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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Westbrook Pegler and The Loaded Typewriter

When legendary American journalist Westbrook Pegler died, in Tucson, Arizona, on June 24, 1969, aged 74, newspapers across the country ran the story on page one and paid Pegler the ultimate tributes. One paper headlined its story “Acid-pen columnist dies”, another said Pegler was “Irascible, free-swinging”. Lauding him as “Pegler of the Thorny Prose”, The Cincinnati Enquirer said he “used his typewriter as other men have used a broadsword or a meat-axe”. He had been “the master of the vituperative epithet”, “a 50-year journeyman in the practice of invective”. For a typewriter-wielding newspaperman, it just didn’t get much better than that.
To be “hit by Pegler’s typewriter”, in defence of his perception of American values and the American way of life, was to be “Peglerised”, and that meant being condemned to eternal damnation. Fellow columnist Bob Considine wrote that Pegler’s typewriter “couldn’t write gray”, and that Pegler was both the most beloved and hated columnist in American “at one and the same time”.
         A Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent (the youngest in World War I) and sports writer, Pegler was both fearless and peerless. He had labelled Franklin D. Roosevelt a “feeble-minded fuehrer” and “Moosejaw”, Harry S. Truman a “hick” and a “thin-lipped hater”, J. Edgar Hoover a “nightclub fly-cop”, and Vice-President Henry A. Wallace “Bubblehead” and a “messianic fumbler”. Roosevelt asked Hoover to investigate Pegler, but the FBI found no evidence of sedition. Many other political and union leaders “came out of Pegler’s typewriter no less scathed”. One can only imagine what he would have made of Donald Trump. He might well have liked him.
         Pegler’s column “Fair Enough”, which started in the New York World-Telegram in 1933, was syndicated by United Features of the Scripps-Howard organisation and later Hearst’s King Features to 186 newspapers until 1962. He was the first columnist to win a Pulitzer for reporting. His career had started as a 16-year-old in Chicago (where his father was himself a legendary journalist), covering the 1912 Republican National Convention.
         At the height of his typewriting powers, in October 1938, Time said, “ … Pegler's place as the great dissenter for the common man is unchallenged. Six days a week, for an estimated $65,000 a year, in 116 papers reaching nearly 6,000,000 readers, Mister Pegler is invariably irritated, inexhaustibly scornful. Unhampered by coordinated convictions of his own, Pegler applies himself to presidents and peanut vendors with equal zeal and skill. Dissension is his philosophy.”
        Here is a piece Pegler wrote from the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria:
Paul Gallico

