Thursday, October 23, 2014

In which the pond discovers Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own ...

(Above: and then came the reality of Tony Abbott. More memorabilia here)

So, as a kindly correspondent noted, Crikey doubled down with another contribution to The ABC Debate, by one Geoff Heriot, who boasts of a onetime connection to the broadcaster, and is no doubt a legend in his own lunch time.

The ABC's charter, opines Heriot - or at least the splash suggests he does - nowhere says the ABC must air drama, comedy, sport or game shows ....

Indeed, indeed, and it possibly doesn't mention The Argonauts, The Goons, Tony Hancock, cabbages, sealing wax or string.

Now the pond has absolutely no interest in what Heriot has to say, and even less interest in providing a link, but what was interesting is that, by time of writing this morning, the latest outing in the great Crikey debate had attracted just four comments.

One contributor offered two comments, both seemingly in favour of the ABC, another wrote in fond memory of the ABC with the note While your entitled to your opinion the blatant commercial conflict of interest is obvious, while the fourth comment ran Blah blah blah - yet another Crikey article about the ABC. Boring!.

Now let's not brood about the role of the apostrophe in modern life, let's simply note that as a great debate, that's a dead website walking and talking and getting close to expiring.

No wonder Eric is feeling the heat. If he thinks there's any mileage in sounding like Rupert Murdoch, (or commercial advantage in positioning his digital rag this way), then delusion really does stalk the land ...

Meanwhile, over at New Matilda, the joint is cooking.

Plausible deniability was all the go for the poodle Pyne, as Barry Spurr's Curriculum Wage Revealed, while the valiant warriors contemplated New Matilda To Appear In Federal Court Tomorrow.

It's easy to tell that the story has legs - the reptiles even ran a letter from Barry Humphries in support of the Prof, which led to some consternation in Barry Humphries and Barry Spurr are a comedy double act no one needs.

And why not, when you see the sort of case mounted by the exile:

Yep, he's banning the fuck word, yet he loves his darkie jokes ...

And today the reptiles felt the need to trot out a character reference for the prof.

It was a remarkable effort, an heroic tribute, a paean of prose, in which the prof seemed to emerge as a cross between Socrates, Jesus Christ, Dean Swift and Voltaire.

Lily Yuan Wang certainly learned how to over-egg, and never mind which end you opened:

All I know for sure is Spurr’s personal linguistic choices are none of our business. None of the emails prove him guilty of any sin other than a sardonic sense of humour and childlike whimsicality — the common vices of a poet.

Childlike whimsicality?

That's a note of praise? In the pond's world that's about the most vicious form of verbal abuse known, a kind of Dickens traducing Leigh Hunt in a Harold Skimpole routine ...

But it wasn't actually all Wang knew for sure.

Somehow making off-colour jokes of a dubious kind transmuted into heroic insights:

We are all entitled to our beliefs (however antiquated, unpopular or prejudiced) and to say things we may or may not believe — sometimes merely for social purposes. Our growth as a person and as a society terminates when we allow pride to triumph over our thirst for knowledge and truth. If an opinion offends us, we should respect the right of expression but beg to differ. The aim of education is not to silence people into kind whispers and innocuous small talk but to provoke thought. It’s all part of an ongoing discussion, without which learning is impossible. 
The exaggerated outrage at Spurr’s emails is centred on his role in the reform of the English school curriculum, insinuating his judgment on the dominance of indigenous literature in Australian textbooks is coloured by a racist antagonism towards Aborigines. Yet Spurr spent more time in his emails criticising the hypocrisy of the political establishment in its endless gestures towards the Aboriginal community than diminishing the Aboriginal contribution to Australian literature.

It dawned on the pond at about that point that Wang surely hadn't actually read what Spurr had to say about the Aboriginal contribution to Australian literature:

DATE: April 19, 2014 
FROM: Barry Spurr TO: Friend, Friend 
Subject: Churchill in California The Californian high school English curriculum has arrived (as Pyne wants me to compare ours with other countries). Another 300 pages of reading! Amongst the senior year texts for study are Churchill's wartime speeches. Imagine setting that for the NSW HSC English. And whereas the local curriculuim has the phrase 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander' on virtually every one of its 300 pages, the Californian curriculum does not ONCE mention native Americans and has only a very slight representation of African-American literature (which, unlike Abo literature, actually exists and has some distinguished productions).

As for the notion that Spurr's emails were all about hypocrisy, rather than abuse of said Aboriginal people, the pond awards Wang A+ for diligent inventiveness in mounting an argument.

The rest is equally astonishing, but it would seem that Wang missed the class on hyperbole and its dangers.

It is a strange thing, to note the excess of this passion, and how it braves the nature, and value of things, by this; that the speaking in a perpetual hyperbole, is comely in nothing but in love. (Francis Bacon, here)

Enough already. If this were just a momentary disturbance in the force, Humphries wouldn't be chipping in, the reptiles wouldn't be running defensive cover, and New Matilda wouldn't be in court defending its right to publish as a matter of public interest and its right not to reveal its sources.

