GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 180
3 MAY 2013
The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson's Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Since November 1997 “Gerard Henderson's Media Watch” has been published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In 2009 Gerard Henderson's Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.
* * * * *
See the end of this week’s MWD for details of much appreciated comments on/endorsements of Nancy’s work by Mike Carlton, Peter Munro, Mike Carlton (again), Jonathan Green & Michael Rowland, Malcolm Farr, Bob Ellis, Tom Cowie, Mike Carlton (yet again), Mark Latham, Robert Manne, Marius Benson, James Jeffrey, Andrew Crook and more besides. Well done chaps – and lotsa thanks.
* * * *
THIS WEEK READ ALL ABOUT :
● Stop Press: Paul Barry returns to Aunty; Joe Aston Scoop; Michael Rowland & Virginia Trioli on the Job; Mark Scott Dismisses All his Critics as “Simplistic”; Nancy’s (Unsuccessful) Media Watch Short-list; Remembering David Marr’s Edict that All Journos are Lefties
● Trotskyite Alex Mitchell’s Diary – As Hacked by Nancy
● Can You Bear It? : The Drum’s Promotion Censors Positive Tony Abbott Analysis; Mike Seccombe’s Economic Confusion; Anne Summers’s Double Standard on Misogyny; Howlers Aplenty in New Statesman Article on Australia
● Mark Latham’s Back – Along with His Abuse
● Geoffrey Barker’s On Breasts and Teeth in Guardian-on-the-Yarra
● Correspondence: On Same Sex Marriage and Nothing Much At All – Steve Dow & Peter Lloyd Step Up
* * * * *
STOP PRESS – BORN-AGAIN PAUL BARRY RETURNS TO AUNTY’S MEDIA WATCH
Joe Aston’s Scoop
Gee, don’t things move just so quickly at the social media conscious taxpayer funded public broadcaster? Take Thursday, for example. Early yesterday morning, Nancy awoke at the sound of The Australian Financial Review landing on her kennel. Turning first – as she is wont to do – to Joe Aston’s “Rear Window” column, Nancy read that Paul Barry was tipped to return as the presenter of ABC 1’s Media Watch program – along with an irreverent account of The Sydney Institute’s Annual Dinner held this week.
Obviously, one of the ABC’s news hounds in Sydney was early on the job. He/she also read “Rear Window” and quickly booked the Qantas 7 am flight to Melbourne – it was an online booking, of course. He/she then took a taxi to the ABC headquarters in Southbank where Nancy’s favourite program News Breakfast is filmed.
News Breakfast’s Response
The AFR clipping was handed to presenters Michael Rowland and Virginia Trioli. And, lo and behold, at 9.14 am the news was announced that Paul Barry would be taking over as Media Watch presenter from Jonathan Holmes – provided the “Rear Window” story which had appeared some four hours earlier was correct. Doesn’t news travel fast in these social media conscious times?
By 9.15 am, after breakfast and a long walk, Nancy had returned to her slumbers and had to be advised of the News Breakfast “scoop” by an avid MWD reader. Having one British-born leftie replacing another British-born leftie at Media Watch would be enough to put any self-respecting canine back to sleep. And Nancy is self-respecting.
Michael Rowland & Virginia Trioli Discuss the (Non-Existent) Short-List
It was an eventful week at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. Nancy’s male co-owner had been told by a senior ABC manager that the announcement of Jonathan Holmes’ replacement would be made around mid-May. It was brought forward in response to the “Rear Window” story.
When discussing Joe Aston’s scoop, young Mr Rowland and La Trioli mentioned the goss about the Media Watch job. The former said that Paul Barry was the firm favourite but – wait for it – declared that there had been increasing speculation that Gerard Henderson might be offered the job. The latter wondered why he would want it. For the record, Gerard Henderson has never been interviewed for, or offered, any job at the ABC – it doesn’t employ his type. And Ms Trioli is correct – there are more attractive ways to supplement a weekly wage. Malcolm Muggeridge saw the attraction of playing a piano in a brothel for extra income. Come to think of it, that sounds better than grinding away at Group-Think Central in Ultimo.
ABC’s Mark Scott Defends Mark Scott’s Decision on ABC RN – And Bags Critics as “Simplistic”
Last night, nice ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Mark Scott was interviewed on Radio National Drive by leftist presenter Jonathan Green who is currently standing in for regular leftist presenter – Waleed Aly – except, of course, on Fridays where RN Drive is presented by leftist Julian Morrow. He’s one of the leftist Chaser “Boys” (Average Age 371/2).
Jonathan (“The Liberal National Party in Queensland is a bit like Hitler’s SS”) Green interviewed Mark Scott. Mark Scott dismissed all the critics of the ABC in general – and of Media Watch in particular – as, wait for it, SIMPLISTIC. Nice Mr Scott has a wonderful vocabulary – a reflection, no doubt, of the M. Pub. Admin. he acquired at Harvard University.
Green asked Scott why the ABC did not fill the job with “someone like an Andrew Bolt” – who had written a faux open letter to the ABC’s managing director seeking the position. Scott replied that “the arguments around Media Watch are far too simplistic”.
