Wednesday, July 09, 2014

So much reading, so little time, so much hagiography and knob-polishing, so little substance ...

(Above: David Pope, here, and David Rowe here, and enough of that, the pond is too angry, so it's time for a classic bait and switch).

The pond is constantly falling behind in its designated reading.

It's heard tall tales of people who set out to read all the books in their possession, or all the books on some unnecessary list, but what madness is this? The pond keeps books in a kind of book hospital, so the poor things aren't left out in the street in the rain and the cold, or in Sydney's glorious spring weather (winter, what winter, sssh, don't mention climate science, it only sets the Bolter to grinding his teeth).

The pond is eternally pleased that the Spectator down under is behind a paywall.

And even if Quadrant has many things outside the paywall, the pond is eternally grateful that Keith Windschuttle has driven it into complete barking mad irrelevance, with the likes of Anne Henderson celebrating Ming the Merciless and Hal G. P. Colebatch crying shame on Malcolm Fraser - dear sweet absent lord, is he still around - not Mal, but Hal - and Windschuttle himself doubling down on Fraser's dangerous dotage, and Peter Smith brooding about the emetic John Hewson, and the whiff of Tories feuding and fussing is like the whiff of the nineteenth century first editions disintegrating on the pond's shelves.

Oh sure you can get elevated levels of discourse of a most refined kind, like this lead from one Roger Franklin:

Kitty litter! The polished floors of Woollahra!

Ah Roger, in the same spirit of elevated discourse, as old Tamworthians would ask, when did you stop drinking your bath water?

Yes, it's yet more up the bum media analysis, and this sort of feuding is everywhere, with Quadrant pursuing ideological foes with the zealotry of a Stalinist outraged by kitty pee on a nice floor (kill the cat if it pees on the carpet).

Head off to the Spectator, and what do you get? Why a lavish dose of forelock tugging and hagiographic knob polishing - and lordy does the Spectator have some spectacular knob polishers.

It's already four days old - you have to pay for the fresher meat - but at the top of the page you cop this sort of  4711 ice cologne splashed about like a Victorian dowager in heat:

Would you like to read more? Would you like to know more? Probably not, as your heart and head sinks under the weight of the opening pars:

In polite company, it is now well known that the Australian’s claim to be the best newspaper in Australia is not to be uttered unless accompanied by a knowing roll of the eyes. Since Chris Mitchell rudely burst back on to the editorial scene at Holt Street in 2002, no publication has drawn the wrath of the media sophisticates as much as Rupert Murdoch’s national flagship, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. Yet no other publication in this country has broken so many important news stories, taken ideas and public policy so seriously, published so many arts and literary reviews and led so many political and cultural debates.

Oh dear, the pond felt the need for a little eye-rolling, especially when this one landed:

Neither the Age nor the Guardian Australia publishes a weekly conservative columnist.

Yes, take that Peter "send in the hounds" Reith. You're not a conservative, you're a bloody useless wimp and a lickspittle traveller with the Soviets as they publish their Pravda by the Yarra.

You can see how the Spectator/Quadrant subtle, nuanced approach is catching, a bit like a strain of the Ebola virus.

Now you might have thought the pond was gilding the lilly with that old Soviet joke. Uh huh:

...Don’t expect Ms Simons — who runs an outfit called the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne — to condemn the old Spencer Street Soviet and its pale online imitator for silencing dissent. Yet when the Australian stands up and tries to defend our nation’s interests or highlight the folly of wild and woolly world views, it is treated with shock, distaste and outrage by the likes of Ms Simons. The Australian’s editorials tilt Right, but its opinion pages showcase many Labor-leaning writers such as Peter Beattie, Craig Emerson, Troy Bramston, Gary Johns, Ross Fitzgerald and Barry Cohen, not to mention the darling of the Left intelligentsia Phillip Adams.

Gary Johns as left leaning! That one had the pond rolling on the carpet, howling in delight (damn you greymalkin, did you have to pee on the carpet at just that spot?)

But enough of these down under Francos and Pinochets (oh yes, childish abuse is all the go), because you see The Australian doesn't need anyone to blow its trumpet, or deny conspiracies in outraged tones.

It's got the pompous, portentous Paul Kelly to do that, and the blow hard is in fine form today:

So the chairman doesn't dictate the content? Oh right, plausible deniability.

How silly of the pond to forget. It's the Rebekah Brookes defence. Get paid squillions running the show, and not have the first clue about what's actually going on, and wave the hands and say, oh dear, what, they did that, nothing to do with me ... I just run the paper ...

Now while difficult recalcitrants are busy asking problematic questions - you know, like Rebekah Brooks, just why did Rupert Murdoch close the News of World? - and the Daily Mail sticks its Lord Rothermere stained paw into questions involving Rebekah Brooks and a riddle over Met Police chief, down under we're regaled by Kelly's relentless hagiography and knob polishing.

