GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 255
30 JANUARY 2015
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.
Alex Mitchell’s Search for the “Genuine Socialist”
What a stunning piece by Alex Mitchell (Trotskyist Rtd.) in Wednesday’s Crikey. Comrade Mitchell wrote fawningly about the few “genuine socialists” from the NSW Labor Party who have obtained seats in the NSW State Parliament. He came up with just two – the late George Petersen and the very late John Brookfield.
And what kind of socialist does Comrade Mitchell admire? Well, it’s all set out in his book Come The Revolution: A Memoir which was reviewed in the Sydney Institute Quarterly Issue 41, December 2012.
Comrade Mitchell really liked the London-based Trotskyist Gerry Healy. According to Mitchell’s own account, Comrade Healy was a violent Muammar Gaddafi-admiring authoritarian thug who just loved Yasser Arafat and sexually harassed his female staff. Otherwise, according to Comrade Mitchell, Comrade Healy was a great revolutionary and a true defender of the Trotskyist faith. So there you go.
WELL DONE BEVERLEY O’CONNOR & PATRICK CONDREN
Due to overwhelming demand from MWD’s hundreds of thousands of avid readers, this previously occasional segment will become regular this year. It’s likely that this award will be heavily contested.
The gong for January 2015 is shared by the ABC’s Beverly O’Connor and Radio 4BC’s
- When co-presenting News Breakfast on Wednesday 14 January, Ms O’Connor referred to mining in Western Australia as “digging things up and sending them away”. This was a demeaning reference to mining as not contributing to scientific and engineering skills in Australia – a restatement of the left wing view of old that Australia is a quarry surrounded by water.
Beverley O’Connor seems totally unaware that the mining industry in Western Australia – and elsewhere – is a world leader with respect to both science and engineering. Mining employs numerous highly skilled workers and invests heavily in research and development. Also the mining industry pays substantial funds to government by way of company tax (Commonwealth) and royalties (State). The former helps to stump up cash for presenters on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, like the foolish Ms O’Connor.
- When commenting on the Channel 7 Sunrise program on Monday 12 January, Patrick Condren lined up with presenter Andrew O’Keefe who bagged Herald Sun columnist Rita Panahi for suggesting that terrorist attacks by Islamists had something to do with Islam. Mr Condren asked: “Where was this conversation when the IRA was bombing London, and parts of Ireland, on the basis of their Catholic religion.”
Mr Condren seems completely unaware that the Provisional Irish Republican Army was a secular organisation which did not act out of a religious motivation. On more than one occasion, the IRA was condemned by the Vatican. Moreover, many members of the Hierarchy distanced the Catholic Church from the IRA’s murderous rampages in Britain (including Northern Ireland) and Ireland. This was especially the case during the Irish Civil War of 1922-1923 when virtually all the bishops in the island of Ireland supported the Free State government and opposed the IRA which was seeking to destroy it.
Patrick Condren seems totally unaware that whilst the likes of Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State proclaim their allegiance with Islam, the leaders of the IRA never proclaimed an allegiance with the Catholic church. The aim of the IRA was to set up a united Ireland (i.e. the 26 counties of Ireland plus the 6 counties currently in Northern Ireland) under a Gaelic form of socialism. Mr Condren’s statement on Sunrise was both ignorant and foolish.
- CRIKEY’S BERNARD KEANE THROWS THE SWITCH TO RACIAL LABELLING
The taxpayer funded public broadcaster keeps loading itself up with left-wing commentators on its prominent programs.
Last year, Network 10’s Paul Bongiorno – commonly recognised by Coalition supporters as the most left-wing journalist in the Parliamentary Press Gallery within commercial media – got regular gigs on Radio National Breakfast and ABC Radio 702. This year, so far at least, these spots appear to have gone to Bernard Keane from the leftist newsletter Crikey. Mr Bongiorno is on leave [Do you mean what journalists call a Well-Earned-Break? – Ed.]
Sure, Keane is intelligent and well informed. But his ABC gigs in 2015 so far demonstrate, once again, that Nice Mr Scott presides over a Conservative Free Zone. Certainly the ABC has given Tom Switzer – a well-known critic of the foreign politics of George W Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard whom the ABC presents as a conservative – a program role on Radio National. Even if Mr Switzer turns out more conservative than expected – his slot at 7.30pm on Thursdays is hardly a prominent gig. [Does anyone listen to Radio National at 7.30pm on a Thursday? Anyone who is neither drunk nor stoned, that is? Ed.]
In any event, Bernard Keane put in a stunner when interviewed by Jonathan Green on RN Summer Breakfast last Tuesday. Mr Keane gave a predictable critique of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to award an Aussie knighthood to Prince Philip.
Now, Nancy AC’s co-owners are republicans. But both are conscious that Nancy’s AC stands for “Always Courteous”. So the Henderson household was shocked, absolutely shocked, when Bernard Keane referred to the Duke of Edinburgh last Tuesday as a “Greek” and, later, “Phil-the-Greek”. Mr Keane consciously used the word Greek as a term of abuse.
