Richard - in all of the self-reflection and introspection that went into the development of your new book, did you stop to think that the majority of the negative reaction you received here was not so much because of whatever position you have on Forestry or governmental propriety, but because you went after, in a cruel and perhaps cowardly way, Jim Bacon so soon after he died? This affronted many people’s sense of decency. Well, you might have thought it was fair game, but do you think your timing was a bit off there?
No politiican who achieves real power will be spotless nor completely fair and always well-intentioned. But at least Jim Bacon’s style injected some confidence back into the Tasmanian psyche, and he bravely faced the diagnosis of cancer and used the opportunity to try and stop people from smoking. If nothing else, a few less Tasmanians killing themselves with the smokes is a great legacy.
I also note that, while banging on about indigenous issues, you don’t acknowledge the great advances we have had, first through the Libs and followed by the ALP, in advancing aboriginal reconciliation in this State. Quietly yet effectively, enormous and singular strides have been made on this issue in Tasmania. Some credit perhaps? Or perhaps you are so brim-full of ideology that you can no longer see the wood for the trees.
I don’t expect you’ll answer these points. You are always quick to lay the blame but not there for the follow-up.Posted by Tomas on 11/12/06 at 07:59 AM
Well, Richard, I reckon it was a bloody good read. Having been bagged by both Germaine and Craven must stand it in pretty good stead.
It’s not a book that can easily be put in a labelled box, which seems to be the main problem the literati have with it. The combination of a plainer prose style (although there are a couple of awkward bits) and serious message make it dangerous. People might read it for escape (as we do during holidays) and then realise that there is no escape.Posted by Justa Bloke on 11/12/06 at 09:34 AM
Well written Richard.
Tomas (who by all appearances is a government apologist, probably working as a spin doctor of some kind) seems to believe that criticism of a dead Premier more than justifies the degradation of our social milieu and the fracture of Australian communities. Credit for what? A collapsing RHH, public housing in tents, no dentists, major blowouts in Basslink, TCC, Spirit III, constant payments of corporate welfare to favoured mega corporations, a recession? This is all offset by a few million thrown at indigenous issues is it?
No matter the degradation, the ‘authorities’ always attempt to justify the indefensible. That’s ultimately their downfall because their world is so grossly out of touch with everyone else’s reality.Posted by John Legge on 11/12/06 at 09:56 AM
Apparatchiks like Tomas need to try to remember that the government is paid by the public to do a job. Part of it is to represent the whole population. A minor indigenous initiative is just a miniscule part of the job…as to the rest of it, discrimination against one taxpayer for speaking his mind is illegal, immoral and grotesque.
Richard Flanagan’s experience clearly reinforces that this State government either doesn’t have the wit to succeed or is so corrupt as to not care…or both.
The apparatchiks are also quick to engage in the fallacy of pointing to another wrong to deflect attention from their own limitations and transgressions. The notion that someone who achieves power won’t be spotless means what exactly? That discrimination and corruption should somehow be tolerated?
Richard makes good and telling points and that, presumably, is his problem. The thing that the incompetent, stupid and corrupt cannot abide is exposure.
Who can blame them for not wanting to look in the mirror?
The answer, of course, is those who are paying them…the taxpayers of whom Richard Flanagan is a stirling example.
If our paid representatives don’t want to do their jobs, they should resign.Posted by Richard Barton on 11/12/06 at 11:40 AM
Richard, i have not as yet been able ,however i look forwood to reading your book when i am able to afford same, and as for the detractors , i can,t imagine that anything but envy , prods them into their bucketing of your writings and therefore as not being legitimate critics should shut their mouths.
d.d.Posted by DON DAVEY on 11/12/06 at 02:07 PM
For all that a tiny minority (far from “the wider Tas community”) repeat the assertion that Richard’s comments on Bacon were “indecent”, nobody has actually rebutted them.
There is a moratorium on neither logic nor morality when someone dies.Posted by Justa Bloke on 11/12/06 at 04:19 PM
Exactly what did Flanagan have to say about Bacon after his demise that he had not already said during his lifetime that made the former act ‘in a cruel and perhaps cowardly way’?Posted by tt on 11/12/06 at 06:36 PM
if one applies the logic of some who say that because one dies his memory should be respected because of “that” fact, would indicate that upon martin bryant,s eventual demise which can,t be to bloody soon as far as i,m concerned,that his memory should also be respected, get real ,Jim Bacon as i have said before had the gift of the gab, was a good lookin rooster ,so the ladies loved him,however the reason he presided over a improving economy was because he was, as were all labour states the benificaries of the dreaded G.S.T which not one of them refused despite federal labour threatening “rollback” etc,etc,etc,.
Everone dies that is an inescapable fact, and dosn,t, and shouldn,t,automatically demand respect for having done so.
d.d.Posted by DON DAVEY on 11/12/06 at 07:03 PM
Agree with comments #6 and #7. The Bacon mourning period was a bit sensational and pretty much bereft of any level of balance.
