There is a new level in stupidity in the land, and it seems it's come to settle at the ABC, or more specifically ABC Rural, which seems to have discovered that "talking the controversy" is the way forward.
Yes, the pond happened to catch Radio National's Bush Telegraph and a piece dubbed Rockhampton to debate fluoridation of the water supply.
The host of the show, one Cameron Wilson, bent over backwards trying to sound balanced and fair in the matter of fluoridation of water supply, while presenting the loonish views of a Rockhampton councillor, "balanced" by an academic. (Apologies to other drivers who caught sight of a demented driver in their vicinity shouting at the car radio).
Now in the end, it's all the fault of Campbell Newman for devolving responsibility for this matter to councils, thereby ensuring that loons can have a field day, and insistent attempts will be made to ban fluoride from water supplies, and never mind that numerous studies over many years have determined it is safe, and effective in reducing dental decay, and catches in its safety net the poorer members of the community (including the pond, it has to be said).
Wilson - no doubt fancying himself as "devil's advocate" - took a soft attitude to the loon, while presented a hard and firm interrogative air to the hapless and faintly disbelieving academic forced to endure this charade of a "discussion".
You know the style ... but professor can you really be certain the earth is round, when if you look at the horizon, it can plainly be seen as flat,
... but professor how can you be certain of the theory of evolution because I'm certain my monkey is an uncle,
... but professor it's clear that wind farms harm health because there are a lot of people who've formed neuroses thinking about it.
...tell me obscure councillor with no scientific qualifications in anything, what do you think of the professor's silly pedantic points.
Why plainly they're rubbish Cameron. Oh do tell, what an incisive and authoritative insight ...
And so on and so forth.
What next for the ABC's allegedly intelligent alternative radio station?
Cameron Wilson discusses the wisdom of teaching evolution when outrageously it isn't balanced by teaching intelligent design? Cameron Wilson discusses the wisdom of giving children vaccines when everyone knows they're part of Satan's design to maim children?
Well the pond knows what's next for the pond in relation to the ABC. Cameron Wilson is hereby banned, for generating further confusion, silliness and stupidity in the world. More to the point, don't drive while listening to Cameron Wilson. Other road users are likely be startled.
Lesson learned and never again a burst of astonishment and laughter at the sublime way Wilson pretended he could take this stupidity seriously. Cretinism at the ABC has reached new and astonishing levels (and apologies to any actual cretin that might be reading, it's the ABC that's forced the pond to reach this new level of abuse, with the complicity and help of Campbell Newman).
In due course, in about twenty years, Queensland once again having reverted to its old levels of dental decay, and the population still waiting on a federal dental scheme, or perhaps a federal dental scheme in place but not wanting to pay for the stupidity of Queensland councils, and refusing to require the rest of Australia to subsidise the stupidity, there's a good chance that fluroidation will be re-introduced where it was abandoned. No thanks to the ABC, Cameron Wilson or Campbell Newman allowing the hares to roam and frolic in the seas of paranoia and conspiracy theories...
And so it came to pass that what the pond thought was a satire in Dr Strangelove is now but a documentary on the state of affairs in Queensland and the ABC's rural department ...
Enough already, now to our main course, which is of course the delectable Gerard Henderson, and his usual tedious history lesson, which this week starts off with the allegation that it was the Labor government and Arthur Calwell, with his hatred of the press, who somehow conceived single-handedly the idea that the press in Australia should be censored during the second world war.
Of course this means ignoring the way censorship was introduced around the world .. for example, via the Office of Censorship in the United States.
If you want a quick guide why not head off to the spooks at the CIA site, to read a review by Robert J. Hanyok of Secrets of Victory which starts off with this nice little anecdote:
On 17 August 1942, a nationally syndicated columnist wrote that she had received “a very stern letter” about her remarks on the weather, “… and so from now on I shall not tell you whether it rains or whether the sun shines where I happen to be.” The columnist was Eleanor Roosevelt and she was referring to an article in which she had described weather conditions during one of her official visits around the country with her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during World War II. That the First Lady would receive such a reprimand reveals much about the nature, scope, and effectiveness of censorship in wartime America. How and why such information restrictions succeeded are the subjects of Michael Sweeney’s history of the Office of Censorship, Secrets of Victory.
