THERE was a time, not so long ago, when Saturday mornings began with a peculiar excitement, the sort a hunter knows upon spying the fresh spoor and easily followed tracks of a favourite quarry. At the Billabong that was Phillip Adams, whose columns in The Australian so often led straight to bits and pieces lifted without acknowledgement from the New Yorker or The New York Review of Books. Along the way, of course, there were his many errors of fact and, and just to confirm the trail was indeed the Philcher’s, those weekly distillations of standard-issue luvvie prejudice, like his observation just days after 9/11 that the U.S. is a thoroughly worthless place and richly deserves whatever ills befall it. Toss in those oft-repeated anecdotes of life at Kew Primary and all the bitter memories of his clergyman stepfather (who must have had a lot to put up with) and he framed himself in the crosshairs week after monotonous week.
Hunting the Philcher was fun at the time, but the appeal eventually faded, there being little challenge to a target so compelled to place itself in the crosshairs. And anyway, what did it matter? Regardless of his specific sins, the New Establishment would never, ever move against one of its own, hence the pulpit and prominence Radio National continues to provide its leading plagiarist, bigot and blowhard.
This morning, though, it was like old times when the Australian’s magazine fell open at Adams’ latest dribble:
“…only a fool would fail to see the links between the Tea Party movement and – no, not the Bostonian Tea Party, but the U.S. Civil War. Many Americans seem rather unhappy to have a Negro in the White House.”
The nostrum that many Americans dislike their President for his melanin content, rather than an arrogant and spendthrift incompetence, sits so comfortably with Adams and those who support his ego and bank account, it was inevitable the columnist would sooner or later draw that particular bow, which is a long one indeed.
If Adams genuinely believes it is racism, and racism alone, that has driven down Obama’s popularity to levels only our own PM and Moammar Gaddafi have been known to exceed, perhaps he can explain why the current Tea Party favourite is Herman Cain, who is both a good deal darker and considerably more accomplished than the testament to the folly of affirmative action which now occupies the Oval Office.
He won’t, of course. Next week -- same page, same colour magazine – Adams will have mustered another mob of clichés and errors, herded them into print and departed with one more ill-deserved cheque in his grubby little trotter.
Perhaps Rupert Murdoch, who is not quite so sharp these days, and his Australian executives, who have lost the stomach for a fight, think that keeping Adams on the payroll works to News Limited’s advantage. It may be that they see Adams’ chronic name-dropping as proof his Rolodex is still worth plumbing – a belief that would be true only if there were favours to be curried from the ghosts of the Whitlam-era has-beens who haunt those endless trips down memory lane. Good luck with that, John Hartigan, if you think Barry Jones and Moss Cass can deflect the media inquiry ordered by co-PM Bob Brown.
It has been quite a while at the Billabong since Adams’ work was given thorough scrutiny, but it is evident that somebody has to do it. So here is a warning, Phillip, you are back under the microscope. Nothing personal, mind you, but with a Coalition government waiting in the wings it will be handy to have a ready dossier on Radio National’s star gabbler to inform whatever committee or investigation Tony Abbott orders to report on much-needed reforms at the ABC.
That way, finally, Adams might serve a useful and original purpose.