Nancy’s (male) co-owner first heard the “Phil-the-Greek” reference in a school yard around half a century ago. It’s an old put-down which overlooks the fact that Prince Philip is a British citizen.
There is a question here about double standards. Would Mr Keane call, say, Dr Tim Soutphommasane a “Lao” and would he refer to him as “Tim-the-Lao”? As MWD understands, Dr Soutphommasane is an Australian citizen. As such, he is as Australian as Philip is British.
Here’s hoping that Tim Soutphommasane did not hear Bernard Keane’s outburst this week – which Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green seemed to enjoy. If he did, Keane might be up before the beaks at the Human Rights Commission, including Professor Gillian Triggs herself, for racial vilification or some such.
MWD readers will surely like to know that Crikey’s politics editor has gone under the blanket and refuses to enter into correspondence on why the reference to “Phil-the-Greek” was made and what’s wrong with being a Greek etc. Can you bear it?
- TONY WRIGHT’S UNFUNNY SKETCH
While on the topic of “Phil-the-Greek”, consider the case of The Age’s sketch writer Tony Wright – who wrote an attempt at humour on this very matter last Wednesday. It was an effort to ridicule the Prime Minister’s decision to make Prince Philip – or as Wright depicted him “Phil-the-Greek” – a knight within the Order of Australia. Yawn. And it was not at all funny. More yawns.
You see, the leftist sketch writer of the leftist “Guardian-on-the-Yarra” thought it would be slap-on-your-thigh funny to depict Tony Abbott at the head of, wait for it, a Round Table. Around the Round Table were Joe Hockey, Scott Morrison, Julie Bishop, Malcolm Turnbull, Mathias Corman, Eric Abetz, Warren Truss, Ian Macfarlane and – of course – Abbott’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin.
Here’s how the sketch commenced:
PM: It’s great to be Australian. How do you like the table?
Joe Hockey: It’s round!
PM: Exactly. Just like you used to be, Joe. Now, now, don’t sulk. Of course it’s round. Think classical British history. Knights of the… Sorry, Julie. Anyway, talking of knights.
Scott Morrison: Oh, Tony, you shouldn’t have, but I’ll accept any honour you might wish to bestow.
PM: Ha ha, good one, Scott. I already made you an admiral until you ran out of boats. No. I’m going to knight Phil.
Chorus: Phil who?
PM: His royal highness.
Cabinet members: (long silence. Sounds of indrawn breath)
Julie Bishop: You’re such a jester Tony.
PM: No, fair dinkum. Blow for multiculturalism. Phil the Greek, by way of the Mother Country, crown on our fair shores. That sort of thing. Should be able to sell it big on the foreign circuit.
And it didn’t get any better. Mr Wright’s sketch ended with Tony Abbott standing on the (round) table calling Peta Credlin to “take the names” of dissenting ministers. How funny can you get?
No wonder The Australian’s media editor reported last Monday that the powers-that-be at Fairfax Media are contemplating dumping The Age’s hopeless editor Andrew Holden. [Could this be the very same Mr Holden who publishes attacks on Hendo and then spikes Hendo’s brief letters in reply – Ed]
The Age last Wednesday ran for just 48 compact sized pages – at $2.50 a copy. Yet Tony Wright’s unfunny sketch occupied a third of the page per courtesy of Andrew Holden’s poor judgment. Can you bear it?
- CHRISTINE WALLACE REPORTS FROM ASPEN
The [Boring] Saturday Paper has just returned from a Well Earned Break.[Perhaps there were no Saturdays in late December and most of January – Ed]. The highlight of last Saturday’s edition was a piece titled “Why the Liberals can’t kill Abbott” by Canberra Times columnist Christine Wallace.
Ms Wallace is a fine writer. But it seems that she has been afflicted by writing for The Saturday Paper – in between advertisements for Mercedes-Benz, Supernormal restaurant, Academy Travel, Rolex and even Greenpeace. How else to explain Ms Wallace’s introductory paragraph which runs the risk of giving pretension a bad name – even for the inner-city, affluent, “light-towers” as The Saturday Paper’s editor Erik Jensen likes to refer to his readers. Here it is:
Chatter among well-heeled Liberal voters on their annual New Year’s pilgrimage to the ski slopes of Europe and North America tells the story. This time last year, on her yearly trip to Aspen, one typical Liberal from Sydney’s north shore put it this way: “He’s not doing very well, is he?” A small businesswoman married to a partner in a legal firm, with teenage children at a good private school, she was disappointed but prepared to cut Tony Abbott some slack. Back at Aspen this year, sentiment had turned sharply for the worse. “Oh, he’s just hopeless,” she said. “Hopelessly bad. He’s an embarrassment.”