Green then asked Scott about “Gerard Henderson’s continual and broad point about presenters on the ABC – that there’s one token rightist on the ABC, Amanda Vanstone – ”. Here Scott interrupted Green before he could cite Henderson’s central point that the ABC is a Conservative-Free Zone, declaring: “Again, I just think that is a simplistic analysis.” In case any listener missed the point, Scott added: “To somehow put ideological badges on a series of our presenters, I think is absolutely simplistic”.
It’s the Harvard M. Pub. Admin. trilogy (as interpreted by nice Mr Scott) to rebut criticism. Namely: “I am wise. You are simplistic. And they are absolutely simplistic.”
Nancy’s Short-List to Replace Mr Holmes
When asked by the ABC senior manager earlier this week as to who should take the job, Gerard Henderson said that he hoped that another leftist would get the gig – since Media Watch Dog needs copy every Friday. And so it came to pass. Nancy’s’ (male) co-owner had a short-list of possible talent most suitable to MWD. Including Deborah Cameron, Mark Latham, Leon Trotsky, Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly, Vladimir Lenin and, of course, Paul Barry.
ABC Follows David Marr’s Advice and Appoints a Leftie
Mark Scott had a managerial role at the Sydney Morning Herald when David Marr was on the payroll. These days, Scott believes that it is simplistic to put ideological badges on presenters. This was never Marr’s position. This is what David Marr declared to an admiring audience of sandalistas at the University of Technology, Sydney around a decade ago. His talk was subsequently broadcast on ABC Radio National where it was heard by Nancy’s (male) co-owner and transcribed for posterity:
David Marr : The natural culture of journalism is a kind of vaguely soft left inquiry, sceptical of authority. I mean, that’s just the world out of which journalists come. If they don’t come out of this world, they really can’t be reporters. I mean, if you are not sceptical of authority – find another job. You know, just find another job. And that [journalism] is the kind of soft leftie kind of culture. (ABC Radio National, Big Ideas, 26 September 2004).
Certainly the ABC has practised what David Marr once preached – which is why it remains a Conservative Free Zone. The point is illustrated below.
NANCY’S ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE ABC : EPISODE 2
The inaugural publication of “Nancy’s Illustrated Guide to the ABC” was an enormous hit last week – focusing, as it did, on the leftist stack among presenters at Radio National. Truly enormous. So, in response to public demand, Episode 2 appears this week. It focuses on the leftist stack at ABC’s Media Watch – brought up to date to record the ABC appointment of Paul Barry for the second time around.
Leftist Presenters of the ABC TV’S Media Watch Program
Conservative Presenters of the ABC TV’s Media Watch Program
How about that? Not only does Media Watch have a 100 per cent record of appointing leftist presenters. Moreover, five of its male presenters have been members of the Sinister Sneering Set. Namely Stuart Littlemore, Paul Barry (The First), David Marr, Jonathan Holmes and Paul Barry (The Second). By the way, as Latin scholars know, one meaning of the word “sinister” is “of-the-left”. David Marr please note.
Superannuated socialist Alex Mitchell’s autobiography Come the Revolution: A Memoir was reviewed in The Sydney Institute Quarterly Issue 41 December 2012. Recently Nancy was able to hack into the initial draft of Alex Mitchell’s “Diary” – which was published in The Spectator Australia on 20 April 2013. The earlier version below, as hacked by Nancy, bears a certain resemblance to the real thing – but also takes up the Alex Mitchell Story as told by Comrade Alex in Come the Revolution. Come the Revolution. Come the Diary. Come Nancy. Come on.
* * * * * *
It’s now official. I was introduced on radio recently as a “veteran journalist”. The title is not all beer and skittles. Sometimes there’s not a skittle in sight. At dinner parties, angry people demand to know why I am a sandal-wearing superannuant living near the NSW/Queensland border when I could be still manning (or personing) the barricades and advocating revolution. As I once did. It’s a good question. The truth is that a man only has so much revolutionary fervour in him before the dialectical reality of life clicks in and he spends the final two decades of his journalistic career working for the filthy capitalist press. As I did.
My emeritus status also involves parrying the question: “Well, who is your revolutionary hero?” It’s a difficult question. I signed up as a Trotskyist because I much admired Leon Trotsky – leading Bolshevik, founder of the Red Army and willing murderer of the revolting Russian sailors who attempted to strike at Kronstadt in 1921 in pursuit of better pay and conditions. Counter revolutionary scum, I say.
Trotsky was my kind of guy – as I explain in my recently published autobiography Come the Revolution: A Memoir (NSW Press). So was the Irish-born Trot Gerry Healy – for whom I worked in London for many years when he was my leader in the Workers Revolutionary Party. It is said of Comrade Gerry Healy that he was a sexual predator who targeted his female staff. Okay. But Comrade Healy was a revolutionary at heart who introduced me to such great chaps as Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi. A good mate, Healy was. A revolutionary worker who had a dip – in more ways than one.
