Peter FitzSimons will have you believe he is on a moral quest to save us from the relentless stream of betting advertising that is muddying the minds of our children.
He will claim that he is risking his livelihood by speaking out against the wealthy, powerful bookie, Tom Waterhouse, who is currently suing FitzSimons for defamation over a series of inarticulate, CAPS LOCK-laden rants in his weekly Fairfax column.
FitzSimons has made a career, of sorts, out of polarising public opinion. His belligerent style of writing dares you, somewhat violently, to either side with him or against him. He doesn’t care what you think, as long as he gets to have his say in a public forum.
The back page of the Herald is FitzSimons’ soapbox; his pedestal from which he is allowed free reign, under the auspices of his editor, to wax lyrical on any subject he should so desire. From Anthony Mundine to Michael Clarke, FitzSimons will paint said public figure in whatever shade he pleases, urging the reader to come along and join his human conga line of hate (or love, depending on the subject).
Don’t get me wrong: I hate the over-exposure of Tom Waterhouse as much as the next guy. His shit-licking visage grates me no end – and there is no doubt that the ubiquity of sports betting advertising on TV is harmful to future generations, who will see this as the norm should it continue. FitzSimons is to be commended for calling on the government to remove loopholes that allow TV networks to spruik betting odds under the guise of sports commentary.
But FitzSimons is a victim of his own vanity, presenting this battle as a popularity contest. His career is not on the line; he doesn’t stand to lose everything. His court fees are being paid by Fairfax, which means it isn’t really ‘Fitzy v Waterhouse’, as he’d like it to be. He shouldn’t slant the argument his way.
If he wants to take on Waterhouse, then perhaps he should cough up the fees – then he’d earn some real respect. Who wouldn’t back a columnist (I’m reluctant to call him a journalist) over a ‘scurrilous bookmaker’?
If FitzSimons had an element of finesse about his writing – which he doesn’t – then he wouldn’t be in the situation he is in. He would have neatly made his point while avoiding a law-suit. This issue should be met with reason, not rancour. But then again, FitzSimons, a former rugby union lock, has never been noted for his subtlety.
I’m torn. On one hand, I am glad that someone is taking a direct challenge to Tom Waterhouse’s overt efforts to cash in on an obvious loophole, on the basis that it is damaging for children to be exposed to constant gambling advertising. But on the other hand, I don’t like the way FitzSimons is positioning the battle.
One gets the feeling that FitzSimons likes to insert himself into his writing. I haven’t read any of his critically acclaimed books on Australian history, but I hope he managed to avoid using the personal pronoun when recounting the heroics of Australian WWII soldiers in his best-selling tome, Tobruk.
Perhaps these are the battles he should stick to writing about.
By Dave Edwards