Meanwhile, attention has at last started to be paid, as can be found in Questions over curriculum experts' links to Coalition.

It turns out that plausible deniability was all the go:

The leaked emails have sparked accusations from Labor and the Greens that the appointment process for the subject experts – many of whom are quoted at length in the review to justify changes to the curriculum – lacked transparency and rigour. 
Education Department officials told Senate estimates hearings on Wednesday that they did not scrutinise the qualifications of the subject specialists, who were paid $8250 each for their input, before they were appointed.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the subject experts were chosen by the two reviewers, Kevin Donnelly and Kenneth Wiltshire, with no input from him or his office. 

Yes, it was nothing to do with the poodle, yet the poodle charges on blindly in the firm belief that everything is the best in the best of all possible worlds:

Several of the 14 subject specialists chosen by Dr Donnelly and Professor Wiltshire had close links to the Coalition and conservative think tanks. These include: 
  • Griffith University professor Alex Robson, a former senior adviser to Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull, who was chosen to review the economics curriculum 
  • Griffith University professor Tony Makin, a strong critic of the Rudd government's response to the global financial crisis, was also chosen to review the economics curriculum 
  • University of Wollongong professor Greg Melleuish, a member of the academic advisory council for the Liberal Party-aligned Menzies Research Centre, was chosen to review the history curriculum Australian National University English teacher Fiona Mueller, a delegate at the 2012 National Party federal conference, was chosen to review the English curriculum. 
Professors Robson, Makin and Melleuish are regular contributors to the free market Institute of Public Affairs and Centre for Independent Studies think tanks. 

Uh huh. Jobs for the mates (and yes, the pond is aware that if you've ever done any work for the previous governments as a consultant, don't bother to apply to Canberra. The black bans are in).

Australian Education Union Deputy Federal President Correna Haythorpe said there was a lack of political and ideological diversity among the subject specialists. 
She also criticised the appointment of four subject reviewers from the private school sector and three from the Catholic education sector. The only subject reviewer from the public school sector was Michele Chigwidden, a primary school arts teacher from Mr Pyne's electorate. "
The selection of the specialist curriculum reviewers has damaged any credibility or value that the review might have had," Ms Haythorpe said. "Donnelly and Wiltshire have been allowed unfettered control and have picked a biased panel with clear links to right-wing think tanks, an imbalance towards private schools, and a lack of any relevant expertise in curriculum design." 

Uh huh. So how feeble is the case for the defence?

A spokesman for Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the subject reviewers' credentials were "impeccable" and accused Labor and the Greens of political point scoring. 
 "The Review of the National Curriculum has been welcomed by almost everyone," the spokesman said. "It is not remotely an ideological document and that has been widely recognised. Questioning the bona fides of highly qualified individuals who weren't even appointed by the government is offensive."

Pretty feeble.

Almost everyone? Not remotely ideological, except in a Judeo-Christian way? Questioning is highly offensive? What happened to freedom of expression and freedom of opinion and thought?

Now just asking a question is offensive?

Ah, where's Lily Yuan Wang to wax indignant about oppression and repression under the header Spurr a scapegoat of those who would shut down free expression?

Why here she is:

Freedom of expression is fundamental to academe and democracy. Deprived of it, Australia is headed down the perilous path towards totalitarianism. At Sydney University students and staff enjoy, as well as suffer from, the great freedom using or abusing their languages to express their views. When it is acceptable to use the most vulgar language in student campaigns, on T-shirts, pavements, when f. k and bitch are used throughout the student newspaper, Honi Soit, and the groups campaigning for its editorial control last year were named Sex and Evil, how could politically insensitive terms in personal correspondence cause offence?

Indeed, indeed, so how could wondering about how a dummy like Greg Melleuish ended up as the 'go to' man for history cause offence?

Melleuish routinely graced the pond's pages before he headed off to the smaller cult magazines and activities as befits an IPA fellow traveller ...

Oh dear, and then there's the hyperbole and the gilding of a not particularly attractive lily:

To me he is someone who dedicates himself to the noble cause of restoring the beauty of a civilisation that people have too lightly cast away: good manners, respect for the elderly, a sound knowledge of English, modesty of dressing in public. His intentions are honourable, even if they make him unpopular with opponents.

Respect for the elderly? You mean he likes old farts? Well that's hardly in the tradition of Dean Swift is it?

Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own ...

If you're going to offend everybody, make sure it is everybody ...

Anything else?

Well there's the bizarre sight of Peter Hartcher suffering from buyer's remorse, sounding like a teacher in the poodle Pyne style:

Must try harder, naughty boys lacking in diligence and application.

You can read Abbott government must work harder to instil confidence, but it's the quintessential definition of silliness and futility.

You see, as any reader of romance novels knows, once trust is broken, once trust is lost, it can never return. Abbott lied his way to power, and when in power, routinely lied. How is it possible to restore trust in a a proven, regular, reliable liar?

Hartcher, who has never been the sharpest Fairfaxian in the tool shed, has suddenly discovered that consumer confidence is in the toilet, yet somehow magically it's within the government's power to restore it ...