Well, that’s the view on the Liberal Party from well-heeled voters on the ski slopes of Europe and North America. Namely, “one typical liberal from Sydney’s north shore” and one “small businesswoman married to a partner in a legal firm, with teenage children at a good private school” in 2014. [I’m pleased that it was a “good” private school – Ed]. And back at Aspen this year, the latter “she” reckoned that Abbott is “just hopeless” – and this before the Prince Philip gong. Fancy that.
Back from the ski slopes of Europe and North America, Ms Wallace quoted from her non-skiing Liberal Party sources on the home front. They comprised “one Liberal staffer”, “one Liberal”, “another” Liberal, plus yet another “one Liberal”, “one minister” and “a well-placed staffer”. [Well placed for what?A trip to Aspen next year? – Ed.]
Christine Wallace’s thesis was that Tony Abbott should have been more like his early mentor B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998):
Abbott would have posed a bigger risk to Labor had he pursued the soft and subsidising economic thrust of his original spiritual and political home in politics, B.A. Santamaria’s National Civic Council.
So, according to Ms Wallace, Tony Abbott’s problem is that he has not followed Bob Santamaria. Can you bear it?
- GEORGE NEGUS’ CONFUSION
Meanwhile on ABC Radio 702’s Drive with Richard Glover yesterday, veteran journalist George Negus confidently declared that the problem with Tony Abbott is that he has followed Bob Santamaria too closely. Let’s go to the transcript:
George Negus: I don’t think he [Tony Abbott] was ever terribly interested in running the country.
Richard Glover: You’re kidding; every politician wants to run the country.
George Negus: I don’t think he does. His motivation, his crusade since 1955 – you don’t understand Tony Abbott unless you understand that in 1955 this country changed. The Labor Party split and Tony went with B.A. Santamaria who has been his guru ever since. And I think his [Abbott’s] main reason was to destroy anybody to his left, particularly anybody in the labour movement. And he [Abbott] thought he’d succeeded. He went and woke up the morning after [the 2013 election] and thought – when they [sic] saw they’d [Labor] got 55 seats: “Hang on I haven’t finished my job yet”.
To most Australians, before and after becoming prime minister, Tony Abbott seemed obsessed with junking the carbon tax, removing the mining tax and stopping the boats. However, according to George, the Prime Minister is not at all interested in running the country. So, if Negus is correct, you wonder why Tony Abbott bothered to do anything. If anyone has any idea what George Negus was on about – or, perhaps, on – yesterday, please let MWD know. In the meantime, all that can be said is that: “Can you bear it”.
[Er, no. Perhaps your man Negus thinks he is an expert on BAS because the latter was born of Italian parents. After spending merely a year there and despite being unable to speak Italian Mr Negus seems to regard himself as an expert on Italy, having written a book on the country despite being unable to read Italian – Ed.]
DAVID DAY SQUIBS CHURCHILL/MENZIES CHALLENGE
As avid MWD readers will be aware, left-wing historian David Day made his academic reputation on the basis of his 1986 book Menzies & Churchill at War (Angus and Robertson). The self-professed “controversial” thesis of which was that there was a move in Britain in 1941 to replace Winston Churchill with Australian prime minister Robert Menzies – and that Mr Menzies (as he then was) encouraged the idea.
Last year Gerard Henderson asked David Day to provide the source for any biographer of Churchill or any historian of Britain in the 20th Century who made either of the above assertions. Hendo also asked for any evidence that Menzies encouraged the (alleged) idea.
Dr Day (for a doctor he is) replied that he was “flat out like a lizard drinking” and too busy to provide sources to back his claims. He promised to provide the material later – but, so far, has failed to do so. Despite the fact that your man Day found the time to turn up on Radio National shortly after Christmas and provide hopelessly wrong predictions about droughts and fires over the 2014-2015 Summer. See MWD Issue 255.
Enter Keith Horner, a Victoria-based MWD reader. On Australia Day, Mr Horner sent the following email to David Day:
Keith Horner to David Day – 26 January 2015
I apologise for possibly wasting your time! I am British born, trained
as a history teacher, and gained a B Edn at Southampton University in
the early 60’s. You will therefore understand I was born early in WW2
and subsequently brought up in a time when Winston Churchill was much revered by many. Indeed, my own parents always told me how much Great Britain, and the world, owed to him.
During discussion with friends about those times, I was told that a
book had been written pointing out that there was a move to replace
Churchill with Robert Menzies! I was astonished as I have read many
books covering the history of the period and never come across this
point before. I told my friends I found this quite incredible! I further was informed you wrote about the Churchill Menzies connection
in a book.
You would appreciate that, with my own background as a history teacher,
this is of great interest to me. I wonder if you could provide me with
your primary, documented sources concerning the proposed replacement of Churchill by Menzies. I am sure that as a professional historian and
researcher you would have available your notes to quickly assist me and
so help an older but still enthusiastic history buff.
I would be most grateful for your reply.
The following day, David Day responded to Keith Horner as follows:
David Day to Keith Horner – 27 January 2015
Thanks for your letter and your interest. If you seek out a copy of my
book from your local library, you will see the sources set out in the
footnotes and bibliography.
