HAD you asked me ten years ago what I thought of Stan Grant as a person, I wouldn’t have had any emphatic opinions to share. My cursory impression of Grant as a journalist was that he was good at his job. The full television package, in fact: good-looking, eloquent, methodical and with a gracious but determined demeanor. Politically, he was obviously left-leaning on indigenous issues but didn’t come across as a soft touch or a flunky for any party. His curriculum vitae, inventorying senior and prestigious postings in Australia and abroad – across multiple networks and mediums (private and public) – is impressive. Here, I would have concluded, is a man never held back by racism. On the contrary, his Aboriginal ancestry helped him land rewarding jobs that would have been closed to people of any other cultural background. Despite not having the qualifications or the bibliography to justify it, he was appointed to a professorship at one university and a Chancellor’s chairmanship at another. The faculty dogsbodies in Tudor bonnets and Target flannies who went on strike earlier this month can only dream of such leapfrogging. In short, Grant formerly seemed to be a bridging figure – privileged but deserving – who had it made.
Then, to quote Captain Willard on the crumbling Kurtz, things started to slip. When Grant began writing a Saturday column for ABC online – more or less as a personal hobby to go with a series of by then more exalted positions at the national broadcaster – a different man emerged. He was now a passive-aggressive victim and a firebrand mystic obsessed with historical racial injustices and the unique perfidy of the British. He rarely mentioned present-day depredations against tribal women and children. Before 1788, the ‘first nations’ were a commonwealth Eden and, spiritually speaking, still were. The purpose of these columns, it’s fair to surmise, was to encourage black antagonism to “whites” and sideline gentrified reconciliation; not for others but to ameliorate the bourgeois guilt of an embarrassed in-betweener. Grant was so loftily platformed and unsackable that weaponised melancholy and race-baiting were luxuries he thought taxpayers could afford. He should have been reprimanded by ABC management long ago for repeatedly breaching APC guidelines on gratuitous references to the colour of individuals and groups but he wasn’t.
In April, the imperious Q+A host did a trial run of his later meltdown – and stole a march on Adjoa Andoh of “terribly white balcony” fame – by attacking the ABC’s New South Wales election results panel as “entirely white.” When Queen Elizabeth II died last year, not only did he publish another maudlin essay about the evils of whiteness, he told fellow (though minor) grievance royal Patricia Kavelas he felt a “visceral anger” towards Australians for betraying him by mourning the monarch. So much so that he rushed out a book condemning “whiteness as an organising principle.” I’m not sure what that is or whether it kicks in when choosing a second wife. Any other journalist who said and wrote such things about Asians or Aborigines would have been fired. Alas, ABC management had little choice but to include Grant on its coverage panel for the Coronation of King Charles III. Either he would be allowed to continue his crusade of loathing during a religious ceremony or the ABC would have been pilloried for cancelling the Brown Prince in the year of the Voice. The rest is hysteria. George Pell was persecuted by the ABC and sent to prison by a grateful state. By contrast, Grant’s nastiness is proven and his punishment light. Running away from a few beastly tweets on a paid holiday won’t live long in the song lines of the resistance.