Love him or hate him, I can’t find any one thing that I disagree with in Richard’s article - the same political frustrations make my blood boil. Every single point he makes I agree with 100%. I’ve never read any of his books, but I’ve got a copy of this one on order and I intend to give him a fair go.Posted by Geoff Rollins on 11/12/06 at 07:04 PM
Rishard Flanagan has said it how it is. Unfortunately in Tasmania the overlords - the labor toe-cutters and the idiot sons of the landed gentry - dont take kindly to the truth. Bacon was tarnished by his inaction on environmental and health issues - and he paid the price. The PR-Beatification process that followed his death was so transparent that it made us puke - as transparent as Tomas’ modus operandi. The proof of the pudding - in 100 years time kids will be studying Flanagan in High School English and perhaps university. No-one will remember Bacon-Lennon et al. - except, of course, if they study history and have to write an essay on the economic and ethical decline of Tasmania.Posted by peter pumpkinhead on 11/12/06 at 07:55 PM
So Flanagan has no right to an opinion on the Tasmanian forestry fiasco or Australian politics in general because a while ago he wrote something rude (but apparently not untrue) about someone who died? It would maybe be one thing if it was Mother Teresa we were talking about, but honestly, Jim Bacon? Bizarre.Posted by Abdul on 11/12/06 at 10:52 PM
Flanagan was depised by the Tasmanian political establishment well before the Bacon article.
My thoughts at the time were that the article bought some much needed balance to the rose coloured eulogising that dominated local discourse at the time. Much in the same way that contrarian opinion on this website is said to bring balance to the left wing bias.
The outcomes visa vee the howls of hatred directed towards Flanagan would have still eventuated, had he waited till now to write the Bacon piece. Because it suits their agenda Flanagan’s more passionate detractors will always denigrate supporters of his work by suggesting they are Flanaganites or blind worshippers of Flanagan, as if Flanagan is some cult leader - which is simply nonsense.
Prediction for this week: The sun will rise tomorrow and Greg Barns if he hasnt already ( I do not read the Mercury let alone GB’s op pieces) will soon write an angry and scathing review of Flanagan’s new book.Posted by Rick Pilkington on 12/12/06 at 08:42 AM
Yeah, I want to say that Pinochet was an evil bastard. Will somebody tell me how long I have to wait?Posted by Justa Bloke on 12/12/06 at 09:19 AM
Whilst I disagree with most of Tomas’s points, he does raise one valid question; Where is the followup ?Posted by Nigel Crisp on 12/12/06 at 10:53 AM
Richard Flanagan hardly needs me, or anybody else, to defend his rights to free speech or his ability, verging on genius, as a writer.
In 100 years from now people will be reading his books but nobody will know who Paul Lennon was.
Critics of The Unknown Terrorist, even Germaine Greer, seem not to have read the book, or merely browsed it. The central character, the Doll, is a Hansonite, with all the racist leanings, until she becomes the victim of the politicians, shock jocks and small minded, celebrity-worshipping, dumbed-down Australians who have let Howard and his flunkeys beat a path to the White House and its mindless inhabitants instead of listening to the voices of reason.
It seems most Australians are more interested in who wins Australian Idol than defending the rights of David Hicks or those suffering in refugee prisons.
Australia has become a pathetic and and unimportant nation and we need writers like Flanagan to remind us of that and encourage us back to being a decent humanitarian forward-looking society.
Politicians will never do that but writers can.
Voltaire, Dickens, Hugo and Zola did. Why not Flanagan?Posted by John Briggs on 12/12/06 at 07:35 PM
The antics of those two old Australian troupers Robert Hughes and Germaine Greer on ABC TV’s First Tuesday Book Club this week serve to confirm their status as day-before-yesterday’s people.
First came Hughes, in conversation with Jennifer Byrne, his usual blasé self but now sounding more like a cracked record rather than the man with the mind that has, for nearly half a century, commented with so much erudition on the full spectrum of international art. And, predictably, he took yet another cheap shot at Patrick White, a writer, it seems, Hughes has never thought much of. All in all, a boring flop of an interview for Byrne.
Then it was back to the review panel of Greer, Jason Steger, Frank Brennan and Maneka Hardy for a talk about Richard Flanagan’s The Unknown Terrorist. First Hardy, who saw merit in Flanagan’s objective but was not convinced that the book would influence its target audience. Steger, who liked the book, thought it would, but didn’t have much to say to back his argument. Although he was clearly attracted to the book’s intent, Brennan, too, was equivocal.