All the best
It seems that Dr Day has more front than Myers (Melbourne version) or Mark Foy’s (Sydney version). When asked to provide evidence of one Churchill biographer or one historian of 20th Century history who supports his Churchill/Menzies theory, the learned doctor says they are in his footnotes and bibliography. But he does not say where. Convenient, eh?
David Day’s inability to provide specific sources for his controversial assertions led to Keith Horner sending the following email to Gerard Henderson:
Keith Horner to Gerard Henderson – 27 January 2015
Always love to read your stuff. I recently note that you have been waiting for D Day to provide source material re his Churchill/Menzies issue in his book. I had talked of this with friends who also said they heard that Churchill was to be replaced by Menzies.
So, I emailed D Day asking for sources as I found it hard to swallow! See his “helpful” reply below! Now you know where to find the, no doubt “definitive”facts. Do let me know if they are sufficient. Sadly, there are three local libraries in my area – none have the book.
However, if D Day finds it so simple to refer me to his evidence ie in the book’s footnotes, why has he not suggested you do the same?Even a lizard drinking has to pause to take breathe!
Keep giving Nancy nice dog bikkies!
So there you have it. One of Australia’s leading left-wing historians is either too busy or too lazy to provide specific evidence for the thesis on which he has based his reputation as an historian. Even though he has only been asked to provide a couple of sources – one to support each “controversial” claim.
Meanwhile, David Day wants us all to accept his word that circa 1941 the powers-that-be in London came to the idea that no Brit could lead Great Britain in war-time and that it would be a you-beaut idea to sound out that chap Menzies from the Antipodes with a view to him replacing Winston. Dr Day also wants us to accept that Robert Menzies was so foolish as to believe that he had a real chance of replacing Winston Churchill as Prime Minster of Britain in 1941.
No wonder Anne Henderson, who checked all David Day’s sources for his book Menzies at War (New South 2014), could find no evidence to support David Day’s thesis. We’ll keep you posted. If Dr Day has not been able to provide specific sources of his so called “sources” by next Friday, MWD will publish an analysis by Anne Henderson. [I can barely wait. Ed.]
In the meantime, here is the score-card.
And here’s a reminder of David (“I’m just too busy to provide evidence”) Day in Flat-Out-Like-A-Lizard-Drinking mode.
David Day Circa 7 August 2014, some 175 days ago.
Failed Labor leader Mark Latham is Australia’s most self-righteous house-husband. The first month of the year is not yet over. But the Lair of Liverpool has already written two columns in the Australian Financial Review bagging women who work and engage child care or have live in nannies.
In last Saturday’s AFR Weekend, in his “Relativities” column titled “Woes of the married state”, Latham criticised journalist Annabel Crabb in general and her recently released book The Wife Drought in particular.
The Lair of Liverpool is notoriously sensitive to criticism (but only criticism of HIMSELF). Mark Latham fell out with Julia Gillard on account of the fact that she launched Annabel Crabb’s Losing It: The Inside Story of the Labor Party in Opposition (2005). You see, Ms Crabb was somewhat critical of Mr Latham – and the failed Labor leader was not amused.
Last Saturday, Latham depicted Crabb as an inner-city leftist – without providing any evidence for the assertion. And he accused her of “contracting out home duties to servants”. So, according to the Lair of Liverpool, nannies are mere servants.
Earlier, in the AFR’s 5 January 2015 edition, Latham criticised women who work and place their children in child care. And, once again, he bragged about his own role as a house dad.
Well, it’s all very well for the Lair of Liverpool. At age almost 54 he is able to live the comfortable life of a superannuant – per courtesy of his taxpayer funded superannuation hand-out of some $85,000 per year (fully indexed) which he opposed with respect to other politicians.
So your man Latham is a house–husband who receives a generous taxpayer handout each week since 2005. Meanwhile, he bags mothers who will never receive such generous taxpayer funded largesse for working while their young children are being cared for. And the Australian Financial Review runs such tosh. [Perhaps you should have placed this item in your enormously popular “Can You Bear It?” segment – Ed]
This overwhelmingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Nancy’s (male) co-owner about something or other. And Hendo, being a courteous and well-brought up kind of guy, replies. Then, hey presto, the correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of its hundreds of thousands of readers.
There are occasions, however, when Nancy’s (male) co-owner decides to write a polite note to someone or other – who, in turn, believes that a reply is in order.
Publication in MWD invariably follows. There are, alas, some occasions where Hendo sends a polite missive but does not receive the courtesy of a reply. Nevertheless, publication of this one-sided correspondence still takes place. For the record and in the public interest, of course.
As hundreds of thousands of avid readers are aware, The Guardian Australia’s deputy editor Katharine Murphy put out the following tweet on 6 June 2014 at 4.33 pm – when that issue of MWD was “hot off the press”. Here is Ms Murphy’s tweet: “Without in any way wanting to breach anyone’s human rights or free speech – why do people write emails to Gerard Henderson?”It’s a very good question. Thankfully, not everyone follows Katharine Murphy’s wise counsel.
