Saturday, April 06, 2013

What a fine flurry of IPA fawning ...

The pond has been intrigued to see the headline response to the feeble changes to the superannuation situation.

For weeks, the pond had thought journalists and commentators were valiant upholders of capitalism and the rights of the superannuated rich. Surely the Labor government were about to unleash a catastrophe. Valiant Simon Crean, showing his remarkable capacity for unity and discipline, was out ringing the bells, sounding the alarums, warning of the impending apocalypse.

Come the actual revelation, it turns out they were baying hounds yearning for socialist redistribution, and mourning the many opportunities lost ...

Who'd have thunk it. Why even the lizard Oz decided to run Paul Keating as a featured item:

Dear sweet absent lord, et tu lizard Oz, channeling Keating?

And as for the rest, there was endless nattering about the opportunity lost to do things right, and rectify the imbalance, and not just in Fairfax, but in News Ltd too.

Coming right after the NAB anxiety index indicating the pond was way too anxious, it was all too much. Opportunities lost, paradise lost.

Tell us about it John Milton:

Innocence, once lost, can never be regained. Darkness, once gazed upon in the Murdoch press, can never be lost.

Indeed, but today the pond isn't anxious, the pond is outraged at the treatment of famous columnist Christopher Pearson, famous in his own and others' lunchtime.

It turns out that more and more The Australian has been treating the man as you would a mad uncle, storing him in the attic, and only occasionally bringing him out for show, as you'd imagine someone would be treated if they maintained their employment as an indulgence, a kindness towards more powerful political patrons.

Take today. Look who they've coupled him with, after you've clicked on the opinion tag, and scrolled down the yowling howling hordes, the Sloans, the van Onselens, and guest quisling Peter Beattie, who suddenly with age has discovered euthanasia is an issue:

It's outrageous. How could anyone juxtapose the most boring columnist on earth with the most boring radio show host on Radio National?

And yet, and yet, there's Pearson providing a perfectly reasonable puff piece bit of cheerleading for the Institute of Public Affairs, with all the depth of blancmange, with all the investigative style of quivering jelly, with all the hero worship of a doughnut lover in the grip of a Krispy Kreme frenzy (Ref's legacy a great institute, but please whatever you do, don't pay for the moderate pleasure).

If you like, you can of course google Pearson's pomposity - there's no Latin this week, just arcane gobbledegook - but if you're expecting fresh, shocking revelations about the IPA's hidden sponsors, supporters and cynical suppliers of funds, you clearly haven't ever experienced the dunderheaded prose of praise of a Pearson.

There is of course much blather about freedom of markets and freedom of ideas, which strangely never extends to freedom of information about the IPA's faceless supporters.

Oh you'll read endless diatribes in the lizard Oz about the faceless men who run the Labor party, but you'll never hear a peep or a cheep about the faceless supporters who back the IPA.

Instead you'll get this astonishing pile of guff:

Ref Kemp's genius and the great contribution of the IPA ever since has been to see that the profit motive was not a sufficient answer to all questions and to discern and communicate the moral dimension of private enterprise in an age where socialist nostrums held sway and the likes of H. C. (Nugget) Coombs personified the zeitgeist.

The moral dimensions of the right to smoke, and kill yourself, drink and kill yourself, gamble and bankrupt yourself, dig up everything and ship it to China, provided you're willing to work for two dollars a day like a decent exploited African worker, and this is talking about the moral dimension of private enterprise?

Why was the pond reminded of this splendid Bald Archy winner?

Why it's enough to turn the pond deeply cynical, but hang on, cheap cynicism isn't allowed:

Ref argued that the prevailing curse of the 20th century was cynicism: a collapse of confidence in Western civilisation, a legacy from the Great War from which we'd never quite recovered. He argued that cynicism is corrosive and that it often undoes our best efforts. It leads people increasingly to seek salvation in material pursuits. A misplaced faith in planning is an aspect of this deformation of character, as is a retreat from self-confidence and a turning towards the redemptive power of the state. Long before academics such as Judith Brett caught on to the notion of "the moral middle classes", Ref was their advocate.

