GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 139
1 JUNE 2012
“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”
– Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.
Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep. For example, peruse
the correspondence he’s published in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask:
“Hendo, are you OK?”
– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.
I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson’s wife, not his dog.”
– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011
“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails
are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s
Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.
Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”
– Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011.
“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work”
– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.
“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”
– Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)
“We’d better be careful what we say, just in case Gerard’s offsider pooch Nancy is keeping an eye on us for his delightfully earnest Media Watch Dog”
– Tom Cowie of The Power Index, Crikey 20 January 2012
“What a haughty flapping half-arsed buffoon he [Henderson] is”
– Bob Ellis on his Table Talk blog, 8 May 2012 (before breakfast)
● Stop Press: More Evidence on Malcolm Fraser/Margaret Simons Howlers; Robert Fisk Bags Obama and Clinton; Awaiting Bonge’s Prophecy
● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Fun & Games and Lotsa Abuse on Q&A
● Can You Bear It? Mid-Winter Ball’s Sexism; Jason Steger on Manners; Liberty Sanger Strikes Out; Mark Latham’s Privacy Conversion
● Special Unwashed Issue of the Five Paws Award: Step Forward Geoffrey Robertson and Eureka Street
● Hyperbole Hunt Digs up Andrew West on the Monarchy
● Special Feature: Chip Rolley as New Editor of the ABC’s The Drum
● Correspondence: With a Little Help from Jonathan Green & Margaret Simons
● Historian Ian Hancock Nails Errors In Fraser/Simons Book
Nancy’s slumber was interrupted this morning when the May 2012 issue of Labour History landed loudly outside her kennel. Turning to the “Book Reviews” section, she noted that Ian Hancock has reviewed Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs – which is jointly written by Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons – in the current edition.
Ian Hancock, a former academic and now professional historian, has published widely on the Liberal Party of Australia. His books include a well reviewed biography of one-time Liberal prime minister John Gorton.
This is how Ian Hancock concluded his assessment of Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs:
It is a pity that Fraser’s memory and Simons’ basic knowledge are so deficient. We all make mistakes but the number of errors in the book beggars belief…. No good purpose is served by shoddy scholarship and loose writing – even if it does not preclude winning a prestigious award in a non-fiction category.
Mr Fraser and Dr Simons maintain – against the evidence – that Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs is not riddled with howlers. However, both refuse to even address particular errors – despite the fact that the book won a $50,000 taxpayer funded prize at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards last year. Professor Simons has declined, once again, to respond to criticism of her book in the Correspondence section in today’s MWD.
It’s good to see that the historian Ian Hancock still believes in historical truth. [Perhaps he should have won MWD’s prestigious Five Paws Award, Also, why not commence a list of the errors in the Fraser/Simons book in next week’s MWD and update this on a regular basis? – Ed].
● Middle East Commentator Robert Fisk Bags Obama/Clinton/Gillard
Lebanon-based British journalist Robert Fisk was in top form on Lateline last night. [Could this have been after-lunch, Beirut time? – Ed]. He reserved his most stinging criticism for Western democratic leaders – dismissing President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton whom he twice referred to as “Madame Clinton”. Robert Fisk described Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as “mountebanks and liars”. He also mocked Julia Gillard – referring to her as Australia’s “beloved prime minister”.
Lateline presenter Tony Jones seems to preside over much personal abuse on the public broadcaster these days and appeared unperturbed by the remarks.
● Bonge’s Prophecy Yet to be Fulfilled
Nancy is about to head home to eagerly await this evening’s Ten News: First At Five.
On this program last Friday, Paul Bongiorno described a decision of the Australian Federal Police to investigate Tony Abbott’s call for Craig Thomson MP to quit Parliament as a “stark example” of political trench warfare.
Brilliant depiction, don’t you think? All that is lacking is any evidence that the AFP decided to do any such thing. Perhaps the Bonge will reveal his evidence later this afternoon. Nancy be will all ears – albeit, alas, deaf ears.
