Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dr. Richard Stanton, Elizabeth Farrelly, and beware cognitive hazards ahead ...

(Above: Warning signs found on Flickr here, and Socratic dialogue sign here).

It seems about the right time to do a rant about the relentless ambulance chasing of the seven o'clock news service delivered by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, in imitation of commercial rivals.

It's not just lawyers who chase ambulances to fill in a voyeuristic minute or two, and the pond is heartily sick of the parochialism and simple-minded way the news service routinely goes about its business.

It doesn't have to be this way - cf SBS, the PBS Newshour, and the BBC - how nice to have the BBC on Radio National rather than Radio National - but the ABC is now such a flatulent, failing organisation that the only way to access alternative news within the bowels of the beast is to switch on the 24 channel at certain times when international correspondents are given an outing.

But where's the joy in ambulance chasing the ambulance chasers?

Better just to say 'bah humbug' and move on, and so we've said farewell to the seven o'clock news this year.

So rant done and dusted, this morning it's back to the usual beat, looking at the opinion makers making opinion, and once again a truth becomes a truism, which is that invariably the opinions expressed reveal more about the opinion soothsayers than about their subjects.

Take this bizarre effort by Dr Richard Stanton on the subject of Tony Abbott, in Fleet-footed Abbott needs to be a playmaker:

There's a big space out there to be filled by a polymorphic heterophil who can play at five-eighth.

Say what? What's more confusing to the world? The bum-sniffing rugby metaphor or the polymorphic heterophil?

Well in case you can't get enough of polymorphic heterophil, here's another go:

This is why Malcolm Turnbull looked attractive. He gave the appearance of being polymorphic and heterophylic when, in reality, he may be mildly heterophylic but he was no more polymorphic than Abbott. Which is why Turnbull has been unable, in reality, to transform his monomorphic success in business and banking into politics.

There's more 'hics' and 'lics' in that lot than in a shearer after she's downed a bottle of Beenleigh rum.

Can't get enough of it? Do go on Dr. Richard:

We looked at Kevin Rudd through a similarly optimistic lens. As prime minister, Rudd gave a public appearance of being a polymorphic heterophil but history illustrates that the image was powder-coated in spin.

Naturally the tendency is to look at the byline for the piece, and at once the pond discovered that Dr Richard teaches political communication at the University of Sydney, with a twitter tag @silvermullet.

Why do academics have to present such easy caricatures and stereotypes of the academic way with words and concepts? it's like shooting fish in a homophilous barrel where the only target is monomorphic thought leadership ...

Yes, Dr Richard is big on thought leadership, and on rugby metaphors:

Where Abbott fails is in his capacity to accumulate two additional characteristics that could turn him into an electable polymorphic heterophil.

Yep, you and the drover's dog might well think that Abbott is well on the way to winning the next election, but Dr Richard thinks he's dangerously short of a hearty dose of heterophilia.

No wonder Edd Aragon enjoyed illustrating the piece with a swirl of gibberish:

Well played Edd. Amazingly Dr Richard thinks Malcolm Fraser was big on thought leadership because he spoke of the need for diversity, and that thought leadership was lost when Bob Hawke and Paul Keating turned up on the Treasury benches ... and so the Nareen years endured by Australia somehow becomes the golden years.

Well truth to tell Dr Richard provides a valuable communication service, because he had the pond in stitches ... and we could have gone on quoting his piece until the cows came home, or at least until the copyright laws intervened, but why bother when you can hare off and admire it in its entirety yourself?

Just a pre-emptive warning: you'll learn a lot more about Dr Richard than you will about Tony Abbott and what he should do to gain power (apart from avoid being eaten by a shark) when you read the piece ...

But suddenly the pond was in the mood for political metaphor and craved some more, like caviare for breakfast, and who should oblige than Elizabeth Farrelly, ostensibly an expert in architecture, but this morning a movie reviewer in Wanted: leaders with principle and purpose, whether right or wrong.

Uh huh. It's more promotional puffery for Meryl Streep and the Iron Lady.

And what do we learn from the Iron Lady? Well it seems if you're a principled leadership lemming, stern of purpose, inflexible, unyielding and righteous, never mind if your policies might be right or wrong, or lead the herd off the cliff, just do it.

Yes it's a Nike slogan as a political philosophy.

Oh okay Dr Karl, the Lemmings Suicide Myth is a myth, but why should a myth stand in the way of lemmings and strong leadership? Like Margaret Thatcher:

It thrills me now, and it thrilled me then, how the mere fact of conviction put backbone into the democratic flab, rendering politics interesting. Imagine if we had some here. Anyone, anyone?

Could someone please clone Adolf Hitler or perhaps Mussolini from DNA for Ms Farrelly?

Oh dear, another penny for the Godwin's Law swear jar, but really what's to be made of this kind of nonsense?

Thatcher was smart, muscular, intellectually honest and hugely brave, even when she was also hugely wrong.
And she was hugely wrong. To shrink the whole of Britain into London, then remodel that vast relocated wealth into something as ugly and brittle as Canary Wharf was bad policy, pure and simple. To require the selling of council flats was also wrong, in social as well as urban terms.
Yet she changed history.

