Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In praise of nattering negativity, some thoughts on Dr. No by Dr. No enthusiast Gerard Henderson ...

(Above: "Apart from Nixon's announcement, we have our own strategic reasons for an early troop withdrawal - the Senate elections!" ... John Gorton demonstrating how the Liberal party was at the forefront of opposition to the Vietnam war).

Who can forget Christian Kerr pronouncing on Phillip Adams' program on the 17th October 2011 that we were in the "final days of Julia Gillard's leadership"? (You can listen here if you have bandwidth to spare and a life to waste).

Here we are already at the 15th of November, meaning soon enough it will be the final month of her leadership, and shortly after that - if she makes it to the end of December - the final year, unless of course Christian Kerr meant final days in the proper biblical end time rapture sense, where unbelievers might be smoted mightily and righteously, and so have the final days sword hanging over their heads for a couple of thousand years without blows to their necks being delivered ...

Now Bill Shorten, Mr. Ambition himself, is sounding positively uxorious in Shorten sings her praises as PM's fortunes brighten.

Who knows in politics? Maybe Gillard will be done and dusted by Xmas and maybe not, but whatever, is there any punishment to be meted out for the languid sneering 'last days' call that Kerr delivered up with such emphatic certainty?

It's a good reminder of why, in the scheme of things, the idle chatter of the elite luxury commentariat class is always a waste of time, like the daily observations about the weather and fractional changes in the stock market (unless of course you have an interest in a particular stock), and the fluctuations in the polls that keep pollsters making out like bandits so the media can bang on endlessly about the fluctuating polls.

When playing this game, it's always better to be over the top, than middle of the road, and of course in the Gillard hate fest otherwise known as Adams' ennui, anyone announcing the demise of Gillard and perhaps, oh perhaps the revival of St. Kevin, will get an eager audience ...

And that's as good a segue as any into today's furious scribbling by Gerard Henderson, a man eternally vigilant about the predictions of others, but always incapable of observing his own miscues, along with his utterly predictable predictability.

Mark Latham had a go at mounting a Henderson Watch (here at Crikey), but like everything the erratic Latham tackled, he couldn't stare down the relentless wordsmith. Aye, that be no man but a column-generating machine ....

Today Henderson anxiously goes about the business of tamping down any notion that the Dr. No of politics might be suffering in the polls because of negativity.

Naturally any such perception is the fault of the media because The media are picking up good vibrations but can't shake off the facts.

The facts, according to Henderson, involve left wing conspirators lurking everywhere in the media.

Now this might puzzle innocent bystanders confused by the notion that News Ltd has an unseemly hold on the newspaper market, in both hard copy and online form, as explained in Crikey in Forget new media diversity, the internet has tightened News' squirrel grip. And News Ltd has been running a fierce pro-Abbott line, with the Daily Terror and The Australian and the HUN just the most blatant examples.

Well, you need a shape-shifting Henderson to get to the bottom of that:

Let's face it. Many journalists support what is termed action on climate change. Others do not like Abbott's social conservatism. Support for Labor and the Greens is higher within the media industry than among the public.

Let's face it, Henderson doesn't get out much, and for a man so intent on quoting at length polls as statistical indicators of truth, a blithe wave of the hands and an assurance that support for Labor and Greens is higher within the media industry than among the public is simply unsubstantiated prejudice.

Why even Christian Kerr gets to turn up routinely on Phillip Adams' show - the vapid tedious dull show leftie of the Murdoch media - and bag Julia Gillard, and that kind of anecdotal insight is as valid as Henderson's purely anecdotal notion of a socialist media.

The real cause of the whinge? As usual, a couple of journalists have got up Henderson's nose, and that's enough to damn the entire media as lick-spittle supporters of Labor and the Greens.

Hapless Kerry-Anne Walsh from Fairfax dared to talk of a definite vibe in favour of Gillard, while once again Henderson proves he's a hapless devotee of Deborah Cameron on Sydney's 702 by confirming he listens to her all the time.

Cameron dared to mention that the public might like someone who stuck to their job, kept their nose on the grindstone, and beavered away ... and so we have to suffer another Henderson column.

Amazingly Henderson, who bagged Kerry-Anne Walsh for verbally jumping the shark, nuking the fridge, aiming at a bridge too far, going over the top and feeling the vibe, then performs a most peculiar pirouette on the subject of negativity:

Then there are commentators who object to what they regard as Abbott's negativity. However, such criticism overlooks two points. First, to oppose a policy is not necessarily negative. To use a historical example, those politicians who opposed Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War are not assessed today with reference to their negativity.

At a time when even members of the Liberal party understand that Dr. No has been entirely negative - with short term gains but possibly longer term losses - Henderson manages the conundrum that being negative about any and all and every policy doing the rounds is not necessarily negative, and then trumps himself by mentioning those opposed to the Vietnam war aren't assessed today with reference to their negativity.

Dr. No himself couldn't have managed a more tortured logic when dealing with the fiendish James Bond.

Isn't it bizarre to talk about how politicians in the Vietnam war era are not assessed today with reference to their negativity? When they were routinely assessed by the the conservative equivalents of Henderson at the time as negative, treacherous, nattering naysayers?

Not that there was that much negativity visible for much of the time of the war, as noted here:

Outside popular culture, many other myths, or misunderstandings, about the war persist. The war was not, for example, widely unpopular from the beginning. In the early years of Australia’s involvement, far from being actively opposed, many people paid almost no regard to the war at all, particularly while it was being fought by regular soldiers. There was dissent in 1965 but it did not become widespread until later in the decade. The mass protests that many associate with the Vietnam era did not occur in Australian towns and cities until the 1970s after the withdrawal of troops had already begun.