Wednesday, 19 October 2016


Often on fine days like this her father and I take my one-year-old granddaughter for a stroll from the swings and playthings at Weston Park down past where the mobs of kangaroos graze on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin and on to Kurrajong Point.
Whenever we do, we are reminded of Australia’s Day of National Shame – and today, October 19, 2016, is the 15th anniversary of the killing of 353 refugees, 146 of whom were little children. It’s on our walk that we pass the SIEV X Memorial. We always stop to pause and think about the fragility of young human life, and the shameful senselessness of these 353 deaths. My granddaughter Ely is all the more precious to me at these times, surrounded as she is by the only known recognition of the deaths of "unknown" girls and boys or her age. The memorial is rightly described as “Canberra's most memorable and affecting sight” – and this in a city which houses the Australian War Memorial. Here are a few of my photos of the memorial – the smaller poles represent the children whose blood is on the hands of all Australians. 
On the 10th anniversary, in 2011, Melbourne’s Marg Hutton wrote on the ABC’s The Drum, “it is deeply troubling to see both major political parties using the tragedy as justification for ramping up Australia's harsh and punitive treatment of boat people … To use SIEV X as a warning or a threat in this way is particularly odious, given the suspicions of Australian culpability in the sinking that have never been fully investigated.” On the 13th anniversary, two years ago, Phillip Adams wrote in The Australian, “The day we learnt of SIEV X's sinking I thought the disaster would break our hearts and change our ruthless policies towards asylum seekers. Instead it hardened them … We were complicit in those deaths, yet we did not hang our heads in shame. Instead we voted for even tougher policies.” “SIEV X was a tragedy … It was, and remains, a tragedy for this nation, too, reminding us that the White Australia policy lives on.”
This 15th anniversary falls on a day when our national broadcaster, the ABC, has been forced to defend itself over Monday night’s Four Corners TV program, in which it exposed the conditions faced by 128 children living on Nauru under Australia's immigration policy. Not so long ago, John Howard, who shamelessly held on to office as Prime Minister by using the SIEV X incident to his advantage, presented a two-part series on the Menzies Years and brazenly glossed over the SIEV X deaths. Be assured that all politicians involved in the SIEV X deaths, no matter what persuasion, will rot in hell for this. And hopefully that rotting process will start very soon. Unlike the SIEV X victims, they will not be mourned.
SIEV X stands for Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel X. It was an Indonesian fishing boat en route from Sumatra to Christmas Island carrying 421 asylum seekers. It sank in international waters 70km south of Java on October 19, 2001, at the height of the Federal election campaign. The 19.5m by 4m boat had departed Bandar Lampung the day before. It sank during a storm inside a temporary Australian border protection surveillance area around the Australian external territory of Christmas Island, and 146 children, 142 women and 65 men died.
In February 2002, an Australian Senate Select Committee found that " ... it [is] extraordinary that a major human disaster could occur in the vicinity of a theatre of intensive Australian operations and remain undetected until three days after the event, without any concern being raised within intelligence and decision making circles." The committee was surprised there had been no internal investigations into any systemic problems which could have allowed the Australian Government to prevent it from occurring.
In 2003, Steve Biddulph and the Uniting Church in Australia worked to build a suitable memorial for victims and in September 2006 a “temporary” memorial was erected at Weston Park. Designed by Mitchell Donaldson of Queensland's Hillbrook Anglican School, it consists of 353 white poles, all decorated by schools, churches and community groups across Australia. Typically, the Howard Government tried to stop the memorial being constructed, but the now permanent memorial, involving the work of more than 1000 student and community artists, was dedicated in October 2007. 
For more horrific details of Australia’s Day of National Shame, please Google “SIEV X”.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Scoop: Clare Hollingworth Turns 105

Clare Hollingworth, the British journalist who scooped the world with news of the outbreak of World War II, celebrated her 105th birthday in Hong Kong yesterday.
On August 31, 1939, the then 27-year-old Hollingworth had been working as a journalist for less than a week when London's Daily Telegraph sent her to Poland to report on worsening tensions in Europe. On September 1 - 
From Outbreak: 1939: The World Goes to War, by Terry Charman
Hollingworth went on to report on conflicts in Palestine, Algeria, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, China, Aden and Vietnam. She would "happily go anywhere with just a toothbrush and a typewriter". Hollingworth was born in Knighton outside Leicester, home of the Imperial typewriter, but she generally used a Hermes Baby.
Hollingworth with her second husband, Geoffrey Hoare.
In the months before she joined the Telegraph, to July 1939, Hollingworth earned the nickname the "Scarlet Pimpernel" by helping 3500 political and Jewish refugees to escape the Nazis, facilitating their evacuation from Katowice to Britain.
General Bernard Law Montgomery imposed a ban on British female correspondents on the front lines in Egypt in 1942, so Hollingworth became briefly accredited to TIME.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Typewriter Breaks Ribs

No joke, I cracked a couple of ribs when I tripped and fell on to a typewriter (it was a Smith-Corona Galaxie II) on Thursday night. The typewriter was unharmed.
So I'm feeling very sore and sorry for myself and I'm pretty much immobilised for the time being. I hope not to be doing too much laughing, sneezing or coughing for the next three to six weeks.