Q&A = “QUESTIONS & ABUSE” AS BARRY HUMPHRIES, DAVID MARR AND MIRIAM MARGOYLES TARGET GREEDY, STUPID, FAT TARTS WHO LIVE IN BENTLEIGH
While on the topic of Tony Jones presiding over personal abuse on the public broadcaster, what a stunning performance by all concerned on Q&A last Monday – especially since there is an emerging view that politicians should desist from abusing others. Here are some highlights – as performed by the Dramatis Personae.
First up, comedian Barry Humphries said it would be “wonderful” if Gina Rinehart “can afford a hair dresser”. Get it? BH does not like Mrs Rinehart’s hairstyle. Humphries went on to declare that he did not “like her family very much either” – even though there is no evidence that BH has met any of the Hancock family. Then he described Australians as “common” and referred to “Gina’s hole” – presumably this was a reference to mining, but it was not made clear on the night and the comment raised considerable merriment.
As Barry Humphries grows older, he sounds increasingly like his late mother – whom he depicted in his autobiography as an appalling snob who resided in upper class Camberwell and despised the hoi polloi who lived in Bentleigh and other lower socio-economic suburbs. So it came as no surprise when BH referred to the Melbourne suburb of Bentleigh as a “terrible suburb”. He went on to comment: “Julia would be interesting on a bike.” Previous episodes of Q&A had contained criticism of those who refer to Prime Minister Julia Gillard as “Julia” – but no one objected to the “Julia” reference last Monday. BH went on to declare that Foreign Minister Bob Carr “looks as though he works for a funeral parlour”.
David Marr took the lead from Barry Humphries and competed for attention. DM described Gina Rinehart “as greedy as all get out” and “brutally cruel to her own family”. He went on to downplay the importance of mining.
Then British actor Miriam Margolyes stepped up. She described Gina Rinehart as “fat and ugly” and declared: “I don’t really know very much about Gina Rinehart but I know what I don’t care for”. MM went on to depict her fellow Brits as “frightfully stupid” – apparently “over 70 per cent are against gay marriage”. [Well, that’s clear then – Ed]. MM also referred to Tony Abbott as a “puny little gentleman” and “the other little fellow”. Clearly she does not like him.
One time Liberal leader Dr John Hewson (for a doctor he is) was offered by Tony Jones the opportunity to defend mining entrepreneur Gina Rinehart. However, getting caught in the Q&A group-think, JH declined, commenting: “I can see what she’s trying to do in terms of building this mine. I don’t excuse the way she’s doing it. I just don’t understand it.” JH did not say much more than this.
Thespian Jacki Weaver did have the courage to say: “I think we are getting a bit unkind about Mrs Rinehart.” All up, JW got little air time.
A pity really, since the heterosexual female voice was under represented in the program – which featured some sexist language. David Marr referred to a prostitute allegedly involved in the Craig Thomson affair as “the tart”. And Barry Humphries described Clive James’ former lover as “some floosie”. It sure was some Q&A.
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
● Mid-Winter Ball’s Sexist Balls-Up
While on the topic of sexism, how about the invitation to the Canberra Press Gallery’s 2012 Mid-Winter Ball? – to be held at the Great Hall, Parliament House on Wednesday 27 June 2012. [You and Nancy’s other co-owner should try and get a ticket. – Ed].
The evening has a pretentious faux-Italian theme. Julian Morrow, previously the ABC’s trespasser-in-chief when he was one of the 38 year old Chaser “Boys”, is – wait for it – “Maestro Di Cerimonie”. Wow. And the “Danza E Festa” is by Atomic. Gosh. It’s just so Italian.
The advertising flyer depicts a deserted Italian pink Vespa scooter – looking like a prop left over from the set of Roman Holiday. There are two partly consumed glasses of red wine [I hope it’s Italian vintage – Ed], along with a pair of women’s two-toned stiletto pumps near the deserted bike. The implication is that a bare-footed sheila (perhaps a “floosie”, pace Barry Humphries or a “tart”, pace David Marr) has gone with a shoed-male for a session on the Spanish Steps. Or something like that.