And then came Greer’s mocking near-hysteria; a performance that left this writer wondering how he had ever thought the sun shone out of her. Which I feel it did for most of the second half of the 20th century, when she was fresher, unpredictable and so incredibly valuable — to the well-being of women, and to most thinking men, from whose shoulders she helped lift the almost total decision-making burden they carried on almost every issue outside the home. For that, I will always thank Greer. She made my life so much easier by making women’s minds so much more accessible to us dumb blokes.
But on the First Tuesday Book Club! Clearly she had read The Unknown Terrorist. Equally clearly she had no idea where Flanagan was coming from or who he was aiming at. It was as if his work was so beneath her dignity she felt it necessary to mock it, all the time failing to realise that Flanagan certainly did not have her in mind as a reader when he put together his collection of modern-day parables and called them The Unknown Terrorist.
It’s all so very sad to see such tragic behaviour by two people who have given so much: in the case of Greer, to humanity’s understanding of itself; in the case of Hughes, to an understanding of full-spectrum “arts”. They floundered before the viewing public, lashing out in a way suggesting they are no longer in touch with reality.
Their performances were suggestive of two failing great minds; minds simultaneously burdened with the pain of ideas not yet unleashed and huge, insatiable egos that are now getting in the way of their ability to express those ideas in a rational, accessible manner.
Richard Flanagan, I am sure, is not concerned that he has failed to meet Greer’s lofty criteria. He knows he has chosen a genre that, while being foreign to his inclination, has the best chance of striking a harmonious chord with much wider, less-informed audience he wants his message to reach, such as the likes of Peter Corris fans, who surely far outnumber those still with tolerance enough to wade through modern-day Greer/Hughes dross.
Bob HawkinsPosted by bob hawkins on 12/12/06 at 08:08 PM
We, in my household here in Sydney, saw Richard on the 7:30 Report recently, and were uplifted by the radiance that shone through the darkness that has been a decade of JWH. Every now and then there is a glimmer, a ray of hope. As Paul Keating said, “You change the government, you change the country”. The office of Prime Minister of Australia is a dictatorial position and as such the country becomes what’s inside the head of the PM. In Howard’s case it is a darkness, a bitterness, an immaturity.
For all my voting life, successive Australian governments have worked to make the world a better place as a standard practice. And in comes JWHoward and everything’s turned upside down, because Howard doesn’t care what anybody thinks about him. He wears it as a badge of honour. This is what makes him dangerous.
Thank goodness for Tassie’s Richard Flanagan and the Flanagans, and most of you people writing in this post. Perhaps Tasmania will be the spark to take from this darkness.Posted by ged on 12/12/06 at 09:30 PM
What amazed me about Greer was her comment that the author did not know enough about modern Sydney. WTF? Didn’t she leave in the 60’s? Bet she thinks bus fares still cost threepence.
I am also sure she used “Taswegian” in there somewhere. Time for her to piss off back to England, just in time to get held hostage by another student.Posted by R. Clifford on 12/12/06 at 10:54 PM
Wasnt the great Germaine a housemate on U.K big brother? This is a person who is clearly grounded in reality.Posted by Rick Pilkington on 12/12/06 at 11:24 PM
I couldn’t agree with you less ged. In fact I would say my views are the polar opposite of yours. Great writer maybe, but a spark in the darkness? Hardly.Posted by John Herbert on 13/12/06 at 08:28 AM
I am looking forward to a xmas read.
Flanagan got my vote for his razor sharp evisceration of the media’s gibbering chorus of “hail Jim”. The man was a charleton of the first water, his Tas Together was a masterful exercise in faux consultation and he should be judged by the company he kept. True he had more of a vision of what was possible for this state than his predecessors, but could he allow the removal of the traditional impediments? Of course not. And being a visionary compared to those before him is setting the lowest of low bars.
Given the surge in self confidence in this state as a result of Jims effort, the question must surely be asked, what is possible with a leader who truly acts for further the states potential, rather than serving the traditional masters?Posted by A view from the hill on 13/12/06 at 10:09 PM
I was out of the State for much of Jim Bacon’s leadership so can’t comment on his day to day policies, but the fact that he allowed Lennon and Green to position themselves for leadership after his passing suggests that his judgement of suitable candidates for public office was seriously flawed, and he should be judged by the company he kept whilst in office.
The over-the-top coverage of his passing by the local press needed a balancing statement about reality to prevent a media-made legend being created, based on little more than sentimentality and government spin.
Richard Flanagan bravely stepped up to voice what a sizable number of the population were thinking. Whether or not he spoke too soon is a matter of opinion, but it certainly didn’t justify the reported comment from Lennon, along the lines that Flanagan was no longer welcome in Tasmania.
There must be some decent pollies in the ALP - how much longer will they be content to sit back and watch their leaders destroy the reputation of the ALP? It’s time to “do a Rudd” men and women, well before the next election.Posted by Polly Watch on 14/12/06 at 06:27 AM
THEY CAME FOR THE COMMIES !
