The other day the pond was having a great debate with an SBS employee about the state of SBS.
There was some agreement - that SBS was totally and comprehensively fucked. The argument was more about who had done the fucking.
Apparently these days if you're an employee you have to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing values and self-worth and contribution to values and future goals and aspirations and all the other nonsense introduced at great expense by management when they've got nothing else to do but play faux management games.
The real values issues have been lost. Like is there any worse video about sex we can find for the Thursday night slot, or any more wretched British doc to plug yet another scheduling hole, and are all the Nazi documentaries in the cupboard the last ones to hand, or can we still find some ones with colourised footage?
Yes those sorts of values, to do with actual content have gone missing, and all that's left are dreamy values about running a threadbare service on the smell of an oily rag.
After explaining that the pond still watched SBS news because we loved promotional footage inside a news service, and anyway it was the best Al Jazeera program to be found outside of Al Jazeera, we got down to discussing who was responsible for the broadcaster's lamentable condition, and its even more lamentable content, with its original remit and mission long forgotten inside and outside.
Naturally there was talk of Shaun Brown, who somehow thought appearing under a header boasting After a contentious start, Brown departs SBS leaner and meaner in the lizard Oz was something to celebrate.
The point of course is that leaner and meaner and more wretched content has led to even leaner and meaner advertising, such that even the ageing viewing demographic have begun to protest about the lamentable funeral director ads being foisted on them.
An equally tempting target was the board run by Carla Zampatti - it takes a long time for board decisions in support of management to filter down, and even longer for them to be reversed or abandoned by a sullen and resentful staff.
Zampatti patently didn't have a clue, and was out of her depth, and she had acolytes like Christopher Pearson, driven by ideology and ignorance, as her time-serving companions. Pearson's gone now, thank the absent lord for the fate of all token government appointments of acolytes, but the broadcaster still lurks in the doldrums, with not a clue as to how to extract itself, with Joseph Skryznski well meaning, but with his board's collective heads well below the water line.
Anyhoo, it passed the time and did nothing to lift the gloom of the long suffering SBS employee, but it did make the pond look forward to today's column by Christopher Pearson - sharer in the ruination of SBS - and that's an amazing achievement in itself.
To celebrate Australia day, naturally Pearson decided it was time to brood:
What on earth did he mean, race riot? People injured and perhaps killed? People arrested, charges laid, people flung into jail?
Was he talking about the Sydney anti-Islam film protests last September (here)? Sure that'd mean conflating race and religion, but hey if you've helped ruin SBS, that sort of conflation is easy peasy.
But then it couldn't be an Australia Day anniversary he was scribbling about.
Yep, you've guessed it, Pearson is actually dressing up what even the Courier-Mail decided wasn't a riot, but a rowdy Australia Day protest, as you can see in its header Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott trapped in Canberra restaurant amid rowdy Australia Day protests.
You'd have thought Crikey had said it all when it wrote Australia Day protest no match for media hysteria.
But here's Pearson, still maintaining the hysteria.
It led to yet another Crocodile Dundee moment for the pond, something along the lines of flashing some SBS footage of an Egyptian riot, and saying that's not a riot, Mr Pearson, this is a riot.
Perhaps the subbies had their doubts, because in the other splash for the piece, the pitch turned into how the events might serve as a landmark in the degrading of our public life, when surely the appointment of useless people along political rather than competence lines to public broadcasters is the real landmark in the degrading of our public life.
Anyhoo, if you can be bothered, you can find From hard but fair to the ugly style of politics hidden behind the paywall, thus sparing the bulk of the world from the thoughts of Pearson.
What's remarkable is that Pearson indulges in a golden glow, golden age view of the past when he comes to talking about politics, after demonising Blair aide John McTernan.
So this is what you get:
This is of course a nonsense. Menzies was a dab hand at vilification, and spent most of the 1950s successfully linking the socialist policies of the Labor party to the red Russian communist menace.
Menzies played it hard, and in the Petrov scandal, managed to produce a media riot about a quite minor diplomat.
The great thing for students of history is that newspapers from the time are now available on Trove, and you can go to even a humble rag like the Singleton Argus on 14th September 1951 reporting that Mr. A. Fairhall, M.L.A, branded Dr. Evatt a "political charlatan" given to "lies, distortions and half truths" while kicking the communist can down the road:
Mr. Fairhall traced the events leading up to the Referendum through the 1949 election at which Menzies said" "Communism is an alien and destructive pest. If we are elected we will ban it." (here)
Now it could be argued that calling a politician a lying charlatan isn't vilification - since every politician fits the label - but the vilification of the Labor party as a supporter of pinko commie perverts was one of the great success stories of the 1950s when it came to vilification, a mission carried on by the Catholic-inspired DLP, which played it even harder.
The notion that politics was played more discreetly and genteelly in some lost golden age is one of the greater myths, and Menzies and others of his time loved to smear and indulge in character assassination. It was an art form and they were artists, and if you don't get it, the pond has 36 faceless men standing by to explain it to you.
But that was the way politics was played in ancient Greece and Rome too, though at least Australia has kept physical assassination of rivals under control.
Anyhoo, the rest of Pearson's piece is more of the same - that somehow Bob Hawke and John Howard were grown-ups and discussed policies and achieved bipartisan consensus, and were ever such chipper chaps and jolly good chums, even if they occasionally disagreed on a detail here and there.
