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Thursday, November 21, 2002

Margo Kingston in Carr Wreck

Tim Blair's nemesis Margo Kingston seems to have gotten embroiled in a little contretemps with the premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr. Seems he called her "a joke" and "a parody of a journalist". (I remind you that the premier is equivalent to the governor of a state.)

Man! Don't you think Ari Fleischer dreams about this? Do you suppose his new bride will find herself kicked awake when Ari is in the throes of some pleasant dream?:

Ari: mumble *snarrrrl!*
Mrs. F: What the...? Ari? Ari!
Ari: ...pathetic excuse...mumble...pitiful washed-up...
Mrs. F: Honey! Honey, wake up! Ari?
Mrs. F: Ari!!
Ari: *snkkkkk* What? What? Oh, oh, honey! Oh, not you!
Mrs. F: sob!
Ari: No, no, honey. I'm sorry! I thought you were Helen Thomas.

Margo conveniently bares all (maybe) on her own SMH pages. Here's part of her George and Gracie routine with Carr at a press conference:

Bob: Margo, can I just remind you that you're responsible for writing in the Sydney Morning Herald that Australian tourists in Bali provoked that attack. I think that was a disgraceful comment by you in your piece in the Herald when you wrote that Australian tourists by their demeanour in Bali provoked that attack.

Margo: I did not say that.

Bob: Well, we'll give you the quote. You wrote that. I'm paraphrasing, but you wrote that.

Margo: I did not write that.

Bob: I will deliver you that quote


Bob: Margo, let me supply you with the quote that you wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald ...

Margo: Fine ...

Bob: ...which is an insult to the Bali dead.

Margo: Could you, could you answer my question please?

Bob: An insult to the Bali dead.

Margo: If you are prepared to ban sponsorships to politicians are you prepared to ban donations to developers?

Bob: To blame the Bali dead -

Margo: Sure give me the quote, OK -

Bob: To blame the Bali dead -

Margo: I did not do that.

Bob: - is a disgrace -

Margo: You're lying.

Bob: - and you are a parody of a journalist.

Margo: You're lying.

Bob: You are a parody of a journalist.

Margo: Thanks for your accountability.

Carr: You're a joke.

Wow. Come to think of it, I'm sure many journalists would love to have this sort of kindergarten argument with Fleischer, or just about anyone else.

Rumsfeld: ...and this is where Saddam is hiding his anthrax facilities...
Journalist: You're lying, you lying liar!
Rumsfeld: Victoria, have that man shot.

How much more entertaining American public life would be if we did this sort of thing. The government could charge hefty advertising fees and be entirely supported on the revenues.

Now, Margo might ask just why the premier hates her so, what had she done, etc; but she just figures it's 'cause he's lying. Actually, this is the quote Carr was referring to:

Beautiful Bali is finished for us. We won't want to go where we're not welcome.

I know little about Bali, and whether we've respected and nurtured the place we love to visit or colonised it with our wants. A friend in Byron Bay said Australians had taken Bali over, business wise, and that acquaintances with businesses in Bali were considering coming home before this horror. They sensed resentment, and felt a growing unease.

Maybe part of it is the lack of services for locals. A completely inadequate hospital, for instance, so graphically exposed in the aftermath of the horror. Some people - foreigners like us, elite big-city Indonesians - make their fortunes. Have residents lost their place, their power to define it? Did the big money fail to give enough back to the people who belong there, whose home it is? Have Muslim extremists destroyed the vibe of Hindu Bali to force us out?

To be scrupulously fair, Margo is not blaming the Bali dead for their own deaths. She's merely wondering aloud about it.

Sean Richardson, a Margo supporter and frequent contributor to her Web Diary, takes Tim Blair to task for not getting that questions of motive (for the bombings) are perfectly valid.

But it isn't the questions Margo asks that are the problem, so much; it's the ones she doesn't. She does not ask:

Could this be the work of extremists angry at Australia for supporting East Timorese independence?
Could it be Islamists enraged at the presence of infidels on their shores?
If either, should we care?
Could it possibly not have anything to do with Australians at all?
Could it be some local turf war?

Now I admit that in the first days of shock and grief, she might not have the heart to write such ruminations, and her readers not have the heart to read them. But she does manage to throw in that one batch of speculation, one which immediately casts blame on Australian visitors (including, presumably, the dead) for being insufficiently "nurturing".

Aussie blogger Ken Parish says he cannot understand "the almost universal right wing blogger loathing of Margo". (He's giving Margo too much credit for fame.) Not being a right-winger, maybe I can help out.

Margo is a horrible, horrible writer. Generally Margo's columns evoke the vision of a half-crazed woman gnawing at a well-manicured thumb. She postures, frets, wails, flails, and gibbers. She substitutes emotion---messy, sloppy, overwrought emotion---for rational thought. She chews up the literary scenery, spits it out, and forms the result into fantastic fairy castles that bear little resemblance to reality.

Another Margo mode shows the same woman sedated, in a corner, earnestly sucking her thumb. The Bali column is one of the latter. Here she is in her terminally earnest glory, sucking on the concept of "services". SMH writers seem to make a fetish of "services"; I forget who it was, but one of them seemed to think that not a thing had been done for the Afghans if they did not have "services". I envision Australian NGOs marching into the wastes of Afghanistan, offering job placement and day care and free tax lodgement advice.

Margo, concentrating on the chewy goodness of her thumb, doesn't seem to wonder whether the majority of Balinese agreed with the (entirely imaginary, at this point) motives---or the tactics---of the bombers. No, she goes straight for the flagellation of her countrymen.

Anyone who wants to follow the sordid story can follow these links:

October 15 Speculations about the Bali bombing, the causes and what it will mean. Margo proclaims Web Diary a culture-war free zone and then publishes letters prosecuting the culture war.

(I should point out here that most of the comment on Web Diary is from people who write in to Margo, and so she should not be held entirely responsible for their opinions.)

November 19 Margo's fax to the premier (near the bottom).

November 20 One of Margo's fans decides that it was really someone else Carr meant.

Also November 20 Proud Robert Fisk acolyte Jack Robertson [SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM] discovers a Mark Steyn column which quotes Margo's very words (above) on the Bali bombing. Margo claims that reading her words in context will vindicate her. Read her October 14 column (same link as above the quoted section) and decide. I think it just demonstrates Margo's tendency to ramble.

November 21. What Margo promises is the last of reader reactions to "the Carr thingo".

There's a video, which I am unable to watch, linked to Web Diary's index page (see there on the right). It's possible that this puts Margo in a better light.

There's much, much more, but I'm tired of Margo. I'm tired of those who practice substitute emotionalism for reasoned argument, especially those who get paid to publish their rickety opinions in large newspapers despite being poor writers and even poorer thinkers.

(Whole soap opera via Tim Blair, of course, especially here, here, and here.)

UPDATE 11/30/02: Jack Robertson writes to tell me that it was not he who was the "proud Robert Fisk acolyte", but Margo. He's right; the sentiments I thought I remembered him expressing are Margo's instead. See this post for details. Apologies to everyone who was misled, and many apologies and thanks to Jack for the correction.