GOOD Lord, but those facts are difficult, troublesome things. Suppose, for example, you are Greens publicity agent Melissa Fyfe, whose salary is paid by the Sunday Phage, and you really, really need to need to write an upbeat profile of Lee Rhiannon, who will shortly take her seat in the Senate. Well, there is your problem right there. How do you say nice things about a creature whose support for Islamic nut jobs, amongst other fruit loop causes, has divided the Greens and embarrassed Saint Bob?
Answer: Choose your words carefully, skate lightly over the bad stuff and, when all else fails, stretch euphemism to breaking point. The key is to sustain that flow of happy publicity without alienating Rhianon or your other pals in the party, the ones who think she is a loose cannon and will be a magnet for grief come the next election.
In today’s Phage, Fyfe demonstrates how a true Fairfax professional navigates such dilemmas. On the matter of personal politics, devote just one sentence to Rhiannon’s slavish adoration of Moscow, which she supported even after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, when she bolted with fellow lickers of jackboots to the Socialist Party of Australia.
Next, try to calm down Mr and Mrs Stringbag – you know, the sort who will be paying a lot more for everything when the Greens’ carbon tax becomes law. Do this by insisting Rhiannon “is no longer a socialist.” Not at all! She just wants “more government regulation and a bigger role for public services such as education, health and transport, but not the overthrow of capitalism.” Well that is OK, then. She is not a socialist, she just wants government to run everything
And when it comes to Rhiannon’s red-nappy upbringing, Fyfe demonstrates a skill that is the journalistic equivalent of a shonky home renovator’s eagerness to slap nice, clean wallpaper over some very toxic mould.
The consensus is that Rhiannon is quick to be combative, as The Sunday Age learnt while asking about her mother's frequent travels overseas for work.
When her mum, vile harridan Freda Brown, died in 2009, the Silly published an obituary that listed some of those “work” trips:
The Silly: She was elected president of the 1975 Women's International Democratic Federation congress in Berlin.
Backround: The WIDF was a Soviet front and the Congress was not held “in Berlin” unless you were using a pre-WWII map. It was held in East Berlin, where the one measure of equality was the Stasi’s habit of spying on everyone, oppressed housewives included. Typical chatter in the ladies room at at WIDF congresses: “Our children cannot be safe until American war-mongers are silenced.” The CIA’s appraisal of the WIDF and other front groups is to be found here. Yes, it is the CIA doing the appraising, but the file’s observations about the clash between gals of the Peking-line and Soviet-line stands up very nicely to history's scrutiny.
The Silly: While the women's union's sympathies were left-wing and some members were communists, most were not members of any political party and rejected the doctrinaire narrowness of communist leaders … Members dug wells for women in many low-income countries and campaigned for breastfeeding of babies.
Background: See the CIA report (linked above), which supports a vigorous scepticism about the clam that the WIDF concerned itself primarily with water tables and lactation.
Then there are Brown’s other travels, as the Silly also explained:
Coming home with US cluster bombs, she was attacked for working with the enemy. In Cuba, she ran workshops for women from across Latin America. In Moscow in 1977, she was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize.
And her voyaging continued:
“She was one of the first westerners to enter the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps after the slaughter of 1982. She visited Cambodia shortly after Vietnam overthrew the Pol Pot regime, travelled through the Western Sahara with the Polisario Front, and worked with the African National Congress Women's League.”
To Melissa Fyfe, all of the above is just “work”, not tireless crusading for bloody tyranny. And while her astute choice of words probably means Rhiannon will continue to return Fyfe’s calls, such a flippant disregard for accuracy ill-serves Phage readers.
Freda Brown was a devoted warrior in the Soviet cause -- much, much more than one of the “useful idiots” in whom Lenin invested such hopes and joy. As for Fyfe, she fits that description very nicely indeed.