But what could have provoked Kelly into such a furious working over of the Oz's knob?

Within a conspiracy heavy culture there is no greater cult than that beloved by media polemists and populist politicians than the spectre of Rupert Murdoch on the phone rapping out orders to hapless editors about his targets for the next day’s front page. 
This notion persists in a form of myth as reality. It seems too good an image to forgo, too useful as a device of ridicule, too convenient a means to distract from the real issue, witness Clive Palmer’s claim this week that Rupert Murdoch gave reporter, Hedley Thomas his instructions each night.

Ah, it's the war with Palmer and the PUPs.

Well you can read Conspiracy debunked if you like, and if you endure the tedium of wading past the paywall to endure even more tedium, but it seems passing strange that a man so devoted to the reptiles at the lizard Oz could simultaneously have absolutely nothing to do with them.

Murdoch did not just create the national paper. He backed the paper for 50 years. The survival and success of The Australian for half a century has rested on three factors — Murdoch’s personal commitment, the paper’s location in a financially successful global media company, and its powerful brand and identity now embedded in the editorial culture. 

But the chairman has nothing to do with the paper, right? No say over the contents, right? No interest in the line it pursues, right?

Sigh, out of the mouth of babe:

David Armstrong, editor-in-chief 1996-2002 and editor 1989-91, said the most specific intervention he recalled from Murdoch was at the time of the 1991 Paul Keating challenge to Bob Hawke. “Who are we supporting?” Murdoch asked. Armstrong gave an assessment of both candidates before saying: “Keating”. Murdoch’s reply was: “That’s good.” 
If editor and proprietor had disagreed, a further discussion would presumably have followed. 
Current editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell has alluded to such discussions. Amid the rich historical gems that appear in the “50 years in 50 days” series now running in the paper was Mitchell’s revelation on Monday this week about The Australian’s 2007 election decision to back Kevin Rudd. 
 “We talked the proprietor around,” Mitchell said. Murdoch’s instinct was to keep supporting John Howard but the editor-in-chief was persuasive on the case for Rudd.

Sob. So Rupe does take an interest in the front page, and the politics of the rag, and what the editor's doing, and sssh, don't mention self-censorship, and asssh, amazingly Chris Mitchell still kept his job after persuading Rupert to back the absolute dog that became known as the micro-managing Ruddster.

And somehow this sort of arcane behind the scenes carry on is supposed to redound in favour of our perception of the kool aid swilling ideological zealotry that's a feature of the rag?

Well here's how that works. You see, having fucked up with the Ruddster, the reptiles redeemed themselves with further fuckery, hounding and harassing their choice into the grave, and then his successor, seeing how she was a witch who needed to be ditched, and somehow then seeing this sort of duplicity, skullduggery and ratbaggery as covering themselves in glory:

The story from Murdoch’s own comments and the editors this week is that The Australian “is not the paper of any party”. Its essence from the foundation has been to assess both Labor and the Liberals according to the paper’s vision of the country. This vision has been interpreted and reinterpreted by each editor-in-chief. Under Mitchell the paper’s growing view was that Howard “hadn’t done enough with his mandate”. 
Having backed Rudd, however, The Australian was the first paper — and for a long time the only paper — to operate on the insight that Labor was conducting a deeply dysfunctional government. 

Uh huh. Just the facts ma'am? No, the crusaders from hell, wrong or right.

Would it be simpler to say that Chris Mitchell fucked up and then behaved like a fucker?

But do go on, how about some of the vision thingie for the wrap?

What emerges from listening to editors, notably Armstrong and Mitchell, and drawing upon the author’s own experiences, is that The Australian’s core values do not fit any political party or ideological slot. 
They can be summarised as a competitive market-based economy; the belief that a strong economy and healthy society go together; faith in a Big Australia; a global outlook shaped by engagement with Asia and the US alliance; a greater emphasis on personal responsibility; the belief that culturally progressive policies in education and indigenous affairs have failed the nation; backing for a republic and genuine Aboriginal reconciliation; and ensuring the full scope of the nation — its rural, regional and resource potential — is recognised. 
The paper is a shared project. Yet many would agree with Day’s proposition that “without an idiosyncratic proprietor you wouldn’t have a 50th anniversary”.

Now some may reel away with a bout of nausea, but the pond reeled away wondering what was left off that brave and bold list.

Is there anything Kelly forgot to mention? Say perhaps what some might consider an issue requiring a global outlook?

Did someone in the back row mention climate science?

Ushers, eject that person at once ... you see, the very last vision thingie you'd want to list is climate science. Not when you can make a fatuous claim that The Australian backs a republic. Uh huh, and that's why Hedley Thomas writes an investigative piece on the royalists every day to put alongside his latest Palmer revelation.

