The Trials of Oz

The Trials of Oz
Conflicting Perspectives
AAitken 2012
Glossary of key terms
Bob Dylan
Venereal disease
Act of Representation
• This means that the composer has selected
evidence, selectively
• It is not a verbatim account of the truth, but a
representation of the truth
• Robertson is an astute legal man, argument is his
• Be aware of how Robertson positions the
responder to accept his viewpoint
• Be aware of which techniques Robertson uses to
represent his version of events.
• Robertson’s fusion of the personal memoir/nonfiction form is important
• Allows him to use his recollections of personal
experiences and at the same time, cleverly,
appear to be creating a non-fiction (factual)
recount. His text is effective in the way it meshes
recount and his subjective commentary.
• Why is this important?
• How does it affect the positioning of the
• 1971
• Robertson early in his career
• “I knew all about the law – but nothing about
justice, and I was looking forward to seeing it
• “Schoolkids’ edition” of Oz, a radical, small
publication – published pictures of Rupert
Bear with an erection
• Obscenity trial
Opens with Conflicting Perspective
• Conservative opinion from treasury counsel, Brian
• “These accused men agreed to publish a magazine
which would carry, as it had before, the banner of the
alternative society. Look at that magazine and ask
yourselves…What alternatives are there? Dropping out
of society. Expecting the state to provide – and by the
state I mean nothing more than you and me…p 21.”
• Look at the tone of this statement. How are we
positioned to perceive this conflicting perspective?
Cites literary works
• Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Last Exit to Brooklyn.
• Robertson often cites literary works.
• How does this help to position us to receive
his views ? He is a learned-man and therefore,
reasonable, rational and knowledgeable
• How do we perceive him?
• What is included is an important question for this
• Chief Justice conceded that there were some
items in the magazine which were “wholly
innocuous”, “charming and humourous”
• “Statement from the National Union of Teachers,
complaining that the magazine would tend to
undermine the authority of teachers” p 22
• What is the purpose of including this statement?
Does it magnify or minimize the importance of
this article?
Judge Argyle – conflicting perspective
• How is he lampooned?
• Inclusion: “famous for his catch-cry ‘we just don’t do this
sort of thing in Birmingham”
• “Sent delinquents who vandalised public telephone boxes
to prison for three years” (Robertson undermines this with
reference to the upsurge in telephone vandalism)
• “He announced a novel campaign to end burglary by
sentencing burglars to prison for life”
• What is Robertson’s tone here?
• Is it humorous?
• How are we positioned to perceive Judge Argyle, before he
has even entered the courtroom?
Judge Argyle – cont’d
• His judgeship was a career consolation for the
Tory (Liberal, conservative) MP he had tried to
several times to become…”
• “Right on!” vs Judge’s interpretation – shows
him to be out of touch. He asks, “Write
on…but you had finished the interview?”
• - Not write on – WRITE on – but RIGHT on…
• What is the purpose of including this
De Bono
• De Bono’s testimony, about the size and
proportions of Rupert Bear’s organs is
• How does this “funny” inclusion work to serve
Robertson’s perspective?
• Leary, the cross- examining lawyer for the
prosecution, asks questions such as “What age
do you think Rupert bear is?” – What is the
effect of the inclusion of these questions?
The Judge
• We are positioned to view him as out-dated,
an old, conservative man who is out of touch
with modern society.
• “Well pardon me, (ineffably polite), “For those
of us who did not have a classical education,
what do you mean by this word
• Mispronunciation of this word included. Why?
Robertson represents…
• “For Judge Argyle, however, o__l s__ was
always unthinkable and invariably dangerous”
• Turn to p 28. Read the Judge’s response about
“Fatty Arbuckle”.
• How does Robertson’s inclusion of this tale
and the judge’s erroneous “data bank” help to
shape our perception of him?
A “telling insight” into Argyle’s mind…
• Through Robertson’s narration “He revealed
that he had felt it necessary to have a glass of
water smashed to pieces, after disc jockey
John Peel had taken a sip from it in the
witness box. He apparently believed it might
be infected because some years before the
witness had picked up a brief venereal
infection.” Robertson describes this as “bizarre
action”. Why “apparently”?
Collision of Cultural Incomprehension
• “Fancy dress parades”, swords, nosegays.
• What is Robertson’s opinion about The Old
Bailey? P 31.
• How does Robertson lampoon the judge’s
over-reactive nature when he includes De
Bono’s plan to let a wind up bird fly? P 31.
• “The plodding orality of the English
Description of Defendants
• “Yet these defendants were incapable of
hurting the proverbial fly…” p 34
Conflicting Perspectives
• In America, a Presidential Commission had
just reported…that pornography did not cause
anti-social behaviour”
• Robertson lampoons/mimics the judge “We
just don’t need this thing in Birmingham” p
36. Sarcastic tone undermines judge and other
conservative viewpoints.
Back to the Judge – and his pen…
• What is the effect of including the
commentary on the judge’s pen movements?
• P38.
