Saturday, July 13, 2013
There's nothing like chatter about hippies and big government for a laugh fest ...
The pond had the most peculiar, quite dizzy experience yesterday.
By sheer coincidence, the pond came upon a repeat of Counterpoint, ostensibly and allegedly the national broadcaster's opportunity for local conservatives to stake their claim as challenging intellectuals ready to discuss the issues of the day.
So it came to pass that the pond listened to a whinging Pom, one Brendan O'Neill, interview a moaning, whinging, whining British academic, one Frank Furedi, an elitist poobah at the University of Kent.
The topic? Groan, you guessed it. The culture wars.
When did the culture wars begin? Why did they begin and how can they be described and why have they come to dominate modern public debate? (Where did the culture wars come from?)
Only on not my, and quite possibly not your, ABC.
Only the in the fluff-gathering navel-gazing world of a most dubious elitist would anyone contend that the culture wars is front and centre of modern public debate.
The pond tried to imagine the scene in a meeting of the program's producer with the head of RN, convened no doubt in a converted broom cupboard.
Congratulations, the head of RN says, I didn't think we could make the program even more irrelevant, laughable and risible to an Australian audience, but you've done the job. Henceforth our guaranteed * Neilsen rating is secure.
O'Neill is besotted, driven crazy by the concept of elites, which is somewhat disturbing given he's some how got his elitist paws on what's supposed to be the pride of Australian conservative intellectuals on ABC radio (oh okay, the pond is joking, come on down Amanda Vanstone).
That explains how the next bit of the show was a tedious rant by O'Neill, who seems to living in a kind of 1960s dreaming, about hippies. Hippies!
How did this happen? How did the apparently free-wheeling, spliff-smoking counterculture of the 1960s give rise to the soul-destroying environmentalism and speech-policing feminism of today? How did the outlook of those tradition-trampling outsiders become so insider, and also so fundamentally killjoy? (A hippy dictatorship?)
An even better question would be how the Australian taxpayer came to be funding this specious tosh and humbuggery. How did O'Neill collar Countdown? How did this bizarre killjoy ranter make off with the prize?
But then came the pièce de résistance, an argument - let's not call it a debate or a meeting of minds - between the crazed O'Neill, a token leftie in the form of Guy Rundle, and a bizarre relatively recent Murdoch import, Nick Cater, who understands Mr Murdoch and Australia much better than any token Australian.
The subject for debate?
One of the key most contested questions in the culture wars is Who Rules? Who are the opinion formers and behaviour shapers of the modern era? Is it a right wing cabal or is it a liberal elite?
So who is it? Who runs the show today? Is it a right wing cabal or is it a liberal elite? Is there really such a thing as a liberal elite or is that something of a conspiracy theory? (Who rules the culture wars?)
Yes, more navel-gazing on the show about elites. And the reason why it should be called an argument is that O'Neill wasn't in the business of moderating the discussion like a polite moderator.
No, he was in there, steel-toe capped boots and all, doing over Rundle in consort and cahoots with Cater, who managed to sound as thuck as two brucks whenever he opened his mouth.
It turns out, qua Cater, that Murdoch doesn't control or run anything, and is comprehensively not an elitist, and instead it's the rabble running out in the street - the crypto-fascist hippie greenie hordes - who have their hands on the levers of power.
Because, you know, City Hub has so much more dynamic market-place power than the reptiles at the lizard Oz, and never no mind that they're forced to run a full page ad for hand jobs at Kings Court to survive (that's a Sydney joke).
It was such a bizarre, preposterous argument that the pond, drifting in and out, found it quite entertaining, and it seems so did others, because on the rare occasions the pond has previously dropped in on the show's website, you'd be lucky to find a comment or two.
Instead there were quite a few, and the comments began to take on the tone of submissions to the blogs of Murdoch rags, some outraged, some astonished, some upset, and some stupidly supportive. You know, the sort of trolling and baiting you can experience on the Bolter's blog when the moderators are at home, or on Akker Dakker's blog, patrolled by feral pigs ...
There were a few sensible remarks, which is to say others who agreed with the pond.
A correspondent by name of Russell came out of the starting blocks firing:
I couldn't believe my ears yesterday. The preceding monologue from O'Neill was absolutely bizarre. Where did the ABC get that guy from? Mars? An incoherent, rambling sequence of unjustified opinions over a sweeping range of topics, all presented in the manner of a sooking schoolboy.
Then the next segment came on... now Guy faced not only O'Neill's bizarre convictions, but also Nick Cater's textbook presentation of the corporate propaganda line, cheered on by O'Neill...
...Really ABC, it is time to axe this programme. At least with Michael Duffy we had a reasoned and thoughtful look at contrapuntal positions. With Amanda Vanstone and now Brendan O'Neill we lost first the thoughtfulness and now also the reason and rationality. I can't believe Australians are paying for this rubbish.
Russell's a little moderate for the pond, a tad genteel calling O'Neill a sook schoolboy, when really it should be noted how bizarre it is that a card-carrying argumentative Marxist libertarian contrarian should find a home at public radio.
