Thursday, November 06, 2003

Janet Albrechtsen – if this was “media pack rape”, I’m now joining the queue

Columnist Albrechtsen has so far escaped mention in these pages, mainly by benefit of her predictable, plodding mediocrity. She has long been a one-issue wonder; presiding over an “issue” (judicial activism) which can and has been efficiently disposed of by a capable law student, and yet which refuses to entirely die because of the mileage and mischief the Right get out of ritually flogging its carcass.

When she briefly got off her hobby-horse last year, to wade into the Sydney gang rape debate last year, Albrechtsen was caught out of her depth, and shown up as a Hansonite shit-stirrer. After which she returned dutifully – and one presumes, slightly chastened – to her judicial activism box, and that seemed to be the end of that story. Even yesterday, she was busy pinning the “Naughty Activist Lawyer” tag on Professor Hilary Charlesworth; one of my law school lecturers in the 80s. Professor Charlesworth was (and I assume, still is) a pillar of legal establishment rectitude, and as such, is far from a friend or ally of mine. That Albrechtsen attacks her so casually shows up Albrechtsen’s (and her backers’) campaign for what it is – a witch-hunt in which the cry can be levelled against almost anyone, with the only guaranteed prophylactic against suspicion being to join in the cry itself.

That was yesterday; today Albrechtsen is the passive centrepiece of another story, with Oz editor Michael Stutchbury coming out swingeing, in a bizarre and belated defence of Albrechtsen’s gang rape opinions from 2002. “Bizarre” because Stutchbury’s ratio decidendi depends on accepting Paul Sheehan’s gloss that two Danish academics “appear [not] to dispute” the equation {Immigrants=Muslims}, at least when referring to gang rapes in Denmark. While the belatedness of Stutchbury’s defence has an obvious cause – his article relies heavily on a chapter of a book by Paul Sheehan which has just been published – such a trigger also raises a host of other, meatier questions. If Stutchbury – Albrechtsen’s editor – felt that his columnist was being so unfairly vilified, why did he wait for a year after the last anti-Albrechtsen shot was fired, before weighing in? And why did Stutchbury feel it necessary to lend his name and title to a superficial paraphrase of Sheehan’s book chapter? (an exercise any journo could do, and which was presumably only necessary because Sheehan, or his Fairfax employers, would not give the Oz permission to run it as a straight extract).

Finally, there is the matter of the composition of the “pack” which supposedly so callously went in on Albrechtsen. The complete pack comprises:

- David Marr and other “Media watch” staff

- A Fairfax columnist (Robert Manne)

- Alan Kennedy, “federal president of the Australian Journalists' Association”

- A Federal shadow-minister, Mark Latham

- A current affairs website, Crikey

- Amir Butler, of the Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee

Some “pack”, eh? Mark Latham is a complete tool and cynical loudmouth; while Robert Manne’s flaw is that he’s had a decency overdose ever since the mid 90s. Whoever Alan Kennedy may be, the union he is supposedly president of has not existed under that name for years. “Media Watch” does what it did to Albrechtsen to dozens of other (usually deserving) journos each year. The “Crikey” website is not averse to the odd muck-rake – a fact which seems to have passed Stutchbury’s attention. And the Amir Butler/Muslim-conspiracy-theory thing is old news – amply raked over in Australian blogworld at the time. Perhaps Stutchbury hasn’t heard of Google, either.

All in all, I suggest that a few weeks of media “pack rape” by the above lot is vastly preferable to consensual (one assumes) media-sex with the likes of Michael Stutchbury and Paul Sheehan. Apart from taking more than a year to simultaneously shoot their wads, one gets the distinct impression that they were really fantasising about someone, or something else when the time finally came to let it go.

Judicial activism Update 20 November 2003

Justice Michael Kirby terms Albrechtsen and her ilk "bully boys" in a recent speech.

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