Monday, 5 September 2016

RIP Richard Neville (1941-2016): The Original Wizard of OZ

Richard Neville, a larrikin leader among the forward-thinking army of typewriter-wielding Australians who took Britain by storm in the late 1950s and 1960s, has died in Sydney from Alzheimer's, aged 74. Neville,  a "pioneer of the war on deference", was a founder of OZ magazine in Australia in 1963 and Britain in 1967.
The magazines were the subject of two trials in Sydney and a more famous and famously lengthy one in London, the last two resulting in jail sentences (the one in Sydney with hard labour, the one in London with potentially life inside), both subsequently overturned on appeal. The London trial, in which Neville and his co-OZ editors were charged with “conspiracy to produce a magazine with intent thereby to debauch and corrupt the morals of young persons within the realm”, produced more letters to The Times than the Suez Crisis of the late 50s.
Years before his time, Neville urged people to think about the perils of a technological and interconnected society. In his 1970 book Playpower ("a mischievous sub-Marcusean manifesto"), Neville predicted the rise of computer technology and envisaged more leisure, hence the need to develop the “politics of play”. But in the digital world of the 21st century, he asked: what if “the promise of free time turns out to be stealing our time?” Indeed, Neville lived to despise modern technology. In an interview with Rak Razam of Undergrowth in 2005, Neville was asked whether he believed technology had become a modern drug. "I think for a lot of people, yeah," said Neville. "You've only got to look at the relationship between people and their computers and laptops. They're ... spending much more time with them than with their partners. [The laptop is] not a glorified typewriter anymore ... When Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein the doctor created this monster which ran amok and we considered it dangerous. But now we're supposed to marry the monster. I feel like I'm a Filipino bride and the scientists are the marriage brokers!"
Demonstrations against OZ magazine outside the Criminal Court of the Old Bailey in London in August 1971. Neville was one of three editors being sentenced on obscenity charges. Below, supporters had their say in November.
Richard Clive Neville was born the son of a newspaperman in Sydney on December 5, 1941. A satirist and author, he was a social commentator who championed the counterculture and helped change censorship laws. "The revolution he sought was in the mind and he was always willing to change his, if the evidence demanded." His autobiography, Hippie Hippie Shake: The Dreams, the Trips, the Trials, the Love-ins, the Screw ups - the Sixties was published in 1995. A film based on the book has been made but is yet to be released.
OZ was the first of the alternative and underground press publications to appear on the international scene - a year before the Los Angeles Free Press (1964) in the United States and later in Britain with the International Times (1966).
The 1967 London OZ featured work from expatriate Australians Robert Hughes, Clive James and Germaine Greer, as well as cartoonist Michael Leunig.
In 1970 Neville and co-publishers Felix Dennis and James Anderson were charged with “conspiracy to corrupt public morals”. While Neville defended himself, his colleagues were represented by John Mortimer (Rumpole of the Bailey) with Australian Geoffrey Robertson as his junior. Among those supporting the trio were Mick JaggerJohn Lennon and Yoko Ono - Lennon recorded a song God Save OZ and protested outside the Old Bailey in support of free speech. Neville’s archive was later acquired by Yale University for its Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Wollongong University has digitised the entire OZ magazine series.
John Lennon by Felix Dennis
OZ first hit the streets of Sydney on April Fool's Day 1963. It sold 6000 copies by lunchtime. Its radical and irreverent attitude was very much in the tradition of the student newspapers, but its growing public profile quickly made it a target for "the Establishment".
In early 1967, Neville founded the London OZ with the brilliant artist Martin Sharp as graphic designer. Dennis was advertising manager. The magazine became increasingly influenced by hippie culture and oscillated wildly between psychedelia, revolutionary political theory and idealistic dreams of a counterculture, with much discussion of drug-taking thrown in. Neville was a workaholic, obsessed with deadlines and his editorials, which often tried to make sense of all the competing philosophies that were exploding from the "youthquake".  London OZ ended in November 1973.
Neville returned to Australia but moved to New York City in 1977 and wrote for The New York Times, New York magazine and The Village Voice.
Marsha Rowe, left, and Rosie Boycott in the Spare Rib office in London in June 1972. The women's liberation magazine was the "daughter" of the male-dominated 1960s underground press, including OZ, according to co-founder Rowe.
In an obituary for Neville, one-time OZ secretary Marsha Rowe (above, left) said OZ used "humour to mock the conservative nature of Australian society and show up the hypocrisy of its sexual mores ..." In London, Neville was "Aided by the visual brilliance of Sharp and the flexibility of offset litho printing to experiment with colour".