This in the day and age when Keating liked to roast people slowly.
But the real point about the dissembling Pearson's piece is the ongoing fear that Tony Abbott might just have turned himself into John Hewson and might well lose the un-loseable election, all because he's spent his entire time thus far in opposition being relentlessly negative. And now he realises he needs to do things differently.
Which helps explain why he's suddenly proposed to hare around Australia in a whirlwind trip reminding people that the Liberal party has actual policies, and isn't merely a home for nattering negativity and neigh-saying nannies like Julie Bishop and Sophie Mirabella.
And it's a reminder of just how many hot buttons, and sensitivities, and explosive issues the commentariat have to spend their time defusing:
Class warfare in particular is still a far more entrenched feature of life in Britain than it has been here for donkeys' years. The Currency lads and lasses were in some respects precursors of today's aspirational class. The last time federal Labor tried class warfare, with Mark Latham's infamous hit-list of the private schools he planned to de-fund, it lost him a lot of votes.
Which is of course yet another mangling of history. If anything 'currency lads and lasses' was an Australian label like generation X or Y, making a distinction between those born in the colony and those "sterlings" who were born in the British Isles (and more on that here). And just what is an aspirational class? Is there a class for deadweights who lack all aspiration?
The real point is how to defuse Abbott's political past, and here the mythologising must begin all over again, as the chips on the shoulder fly:
Whether dismissing Abbott as an out-of-touch silvertail from the north shore devoting his career to serving the interests of a few mining billionaires will work remains to be seen. It doesn't fit with his policies or the footage of the volunteer firefighter we've recently seen (after all those years when he refused to let himself be filmed while on duty), let alone with the teachers' aide doing regular stints in Aboriginal communities on Cape York.
Yep, he did it because he wanted to do it, and never for political benefit, except inter alia, when used for political benefit.
On the gender wars, I said most of what I have to say last week. The fact that he invited his female chief of staff to store her IVF drugs in his office fridge and disagrees with Catholic teaching on the subject may, in the eyes of some ultra-conservatives, make him a trendy liberal materially co-operating in a grave evil. However, it will give sensible people grounds for wondering whether Abbott is by any measure sexist or doctrinaire in the way he's so often been painted.
Well the pond always promises comedy, and there you have it. This of the man who snuck into the office of Pell for some Pellist advice and then completely forgot about it (you can see Tony Abbott hit Tony Jones with a death stare in a Chaser lad riff on YouTube)
It's true that Abbott has of late been distancing himself from the Pellists and certain Catholic teachings, but that's what you'd expect of any opportunistic politician willing to ditch on the nose principles to help gain power.
As for sensible people being given grounds to do anything but make coffee, well that has to be left to Pearson's window-dressing for his mate. It would seem the price to be paid is an eternity in hell for turning into a trendy liberal.
But at least using Peta Credlin has spared us the sight of Pearson reminding us that Abbott has a wife, who is an actual woman, and daughters, who are also by a strange coincidence women.
But wait there are more comedy stylings, and you knew they'd involve the fiends at Fairfax and the ABC:
The theme of the doctrinaire leader, "Captain Catholic", has been exploited, with considerable help from the ABC and the Fairfax papers, ever since the fall of Malcolm Turnbull. David Marr, the incarnation of the zeitgeist at the Sydney Morning Herald, has time and again reminded us that the age of sectarianism is not dead.
Perhaps because The Australian keeps reminding us that the age of conservative Latin-mass loving Catholics - always willing to mount a war on liberals and secularism and Fairfax and the ABC and climate science and the NBN - is not yet dead.
In the most recent skirmish, late last year Gillard said on a Friday that she was against a royal commission into institutional sexual abuse but reversed her position on the following Monday. She plainly hoped to lure Abbott into a passionate defence of the Catholic Church, but he failed to oblige and guaranteed bipartisan support for the inquiry well before she changed her tune.
Yep, when it comes to hanging people and institutions out to dry, Abbott is as smarmy a politician as any of them. It's going to be a rough year for the Pellists, and Abbott has already done his bowl of water routine. He won't let anything stand in his way or his lust for the precioussss.
And so to the wrap up par, and here's where it gets passing strange:
It's worth noting Richardson's heroic attempt to spin on Gillard's behalf. "She understood the needs of victims and put them first. She showed real compassion and understanding and it looked so real. While all this was occurring, all Abbott could do was watch and comment. The credit for what she has done will accrue only to her and she will deserve it."
That's it? We end with Gra Gra praising Gillard, and it's only worth noting? Pearson gets to the end, and lets it go through to the keeper, We're left with a final thought that credit will accrue to Gillard and she will deserve it, and Pearson says nothing to refute it?
Did a passing subbie decide to it was simply time to shut Pearson up, or did Pearson simply run out of steam?
We'll never know, and it's a fair guess that the pond will never learn how such a fine feminist as Tony Abbott, seeking to assume the mantle of Bob Menzies, could stand under a sign like this - and not see them, or understand their naked meaning, in much the same way as he couldn't remember meeting George Pell :
So much silliness on the public record, and now no way to bring it back, whatever the spin, and the dissembling and the mythologising.
Oh and a you get a fucked SBS as a bonus. The pond is now standing by for a fucked up ABC, or at least some tips on ironing.