Thursday, February 11, 2010

Miranda Devine, Audi, Chairman Rudd, young things, and down the rabbit hole again ...

Deeper thinkers in the farther reaches of loon pond will be looking forward to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.

It probably won't have much to do with Lewis Carroll, but the 3D experience of navigating an alternative world provides the kind of essential experience needed to make some kind of sense of a Miranda the Devine column.

The hapless, hopeless Devine can manage to weave a gossamer alternate bizarro world out of Avatar, so it's hardly surprising an ABC program can induce a kind of suspended reality.

Two funny things happened this week - the Prime Minister was punked on ABC TV's Q&A program by 400 sharp-tongued gen Ys who looked as if they had "cynic" stamped on their foreheads.

Well that's two funny things in an opener, with Gen Y first used as a term in 1993 in an Ad Age editorial to describe teenagers of the day, and much later in 2010, only 200 sharp tongued young things with idealist stamped on their foreheads turning up to ravage Chairman Rudd.

You can check on the head count by the simple expedient of going off to the actual transcript of the program here, at the ABC, where it talks of an audience of 200 young Australians, all aged between 16 and 25.

But let's not worry about figures, which is a bit like counting numbers at a Tea Party gathering, so much as the zeitgiest:

And history's most watched Superbowl game featured an Audi ad about "green police" which satirised environmental zealotry.

Well yes indeed let's turn to the Audi ad, which Devine spends a lot of time synopsising - see above - and what a handy way it is, on a slow Thursday, to get up your word count quickly.

The ad is so relentlessly gen Y as to feature Cheap Trick's old tune Dream Police, and - surprise, surprise - the ad also discovers the actual Audi in question passes the fiendish inspection of the Green police. Because it's a diesel.

What's the Devine deduce from this? That it would be good for the environment? That it's the sort of car a greenie nerd might drive with pride, unless perhaps a Volvo also called? One with the badge "green car of the year"?

Might this not be a standard advertising trick, of flipping the subject around, toying with the idea for a little comedy, and then going with the flow? While referencing television reality shows like 'Cops'?

Like noticing a planet-destroying meteor heading for earth, breaking out the beer in a last rites astronomers' party, then when the flaming meteor nee comet turns out to be a coin-sized flaming dud, carrying on with the party?


It is hard to imagine, even six months ago, one of the world's largest car corporations, Germany's Volkswagen Group, having the courage to advertise even its most eco-friendly wares by satirising green totalitarianism and fakery. They have sniffed the wind and decided the time for paying obeisance to the environmental movement is over.

What is it with someone like the Devine, who is so determinedly dumb when it comes to decoding the way advertisements work? Because of course, the ad pays obeisance to the environmental movement by celebrating the 'green car of the year'. Yep, 'green has never felt so right.' And they don't even mention the vehicle's cup holders!

Now a sensible person might see this kind of nonsense and note that diesel fuel economy isn't particularly green, and that diesel engines always - always - have the grunt of an overweight pig. Not the Devine:

The ad reaches beyond ideology to those who want to do the right thing by the environment but with sensible measures that are not incompatible with driving a real car with grunt.

Yep, you read it right. She bought the message, they sold her the pup. Next thing you know the Devine will be tootling around town in a "real green car of the year with grunt". Like a Volvo, only not so boxy. Perhaps pounding the wheel and singing to herself 'green never felt so right'.

It says to a new, spin-averse, satire-savvy, irony-aware audience: ''We are with you, we see the spin, we are not part of it.''

Thank god it will work with its irony-aware, satire-savvy audience, who are spin averse, because it worked with the Devine to show that she doesn't have a satire-savvy, irony-aware bone in her body.

Oh wait there is a glimmer of irony, like the light from an incandescent bulb:

Of course, since it is an ad, there is a paradox, but it is the kind gen Y is used to.

Dear lord, there's a paradox. Using the green police to sell the green car of the year constitutes a paradox! Oh the sublime irony of it all.

Having been bombarded with ads and marketing from every type of media all their lives, their scepticism knows no bounds. They have grown up in an era of spin over substance, of nanny statism and overblown scare campaigns.

Dare I suggest the moppets have also been helped along by reading lashings of Miranda the Devine? No wonder their scepticism knows no bounds.

Actually it's more likely they've never read the Devine in their young lives, and good on them for that. They've been off watching nice television cartoon shows where pontificating prats and relentless blowhards like the Devine are regularly sent up shitless. You know, like the ones carrying on about how television rots their young brains, like that dope Susan Greenfield, and her antipodean followers.

Oops, that was last week. This week the sponsors bring you a new message:

But while their teachers were trying to brainwash them, they were getting a more realistic education from satirical TV cartoons such as South Park, Family Guy, Futurama, American Dad and The Simpsons. They barrack for no particular ideology, and, seeing close-hand the effects of divorce and social instability, are used to adults not living up to lofty standards.