Paul Ormonde, the Catholic Worker, alleged anti-Semitism & B.A. Santamaria
On 3 December 2014 The Age published an obituary on Colin Thornton-Smith (1929-2014) titled “Scholar defied his church to join opposition to Santamaria crusade”. It was written by Paul Ormonde, the author and editor of such critical works on B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998) as The Movement and Santamaria: The Politics of Fear.
Gerard Henderson, the author of Mr Santamaria and the Bishops who has known Paul Ormonde for some three decades, decided to enter into correspondence with the Melbourne-based writer. Here it is:
Gerard Henderson to Paul Ormonde – 14 January 2015
I was overseas in December and just noticed your obituary concerning Colin Thornton-Smith (1929-2014) which was published in The Age on 3 December 2014 titled “Scholar defied his church to join opposition to Santamaria crusade.”
I always liked Colin. I first got to know him when he occasionally picked me up at a bus stop in Kew and gave me a lift to Melbourne University in the late 1960s. Also, Colin sent me material from time to time – including his article in the November 1991 issue of the Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal titled “Echoes and Resonances of Action Francaise anti-Semitism in early issues of the Australian Catholic Worker” – to which you referred in your obituary.
While I personally liked Colin, I found that he was one of the Catholic Worker team whose one moment in the Australian political debate turned on their one-time opposition to B.A. Santamaria in the late 1950s and early 1960s – i.e. over half a century ago. Without Santamaria, they would scarcely be remembered.
The only works written by Colin which you dwelt on in your obituary are his 1991 article in the Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal and an article “The Young Santamaria and his Mentors” which was published in Santamaria: The Politics of Fear (Spectrum Publications, 2000). You did not advise Age readers that you were the editor of this latter volume.
As you know, my book Mr Santamaria and the Bishops was broadly critical of Santamaria. The problem with your edited collection Santamaria: The Politics of Fear is that it is obsessive. One after another, Max Charlesworth, James Griffin, Colin Thornton-Smith, Val Noone, Xavier Connor and yourself lined up to bag Santamaria and all his satanic deeds and all his satanic pomps. It’s the kind of history that gives obsession a bad name.
Take, for example, the following comment in your obituary:
In his post-academic years Thornton-Smith wrote widely. His essential integrity led him to write an essay for the journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society on traces of anti-Semitism in early issues of the Catholic Worker, of which Santamaria was the founding editor.
In the first three issues of the journal, February to April 1936, largely written and edited by Santamaria himself, Thornton-Smith identified items which referred to Jewish (not named as such) clothing factory owners as enforcing “sweated” labour and repeatedly referred to the ownership of the Melbourne daily The Herald as “The Fink Press” – after Jewish chairman Theodore Fink – which Santamaria had identified as unfriendly to Catholic interests.
This is a cheap shot – even for a semi-professional Santamaria hater of long- standing. Moreover, it is not a comment of integrity.
Colin Thornton-Smith did not identify even one anti-Semitic comment published in
the Catholic Worker when Santamaria was its editor i.e. from 1936 until the end of 1937. Nor did he cite even one anti-Semitic comment which Santamaria made during his entire lifetime. Even you concede that Colin Thornton-Smith only identified “traces of anti-Semitism in early issues of the Catholic Worker.” Just “traces.”
So you, following Thornton-Smith, have labelled Santamaria as an anti-Semite on the basis of alleged “traces” of anti-Semitism which Santamaria may – or may not – have written. At a time when he was aged 20 in 1936. That is, before Kristallnacht and the onslaught of anti-Semitism which devoured Germany and much of Europe in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
I had dinner with Isi Leibler in Jerusalem last month. Isi knew Santamaria well in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Isi does not regard Santamaria as an anti-Semite.
I know that The Age is more left-wing than ever. Even so, a professional editor
should have removed an accusation of anti-Semitism made without a shred of evidence against a deceased person who cannot defend himself. As you should be aware, the Catholic Church in Australia was not afflicted by the blight of anti-Semitism during the 20th Century.
There are some other errors in your obituary. For example, Archbishop Daniel Mannix never “banned” the Catholic Worker. He just expressed the wish that it not be sold outside Catholic churches in the archdiocese of Melbourne. Bishop James Carroll told Santamaria not to open an office for his newspaper News Weekly in the archdiocese of Sydney. I don’t recall that Colin – or, indeed, you – ever expressed concern about Carroll’s actions. This suggests that Archbishop Mannix’s (alleged) banning of the Catholic Worker in Melbourne was a reprehensible act – whereas Bishop Carroll’s (real) banning of News Weekly in Sydney was of no moment. An unpleasant double standard, to be sure.
Also, your comment about why Santamaria left the Catholic Worker neglects to mention that a view was formed that he could not hold this position once he took up the role of assistant director of the Australian National Secretariat of Catholic Action in January 1938. Santamaria’s decision to quit as the Catholic Worker editor did not
merely result from “conflict over Santamaria’s one-man editorship.”
