There may be some who doubt that I have been excommunicated by the Sydney media. That is understandable. I wonder myself at times. Could I just be imagining it? I certainly do not have the kind of evidence that would stand up in court. But I have documented in this appendix an experiment which I recently undertook with the Sydney Morning Herald, in an attempt to establish whether or not the ban referred to in this book really exists.
I used to write occasional letters to the editors of various Sydney newspapers. After the split with the Sydney media, in 1984, my letters were not printed. As I only wrote occasionally anyhow, it was not a big deal at the time. I had other ways of communicating. So eventually I stopped writing.
It had been a few years since I had written a letter to an editor, when I moved to Newcastle (Mayfield) in 1998. My lifestyle gave me a little more free time than normal, and so I tried once again to write letters to the Sydney Morning Herald. To my surprise, some of the letters were used. They were not all printed, of course, but quite a few were. I was surprised and flattered. Perhaps the ban was off (or perhaps it had never existed, if you like).
I moved cautiously. Most of my early letters were trivial and non-threatening. But little by little I dropped hints as to who I was. Finally I wrote a letter which made it clear that I was that David McKay. From that point on (early January, 1999), my letters stopped being printed. I must have sent a dozen or more letters unsuccessfully during the month of January, before it struck me that I should save the letters, and keep a list of the dates on which they were sent. In this way, I could show that the same sort of letters which had been printed before my identity became clear were being refused after it became clear who I was.
I sent a few letters to The Australian as well, and was able to get one or two of them printed before they too stopped using anything that I sent in.
In the next few pages I will print out (first) some of the letters which did appear in the Sydney Morning Herald between September, 1998 and November, 1998, and then some that did not appear (from 6 February, 1999, the date that I started saving my copies of rejected letters).
Sent 21 September, 1998. Published 22 September 1998 (following rumours that Monica Lewinsky was holidaying in Queensland).
"I heard a rumour that Monica Lewinsky is staying in Mayfield, NSW. It's just a rumour, mind you, but if hordes of international journalists want to come here looking for her, it might just do more for the local economy than the present election campaign." Dave McKay, Mayfield, NSW.
Sent 30 September, 1998. Published October 1, 1998 (in reference to the natural gas cut-off in Melbourne, following a contaminated water scare in Sydney).
"I felt bad because I had to boil water, until I met a State that couldn't boil water. Yes, Sydney, there is always someone worse off than yourself."
Sent 7 October, 1998. Published 8 October, 1998.
"If McDonald's wants to convince us that their new McOz Burger is fair dinkum Aussie, it really should stop calling the tomato sauce on the poster advertising it 'ketchup'."
Sent 26 October, 1998. Published 27 October, 1998 (in reference to the Salvation Army opposing syringe bins being put in the toilets on Ansett aeroplanes).
"It appears that Ansett is more in touch with the real world than the Salvation Army. The Sallies see syringe bins as 'tacit acceptance' of drug abuse on planes. But syringe bins are for the protection of us non-users, just as police are for the protection of us non-criminals. Both represent tacit acceptance of reality, nothing more."
Sent 19 November, 1998. Published 25 November, 1998.
"Your article, '$400,000 losses on pokies destroyed my family' (Herald, Nov. 18), quotes a woman as saying that families 'should be able to take action through the courts to control problem gamblers.'
"The idea of 'helping' problem gamblers, through counselling, etc. is to be applauded. But court action by family members seems to imply more concern for the wealth than the gambler.
"It would be unthinkable to pass legislation that allowed families to take court action to stop relatives from overeating, or to force relatives to exercise, even though such action may prolong the life of the person concerned. So are we to take seriously an appeal for legislation to allow family members to stop a rich relative from wasting his/her own money?"
Sent 28 December, 1998. Published 29 December, 1998 (re Clinton's sexcapades).
"Jim Coates (Letters, Dec. 28) compares Bill Clinton to the women who were tortured and killed in the Salem witch-hunt. There is one slight difference. Those women were innocent."
This marked the end of any letters from me, with two slight exceptions. On 21 January, after the death of an Australian missionary and his two sons in India, a letter was sent via my address in Mayfield (Newcastle) but under a different name. It was published on 26 January after a phone call from the Letters editor to confirm that it had originated in India and did not come from me personally.
The letter said:
"It is distressing to read, yet again, of senseless violence in the name of religion.
"When Protestants and Catholics choose to kill each other (as has happened in Northern Ireland for many years), it is hard to think of either side as being the innocent victims. And when Muslims and Christians kill each other (as is happening now in Indonesia), the same is true.
"Now it looks like being Hindus and Christians in India. So far there have not been reports of Christians killing Hindus in retaliation, but it will happen eventually.
"Sadly, the Christian Church today seems to be only marginally less inclined toward violence in the name of God than any of the other world religions.
