Friday, November 25, 2011

Of sedatives and Sandilands and Slippers and Acca Dacca and Penbo the goose and no, no, no ...

(Above: click to enlarge, not that it has much to do with anything below, but it is a cartoon from the real Punch, the English magazine, and it was found here if you happen to be interested in modernism).

Just who is Stephen Harrington and why does he exist?

He's fast becoming the little sir echo and the Little Lord Fauntleroy of The Punch, as he too disappears down the Kyle Sandilands rabbit hole with A letter to the schoolyard bully who never grew up.

Kyle, I pity you because if you ever read this letter (and I know you almost certainly won’t) ...

Tragic. Enough already. At least as well as looking at the gutter, Richard Ackland has also taken a look at the other radio stars in Trolls of TV and radio would not last a day under print rules, and comes up with a zinger for a last par:

In all of this I can't shake out of my head the immortal remark of the famed American journalist A. J. Liebling: ''Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.'

Ackland notes that amongst the radio stars, Alan Jones and 2GB have finally been pinged by ACMA for getting it wrong and not making reasonable efforts to present significant alternative viewpoints (Fair go: Alan Jones breached broadcast code).

If you can stand the tedium, the entirety of the ACMA report is here in pdf form.

It's a heartbreaking read, not least because of the immense layering of bureaucratese and legalese larded throughout - in complete contrast to the punchy ways of Jones - but also because the offending material was first broadcast by Jones on the 8th and the 11th of February 2010, and here we are now with the findings first being presented in the media on November 23rd 2011.

Justice delayed isn't much by way of justice at all, and the whole thing has now receded with the tide into an apparent inconsequentiality, when day after day the shock jocks bend the truth, bend the reality, warp minds, get things wrong, and get away with it Scot free.

But there is a good laugh in it, as ACMA gravely contemplates what the courts have designated an ordinary, reasonable listener/viewer to be:

A person of fair average intelligence, who is neither perverse nor morbid or suspicious of mind, nor avid for scandal. That person does not live in an ivory tower, but can and does read between the lines in the light of that person's general knowledge and experience of worldly affairs.

Dear sweet lord, so the entire system is set around a bunyip, or perhaps a gryphon, because who can imagine a listener neither perverse nor morbid nor suspicious of mind nor avid for scandal who listens to Alan Jones on a daily basis? Whoever wrote the definition must surely live in an ivory tower ...

Never mind. At some point it might dawn on those scribbling furiously for The Punch and other media outlets about the hideous Kyle Sandilands that they are in fact doing a power of good for the case for media regulation - starting with ACMA getting off its bum, and resolving complaints within three months, and starting with more effective regulation of print outlets, courtesy of the current inquiry.

Speaking of perversity and morbidity, there's a splendid response to the Peter Slipper matter by Piers 'Acca Dacca' Akerman in No Labor MPs can speak for the government.

Once you've worked out the meaning of the header - up there with the riddle of the sphinx - you will understand that being the Speaker, who can't speak for the government or the opposition is exactly like being unable to speak for the government, except if you get to be Speaker you can't speak, but instead must order the world of the speakers ... and somehow this is a problem, never mind that's the way it's always been, and the game of Speakers has been played out over the years ...

With that conundrum sorted, you can proceed at a leisurely pace through Akerman's wailing and tearing of cloth and gnashing of teeth to arrive at this wondrous throwaway line ...

This government is no respecter of traditions (Gillard is the first prime minister publicly labelled a liar) ...

Roll that around on your tongue. Gillard is the first prime minister publicly labelled a liar ... in a country where the chief sport has been to label politicians as liars ever since the first politicians strutted the stage.

Here's Billy Hughes being labelled a liar by cartoonist Claude Marquet in 1917:

If Acca Dacca needs help in how to read a political cartoon, he can find it here. Click to activate the picture Acca Dacca!

You have to marvel at an allegedly senior columnist who can scribble historical (some might say historic) stupidities day in and day out.

Poor Acca Dacca is glum, no doubt as gob-smacked as Tony Abbott might be, and he ends his column thusly:

The future will only brighten when an election is called.

The dark clouds of gloom, the furrowed brow, the morbid sigh, and the years of screeching 'no, no, no' now stretch ahead.

But the raw prawn award for extracting the most bizarre conclusions from the Slipper affair goes to that regular pond standby David Penberthy, in Hokey-pokie over speaker may shaft problem gamblers.

Without a shred of evidence, Penberthy speculates that Andrew Wilkie will be done down, problem gamblers abandoned and gigantic clubs declared the winner in the pokie machine wars, and all because the self-interested Slipper slipped away from Tony Abbott.

If pokies reform becomes the first policy casualty of the vagaries of this minority government, and the horse-trading over the speakership, then democracy is in every bit as much trouble than Tony Abbott said it was yesterday, only not for the partisan reasons he gave.

Put it another way, if this is the level of understanding of government in the Murdoch press (for indeed the lowly 'Kyle Sandilands is a shit' The Punch is part of the Murdoch press), then democracy is indeed in deep doodah but not for the many and varied Slipper reasons the slippery Penberthy gives his readers.