Finally, it may be that a priest in Warragul “declared from the pulpit that Thornton-Smith ‘had the communist rat on his back’” – as you asserted in your obituary. However, I suspect that there is no evidence that such a statement was ever made and that the “quote” results from a memory recorded years – perhaps decades – after the event.
The fact is that Catholic Worker types who remained practising Catholics – like Xavier Connor – were always welcome in the Catholic Church in Melbourne, despite their political opposition to B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998) and Daniel Mannix (1864-1963). My authority for this comment is a (recorded) conversation I had with Xavier Connor in the years before his death.
Perhaps you should have reminded Age readers that Justin Simonds – a political opponent of Santamaria – became Archbishop of Melbourne in 1963, some years before Colin Thornton-Smith commenced his academic career at Melbourne University. But, then, such an inconvenient truth would not have fitted in with The Age’s hyperbolic heading for you obituary.
Best wishes; It would be good to catch up again.
Paul Ormonde to Gerard Henderson – 16 January 2015
I appreciate the trouble you took to respond to my obit on Colin Thornton-Smith. I do not appreciate your accusation that I have labelled Santamaria as an anti-Semite – I resent it strongly because, like you and Isi Leibler, I do not believe he was for most of his career.
What I would take from the items in those early issues of the Catholic Worker to which Colin drew attention is that the young Santamaria, in his editorial judgement, must have felt something like anti-Semitism to have used such items. What else could be in his mind to allow reference to the Herald as “The Fink Press”, and to highlight by bold type and a box the following, and I quote fully – there was no heading:
He was beaten up by the Royalists. Bad luck for Baron Leon Blum, Frenchman, nobleman, millionaire, factory owner, wage-slasher, sweater – and leader of the Socialist-Communist Popular Front, at present misruling France. But was it any wonder?
There it is – the hateful, anti-Semitic stereotype to describe the first Jewish prime minister of France in the issue of February 29, 1936 and who was bashed by right-wing thugs.
And in the next issue (March) a front page editorial bemoaning how the Australian press ignores the persecution of religion in the Soviet Union, Spain and Germany but highlights the persecution of Jews:
When Nazis beat up Jews, screaming headlines across the front page. When the Nazis murder Catholics – it isn’t news.
Given these examples, I am amazed that you can assert that Colin Thornton-Smith did not identify one anti-Semitic comment published in the Catholic Worker when Santamaria was its editor. If the examples I have given are not anti-Semitic, what are they? Has Isi Leibler seen these examples? Would he regard them with indifference? I don’t think so. I have a full file of all the CW’s first year. Am I right in thinking that you cannot have seen these issues?
I see such items as much stronger than mere traces of anti-Semitism – they reveal a hostile attitude to powerful Jews. I allow that Santamaria was only 20 at the time,
immature indeed, and I accept that he almost certainly outgrew such shallow prejudice, particularly, as you say, after the revelations of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust. It is all there in the first year of the CW – I’m happy to make the file available to you if you do not have access.
I think your argument that Mannix did not “ban” the CW is pretty weak. As you well know, he caused it to be banned in the Cathedral parish – and in informing every parish priest of the ban, he would have known that most priests would follow his example. It was the beginning of the end of the CW. Mannix knew the power of an archiepiscopal hint.
What I wrote about Santamaria’s departure from the CW is the result of many discussions with men of that earlier era – Xavier Connor, Gerard Heffey, Frank Keating. There was a clear consensus among them that Santamaria’s one-man editorship was a problem which led to resentment and tensions. Santa’s departure resulted in the setting up of an editorial committee which remained for the rest of the journal’s life. Of course, his appointment to the ANSCA would have been a factor in Santa’s mind, but the dominating Santamaria personality was what was in the mind of his colleagues. I recall you yourself drew attention to this aspect of him in describing a weekend Movement conference in which you had hoped to present a paper but which ended up being wall-to-wall Santamaria.
I am sorry you cannot accept the authenticity of Colin’s “rat-on-the-back” experience. It was not told to me “decades after the event.” Colin told me the story in the late 1960’s, one decade or so after event, when I was interviewing him for my book on the Movement (published 1972). The late Dr Stanley Ingwersen shared the experience in Warragul with Colin but I left him out of the obit story for The Age’s space reasons.
Your comment about “CW types who remained practicing Catholics” being welcome in the Catholic Church during the Movement era is true. But other Catholics (eg Arthur Calwell) did not feel so welcome.
Your comment about Archbishop Simonds taking over in 1963 “some years before Colin Thornton-Smith commenced his academic career at Melbourne University” seems irrelevant to me. The “rat-on-the-back” incident took place in the Mannix era and the influence of the Movement in Victoria continued long after Mannix’s death in 1963, despite the opposition of Simonds.
You suggest I should have advised Age readers that I edited Santamaria: The Politics of Fear – you are right from an academic perspective. But I certainly wasn’t hiding anything – just saving space again and not seeming to bignote myself.