I dips me lid to the millionaire actor Vanessa Redgrave, the leading female Trotskyist of her generation and a fellow member of the Revolutionary Workers Party. I sorta fell in love with Vanessa and I still sorta love her. Despite the fact that she let me sleep in a car when I was homeless in London after falling out with my fellow Trots during one of our many internal purges. I’m proud to say that Comrade Redgrave was the wealthiest socialist that I have ever met. Some conservatives said that she was not really revolutionary or a worker. That’s because they never saw Comrade Redgrave toiling on the set to get her revolutionary kit off her revolutionary body before the cameras began to roll. It’s hard work, I can tell you. Especially if the location for filming is down a mine or in the desert or a Notting Hill tennis court where they shot Blow-Up
Three books on the subject of Fairfax Media are in the works. I wonder if any of them will mention my important role in the filthy capitalist Fairfax press – in between my revolutionary work. I fled London in debt to the Trotskyists – a rare feat when you think about it since Leon Trotsky’s estate is still in debt to Mexico for unpaid rent for the house in Coyocacan where he was assassinated by Josef Stalin’s henchmen in August 1940.
Or was he? At Comrade Healy’s request, I did some research on the matter. I still reckon it might have been the CIA what did it. Or perhaps the FBI. In other words, the American capitalist scum. Stalin’s problem was that he fell out with Trotsky. Otherwise Uncle Joe was not a bad bloke – and certainly better than Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan.
But I digress. Will any of Colleen Ryan or Pam Williams or Ben Hills – my one-time fellow journalist workers at Fairfax – mention that I was one of the toiling masses on the Sun-Herald for a couple of decades before I took my superannuation and headed north of the border? Or is it south of the border? Doesn’t matter really. Borders were invented by imperialist/capitalist oppressors and are what the great Vladimir Lenin called an infantile disorder and a manifestation of false consciousness.
I’m still waiting for the book which will prove that my life-time heroes – Leon Trotsky, Saddam Hussein, Gerry Healy, Muammar Gaddafi, Yasser Arafat and the lads and lasses at the Provisional Irish Republican Army – were right all along. Sure they killed a lot of people and/or stole heaps of money. But they were good mates. Revolutionary mates and they deserve to be rehabilitated – even if some of them are not yet dead. I have criticised the fiasco of screaming egos, personal skulduggery, contract cronyism, wasted opportunities and wanton pillaging that were part and parcel of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. But I never have uttered a critical word about the Trots, the Provisional IRA, the PLO and others who were involved in what I call “The Strug” – as in The Struggle. A man’s got to Strug with others who Strug. It’s called Solidarity. Solidarity forever.
I’m in Sydney to attend the Rocks Media Lunch. I’ve also signed up to a public conversation at the Better Read [sic] Than Dead bookshop. As for myself, I’ve always been in the Better Red Than Dead camp – and I don’t mean wine. My main topic will be corruption in the NSW Labor Party and the destructive symbiosis between the right-wing’s factional chieftain and the left-wing’s gauleiter. This is a new area of journalistic endeavour for me since I never wrote about corruption in the PLO or Provisional IRA or Iraq under Saddam or Iran under the mullahs. It’s much easier to get stuck into the Labor Party Down Under. I’m not dependent on the Labor Party to fund what’s left of The Strug – but I was a successful beggar at the feet of your Yasser Arafat and your Saddam Hussein. So it’s different – an example of The Strug’s dialectic.
Last month’s speaker at the Rocks Lunch was Michael Kirby, the so-called Great Dissenter. However, I dissent from Kirby because I am a republican and he is a monarchist. Or put it another way, I am a Roundhead (who wears sandals) and he is a Cavalier (who wears flamboyant dinner jackets). When I Strug, I Strug against Michael Kirby and his horses as well as against Gina Rinehart and her private jets and Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard – but not against Christine Milne or Bob Brown. You have to draw the line somewhere.
A lady passed me in Rushcutters Bay wearing a T-shirt proclaiming “Trees are human too”. What a load of crap. Even if trees are human, that’s no reason for letting them grow. Comrade Trotsky understood this – he cut down quite a few men and women in their prime. The lady’s T-shirt words summed up the disintegration of thought. Logic and rationality are seen to be suffering as we go deeper into the 21st Century. For example, the other day I heard from an unimpeachable source that the next prime minister of Australia will be Tony Abbott. Fair dinkum. I’m dragging out my stored T-shirts featuring my heroes Trotsky, Saddam, Healy and Gaddafi. They were real leaders of The Strug. If only Abbott could be like that sexual predator Comrade Healy or a mass murderer like Saddam, I would vote for him. Talk about the deterioration of democracy in the corrupt West.
One final point. Thanks to young Mr Switzer for asking me to write this “Diary” – which seems to be a Blokes Only page in “The Aussie Speccie”. The payment from the shadowy capitalist billionaire Barclay brothers (who finance The Spectator in London) will help to top-up the superannuation account I accumulated by working for the filthy capitalist Fairfax press in Sydney after I was purged by Comrade Healy and Comrade Vanessa. It sure makes The Strug easier in my retirement at Tweed Heads where I moved after two decades in fashionable Double Bay living among the filthy capitalist rich.