Straightup, this seems sexist. What about (male) gays? Can’t they have fun when in Rome? And what about lesbians? And bi-sexuals? And the transgender set? What about them? And so on. Just imagine what the Canberra Press Gallery – and others – would have said if the Liberal Party issued such an invitation to a fund-raising dinner for Tony Abbott’s re-election campaign in Warringah. Can you bear it?
● Jason Steger – On How to be Rude to Tony Abbott Gracefully
What a truly fetching image on our TV screens last night of striking staff from “The- Guardian-on-the-Yarra” posing for a group photograph outside The Age’s office in Melbourne. The previous evening, The Age’s literary editor Jason Steger had been filmed at the front of a smaller crowd of Age journalists who are engaged in unprotected industrial action contrary to their industrial award.
Writing in The Saturday Age on 26 May 2012, Jason Steger reported on the reception which Opposition leader Tony Abbott received when he recently addressed the Australian Book Industry Awards dinner in Sydney. Apparently Mr Abbott got the gig after some seven members of the Labor government either rejected, or declined to respond to, the invitation. This is how Jason Steger described the reaction from the luvvie-laden audience to Mr Abbott’s speech in his Saturday Age “Bookmarks” column last weekend:
One writer who declined the opportunity to hear the words of Abbott was Kerry Greenwood, creator of the wondrous Phryne Fisher. She gracefully left her table as he was introduced and headed for the door. ”Political figures should not be invited to that sort of dinner,” she told Bookmarks. ”I disapprove of Tony Abbott in every single respect.”
So how about that? How does one – even the creator of a wondrous fictional character – walk out on a guest speaker “gracefully” – and then justify such unprofessional action to a journalist? It’s just rude behaviour. And is Mr Steger seriously suggesting that Kerry Greenwood would have walked out on the speaker if one of the seven senior Labor MPs had accepted the invitation and delivered the keynote address – or if the secular-sainted Bob Brown had been offered the gig? Not on your nelly. Can you bear it?
● Liberty Sanger – She’s Part of the Union
While on the topic of The Age, how about the performance of Liberty Sanger during the Newspapers section of the ABC TV’s News Breakfast yesterday?
On Wednesday, journalists at Fairfax Media’s the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the Illawarra Mercury and the Newcastle Herald went out on strike following the company’s decision to send some sub-editing jobs to New Zealand.
The sassy Ms Sanger is a partner at the sandal-wearing firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. Rather than discuss the morning’s newspapers, Liberty Sanger went out in sympathy with striking Fairfax Media journalists, declaring:
Liberty Sanger : Good morning. Well firstly, in support of the Fairfax workers, I am not reviewing from Fairfax papers today. Now one of the covers, nonetheless, that I’m showing is the Illawarra Mercury, or, as it’s been re-badged “The New Zealand Mercury”. So you might like to have a look at that one first.
The Fairfax journalists walked off the job, as you said, last night, they’re off for 36 hours. This is an ongoing concern. We haven’t heard really from the editors of the Fairfax papers, what their long-term vision is for their papers – journalism in Australia. They are talking about how this is a journey, that we are on a journey, that things have to change in order to make the Fairfax papers, I suspect, profitable….
Ms Sanger continued with her account about how Fairfax Media should run its business – despite the fact that she has not previously worked in the media. It was yet another example of a News Breakfast commentator describing not what was in the morning’s newspapers but what should have been in them.
Liberty Sanger concluded her rant-to-camera with the suggestion that “New Zealand should be a little offended that they’re the country that are being selected”. The view from across the Tasman was somewhat different. Can you bear it?
● Mark Latham’s Late Privacy Conversion
What about failed ex-Labor leader Mark Latham on Paul Murray Live on Fox News last Monday. In a discussion about Grant Hackett, Mark Latham said: “I don’t go into the business of people’s lives and all that.”
This from the author of The Latham Diaries who made allegations – some true/some false – about the private lives of his one-time colleagues. See MWD Issue 137. Can you bear it? [You must return to this topic soon – especially in view of the Australian Press Council’s recent decision on your man Latham’s own privacy – Ed].
