Friday, February 03, 2012

Or how reading the tabloids might help turn you to a life of crime ...

(Above: even the tabloid Daily Terror couldn't resist Poor little rich girl Hope Rinehart Welker rips the lid off Gina's secretive clan).

The steady pitter patter of the rain in Sydney immediately reminded the pond of the incessant pounding of opinion delivered by the mainstream media.

What would the world do without the power of metaphor? Or even simile?

Right now, Gina Rinehart is the flavour of the moment - yes people apparently also like Serendipity's lamington ice cream - and the pond has to confess to being almost moved to tears by the plight of Rinehart in her ongoing legal feud with a number of her children.

The NSW Supreme Court was told a risk assessment of the family by an international security firm, Control Risks, found reporting of the legal dispute over control of the multibillion-dollar family trust would increase the likelihood of abduction and kidnap for ransom, robbery, protest and harassment from ''criminals, deranged individuals and issue-motivated groups''. (here).

That's the thing you've got to admire about lawyers. Armed with a report or two, and idle alarmist rhetoric, they could argue the hind leg of a dog as straight as a die.

Lawyers for Mrs Rinehart say reporting of her immense wealth and legal battles will expose her, her children and grandchildren to the risk of kidnapping, death threats and extortion, comparing her plight to that of the English footballer David Beckham and his wife, Victoria ''Posh Spice'' Beckham, the US talk-show host David Letterman and the late heart surgeon Victor Chang.

Oh stop it, stop it, too much laughter on a Friday is bad for the weekend. Strangely the miscreant judge wasn't impressed by the arguments - he seemed to think people with a public profile took the same sort of chances as Egyptians heading off to a soccer match - but by golly common gossips will enjoy some of the associated laundry aired in the report.

The real reason why Rinehart wanted to keep the family feud under the rug? Would it have anything to do with how unsightly and ugly the rich look when they get to feuding about cooks and bodyguards?

And the fuss looks set to continue on a board level, as outlined in Fairfax urged to beware boardroom influence ...

Sorry, we haven't even begun to catch up on the daily doings of the commentariat this day, but speaking of crime and danger and fear and loathing, where would we all be if we couldn't be kept quivering and quaking in our boots hiding under the bed, or perhaps behind the wardrobe?

Yep, there's Miranda the Devine banging on again about the dangers of Sydney, in City's violent anti-social riff-raff rate a big zero.

The Devine is always wondrous, and this time she really excels herself by talking up George Street:

That's our Champs Elysees. Our Fifth Ave. Sydney's main street, in all its stinking, vomit-strewn, blood-spattered unloveliness.

There's something extraordinary at work in the Devine - the pond hesitates to use the word neurotic - but when she bangs the crime drum, she really does produce rhetoric of the most stinking, vomit-strewn, blood-spattered, unlovely kind. Is there something in the wafers - apart from gluten and the body of Christ - that helps bring it on?

Naturally the Devine wants to turn the streets into a zero tolerance war zone, as if Sydney siders are currently living through New York in the eighties, and peddling the same kind of nonsense as cross-dressing Rudolph Giuliani peddled in his abortive attempt at the presidency (if only he'd stuck to a decent lifestyle of cross-dressing).

There's the usual talk of people pussyfooting around, and a bit of bashing of academics, and it seems there might be only one solution. Dig up Napoleon and replace Clover Moore with his more animated and active corpse, so we really can get a Champs Elysees, perhaps in William Street, but whatever you do, never ever mention the bleeding obvious:

The BOCSAR report found that 56.8 per cent of assaults in the city centre were within 50m of a liquor outlet. The same report found that that each additional alcohol outlet per hectare will result, on average, in 4.5 more assaults a year. (here).

Yep, it all goes back to the conservative puritanical lifestyles encouraged by the wowsers which resulted in the six o'clock swill being deeply embedded in the Australian psyche. Instead of a nice red with a lamb chop, the ancestors got stuck into ten schooners before the shutters went down ...

And if the Devine had been doing the rounds way back when, like as not she would have thought keeping the pubs shuttered was the best solution for maintaining law and order. The wowser instinct runs as deep as the six o'clock swill ...

It's a measure of how deep the Devine is sunk in complacent materialist consumption that she should evoke the north end of George street as fairly schmick because it boasts Burberry and Louis Vuitton and the Apple store ... while maintaining the rage about the peasants up the road.

You know, Marie Antoniette and cake and all that jazz ... and clean modernist lines fresh out of the socialist Swedish design school of urban hideous whiteness and glass ... (or perhaps you prefer the war between Sloane Rangers and Barbour jackets and chavs with fake Burberry check? Your guide to the war here).

But if Sydney is a desperate hellhole - and not just because of the rain and the mould and the road rage because Sydney drivers fall apart in the wet - where can you live in Australia, and feel safe? Or at least feel you won't be waking up to tabloid journalist rage on a daily basis.

Well not Adelaide, that's for sure, as David Penberthy explains in A horror movie about poverty and violence.

The inimitable Penbo - who would want to imitate him anyway - broods at great length about the movie Snowtown, and the opinions of a New Yorker Allan Perry, who seems to have fled the dangerous streets of the big apple for the even more dangerous streets of Adelaide, and a job in criminal law at the University of Adelaide, and a chance to talk up a subculture of degeneracy in the city's most depressed and dysfunctional suburbs.