Rightly or wrongly I have heard that you are writing a biography of Santamaria. I respect your standards and am sure that anything you write will be a valuable contribution to church and Australian history.
I would love to catch up with you in the near future – perhaps when I am next in Sydney or when you are down here.
Best wishes to you and Anne and your valuable works with The Sydney Institute and in your wider writings.
St Kilda, Vic., 3182
Gerard Henderson to Paul Ormonde – 30 January 2015
Thanks for your letter of 16 January 2015 – and thanks for providing an email address. In response, I make a few comments on a couple of issues.
B.A. Santamaria’s Alleged Anti-Semitism
- In your inaugural paragraph you wrote:
I do not appreciate your accusation that I have labelled Santamaria as an anti-Semite.
However, in your second paragraph you wrote that “the young Santamaria, in his editorial judgment, must have felt something like anti-Semitism to have used” the words you quoted. You go on to describe one comment you attribute to B.A. Santamaria as “the full hateful anti-Semitic stereotype”. After quoting one other comment from the Catholic Worker, you wrote:
I am amazed that you can assert that Colin Thornton-Smith did not identify one anti-Semitic comment published in the Catholic Worker when Santamaria was its editor.
So, in your letter you state that you do not appreciate my claim that you accused BAS of anti-Semitism in your obituary on Colin Thornton-Smith which was published in The Age on 3 December 2004. But you go on to make precisely this claim a few sentences later.
- In your Age obit, you wrote that Colin Thornton-Smith had identified what you termed “traces of anti-Semitism in the early issues of the Catholic Worker”.
Yet, in your letter you write that the “items” which you quoted “are much stronger than mere traces of anti-Semitism” since “they reveal a hostile attitude to powerful Jews”. So what were “traces” in December 2014 by January 2015 have become “much stronger than traces”.
So clearly you are saying that Santamaria was an anti-Semite in the mid-1930s. The problem is there is no evidence to link either BAS or the Catholic Worker with anti-Semitism.
- In view of your current position, it’s a wonder that you did not raise this criticism before December 2014.And it’s a wonder that Colin Thornton-Smith did not raise this criticism until his article was published in November 1991.After all, the early issues of the Catholic Worker have been trawled over by BAS’s critics for eons.
- It should be pointed out that Santamaria was one of a team that ran the Catholic Worker in 1936 – even if, as he subsequently claimed, he wrote most of the early editions.
If the anti-Semitism in the Catholic Worker was strong – as you now claim – why was this not noticed by the likes of Val Adami, Xavier Connor, Gerard Heffey, Frank Keating, Kevin Kelly, Frank Maher and Stan Ingwersen at the time?After all, as you know, all were critics of BAS to a greater or lesser degree.
- As to the “items” at issue – well, they are pretty thin on which to hang so serious an allegation as anti-Semitism.
The first (anonymous) quote – taken from the 29 February 1936 issue of the Catholic Worker – is critical of Leon Blum, who is described as a “Frenchman”. The specific criticism is of the “Socialist-Communist Popular Front”. It’s hardly surprising that Santamaria and his colleagues at the Catholic Worker opposed communism – and communist fronts – in 1936. Blum was not described as a Jew or Jewish.
The second (anonymous) quote – taken from the 7 March 1936 issue of the Catholic Worker –ran the line that when Nazis beat up Jews it led to screaming headlines but when Nazis murdered Catholics it was not news.
I can see why some might find this objectionable. But there was no denial about Nazi discrimination against Jews – so this is hardly an anti-Semitic comment. Certainly not in view of the real anti-Semitism at the time.
In addition, you object to the fact that, in 1936, BAS (albeit anonymously) referred to The [Melbourne] Herald as “The Fink Press” – after the chairman of The Herald and Weekly Times, Theodore Fink. There was no reference in the Catholic Worker to Mr Fink being a Jew or Jewish.What would you and Colin have said if BAS had described the newspaper as the “Murdoch press” – after its editor Keith Murdoch?
The fact is that Santamaria did not like The [Melbourne] Herald – he once declared that his one-time friend Bill Tipping had sold out to capitalism when he took a job as a journalist on Melbourne’s evening newspaper. It’s a long stretch to describe an anonymous reference to “The Fink press” as an example of BAS’s anti-Semitism.
- As you are aware, Colin Thornton-Smith did not produce any evidence that Santamaria wrote any of the above comments. Moreover, as previously stated, there is no evidence that the likes of Adami, Connor, Heffey, Keating, Kelly, Maher and Ingwersen in any way objected to the above comments.
- None of the historians who have written about the Catholic Worker – e.g. Danny Cusack, Colin Jory, Andrew Campbell and Bruce Duncan have ever found evidence of anti-Semitism in its early issues. As you will be aware, Dr Duncan is one of the many obsessive Santamaria critics.
For the record, I have previously read – and quoted from – the early editions of the Catholic Worker – so I do not need to see your files on this. But thanks for the offer.
