mines. But one moment lingers. It was when an Australian official pointed out two men having lunch in a Phnom Penh restaurant.”

‘That guy is from the CIA,’ he whispered. ‘And the other one is a Khmer Rouge leader.’

Making peace in Cambodia meant enlisting the devil.”

Two possibilities arise from this construction. Either Uhlmann is so ignorant of Cambodia post-1979 that he shouldn’t be political editor of the ABC, or he is so willing to misconstruct events to suit his purposes that he shouldn’t be political editor at the ABC. The plain fact is that after the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979, and the toppling of the Pol Pot regime, the West’s backing of remnant Khmer Rouge forces extended the misery and violence in Cambodia for more than a decade, for no purpose other than realpolitik — the KR was China-aligned, the Vietnamese were Soviet-aligned. The West backed the KR to retain Cambodia’s UN seat; British special forces trained KR forces, who maintained a reign of terror over the provinces they held, similar to the terror they wielded over the country as a whole in 1975-1979. Some peace. Every sentence of Uhlmann’s article is saturated in the worst sort of foreign policy journalism — the journalist who doesn’t want to expose power and duplicity, but to suck up to it, be a handmaiden to it, for the sake of feeling like he’s playing with the big boys. It’s a pathetic desire, and characteristic of those two other Christian warriors, Tony Abbott and Greg Sheridan.

They all enter the seminary, or think about doing so, attracted by the idea of cosmic battles of Good v Evil. They find that the Christian path is about humbly ministering to the weak and benighted, and renouncing glory. They all go to journalism or politics and betray an attraction to the resolute hard cases, the men of violence who can supply a sense of purpose they lack. It’s the worst reason to be a journalist, the desire to be a simpering, blame-free courtier, trading on reflected glory. (Inevitably, there’s an out-of-context Orwell quote, to bless the act of being a PR agent for a murderous thug.) Well, if Uhlmann wants to sell this farrago on his own time, fine. But what the hell is he doing with the post of ABC political editor? Does Uhlmann have actual say over who is chosen to be on specific news and current affairs shows? Because if he does, it’s a disgrace, and a betrayal of the ABC’s mission. Worse, it’s what a state-run public broadcaster can always fall into being: an arm of the state, with sycophantic staffers seeing their mission as nothing other than PR for the government of the day.

Uhlamnn’s continued role as political editor needs to be questioned. He is not appropriate for the role — or the role is just ABC correspondent and writer, and he should be titled as such. The continued grace under which he operates throws into ever sharper perspective — if it were needed — the racist treatment of Yassmin Abdel-Magied for one mild Facebook post. Uhlmann is getting a free pass because he’s white, Christian and right wing. ABC journos who co-operate with this fix, are being complicit in the use of the public broadcaster as a government megaphone. Uhlmann needs to go. If the ABC needs a cross-show political editor, it should be a neutral and pluralist figure. If it’s not that role, then ditch it, so Uhlmann can be seen for what he is: one point-of-view, and a wacky one at that. In the meantime: do we need ASIO to stop the Monash Uni cultural studies department putting poison in the wells — a special ABC investigation.

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90 thoughts on “Rundle: the ABC should dump political editor Chris Uhlmann

  1. leon knight

    Could not agree more Guy, but I doubt we will see any serious changes for the better at the ABC until Labor get back in and start undoing the damage that Abbott and Turnbull have done, financially and culturally.
    Shorten needs to start outlining his plans to do so now, there are plenty of Auntie fans watching closely…

  2. zut alors

    Ouch, you’ve just ruined his weekend, Rundle.

    Since Uhlmann’s skewed account of the SA power blackout I rarely read his pieces.

    1. Dog's Breakfast

      Same! Whatever credibility he had (none particularly with me) he lost it with that little charade.

    2. Anniejean

      Certainly that was when the rot and the switch off set in for me. I really feel that I’ve been robbed

    3. Charmaine Tunn

      Same here.

    4. David Irving (no relation)

      I gave up on him well before his lies about SA’s blackout. You may well recall his claim that the adults were back in charge when Gillard got rolled.

  3. Myki Smith

    “Uhlmann’s defence is everything we’ve come to expect from this Christian happy-clappy and ex-trainee priest — sentimentalist and engorged with fantasy.”
    “Uhlmann is getting a free pass because he’s white, Christian and right wing. ”
    Bloody hell! I’ve heard some pretty vicious commentaries from Guy over the years (e.g. David Feeney) and this is no exception – based as it is on the thinnest of perceived transgressions. It sounds exactly like a Stalinist/communist Chinese/North Korean damnation of some unfortunate opponent before they get dragged out to be executed. Does anybody think Guy’s fury stems from nothing more than a some personal, bitter, dislike of Chris?
    This is awful journalism.

    1. Marilyn J Shepherd

      Did you read Uhlmann”s defence of the mass murdering Duterte in the ABC website yesterday? It’s nothing but monstrous government propaganda and utter drivel.

    2. Jimbo

      There is no exaggeration in Guys article. If Uhlmanns efforts with regard to the Sou th Australian power crisis were added in, Uhlmann would also be taken out the back and flogged.

    3. Di Keller

      No it’s not it’s bloody brilliant!! The reasons put forward are hardly personal, or hardly furious for that matter. I feel the same way about Uhllmann after watching him for years but certainly don’t know him personally.

  4. aliso6

    I pray you have influence, Guy!

  5. Nudiefish

    Unlike Smithy’s comments (above/below) I really enjoyed this Rundle grande tour de force.

