Wednesday, March 07, 2012

And now time for a little Fahrenheit 451 ...

(Above: burn baby burn).

Well you could have knocked the pond down with the feather, especially as the usual thing is never to start off with a cliche.

But this was serious, a kind of all hands to the deck, every hand to the pump moment.

Just as there's all this blather in the media about freedom of speech, and the right to a vigorous free press, and the evils of the Finkelstein inquiry, and the demonic, repressive ways of socialist, pinko commie pervert leftists, and yadda yadda, three bags full, Pravda on the Yarra and cardigan wearers at the ABC bad, defenders of Fortress Murdoch good, comes the news that editor-in-chief of The Australian is launching legal action against the ABC for publishing a column by Robert Manne, and also thinking of sending along a legal letter to Morry Schwartz, publisher of The Monthly website.

Well that's what it says here in a piece by Andrew Crook, Oz editor marshals eagles to halt Manne attack.

Bizarrely it seems the reason is to get the piece taken down:

Mitchell explained his position at length to Crikey this afternoon, explaining that had engaged lawyers “just to get the story pulled down from the website”.

Even more bizarrely, Mitchell is alleged to have claimed that Manne shot himself in the foot:

“Robert may not be able to understand but I have other to things to worry about than Robert Manne. He may have time in his life to fixate on one thing, good on him, but all that Robert has succeeded in doing is publishing a whole series of allegations against himself which probably might not have ever made it into print because there might be nothing in it.”

Uh huh. Well if Manne is such a self-regarding doofus, who's published allegations against himself, and if The Australian has such regard for freedom of speech, and denigrates the use of defamation law to silence debate, why all the fuss?

Storm in a teacup, or what?

By the way, whatever happened to the threat of defamation against Canberra University academic Julie Posetti for defamation? What's that you say, a writ was never issued and the one year time limit expired?

Well that was a lot of huffing and puffing and intimidation about nothing.

Meanwhile, of course once there's talk of banning and censoring and wiping off the face of the intertubes, interest in a piece always skyrockets. The pond has to confess that the only real reason for reading D. H. Lawrence's utterly dire Lady Chatterley's Lover came about thanks to the Australian censorship authorities.

I you want to read the offensive Manne, you can still find him here at the ABC under the header Payback. I criticised The Australian. Now I must pay, which had attracted a squillion comments at time of writing. 750! Rushing off the shelf like idle chatter about John Thomas and Lady Jane.

Who knows how long it will last? Quick, click on it now. What's that you say? You clicked on the piece and all you saw was funereal black? Call it a symbol of freedom of the press in Australia ...

There was a clarification from David McKnight attached to the piece, often a good sign that the lawyers are circling. It seems that McKnight himself has been in the Murdoch wars, as you can find by reading Academic defends $196k grant for Rupert Murdoch polemic. There it was Gerard Henderson and the Bolter and Nick Cater leading the way ...

And the same clarification by McKnight is attached to the Manne piece at its original Monthly home under the alternate header Payback: The Bullying Tactics of the Murdoch Press. Quick, last we checked it was up on the full to overflowing intertubes. Click on it, hurry, rush before it might be lost forever.

Now if Manne had got things wrong, wouldn't it have been polite to demand corrections and clarifications? While letting robust free speech stand?

Lordy, lordy, and there was the pond thinking that Robert Manne was somewhat dull chap, a bit like Phillip Adams in print, and the next thing you know he's the author of a scorching piece of defamation that's pierced the heart of the Murdoch empire in Australia, and caused consternation, fluttering and squawking, and black pages.

What to do? Perhaps pdf the piece, and circulate it anonymously amongst close friends? Or perhaps learn it off by heart, as the characters do in Fahrenheit 451, and hope some passing stranger asks you to recite it?

True the stranger might nod off at some of the details in relation to academic grants, but then the pond has been known to nod off at some of the books saved in Ray Bradbury's story (or Truffaut's dull visualisation of it, ruined by Oskar Werner's impression of a cardboard box).

Ah memories of what it might be like in a future Australia with readers persecuted, and all that's left is memory and the old noggin:

"What have you to offer?"
"Nothing. I thought I had part of the Book of Ecclesiastes and maybe a little of Revelation, but I haven't even that now."
"The Book of Ecclesiastes would be fine. Where was it?"
"Here," Montag touched his head. "Ah," Granger smiled and nodded.
"What's wrong? Isn't that all right?" said Montag.
"Better than all right; perfect!" Granger turned to the Reverend. "Do we have a Book of Ecclesiastes?"
"One. A man named Harris of Youngstown."
"Montag." Granger took Montag's shoulder firmly. "Walk carefully. Guard your health. If anything should happen to Harris, you are the Book of Ecclesiastes. See how important you've become in the last minute!"
"But I've forgotten!"
"No, nothing's ever lost. We have ways to shake down your clinkers for you."