– Alex Mitchell is a veteran journalist, long-time bull-shit artist and author of the forthcoming novel My Life with Vanessa: Comrade in Arms – Every Now and Then (Fourth International Publishers, Tweed Heads).
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
● ABC Censors Suggestion that Tony Abbott is Sane
Here is an advertisement for ABC News 24’s The Drum program which is running on ABC 1 this week as a promotion:
Voiceover : With experts, not just in politics, but relationships.
Julia Baird (presenter): I just want to ask you more about his relationship with Tony Abbott.
Andrew Clennell (panellist): There’s two stories, one that Tony Abbott’s mad as hell –
Voiceover : Prove the power of Twitter and join the conversation.
How about that? The grab from Andrew Clennell only featured one of the stories about Tony Abbott. Namely, that the Opposition leader is mad as hell. Clennell’s other story about Tony Abbott was cut – presumably because it presented a positive interpretation of the Opposition leader. This from “Your ABC”. Can you bear it?
● Mike Seccombe’s (Confused) Economic Thesis
What a stunning contribution by Mike (“Private schools make us dumber”) Seccombe on Insiders last Sunday. This is what the intrepid Global Mail reporter said at the end of the program.
Mike Seccombe : I just, I think we are sort of coming to the end of an economic era. I know this is a big thing to introduce at this time –
Lenore Taylor : Ten seconds
Mike Seccombe : But, but with – the austerity thing is finally, I think, pretty much debunked everywhere. Umm, with the, the failure of the Reinhart-Rogoff model that was revealed this week and Paul Krugman calling it the “coding error that destroyed the economies of the western world”. Umm so, I just leave that out there. The Grattan Institute’s picked it up. I think that we’ve reached the end of a sort of trickle-down Thatcherite, Reagan, Reagan sort of Chicago School of Economics era and I think we’re looking for something new.
Pretty clear, eh? It seems that Mike Seccombe believes that “the austerity thing” is finally debunked and we are “coming to the end of an economic era”. Really. The problem is that the period of the 1990s and 2000s was not marked by austerity. Not at all. In fact, such PIGS nations as Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain spent and spent and borrowed and borrowed. Neither Labour’s Tony Blair nor the Republican George W. Bush presided over surpluses in the lead-up to the Global Financial Crisis. The idea that the current economic difficulties afflicting many OECD nations are due to Margaret Thatcher (who stepped down in 1990) or Ronald Regan (who stepped down in early 1989) is well – Can you bear it?
● Dr Summers & Your Taxes At Work
There has been overwhelming interest – even at the highest levels – about the left stack at the 2013 taxpayer subsidised Sydney Writers Festival. According to MWD’s count – over three score left-of-centre types are on the program but only a hand-full of right-of-centre types. See here.
If Nancy has time to get out of her kennel she would like to attend the following talk:
The Misogyny Factor
May 25, 1-2pm
Wharf Theatre 2
Anne Summers takes a hard look at what
kind of society Australia really is in light of
the unprecedented expressions of hatred
directed at women on the top.
This is the very same Dr Summers (for a doctor she is) who bags Tony Abbott for his alleged misogyny but who supported Glenda Jackson’s rant that the late Margaret Thatcher was not a woman. The Summers argument seems to go like this. It’s wrong to express hatred towards social democratic women at the top – like Julia Gillard. But it’s quite okay to express hatred towards conservative women at the top – like Margaret Thatcher. Can you bear it?
● New Statesman’s Many Howlers
On 23 April the New Statesman published an article titled “Australia’s Tony Abbott is a man for everyone and no one.”. The author is Liam McLaughlin. Here are the highlights:
▪ LM refers to the Opposition leader as “a man named Tony Abbott”. It is a bit like the author being referred to as “a man named Liam McLaughlin”. In fact, Tony Abbott is Tony Abbott. Just as Liam McLaughlin is Liam McLaughlin.
▪ LM claims that Tony Abbott “was born in London to Australian expats”. Not so. Abbott’s father, Richard Abbott, was a British migrant to Australia.
▪ LM’s interpretation of the Labor Split in Australia the mid 1950s is totally confused and replete with errors – as are his references to B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998).
▪ LM claims that Tony Abbott was “not the Liberal Party’s first choice for leader”. In fact, Abbott was re-elected Liberal Party leader unopposed in August 2010.
▪ LM claims that “the polls are close”. This is complete rubbish.
And the above is the New Statesman’s explanation of Tony Abbott and contemporary Australian politics. Can you bear it?
OCCUPY MACQUARIE PARK/SAVE MARK LATHAM AT SKY NEWS CAMPAIGN FAILS – BUT AFR COLUMN (OF ABUSE) RETURNS
Alas, it seems that Nancy’s “Occupy Macquarie Park: Restore the Lair of Liverpool Now” campaign continues to falter. So it seems that Sky News will not be having Mark Latham back as a paid contributor anytime soon. Pity – because the material is needed for MWD each Friday.
