May 1999 - R J Stove
AT A TIME WHEN what passes for Australia's intelligentsia appears to have nothing better to do than to whine about the possibility that the new Lolita movie might not be readily accessible to five-year-olds, it is instructive to be reminded about a case of real Australian censorship which, to our knowledge, has been entirely ignored by the mass media.
It involves one Scott Balson, a Queenslander who at the end of 1998 had published, by Interactive Presentations Pty Ltd, a book entitled Murder by Media: Death of Democracy in Australia. Mr Balson expressed himself in fairly sharp terms throughout this book about the effective oligarchy exercised in Australia by media tycoons in general and the Murdoch-Packer empires in particular. (The Murdoch empire controls, among other outlets, the Penguin and Collins imprints.) It should also be noted that Mr Balson has been Webmaster of One Nation's Internet site; not surprisingly, therefore, his book includes references to more than 400 relevant Internet addresses for those who wish to know more about that whereof he speaks. There is, nonetheless, no suggestion that Murder by Media is an official One Nation utterance. (Nor would what follows be any less applicable even if it were.)
Anyhow, come 12 February 1999, Mr Balson received a fax from Keith Parkin, the Managing Director of Dymocks' national book chain. Despite the fact that Dymocks had already ordered 500 copies of the book, this fax attempted to furnish reasons why every copy was being withdrawn from sale. Dymocks Chairman John Forsyth had already announced this withdrawal to Dymocks staff three days earlier. Mr Parkin's proclamation, in answer to a request for more information by Mr Balson himself, contained the following remarkable sentence: I put you [Mr Balson] on notice that any statement which you make which suggests that Dymocks' decision resulted in any way from an attempt to censor your book and the views expressed in it from being circulated, will result in the commencement of legal proceedings against you without notice.
English readers of Codex old enough to remember the 1930s will recall the saying, 'Don't believe a thing until it's denied in Th Times.' Presumably we can now update this aphorism to: 'Don't believe a thing until it's denied by Dymocks.' Well, if Dymocks wants to sue Codex for saying that its withdrawal of Mr Balson's book looks to the mere outsider exceptionally like a blatant act of censorship if ever there was one, it can go right ahead. (It can also, for the benefit of those among us with a working knowledge of first-year philosophy, explain the inherent logical contradiction involved in giving notice that a procedure will be undertaken 'without notice.')
At Dymocks - as at any other of Australia's literary supermarkets - one can buy defences of pædophilia, defences of Maoism, defences of Stalinism, defences of abortion, defences of incest (Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss), defences (thank you, Bob Ellis) of Keating's ALP, defences of every horror known to the 1990s; no doubt the sufficiently determined bibliophile could obtain defences of bestiality and necrophilia. What one cannot buy there, despite or because of the sanctimonious tributes offered by such literary supermarkets to 'freedom of speech,' is Murder by Media. Yet has any of our official 'libertarian' motormouths deigned to notice, much less to express disapproval of, this simple fact? Not so you'd notice. Had it not been for an American Website - Truth in Media, maintained by IT specialist Bob Djurdjevic - the whole sordid matter would never have come to Codex's attention in the first place.
Not all Murder by Media's judgements would meet with the favour of Codex or of Codex's readers. But what does that matter? Unlike the horrisonant Serb protest mobs who spent most of 28 March hurling rocks, abuse, and multicultural spittle at the boys (and girls) in blue in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne - those who witnessed the Sydney demonstration, in particular, will be amazed that no police officer was killed - Mr Balson has neither advocated nor practised violence. Perhaps he should. After all, if Australia's political culture remains marginally more hygienic than Kosovo's, it is no thanks to the ethnic grievance industry.
The experience has undoubtedly been an eye-opening one for Messrs Balson and Djurdjevic, who before it occurred had entertained (from their differing standpoints) the touching myth that Australia is a free country. It is not a myth that they can entertain now.