FIVE PAWS AWARD – OF THE UNWASHED VARIETY
● Geoffrey Robertson’s Interviewer-Free Interview
It was great to hear the dulcet Epping tones of Geoffrey Robertson QC, BA, LLB, BCL (Oxon), Hon.LLD on the Sky News Richo program last Wednesday. As MWD readers well know, an Epping tone is the kind of accent an Australian chap develops when he moves to London and does not want the Notting Hill set to know that he grew up in Epping, Sydney.
The good news on Wednesday’s Richo is that Graham Richardson terminated a taped interview with the protectionist wind-bag Bob Katter MP to do a live cross to Geoffrey Robertson in London about the latest saga in the Julian Assange case.
Sky News reporter Laura Jayes was given the task of interviewing the (Honorary) Doctor of Legal Law. Talk about a mismatch. Ms Jayes struggled to get a word in edgeways as Dr Robertson (for an honorary doctor he is) went on and on and on about how he had come up with a you-beaut idea about how to get your man Assange freed from the current predicament. It turned out that GR QC obtained a staggering 86 per cent of on-air time.
It was not clear precisely what Geoffrey Robertson was on about – especially since his brilliant idea had just been rejected by the Supreme Court in London. But for conducting an interview as if there is no interviewer your man Robertson deserves Five Paws. [In view of his prolixity, you better make it Six (Unwashed) Paws – Ed].
● Eureka – A Jesuit Idea
What a brilliant idea by lawyer Patrick McCabe to write for the Jesuit on-line publication Eureka Street on the topic “If Clive Palmer was a High Court Judge”. Mr McCabe’s apparent point was that the mining magnate could be appointed to the High Court. Since this is not going to happen, it is not clear what his real point was. He even (incorrectly) stated that Justice William Gummow was appointed to the High Court by John Howard’s government. In fact, Gummow was appointed by Paul Keating’s Labor government.
But what’s a howler here or there when your man McCabe has a brilliant mind? Here’s a few themes that Eureka Street might follow up – inspired by Patrick McCabe’s creative thinking. How about “If John Pilger was a CIA Agent?”. Or perhaps “If Germaine Greer was a cross-dresser with a jacket obsession?”. Or maybe “If the Pope was an Imam?”.
Brilliant concept which can provide Eureka Street with copy until Judgement Day. [Do the Jesuits still believe in this? – Ed].
Patrick McCabe Five (Unwashed) Paws.
LUKE AND LEIA HYPERBOLE HUNT
Due to popular demand, this segment returns after a short absence. It will pick up steam next week.
As for today – Luke and Leia were enormously impressed by Andrew West’s comment on Richard Glover’s 702 Drive program yesterday.
Mr West told listeners “that appalling Tony Blair…thought that he should have been the monarch”. West also maintained that Mrs Thatcher thought that “she should have been the Queen”.
What a load of tosh – stated without a shred of evidence.
SPECIAL ESSAY FEATURE: MWD ON MARK SCOTT, CHIP ROLLEY, THE DRUM AND THE (LEFTIST) SYDNEY WRITERS’ FESTIVAL
The late Malcolm Muggeridge was wont to bemoan the fact that there were few jokes left – since public life had become so evidently ridiculous. As editor of Punch in the mid 1950s, Muggeridge wrote up a spoof itinerary for a visiting dictator from the blood-soaked Soviet Union on an official tour of Britain. It turned out that when the communist thug arrived, the official itinerary pretty much reflected Muggeridge’s spoof run-sheet.
It is much the same with the editorship of The Drum and The Drum Online – the ABC’s move into publishing opinion in written form. On 20 April 2012 (Issue 133) MWD wrote up a spoof selection criteria for The Drum’s editorship – following the move of the sandal-wearing inner-city leftie Jonathan Green to the Radio National Sunday Extra program.
MWD’s serious point was a prediction that the ABC would appoint an inner-city leftist to replace the departing inner-city leftist as editor of The Drum. And so it has come to pass. On Tuesday, the ABC announced that Chip Rolley (currently artistic director of the Sydney Writers’ Festival) “has been appointed to the position of Editor of The Drum, Australia’s leading online forum for analysis and opinion”. ABC managing director Mark Scott warmly welcomed the appointment, declaring:
Chip Rolley has a wide range of interests including domestic and international politics, arts and culture, and comes to the ABC with an established record of attracting a diverse range of voices, both from Australia and overseas.