However, there is some good news. Mark Latham’s fortnightly column made it back into the Australian Financial Review this week, after a brief break. Good show. The Lair of Liverpool is long on anger but somewhat short on self-awareness. Last Tuesday, Latham used his AFR column to personally attack the shadow finance minister Andrew Robb, who suffers from depression. Latham accused Robb of suffering “delusions of grandeur”.
It so happened that Mark Latham merely re-stated, in his AFR column, material he had used at length on Sky News when he still had a contract with the Pay TV operator. In other words, a case of self-plagiarism. Here’s hoping that Michael Stutchbury will continue to pay good money for Latham’s lazy, re-cycled intellectual sludge. MWD needs the copy. [Interesting lack of self-awareness – especially in view of the assessment by others of Latham’s mental health. See MWD Issue 178 – Ed].
THE GUARDIAN ON THE YARRA’S DOUBLE STANDARDS
What a wonderful idea by The Age’s Opinion Page editors Paul Austin and Sushi Das to run Geoffrey Barker’s rant against young female reporters on commercial TV yesterday. Just wonderful. And so perceptive. Grumpy Barker even paid out on the fact that these unnamed individuals have “arctic white” teeth along with “pert and perky” breasts.
Nancy loved the fact that The Age allowed Barker just one line in the whole column to state that he is really upset by male reporters as well. Here is the Barker thesis – replete with qualification:
I have a problem with commercial TV news. I don't want it delivered to me via crimson lips and fancy coiffures. I don't like the way the TV babes compress sometimes urgent and ongoing matters into a few barely coherent sentences that simply fail to reflect events with any semblance of their true complexity. They are about as credible as the ads for the exercise machines with which they share the airways. They have neither the time nor the talent to offer trustworthy accounts of the matters on which they claim knowledge. They diminish the idea of journalism.
So why should we take any notice of these young women (and many of the men) who know little about the world and who have little apparent competence in collecting, assembling, and interpreting information? And why do these walking, talking clichés seem to be increasingly dominating commercial TV news?
Good one Geoffrey. The retired journalist is angry at both sheilas and blokes but focused on the former. And this is the Guardian-on-the-Yarra which lectures others about the evil of misogyny.
JONATHAN HOLMES LETS LEFTISTS WHO GOT IT WRONG ON BOSTON OFF THE HOOK
On ABC 1 Media Watch last Monday, presenter Jonathan Holmes bagged conservatives and right-of-centre types who had made assumptions about the Boston bombings and, consequently, got it wrong. Fair enough. It’s just that Mr Holmes said nothing about the leftists and left-of-centre types who also made assumptions about the Boston bombings and also got it wrong. Including:
▪ ABC Radio National Drive presenter Waleed Aly – who suggested on 19 April that “the perpetrators are self-style American patriots”. In other words, members of the American right.
▪ABC Radio National Late Night Live American commentator Bruce Shapiro – who suggested on 16 April (with Phillip Adams’ concurrence) that the perpetrators were “home grown” terrorists who were into “guns and abortion” as issues. In other words, members of the American right.
As far as MWD can determine, Waleed Aly has yet to acknowledge that the Boston bombers were alienated left-wing Muslims who were into Jihad. Nor has Bruce Shapiro acknowledged – during his subsequent LNL appearances on 23 April and 30 April – that the terrorists were committed to Jihad. On Tuesday, for example, Shapiro said that the Tsarnaev brothers had much more in common with the right- wing fanatic Timothy McVeigh than with Osama bin Laden. How convenient. And how false.
This highly popular segment of MWD works like this. For some reason or other, someone writes to – or responds to – Gerard Henderson. He replies. And, lo and behold, the exchange is published in MWD’s hugely popular Correspondence segment.
This week, following Gerard Henderson’s column in Tuesday’s Sydney Morning Herald, Steve Dow forwarded an email at 6.56 am (of the same day – Tuesday 30 April). Really. There was a reply and a reply and a reply. Read all about it below. Also Peter Lloyd continued the correspondence on something or the other which was published in MWD Issue 179. Now read on.
● STEVE DOW AND GERARD HENDERSON ON THE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE DEBATE
Steve Dow to Gerard Henderson – 30 April 2013
Your column today (30/4) misrepresents my position on gay people's attitudes to same-sex marriage as stated on The Drum on April 18.
You incorrectly state that I said gay support for same-sex marriage is only recent.
I actually said you were more likely to hear critiques of marriage among gay people 10 years ago than you would be today.
Most gay people have always supported equality.
Just because somebody critiques an institution doesn't mean they automatically oppose having access to it.
The wrongful implication of what you claim I said is that gay people somehow opposed same-sex marriage until recently. Which would of course be a ludicrous suggestion.
Ten years ago, most gay people wouldn't have thought same-sex marriage was even a possibility; from that cognitive, disinterested distance they were more likely to criticise the institution.
