24 June 2005

She so crazy

by Matt Rubinstein at 7:14 am

So of course journalists are allowed to change their minds like everybody else, and when someone has to write two columns a week for all eternity it’s never going to be that hard to track down inconsistencies. But have a read of our old favourite Miranda Devine in Sunday’s Sun-Herald. This is of course about Schapelle Corby:

The Australian public has seen what Corby’s defence team saw long ago: a transcendent grace that makes her guilt implausible. Her strength of character, not to mention the careful styling and stunning good looks, improved in recent months by jail-time weight loss, have bolstered her claim she is innocent and that corrupt baggage handlers planted the drugs in her boogie board bag.

There are enough stupid things in this paragraph to keep us occupied all day. But let us move swiftly on to Devine again in today’s Herald:

There is no point people asserting Schapelle Corby’s innocence because they “feel it in my heart” or “looked into her eyes”. Such silliness just adds to the near-mystical hysteria which plagues the case of the 27-year-old Gold Coast student beautician convicted last week of smuggling 4.1 kilograms of marijuana into Bali.

Of course the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sun-Herald are technically different newspapers, and may speak to marginally divergent audiences, but this is the same writer on the same issue three days later. Yes, it’s silly to rely on Corby’s eyes to gauge her innocence—you should at least look at her waistline. Slimmed down a bit in jail? How could that not bolster her claims of innocence? And yet the panel of judges made no reference to her weight loss, her careful styling or her stunning good looks in their verdict. I’d get onto that right away if I were Tom Percy QC.

Bear in mind though that this translation is provided by Channel Nine, whose real-time interpreter during Friday’s ghastly “live verdict” special wasn’t quite up to the job, and kept blaming the judge’s excitement and the noise of the courtroom for what seemed much more like a want of fluency in the language. As a result Seven managed to report Corby’s sentence a couple of minutes earlier than its arch-rival, as gleefully recounted by Media Watch this week. The increasingly delightful Liz Jackson also gave us this hilarious exchange between John Laws and Ron Bakir, in which Crazy Ron refused to participate in Laws’s fiction that he never calls people on his show; people call him:

Laws: Hello? Hello?

Bakir: Yes John.

Laws: Yeah. Who’s that?

Bakir: Sorry, you’ve called me.

Laws: I’ve called you? Well who have I called?

Bakir: Who have you called? Well if you don’t know who you’ve called maybe try me another time. Thank you.

Laws: [laughs]

Bakir: All the best [hangs up].

Laws: And to you. What a weird person… If it was who I think it was, I think it might have been that Ron Bakir. The fellow who’s promoting Schapelle…

Hee! Anyway, we were talking about Miranda Devine. It’s obvious that the Herald keeps her—and also Gerard Henderson, though he writes less engagingly—on staff for the single purpose of giving its generally-left-leaning readership something to get outraged about. One of the least attractive things about us is how much we love to be outraged. We love our indignation; we love to write letters; we’ll blog our brains out all day. So it’s an entirely cynical move by the people at Fairfax, but I suppose they have to sell papers.

What’s more disappointing is that Devine has so wholeheartedly accepted her role as patsy—as piñata for our liberal outrage. There are many cogent and defensible arguments available to conservatives, and there are plenty of conservative commentators who try to persuade hostile audiences, who actually make you think instead of just blathering loopily on. But not in the Herald, at least among its stable of regular columnists. Because Devine is a stylistically decent writer I can’t believe she’s entirely stupid, but she argues like the stupid person she’s apparently paid to argue like. Surely she could do better. The conservative ideal certainly deserves better representation—it probably gets it in The Australian, despite that paper’s many excesses—and we cosy liberals deserve a more rigorous testing of our cosy liberal views.

For a long time in Newtown there was a building enlivened by the brilliant graffiti “AKERMAN—DEVINE—DISGRACE TO JOURNALISM&#8221. I’m sure the media-savvy tagger was venting his outrage at Devine père rather than fille, but it still makes me smile whenever I think about it.

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