Thursday, September 29, 2011

Marr And Pa

ANYONE who has read Dark Victory, David Marr’s co-authored expose of John Howard’s inhumanity, will have realised very early on that the man whom Silly editor Peter Fray urges his paper’s reporters to emulate has a tendency to, well, place an excessive weight on some facts while skating very lightly over others. At the start of his Tampa book, for example, the reader gets many sympathetic pages about the plight of the rescued Afghan refugees – many of whom, Marr concedes, were not Afghan at all – before any mention that “a delegation” representing the ship’s unplanned human cargo invaded the bridge and threatened its captain and crew with big trouble unless the vessel was put about immediately for Christmas Island. By any definition it was a hijacking, but Marr leaps with sprightly grace over this inconvenient reflection on his heroic victims’ disregard for law, preferring to paint Howard & Co in subsequent pages as villains for refusing to reward with entry permits those who forced with threat and intimidation that change of course. While this is all ancient history, the Marr syle is well worth keeping in mind when reading his approving analysis of the damage Judge Mordy has done to free speech in the matter of Andrew Bolt.

Here's Bolt on Larissa Behrendt: "She's won many positions and honours as an Aborigine, including the David Unaipon Award for Indigenous Writers, and is often interviewed demanding special rights for 'my people'. But which people are 'yours', exactly, mein liebchen? And isn't it bizarre to demand laws to give you more rights as a white Aborigine than your own white dad?"
Among the problems here are that Behrendt's father was a black Australian, not a white German. And like all the others, Behrendt was raised black. Judge Bromberg wrote: "She denies Mr Bolt's suggestion that she chose to be Aboriginal and says that she never had a choice, she has always been Aboriginal and has 'identified as Aboriginal since before I can remember'." Bolt didn't contest her evidence.
There is no denying Bolt did get it wrong. Behrendt’s father, by his daughter’s account, came to regard himself as an Aborigine. Chalk one up for David Marr, who curiously neglects to set the record straight. Had he done so, Bolt’s error would not only have struck Silly readers as negligible, the truth would also have bolstered  Bolt’s overall argument that an individual who chooses a single, minor strand of genetic pedrigee above all the rest is making a statement not on breeding but of politics and cultural preference.

The truth is that it was Behrendt’s grandfather who was white and German. It was her grandmother who was of mixed race. Both are an equal number of generations removed from the woman who famously tweeted that she preferred bestiality to Bess Price, so while Bolt is wrong in the particular, his overall point stands.

There is another thing about those paragraphs that is worth noting, the line where Marr says Larissa “was raised black.” Her version, as told to Marr’s colleague Malcolm Knox, does nothing to explain what “raised black” actually means. Indeed,  for those not quite so exquisitely attuned to the mores of racial identity and self-identity, it is a bafflement:
It was, ironically, [her white mother] Raema who instilled a sense of Aboriginal identity in Larissa and her brother. ''When Jason got picked on because of his colour, Dad had said … 'My son is as white as you are.' It was Mum who allowed us never to feel embarrassed about our Aboriginality. She has a great heart and social conscience. But it came at a cost to her, because she couldn't feel part of it herself. So she dropped us off at rallies and stayed outside.''
How odd that Marr did not share these facts with his readers, did not plumb the Silly’s archives for a little context and background. Perhaps he was distracted at his keyboard by the sound of champagne corks popping or, just as likely, more sweet nothings from the lips of a doting editor.


  1. Upside - all those jewhating asshats protesting outside that chocolate joint and Westfields will now have to think twice. Their error ridden rants and intemperate language will, by Justice Blomberg's analysis, definitely breach 18C and the defence in 18D will not be available to them.

    Seriously, News Ltd has to appeal, don't they? Otherwise what the f- will happen to any kind of discourse in Oz about multiculti matters?

  2. Actually, Behrendt's telling of her background betrays a reliance upon race, rather than cultural identity. She was clearly not 'raised black' in the sense that she was raised in Aboriginal culture, possessing the cultural knowledge of her people. Was she raised speaking the language? Does she possess knowledge of appropriate ritual except by subsequent learning? This reads like her mother knew she had Aboriginal blood and encouraged her to be proud of that, rather than be ashamed Good on her mum! But that means she was raised knowing she had 'black blood'. It does not mean that she possesses the appropriate cultural knowledge and can be considered to possess Aboriginal cultural identity — which is supposed to be the test.

    The urban Aborigines who do so well out of the various affirmative action programs share very little with those in the bush who need something better than sit-down money.

  3. Perhaps we need to put Marr in the Star Chamber next to explain just why he believes Aboriginal people must be 'black' (sic). I'd like to see his reaction while put on trial.

  4. Bruce

    I stick Marr in a star chamber and leave him in there locked up.


    Looks like I've blown your cover, Prof!

  6. again you can celebrate anything other than a nondescript normality

    What happened to international year of the normal person; where normality is charitable and kind, accommodating, hospitable, sharing, caring, forbearing, long suffering, tolerant, honest, decent and right.

    "Fanfare for the common man" belongs to another generation. Ascribing nobility of sentiment and honour in humility to masses of faithful families who have to be the backbone of any nation and do no more remarkable a thing than love life and care.

    All the kings men, tomb of the unknown soldier, and greater love than this hath no man...

    Inarticulate as he might be Andrew Bolt was right, just couldn't state the case as to why - bending over backward to be accommodating one meets a breaking point.

    It is the love of God that gives man a unique nobility distinct in cellular life; these words themselves are a double entendre - the vertical relationship sorts out all the others.

    secular sermons on morality outnumber the overtly Christian ones in all media by probably about a thousand to one.

    But they miss it, a flag flies for a cause that is true and singularly right or it doesn't


    [Karl Popper wrote on the logical limits of tolerating the intolerant, being the destruction of toleration - truth be mutually exclusive to the alternatives - always has been]

  7. Back in 2002 the Daily Terrorgraph ran a beat up front page story on the dangers of handguns for sale over the internet and claimed they had ordered a Glock over the net from a dealer in the USA that I knew online.
    The poor bugger that they defamed (a US federally licensed firearms dealer)had to spend the better part of a day and a half informing various would be 'buyers' from addresses that he would only ship to licensed dealers in the USA, the terms and conditions were on his website, so please rack off and let him sleep.
    I thought this was prime meat for David Marr's Media Watch, so I emailed him with a list of the facts and contact details for the dealer, who was happy to be interviewed.
    Marr declined, instead the story Media Watch ran with that week was about a typo in a local rag from the Illawarra. There was much snearing.

    I quickly realised that Marr is not interested in the truth, only in forwarding narratives harmful to those he despises.
    In this case American freedoms were more despised than the Murdoch Press that he was & is usually willing to attack, so the story was suppressed. Typos are much more important.

    He's no journalist, but he's certainly an Australian useful idiot of the JournoList persuasion.

  8. Having slept on it Prof I can add a line or two. With so many ordinary people self identifying in heroic roles, they failed to see humility is an Everest to climb and Pride is a dragon to slay and normality places them as the objects of God's desire in a creation inexplicable for complexity and aesthetic form - "wonderfully made"

    when people were simply technically illiterate a Empire could be built and an industrial revolution had, with peace exported as the bonus; with biblical illiteracy we struggle to run a youth detention centre in a single suburb.

    Economics, history, science, politics and law - it all pivots around a bible - or it does something else.


  9. Hey, I am sure my great great grandma was an Aboriginal. My mother never said so but I always managed to get a good tan in summer. I KNEW I was different. Can I get a handout, cheap home loan and some special treatment too? Please?

  10. At least the odd false memory syndromist repents-