In a conservative country such as ours, where conservative bodies such as your Sydney Institute and the churches continue to hold sway over political leaders, many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people probably still wonder whether same-sex marriage will ever be possible.
As to the broader pitch of your argument, you say: “It is far from clear … that this is a priority for many Australians living in the suburbs and regional centres – far away from the inner city where journalists tend to be domiciled.”
How many public opinion polls in favour of same-sex marriage do you need to see, Gerard?
Of course it's not top of most people's agenda when they've got a mortgage and bills to pay and wonder whether they're going to keep their job in the neoliberal, downsizing, slash-the-jobs-to-appease-the-shareholders economy.
But again, poll after poll shows most Australians to be fair-minded on the question of marriage equality. So enough talk, let's get same-sex marriage through Parliament, and move on to other questions.
Unless, of course, you have an actual argument against same-sex marriage to mount. Which on the evidence of your column this morning I don't believe you do. Religious opposition should be considered, but we are a secular state with a separation of church and state, are we not?
The obsession with this issue lies as much with conservative institutions such as yours as it does with the GLBTIQ lobby. Hasn't there been enough negative bluster and column inches against this already?
In my less charitable moments, I'm inclined to agree with the satirist David Sedaris, who asks in his new essay collection why do people even get to vote on same-sex marriage; that's like asking if redheads should be allowed to celebrate Christmas.
Sedaris, incidentally, supports equality, though he doesn't want to get married himself. Yes: his position is nuanced, Gerard. All gay people do not speak with one voice. Which is difficult when you're trying to write a column with a black-and-white world view.
All the best
The Sydney Morning Herald /The Sun-Herald
P.S. Notwithstanding the skewed take on what I said, in what world is a 10 year-period “recent”?
Gerard Henderson to Steve Dow – 30 April 2013
I refer to your note sent to my office at 6:56am this morning – and which I did not notice until 10am. I have been very busy today – hence the delay in responding.
I carefully checked my comments concerning what you said on The Drum on 19 April 2013 (by the way, it was not 18 April) before I wrote my column which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning. And I have checked them again today. I stand by what I wrote.
This is what you said on The Drum :
Steve Dow: My boyfriend is a New Zealander – so one up for the Kiwis. And, but there’s been such a huge –
Julia Baird (presenter): Will you go to New Zealand then? To get married?
Steve Dow: Well I’m waiting to be asked. I mean, his evolution on this whole thing probably charts the whole evolution in gay thinking on this. Ten years ago, if you’d asked somebody do you want to get married, they’d probably say: “Well, you know, maybe civil unions or something” or “Why would I want to buy you know, buy into that, that whole – ”
Kate McClymont: But what about popping the question yourself on national television?
Steve Dow: Oh well
Julia Baird: No pressure
Steve Dow: No pressure whatsoever
Julia Baird: No, but listen. Let me ask you about that because I think it’s interesting. There are a lot of people in the gay and lesbian community who say: “We think that marriage is a heterosexual institution, we don’t need it, it’s conservative, we have our own rituals and we have our own whatever. But that seems to have changed over time, is that right?
Steve Dow: It has changed over time. I mean Australian Marriage Equality – I mean, it’s a conservative argument. We’ve gone from quite a radical critique of the whole institution of marriage to quite a conservative argument – quite simply I think. The Australian Marriage Equality group did a survey of the Midsummer Carnival, which is populated by gay and lesbian, bi, transgender, intersex, queer people – all the alphabet letters. And they found that 95 per cent supported it, less than 5 per cent may not support it but would not necessarily oppose it. So that’s, those are huge, huge numbers. And if you interviewed a gay person 10 years ago they were much more diffident about the whole issue
Julia Baird: And what do you attribute that shift to?
Steve Dow: Ah, very good question. I guess what, what becomes possible, what we see overseas is other countries leading the way, you know. Britain very early with its civil union scheme under Tony, Tony Blair. Ah that, I think that –
Dom Knight: Well it’s become, it’s no longer a theoretical argument. I mean you see the footage on TV. We saw the celebrations in New York. We’ve seen people who have had these marriages for quite some time.
As the above transcript demonstrates, you did suggest on The Drum that the gay movement’s support for same-sex marriage was has been a recent development. And you did say that gays have “gone from quite a radical critique of the whole institution marriage” to support for same-sex marriage in just ten years.
In today’s column, my thesis was that sections of the gay community have advanced the cause of same-sex marriage over the past decade – and that it is unreasonable to expect that all of society will accept a reinterpretation of the traditional meanings of such words as “marriage”, “husband” and “wife” in so short a period. In my view, this is a reasonable and considered argument which does not warrant your intemperate reply.
In response to some of these intemperate assertions, I make the following responses.
▪ It is ridiculous to assert that The Sydney Institute holds “sway over political leaders”. The Institute has no policies and does no lobbying. The Sydney Institute is a forum for debate and discussion. Over the years, many gays have addressed the Institute. More will do so.