You see, that would involve reporting on inconvenient people like Lord Deben attacking a reckless Tony Abbott, as you can find here.

So what's the end result? Well there was that ominous note "without an idiosyncratic proprietor" ... Sssh, don't mention the chairman is 83 ...

And by the time the pond was done reading Kelly, there was simply no time to catch up with yet another epic bout of fatuous Caterist thinking in yesterday's lizard Oz.

But hey you can read Nick Cater's Natural justice wins the day (inside the paywall because there are masochistic punters who love to pay for pain), which opens with this immensely idiotic flourish:

If you make an idiot of yourself on a train these days, you might find yourself on YouTube. If you’re content to sit politely next to perfect strangers and try hard not to invade their personal space, you won’t. 
Common decency, conventional courtesy and civic restraint are of little interest to video-sharing websites which have a preference for weird stuff — self-lubricating NRL stars, major league meat ball eating competitions and foul-mouthed, Sinophobic commuters like Karen Bailey.

Bizarrely, Cater proposes that the internet and lynch laws social media style are the best way to implement natural justice. While the plods let the Sinophobe off, social media saw the plods take her to court.

So why is Cater so comfortable with the notion of social opprobrium as the best mechanism for the dispensing of justice? Well it worked well when you needed to run the deep south in proper style - never mind the strange fruit on that tree over there - and when you needed to organise a book burning in 1930s Germany ... you see, you can always rely on the mob to treat minorities with grace and style.

And besides, the mob that congregates to write hateful comments on the Bolter's site and the same mob which regurgitate the hateful ramblings of the parrot and other shock jocks refuse to sit politely and 18C poses a dire threat to a cheerful speaking of mob minds.

And so the Caterists must continue to hold a torch for the bigot-celebrating George Brandis and his modest amendment designed to allow the Bolter to continue to abuse uppity blacks:

The campaign against George Brandis’s modest amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act is looking more and more ridiculous. When the ordinary Australian citizen, armed with an iPhone, encounters a bigot on a train, they can generally be trusted to do the right thing. 

Yes, because mob rule via the internet is the best way to run a civilised, decent Australia ...

Any irony here? Well next week, the pond looks forward to a piece by the Caterists deploring the decline and fall of civilisation as the result of the wild and woolly, anarchic, vigilante-loving, uncontrolled and unregulated full to overflowing intertubes.

Meanwhile, we should also publish the disclaimer:

 Nick Cater is executive director of the Menzies Research Centre. The views expressed are his own.

Sorry Menzies Research Centre, you have a woolly-minded, anarchist, vigilante-lover as your ED.

Ming the Merciless would be revolving fiercely in his grave, a process no doubt set in motion when he spotted Anne Henderson trying to downplay his duties as Warden of the Cinque Ports.

But now for something different. The pond is so bored with the Chris Mitchells and the Caterists and the Spectatorists and the Quadrantists that it sent out an agent to score the pond a scoop, Evelyn Waugh style.

And the best we could come up with? Well as the arty crowd knows, tomorrow is the day all Sydney is agog as the Archibald prize gets under way (you can find past winners and finalists here).

Will it feature Melbourne street artist CDH, as featured in Stolen bush shelter portrait of protestor submitted in Archibald Prize.

Who knows, but the pond submits its agent's work for consideration, and proposes a prize for "best portrait of a scissor lift", with incidental Archibald hangings sure to rile the Bolter:


  1. Ah, Quadrant! The mad aunt in the attic of Australian journalism...

  2. - That’s what the new rules being smuggled into trade agreements are delivering.

  3. Wealth of seven richest Australians exceeds that of 1.73 million households - That BRW list is likely to be wrong, of course. Dame Groan cited a similar Forbes rich list on Q&A interjecting with a point about the wealthy paying fair taxes. And no one called the windbag on it.

    Thomas Pikketty has repudiated this sort of claim a number of times saying those lists are only of a group that is relatively easy to track down comprised as it is of corporate leaders and the newly rich. Old money, the inherited wealth of the super rich, for one, is mostly hidden well away behind various inscrutable covers. It is the reason why Pikketty would at least like to see a small wealth tax. This, even though returning little revenue would discover all the 1%, and it would provide inclusive data about all their wealth and profound inequality of riches and power for the first time.

    It would silence some of the lickspittle plutocrats' windbag disinformation too.

  4. Dorothy, you are so strong to be able to cope with all this right wing crap! Only today I found a copy of the Daily Terror on the bus. Having read it (sort of) I put it in the bin, not wanting to spoil or corrupt anyone else's day

    1. Here's hoping you had rubber gloves handy and the defogger on, but the pond is pleased you did the right thing. Whenever the pond finds a copy of the Terror in the wild, it's immediately confiscated and dropped in the trash. What if a young, innocent child stumbled across it, and thought it was worth what they'd paid for it?


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