Some time back a rumour circulated that a new book about to be published contained a story about the grandfather of a senior member of the national parliament. The Honourable Member (we’ll use the name ‘Smith’ since we can’t risk using his proper one) was very concerned at this reported account of the deeds of his ancestor and decided to get his counter-attack in first.
He called a press conference at which his assistant read a prepared statement.
“The Honourable Member wishes to put straight the matter of his grandfather’s death and quieten the rumours which have been circulating about him. He [grandfather Smith] was appearing at a large public gathering at which he was the guest of honour, when the platform on which he was standing collapsed. He died almost instantly of his injuries.”
Fair enough. Nothing to be ashamed of in that you would think.
And then the book hit the streets.
According to the book, which explained in great detail, the platform on which grandfather Smith was standing was the gallows. He had been convicted of horse stealing and was paying the penalty. He died when the trap opened, he fell, and the noose broke his neck. The crowd were there to watch the hanging.
The name of the hanged man was featured prominently, and it was pointed out, in a number of places and with repeated emphasis and unsuppressed glee, that The Honourable Member is a direct descendent of the horse thief.
The Honourable Member was not pleased!
But why not?
Being the grandson of a horse thief is not a big deal to many people in Australian society. A long time ago, Australia was a dumping ground for transported British convicts, so many Australians have a bit of felony somewhere in their ancestry.
Australians tend to look kindly on people such as grandfather Smith. Seeing them as the innocent victims of a heartless and totalitarian authority (the police and the government) which presses heavily on the ordinary working man trying to make a decent living and support his family, persecuting him mercilessly and usually falsely! So it goes.
If The Honourable Member had dealt with the matter of his grandfather’s death in the right way he could have become a national hero, a symbol of freedom in the face of overbearing authority, a supporter of the victim in an unjust society, and so on and so on.
He would have been guaranteed a seat in parliament for the rest of his life.
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