Poor judgement

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.

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Ken Parish
15 years ago

Einfeld had to fudge his answers to the questions about his other (alleged) instances of swearing false stat decs to avoid traffic infringements, because any clear admission might later have been used by police/DPP to found additional perjury or similar charges against him (cf “Jihad Jack” Thomas, who got off terrorism-related charges because of the danger that his admissions in a record of interview had been tainted by threats and exposure to torture, only to be recharged on the strength of repeating the same admissions in a TV interview).

Einfeld wasn’t stupid enough to fall for that one, but he WAS stupid enough not to realise that he would look very shabby indeed for obfuscating his answers to those questions (or perhaps didn’t realise that those questions would certainly be asked by an even marginally competent interviewer). As James observes, you wonder why he decided to submit himself for interview at all. Arrogance and hubris or just plain stupidity? Probably all three, Einfeld is clearly nowhere near as brilliant as he apparently believes he is.

15 years ago

Didn’t I read somewhere that Einfeld also spiced up his who’s who entry? I can’t feel sorry for him, that’s for sure.

Geoff Honnor
15 years ago

“The first is that its a complete mystery why he approached the interview, made with Sara Ferguson just before sentencing, in the way that he did.”

Maybe not that much of a mystery. His ego and general self-regard approach sociopathic proportions. Chris Sidoti put it perfectly: a blustering, arrogant insensitive bully. A man who not only believes his own publicity but is deluded enough to assume that it’s a belief universally shared.

Einfeld perceives himself to be an enormously significant figure whose every utterance will be scrutinised for the great biographical work that will eventually vindicate him and place his public martyrdom in proper perspective.

Ironically most people outside NSW wouldn’t have a clue who he is apart from being some old weird dude on a Current Affair who rorted his speeding tickets. Even in Sydney, most people associate “Einfeld” with the name they give to Oxford Street at Bondi Junction or that American sitcom that used to be on.

All he had was an overblown reputation for “achievement” that was largely (as Sidoti acerbically implies) delivered by others. He doesn’t have much left apart from self-delusion and 200 grand a year for life.

Joshua Gans
15 years ago

Thanks for that tip, Ken.

15 years ago

This is most unfair. How do we know that was Einfeld on Four Corners? It could be a simple case of mistaken identity. Perhaps Einfeld had an overseas visitor staying with him who answered the phone when Four Corners called. This visitor (let’s call him Mr X) may have, in one of those coincidences that happens all the time if you watch TV, also had been convicted of perjury for lying about speeding offences in his own country. Maybe there’s a support group for such people and that’s how Mr X and Einfeld got in touch? Mr X agreed to the interview under the mistaken belief that Four Corners want to interview him about his case. I think Einfeld should clear this up with a stat dec saying that Four Corners had interviewed an overseas visitor rather than him.

15 years ago

I thought that Sarah Fergusons interview with Marcus Einfeld was a major disappointment

All she was doing was flogging a dead horse. She was conducting the interview like he was trying to pin down a shonky builder a la A Current Affair or This Day Tonight. Don’t get me wrong. Einfeld deserves all he gets. But Ferguson attitude was I am going to get this guy but the issue was that he already was got. He was going to be charged, his reputation was already in ruin and Ferguson was just going over stuff media has already covered at length.

Ferguson just irked him and he got defensive and the interview was useless. I would have liked to have explored why he still thinks that he is honest despite lying repeatedly.

Look at a non journalist like Andrew Denton how he was able to cajole people such as Alan Bond and Rene Rivkin in showing their inconsistencies and failures.

15 years ago

“pathetic petty criminal” sums it up, except that this man was once a high priest of our justice system