"Nevertheless, before that happens, it must be strongly emphasised that the murder of an Australian missionary who had been trying to combat tuberculosis, leprosy, and other sicknesses in India for several years, and the murder of two innocent children, just because they are Christians, definitely does represent a most heinous crime that should be protested vigorously at the highest levels of politics.
"It is to be deplored as much as the murder of Gandhi himself, who lived a peaceful life as a sincere Hindu. Religious differences have nothing to do with it.
"The official policy of the BJP Party in India is directly responsible for this upsurge of hatred toward all Christians, including our beloved late Sr. Teresa of Calcutta.
"Only strong censure from the rest of the world can stop this movement now."
Ross Parry, Australian missionary, Chennai (India)
The other exception came on the 25th of March, 1999, when I received a call from a "Peter" (who spoke with a slight lisp) saying that a letter from me had been short-listed to appear in the Herald the next day. I do not recall being contacted by Peter before, so I am assuming that he was acting in a relief capacity, and that it was an error that this letter got through.
Sent 21 March, 1998. Published 26 March, 1998.
"Surely this election favours readers of the Sydney Morning Herald. We are more experienced at handling papers the size of tablecoths than are readers of the tabloids."
As mentioned earlier, I was not keeping track of my own letters in the period between 28 December, 1998, and 6 February, 1999. However, I decided to start keeping a record of the rejected letters after that. Below are some of the rejected letters.
Sent 6 February, 1999. Never published.
"The Clinton situation illustrates a peculiarly American paradox, which, nevertheless, exists to a lesser degree in countries like Australia. It is the combination of a naive belief that telling a deliberate lie is the most heinous of all crimes, with the equally naive belief that there is a great moral chasm between telling a deliberate lie and deliberately setting out to deceive someone.
" 'Liar' remains one of the most obscene epithets that can be thrown at anyone, while a whole nation convinces itself that having even the thinnest of justifications constitutes the moral equivalent of crossing your fingers when telling a lie.
"On one side there is the pathetic hypocrisy of a house full of self-righteous senators who honestly think they represent some form of moral rearmament because of their willingness to throw the first stone at someone who has done what every one of them has done and will contintue to do at certain times in their lives (i.e. lie). And on the other side is a president who honestly believes that he has salvaged his reputation if he can hold to his claim that he did not deliberately tell a lie... that oral sex is not (in his particular brand of self-deception) really sex.
"That's his ridiculous story, and he's sticking to it; because to do otherwise would open the floodgates to the real truth that neither side wants to recognise, and that is that there is not one lick of moral difference between deceiving and telling a lie.
"Until one side or the other can be honest about their dishonesty, the whole farce will achieve nothing. The confession that is needed goes along this line: 'Yes, I have deceived people, and I will continue to do so. Whether I do it through deliberate lies or through other forms of deception makes no difference. And I will continue to do so, because, as the Bible itself says, "Only the fool says all that is in his heart," (Proverbs 29:11) and "A prudent man covers shame." (Proverbs 12:16)'
"But, of course, to say that would be political and social suicide. The farce being acted out in the U.S. White House is but a reflection of the society in which they and we all live. We all cherish the right to be morally indignant toward the lies/deceptions of others, while pretending that our own lies/deceptions do not exist. And this is perhaps the greatest deception of all."
Sent 14 March, 1999. Never published.
"So Evander Holyfield thinks he may have misunderstood the message he received from God about knocking out Lennox Lewis in the third round of their championship fight? Could it be that Holyfield has misunderstood more than that?
"Jesus doesn't come across to me like someone who promotes the business of knocking people unconscious for fun and profit."
Sent 20 March, 1999 (in reference to a mother who wanted someone to kill her because she could not bring herself to commit suicide). Never published.
"Life wasn't meant to be easy, and the same can probably be said of death. We are fortunate to have so many pain killers available today to assist people on their way out. In fact, doctors regularly speed things up by increasing dosages on request, until the morphine itself causes death.
"So what is all the rave about people wanting yet more 'dignity' when they die? Except for the most rare cases, patients can always overdose themselves if that really is what they want. Or hasn't that thought crossed the minds of such people as Ms. Burns?
"There seems to be a hidden agenda with regard to the euthanasia debate, and that is deeply disturbing."
Sent 25 March, 1999. Never published.
"The message that has been sent out by the IOC and SOCOG both, is that political expediency requires a certain amount of corruption. Everyone else is doing it, and if we want to win, we need to do the same. Just be very careful not to get caught.
"What does this say to the thousands of athletes hoping to compete next year, with respect to taking drugs?"
Sent 25 March, 1999. Never published.
"They say a camel is a horse that was put together by a committee. Sounds like John's preamble."
Sent 25 March, 1999. Never published.
"Of all the crimes committed in this state, one of the most harmless would have to be graffiti. The millions of dollars worth of 'damage' that is supposedly done by graffiti is really only a measure of the money wasted trying to cover it up or remove it. Leave it alone and it hurts nothing.