This endorsement suggests that nice Mr Scott does not spend much time at the SWF. The fact is that, in recent years, the Sydney Writers’ Festival has attracted very few diverse voices from Australia or overseas. In an article in The Spectator Australia 16 April 2011 (see here), Gerard Henderson described the SWF as “an occasion when a group of leftists invite their leftist friends to perform before an audience of inner-city luvvies, at taxpayers’ expense”. This analysis was not challenged by anyone at the SWF and one board member privately agreed with the assessment.
Here are some highlights of the three Sydney Writers’ Festivals when Chip Rolley was the SWF’s artistic director.
2010 – The Sydney Writers’ Festival
▪ The 2010 SWF commences with an Emergency Town Hall Meeting on what Mr Rolley described as the “climate catastrophe”. It took the format of a forum where Bill McKibben agreed with Ross Garnaut who agreed with Clive Hamilton who agreed with Tim Flannery who agreed with Bill McKibben. No diverse range of voices here. Not long after the end of the 2010 SWF, Australia’s worst drought in a hundred years ended – without any ideas being implemented following the Emergency Town Hall Meeting. It just rained.
▪ Janet Albrechtsen attended a SWF session chaired by Anne Summers titled “We Need to Talk About America”. Dr Albrechtsen depicted the function as “Left-Wing Anti-American Clichés 101”, described the “sleep inducing sound of five voices all nodding and shaking their heads to the same anti-American melody” and referred to “the smugness of the left” in refusing to accept that there are different views from their own on the United States.
The theme of the 2010 SWF was that Australia lacked good leadership. This was clearly directed at Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Coalition Opposition leader Tony Abbott – there was no criticism, direct or implied, of then Greens’ leader Bob Brown.
2011 – The Sydney Writers’ Festival
In 2011 Chip Rolley announced two stars of the SWF. Namely John Howard and David Hicks. According to Mr Rolley, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were a “turning point in the lives of both men” – thus equating the democratically elected prime minister with a person who joined the Taliban and pleaded guilty to providing material support for terrorism.
Mr Howard’s talk was subjected to disruption by a group of protestors, who were allowed by SWF organisers to portray a large hostile sign “John Howard: War Criminal” during the session. Mr Hicks’ talk, on the other hand, ended with the speaker receiving a standing ovation. John Howard was interviewed by Fran Kelly, a well-known Howard critic. David Hicks was interviewed by Donna Mulhearn, a well-known Hicks supporter. Chip Rolley did not attend the Howard talk but he did introduce David Hicks.
Chip Rolley announced that the 2011 SWF would “unmask the dark forces that manufacture climate-change scepticism”. A forum titled “You’ve Been Warned” heard Naomi Oreskes agree with Curt Stager who agreed with Paul Gilding who agreed with Naomi Oreskes. No diverse range of voices here. There were no fewer than six sessions in the 2011 SWF of an eco-catastrophic bent.
The 2011 SWF had a total of four sessions on Julian Assange at which not one participant was critical of the Wikileaks founder. There were similar everyone-agrees-with-everyone-else-in-a-leftist-fashionable-way on such topics as Rupert Murdoch (featuring Bruce Guthrie, Elisabeth Wynhausen and Mike Carlton).
There was one token conservative at the 2011 SWF. Just John Howard.
2012 – The Sydney Writers’ Festival
This year Chip Rolley attempted to overcome the criticism that the 2010 and 2011 events had been leftie affairs. In 2012 the SWF managed to find four political conservatives – Geoffrey Blainey (on Christianity), Anne Henderson (on Joseph Lyons), Andrew Robb (on his book about depression) and Andrew Tink (on 19th Century Sydney). None of the above addressed a session on current national or international politics.