I SAID FUCK ALL,
CO,S I WASN,T A COMMIE!
THEY CAME FOR THE JEW,S
I SAID FUCK ALL,
CO,S I WASN,T A JEW!
THEY CAME FOR THE TRADE UNIONIST,S
I SAID FUCK ALL,
CO,S I WASN,T A TRADE UNIONIST!
THEY CAME FOR THE CARER,S
I SAID FUCK ALL,
COS,I DIDN,T CARE !
THEY ,THEN CAME FOR ME
BUT NO ONE WAS LEFT
TO SPEAK UP FOR ME !
D.D.Posted by DON DAVEY on 14/12/06 at 10:36 AM
The problem with Flanagan’s outpourings about the forest industry has been that he hasn’t “said it how it is” as post 10 suggests, but rather has tackled the issue as if the skills appropriate to being a fiction writer are also the skills appropriate to public debate. His comments on forestry have been over-smoothed, slanted, stylised narratives in which factual details have not been at all well handled, as I’ve noticed many times. Had his attacks on the industry been entirely factual he would have received a less vitriolic response.
Tying that experience in with his reasons for writing his latest book surely does the latter a considerable disservice, since Richard Flanagan writing a provocative political article and then getting criticised for it is certainly not the same thing as a mildly racist pole-dancer getting framed as a potential terrorist. It also trivialises the very legitimate issue of overzealous enforcement of terrorism and the potential for innocents to “fall through the cracks” in such overreactions. That is a far more important issue than that of a writer sooking because he said some provocative things in a debate in which he was out of his depth, and some provocative things got said back.
I haven’t read the novel in question either, but a basic plot synopsis is sufficient to see that the line of self-justification peddled above just doesn’t cut the mustard. I do actually sympathise about the concerns regarding the policing of terrorism that appear to be the impetus, but not only do I share the doubts that anyone who needs to hear that message will, but also I have great sympathy with the view, famously expressed by Oscar Wilde, that “an ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.”Posted by Dr Kevin Bonham on 14/12/06 at 07:36 PM
“The Unknown Terrorist” is the most powerful novel I have ever read. It adds weight to the old paradox that great truths can often be better expressed in fiction than in factual documents. Ever since we first supported the Bush administration’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq, I have been embarrassed to be an Australian. Let us hope this is only a transient phase of madness and hysteria, and that before long we regain our equilibrium, sanity and humanity.Posted by John Watson on 10/01/07 at 12:51 PM
It was a good read. As someone who has, on ocassion, seen the seamier side of Sydney, he portrayed the environment well, and the writing style was appropiate. His message was clear enough and the confluence of incompetence, mendacity, and connivance was well demonstated. Will it further general understanding of what a load of shit this war on terror fairy tale is?
Not a chance, unless it appears as a movie starring Paris Hilton as the pole dancer and Tom Cruise as the detective, played on Nine. Not a snowballs chance in hell of that either so I guess he wasted his time, ‘cause the sheeple dont seem to read, and they have certainly given up thinking for themselves.
I agree with most of John’s comment, but cannot give it the “powerful” credit, perhaps because it told me nothing I did not already know.Posted by A view from the hill on 10/01/07 at 09:42 PM
Likewise, Richard Flanagan’s novel contained very few facts of which I was not already aware in my head and heart, but this is scarcely the point. For me, the source of its power lies in its gut impact - the realisation that any one of us could be next, and the vast majority of lemmings out there don’t want to know, nor do they care. This is not the Australia of you and me, the Australia in which I so innocently grew up; it is the Australia of Howard, Ruddock and Downer together with people like Lennon and all their corporate buddies.Posted by John Watson on 11/01/07 at 09:51 AM
Great read and it does illustrate how an innocent person could easily be caught up in disastrous cycle of events, fuelled by political and media corruption and spin.
Gotta say I am happy he is Tasmanian and happy he is prepared to voice an opinion.Posted by Woody on 16/01/07 at 09:48 PM
I have no desire or particular interest in attacking Kevin Bonham as some have suggested, however i don,t understand how anyone can make an informed judgment on a book which he hasn,t read, as have not i, but i intend to as soon as finances allow and will then form an opinion, seems like the fair thing to do!
d.dPosted by DON DAVEY on 17/01/07 at 07:44 PM
Don, my comment was a judgement on Richard’s article above, and not his book.Posted by Dr Kevin Bonham on 17/01/07 at 09:06 PM
Well Kev baby! this is you opportunity to say “I said davey would go back on his vow not to in teract with me directly” but i , after due consideration thought to myself ” has he not suffered enough ? being left to languish out in the vast wilderness, deprived of my intellectually devastating debating skills ? and the answer was a resounding yes ! (post30) nah! can’t cop that Kev !
splitting hairs as usual.
d.d.Posted by DON DAVEY on 18/01/07 at 08:26 AM