There are not many surfaces which would not benefit from a bit of paint. The words themselves say little more than the nickname of the graffitist, but they often do so with artistic flair. Some of the better "burns" include colourful pictures which could hardly be termed offensive. Some councils and other bodies have even been known to commission graffitists to do murals in their own special art style.
"So why have graffitists suddenly been placed at the top of the law and order hate list? Graffiti has been recognised as a valid art form in many quarters for many years. Historians will one day look back on this period of our state's history with scorn, as they talk of state politicians seeking election on the grounds that they would wipe out graffiti.
"Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) once said, 'Wherever books will be burned, men also, in the end, will be burned.' Much the same can be said for this desire to put the torch to this last resort of the downtrodden to voice dissent.
"It is a strange society that defends the movie Lolita as an art form at the same time that it castigates proponents of a far less harmful art form, and seeks to have them arrested and humiliated.
"Stop scape-goating the graffitists and concentrate on the real parasites in our society... like the politicians themselves."
Sent 27 March. Never published.
"Whatever else Milosevic might be, he is not a dictator. The situation in Yugoslavia highlights the horrific waste of democratic elections in a society where moral integrity must always bow to political expediencies.
"Milosevic has a mandate from the Serbian majority for ethnic cleansing. Clinton, on the other hand, does NOT have a mandate to open his country to Albanian refugees. Indeed, he does not even have a manadate to send troops into Kosovo to stand guard over the Albanians being massacred there.
"Consequently, NATO's answer to 2,000 Albanian deaths is a threat to kill ten times as many Serbs.
"The anguish we all feel when we read of innocent civilians being butchered could be eased through other means than retaliation. Australia, too, could decide to airlift Albanians out of Kosovo. But that is no more politically expedient than it is for Milosevic to stop killing them.
"In the meantime, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
Sent 1 April, 1999. Never published.
"The Australian government's total disregard for the findings of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is a source of personal embarrassment to me as an Australian citizen.
"We heard the former apartheid government of South Africa make such statements regarding world opinion, and Slobodan Milosevic is making such statements today.
"They always say that the rest of the world 'doesn't understand' what is a very delicate and complex situation. This is usually a way of saying that the local government cannot see the forest for the trees, and the 'trees' are mostly a matter of political expediencies.
"Outside observers, like the United Nations, are usually able to extricate themselves from the tangled webs of expediency and see the simple immorality of such things as racism and ethnic cleansing. Although there may be room for minor disagreements on the fine details, the overall finding needs to be taken very seriously."
Sent 7 April, 1999. Never published.
"Media reports on refugees in Albania have included pictures of a man fighting officials who were trying to get him to board a plane out of the area, and an interview with an angry woman who said she didn't want to be taken to another country.
"Are these people typical of the refugees as a whole? Or are they extreme examples? If they are not typical, the media is only confusing the public by giving them worldwide coverage. If they are typical, then we must seriously question reports that say these people face execution in the home country, and starvation where they are now.
"Most of us in the West believe we are acting to save people from serious atrocities. But if people do not want to be helped, then perhaps the seriousness of the situation has been exaggerated."
Sent 15 April, 1999. Never published.
"Why is it that so much of the mail and so much of the coverage of the war in Yugoslavia is one-eyed?
"Serbians, in a perverted sense of loyalty to their country (or at least to the Serbian majority in their country), skirt conspicuously around the atrocities that have been carried out against Albanians, by saying only that two wrongs make one right.
"They all seem to argue that they or people they know have suffered; and so that justifies retribution against innocent Albanians. Let them condemn NATO attacks if they like, but let them also show the moral courage to condemn Serbian atrocities.
"And the Western alliance is looking more and more foolish as it continues to defend the destruction of an art gallery, a hospital, a passenger train, a bus terminal, and who knows what next. Every day more innocent victims die in a remedy that is proving to be more harmful than the original sickness.
"At the same time, the media continues to state as fact that Serbs are butchers, liars, animals, etc. This is the same kind of racism that we are supposed to be fighting against in Yugoslavia. How many more times is Milosevic, for example, going to be referred to as a dictator, when he was democratically elected? The problem is not dictatorship, but rather intolerance by a very racist majority in his country.
"Similarly, chasing all the Albanians out of the country is terribly wrong; but it should not be referred to as "genocide". Genocide is something quite different... more like what we did to our Aboriginal minority!
"There is enough that is wrong on both sides without people inventing crimes that have no basis in fact."
Sent 28 April, 1999. Never published.
"E. C. Fox (Letters, 28 April) says that 'the disposal in Australia of high-level nuclear waste from other countries need not be harmful." Gee, don't go saying things like that in the newspaper, E.C., or the other countries may hear of it and stop trying to send the stuff over here!"