Tuesday, 28 September 2010

There's a scene in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1966) which is memorable because truly realised, unlike much of the book (a book that has come in for a lot of flak in recent times for not being as "true" as its dust jacket and title page promised). It features a posse of street-wise cats that prowls the pavement in downtown Holcomb, sashaying up to still-warm automobiles parked at the curb, and picking pieces of dead fauna out of the front grilles. It's a convenient snack for hungry felines.

I thought of this scene in the wake of the Grogs Gamut scandal that is currently animating the twitterverse and, going by the belated exposure the case got last night on the ABC's always-excellent Q and A, the commentariat and society generally. The decision by The Australian's James Massola to 'out' Grogs Gamut as Canberra arts bureaucrat Greg Jericho has been picked at like one of Capote's dead birds. First it was Jericho's turn to be splattered across the front-end of The Australian's roaring news vehicle. Then, in retaliation, tweeps from across the country bore down on Massola en masse. Now we're busy picking the pieces off the fender in an effort to understand just why a journalist from the mainstream media took the fatal step that he decided - or his senior editors decided - to take.

In any case, Massola has decided to "wear" the flak. It's the only honest thing to do. It's also typical of News Ltd to dig in and weather the storm, as it is for most people operating routinely in the public sphere.

The arguments for and against the outing are multiple. For me, the most compelling reason for it was Jericho's apparent partisanship. In a lengthy apologia (it's also been put up in PDF) published at midnight yesterday (today?), Massola admits that the fact that Grogs Gamut's tweets seemed to place his true persona firmly on the Left of Australia's ideological divide, contributed to a decision to take him out. Massola also admitted that The Australian took exception to this perception of bias. It's long been the opinion of numerous people on Twitter that the newspaper leans to the Right, and this most recent piece of evidence simply reinforces the contention.

The forces on that side of the divide have been busy, too. Herald Sun political journalist Ben Packham grumbled yesterday about a fact most tweeps understand: their own inherent bias in the opposite direction. And because I thought it glib for News Ltd to complain about Jericho's anonymity I told Packham (yesterday at 8.45am, to do myself justice) in a tweet:
So SA govt was right to ask blog commenters to reveal their identity? Seem to recall AdelaideNow was against that premise.
The argument was backed up during Q and A last night when Senator Conroy brought it up on air. The defense of transparency is simply a ruse to deflect attention away from where the real impetus arose: in News Ltd's ferocious and implacable partisanship. The last straw was the ABC's CEO Mark Scott listening to Jericho seriously, and moving to adjust the public broadcaster's coverage of the recent election to better serve its viewers, readers and listeners. But that discussion will have to take place somewhere else, preferably among people with the skills needed to accurately 'unpack' the kind of writings that make so many people on Twitter cringe.

For me, at the moment, I need to find my nail file. There are pieces of rotting flesh sticking out from under my fingernails.

1 comment:

Craig Thomler said...

For a list of articles and posts on #Groggate see -