The Trials of Oz ??“ writing about the perspectives
In Robertson??™s ???first??™ case, he describes himself as being ???in the well of the court, as stage-hand for the defence.??? The theatrical term sets the tenor for the rest of his narrative and he continues the theatre analogy using terms such as, ???stage???, ???rehearse??? and ???cast???. Robertson??™s perspective is extended by the memory of his first experience of British justice at the Old Bailey, but in this text it is also influenced by the passage of years and by his experience of later writing and seeing produced his own play, based on the case. This courtroom drama became a drama of the courtroom for Robertson, literally.
His depiction of Judge Argyle as a tyrant heads the theatricality of his recount. ???It seemed at times that we were all serving the interests of entertainment,??? Robertson wrote, as he draws the image of the judge crying ???Silence??¦.This is a courtroom not a theatre???, before going on to explain that Mortimer would leave the trial each day to go to rehearsals of his play ???with a sense that he was returning to real life.???
Robertson??™s disdain for the judge is matched by his attitude to the material in Oz 28 using Leary??™s comment ???Extraordinary it may be, but whatever it is, it??™s not genius??? and describing it as ???the worst of Oz??™. What Robertson is more concerned with is the archaic system of law being used to pillory the defendants and their right to publish. Whilst at the same time he is highlighting the corruption of the police and media in their hypocritical guise of upholding ???public morals???.
His sarcasm and ironic tone clearly give his view of the state of affairs at the time. Police evidence is described as ???amateur hour??? having been constructed by officers themselves, in order to get a conviction. Robertson??™s prosaic description of the process is scathing ???More of less everyone committed perjury.??? This use of the sweeping statement is a feature of his writing. It is not stated as opinion but as fact. It is difficult for the reader to test his statements and thus we are led to the conclusion that Robertson is correct.
However, we begin to question his perspectives when we are exposed to other representations of the same events, personalities and situations. The contemporary documentary aired on the ABC gives voice to a snapshot of opinions from the time. ???Man in the street??? comments ranged ???They asked for it??¦lock them up??? and ???disgraceful??? through to ???amused???, ???indifferent??? and disgust at the treatment metered out to the trio. Whatever the perspective on the case it seems that ???public opinion??? finally accepted that ???the times they are a changing??? as Bob Dylan so eloquently put it.
One of the most curious perspectives on the case was from Vivien Berger??™s (the artist who drew the cartoon of Rupert??™s phallus) mother. Her television interview was interesting as she spoke directly to the interviewer and stated that she thought the whole experience of writing and setting the magazine was very beneficial for the students but that ???The trial put the children through an experience that any 16 year old should not have had to be put through.???
Mrs Berger??™s cultured voice and educated speech were in stark contrast to the tv vision of her long-haired son. If anything, it is her perspective, and of those like her, that marked the end of the public divide on free speech, and not Robertson??™s satirical treatment of the case. If an upper middle class mother can accept the need for free speech and a moderation of the law then this would indicate that mainstream society has changed its perspective. Never-the-less there is still a gulf in public attitude to what is and isn??™t acceptable and debate continues.
Another point of interest in perspective is Richard Neville??™s comment, in the same documentary, that he read The Times to gauge the strength of public opinion for their case and that 400 letters had been written to the newspaper in support of the three defendants. The Times newspaper??™s perspective has always been conservatism in Britain and it is perceived as the pinnacle of British journalism as opposed to the tabloids of which Robertson is so scathing calling them ???the seedy regulars,???Old Bailey hacks?????™ and ???Lunchtime O??™Boozers???.
It is a strange perspective indeed when counsel, a defendant and a conservative newspaper agree on a change in social mores. Robertson goes so far as to praise a Times journalist, Bernard Levin, for publishing ???one of the finest polemics against prosecution.???
And so, the Oz Trials became famous not only for the titillating material of the case itself but because it reflected society??™s changing social perspectives in the 1970??™s. Robertson was there. His involvement in the case and the discovery of the change in tide of public opinion, are not really a result of his involvement or even of his representation and strong personal voice in this text. The resulting change in perspective which set the Oz defendants free was nothing more than ?20 of easily obtainable pornography which fortuitously, gave the Chief Justice a totally new perspective on readily available obscene material.
by Kate User