Arise Sir Tony Blair. Sure you might have participated in a wretched colonial venture in Iraq, and set Britain on the path to financial ruin, but you surely changed history, and that's more than enough.

Petty minded people might mutter about a war criminal's finances - Blair Inc's 'baffling' increase in earnings - but you changed history, and that's more than enough. Long may you go on changing and fucking up history, because that's more than enough ...

But hang on, let's keep that metaphor running:

Yet she changed history. You might argue that if it had not been her it would have been someone else. But it was her. A grocer's daughter from Grantham, revolutionising not just her own party but Labour. Thatcher shifted the ground. Without her, Blair would have been unthinkable. Without her, Britain would have been Portugal. Thatcher paid the price.

Oh the depth of the thinking. Let's give that another run:

Yet he changed history. You might argue that if it had not been him it would have been someone else. But it was him. A vegetarian son of a beekeeping farmer from Ranshofen, revolutionising not just his very own party, but Germany itself. Hitler shifted the ground. Without him, Churchill would have been unthinkable. Without him, Germany would have been Soviet Russia. Hitler paid the price.

Uh huh. Well that might be what passes for international historical insight, but let's apply it to the domestic scene:

We have no such leaders here. They pop up, we behead them like weeds. Julia Gillard has her Iron Lady rep and I suppose she has her principles - mainly ambition and survival. On the toothless carbon tax, and the mining tax, she talks brave, cops the flak, but she does not actually do the deed.

Do the deed? Uh oh, metaphor alert, fresh metaphor approaching, and coming up fast:

Gillard suggests more farce than tragedy - Shampoo, perhaps? - but if it's Shakespeare we're talking, she's more Macbeth than Lear.

Oh that's so witty, so clever. Tim Mathieson played by Warren Beatty ...

But not Lear? How passing strange. Why the resemblance is most striking, seeing as how it's about a king dividing up his estate, and there's Bill Shorten and Mark Arbib and the illusory polymorphic heterophil Kevin Rudd playing the three daughters waiting to squabble over the spoils.

But do go on:

This ambition-driven knifing of a loved mentor and colleague casts Kevin Rudd as both the murdered Duncan and Banquo's vengeful ghost.

Gillard has no teacup, but she has red hands. We are her witches, prophesying and catalysing her fate, and Alan Jones is her (cane) toad, first into the pot.

Thank the dear absent lord Farrelly isn't a theatre director.

So where have we arrived, after passing through rugby, verbiage, and Lady Macbeth?

Well Dr Richard scores the prize for gobbledegook, and the first cane toad into the witches' pot is Elizabeth Farrelly, for hero worship of the Thomas Carlyle kind, and such a loose way with metaphor that no amount of metaphorical hand rubbing could remove the metaphorical blood ...

Kevin Rudd as a loved mentor? Margaret Thatcher right or wrong? Is this some kind of dagger or abject gibberish which I see before me? (Litigation lawyers, please note: at no point has the pond drawn a parallel between Elizabeth Farrelly and Unity Mitford and Unity's thrill at seeing power in motion).

For this Fairfax expects people to shell out shekels and kill forests?

Please could someone pass the pond a copy of the documentary Page One, about the New York Times, where people take words and the business of words seriously ...

Oh dear, does this mean it's back to the ambulance chasing?

No way, Mark Scott, no way ...

(Below: John Singer Sargent's portrait of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth. Please note the red hair. Julia Gillard and Lady Macbeth? Rangas, gingers and carrot tops together? Affirmative. Metaphorical case and insights firmly closed!)


  1. James In FootscrayJan 13, 2012, 11:02:00 AM

    I don't think the copper wiring analogy works.

    There was no alternative to copper wiring in the past. Now there is an alternative to underground cable - wireless. And it seems people want wireless devices over PCs connected by cable.

    I'm no expert! I just want Conroy to explain clearly why the NBN plan is the best (for usability and in terms of cost), compared to all the alternatives.

  2. Well James you said you were no expert, and truly if you think wireless is the best way to provide connectivity you are no expert.

    The NBN is already deploying fixed wireless services

    but readily admits such services offer less than their fibre to the home service.

    Rather than rely on Conroy, who has his own agenda, why not just do some reading amongst the geeks:

    If Mike Quigley is right, and Australians demand speeds of up to 1Gbps by the year 2020 and as we showed in a previous article isn’t an unreasonable expectation, fibre can meet those needs; current and foreseeable wireless broadband technologies can't.

    There are technical reasons for the various limitations that make wireless uncompetitive compared to fibre to the home:

    And please never conflate wireless within the home with delivery by wireless to the home.

    BTW, there was a choice way back when, for example, between wireless telegraphy and wired telegraphy. It turned out that wiring homes was practical, simpler, more elegant, and allowed for individual connectivity of an exceptional kind, and the same is true today ...

    Wireless has its place, especially where mobility is the dominant requirement, but if you think it will perform to the same level and for the same price and be future proof, well good luck with that ... and hello mish mash of opposition policies and connectivities ...


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