Saturday, May 12, 2012

Speaking of nags and the knackery ...

(Above: Chris Uhlmann, with bonus smirk).

The amazing thing about headless chooks is the way they manage to squawk in unison.

Here's Christopher Pearson, arriving a little belatedly at the headless chook celebration:

The average muppet has more imagination than the braying jackals down at the commentariat swampland called The Australian.

Such uxorious indulgence, as on and on the idle chatter about class warfare proceeds apace. Who knows? Perhaps Australia is in the last days before an October revolution.

There are of course other ways to read the rhetoric:

Tony Abbott's budget reply was entirely rhetorical - when Julia Gillard told the Coalition leader he should leave the north shore and get out into the real world he thundered she was deliberately and ignobly igniting a ''class war''.
Her warfare apparently didn't extend to the budget's actual policies, which almost without exception he said he would support. (Policy the first casualty in pollies' phoney war).

Yep, class warfare. The newest way to describe bribing the family voter and who can do it best and biggest while maintaining a surplus in the budget, and a deficit in the noggin ...

Meanwhile, what fun to see Paul Keating hand out a ticking off to Chris Uhlmann as he banged away at The Drum in Uhlmann impertinent, off point.

It's not a new insight but it was said with style:

His technique is to have the pap set question to hand. And as the interviewee responds, he speaks over the top of them to demonstrate an aggressive credential. This is broadly to conceal the fact that he is unable to follow an answer in a discursive way - to grow the conversation in a manner that is both informative and elucidatory.

The whole tone is invariably accusatory – a tabloid device for putting the interviewee on the back foot; notwithstanding the worth or conscientiousness of their responses.

Indeed. But the pond isn't as subtle or as nuanced as Mr. Keating.

Surely Chris Uhlmann is the most inept, useless, hapless, worthless host ever to grace the 7.30 timeslot/report (and equivalent shows) since the format first took shape back in the days when the pond watched black and white television.

Without Leigh Sales to fall back on, Uhlmann is exposed, and there's nowhere to hide.

Keating ended with a flourish:

My criticism of Uhlmann is not that of bias, but of competence. His apologists say he is learning on the job. But what is the route to accomplishment when the technique is formulaic - limited to loaded set questions invariably posed in an accusatory tone?

Indeed. The pond never watchers Uhlmann these days or the show or the ABC for that matter. At the first sighting of Uhlmann there are shrieks and howls of "turn that boring as batshit inept bungling bludger off. Why can't we watch the nth repeat of Get Smart?"

But even funnier was the riposte from Bruce Belsham below the Keating piece. Belsham dresses up and parades himself as the current Head ABC Current Affairs:

Paul Keating's attack on Chris Uhlmann's interview of a fellow Labor Prime Minister demonstrates an understandable tribal loyalty.

That's by way of making the point:

Bruce Belsham's defence of Chris Uhlmann's pathetic interview of a Prime Minister demonstrates an understandable tribal loyalty.

And then does the tribally loyal Belsham do, but draw himself up on his high horse or his high heels or whatever?

Keating sent it unsolicited to The Drum and we published it because this site has a culture of open and robust debate. But it cannot pass without comment. It is a personal and unreasonable assault on one of this country's best political journalists and interviewers.

Here's the thing Bruce. If it's a personal and unreasonable assault, why did you run it? Can't resist those hits eh ...

But please at least cut the sanctimonious, righteous nonsense about a culture of open and robust debate. As soon as Keating says boo to a goose, there you are running about, squawking and clucking about someone taking a view.

Well, you can run all the crap about tribal loyalty and Labor-ites in it together, but you can't run that line on the pond.

Indeed, the sooner that Craig Thomson shuffles off into the darkness, the sooner we'll be spared reading the high comedy stylings of Kate McClymont's Thomson's alternative reality didn't fit the facts, a juxtaposing of the real world and Thomson's "parallel universe" of Craigisms.

Let's not hide behind ideological defences, or suggestions of bias and oh Keating's just being Keating, he would say that.

The pond owes no loyalty to a fellow Labor prime minister or to the Labor party in general, but switched off the interview before it got half way in. Way too much suffering ...

By the standard of an average viewer with a high boredom level, Uhlmann is hopeless, woeful and offensive.

The pond never thought it would yearn for the days of the incisive questioning of the carrot top, but by golly each time Uhlmann bobs up, it's there in spades.

Even worse, Leigh Sales is not scheduled to return until "later in the year" (well that's what it says on the 7.30 site).

Not to worry, even if she comes back, the habit of taking in the ABC news, followed by a half hour of current affairs, is long gone.

Instead of the ambulance chasing up the front of the news, followed by a dash of world news, silly charts and graphs from Alan Kohler, and a medical report from Sophie Scott, it's simpler to watch SBS recycling Al Jazeera.