But do go on:

It will confirm that the bleatings of a bunch of Les Paterson impersonators from the leagues clubs in Sydney’s west, with all their cant about the money they channel back into the community after first leeching it off the pokie-addicted working class, counts for more than the demands of a community who want something done on a genuinely shocking social problem.

Uh huh. So now it's all the fault of Slipper doing a bunk, when a much more likely suspect - rogue, fiend - call him what you will - is standing right in front of Penberthy, chanting no, no, no.

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is standing by his comments that if the Liberal Party wins government it will repeal any laws introduced by Labor to set pre-commitment limits on poker machine gambling. (here).

Sorry Mr. Slipper, Dr. No got in ahead of you.

ANDREW WILKIE, INDEPENDENT MP: I actually think he might have just gone too far last night. He's got a bit of a track record of saying different things to different groups of people. And maybe in the heat of the moment last night in an orchestrated rally by the poker machine industry - you know, I'm hoping he went a bit further than he intended to go.

JOHN STEWART: But today, Tony Abbott showed no sign of backing away.

TONY ABBOTT: If it comes before us, we will resolve to oppose it in opposition and rescind it in government.

The biggest problem in relation to poker machines and problem gamblers is Tony Abbott, but reading Penberthy - always anxious to show there's someone lower in the pecking order than geese - can only see Slipper slip-sliding away, and diddling Wilkie.

Speak to us, Nick Xenophon, as if a month ago was a lifetime away:

NICK XENOPHON, INDEPENDENT SENATR: If Tony Abbott walks away from these reforms, if he seeks to destroy reforms based on Productivity Commission recommendations, effectively you're abandoning hundreds of thousands of Australians whose lives have been ruined by poker machine addiction.

Slipper or no slipper, it is entirely within the power of Tony Abbott to assist problem gamblers and end the poker machine wars.

And now we look forward to a series of intense articles in The Punch, explaining why Dr. No couldn't arrive at a series of bi-partisan policies designed to assist these problem gamblers. Just don't hold your breath, or stay awake at night too long ...

There is a zinger of course:

JOHN STEWART: The Communications and Media Authority is investigating whether the comments were political and whether the (Nine) network should have acknowledged who wrote and authorised the message.

At first, Channel Nine said the commentators were expressing their own views, but Ray Warren later admitted the direction came from Channel Nine management.

It's now emerged that Nine's managing director wrote a letter to the Dragons rugby league club three months ago offering to highlight the threat to clubs from the pokies reforms during its rugby league commentary.

Uh huh. On ACMA's current form, that investigation, that inquiry, should after a slow and ponderous lollop through the evidence, arrive at a finding in perhaps eighteen months or so, perhaps even after the next general election.

Sometimes on a dark and soggy November day, it's hard to know what's worse.

The silliness of the media, as exemplified by David Penberthy, or the stodginess of the regulator ... because just as ACMA has now gone into a huddle with 2GB to determine the featherweight penalties to be applied in relation to the Alan Jones matter (perhaps ten strokes of a feather to a covered bum), so in due course Channel Nine will be stripped of its licence and prevented from operating its various channels in New South Wales because of its sordid, appalling politicisation of a rugby league broadcast ...

Hah, just slipped that in to see if you were still awake. Don't worry, Nine will be able to receive its lashing with a turkey feather of its choice, not very big and certainly no firmer than David Penberthy's loose grasp of reality...

And don't worry about nodding off. Talk of ACMA can lead to a deep slumber, about its only use in the world ... a handy sedative if you're of fair average intelligence, morbid, perverse, suspicious of mind, and avid for scandal in the way the pond is ...

(Below: speaking of morbid suspicious minds).


  1. 'The future will only brighten when an election is called.'

    Surely he means 'The future will brighten only when an election is called'? I do wish journalists would learn where the adverbs go.

  2. Hmm, "reasonable listener/viewer to be:

    A person of fair average intelligence, who is neither perverse nor ...
    ... person's general knowledge and experience of worldly affairs."

    I'm sure you intended it, but it is just so amazing how well the rest of the post amply demonstrates that this finding can't possibly apply to the media authors themselves, let alone the public at large. And perhaps to a few too many of our so-called 'leaders' (outside Queensland at least, where they seem to wear such ignorance as a badge of honour).

  3. Hmm, I think Bob Hawke is the only parliamentarian to ever refer to another member as a "liar" and get away with it - ie. by not being censured or suspended for unparliamentary language.

    And as I recall he was referring to Malcolm Fraser at the time.

  4. Although I have to say that Bill Hayden probably outdid Hawke with his description of Ian Sinclair as "the sole custodian of a chest full of pennies lifted from the eyes of dead men"

    Ahhhh, the memories.

  5. Who'd have thought the drover's dog could have come up with that one. Love it.

    Unfortunately Acca Dacca didn't give himself an out with his wording, no surprise since these days he's more a gigantic wind machine than a columnist ...


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