However, once again, the SWF managed to find bucket loads of lefties. Including Phillip Adams, Robyn Archer, Larissa Behrendt, Meredith Bergmann, Michael Cathcart, Sophie Cunningham, Robert Dessaix, Catherine Deveny, Peter FitzSimons, Marieke Hardy, Jonathan Holmes, Benjamin Law, Antony Loewenstein, Robert Manne, David Marr, David McKnight, Alex Mitchell, Julian Morrow, Lyndall Ryan, Julianne Schultz, Jeff Sparrow, Anne Summers – and more besides.
There were two sessions on Rupert Murdoch and News Limited. First up, Robert Manne did a stand-alone session on his book Bad News. Later, Murdoch critic Robert Manne joined with Murdoch critic David McKnight and ABC presenter Mark Colvin in a session on the UK phone-hacking scandal. No diverse range of voices here.
There was also a session titled “In The Name Of The Father” – which was devoted to discussing the suggestions that such departed lefties as historian Manning Clark and diplomat John Burton were either agents for the Soviet Union or communist fellow travellers during the Cold War.
The SWF invited Andrew Clark (Manning’s son) and Pamela Burton (John’s daughter) to defend their parents. The session was presided over by Anne Summers. Anne Summers agreed with Andrew Clark who agreed with Pamela Burton who agreed with Anne Summers that the reputations of Manning Clark and John Burton had been sullied by conservative right-wing Cold Warriors. No diverse range of voices were heard on this issue.
Writing in The Spectator Australia on 26 May 2012, Peter Coleman commented:
The [Sydney Writers’] Festival does well when it hosts imaginative writers but it would do far better if it were less one-eyed on controversial issues. This year it had Larissa Behrendt but no Bess Price, David Marr but no Piers Akerman, Robert Manne but no Andrew Bolt, Lyndall Ryan but no Keith Windschuttle, Anne Summers but no Miranda Devine, Alex Mitchell but no Tim Blair, Catherine Deveny but no Bettina Arndt, Kevin Rudd but no Tony Abbott – and so on and on. More real debate, please.
The appointment of Chip Rolley as editor of The Drum places yet another left-winger in a prominent position at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. The ABC – Anyone But Conservatives – still does not have one conservative presenter or executive producer or editor presiding over any of its prominent programs or online publications.
Chip Rolley holds sound positions on issues like China. But he is just another predictable critic of conservatives like Tony Abbott and John Howard. One example illustrates the point. Responding to a tweet from Annabel Crabb that Tony Abbott and John Howard changed their political views because they had daughters, Mr Rolley tweeted on 16 August 2010: “Having a wife wasn’t reason enough?”
This is part of the familiar leftist agenda that Tony Abbott and John Howard are sexist types anchored in the 1950s.
If Mark Scott’s announcement about Chip Rolley’s appointment is just managing director spin – well, that’s okay. However, if Mr Scott seriously believes that Mr Rolley brought a “diverse range of voices” to the SWF – then, clearly, the ABC managing director did not do due diligence before announcing this important appointment.
With a little help from the ABC’s Jonathan Green and Melbourne University academic Margaret Simons, the enormously popular “Correspondence” section of MWD resumes this week. [Thank God. Oh – and thank Jonathan and Margaret also. – Ed].
Mr Green felt that the reference to him as an Age/Crikey/ABC sandal wearer in MWD Issue 138 was incomplete. And Dr Simons (for a doctor she is) is still complaining that she was called a sandal-wearer many moons ago. Here we go:
● JONATHAN GREEN WRITES TO MWD ABOUT HIMSELF
Jonathan Green to Gerard Henderson – 29 May 2012
Re Media Watch Dog.
For what it’s worth Gerard (and for the elucidation of your fact checker), I have also worked at the Melbourne Herald, The Herald Sun, the Sunday Herald and the Canberra Times. You seem so certain of so much about me that I’m surprised you didn’t know.
As for sneering, I’ll take your expert word on that.
Gerard Henderson to Jonathan Green – 30 May 2012
What a thrill to know that you read Media Watch Dog. Nancy will be pleased. In view of your evident interest, I will let you in on a secret. I do all my own fact-checking. It’s a pity that The Drum never thought of getting its taxpayer funded editor to check facts when you were in the editor’s chair – or since. I have even volunteered to fact-check ABC documentaries free of charge. I guess, I’m that kind of guy – to use a Tony Blairism.