• “Judge Argyle’s view were unconsciously
signalled to the jury through tone of voice and
body language…”
• “he would let it drop – thump – onto the desk,
as if it were a thing of infinite toxicity”
Leary’s concluding statements
• Robertson tells us of Leary’s “effective” closing
• Robertson seems to respect Leary’s style, his efficiency
as a lawyer
• He includes Leary’s statement because it is an example
of Leary appealing to middle-class/conservative values
(values that conflict with Robertson’s):
• “…no doubt your children come from very nice homes
where they can discuss properly questions about love
and s__ and the dangers of taking
drugs…because…morality is essential to the health of a
community…and it is for you, ladies and gentlemen of
the jury to set the moral standard by which we shall
continue to live in this country” Robertson refers to it
as a “seductive invitation”
John Mortimer - Defence
• P 37. Read it.
• Mortimer minimizes the Rupert Bear cartoons, saying
“Wimbledon tournaments have come and gone…”, whilst
we have “turned over, and over, and over again the pages
of a little underground magazine”
• “A huge quantity of public time and money has been spent
in the eager pursuit of what? A schoolboy prank.”
• “Cheeky criticism”, “Lavatory humour”
• “Adolescent discussion of s__ and drugs”
• The deep, sonorous solemnity of a great criminal trial”
• Lovely, effective simile “the prosecution is like some
nervous public official who, when a child puts out a tongue
at him in the street, calls out the army”
Juror’s Findings
• Jury returns to ask for a definition of “obscene”
• “He read to them from the Oxford English
Dictionary, which said it meant, among other
things, ‘indecent’. In law, that is precisely what
obscene does not mean”
• Then, after the “guilty” verdicts are read out, we
are told that the judge said… “with the relief of a
man making a bowel movement after weeks of
constipation, “Gaoler, take them down!”
• Rhetorical Q – after verdict “where were we – the
Soviet Union?” This connotes ideas of strict,
totalitarian regimes where freedom and
expression are oppressed.
Hair Cuts
• Robertson positions us:
• “the State had wreaked its atavistic (reverting
back to a primitive type) revenge by stripping
them of their hippie symbol of insolence”
• How does this affect the way we perceive the
Later…p 40
• “At last the forces of reason (therefore, all that
has happened up until this point is
unreasonable)…began to make themselves
• “Michael Foot, Tony Benn, and many other
MPs put down early-day motions condemning
the judge for sending them to prison…” and
“Bernard Levin…produced for The Times one
of his finest polemics against the prosecution.”
Psych Report
• Which again, conflicts with the Judge’s
perspective, but supports Robertson’s:
• “They (the defendants) are of high
intelligence…polite…courteous. There are
aspects of society that appal them and they
edited Oz to show the urgent need for reform”
(“Judge Argyle, however, was unmoved…”
Superb Use of Conflicting Perspectives:
• Robertson uses logical arguments in brackets to refute,
and therefore disqualify, Judge Argyle’s perspective. P
• “As these three accused are over twenty one,
probation would be totally inappropriate” (there is no
appropriate age for a probation order); “They are
comparatively poor men, therefore a fine is
inappropriate” (judges should never decide that prison
is the only alternative because a person too poor to
pay a fine)…
• Here, we follow Robertson’s logic – we see his
perspective as the “right” one and and the Judge as an
incompetent fool.
The Irony of it All..
• According to Robertson, the Oz Trial was a “fig
leaf” to “cover up the deep and vicious
corruption” of the police in London.
• He writes the defendants were “Too honest to
pay for police protection, too political to be
prurient, they were to be the next convenient
Robertson and Freedom of Artistic
• Robertson sees the Oz trial and “what was
practically a replay of the Oz trial in 76”, as
being instrumental in ensuring that “the
written word, certainly, is now beyond the
long arm of the law…”
• “We seem to have laughed “lifestyle”
prosecutions out of court…”
And, finally
• Robertson is a liberal minded (not Liberal-minded),
progressive QC.
• He often sits in opposition to the “status-quo”, those
who are on the conservative side of the spectrum, like
Argyle and Mary Whitehouse.
• He represents his version of the truth, here, as
perceived through his particular frame.
• His work is an extension of his own public image and a
vehicle through which he communicates his values.
• We are always aware that he is an intelligent, academic
(think of all the literary allusions!) and highly
experienced QC, and this knowledge in itself positions
us to accept his authority on these matters.
Reflection questions
(complete after reading the essay)
• What charges were laid against the defendants? What could the
consequences of these charges be?
• What position does the judge take in the trial? How does Robertson
portray the judge? Why do you think he does this?
• Do you think there should be ‘standards’ in society for publications or do
you believe that there should be no censorship.
• ‘Truth depends on your perspective’; how true is this statement with
reference to this essay.
This chapter allows for the examination of the various/conflicting
perspectives of truth and censorship. Consider the links on the PowerPoint –
Mod C-Related Materials. In particular, focus on the viewing from Media
Watch and The Chaser’s War on Everything.

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