Upon his release from prison, disgraced Cardinal George Pell chose Right-wing journalist Andrew Bolt to conduct an interview with him, writes Michael Galvin.
FOR THE DETACHED OBSERVER, there is an awful symmetry between George Pell’s career and the dreaded COVID-19 curve. For decades, his career went up at an exponential rate, with each elevation surprising (and alarming) many. Then, in more recent times, his standing and reputation have dropped by equally large increments, the damning evidence from the Royal Commission playing a considerable role on the downward side of the curve.
When he was released from prison last week, George Pell became one of the most newsworthy persons in the world, up there with the flailing Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in ICU. Perhaps even more so.
Any international media network would have willingly interviewed him — CNN, BBC, The New York Times, you name it. If he had wanted to give an interview, he could have chosen whoever he wanted, from any media company he wanted.
And before I go on, we now know that he did want to do an interview.
However, it is worth remembering what Aesop said:
“A man is judged by the company he keeps.”
Or, for the more biblically minded, Proverbs 13:20:
‘He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.’
So, who did the Cardinal choose to give an interview to? Whose company did he decide to keep? A journalist respected by all? A David Speers or a Christiane Amanpour? Someone with no axe to grind? Someone standing outside the fray?
To expect Pell to show such self-awareness was obviously a bridge too far. Instead, he chose Andrew Bolt, one of the brightest stars in the Sky After Dark universe. Yes, the same network run by the Murdochs, whose other interest is running Fox News in the USA, the network with blood and lives on its hands for the way it has promoted Trump’s many lies about COVID-19.
Was Pell unaware of Bolt’s position on so many divisive issues such as climate change? Like attacks on Aboriginal writers. Bolt is proudly a Right-wing culture warrior, as he noted during his interview with Pell. What he is not, and does not claim to be, is an interviewer widely regarded for his disinterested objectivity.
Of course, he is also the man who has used the phrases ‘travesty of justice’ and ‘grotesque miscarriage of justice’ many times to characterise Pell’s experiences in the legal system, and at the hands of the media more generally. Victoria Police and the ABC were particularly in Bolt’s sights during the Pell interview.
Bolt is intelligent enough to know that his supporter base is a small minority of the Australian population. Indeed, his whole polemical raison d’être is based on how the Left-wing cultural elite is hypocritical, unable to see reality and lead the masses astray on one self-indulgent issue after another. A word he often uses to describe those he disagrees with is the ‘mob’, as he did during the Pell interview.
So, Andrew Bolt is the companion that Pell decides to walk with in his first interview on television, on a network that is full of Right-wing pundits.
Does Pell realise what message he is sending by such a decision? Does he care? Surely he must know that picking his fierce defender Bolt to interview him on Sky will offend many. It will provide no comfort at all for the millions who think Pell’s career has been spent either willfully ignorant of or actively covering up child sexual abuse on an industrial scale.
I suspect Pell knows all this and this is why he did it. He is giving a mighty finger to all those who have ever cast aspersions on any aspect of his character or actions. He wants an echo chamber for his “I am innocent, I am not responsible” refrain. And in Bolt, he knows he has found one.
Shame, Pell, shame. You already know your standing in the general community. Yet you seem incapable of doing anything, ever, to try and put things right. You harp on about your innocence so much that the disconnect with Jesus’s own lack of similar protestations when his life was on the line seems almost laughable.
Of course, Pell can pick whoever he likes to interview him. But if he thinks he can recover one scintilla of public respect for going this way, he is badly mistaken.
Michael Galvin is an adjunct fellow at Victoria University and a former media and communications academic at the University of South Australia.
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