March 27, 2004


The Sydney Morning Herald’s Paul McGeough reports from Gaza City:

It's Wednesday night, and more daring than the military march-past is the presence in the front row of two marked men - Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the 56-year-old pediatrician who has stepped into Yassin's shoes as leader of Hamas in Gaza, and his deputy, Mahmoud Zahar, also a doctor.

He stepped into Yassin’s shoes? That’s more than Yassin himself ever managed. McGeough’s dependence on cliche is excessive, though not always so comical; in this one piece we’ve got crowds going wild, people melting away into the night, and spectators hanging from the rafters. Cannons are loose. Doubts are grave. Effects are knocked-on. Rich seams are mined, soul-searching sparked, reveries emerged from. Baghdad is eerily quiet; on tenterhooks, in fact.

Grief? There are outpourings of it. Futures, naturally, are bleak. A lull in proceedings is grist to McGeough’s mill. His appetite for this crap is insatiable. SMH columnist Mike Carlton loves it, however:

McGeough's gifts as a prose stylist are matched with peerless skills as a reporter.

You think so, Mike? The problem with cliches is that they’re so old hat.

UPDATE. Here’s a non-cliche that should catch on: fearbiter.

Posted by Tim Blair at March 27, 2004 03:00 PM

Oh, be nice to Paul McGeough, you wino. If I (or you) went through the sort of constant hell he deals with in the Middle East and beyond, I wouldn't even be able to type my name right. His stuff is some of the most readable & sane coming from that doomed region. (I love it when the Writers' Writers such as Hitchens, Steyn, etc., dive into the filth for an assignment, but I would bet they'd agree that year after year of endless Middle East / Central Asia on-location reporting would crush their spirits, not to mention their writerly imaginations.)

I don't know why *anyone* would risk their life again and again for a stupid, mostly unread newspaper -- yes, all newspapers are "mostly unread" -- but I appreciate those who still take the trouble.

(Tim, I forget -- and am too lazy / drunk to Google -- all of McGeough's near-death experiences on the job. You should list them for your readers; it's scary & impressive.)

PS - Where's yer damned car review from the Telegraph??? Where are the colour photos???

Posted by: Ken Layne at March 27, 2004 at 03:50 PM

A bloody funny send-up.
It called to mind the 'thought for the day' section in the February edition of Viz...

Have you ever wondered why ants always seem to be in a hurry? They are always busily going to and fro and never seem to achieve anything or pause for breath.
When I was younger I had an ant farm in my room. It was fun to make their tunnels collapse or put half the tank under water and to see the ants struggle for their lvies.
Finally, they were doing something productive, something that mattered: They were entertaining me.
Looking back on that now, I can't help but wonder if my actions were those of a sensible human being. Childhood memories are like looking into a whirlpool of emotions, aren't they? So many happy moments, tinged with sadness, wrapped in a cloak of mystery.
I love children, but not in the wrong way. So that's great. I'm Max Yancey. Do you know who you are?

Posted by: TimT at March 27, 2004 at 04:01 PM

But the cliches, Ken! The terrible, terrible cliches! McGeough is covering massive new events here -- nobody doubts his reporting skills -- but he's using Standard Dull Newspaper Language that just crushes the whole deal.

I will be engulfed by flames before I accept this. Death to SDNL, and the editors who enable it!

Posted by: tim at March 27, 2004 at 04:23 PM

going through hell in Gazza city? think of the chicks he is scoring and all that hashish! he has got it made.

Posted by: Bilal at March 27, 2004 at 05:01 PM

Sounds like the kind of thing that made Orwell mad as hell.

Posted by: Rob at March 27, 2004 at 05:27 PM

You best think twice about being engulfed by flames, Blair. My lovely wife is expecting a Sydney / Melbourne fun-filled trip with me, and she will not be pleased if our guide is a charred skeleton.