    Whilst I don’t always agree with GR (occasionally not even following his argument very well), it is hard not to get lost in the beautiful flow this time. The attack on Uhlmann was not a bunch of adjectives strung together, it was a outstandly supported argument based on actual history. I too lost interest in Uhlmann’s opinions after the windmill silliness and have no idea about his background. I find it refreshing that in these days of dry as a ditch crapola we can sometimes glimpse raw journalism of the red in tooth and claw kind.

    Still, you are sailing very close to the wind, Rundle. Be careful.

    1. Jack Robertson

      Careful?? Phfffft! Awful journalism? Maybe, maybe not. Expect it depends on your politics, as usual.

      Fucking great entertainment, though. Two nice white straight power-bois of letters sword-fighting with their cocks over the same framing turf after a few too many TGIF bundies? What’s not to leeerve…No biff so vicious as when the ‘stakes’ are so small…geddit, fnar fnar…

      My dough’s on the wop street brawler to take down the Jesuit prettyboy in the seventh…Come on, the Pope’s Envoy! Have a crack, you big crossy ponce, we hear you’re yuuuuge in America these days…He’s all fuckin’ piss and wind this swarthy bloke…dig out some old Vulture reels if you need to find a weak spot…

      Champion eggs, Teh Crikster! More please! Razer and Miranda in the jelly tub! Bernard and Hartcher in bladed chariots…Anything to fuck the joint up, Myki.

      Anything to juice it up.

      PS: anyone else finding this strangely arousing…no? Must be me then.

      PPS: Feeney earned every barb he wore. All by himself. They’re all big boys, this lot. With big bylines, big voices, big egoes. Weep not.

      1. Nudiefish

        Eh… You weren’t supping the altar wine with Tony Abbott, were you?

      2. Bob the builder

        I think you must’ve stolen both Grundle and UrMann’s TGIF allocation of Bundies, Jack Robbo.

      3. Myki Smith

        “Awful journalism? Maybe, maybe not. Expect it depends on your politics, as usual.”
        Except that I am left wing. This sort of spleen-venting does nothing to help the cause. It alienates more than it illuminates.
        Step back a bit and ask yourself – is Chris really the enemy?
        This is such a trivial subject to get all fired up over.
        As I said- awful journalism

        1. Jack Robertson

          ‘Left wing’ – you quite sure about that, MS? Dave Feeney reckons he’s a lefty, too.

          Nah, I love Chris Ulhmann. He has a go. Rundle, likewise. And you’re wrong, jokes and jibes aside, the point at issue – narrative framing at Aunty’s NaCA – is anything but
          trivial. Like I said: Rundle in the seventh. Probably. Would want the fight to play out to be sure, but. At least when bylines start by being openly rude to each other, the niceties are ditched and there’s a chance of a proper one. Should be more like them both in Oz Meeja.

          Aye, nudie/bob, hic it is.

        2. Draco Houston

          I’m going to go out on a limb and say the guy realpolitiking it up about a mass murderer who believes the same shit as convicted terrorist Anders Breivek and excuses collaboration with the monster Pol Pot is an enemy. A highly paid enemy we pay the salary for. He’s on the telly as the ABC’s political editor and gets a lot of screen time and to write articles about how Jews ruined the West.

  6. Bill Hilliger

    Chris Uhlmann the ABC very own Typhoid Mary happy clapper churnalist.

  7. Bob the builder

    P*ss off Rundle, everyone knows the ABC is a viper’s nest of Commies and Greenies. Just because you’ve got facts on your elitist side proves nuffin.

  8. shea mcduff

    The ABC badly needs reform at all levels – from the top down. Uhlmann may be an egregiously
    obvious symptom of the malaise but he has been enabled by those higher. It should be a high priority of government to render the ABC as an effective medium of information vital to political debate in this country -a role it is not fulfilling currently and that is the result of long term political machinations.

    1. Puff, the Magic Dragon.

      The whole ABC joint needs a dose of castor oil. It has been infested with IPA hacks, Lib groupies and right-wing ideologues.

      Uhlmann is just the tip of the smelly iceberg. Slowly, anyone with an opinion not aligned with our Coalition parties’ manifesto has been replaced with ‘free’-market, global-warming denialist, Murdock hack mouth-pieces.

      The ABC IT journalist who wrote the truth about the miserable cock-up of the fraud-band NBN is a glaring case in point.

      Well said, GR.

      1. Zarathrusta

        P.S. thanks for noticing, most don’t. I think the fact that you have an retired Liberal Senator running their own show speaks volumes about the real bias of the ABC and how it has been infiltrated by government appointed hacks.

    2. Zarathrusta

      I’d like to see the board of the ABC drawn as a random ballot of citizens, much like a jury. Each person gets a paid 10 year stint. A new person drawn out of the hat every year to replace the one that is leaving.

  9. klewso

    He can’t see the news for his opinions – a mitigating conservative mouth-piece and apologist; it doesn’t matter what this government does, he can quote his idea of an example of Labor being worse, but that doesn’t apply in reverse.
    Why he has to tell us what to think – I thought – was beyond the ABC remit?
    Last week he told us Brandis had his defining moment when he had a go at Hanson’s fancy dress routine in the Senate (as if he had a lot of choice?) – and forget all he’s done before that, and (if form counts for anything) what he’ll do in the future?
    Last night he told us how we should take Warner’s stunt.

    1. Zarathrusta

      He also forgot to mention that everything Brandis said about Hanson applied to what the LNP are doing to the GLBTQI community as we speak – except for the dress sense. But then when your a Christian nut, you would omit that wouldn’t you.

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