Be very worried, Tim Blair – we are all frightbats now

Tim Blair inadvertently created an honourable list of women who’ve made a contribution to Australian life. philippe leroyer

I got the phone call about 6pm on Tuesday night.

“Mum,” said the voice. “Mum, are you OK?”

Turns out that one of my children had stumbled across a few sentences written by the Daily Telegraph blogger Tim Blair. He was big in the early years of blogging, what we’d call an early adopter; but not so much now. If he has a social media presence, it isn’t apparent. (This is his blog’s Twitter feed.)

Quite often, the target of his writing on his blog is women.

Smart women. Old women. Young women. In my case, it’s only been a few times. This year. But there are others: Van Badham, Clementine Ford, Marieke Hardy, Anne Summers. And on it goes.

These columns often include quite personal remarks. The way we look. The way we sound. Our clothes.

Anne Summers with Julia Gillard. AAP

He has even decided to make comments about Badhams’s dead father – astonishingly he hasn’t been disciplined by the senior people at News for what are cruel and heartless comments.

The Tele didn’t let Alan Jones get away with the comments he made about the former Prime Minister’s father; but it looks like their own people can do it with impunity.

My child called with real concern for my feelings. Blair was running a poll which he imaginatively named: Crown Our Crazy Queen.

He wrote:

They shriek, they rage, they cheer, they despair, they exult, they scream, they laugh, they cry! There’s never a non-emotional moment in the lives of Australia’s left-wing ladies’ auxiliary, whose psychosocial behavioural disorders are becoming ever more dramatic following Tony Abbott’s election.

Uh oh, I thought as I read on. Surely Blair wasn’t about to start using mental illness to slur people with whom he disagreed.

Surely he was.

He went on:

Only one of them, however, can reign as our solitary monarch of madness. Only one can stand above all others, wailing and howling, while the rest look on and ask: “Where’s the Ritalin?” In the search for this nation’s most unhinged hysteric, let the BlairPoll decide!

Most unhinged? I love that word since Malcolm Turnbull reclaimed it. It must be wonderful cash for them as we click on the pages and the polls.

So who made the list? Anne Summers, Clementine Ford, Marieke Hardy, Catherine Deveny, Vanessa (Van) Badham, Margo Kingston, Clem Bastow, Jane Caro, Elizabeth Farrelly.

And me.

Marieke Hardy. AAP

It’s an honourable list of women who’ve made a contribution to Australian life in one way or another – Anne Summers would be the most senior of all those women in the impact she’s had on public life.

What does it all mean? Not much if you just consider what Blair wrote. He was having a clickbait moment – and he must be loving the tens of thousands of votes cast in the poll.

But here’s what it really means. Tim Blair plays the man rather than addressing the real issues. He plays the woman (and women) because he thinks that will be easier to get away with. Of course, Blair is enabled by – and provided with – institutional power by his employer.

There are inventive ways to respond, of course. By last night, Clementine Ford had urged voters to pick her, pick her – and she’s the clear leader in the poll and an awesome woman! I discovered I wasn’t quite batty enough to take the lead. And there were thousands of tweets offering to take Blair on or report him to someplace.

So I decided to ask him myself about why he’d picked those particular women. I spoke to him on the telephone today.

“They were the most popular Twitter left-wing women,” he said. “People who take very public extreme positions, who swear a great deal, who are very abusive to our current prime minister.”

When I asked him why he doesn’t write more about the budget or the economy, he told me that I was overanalysing the content of his blogs. (Of course, he also has the outlet of editorials for The Daily Telgraph to write on these topics, including his Kick This Mob Out campaign.)

I write about things that are of interest to me, it’s just an ad hoc thing on a day-to-day basis, there’s stuff there about cars, random, what’s amusing or interesting to me at the time.

And he tells me that a friend of his has forwarded on an email from a woman who is disgruntled about being left off the list:

Please tell your mate Tim that his failure to appoint me to his list of unstuck leftists is an act of curatorial negligence unmatched since Trotsky was refused a Nobel Prize.

I don’t think I know her name – but I have some comfort for her – and for my child. We are all frightbats now.