How stupid can Hartcher sound?

Pretty stupid:

Could the two be connected? Could disappointment with the government, dating from the beginning of budget speculation season a couple of months before the budget itself, be depressing consumer confidence? 

Could a journalist sound any sillier?

Meanwhile, as we head towards the end of the week, how's the war going?

Time for a report from the field from war correspondent Moir, and more Moir here.


  1. Spurr's comments were made using the university email system. I'm a high school teacher, not a professor, but I know you can't use the WA Education Department's email inappropriately. The department's login in page says "Inappropriate use of these services can result in disciplinary action that may include suspension of access to online services, dismissal or termination of contract". The University of Sydney would have similar requirements, so I don't understand why people are defending his behaviour. It was not "private" but through the official email.

  2. Was the professor being whimsical when he asked New Matilda to return his emails?

    I have a mental picture of them being handed over in a neat bundle tied up with ribbon.

  3. I am proud to say I no longer pay subscription fees to Crikey. They became as painful as the oz, which I never pay for, but read enough of their entertainment from DP's links. Enough of these hypocrites and no more Crikey.
    As for that silly Lily, she must've wang the wong number on this occasion.

  4. "... African-American literature (which, unlike Abo literature, actually exists and has some distinguished productions). "

    This from Spur .. really .. and the loonies are trying to defend him?

  5. He could at least have been spurred on to do a GHunt,

    Aboriginal writers and themes

    At the point of the first colonization, Indigenous Australians had not developed a system of writing, so the first literary accounts of Aborigines come from the journals of early European explorers, which contain descriptions of first contact, both violent and friendly.[5] Early accounts by Dutch explorers and the English buccaneer William Dampier wrote of the "natives of New Holland" as being "barbarous savages", but by the time of Captain James Cook and First Fleet marine Watkin Tench (the era of Jean-Jacques Rousseau), accounts of Aborigines were more sympathetic and romantic: "these people may truly be said to be in the pure state of nature, and may appear to some to be the most wretched upon the earth; but in reality they are far happier than ... we Europeans", wrote Cook in his journal on 23 August 1770.

    While his father, James Unaipon (c.1835-1907), contributed to accounts of Aboriginal mythology written by the missionary George Taplin, David Unaipon (1872–1967) provided the first accounts of Aboriginal mythology written by an Aboriginal: Legendary Tales of the Aborigines. For this he is known as the first Aboriginal author. Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920–1995) was a famous Aboriginal poet, writer and rights activist credited with publishing the first Aboriginal book of verse: We Are Going (1964). Sally Morgan's novel My Place was considered a breakthrough memoir in terms of bringing indigenous stories to wider notice. Leading Aboriginal activists Marcia Langton (First Australians, 2008) and Noel Pearson ("Up From the Mission", 2009) are active contemporary contributors to Australian literature.

    The voices of Indigenous Australians are being increasingly noticed and include the playwright Jack Davis and Kevin Gilbert. Writers coming to prominence in the 21st century include Kim Scott, Alexis Wright,Kate Howarth Tara June Winch, in poetry Yvette Holt and in popular fiction Anita Heiss.

    Indigenous authors who have won Australia's high prestige Miles Franklin Award include Kim Scott who was joint winner (with Thea Astley) in 2000 for Benang and again in 2011 for That Deadman Dance. Alexis Wright won the award in 2007 for her novel Carpentaria.

    Many notable works have been written by non-indigenous Australians on Aboriginal themes. Examples include the poems of Judith Wright; The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith by Thomas Keneally, Ilbarana by Donald Stuart, and the short story by David Malouf: "The Only Speaker of his Tongue".

    Histories covering Indigenous themes include Watkin Tench (Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay et Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson); Roderick J. Flanagan (The Aborigines of Australia, 1888); The Native Tribes of Central Australia by Spencer and Gillen, 1899; the diaries of Donald Thompson on the subject of the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land (c.1935-1943); Alan Moorehead (The fatal Impact, 1966); Geoffrey Blainey (Triumph of the Nomads, 1975); Henry Reynolds (The Other Side of the Frontier, 1981); and Marcia Langton (First Australians, 2008). Differing interpretations of Aboriginal history are also the subject of contemporary debate in Australia, notably between the essayists Robert Manne and Keith Windshuttle.

    Letters written by notable Aboriginals leaders like Bennelong and Sir Douglas Nicholls are also retained as treasures of Australian literature, as is the historic Yirrkala bark petitions of 1963 which is the first traditional Aboriginal document recognised by the Australian Parliament.

    AustLit's BlackWords project provides a comprehensive listing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Writers and Storytellers.

    1. I dunno Anon, all those live writers. Can't you come up with any dead ones? Preferably been dead for hundreds of years too. They're the only ones of importance in Professor Spurr's world.

  6. Spurr is just an old white man who doesn't understand electronic communication. To put it in his language, Barry would you write those things on a letter with Uni of Sydneyh letterhead?

    Of course you wouldn't. Well, that's what e-mail is like.

  7. Lily Yuan Wang, number one on the West Side!


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