Monday, May 21, 2012

The irony of chattering endlessly about the endlessly chattering chatterers ...

(Above: two please).

The pond has come to the conclusion that it's the sole business of the chattering classes - aka journalists - to spread fear and alarm.

Here's the header to this morning's piece in Fairfax by Gareth Hutchens: Dollar to plunge if Greece quits euro.

Plunge! If Quits! And the opening par:

The Australian dollar could fall below US90¢ if Greece pulls out of the eurozone, the chief currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank warned as leaders from the G8 group of nations worked over the weekend to combat the region's financial turmoil.

It brought on a fit of the Crocodile Dundees. Ninety cents? That's nothing. The pond drove across the United States when an Australia dollar could command a mighty fifty cents US.

As if to close the point, Hutchens managed to mention "fears" five times in his piece, along with companionate words like contagion, disaster scenario, turmoil, increased concerns, financial meltdown, debt-stricken, pressures, and market risk.

Yadda yadda. It's hard to think of anything more tedious than the talk of Greece and the financial crisis, except for the curious way J. P. Morgan's timely reminder of how banks were at the centre of it simply hasn't been given the same coverage.

Well there is one thing more tedious, and that's Craig Thomson, and sure enough there's Paul Sheehan yammering on in the usual way in Judgment day here for Labor's life of shame.

Judgment day? Is that the same as the rapture, the apocalypse, and the four horsemen? How many ways can you lather up a fresh vision of complete and utter crisis? When in the scheme of sordidness it's just fair average behaviour of an irredeemable kind, and the reason it's given such slathering, slobbering prominence is the way it might conceivably see Tony Abbott come to power licketty-split.

Meanwhile, the sun rises, and the chances of the minority government continuing to election day remain fair, and minions like Sheehan draw themselves up and bloat themselves like puffer fish with righteous chattering indignation.

The point of course is that it's a pre-emptive strike, a recycling and a regurgitation of a story already done to death, with only one fresh variation - what Thomson might say to Parliament today.

But Sheehan has absolutely no idea what Thomson will say:

If, while using the protection of Parliament, he does not present a credible case, he will add misleading the Parliament to the list of questions raised against him.

The rest of it is just a recycling and a rehashing of said righteous indignation.

Surely it would be a lot simpler if Fairfax simply ran a press release or two from the office of Tony Abbott (or perhaps Christopher Pyne and Mal Brough).

The point of course is that Sheehan is indulging in mere raillery, smear, obfuscation and distortion because it's not about Thomson or the union silly, it's about the balance of power:

... thanks to the support of Thomson by the Greens and independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, the Labor-Greens-Windsor-Oakeshott coalition appears unlikely to ever breach solidarity over Thomson.

Sheehan doesn't have anything new to say, and just wants to get in first, before Thomson makes his speech. It's just scandal-mongering and tut-tutting of an idle magic water sourdough kind, with Sheehan acting as judge and jury.

But Sheehan isn't the only one. This morning Radio National was full of idle speculation and common gossip, as titillation about what Thomson might say ran out of control. And only Tony Windsor ended up making some common sense points about revisions to the parliamentary code of conduct.

The one useful thing Thomson could do is stand down, and end the chattering, but what's the chance of that?

In this context, it's no use pointing the finger at the likes of Bill Heffernan, and the allegation that he's given to homophobic remarks. Heffernan first showed homophobic tendencies when he was forced to withdraw and apologise for unsubstantiated remarks he made about Justice Michael Kirby. And let's pass over his barren abuse of women in silence.

And what harm has it done him in the Liberal world? Boys will be boys, and rustic rednecks will be rustic rednecks seems to be the response ...

All this is amplifier stuff, and unlike the world of modern electronics, the amplification comes with in-built distortion. It's not like Australia is currently in the grip of a shattering earthquake, it's not as if Australia is Greece, it's not as if anyone going the rounds at the moment experienced the last shattered moments of Pan Am Flight 103.

Instead, it's a fair argument that the ability to be assaulted by the chattering classes is a good indicator of how well off we are in the lucky country.

Perhaps the rot set in on the weekend when the pond took a look at the hard copy of the Australian Financial Review.

For the past few weeks, the Saturday edition has lobbed up on the doorstep, given away free by Fairfax to boost what are truly dire and desperate circulation numbers. That makes the pond one of the 69,ooo or so who bother to get their hands on a hard copy on a Saturday ...