I understand that you are upset over the following comment which appeared in last Friday’s MWD:
Just when it appeared that ABC Radio National’s new format seemed full-up with sandal-wearing leftists and shoed social democrats, ABC management decided that it would be a you-beaut idea to give Jonathan Green his own program – hence the creation of RN’s Sunday Extra program. Mr Green has all the necessary qualifications to become one of the ABC’s presenters. After all, he worked for The Age, then Crikey and then the ABC’s The Drum and The Drum Online (both of which he edited without engaging a fact-checker). Moreover, Jonathan Green is an inner-city type who is given to sneering at those with whom he disagrees and he just loves to mock conservatives.
All of these comments are true. You went from The Age, to The Sunday Age, to Crikey, to The Drum and on to RN’s Sunday Extra. This occupies about two decades of your career. I’m happy to acknowledge that before you sought refuge in the bosom of the inner-city Melbourne Age/Crikey/ABC Southbank set you worked for The Canberra Times, Herald (Melbourne), the Herald Sun and the Sunday Herald.
Gosh. You’ve been a journalist your entire career, dependent on initially the (once) rivers-of-gold classified advertising. And when the rivers began to run out of water, the taxpayer funded ABC – with a brief interlude at Crikey.
I’m delighted to fully report your brilliant (journalistic) career in MWD – including your time, some two decades ago, at the Canberra Times and the Herald Sun. After all, I do have an interest in ancient history.
By the way, you did not say whether you thought it appropriate that Jeanette Winterson should call Nicholas Sarkozy a “ridiculous cartoon character” and a “little jerk” on Sunday Extra recently, which led to the MWD comment. Perhaps you might address this when you next write to me. Here’s hoping.
Keep morale high.
● MARGARET SIMONS REPLIES TO MWD ABOUT MALCOLM FRASER: THE POLITICAL MEMOIRS
Gerard Henderson to Margaret Simons – 30 May 2012
Thump. That was the sound of your “Response to The Australian” document which has just fallen off the back of a truck. As I understand it, this is the larger version of a letter you have submitted to The Australian – which you may, or may not, publish in Crikey or your blog.
As you know, you have declined to respond to my previous emails concerning your book Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs – which you co-wrote with the former prime minister. Also, you have decided not to respond to my detailed critiques of your book which have been published in The Sydney Institute Quarterly and Media Watch Dog.
That’s fine. No one is compelled to defend their own work from criticism. However, if you choose to defend Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs your case should be available in the public domain. Especially since you are a taxpayer subsidised academic whose book won a $50,000 taxpayer funded prize.
In your “Response to The Australian” you wrote:
The repeated claims by Gerard Henderson that the award-winning book I wrote with Malcolm Fraser is “littered with factual errors” get [sic] yet another run as part of The Australian’s campaign against me. There were five factual errors in the 750 pages of text, not including footnotes and index, in the first edition of the book. Four were spotted by Henderson. Yes, he missed one! The other things Henderson claims as errors are differences in interpretation, hair splitting and pedantry, and in one case (what John Kerr did on the morning of the Dismissal) Henderson’s refusal to believe the weight of the evidence.
It would be appreciated if you could advise me:
▪ What are the five factual errors which you acknowledge were in the first edition of Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs?
▪ Were these errors removed from any subsequent editions of Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs?
▪ Can you identify what you claim are the “differences of opinion, hair splitting and pedantry” which you say are contained in my critiques of Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs?
Over to you.
Margaret Simons to Gerard Henderson – 30 May 2012
That must have been a very slow truck, because the piece you refer to has been public for nine days now, on my blog. Crikey also ran part of it, with a hotlink.
I am not going to respond to you in detail. I have told you the reason I decline to respond to you before. I reject your mode of personal abuse and sneering, displayed on a number of occasions when you have discussed me in public. Productive dialogue in those circumstances is unlikely to occur.
The book is on the public record – in all its editions. What you have said about it is on the public record. The few who are interested can make up their own minds.
Gerard Henderson to Margaret Simons – 31 May 2012
Thanks for your reply. I did not notice that your “My Response to The Australian” document had appeared on your blog.