Recent speakers at the Institute include Senator Christine Milne (who also supports same-sex marriage) and Senator John Madigan (who opposes same-sex marriage). I would be happy for you to address the Institute on the revised issue of your book Gay, the tenth anniversary edition at a mutually convenient time.
▪ Your reference to the “neoliberal, downsizing, slash-the-jobs-to-appease-the-shareholders economy” is just a rant. As someone who receives payment from Fairfax Media (as I also do), you should be aware of the importance of shareholders. Also, as a member of a superannuation fund, you yourself are a shareholder.
▪ It is a myth to believe that “religious opposition” is the only opposition to same-sex marriage – as is evident in the current debate in France.
▪ The David Sedaris comment – which you appear to endorse – is somewhat undemocratic. He is suggesting that electors should not be consulted on decisions by governments to overturn long accepted notions of such entities as marriages.
▪ By the way, I know – and have acknowledged – that “all gay people do not speak with one voice”. I also happen to know – as you do – that quite a few prominent gay commentators are opposed to the concept of same-sex marriage.
▪ The definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman has been accepted for at least two centuries. In my view, ten years is a “recent” period – when compared with 200 years.
In conclusion, I offer some (gratuitous) advice. In my view, your cause would be advanced if there was less anger and abuse in your comments. For example, in your article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 19 April 2013 you:
▪ described Julia Gillard’s opposition to same-sex marriage as “nonsensical”
▪ referred to Tony Abbott as a “capital-C Catholic”
▪ commented on Labor’s “Catholic roots” and suggested that its (alleged) failure to separate church and state is as “pernicious” as Tony Abbott’s views, describing Abbott as a “former seminary trainee” and
▪ asserted that the parliamentary Labor Party is into “homophobia”.
I have checked the issue which some of the Prime Minister’s friends and I believe that her opposition to same-sex marriage is genuine. The Opposition leader is not what you refer to as a “capital-C Catholic”. Labor does support the division between church and state – it always has. Tony Abbott was a seminary trainee some three decades ago. And the Labor Party – which has introduced much legislation in support of gay rights – is not into homophobia.
Your case is not enhanced by your exaggeration or, indeed, sectarianism. It’s not just Catholics or Christians who are opposed to same-sex marriage – as you implied in your Sydney Morning Herald article. So are many Muslims, many Hindus and many non-believers.
Let me know if you would like to address The Sydney Institute
Steve Dow to Gerard Henderson – 30 April 2013
Thank you for your response.
By claiming I said gay people only recently supported gay marriage you are incorrectly inferring the gay community until recently opposed it. Gay people have always supported the equality possible at any given moment.
(It's not just that I disagree with you about “recent”, Gerard, but on that point, gay people fighting for equality and recognition of their relationships have been doing so for a long time. The relationship recognition fight is not “recent”.)
What I actually suggested was that the gay community argument has shifted from 10 years ago when civil unions were as likely to be named as marriage, to today when marriage was most commonly named as the aim.
That was not because gay people opposed marriage 10 years ago: it was because many of us then thought marriage was not legally and politically attainable. If someone had convinced those of us calling for civil unions 10 years ago that marriage was possible and foreseeable, then marriage would have been stated more commonly as the aim. Hence I said:
“if you interviewed a gay person 10 years ago they were much more diffident about the whole issue”. Those people were diffident until they began to see “what becomes possible, what we see overseas is other countries leading the way…”
And yes, a decade ago you were more likely to hear critiques of marriage from gay people: but I wasn't suggesting all gay people thought that way. Those same people critical of marriage then, as now, would support equality. They critiqued marriage I expect partly because it seemed impossible to attain.
But they wouldn't have opposed it being made available to same-sex partners.
My argument was far more nuanced, but you've reduced what I said to gays only being recently in favour of same-sex marriage. Again, I object to your interpretation.
I take your point about the sensitivities of other faiths on same-sex marriage. But those faiths do not have great sway in federal Parliament, at least insofar as being the faiths of our elected representatives or the executives that put them there. Perhaps they do in some electorates.
Gerard, my facetious comment about day to day lives and keeping our jobs was in response to the whole structure and strange non-argument of your piece. There will always be more pressing concerns for people not directly affected by same-sex marriage. That in itself is a poor substitute for an actual argument for why equality should be denied.
You talk about being intemperate. Thank you for your advice, which is indeed gratuitous, especially given you accuse others of being obsessed with this issue. We only have to keep this campaign going because people such as yourself continue to use the same power structures to deny a very basic right. The Sydney Institute does hold sway, Gerard.
Thank you for the offer to address the Sydney Institute, but no thanks.
The Sedaris quote is meant to be a joke. No need to analyse it.
All the best,
Gerard Henderson to Steve Dow – 3 May 2013
Thanks for your note on Wednesday. I have had a busy week and am somewhat behind my correspondence. In response, I make a few comments:
▪ Contrary to your claim I did not say in my Sydney Morning Herald column on Tuesday that you had agreed that gay people opposed marriage 10 years ago. What I wrote was that you had “acknowledged that the gay movement’s support for same-sex marriage has been a recent development”. This is correct – as you acknowledge in your most recent email. So I don’t know what your complaint is.
