Paddy’s End

Paddy McGuinness died this morning. He was 69.

As a columnist and editor McGuinness thrived on controversy. As Matthew Ricketson wrote, he was "loved and loathed in roughly equal measure, and that is the point — and the trick — with such columnists." At Catallaxy, Jason Soon remembers him "making a very strong and coherent case for the legalisation of ‘hard’ drugs".

For McGuinness, nobody was above criticism. As editor of Quadrant he once addressed a letter to God. "It is difficult to address a letter to a wholly fictitious figure", he wrote:

But if you were to exist, by creating Man with the capacity for evil as well as good (and quite a lot in between) and deciding to condemn to eternal punishment those who according to your not altogether clear criteria are not good enough (not just evil) you have in effect created a multitude of people who, brought into this world often as a result of a mere spasm of somebody else’s pleasure, can end up in an eternity of torture. That is a good god? If the fictitious you created Hell (in whatever its current doctrinal meaning is—I remember the Passionist fathers threatening us little boys with eternal fire and pain) then you are by my merely human standard of judgment as evil as the Hell you created, as the people you create who end up in that Hell, and you are responsible for the extremes of evil that are manifest in our world. As many people, especially Jews, asked after the Holocaust, could such a god exist? Would not such a god deserve our condemnation, our contempt, and our rejection?

But as God pointed out (via Peter Coleman) one of McGuinness’ innovations as editor of Quadrant, was to open up its pages to Christian argument. And there’s nothing Paddy McGuinness liked better than a good argument.

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Peter Gallagher
16 years ago

Farewell Paddy. A great editor and controversialist. It’s not that we have so many of those in Australia (not anymore, anyway). He had a sort of genius that is little celebrated in our country (where Heath Ledger’s much slimmer but prettier genius is more important). He deserves a serious memorial. Peter Coleman’s tribute on his recent retirement from Quadrant hints — at least — at why.

16 years ago

We will miss him. A sad loss.

Ken Lovell
16 years ago

I stopped reading McGuinness in the SMHerald a long time ago, because his writings became so tiresomely repetitive and predictable. From memory his departure occurred without fanfare and with little apparent reader protest. As you say he ‘thrived on controversy’, but the studied provocation was too often crafted for effect and created the impression of a man more interested in arguing for its own sake than in presenting a point of view grounded in deeply-considered principle. I think such professional controversialists ultimately damage the process of public policy discussion, but I know nothing of the man’s private character.

Geoff Robinson
16 years ago

Why glorify a thug, this is him on East Timor:

More was done in the quarter-century of Indonesian rule to improve the health and education of the Timorese than ever had been done in the years of Portuguese rule. Much of this was destroyed in the name of independence

This is the Australian ‘intellectual right’ all they offer is an empty nihilism and cult of irrationalism, perhaps McGuiness was brighter than David Hicks so less excuse for a similar political trajectory

Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
16 years ago

He was the best economics editor that has ever written in Australia and was a pretty good film reviewer.

He got out of his depth wheen he became editor of the AFR and his columns lacked clarity.

He thought he was an intellectual but given the drivel he worte up there about Christianity I am wondering whether he had a brain at all!

Ironically he was all for argument but not at Quadrant dinners!

Lord Paddy

16 years ago

Never read the man. No loss to me, it seems.