In Britain it was the quaintly named Ministry of Information which trotted out the propaganda (wiki it here) while the pressure was piled on the BBC to toe the line and do its patriotic duty (wiki the BBC at war here).
The correspondents were equally frustrated. Frank Gillard's report of the futile assault at Dieppe in 1942, when more than 3,000 Canadian troops were killed, wounded or captured, was heavily censored, to his life-long disgust. And after the German surrender in 1945, Richard Dimbleby threatened to quit if the BBC did not put out his report on the horrors of Belsen. As it was, the Corporation delayed the broadcast for a day while it considered the impact that such stark revelations about the Holocaust would have at home and abroad.
There was postal censorship and a constant war with some newspapers as to what could or should be reported, and the manner of the reporting, and the temptation to match Lord Haw-Haw at his game was strong within the British government.
The circumstances of war invite such considerations and on the evidence in Australia the Liberal party would have been unlikely to do things much differently to the Labor party ...
But Henderson isn't interested in history, he always uses history as propaganda, and it leads him to make astonishing, remarkable claims:
Labor's recent problems are not due to News Limited. They turn essentially on its attempts to impose an unpopular emissions trading scheme, or carbon tax, and its policy approach to asylum seekers. However, Conroy and some of his colleagues are determined to punish News Limited. His proposed legislation has had the unintended consequence of rallying other media companies to oppose the governments' approach - since the proposed restrictions on press freedom affect virtually every business in the fold.
It's astonishingly blithe and carefree to assume that Labor's recent problems haven't been amplified and compounded by News Ltd's relentless crusade against federal Labor and its policies.
The most hysterical have been the Daily Terror and the lizard Oz, but other Murdoch tabloids do their bit ... such as the HUN providing shelter to the most hysterical campaigner of all, Andrew the legendary Bolter, insisting that the carbon tax is a total waste because climate science is a gigantic fraud, and perhaps an international conspiracy.
To imagine that News Ltd has nothing to do with the current tainted level of gutter discourse is a bit like imagining the thoughts and deeds of Tony Abbott are buried somewhere near the comics section (though that must be the place where they bury his policies, such as they are).
The pond has long contended that Stephen Conroy is a fool, but comparing him to Stalin is worse than foolish, and writing stories about whether he washes his paws in a toilet is going from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Yet the prattling Polonius himself can't resist trotting out the Stalinist metaphor:
In democratic politics, citizens genuinely disagree on what constitutes the national interest and/or the public interest with respect to political, economic and social matters. There are some Australians who agree that newspapers should be subjected to greater regulation by a government-appointed public interest media advocate. Others regard such an approach as involving excessive regulation at best and a degree of Stalinism at worst.
A degree of Stalinism! Is that only 300,000 killed in the Gulags, instead of 3 million?
There is of course no talk of the degree of Stalinism involved in chairman Rupert's control of the print media in Australia, with Fairfax forming a cosy duopoly that happily is getting less cosy by the day.
There's rarely talk of the real Tsar, the said chairman Rupert, and his lackeys, like Kim Williams, blathering on about Star Chambers, clearly never having experienced the howling and the yowling of the media in full cry, persecuting and crucifying people in its path ... with an apology, if finally extracted, published months later, and buried somewhere near the comics ...
But back to the history lesson ...
Labor's attempt at controlling the newspapers failed in the mid-1940s because, even in wartime, a majority of Australians wanted their political news as unfiltered as possible. Conroy's approach is not identical to Calwell's.
So after setting up the metaphor, we arrive at the prattling Polonius announcing that the approaches aren't identical.
Even more amazing, neither are the circumstances, because it so happens, we're not in the middle of World War III.
What's more, as well as Conroy's approach not being identical to Calwell's, it actually borrows heavily from that alleged Conservative David Cameron, right at this moment trying to push through something similar, though it could be argued that Conroy is pushing a softer line than Cameron.
Naturally it's sent the wilder tabloids in the UK into a frenzy, with rags like The Guardian reporting on the frenzy with glee (Newspaper groups refuse to endorse regulation plan).
What the two Labor politicians (Conroy and Calwell) have in common is belief in regulation and a dislike of sections of the print media.
That's it, that's all he's got? Cliche and tripe, in a generous serve?