Indeed, any faith in planning is totally wayward. It's far better to have complete and utter chaos, and the next time there's a complete economic collapse and a run on the markets, just remember to chant a song about the redemptive power of Wall street and big banks and the markets and how you should always be too big to be allowed to fail.

But wait, we haven't had enough comedy stylings, let's hear this from a life-long bachelor:

He (the Ref) lamented that while full employment had been achieved (and, to give them their due, the economists had played their part in this), having gained the goal of work for all, we no longer seem to have any firm belief in the dignity of work itself. While there are extensive guarantees of social security, the ordinary everyday courtesies are vanishing. He noted that in an increasingly brutalised world the least cared-for member of society is the housewife and mother.

Indeed. Of course in those days, Pearson would have been safely tucked away in a closet, rather than the lizard Oz's attic, and no one would have noticed him shedding crocodile tears for the housewife and the mother, as he bleats for the long lost golden age of the nineteen fifties.

But look, things wouldn't be complete without more tosh of the most mind-numbing Krispy Kreme triple cheeze pizza kind.

After a tour of the Whitlam goverment, and the current one run by Gillard - caution, this tour does not include the highlights of Harold Holt, William McMahon, and Malcolm Fraser - we learn:

The IPA continues Ref's good work, having learned from his example that effective apologetics have to be mounted tirelessly, in season and out. One of the more recent turning points in national economic debate arose directly out of a speaking tour the IPA organised for Friedrich Hayek, whose arguments about economic liberty and the road to serfdom had not been as widely read here as they deserved to be. 
 The institute has also had the sense to broaden its focus to encompass difficult areas of social policy such as Aboriginal affairs. In doing so it's greatly to its credit that sensible people from the Labor side have been recruited among its fellows, including the redoubtable Gary Johns.

The redoubtable Gary Johns? Who hails from the Labor side? Well no doubt Genghis Khan in his early days was inclined to the socialist cause or perhaps Labor party, but it's a tad rich to suggest that in his later empire-forming days, he stayed true to the light on the hill.

Happily there's an upside. Government being entirely useless, it would seem entirely appropriate to have an entirely useless man like Tony Abbott run it into the ground ...

Meanwhile, actual freedom of insight, like who actually sponsors and funds the IPA will have to wait for another day. Loose talk of the tobacco industry and miners wanting to hire people for two dollars a day will have to wait ...

Of course in the end, it's just Little Sir Echo fawning all over the IPA, as others have done in recent days. For a full review of the epic fit of fawning, you're much better off turning to Crikey, where Tony Abbott's fawning is reported in detail (Tony Abbott's speech to IPA: God, Christians, Western heritage - may be behind paywall).

Abbott didn't hark back to the 1940s, he zoomed back to the Garden of Eden:

“In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve believed they could do almost as they pleased. But freedom has its limits and its abuses as this foundational story makes only too clear. And yet without freedom we can hardly be human, hardly be worthy of creation in the image of God.”

Oh sweet absent lord, give the man a cilice.

And there's even more astonishing tosh:

 “In contemporary Australia we have well and truly, and rightly, left behind the old cult of forgetfulness about our indigenous heritage. Alas, there is a new version of the great Australian silence — this time about the Western canon, the literature, the poetry, the music, the history and above all the faith without which our culture and our civilisation is unimaginable.”

What are we talking about here? Beethoven, Shakespeare?

"I would be telling a fib if I were to say I was a country music expert, but when I was younger I used to drive my Leyland P76 with the tape deck blaring out Glen Campbell," he told reporters. "I'm a bit of a rhinestone cowboy." (Tony Abbott rolls into Tamworth music festival).

What a rhinestone goose.

Oh we get it, the P76 joke, and the sly hint that deep down he couldn't give a stuff about Glen Campbell, and the poor dumb hix out in the stix too dumb to get it, but when did you last see an Abbott speech laced with references to the Western canon? As opposed to the big-mouthed shoot from the hips western cannon ...

