The Sydney Writers’ Festival has started. In recent years I’ve been kicking my festival off by attending the Premier’s Literary Awards dinner on the Monday night, and it’s been a great way of getting momentum up. This year, the dinner – if there is one – will be in November, so I began with a visit to the State Library on this cold cold night to hear David McKnight talk about Rupert Murdoch in a conversation with Jonathan Holmes. It was good to see Mr Media Watch in person, and David McKnight has read and watched an awful lot of a certain kind of journalism so the rest of us don’t have to. And written a book, Rupert Murdoch: An Investigation of Political Power.
My pick for quote of the evening was David McKnight on the anti-elite ideology pushed by Murdoch and his allies: ‘A librarian living on a pension is a member of the elite if she has liberal views, and Rupert Murdoch is not. It’s a beautiful move ideologically.’
In the Q&A, someone remarked that the Australian‘s columnists seem to have contempt for their readers, considering them incapable of rational thought. Jonathan Holmes said something to the effect that the columnists see themselves as speaking to the concerns of those readers, echoing and amplifying their anxieties and prejudices; if they have contempt, it is for people like the questioner, who is clearly one of the ‘elite’.
No one asked David McKnight if he there was anything he admired about Rupert Murdoch, but he told us anyway, saying that he had prepared the answer and in all his presentation about the man no one had ever asked the question: he has never heard him be racist, and he seems to be a genuine believer in free speech, as he has never sued anyone, or even threatened to sue them, for libel.
It was like a top level Gleebooks evening – which would cost maybe $5 and be free to Gleeclub members. I don’t know if either of the presenters was paid for his appearance, but each of the mainly silvery heads at tonight’s sold out event paid $20. I guess the money went to a good cause.