Monday, February 27, 2012

Time for the vote, and after that the sin bin, the fines, the bannings, the shunnings and the ostracisms ...

(Above: the pond's in a weird third person world obsessed with cartoon figures and shunning and ostracism).

There's simply no escaping it today.

It's like a Melbourne cup, with only a couple of runners, but with the nation bombarded with the same amount of exhaustive, exhausting trivia.

Leaving the ruckus aside for a moment, should the result go a certain way, will all the commentariat callers who announced with certainty the result some months ago, admit they were wrong, and step aside from psephological duties?

What will happen, for example, to Christian Kerr, who famously announced on the 17th October 2011, that we were in the final days of the Gillard government on that dreary show for egomaniacs Late Night Live? (Canberra Babylon with Christian Kerr).

The pond finds itself in the alarming position of agreeing with David Burchell on matters of certainty and prediction and egg beating in relation to the commentariat, on of all places Counterpoint. None of them have got a clue, and those who assert they do have a clue are the worst of the worst.

Is it time to think about penalties for this form of egregious behaviour and outrageous presumption?

Could there ever be a body, for example, a bit like a sporting authority, that determined a particular prophecy or prediction had turned out to be risibly stupid, and so the scribbler must spend a month in the sin bin, or pay a hefty fine?

That would leave the likes of Christopher Pearson permanently in the sin bin or bankrupt, and either way the world would benefit.

Oh well it's just a passing dream.

Perhaps the silliest bit of introspection came from David Penberthy in Off the record, you've all been conned, as he brooded about all the off-the-record, behind the scenes briefings that have rumbled out in the past year:

The type of stories we have seen about the Labor leadership could be described as dump-and-deny. They have done newspapers damage ...

Damage? That sounds serious. Could the Murdoch press - let's face it the Murdoch press is the dominant force in the market-place in Australia - have done itself some damage?

We in the media should reflect on our complicity in this type of journalism. It’s my view that we have not only damaged ourselves, but more gravely we have let down the public by feeding them stories which look thin, tendentious, convey deliberately misleading sentences to blur the origin of the information.

Take Rudd’s press conference on Friday where he flatly denied ever running down Gillard to anyone in the media, then quickly demanded that the assembled media remember and respect the off the record convention.

Why the urgent reminder?

Why indeed. Why half the coverage of the Murdoch press? Why all the crap from their columnista commentariat?

Well the pond half-way hoped that Penberthy would immediately announce in a righteous tone that he was picking up his pencil, his fountain pen, his typewriter and his keyboard and he was out of there. Fat chance.

Instead came this:

...I’d also note that the irony is that a lot of these stories are also so bloody boring that they wouldn’t sell you a newspaper or get you a click anyway. I apologise for adding to your boredom and hope the remainder of your Sunday is free of this political carry-on.

Just an apology for being tedious and boring? No, it's sin-bin or a substantial fine ... and if that doesn't work, bring in the OP rum.

Hell even before the dust has settled, hell even before the vote has even been counted, The Australian has already set its jib, and what a predictable, tedious, boring jib it is too:


When you break that header down and try to extract some sense from it, who are the people actually experiencing the fears that a Gillard win won't end the warfare? It could be Tony Abbott and the Liberal party, it could be the independents, but is that what the header is about, with its conjuring up of nameless fears held by nameless nobodies?

Is it the readers of the rag? Are they fearful The Australian won't end its off-the-record briefings, its relentless egg beating, its sustaining of the warfare, or if no warfare, the illusion of war?

Surely a more honest header would have been "Hacks at The Australian highly pleased Gillard win won't end warfare, or relentlessly tedious, frequently wrong, often embittered, usually spiteful reporting of politics by Murdoch press. Fear mongering will continue as usual. No fear, come here for the fears".

As it stands, the header exhibits the same sort of creepy third person usage you find in blogs, and the speeches of Kevin Rudd.