After tip-toeing past the page three ad for a pre-owned Ferrari California (from $329,000 drive-away), and an ad for Porsche, and the pitch for a Bulgari $55,500 watch, and ignoring the executive housing splash, the pond landed on a piece by Jacquie Hayes explaining how hard it was to afford a Porsche 911 in these troubled times (and you can read it too if you want to do yourself brain damage by reading Pushing the limits in a Porsche).

Oh yes, times are tough in the lucky country, and meanwhile, the true meaning of Craig Thomson (and Kathy Jackson and Carol Glen and Michael Lawler and Michael Williamson) is the damage done to the HSU and the union movement in general.

And there's the rub. Does anyone really seriously truly rooly think that the likes of Paul Sheehan or Tony Abbott gives a flying fuck about the union movement, or the idle abuse of the HSU membership? (And a big shout out to the kind folk of Royal Prince Alfred, with whom the pond has been spending some considerable time. What else can you do but shrug your shoulders and soldier on).

And there's the other rub. While the chattering classes go about their business of hysteria and routine alarmism and fear-mongering, most people just go on about the business of getting through the day as best they can, with dreams of a Porsche only of importance so that they can understand a comedy sketch in The Dictator.

Now there's an irony here, what with the pond chattering on endlessly about the chattering classes chattering on endlessly, but then there's also a payback.

Tony Abbott has probably been the single most spectacularly successful source of negativity in the land, but he's been ably helped by the amplifiers in the press.

And where has it got them? Well the circulation figures for the first quarter came in a little while ago, and here's a nattering negative headline for the chattering classes - Newspaper circulation carnage - biggest March fall on record (behind the paywall at Crikey).

Yes it's not just Greece that's in free-fall, it's print journalism in Australia, as people tire of paying to read bad news when they can get it for free.

Is this why journos are so intent on lathering up a sense of crisis? Surely the times they are a'changing.

The ironies abound. Today for example, if you google his opening remarks to avoid The Australian's paywall, you can read Mark Day rabbiting on about the wonders of newspapers, versus the evils of unregulated internet gossip-mongering in Web tangled, no scuttlebuts about it.

The role of news organisations is to deliver news, and most of the time that's exactly what they do.

Actually if you followed Day's epic effort on the front page in relation to his speculation about the contents of the Convergence Review, you could rewrite that line to read thus:

The role of news organisations is to second guess, confabulate, get it wrong, and fuck it up, and most of the time that's exactly what they do.

Yes the very same Mark Day, who's getting indignant and righteous about the web and scandal sheets and rumour mongering about the private lives of politicians, recently produced a story about the Convergence Review report that was seriously flawed and then defended himself to Media Watch thus:

Day: I was told what I was told. I felt confident that the information was on the money. As it turned out, some of it wasn't, but that sort of thing happens when you do speculative journalism like this.
Media Watch: Well, true enough. But if half of it turns out to be wrong, what's the point of speculation?
Day: Well, journos have been doing it since I was a cub. You're trying to get a jump on the story. (here).

The end result?

Mark Day's front page report was materially wrong. Unfortunately a lot of media outlets took his speculation as true and that appeared to strongly colour their initial reactions to the Final Report. - Glen Boreham, Chair, Convergence Review Committee, 4th May, 2012 (ibid)

Which is perhaps why Day ended his piece contrasting the mighty mainstream press and the massive reach of News mastheads to the naughtiness of anonymous blogs:

... embedded in the psyche of human beings is a willingness to embrace gossip, the salacious and the secret.
While ever there is a will for someone to invent a scandal, there will be ways to spread it.

In the same way that while ever there's a will for someone to distort a Convergence Review report, there will be ways to spread the distortion.

Enough already with the chattering classes and their vainglorious ways.

Even when they toss their tree-killers over the front fence for free, all the pond can think is "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take the chattering classes anymore".

(Below: came the post-ironic moment of awareness of the futility of chattering about the chatterers).

1 comment:

  1. From Mark Day, why would "the reports ... have been rigorously checked out by senior journalists employed by several newspapers"? Is that how they waste their time trying to fit a rumour into their template?
    Suppose someone witnesses an MP & partner in a heated discussion on the footpath outside a venue? No words heard, and the couple go their separate ways. OK, terminal breakdown of marriage could be one of several hundred explanations. The observation is sold on to a willing tool. Tool goes to boss with a rumour. Shouldn't a responsible editor respond "Fuck off & do something useful, unless you have an affidavit or there is a listing for court"?
    Do any employees find the standard practices at the crap-sheets too much to stomach? Like, lurking beneath the bathroom windows at the family homes of MPs?


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