The increasingly bitter stoush between left-wing public intellectual Robert Manne and the bigwigs at The Australian newspaper shows no sign of stopping.
Manne, who has written a damning 40,000-word essay on The Australian's influence on public debate, will take on the broadsheet's editor-at-large Paul Kelly in a public debate in Melbourne on Wednesday night. It's sure to be a heated event, given the war of words between the pair over recent days.
In his Quarterly Essay, Manne, who has twice been voted Australia's most influential public intellectual, slams The Australian for its coverage of climate change, the Iraq War and the Stolen Generations. He also singles out particular journalists – including editor Chris Mitchell, foreign editor Greg Sheridan and political editor Dennis Shanahan – for stinging criticism.
Kelly fired back last week with a full-page feature accusing Manne of being a "moralistic political censor" who has a "fixation on repressing stories and debates he doesn't like".
Kelly's article proved, however, to be just a taste of things to come: over the weekend the paper devoted two full pages – six articles and over 8,000 words in total – to rebutting Manne's conclusions. Greg Sheridan called Manne "awfully silly and desperately sad", Chris Kenny accused him of "paranoia" and Chris Mitchell said he was guilty of "writing crap" and manipulating the holocaust for political advantage.
Manne has already penned a 2,800 word blog post lashing Kelly for "carelessness" and "deep intellectual confusion". He expects The Australian to offer him a "reply of reasonable length" in coming days.
DECLARATION: Eric Beecher, publisher of The Power Index, is chairman of the Wheeler Centre, the venue for Wednesday's Kelly-Manne debate.