It always reminds the pond of that Walt Whitman line, Very well then, I contradict myself, I am large, except what's extraordinary is how narrow and small O'Neill's concerns are.
Oh sure they're dressed big, but when you're raging on about the reign of the hippies, like the reign of the zombies, you're just a bad Roger Corman movie looking for the nearest derelict drive-in last picture show.
Never mind, will anyone note what Russell says? Does anyone at the * RN read the comments on *RN Nielsen-rating shows?
Did somebody at RN disinter Sam Beckett as the show's producer, who then decided that the only way to go was to get post-ironic post-modernist taxpayer-funded elitists to babble on and blather about the tyranny of elites, excluding Rupert Murdoch, who's certainly not a member of any elite, no, none at all.
Curiously it left the pond in an exceptional state of happiness. It's rare these days that you get any decent comedy on RN - The Goons seem to have disappeared into the vault - and this show has all the classic signs of a British comedy ...
How mortifying to miss it on the first run, but what joy to discover it on repeat, and lurking on the full to overflowing intertubes so the masses can flock to this dissection of filthy elites by academics and broadcasters and journalists on their behalf ...
Meanwhile, all is well in Murdoch land.
It turns out - yes people warned the pond - that Christopher Pearson's replacement, Chris Kenny, is something of a predictable dullard - though, the pond hastens to add, certainly not an elitist of the Murdochian kind, given a national newspaper platform on which to perform like a pompous ponce, and run at a loss for no other reason than the chairman's desire to enhance intellectual debate, and certainly not to carry out an agenda and dearie me, oh certainly not to influence things in one way and another. Oh no, it's the fiends at the City Hub promoting Kings Court handjobs that do that ...
Anyhoo, does Kenny once mention Campbell Newman and team voting themselves a handsome package in Journey from largesse to restraint too far for our handout MPs? (behind the paywall because 'leets need their cash in the paw).
Of course not, instead he rails at big government at tedious length, and worst of all, he uses examples to explain his position:
Last month, retiring independent Tony Windsor boasted of the "financial contribution from the commonwealth government" for the Barraba water pipeline, how the minister "found some money" for the Grace Munro aged-care facility, the "enormous expenditure package" for the Tamworth Base Hospital and the "quite large grants" for the University of New England.
Uh huh, and it seems in Kenny's world ipso facto these things are bad, yet the pond knows for a fact that the good citizens of Barraba needed the pipeline, that the Tamworth Base Hospital was in urgent need of improvements (it now services a very large area), and after its international follies, the pond's old alma mater the UNE needed a little help, not as a reward for the stupidity of its management but so its actual students wouldn't suffer too much.
You get the idea. These speeches referred to many other fine achievements and messages, and these politicians can rightly be judged on their contributions, good and bad. Yet these snippets serve as examples of the handout mentality.
Actually the pond gets the idea. Various communities have needs, and ensuring that some money flows to these needs isn't an example of a handout mentality, it's a sign that the community values decent hospital facilities and properly funded tertiary education.
But that's the way it goes when you get the zealots and neolibs at fortress Murdoch on their hobby horses blathering on about how there needs to be less government, better governance, as if that tragic slogan actually means anything.
Instead of just spouting off examples of politicians spouting off examples of their funding initiatives, it behooved Kenny to go through each specific example and show how they represented wasteful, extravagant government, instead of just waving his hands and denouncing the handout mentality.
With that rhetoric, you can not just do over roads, schools, and hospitals, you can also do over Medicare, public transport, pensions, single mother allowances, etc etc, as signs of the handout mentality.
There's something cringe-making about this routine parsimoniousness, this greedy notion that what's mine is mine, and buggered if I should pay taxes to fund all the bludgers out there leeching off me like ... leeches ...
It represents the worst of American survivalist thinking, and it helps explain why gated communities and dying cities like Detroit jostle together side by side ...
It's also reminiscent of all this talk of how regulation stifles things, but the next thing you know, the deregulators are yammering on about the lack of regulation in relation to the installation of pink batts (never mind if they're yellow) or the lack of regulation in relation to asbestos in pits, and the fly by night nature of the newly sprouted contractor rackets, where the dodgy brothers go about their business unsupervised... because regulation was stifling their game.
And sometimes these dodgy brothers can be quite large, as witness Coles passing off food as Australian grown when it was imported all over the place ... and copping a laughable $61,200 for their efforts (Coles fined).
You'll never cop a Kenny or the other reptiles yammering on about where the lack of regulation leads us, except when it comes to bashing the government of the day around the head for failing to effectively regulate.
Now this can be handy for tabloids - where would commercial TV be without dodgy brothers, and where would the ABC be without chiropractors rightly sending Catalyst into a frenzy here - but is it too much to expect that the reptiles at the lizard Oz produce a more measured discourse than cheap sloganeering?
Of course it is, just as it seems it's too much to expect the ABC to home grow its comedy shows on RN ... not when they can find such excellent comedy writers in the UK, still mining hippies for laughs in a way that would make Maynard G. Krebs weep for joy in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis ...
Posted by dorothy parker at 7/13/2013 08:48:00 AM