March 02, 2004


What kind of crazy game is Media Watch playing now? The program’s analysis of the deeply Gilliganish Mark Forbes-Frank Lewincamp dispute is mystifying.

Host David Marr first rebukes The Age for lying -- “Fudging is OK to protect the identity of a source. Lying is not. The paper lied” -- before plunging into a long defence of the paper’s right to publish what Forbes had allegedly learned, given that Lewincamp’s comments had been made under the Chatham House rule:

Mark Forbes clearly pushed the Chatham House rule to the limit, but he didn't break it.

Media Watch completely ignores an additional requirement apparently demanded of Forbes and other students attending Lewincamp’s seminar. As Lewincamp told a Senate hearing:

There was a further injunction given clearly to the students, including Mr Forbes, both before and after my presentation that there be no attribution, citing or disclosure of any information in the speech.

Which tends to make any chatter about the Chatham House rule kind of irrelevant. What part of “no attribution, citing or disclosure of any information” doesn’t Media Watch understand? In any case, Marr believes the bigger story has been missed:

Lewincamp's denial and the ethical controversy clouded what remained a good and important story. More attention should have been paid by the media to what Lewincamp had not denied.

Among Lewincamp’s non-denials, according to Marr, was his failure to backtrack publicly from this verdict:

Asked if the magnitude of the Iraqi threat justified its invasion, the official said: ‘No.’

No public backtracking, eh? The official -- Lewincamp -- later told the Senate hearing:

I have never said the Bush Administration's claims justifying an invasion were exaggerated.

Sounds plenty backtrackish to me -- even if it doesn’t precisely address the quote at issue (Lewincamp didn’t specifically rebut any quote attributed to him by Forbes). Media Watch has a whole week to assemble its weeny 15-minute show; one can only assume that evidence-dodging of this type is deliberate, rather than the result of blunderfingered dumbness.

(For more on the Forbes debacle, please visit Professor Bunyip and Bernie Slattery)

Posted by Tim Blair at March 2, 2004 03:06 AM

I presume it was Marr's attempt at being even handed. He still can mange to trip over the line, in view of Marr's pat instead of a punch to the Jaw of Forbes and Mao's little red organ: was wrong on some things but there was still a good story in it which still had to be published is Marr's shoolgirl, fact free effort.
As you say Tim, M.W. has all week to produce 15 minutes worth.How difficult can it be to pull 15 minutes of t.v. on content already supplied.Only to end up with 15 minutes of pouting and bilge.ABC alone supplies an hour's worth of matter to be torn to shreds, effortlessly.

Posted by: d at March 2, 2004 at 08:04 AM

Notice the sameness between David Marr's effort lastnight and the drivel put out by Moa's bottom wiper as quoted by Slatts. The affair becomes funnier by the day: the now fast developing saga of The Age's efforts to explain away it's own Gilliganism and aped by David Marr. I say, I can't wait for the next instalment.

Posted by: d at March 2, 2004 at 11:46 AM

Seriously guys why do you continue to give Marr and MW the reflected credibility of your concern and interest in what they do? Fact is that they are a bunch of left wing biased apologists working for Australia's largest sheltered workshop. The saddest thing of all is that they are funded compulsorarily by our tax dollars.

I don't want an "independent" or an unbiased ABC. I want to see the ABC disaggregated and sold (in that order). It is an inherently biased, horribly conflicted and monopolistic throwback to a long gone era. Media watch is its Ministry of Truth!

Posted by: Driver at March 2, 2004 at 11:18 PM