In terms of political character, he represents conveniently little. Changing his mind on climate change symbolised this, and those who have spent long hours looking for values and consistency report that he seems to stand for nothing except the sound of his own voice.
The general impression all this creates is of a sort of virtual personality, and possibly Rudd knows this. His spooky references to himself in the third person suggest an awareness of himself as a sort of construct, a work in progress.

Yes, it's the Duffster, aka Michael Duffy scribbling in place of Paul Sheehan, with He's Kevin from TV, here to help himself.

The Duffster blames the Rudd ascendancy on television, and in particular on his gig on Sunrise (aided and abetted by Bruce Hawker). While the Duffster shows he's a dab hand at cultural references - Rudd is a malevolent Tintin, Big Brother meets Dr Phil - he also shows that he's right up there in the kookiness stakes as he explains the Ruddster's appeal to the public:

He reminds them of people - or characters - they see often on the tellie, and they like that. Such creations are far more warm and interesting, after all, than real politicians. In the context of television, Rudd's artificiality has been his greatest asset.
Rudd's face is distinctly odd, a smooth circle with relatively small features. It's almost child-like and can remind you of TV cartoon characters, whose faces are often based on children's ...

It's a sublime trick to be able to condescend both to "the people" and to the politicians.

People like the Ruddster because they've never left Sesame Street? Is that like this joke that's been doing the rounds with the Facebook crowd?

By the middle of the Duffster's rant, it becomes clear that it isn't analysis so much as a venting of spleen:

He is the ultimate product of the digital age and the 24-hour (make that four) news cycle.
All form and no content. But fortunately he seems unique.

Uh huh. But television was once analogue, and if the four hour news cycle is so dominant and ubiquitous, and is all form and no content, how has it created only one unique creature, the Ruddster slouching off to Bethlehem at this very moment? No others, not one, not even Tony Abbott in his swimwear?

Sad to say, it's yet another example of rhetoric posing as analysis, appealing though the rhetoric is about TV Kev. The fear and loathing of Kev is visceral, and right down the pond's alley, but it's also superficial and glib.

But the Duffster does come up with one idea that appeals to the pond:

The party should then consider reviving the classical Athenian practice of ostracism, where men whose extreme ambition threatened the efficient running of the state could be expelled for 10 years after a popular vote. They did not need to have committed any crime, and there was no defence. It was just a recognition that some people were hollow men driven by vicious rancour.

We'd make just a few small changes:

The country should then consider reviving the classical Athenian practice of ostracism, where men and women whose cheerleading from the sidelines threatened the efficient running of the state could be expelled for 10 years after a popular vote regarding their latest superficial analysis, or prediction or prognostication gone wrong. They did not need to have committed any crime, and there was no defence. It was just a recognition that some analysts, especially those who write for the Murdoch press, are hollow men and women driven by vicious personal rancour and spite ...

We have a dozen names already to hand for the tribunal, clowns who predicted this day, but didn't have the first clue about its outcome.

And now let's not speak of Kevin Rudd again. At least for a month, or until the first headline in The Australian announces "off-the-record" briefing suggests leadership speculation growing and swelling within the ALP ...

(Below: well at least we know where the commentariat and the pond are ultimately headed, thanks to the Colbert report. To travel coach and live in the telestial kingdom).


  1. No need to be prudish, DP.
    It's "Tony Abbott in his dick-wear".

  2. DP, I have a request. The ABC has made available the PM's press conference from today. That's all very well, but there are no views of the journos in the room. Some of them were broadcast during the live coverage.
    For instance, I'd like to see the expression on Laura Tingle's face when JG ribbed her about having time to read more newspapers. I'd like to see Paul Kelly fidgeting on the hard chair in the second row, without room to thrust his legs out. A few others got short shrift, and the public is being denied, again. Could you please speak to Mark Scott?

  3. EA,if the pond could speak to Mark Scott, his ears would blister. The ABC can't even cover its own talking heads, let alone cover a press conference with any sense of style or wit.

    On a more serious note, the resources flung at News 24 have turned mainstream news and current affairs at the ABC into an ongoing joke. It's now at an even lower ebb than the Labor party ...


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