Why he might just as easily have written what the two Labor politicians, David Cameron, Roosevelt, Churchill, and a zillion other politicians have in common is a belief in regulation and a dislike of sections of the print media ... a dislike frequently returned in spades, and with a generous dollop of bile, spite and vitriol ...
Perhaps most amusing is that yesterday, Fairfax ran an editorial bemoaning the role of the rich and the powerful, indirectly assailing the behaviour of one of its very rich shareholders dragging one of the rag's reporters into a family feud, a humble domestic dispute that happens to involve squillions:
Readers of the Herald may well regard the proposed Conroy media reforms as an isolated assault on free speech. Not so.
Almost daily, media outlets have to fight court battles against the rich and powerful to try to ensure free flow of information to the public. The litigants fighting the media in these cases include people who rely on publicity when it suits them but who recoil from scrutiny.
Others are unelected individuals and organisations that seek to influence policy and laws. Some willingly use your money in their pursuits until the media discovers their flaws and tries to warn you.
Indeed. And there's more here under the header True public interest in free speech too easily subjugated, but don't expect a word of it to turn up anywhere near the prattling Polonius, because it simply wouldn't do to prattle about Gina Rinehart.
The Fairfax editorialist lathered up a fine old frenzy:
As the law stands, judges can easily subjugate the true public interest in free speech to the alleged public interest in revealing journalist sources.
In effect, that elevates the private interest of the rich and powerful so they can pursue their legal action, giving them an advantage ''unavailable to members of the general public''. Such discretion helps vested interests. That is not in the public interest.
Meanwhile, all this talk of Conroy as a wolf is entirely misplaced. He made a goose of himself with his plan for a grand internet filter to filter everything, and now he's got all the vested interests agitated and hysterical about a plan originally designed to let the Press Council get on with its job, and take care of a few regulatory media matters.
He went about it half-baked by proposing only a week for it to be considered - as if haste was a virtue - and set himself up for a right old shellacking and a shearing without anyone actually paying any attention to what was being proposed, and with geese like Henderson cackling about World War Two, Arthur Calwell and Stalin.
Moir got closer to the point in his cartoon yesterday for Fairfax:
Not half bad, and the startled look on the sheep Conroy is something to behold.
Now as a bonus, whenever the pond hears of chatter about fluoride, it always dusts off its copy of Kubrick's masterpiece Dr. Strangelove, and runs this dialogue, because it loves it so. You can blame this repeat on the ABC's rural department and Campbell Newman:
Ripper: Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war?
Mandrake: No. I don't think I do sir, no.
Ripper: He said war was to important to be left to the Generals. When he said that, fifty years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
Cut to: int. Ripper's office. Mandrake is sitting worriedly on a couch. Ripper puts a comforting arm around his shoulder.
Ripper: through his cigar ... Mandrake ...
Mandrake: Yes, Jack?
Ripper: Have you ever seen a commie drink a glass of water?
Mandrake: Well, no I... I can't say I have, Jack.
Ripper: Vodka. That's what they drink, isn't it? Never water?
Mandrake: Well I... I believe that's what they drink, Jack. Yes.
Ripper: On no account will a commie ever drink water, and not without good reason.
Mandrake: Oh, ah, yes. I don't quite.. see what you're getting at, Jack.
Ripper: Water. That's what I'm getting at. Water. Mandrake, water is the source of all life. Seven tenths of this earth's surface is water. Why, you realize that.. seventy percent of you is water.
Mandrake: Uhhh God...
Ripper: And as human beings, you and I need fresh, pure water to replenish our precious bodily fluids. Mandrake: Yes. chuckles nervously
Ripper: You beginning to understand?
Mandrake: Yes. chuckles. begins laughing/crying quietly
Ripper: Mandrake. Mandrake, have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rain water, and only pure grain alcohol?
Mandrake: Well it did occur to me, Jack, yes.
Ripper: Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation? Fluoridation of water?
Mandrake: Ah, yes, I have heard of that, Jack. Yes.
Ripper: Well do you now what it is? Mandrake: No. No, I don't know what it is. No.
Ripper: Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face? You know when fluoridation first began?
Mandrake: No. No, I don't, Jack. No.
Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty six. Nineteen fortysix, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your postwar commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual, and certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard core commie works.
Turns out Ripper retired from the military and is working for the ABC.