▪ In my SMH column, I also quoted you as saying that gays have “gone from quite a radical critique of the whole institution of marriage” to support for same-sex marriage in 10 years. This is an accurate quote. So, once again, I do not know what your complaint is.
▪ The gravamen of my column was that it is unreasonable to expect that all Australians should agree to a change in the meaning of such traditional terms as marriage, father and mother in just a decade. This is a perfectly reasonable argument to make – even though you don’t happen to agree with it.
▪ I have held intellectually fashionable views for much of my adult life. It’s just that – unlike you – I do not seek the approval of others. I can understand the case for same-sex marriage but you cannot understand the case against same-sex marriage.
▪ The idea that The Sydney Institute holds “sway” is ridiculous. Recent speakers at the Institute include Christine Milne, Bob Carr and Tony Abbott.
▪ The Sydney Institute is merely a forum for debate and discussion. I offered you a platform to deliver a 30 minute address followed by a 30 minute questions/discussion period. All talks at the Institute are podcast and all are published in unedited form in The Sydney Papers Online. Also, most talks at the Institute are filmed by the Foxtel 648 APAC channel.
You rejected the offer – while declaring that bodies like The Sydney Institute are part of a “power structure” which is thwarting your campaign for same-sex marriage. Now, you are censoring yourself. If you want to change your mind and accept the invitation, let me know.
▪ I know that the David Sedaris comment – that asking why people get to vote on same sex marriage is like asking if redheads should be allowed to celebrate Christmas – is a joke. But, nevertheless, it contains an undemocratic connotation. In my view, citizens in a democracy are entitled to be consulted when a proposal is made, at relatively short notice, that the traditional meaning of marriage, husband and wife should be altered by an act of parliament. Especially when neither Labor nor the Coalition sought a mandate on same-sex marriage at the 2010 Federal election.
● PETER LLOYD AND GERARD HENDERSON ON LINKEDIN (AGAIN)
Peter Lloyd to Gerard Henderson – 1 May 2013
I think you are quite wrong to assume that I make a ‘profession’ criticising others. My profession is journalism. And no, I am not particularly sensitive to being criticised – I stayed mute to a whole lot of nonsense and factual errors in mid 2008 – and further proof being that I have long ignored the silly assertion that I am some sort of ‘leftie’. It always amuses me that tired old left/right descriptors are applied to anyone these days, since the whole left-right thing is rather outdated in my view. My point in communicating was simply that had your publication contacted me – at the time – I would have given you some relevant information. Yes, after that, I am fair game. I am not looking to pick a fight, so relax and enjoy the view,
Gerard Henderson to Peter Lloyd – 3 May 2013
I refer to your email received on Wednesday.
I don’t really know what you are complaining about. Some time ago, in my Media Watch Dog blog, I made an irreverent comment that – according to your very own LinkedIn entry – you are an employee of the public broadcaster in Australia while also doing work for the Timor Leste government.
This is correct – according to your LinkedIn entry. If it is not correct – then you should alter the entry and I will record the change in MWD.
For the record, I still believe that you are sensitive to criticism. Moreover, as far as I recall, I have never said or written that you are some sort of leftie. Perhaps you should have a chat with your erstwhile ABC colleague David Marr. For it was he who said in 2004 that, to be a journalist in Australia, you have to be a leftie. I have reproduced Mr Marr’s wisdom in full in today’s edition of MWD.
I do contact individuals to check facts. But since, in this case, the facts I was relying on were written by you – I did not see any reason why I should check what you had written about yourself.
By the way, in response to your last sentence, I am remarkably relaxed, my morale is high and the view from here is just great.
* * * * *
READ ALL ABOUT IT – COMMENTS ON/ENDORSEMENTS OF MWD
“[Henderson] You are mad. In the 18th century you would have been caged, with the mob invited to poke you with sticks.”
– Mike Carlton, 5.23 pm (Gin & Tonic Time) 25 March 2013
“[Media Watch Dog is] not a moan, more of a miserable dribble”
– Peter Munro, 21 March 2013
“You are a fool, Henderson, a malicious and mendacious piece of shit…Now F_ck off”
– Mike Carlton, 11 March 2013 (Hangover Time).
Jonathan Green: “Nancy, will be taking notes, I suspect”
“Nancy…yes. We’ll get a nice write-up on Friday. Good morning as well, Gerard. Thanks for watching, by the way.
– Michael Rowland, ABC 1 News Breakfast, 18 October 2012
“Gerard [Henderson] is a complete f-ckwit”
– Malcolm Farr, via Twitter, 29 June 2012 (circa pre-dinner drinks)
“What a haughty flapping half-arsed buffoon he [Henderson] is”
– Bob Ellis on his Table Talk blog, 8 May 2012 (before breakfast)
“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
“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”
– Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)
“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work”
– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.
Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”
– Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 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.
“I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago
I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson’s wife, not his dog.”
– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011
“Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time. 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.
“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.
* * * * * *
Until next time. In the meantime, keep morale high.