Simon Katich and the year of living silently
Simon Katich doesn’t deserve a reprimand. He deserves an award for restraint.
After falling foul of the thought police at Cricket Australia he was called up before that stuffy little outfit’s resident kangaroo court to explain his so-called “spray” against Michael Clarke. “Spray”, as it was dubbed in headlines, is a ludicrously overstated term for what Katich had said. All he said was that he doubted he would ever get a spot in the Test team under captain and selector Michael Clarke.
Katich, you will recall, grabbed Clarke by the neck in a dressing room dust-up in 2009, risking serious damage to Clarke’s latest haircut. His assessment of his chances of reclaiming a baggy green under Clarke was both accurate and unremarkable.
Katich is the best-performing Australian batsman of the past three years but for baffling reasons has been excluded from the side as it goes through its rebuilding phase, which includes persisting with another guy who is currently too nervous to hold a cricket bat. Katich has every right to say what he likes about his undeserved predicament. Or he did, until Cricket Australia this week stripped him of that right.
It was only a guilty plea to Cricket Australia’s spurious charge of “detrimental public comment” which saved Katich from suspension from first grade cricket. Instead he got a reprimand. This tut-tutting is primary school stuff which reflects poorly on Cricket Australia. It is journalistically depressing that the Katich case was reported in a matter-of-fact manner, with the coverage focussing on the charge and subsequent hearing, rather then rightly homing in on the ridiculousness of his being charged at all.
The judgment will help ensure that our modern sportspeople become even more adept at phrasing their public utterances in the dead language of management, where no-one will speak any more of the “team”, rather the “playing group”, and captains demand accountability in much the same way as your human resources department wants you to be more proactive, whatever that means.
The judgment also provides a fitting end to a year which has been a poor one for freedom of speech in this country. I have publicly recorded my disregard for Andrew Bolt’s journalism but it stuns me that so many people have suspended their support for free speech because of their dislike of the conservative Herald-Sun columnist, and are blind to the broader free speech implications of the absurd racial vilification laws of which he fell foul.
There is redress for the nine Aboriginal complainants in the laws of defamation – ample redress, given the number Bolt did on them – yet the PC brigade is applauding a law which could prevent any member of the public from speaking their mind on immigration, multiculturalism, assimilation, the types of cultural or religious practices we are prepared to accept in this country.
If anything the forces of pure thought have been emboldened by the Bolt ruling and we are now seeing a push out of Victoria for the introduction of a national Multiculturalism Act, which could provide a new avenue of legal action for people who think they’ve been racially vilified or abused.
The definition of abuse will be key here, and there will be nothing stopping crackpots or pests from trying their chances under this law anyway, or preventing people who have been deservedly criticised (to use the example again, say the Serbian minority which disrupts the Australian Open) from taking legal action despite the fact that their actions should rightly be deplored.
I don’t write that as an opponent of multiculturalism either. I think Australia is vastly richer for the settlement of so many different ethnic groups, but I can’t think of a better way to alienate and inflame its detractors than by telling them they have to agree with an official government policy.
If the Gillard Government goes down this path it will at least be consistent in its censoriousness.
It has converted its sookiness at robust media coverage into an oddly-configured media inquiry, cheered on by Pyongyang’s man in Hobart, Greens Leader Bob Brown. This week it took its media policies to an even stupider level with the shambolic conclusion to the Australia Network tender, which was set to shift from the ABC to Sky News on the basis of a dispassionate programming-based assessment by the Department of Foreign Affairs, only for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to declare the contract will remain indefinitely with the ABC.
His stated reason – the police probe into leaks about the tender process – was hilarious given that the leaks came from within government itself, and masked his baser motive which is simply a dislike of News Limited, the publisher of this website and part owner of Sky.
It isn’t just government that is at the forefront of the new censoriousness, though. It is also the community.
One odd feature of the latest Kyle Sandilands scandal was the number of people who automatically demanded that the government do something about this serial boofhead, that he be barred by law from broadcast or strung up by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The public backlash and his subsequent and continuing abandonment by some 14 major advertisers would suggest that government intervention is not required. The free market is sorting him out. Anyway, there is a long list of things which government does not do very well; adding the power to decide what we can and cannot say is not something to be encouraged.
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