Paul Murray – Journo, Judge, Jury

Have a look at the following promo that graced the West’s online home page for most of last week.

Paul Murray promo

As I confessed in the Comments section of my previous post, I am a bit of a trash TV tragic. So yes, I did watch Nine’s 4 hour special “Schapelle Corby – The Hidden Truth” (I really didn’t mean to, honest, but you’re sitting there channel surfing waiting for the program you really want to watch to come on and make the mistake of lingering more than 2 minutes, and next thing you know the hook is set and you’re there for the long trashy haul).

My expectation was of a lot of padding and puff, and Nine delivered. Their promo promise to finally expose the “hidden truth” about Corby’s innocence or guilt was, of course, guff. We did get more detail on the main players in this unfortunate tragic-comedy, but “the truth” consisted of an implication by a crim that he knew how the dope ended up in Shapelle’s boogie board bag, but wouldn’t be telling until all legal obstacles were out of the way (which, it transpires, included a spell in the clink by said crim for drug-trafficking).

So, I wondered, what’s Murray on about? Surely he’s not judging Schapelle guilty on the basis of Nine’s crappy doco?

Well, turns out that was, indeed, the gist of his very shoddy article (I refuse to call it a “blog” – excuse me returning to a familiar whining refrain, but the mainstream newspaper “blogs” are poor specimens unworthy of the name, since the interactivity between blogger and readership that is a defining feature of blogging is entirely absent…the journos chuck their pieces to the mob, then maintain a lofty silence, no doubt sitting back and watching the squabbling like some nasty old fuck enjoying a sense of power and superiority at the sight of seagulls competing for his discarded cold chips).

I had a link to Murray’s pile of cold chips, but it’s no longer active. Never mind. Here’s the guts of his evidence on which he made his Judgment:

1. Corby willingly went along with lawyer Robin Tampoe’s concocted key defence implicating Qantas baggage handlers as the guilty parties.

2. Quote: The overall conclusion many viewers are likely to take from the inconclusive documentary is that if Corby wasn’t directly responsible, others in her family probably were. Murray assigns this solitary sentence its own paragraph. It sits there unsupported, sans elaboration.

3. And here’s his clincher: But the piece of evidence that should have done the most damage to those who still wave the Corby flag was the footage of her being tutored in how to mouth plaintively the words “Australia help me” for the waiting TV cameras. That showed more than anything else the lengths to which the family and her legal team were prepared to go to use popular support in Australia to influence the Indonesian legal system. It discloses an alarming cynicism for one protesting innocence.

Not as alarming as Murray’s cynicism as a pro journo, clutching at straws from a tacky sensationalised doco to fashion a flimsy house of populist judgment to invite the public into. Stuck for ideas for your “blog” were you, Paul? Figured the proles would settle for any old shit, that they were too dim to see through your sophistry and had probably made up their minds on Schapelle anyway?

Sadly, predictably, Murray figured right. Unconsidered comments poured in, as readers responded with righteous and unshakeable certainty about Schapelle’s guilt. Of course, a few respondees bothered to critically scrutinise Murray’s piece and gave him the serve he deserved, but these voices of reason were drowned out by the rest. Yawn. That’s “the people” for ya. No surprise there.

The surprise for me was that Murray, as a senior journo whose work is generally not bad (although unlikely to consume any of the Pulitzer panel’s time), should stoop to shock jock lows.

His “arguments” are so thin as to be unworthy of refutation, but briefly…

Re 1: Who, in Corby’s desperate situation, would refuse or even question the advice of her legal team (which included local Balinese lawyers, who presumably went along with Tampoe’s fabricated baggage-handler defence). Besides, it’s routine practice for defence lawyers to drag all sorts of furphys from their hats, um wigs, to get their clients off – why should Corby be expected to take a stand against this practice when the stakes were so high (remember, initially she was facing capital punishment if found guilty)?

Re 2: What has the public’s perception of the Corby family’s involvement got to do with Schapelle’s guilt or innocence? Murray acknowledges the doco as “inconclusive” – so why even bring up the rest of the family and conjecture on whether they were or were not involved? Since when has gossip counted as criminal evidence? Errr, well…there was Lindy Chamberlain. How soon we forget.

Re 3: Schapelle’s theatrics in court are irrelevant. She was simply following the directions of her counsel and family. Who, innocent or guilty, facing trial in an Indonesian court with the possibility of execution hanging over their head, would not try anything in the cause of securing their freedom? Her desperate situation is way beyond “cynicism” of the sort Murray is lynching her with.

Murray damns Corby as blithely and with as little rigour as he might a character in a soap opera – and it has to be said, Nine’s doco had the hallmarks and credibility of a soapie. But if Corby’s family comes across as cardboard cutouts of crassness, Murray would do well to be mindful that Schapelle’s plight is real enough.

Regardless of Corby’s innocence or guilt, in fanning the flames of populist opinion with tacky, irresponsible journalism Murray has undermined his personal and professional standing, and eroded further the crumbling credibility of the mainstream media. Not to mention the reputation of The West Australian, which came in for a savaging from far and wide (and deservedly so IMO) during the recent failed bid of Kerry Stokes for a place on the Board of West Australian Newspapers. Once a rag, always a rag, it seems.

A tip from one of the less gullible members of the proletariat, Paul mate – dismount from your high horse and endeavour to get back into contact with your own humanity.

2 thoughts on “Paul Murray – Journo, Judge, Jury”

  1. Very funny comments on the thread you’ve linked to, WOP. And a Paul Murray Sorry day is a worthy concept.

    I dunno about your “one of the worst writers in Australia” claim. Depends what you mean by “worst”. I’d contend that his writing itself – that is, in terms of the technical competence with which he expresses himself – is not down among the dead men of Aussie journalism. There are plenty worse (and plenty better).

    If you’re referring to Murray’s big-headed, self-righteous, politically conservative bigotry that he passes off as erudite, objective analysis – well, I can but agree with your assessment.

    He’s merely a shock jock in slightly more sophisticated packaging, using a written mode rather than blathering on into a mike.

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