Crikey delivers other tasty coverage of the whole sordid affair, as you can read in Abbott, Bolt, Rinehart fawn in the IPA court of King Murdoch, but really the pond has only got so much intestinal fortitude to fling around before another anxiety attack sets in ...

Then there’s a series of IPA folks speaking, falling over themselves to fawn on the great man. Does he really buy it? It’s cringeworthy how they praise him, his family, distant relatives and all things Murdoch. Roskam is practically simpering towards the end. This must have been how the courts of kings of old worked.
There’s a long period of IPA fund raising and the great auction. The visit to the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara goes for $25,000; so does a behind the scenes tour of The Bolt Report. A visit to Fox News HQ is sold for $20,000. Curiously, the morning tea with John Howard and Tony Abbott was pulled at the last moment, with the claim that it would be worth more when Abbott is PM. I wonder what the back story was … 
 The hardcore moved on for a night of networking, but we were done, slinking out into the night to nurse a hangover and a lingering sense of unease. Is this really how the world works? These people believe hard, and in the echo chamber the rest of us are just blurry silent images providing a backdrop to their heroic stories.

That last bit reminded the pond of another bit of reading during the week, John Le Carré reminiscing about writing his first novel in Harpers (inside the paywall):

The merit of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, then - or its offense, depending where you stood - was not that it was authentic but that it was credible. The bad dream turned out to be one that a lot of people in the world were sharing, since it asked the same old question that we are asking ourselves fifty years later. How far can we go in the rightful defense of our Western values without abandoning them along the way? My fictional chief of the British service - I called him Control - had no doubt of the answer:
      I mean, you can't be less ruthless than the opposition simply because your government's policy is benevolent, can you now?
Today, the same man, with better teeth and hair and a much smarter suit, can be heard explaining away the catastrophic illegal war in Iraq, or justifying medieval torture techniques as the preferred means of interrogation in the twenty-first century, or defending the inalienable rights of closet psychopaths to bear semiautomatic weapons, and the use of unmanned drones as a risk-free method of assassinating one's perceived enemies and anybody who has the bad luck to be standing near them. Or, as a loyal servant of his corporation, assuring us that smoking is harmless to the health of the Third World and great banks are there to serve the public.

Oh yes, today the same man, with better teeth and hair and much smarter suit, works for the IPA, and fawns all over Rupert Murdoch and Gina and the like.

And he explains why smoking is good for anyone interested in freedom in the First World and why corrupt media barons like Murdoch running corrupt tabloid papers are amongst the wonders of the world, and why miners like Gina Rinehart are the salt of the earth, used to hard work, unlike the drones who wonder why they should toil for a couple of bucks a day deep in the hard dark earth ... to keep her in the luxury of lawyers and bloody family feuds and the slicing up of inherited chocolate cakes ...

Le Carré's conclusion?

What have I learned over the last fifty years? Come to think of it, not much. Just that the morals of the secret world are very like our own.

Especially the secret world of lobby groups fawning over the rich and their lackeys as they go about their business without ever disclosing who's funding them on their mission to maintain the right to smoke and gamble and drink freely to the point of self-destruction and oblivion ...

As for Phillip Adams, happily locked away behind the paywall? Well sadly there's not enough time to brood about another quisling, fawning and scribbling inside the court of King Rupert for what seems like an eternity of time ...

The usual warnings apply. Whatever criticism can be levelled at the mainstream media must be applied to social media and DIY journalism. The roar of bigotry, slander, certifiable madness and unverified assertions out there makes the internet a dangerous and unreliable realm. It's not just a double-edged sword - more a charnel house with chainsaws.

This from a man who has written for Murdoch while all around him bigotry, slander, certifiable madness and unverified assertions have flourished like a plague in a blood-splattered charnel house? What a self-serving fraud the man is ...

(Below: click to enlarge, more here).

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