Saturday, February 04, 2012

Oh no, whatever you do, don't look under the bed, or around the toilet door out the back, or behind the paywall ...

(Above: and more First Dog here).

If there's one cliche the pond will allow, things happen really fast on the intertubes - just ask devotees of cyber lockers.

As a one time devotee of CD-Roms - oh those were the days, with Bill Gates and the Microsoft Encarta, gone since 2009, but you can still get the early editions working if you can be bothered, and are weird and bored enough to try - one of the few shows in the new RN line up to please was Future Tense, and Digital Archaeology and the temporary nature of technology, and the showing of the love for that grand 1970s chip, the 6502, the grandmother of popular chips ...

Yes things move fast in the digital world, and the fickle crowd swirls through the cloud like a bunch of zombies in free fall swallow-like flight.

But what you ask has this got to do with the commentariat?

Well as leadership speculation swells to a crescendo - the commentariat swoop and swerve like a bunch of geese in flight - you always have to ask yourself who you gunna read. Well do ya feel lucky punk, do you?

But if you trot off to The Australian, you'll get the usual gold bar fickle finger of fate denying access unless you pony up for the ride:

Oh yes the lizard Murdoch press is in a frenzy, but what a flurry of gold bars (and did anyone discuss with them the psychology of consumerism?)

Real devotees of the commentariat might sorely be tempted to fork out to read Christopher Pearson, on the principal that he's always been wrong about most things, and so whatever he's written might give a guide to what will actually happen ... provided where he says black, you go with white, and when he says yang you know yin is the likely goer ...

Yep, life with Pearson was always a kind of I Ching set of moments, and really there's as much to be said for two thousand year old Chinese mysticism of the yin and yang kind as there is for Catholicism, but thank the absent lord, the fickle gold bar works its magic charm, and we move on ...

And soft, before you plunk down your hard-won cash, what's this new billowing web of temptation wafting in from over the horizon?

Why it's the Australian Financial Review, and there's not a gold bar in sight:

Yep, it's exactly the same orgy, the same frenzy of speculation, but if, wild-eyed, you embark on a frenzy of clicking and leadership change 'news', you discover that there's a limit to the clicks, and before you know it, you're given a not so gentle blank wall reminder of the need to subscribe to read.

It's just a spider approach, more devious, but with the same intent. You have to give away a little honey to lure the flies into the web where they can be frisked and de-cashed.

But if you're cunning and play your clicks right, why soon enough The Australian might be just a fading memory, and you might be reading Tony Walker lathering up the leadership speculation in Rudd, Gingrich share talent for alienation.

In a desperate search for an angle, Walker starts off with one of the pond's favourite devices, which is to compare apples and oranges, and then pronounce that they are both pears.

Here's how it's done. First select two politicians who have absolutely nothing in common, and then spend some opening pars explaining how they have absolutely nothing in common:

Newt Gingrich and Kevin Rudd may not, on the face of it, have much in common. Gingrich is conservative. Rudd is, nominally, a social democrat. Gingrich is an advocate for supply-side economics in which taxes are reduced and government is shrunk in the belief that forces unleashed will benefit the economy more generally.

If you try hard enough you can keep it going for a couple of pars:

Rudd is a pump-priming – some would say profligate – Keynesian who demonstrated this tendency by deluging the economy with money to stop Australia sliding into recession in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Gingrich is Protestant-turned-Catholic. Rudd is Catholic-turned-Protestant. Those are just some of many differences, leaving aside considerable appetites and egos.

And then when you've wrung your last drop of juice from squeezing the lemon into a lime, you deliver the killer insight:

But in one important respect the two share a striking characteristic in common at this stage of the Australian and American political cycles. They are loathed by their respective party establishments in just about equal measure.

Done and dusted. That way you can pad the column with talk of Gingrich, and talk of Rudd, and similarities and differences, until you get to the one real insight:

Rudd may have done his dash with Labor’s establishment defined by its parliamentary leadership and factional heavies who, in turn, represent a union base, but this is far from the end of a story that has developed a life of its own, fanned partly by the former prime minister’s assiduous cultivation of a media addicted to leadership conflict.

A media addicted to leadership conflict. Now there's a fine insight. Political reporting as a form of ambulance chasing.