It wasn't until the Moratoriums began in 1970 that a series of positive steps became possible for some politicians. Like John Gorton and the Liberal party wanting to get the hell out of there, but not sure how to do it without offending the Americans ...

Like the abolition of conscription, the release from prison of conscientious objectors and the withdrawal from Vietnam under Whitlam.

Things have come to a pretty pass when a conservative commentator seeks a positive for Dr. No by reverting to the convoluted policy contortions surrounding the Vietnam war, and cheering on the negative hippies waving placards in the streets ...

Now if that nattering nabob of negativity Dr. No was perhaps urging the same sort of positive actions and outcomes in relation to Afghanistan, Henderson might have some kind of point ...

Dream on - it seems like we're stuck with it forever - but meanwhile back at Henderson's ranch, things get even stranger, as he celebrates the reign of Malcolm Fraser:

Second, in recent Australian history, no opposition leader more ruthlessly said "no" than Malcolm Fraser in response to the policies of Gough Whitlam and his Labor government. Fraser's Coalition opposed legislation in Parliament and even blocked supply in the Senate. Yet in December 1975, Fraser won one of the greatest electoral victories on record.

Actually, this is astonishingly superficial, since the real point is not the "no" of the dismissal, or the landslide victory that followed, with Fraser widely supported by the press, especially the minions of Murdoch, but the policies Fraser subsequently implemented.

It turns out that Fraser was something of a Whitlamite lite, as his wiki notes:

Although his so-called "Razor Gang" implemented stringent budget cuts across many areas of the Commonwealth Public Sector, including the ABC, the Fraser government did not carry out the radically conservative program that his political enemies had predicted, and that some of his followers wanted. He in fact proved surprisingly moderate in office, to the frustration of his Treasurer, John Howard, and other pro-Thatcherite ministers, who were strong adherents of free market economics. Fraser's economic record was marred by rising unemployment, which reached record levels under his administration, caused in part by the ongoing effects of the 1973 oil crisis.

When it came to foreign relations, Fraser was positively Whitlamite, opposing apartheid, opposing white minority rule in Rhodesia, allowing a humanitarian resettlement program for refugees, and domestically, supporting multiculturalism and establishing the SBS, amongst other policies that would have made Gough shed a tear in support.

That he was a dull as ditchwater, pedantic, boring patrician head prefect is another matter.

In 1975, many members of the Canberra press gallery were sympathetic to Whitlam Labor and despised Fraser and the Coalition. What many tended to overlook was that Fraser represented majority opinion within the Liberal-National joint party room and had the backing of most Coalition voters.

What Henderson tends to overlook is the way the Liberal coalition grasped for power, and then didn't quite know what to do with it, and very shortly - by 1980 - Fraser was to lose control of the Senate and see the economy spiral into a sharp recession. Scandals followed, and soon enough Fraser was just another rooster turned feather duster, with decades left in which to torture Australians with pronouncements from on high ...

Dr. No won't even have the luxuries of the early Fraser days, since it's likely that he won't have control of the Senate. So Henderson can push his negativity aside as much as he likes, and paint Abbott as a popular man with populist policies, but as the polls have consistently revealed, Abbott is on the nose with the general public:

Both leaders, it seems, are locked in a deathmatch of voter disenchantment, but Gillard has turned her momentum around, while Abbott is going the wrong way. (here)

All the blood oaths in the world can't conceal the vibe.

So what to do when nattering negativity gets Dr. No into poll trouble? Well it's always handy to have big Mal around as a punching bag:

The Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull is much loved by some journalists and much admired by many a Greens and Labor voter. However, he has limited support within the Liberal Party and even less within the Coalition.

Sorry big Mal, Hendo has spoken, it's those pesky journos giving you delusions of hope.

You see, your acceptance of the evidence currently on offer in relation to climate science constitutes a big negative, and it's essential to remember that failure is at the heart of the conservative dream.

The carbon tax must fail and be a disaster for Australia, and Australia's economic conditions must deteriorate badly so that Dr. No can maintain his march to power, and never mind Australia playing any role on the world stage in relation to climate. That would be some kind of kinky perverse feel good vibe, and the dour Polonius is dead set against any vibe whatsoever ...

In particular, Abbott's grand vision of turning government into the solution for climate change, by throwing cash at big business, must continue to be applauded as a masterstroke of positive policy making ...

And so we look forward to a repeat of the Fraser years, where the grasping desire for power dissolved into a series of policy muddles, and the real Tony Abbott will be revealed (though the prattling Polonius is cautious enough to hedge his bets, and foreshadow a possible Labor revival. You can never have enough stakes on hand when dealing with vampires).

Meanwhile, hasta la vista Deb Cameron. With you gone, who will Gerard Henderson listen to in the morning so his gorge rises and a column erupts?

Will he be forced to listen to Alan Jones?

No, that way is the path to defiant socialism or madness, or both ...

Guess he'll just have to keep listening to the ABC, whingeing and whining and moaning all the way, in his usual Dr. No way ...

No wonder his columns about federal politics always sound press releases from Tony Abbott's office. In the way that two neighs make a yeah, Dr. No praises Dr. No for a lack of negativity, and being in touch with the populist vibe ...

Not that the pond has any statistical evidence for this. It's just some sort of vibe we get from reading the damn things ...

(Below: Harold Holt showing how Liberals just love Democrat Presidents. Prepare for the obsequious fawning. Remember the United States is doing diddly squat about climate science, and so meets Gerard Henderson's rigorous standards of complete policy inertness. Feel the vibe).

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