Regarding last night’s Four Corners about Marcus Einfeld’s disgrace, there are exactly two things to be said.
The first is that it’s a complete mystery why he approached the interview, made with Sarah Ferguson just before sentencing, in the way that he did. It would have been understandable if he’d decided to make a clean breast of it. There isn’t a huge amount of merit in finally telling the truth once you’ve been caught red-handed and comprehensively discredited, especially if you’ve been wriggling like mad to save your skin until the game was up; but there isn’t much to lose either, and presumably it’s the first necessary step to rehabilitating your reputation. You can even make a virtue of your new-found humility, in the manner of a televangelist who’s been caught out philandering or sodomising.
But Einfeld didn’t make a clean breast of it. On the contrary, he’d succeeded somehow in deluding himself that he could salvage something. He claimed that he had genuinely believed that he hadn’t been driving the car when he wrote the Statutory Declaration, and that he had to stick to the story thereafter for the sake of consistency. If that was disconcerting to a potentially sympathetic listener, his indignation at the suggestion that he might be a habitual fibber was cringe inducing. By the end, when Ferguson confronted him with the fact that he’d on three earlier occasions sworn that a foreign-resident friend had been driving his car (he’d even named the deceased Teresa Brennan before!), and he tried to pretend he couldn’t be accountable as it was all so long ago — by then, he was looking like a pathetic petty criminal.
The mystery is, even if he doesn’t have a remorseful bone in his body — and it certainly looks that way — how could he make such a tactical blunder? If Ferguson had it right and Einfeld pled guilty in the end because he knew that the prosecution would shine the spotlight on his earlier perjuries, he must have known there was a good chance that Ferguson would bring them up in the interview. That being so, his emphatic insistence that the lie that destroyed his career was totally out of character, some unfathomable lapse, was bound to come across as laughable. The only answer I can come up with is that he actually believed the claims of Richard Alston et al. about the ABC’s left wing bias, and seriously imagined he’d get a soft interview.
The second point is that the Einfeld affair didn’t deserve a whole episode of Four Corners. As one case study in a story about cracks in the traffic-law enforcement system or the hubris of judges, it would have been justified. Had anyone emerged meritorious from the whole squalid affair, it might perhaps have justified a half-hour episode of Australian Story, but certainly not a whole 45 minutes on the flagship current affairs program, which has a fine history of breaking big stories, and analysing structural problems in our society. Let’s hope this was not a representative sample of the year’s offerings.