Oh Adelaide, not even the maiden aunts on the verandah are safe any more.

Yes it's a stifled and inbred city, full of amoral parasites bred by welfare dependency and it got Penbo thinking as he sat down to munch on popcorn and watch the movie, and the conclusion is that certain bits of Adelaide are wholly uncivilised and completely squalid. As opposed say to the law-abiding ways of the Murdoch empire in the UK ...

Oh it's shocking, and like as not the pond will never again walk Hindley street, that grand Champs Elysees that so upstages King William Street ... but given that, Penbo's final par still caused a sharp intake of breath:

No-one should have to live like this, especially kids. More importantly, no-one should have to feel like they have no choice but to live like this. Snowtown reminds us that people still do. For the rest of us, they’re just places you drive past on your way to the Barossa for a nice day’s wine-tasting.

That's when the pond got completely confused. You'd have to be mad to drive to the Barossa via Snowtown. It's even a bit out of the way if you want to get to Clare for a nice day's wine-tasting, driving between wineries while getting as pissed as a parrot and never mind road manners or breathalysers ...

But worse, what's with traducing Snowtown, and talking of it as a place you'd drive past, when it was only where the bodies were found stuffed into barrels. Most of the killings took place in Salisbury North, and the bodies were shifted to Snowtown very late in the killing spree (here at the wiki on the crimes).

So stop maligning Snowtown, and give Salisbury North its proper respect, and please enough with the amateur criminologist routine, especially when a psychopath's crimes get confused with welfare dependency and all the other guff beloved of tabloid analysts.

You could build an equally tabloid analysis by blaming the head killer's homophobia on the conservative commentariat, the Catholic church and Tony Abbott.

No the pond isn't going to blame it on religion, but really must everyone on the dole be tarred with a brush made out of the hairs of John Justin Bunting?

Forensic psychiatrist Professor Kevin Howells, who has worked at Broadmoor Hospital in the United Kingdom suggested that Bunting's behaviour lacks emotion and the capacity to empathise with his victims. Howells observed that Bunting fits the profile of a psychopathic killer who derives satisfaction from controlling his victims. When he was young, his favourite pastime was burning insects in acid. During his teenage years, he was a neo-Nazi. In adulthood, Bunting developed a deep hatred of paedophiles and homosexuals.

Uh huh. So it was the dole and welfare dependency that caused Nazism. Oh Godwin's law, where are you when you're needed ...

Next: the pond explains in detail why Son of Sam proved New York was a hellhole, why the Boston strangler proved Bostonians lived in degeneracy far removed from Henry James' rich fantasy life, how Jack the Ripper might well have provoked the recent riots in London, and how the Yorkshire ripper murders showed Yorkshire was an even worse place to live than Adelaide (impossible you say? Not if you watched the Red Riding trilogy, and like Penbo, took your view of the world from the movies).

As usual, in the matter of Snowtown, the wiki provides more interesting reading than a hack burbling away in a Murdoch gutter rag.

But wait, there's even more as Sean Fewster tries to bring a bit of reason and logic to the fear and loathing of bikies in Adelaide, in Outlaw bikies cannot be judged outside the law.

Well there might be more for you, but the pond happened to chance first on this comment from AnthonyG, and decided that enough reading had been done for the day:

Every time one of these losers is wasted it brings a grin to my face.

Ah there's the tabloid spirit.

By golly AnthonyG the spirit of the Murdoch tabloid beats strongly in your heart.

True, that's a fair distance away from John Donne and islands and pieces of continent, and parts of the main, and clods washed away, and any man's (or woman's come to think of it) death diminishing me, you and the world, but with a bit of luck, you'll never know who sends for whom the bell tolls, because it might well be tolling for thee.

Meanwhile, does it ever occur to the hacks who churn out verbal violence on a daily basis, spreading idle abuse in the world, along with rampant hysteria and sensationalism, that they make the world less safe?

Could it be that glib and faulty analysis, whether in the detail or more generally, is a key part of the problem, rather than any step towards a solution?

Are people so locked in their current lives they've completely forgotten what it was like to live in Victorian times?

Is ambulance chasing the only news that the tabloids and the seven o'clock news on the ABC understands?

Questions, questions, and not a single answer, but plenty of distractions.

Recommended reading: The chronicles of crime, or The new Newgate calendar, free at the internet archive, or the later Chronicles of Newgate, or if you're a real glutton, the proceedings of the old Bailey from 1674 to 1913, now online and searchable.

Crime is to the tabloid imagination what the weather is to the pond, and there's no expectation that the tabloids will make any more sense of it than the tabloids did in Victorian times (let alone present a coherent view of climate science).

By the way, have we mentioned how it's endlessly raining in Sydney, and the mould, oh the mould, and the horror, the horror, the bloody, unimaginable horror ...

(Below: the chronicles of crime, a never-ending story of tabloid shock and horror).


  1. You could pass through Snowtown on the way to Whyalla, or has the carbon tax already wiped that town off the face of the earth?

  2. I think you're confusing Whyalla with the Simpson desert, created last year as a result of the carbon tax. Avoid the turn off to Whyalla at Port Augusta, head north to Coober Pedy, turn right to Oodnadatta, and then it's just a hop and a step and a jump to see the shocking evidence ...


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