What do you know there's an actual world out there, and things are happening in it. Oh okay there's the soccer news to suffer at the end, but all that means is there's a chance to switch back and catch up on the weather.

Next a little bit of Colbert, a little bit of Jon Stewart, and then it's off to enjoy other activities outside the enclosed, constricted world of the ABC.

Typically, the Belsham defence focussed on the content:

Uhlmann's interview with the Prime Minister canvassed the decisions made by her government to achieve a forecast budget surplus. He asked questions in the public mind - questions about savings made by breaking or shifting previous promises on business tax cuts, defence and foreign aid. He asked reasonably whether broken promises reflect on the credibility of the government and on its forecast.

Actually Uhlmann's line of questioning made him sound like an escapee or a refugee from The Australian.

Have you ever thought of getting Christopher Pearson to host the show?

When it's not publishing IPA propaganda on The Drum, these days ABC current affairs seems to get its content and its marching orders from Chris Mitchell.

And then Belsham delivered the whammy that left the pond throwing jaffas at the telly:

Chris's tone throughout was respectful but probing, the appropriate tone for a political interviewer doing what political interviewers have always done – acting devil's advocate for a public seeking to better understand its leaders. I've been around long enough to remember Prime Ministers and their acolytes levelling similar charges of impertinence against ABC political anchors, from Richard Carleton to Kerry O'Brien. Chris Uhlmann, widely respected in Canberra and amongst his colleagues as a decent, intelligent and no-nonsense journalist, continues a fine tradition.

Oh pull the other one. Devil's advocate? Is that the same as reading the headlines in The Australian, and putting them into the form of a question?

What this says about Belsham is that he doesn't have the first clue. To put Uhlmann in the same couple of sentences as Richard Carleton and Kerry O'Brien is an indecent, unintelligent, nonsensical bit of gibberish, evoking the way that a fine tradition of quality interviewers and interviewing now lies broken and busted, and instead we have Uhlmann beavering away at the heart of ABC current affairs.

Instead of mounting this kind of feeble defence of Uhlmann, why not move on? Get Sales back as quickly as possible, and get some added muscle in the interview department. Keep Uhlmann as a Canberra specialist if you must, but rope in someone else to add a little ballast and depth and sense of style. If all that's required is aggression and snarl, the commercial broadcasters supply it in spades.

It's not about offending Labor politicians or Liberals or even Barnaby Joyce for that matter, it's about offending your viewers ...

Have you got something against a cup of tea, lamingtons and scones and a thoughtful discussion? The tone of the ABC is now being set by Q&A, and what a woeful tone it is ...

Don't believe the pond? Take a look around the social media world at the response to Uhlmann's lack of style. The only positive thing that could be culled from the experience is the notion that Uhlmann irritates some viewers so much that they watch him in the same way they'd watch a train wreck unfold ...

It must be hard for Uhlmann. His little Twitter outburst last March seemed to show he was feeling under the hammer:

The 7.30 host last night took to his twitter account in a way that the rest of us can only conclude indicated he was more than a bit tired and emotional.
The series of late night tweets included the topics of animal love, opening bottles of wine in the dark and the ABC's ability to pay its power bills.
Ulhmann also commented on the controversy involving former News International head Rebekah Brooks tweeting: “Speaking of horses. I see Rupert Murdoch has leapt to Rebecca Brooks defence. Saved a nag from the knackers.” (here)

Speaking of horses, how nice of Bruce Belsham to leap to Chris Uhlmann's defence. Saved a hay-muncher from the knackery one more time.

Christopher Pearson anyone?

We keed, we keed ...

(Below: memories, memories, but who's that man in the inset?)


  1. Leigh Sales back May 28th, straight from the horse's mouth (twitter).

  2. So what do you think Dot? Is Uhlmann overcompensating to avoid accusations of bias because of a conflict of interest in his choice of sleeping partner; or is it a caflic thing?

  3. Uhlman is useless and I don't have much faith in Sales either or Cassidy or Alberici or Jones or Kelly or Benson . The weather person seems alright and the people on Playschool too. They have much more credibility. The ABC and the Australian is our version of the Volkischer Beobachter.

  4. Actually anon, it's just a matter of him being asked to punch above his weight by sitting in the head chair. It takes a special skill to dump a load of aggression on a politician, then turn back to the camera and beguile the viewer. He's just not very good at it.

    But we don't mean to do him out of a job. Perhaps we can follow Heinrich Jones by suggesting it would have been better for him to turn up in a guest role as B1 or B2 in Playschool before getting his own show. A little empathy training would do him a lot of good.

  5. Uhlman'd be a hoot on Playschool, DP. I can just imagine him:

    "There's a bear in there, there's a ... " "Are you sure it's a bear? I put it to you that it might be a koala." Und so weiter.

  6. And just what do you have against wombats! :)


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