As the first generation to grow up with Google, they expect real answers to real questions. They have grown up in a post-Berlin Wall world, and terrorism and war permeate their daily lives. The September 11 attacks and Bali bombings define their time. Their generation are the soldiers on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. They know what a ''moral challenge'' is.

Oh dear, would this be the self-same generation that not so long ago lost its collective mind?

The bankers, brokers and traders, mostly young and male, whose impulsive decision-making and poor judgments fuelled the collapse of financial markets last year, may very well have possessed a version of a newly evolved human brain, physically changed by prolonged time in front of computer screens. (We're losing our minds over technology).

No, never. What, never? Well hardly ever:

They are savvy and serious people, who expect to be treated seriously, and accord their elders respect only if earned. The future is in good hands.

The future is in good hands? What, these hands?

Developing friendships on social networking sites means you miss the subtle skills essential for real-life friendship. You may avoid real people and become like the Japanese hikikomori, the 1 million young men who have withdrawn from society to their bedrooms to play computer games by themselves.

"Have we gone through 100,000 years of evolution for this … adults sitting in a room spending their leisure time on 'yuck and wow' activities [instead of] having love affairs, walking in the rain and thinking about things?"

Oh yes, the future is in great hands. Because it isn't in Miranda the Devine's. And young people know what a moral challenge is. Trying to find a coherent message in the metaphysical musings of a Devine.

It is of course a futile task, and wisely most young people avoid the moral challenge. You can't expect a brain in a tin man, and you can't expect coherence in a weather vane which shifts to whichever way the wind is blowing this week.

The stuff about Chairman Rudd and broken promises is more of the same. The irony is that the Devine cheers on young Australians having a go at the chairman for breaking his promises on climate change, when the Devine herself is a full blown denialist. She quotes a few, but her heart really isn't in it:

"Well, you keep saying that your government keeps acting on climate change. [But] you also say … you're supporting a big Australia. How realistic do you think it is to have a big Australia and reduce your carbon emissions at the same time?" was another.

Because truth to tell the young people asking the questions look and sound like a typical bunch of young, caring, idealistic, concerned young ABC viewers, and all sorts get a chance to ask a question. There's one who runs a standard denialist line:

BLAISE JOSEPH: Prime Minister, given the climate-gate email scandal, given the fact that the IPCC claims on Himalayan glaciers melting and Amazon rainforests disappearing both have been proven to be fabricated, and now given that the Dutch government is reviewing all claims of the IPCC, do you still have full confidence in the IPCC and is it still necessary to rush ahead with your ETS?

And another who denies the denialists while also denying Chairman Rudd:

KANE WISHART: Given, as we've heard, there's a climate of denialism around and the opposition have been attacking your ETS as a great, big nasty spooky tax or whatever they're calling it, isn't it time your government looked afresh at other measures that are evidence based, such as a consumption side carbon tax, which can be revenue neutral, which won't affect international competitiveness and can go to a scientifically credible outcome?

Now it so happens that up against the young, Chairman Rudd looked ill at ease, not least because he often sounded like the awkward bureaucratic automaton he becomes in the public space where social interaction and signs of humanity are required.

But the session itself was the usual ABC "balanced" set of pandering questions which tend to make most Q&A sessions pious and bland. The temperature of the bath water never got above baby safe.

No wonder Miranda the Devine prefers summarising a television commercial to dealing with this kind of awkward complexity, a trickiness which might affect her newest, latest, zingiest view of young people.

From braindead intertubes television riddled abominable screen culture dunderheads to sacred trusted caretakers of the future in six months.

What to do? Well why not watch the show - you can even download it - from the ABC, or head off to one of the aggregators of the Superbowl commercials - there's a few around, though by now a few have already been yanked from viewing. (here's the Huffington Post summary). Superbowl ads are a bit like the Melbourne Cup for those who want a yearly dip in what's supposed to be the brightest and best minds of the ad game, though this year turned, like the game itself, into a bit of an intercept saunter.

Happily the San Francisco Chronicle - that right wing guardian of the San Franciscan fascist zeitgeist - voted the Audi ad the pick of the Super Bowl commercials. Make sure you click on their 'green' button for the latest environmental news.

Now bring on Alice in Wonderland, I'm ready.

Come on Tim Burton, hit me with your best shot. After Miranda the Devine, you're nothing, nothing I tells ya ...

(Below: so while we're doing commercials, here's a few characters from Burton's story of a gen Y aged 17 year old Alice heading down the hole one more time. And there she meets a couple of truly bizarre creatures, none of whom write commentariat columns).

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