I wrote a rather brusque review after reading SNHJ. I bought it the day it came out and completed it the following day. No response from Tom Switzer of The Oz - I was hoping to get a rejection letter in precisely the same wording as the last two rejection letters so that I could prove to myself that he is a robot. So here it is:
Solomon Wakeling's take on SNHJ
Most people prepare themselves for disappointment but Margo Kingston put an excessive and dangerous emotional investment in to a Howard defeat (not a Latham victory) in 2004. She put a misplaced faith in to the spontaneous Iraq war protests and into her online activism. She set herself up for failure. Then she burnt out.
She confesses this story in her book Still Not Happy, John! but she need not. It was evident enough to close observers, told through pregnant silences, the siege mentality and protectiveness of those around her, as much as by direct confession. Disappointment, a back problem (probably caused by over-work), a free-falling career, frustration at losing editorial control, bankruptcy and personal abuse took their toll on her, and for much of the past two years she has been missing in action.
The book is an update of the last, written in 3-5 weeks, at the request of the publisher. This a long time for a workaholic like Kingston but it shows signs of a last minute hack job. Kingston writes so rarely now that the book is welcome but unsatisfying. The content is dictated by what Kingston is capable of writing about during this period of her life. She dwells on topics of which she has a strong handle (the sections on One Nation are powerful) and ignores many of the problems of the moment. There is little in the book about Kevin Rudd, making it hard to justify the sub-title “2007 election edition”. A chapter on East Timorese oil disputes is a non-sequitur. The chapter “What Johnny Did Next” gives a timeline but no analysis. Input by other authors is of high quality (if mostly left-wing) but to a cynical eye may resemble filler.
She argues the worth of going over the past to see clearly where we are now, as a lame justification for re-publishing the book with substantially the same content. New information is given in brief “postscripts” rather than in comprehensive revisions and reappraisals. Like the last book it is a hard slog, exhausting in its cumulative effect, despite Kingston’s breathless style. Get your thumbs ready to skim.
Penguin seems to have scented a chance for pre-election profiteering and Kingston, ever the opportunist, is incapable of declining a political advantage.
There are set classes in Kingston’s world. She plays fair with the small fish but is ruthless with the big fish. Her friends are those who are loyal to her person and to her causes. Unlike most people she has enemies. She is oblivious to the reasons why she may have acquired them. Those whom she excludes know who they are and are nonplussed by her vulnerability. At times her campaign style is little more than bullying, and, she invites robust criticism which she struggles to cope with.
That said, tactics used against Margo Kingston centre around humiliation of her person: her looks, her sanity and her professional competence. This began not online but in the mainstream press; One example were articles portraying Kingston as a buffoon for gate-crashing an executive meeting on cross-media ownership.
It is difficult to overstate the nastiness of some of her critics. Nicknames include “Hagrid”. There exists a picture of a down syndrome woman with the caption “Margo Kingston’s stunt double”. Her online site, Webdiary, attracts high levels of abuse. There are mock sites that satirise her, blaming the “Joos” (based on her views of the Zionist lobby), as if the occasional spelling or grammatical error was a confession of illiteracy and simple-mindedness. It is a manifestation of the “politics of personal destruction” applied to an individual with neither the responsibilities nor prominence of high office.
Nevertheless it is necessary to approach her confessions with a touch of ruthlessness. There is a level of emotional blackmail going on here. A lot of people get sick, a lot of people are on mood stabilisers and a lot of people lose elections and their jobs. The note is one of bitterness: Kingston is pointing her finger at the world and saying “this is what you did to me”. Most of her problems she invited upon herself. To view the whole saga as negative would be reductive; self-destruction is also self-revelation.
She needs to be reminded of her purpose. The issues she wrote so passionately about, like the Iraq war, were life or death. It mattered.