Sadly, it turns out that Walker is just another of the junkies, as hard core as William Burroughs himself, as he lines up with the Murdochians:

What is diverting in all this is that one might have anticipated the country would have had more pressing issues to deal with as a new parliamentary year resumes, such as the fate of the manufacturing sector or industrial relations reform, or any one of a number of other issues of global consequence.

An early federal election to reset the clock may become the least-worst option.

This might have read better if written thus:

What is diverting in all this is that one might have anticipated the media would have had more pressing issues to deal with as a new parliamentary year resumes, such as the fate of the manufacturing sector or industrial relations reform, or any one of a number of other issues of global consequence, such as the implications of climate science.

An early refusal to read and pay for the media in any form - however beguiling the spider web - might help to reset the clock and become the least-worst option.

But if you're a glutton for punishment and just love this kind of rhetorical device, and can get behind the paywall at Crikey, why not read Patrick Baume playing the same game in So what do Kevin Rudd and Novak Djokovic have in common? Wherein he explains Rudd and Djokovic aren't team players, presuming that Djokovic doesn't have a doubles partner or play mixed doubles ...

Spare the pond's fast-fading days, maybe not. There's only so many minutes to waste in a life on rhetorical devices, running down like long lost computer chips ...

Not to worry, the pond wishes the AFR all the best in its new semi-pregnant paywall form. It's long been absent from the conversation, hidden behind a most peculiar and inept paywall, and this tentative step into the world is to be encouraged.

The pond was once a subscriber to the AFR, but when the rag tried to charge squillions for access to a totally useless and incompetently managed database, decided enough was enough. In the end the weekend rag was only useful for the cartoons by Rowe, and reprints of stories in The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, so it seemed simpler to cut to the chase and subscribe to the source ...

And if they want to compete with the Murdochians, they'll really have to do better than offer up Rowan Dean, providing his own special insights into the leadership crisis with Three Stooges: you'll have to chose one day.

This gives us the kind of trick writing that you'd expect from an advertising showman. Mention the three stooges and the punters will immediately try to work out if Tony Abbott is Larry, Curly or Moe. But in the course of the reading it turns out that Abbott is actually the messiah:

Telling it like it is came easy to Tony, but utterly confounded the press gallery, so conditioned is it to a daily diet of deception and spin. Pragmatically – and honestly – Abbott pointed out that there wasn’t a great deal any prime minister could readily commit to until the budget was back in strong surplus.

Roll that one around on the tongue. Telling it like it is comes easy to the pragmatic and honest Tony Abbott. You could almost hear Christopher Pearson's knees tremble and knock together, and his legs go weak with passion. Why hadn't he thought of that line?

But wait, there's more from the truth teller, who so utterly confounds the press gallery with his truth telling ways:

In other words, in a world that is being brought to its knees by mountains of government-generated debt, wouldn’t it be a smart idea to sit tight and hold off on the overblown spending commitments, grandiose projects and novelty taxes that risk tipping our own perilously poised economy over the edge?

Explaining his aspirations, principles and priorities – practical measures he intends to see achieved on dental health, Aboriginal welfare, disability care and so on – clearly left the nation’s top journalists confounded and more than a little frustrated. They’d far rather have a “core promise” to jot down in the cynical hope that they can string him up with it further down the track.

Oh you vicious wretched cynical journalists, confounded, confused and more than a little frustrated by the nation's top truth teller ...

Ain't it grand when you can turn up on a television show about advertising and suddenly turn into a hack scribbling about politics for the AFR ... Orstralia, you bloody beaut.

Well after that little sorbet of oranges and lemons and limes, and stooges like Rowan Dean, you might well want a little free chaser, so why not try Mike Carlton as he belts Sir Warwick Fairfax and his love of rollers, Lang Hancock and his love of Ceausescu and Bjelke-Petersen, Gina Rinehart and her love of Lord Monckton, and mincing Christopher "Poodles" Pine with his taste for hysteria, along with a fine outburst at Peter Reith and his marvellous skill at writing comedy, and a request that Judith Sloan work for two thirds of the fees of her male colleagues.

By golly Glory days beckon as Gina digs in is fun, with way more than three stooges or Rowan Dean, and as long as Carlton remains free on Saturday, the lizard Oz can charge for the prattling petulant Pearson until the cows come home ... without a subscription.

And AFR, good luck with Rowan Dean as your commentariat pace-setter. Ever thought that maybe Rowe is more the go?

(Below: yes, more Rowe here, and whoever thought the pond would be posting AFR links? Eat your heart out Murdoch paywall land).

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