Eek, do we have to give up Ecclesiastes for a Robert Manne piece? Perhaps it could just be Scribd ...

Happily nothing's ever lost on the intertubes. If the powers that be think they can really get Manne's piece taken down, good luck with that. Meanwhile, if you want to play an intertubes game, head off to the Google cache for the piece, here, run your highlighter over it, and lo and behold, the blackness and the bog darkness lifts, the veil is torn aside, and the piece glows anew.

We liked the effect so well we took a screen snap of it ...

... while naturally being careful to avoid publishing any possibly defamatory remarks. Seeing as how some possums have exceptionally sensitive natures ...

Perhaps what's needed is Finkelstein's Giant News Media Council, to ensure that the entire blogosphere is regulated, and nothing disturbs the equanimity of the world of Murdoch?

Never mind, while we're hovering in the world of literary references, let's forget irony and head straight to satire:

SATIRE, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the vices and follies of the author's enemies were expounded with imperfect tenderness ...

Hail Satire! be thy praises ever sung
In the dead language of a mummy's tongue,
For thou thyself art dead, and damned as well—
Thy spirit (usefully employed) in Hell.
Had it been such as consecrates the Bible
Thou hadst not perished by the law of libel. (and the rest of Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary at Project Gutenberg here).

Meanwhile, without the merest hint of irony or satire, Anthony Cox, who passes himself off as a lawyer and secretary of The Climate Sceptics, presents at the very same site where blackness rules, a piece entitled Free speech: the right to say what we want you to say.

Oh hang on, he's gone black. It seems the whole damn site has gone black. How silly of the pond, to think it was anything other than the cardigan wearers having yet another technical meltdown.

Never mind, it's all a hoot, and so back to Cox. What an epic header, and the piece opens with:

To Censor: verb; to suppress free speech; to limit opinion; to Finkelstein news.

Well there's a jolly jape amongst chums, but what a pity he didn't add other definitions, like to Murdoch news, or to Andrew Bolt news, or perhaps to Fairfax news, or perhaps soon enough to Rinehart the news ...

Funnily enough, one of the objects of Cox's ire is the repressive - and now repressed - Robert Manne along with the reprehensible Finkelstein.

It seems Finkelstein is fundamentally anti-democratic and peddling repugnant ideas which are fundamentally flawed. Time for a defamation action surely ... at least if The Australian is a guide to how to conduct freedom for the press ...

By the time the pond got to this little Cox flourish, it was time to roll the jaffas down the aisle:

The debate about AGW demonstrates the continuum of truth in a democratic society: at one end there is the group or consensus truth and at the other, the individual truth. The mechanisms for establishing truth in a democracy are science, legal process and ultimately the democratic process.

Yes, yes, the pond has always believed in the individual truth that the earth is flat, and let no humbug scientist stand in the way of that individual truth ... or else I'll bring in the lawyers, and subject it all to the democratic process.

Last time the mechanic suggested a sure fire way to fix the car, the pond immediately called in the lawyers and subjected the repair to the democratic process. By golly the mechanic was ever so humble afterwards. The car still wasn't working, but there you go, the mechanic learned there are ways of establishing truth beyond the ken of engineers, who think that something that actually works is some kind of truth ...

In the same way you can establish that the moon is made of green cheese (below the level the astronauts sampled in a film studio in Area 51), that gravity is a delusion, and what's needed to establish truth in science is a damned good bit of jawboning and legal eagle argument.

And then Cox came to a killer climax:

Finkelstein's review, therefore, should be scrutinised from this vantage point: to the extent it compromises the individual rights based mechanisms of a democracy it should be rejected because by doing so all Finkelstein is promulgating is censorship.

What splendid waffle, and how incisively it tackles the science, and how splendidly The Australian shows the way in promulgating the fine art of censorship.

Finkelstein, pay attention and learn.

(Below: same as it ever was in the quest to Cox the science).


  1. Yet another good reason why the pond is compulsory daily reading. There's no point trying to keep the bastards honest, but ridiculing the ridiculous is the next best thing.

  2. Just tangentially, Oskar Werner was outstanding as Fiedler in The Spy Who Came In From the Cold...

  3. Some of Rupe the Snoops kneepad wearing hacks have the excuse that the have to make a living. If selling out the people of their country is what they have to do then they must or some other sniveling hack will take their place.
    Phillip Adams, a multimillionaire, chooses to work for the Dark Satan because he simply wants to. He is the token 'lefty' and trades on that to offer cover that there is diversity of views in that rag. What a low piece of work.


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