It is true that just about every journalist is guilty of the cliche crime, every day. However, it is worth forgiving such things when they come from an actual working reporter in a horrid land. (To commenter Bilal: On the list of fun-lovin' hot-babe loose-women party towns, Gaza City must rate a bit lower than, say, every other city with electricity on Earth.) I mean, Tim, the world is so rich in journalistic targets -- especially the highly paid op-ed writers who never go to the scene of the crime and spend their days writing these awful, pompous opinion columns lacking a shred of reporting, insight, humor or writing talent -- that it seems pointless to harass one of the few *working* reporters from your lazy-ass island just because his copy might not be poetic every day.

(Also, how much do you wager his actual copy is 10x more crisp than whatever the lard-ass bench editors come up with?)

Anyway, as McGeough is a nice guy who actually helped me with a story once, I will defend him to the death. (Tim gave me his cell phone number in the West Bank, and I was actually a fan of McGeough's stuff for a while before that.)

This pathetic sense of personal loyalty also explains why I still like Blair, even after he killed my favorite goldfish, Charlie Hornberger.

Posted by: Ken Layne at March 27, 2004 at 06:15 PM

Tim Blair: journalist, commentator, oppressor - and now we can chalk goldfish murderer amongst his list of crimes. Sounds like a fascinating story, Ken. Do tell!

Posted by: TimT at March 27, 2004 at 06:37 PM

I do not mind if those Gazza chicks wear that funny black bags on there heads, after all you do not look at the chimney whilst you are stocking the fire eh? ;)

Posted by: Bilal at March 27, 2004 at 06:40 PM

I'm sure you've seen how they dont shave/wax their mono-brows. So I doubt very much that legs, chimeneys, or fire places are any different.

Posted by: Dead Ed at March 27, 2004 at 06:54 PM

Flaubert had everybody afraid to say anything lest they say something in his dictionary of clichés. How appropriate that cliché comes to us from the French, by the way. It's literally part of a printing press, like the English stereotype.

If he starts referring to women as ``neat-ankled,'' or knees as ``quick,'' or the sea as ``unwearying,'' or cowards' livers as ``white,'' he's channeling Homer. Adjectives attach beings to their place in particularity, according to Anne Carson.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at March 27, 2004 at 10:27 PM

I agree. You should avoid cliches like the plague.

Posted by: Ernie G at March 27, 2004 at 11:15 PM

McGeough has bigger balls and more integrity than you Tim,in your put down everything that does not fit your narrow view of the world, could ever dream of.

Posted by: dunidid at March 27, 2004 at 11:57 PM

This McGeough character reminds me a lot of what I read in and similar places. Funny, I just got done fisking them this morning. Too tired to go post an update to include this.

Posted by: Dan at March 28, 2004 at 12:42 AM

Not to change the subject, but what is it with all these Arab murderers being doctors? What, were they researching the best way to fragment the human body?

I don't know who Paul McGeough is, so, surprise, he doesn't figure into my universe. Since I have enough clichés of my own, guess I'm lucky there.

Posted by: Rebecca at March 28, 2004 at 03:47 AM

I think it's nice that he's stepped into Yassin's shoes. That means the Israeli Hellfire that has his name on it can be aimed properly.

Posted by: Alex Bensky at March 28, 2004 at 05:26 AM

Your innuendo is spot on this time bloghead. The real highlight of McGeough's journalistic career was being Richard Court and John Howard's errand boy during the Easton affair.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at March 28, 2004 at 10:14 PM

You sound like you're agreeing with him through gritted teeth, Miranda.

Posted by: Alice at March 29, 2004 at 01:44 AM

"McGeough's gifts as a prose stylist are matched with peerless skills as a reporter."

Can we be sure this wasn't sarcasm?

Posted by: david at March 29, 2004 at 05:29 AM

I've been sampling the cask-strength Booker's. Somebody please work up a tie-in to the iron heel thread for me.

Posted by: triticale at March 29, 2004 at 06:56 AM

McGeough for the millionth time stop exagerating!!

Posted by: Dog at March 29, 2004 at 09:25 AM