Daniel Mannix and the Catholic Worker “Ban” etc
- As previously documented, Archbishop Daniel Mannix did not “ban” the Catholic Worker in 1955. He just requested that it not be sold outside of the Catholic churches before and after Sunday Mass. As I understand it, it remained on sale in five Melbourne parishes.
It’s understandable why Catholic Worker supporters were unhappy with Mannix’s decision. But they said nothing when Cardinal Norman Gilroy and Bishop James Carroll (in Sydney) and Archbishop Matthew Beovich (in Adelaide) took a much more draconian stance against Santamaria and The Movement in their archdioceses – including banning of the opening of Movement/News Weekly offices and prohibiting BAS from addressing functions on Catholic properties.
Santamaria accepted that the Sydney and Adelaide archbishops were against him and tried to operate around the bar placed on him. But the Catholic Worker types never accepted that the Melbourne hierarchy was against them and sought to overturn Mannix’s decision while complaining constantly.
Moreover, Archbishop Mannix’s request (read instruction) that the Catholic Worker not be sold outside Catholic churches in Melbourne lasted from April 1955 until November 1963 when Mannix died. After that, the Archbishops of Melbourne were Justin Simonds, James Knox and Frank Little – none of whom were close to Santamaria and one of whom (Simonds) was a political opponent.
The Catholic Worker’s demise in 1976 cannot be blamed on Archbishop Mannix who died 15 years earlier.
- As to Colin Thornton-Smith’s “rat on the back” memory, well it might have happened in Warragul (which was the Diocese of Sale). But I doubt that the comment was personally directed at Colin – or Stan Ingwersen – by name. If it was, this was a statement by one unnamed priest on one uncited date in a Victorian country town on one occasion. It was not much of a “persecution”.
- It’s true that Arthur Calwell, at the time of the Labor Split, decided no longer to attend his local parish and elected to attend St Francis’ Church in the Melbourne CBD instead – where he was always welcome. Not much of a “persecution” here, either.
Yes, I am planning to publish a biography of BAS later this year. I hope that it will be regarded as critical but fair. That is, unlike most of the books on Daniel Mannix (which are into hagiography) and most of the books on Santamaria (which are into obsessive denunciation).
In my view, both Colin Thornton-Smith’s essays on Santamaria and your obituary of Colin fit into the latter category. Hence your decision to devote a large part of your assessment of the life and times of Colin Thornton-Smith to a claim by Colin that Santamaria wrote certain words when Colin was a mere 6 year old.
I look forward to catching up in the not too distance future.
PS:I thought your typing was just fine – I do not do my own-long form typing and admire those who do.
Until next time – keep morale high.
“Oh Gerard. You total clown.”
– Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green on Twitter, Friday 3 October 2014, 4.31 pm [Mr Green must be an obsessive avid reader to respond so soon. – Ed]
“Good morning. All the gooder for being attacked (for thousandth time) by silly Gerard in the Oz”
– Phillip Adams via Twitter, 27 September 2014
“What troubles me most is that he [Gerard Henderson] shows such low journalistic standards, yet he is politically quite influential. He is often on Insiders. It’s hard to see why: he comes across as a crank.”
– Kate Durham as told to Crikey, 16 September 2014
“The unhinged but well spoken Gerard Henderson….”
– Bob Ellis, Table Talk blog, 10 August 2014
“Gerard Henderson and Nancy are awful human beings.”
– Alexander White, Twitter, 25 July 2014
“This is my regularly scheduled “Oh Gerard” tweet for every time he appears on #insiders”
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“…that fu-kwitted Gerard “Gollum” Henderson….”
– Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton, via Twitter, 12 July 2014
“[Gerard Henderson is a] silly prick”
– Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton – tweeted Saturday 27 June 2014 at 4.15 pm, i.e. after lunch
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– Laurie Ferguson via Twitter – 22 June 2014 [By-line: Mr Ferguson is a member of the House of Representatives who speaks in riddles.]
“[Gerard Henderson] is the Eeyore of Australian public life”
– Mike Seccombe in The [Boring] Saturday Paper – 21 June 2014
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“[Gerard Henderson is] an unhinged prick”
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“There’s no sense that Gerard Henderson has any literary credentials at all.”
– Anonymous comment quoted, highlighted and presumably endorsed by Jason (“I’m a left-leaning luvvie”) Steger, The Age, 31 May 2014
On boyfriend’s insistence, watching the notorious Gerard Henderson/@Kate_McClymont Lateline segment. GH: What an odd, angry gnome of a man.
– Benjamin Law, via Twitter, Thursday 17 Apr 2014, 11:21 pm
Can’t believe I just spent my Thursday evening with a video recap of Gerard Henderson. I’m a f-cking moron.
– Benjamin Law, via Twitter, Thursday 17 Apr 2014, 11:23 pm
“[Gerard Henderson is an] unhinged crank”
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Complete stranger comes up to me: that Gerard Henderson’s a xxxxxx.
– Jonathan Green via Twitter, 8 February 2014