For the record, the material which arrived in a heap yesterday contained several documents – including your statement that Glyn Davis and Mark Considine are strongly supporting you. I am surprised that both the Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Arts at the University of Melbourne apparently support errors in a book. But, then, it is a long time since I was an academic.
I am also surprised that you refuse to engage in any discussion about the many howlers in Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs. You consciously chose to co-author this book with Mr Fraser – who acknowledges that he has a “notoriously fallible” memory. In his note at the end of Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs, the former prime minister makes it clear that you were given the responsibility “to make sure the facts are right”.
Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs was supported by the taxpayer – since you received a research fellowship from the Australian Prime Ministers’ Centre. Then you and Mr Fraser received a $50,000 taxpayer funded prize per courtesy of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. In my view, you have an obligation to either defend your book or to specifically identify errors and make corrections in a publicly accessible place. This is especially so since you are employed by a university to teach journalism – which, presumably, entails that trainee journalists are instructed to check sources.
In your email of last night, you wrote that you were not going to respond to me “in detail”. In fact, you have not responded in any manner and have constantly refused to answer questions about your book. You choose, instead, to go into denial.
The criticisms I have made of Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs in my Sydney Morning Herald column, in The Sydney Institute Quarterly and in Media Watch Dog are considered and documented. I have not made anything up. Indeed, I have delayed writing on some matters since I am still engaging in fact-checking Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs.
Your reference to my “mode of personal abuse and sneering” predates my detailed critique of Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs. In your email of 7 March 2010, you complained that I had referred to you as a “compost sexual” and “something of a left-of-centre sandal wearer”. These were irreverent comments made in the irreverent “Media Watch” section of The Sydney Institute Quarterly or in the irreverent Media Watch Dog. As you may or may not know, each edition of the front page of MWD contains direct quotes from individuals abusing or sneering at me.
As I pointed out to you in my email dated 8 March 2010, the “compost sexual” reference was a joke. The reference was to your interview in The Age of 27 May 2004 where you told Kevin Donnelly that you found compost “sexy in both the literal and metaphorical sense” and added that, in your mind, “a good composter is likely to be a good lover”.
If you are going to make such comments, you should expect that someone is going to make fun of them. In any event, you addressed The Sydney Institute on 1 February 2006. So, clearly you could not have been upset about my irreverence about sex, compost and all that at the time they were originally made in May 2004.
As I also pointed out to you in 2010, if you had read George Orwell you would understand that the term sandal-wearer was used in The Road to Wigan Pier to describe the British left of the late 1930s. I first used the term sandal-wearer with reference to you in Issue 44 of MWD on 5 March 2010. You seemed to prove my point – in a literal sense – when you arrived to give evidence at the Ray Finkelstein QC’s Media Inquiry in late 2011 wearing sandals.
You agreed to address The Sydney Institute on Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs on 23 March 2010. It is a matter of record that you withdrew from this function – which had been requested by your publisher on your behalf – with just two weeks notice. This seemed unprofessional to me. You have addressed The Sydney Institute on three occasions and you know that all speakers at the Institute are treated professionally and courteously. Malcolm Fraser also knows this – since he spoke at the Institute in 2006.
I note that you have now set yourself up as an arbiter of good manners – and stepped forward to make a declaration against “personal abuse and sneering”.
I also note that you are on record as dismissing Fairfax Media chairman Roger Corbett as a “grocer” (Crikey 11 November 2011). You also sneered at the residents of Fountain Gate in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs (“Ties that bind” in Julianne Schultz’s People Like Us). I have a policy of not laughing at people who are less educated, in a formal sense, than I am. You, on the other hand, choose to dismiss less well-educated Australians who live in such suburbs as Fountain Gate.
In conclusion, I still believe that you are under an obligation to address the litany of errors in Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs. It is simply untrue to claim that the first edition of the book contained only five errors. And it is quite unprofessional for you to refuse to identify the five errors which you now concede you and Mr Fraser made. The correct number is many multiples of five – but it is impossible to work out how many errors remain until you identify the errors you have acknowledged, albeit belatedly.
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Until next time.