I was reminded too of a politician long gone. Well nine years gone as he departed this land and life in 2007. An old-school Gentleman and Knight, Sir Denis James "Jim" Killen AC, KCMG was an Australian politician and a Liberal Party member of the Australian House of Representatives from December 1955 to August 1983.
Much has been said of Sir Jim but it was he who had the turn of phrase.
"Mr Whitlam has accused me of holding racist views.
But may I say to him that I for one swam bare-arsed in the Condomine with Aboriginals."
(House of Representatives, 13 August 1969)He was once pursued down a busy street by an earnest young woman reporter for the ABC, who asked a question of long and involved complexity with at least ten subordinate clauses. Eventually, as she ran out of breath, he turned and answered, "No".
Shocked, she found another breath and said, "No? Is that all the answer you can give?" To which he replied, "And what would you have me do, my dear? Compose an essay?"
Chris Mitchell was in the Oz room reminding us of other politicians who cannot seem to remember what they said last year to the easiest of questions. He had the compliant and forgetful media in his sights too.
Amnesia suits the politics of today’s media generationSomething odd is happening in our media when journalists are so publicly contemptuous of everyday Australians; those people who make up journalists’ audiences.It is hard to know where to start given how much rubbish was written during the past month about same-sex marriageFor me the issue was crystallised by my friend Chris Kenny. “If Labor proposed a plebiscite, (media)gallery and #theirABC would endorse a wonderfully democratic and inclusive way to enact social change,” Kenny tweeted on -August 28.
The response on Twitter was a hoot but the point was correct. It’s just politics. Right up until 2013, Labor in government under the then prime minister Julia Gillard was implacably opposed to same sex-marriage.
Were Gillard’s comments in favour of traditional marriage “hate speech”?
Surely not and surely what could be safely said by our first female PM and one time queen of the Victorian Left of the Labor Party can be said only three years later by any thinking Australian.Many in the media have lost their memories.
But the amnesia suits their politics. More proof? As Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, now a passionate same-sex marriage advocate who thinks the “plebiscite plebs” should not be trusted to vote on the issue lest hate speech be unleashed nationally, once supported what? You guessed it: a plebiscite, and as recently as 2013.Why don’t passionate same-sex marriage advocates in the media ever point out the truth about Labor’s formal position on the issue?
Politics.Shorten is sponsoring a private member’s bill because Labor’s formal national platform allows its MPs a free vote on the issue until 2020 and many on the Catholic Right of the party oppose changing marriage laws.
|Wait.... wait..... a bon mot a'comin'.|
Shorten could not remember his own “haters under a rock” words from before the election when he abused Anglican minister Ian Powell last week, claiming he was being verballed when Powell mentioned the comments after a Canberra parliamentary church service last Monday.Many reporters rushed out to defame Powell and deny Shorten had said only a few months earlier what he claimed he had not said.Robert Manne in 2001 wrote a wonderful book called The Culture of Forgetting: Helen Demidenko and the Holocaust. For senior media leaders in newsrooms around the country this culture of forgetting is accelerating with the 24-hour news cycle.Many journalists can’t remember what was said by national leaders a week ago. With more young journalists bursting forth with naive opinions in this era of media “curation” (rather than editing), a much older book springs to mind. The Cloud of Unknowing, a Christian mystical text from the 14th century, reminds me what a mystery some of the opinions sprouting forth this past month are.Like Kenny, I blame the ABC.
In my view, the ABC has been slowly taken over from the inside, culturally at least, by Triple J. The anti-establishment ethos of the ABC’s home of alternative music eventually infiltrated television and radio.It is fascinating to see how well the Triple J crowd has done. From European correspondent Steve Cannane, to radio broadcaster Angela Catterns, science commentator Dr Karl, comedian Wil Anderson, radio duo Roy and HG, radio announcer Robbie Buck and many more. There are prominent exceptions such as Leigh Sales and Chris Uhlmann but even Q&A and occasional Lateline presenter Tony Jones, admittedly not a graduate of Triple J, affects a Triple J kind of radical chic.
He once remarked about a propensity towards violent anti-Vietnam War street protesting and the turning over of police cars. Never mind he was a schoolboy in Year 9 at prestigious Sydney GPS boys school Newington College in 1971 when the war ended, as Gerard Henderson pointed out in Media Watch Dog in July 2011.Not to be denied his ABC radical chic, he told my colleague Caroline Overington at the time that, yes, he was too young to burn police cars during the war, but he had good memories of the riots during the visits of US President Lyndon B Johnson to Australia in 1966 and 1967 (there were absolutely none) and at the Star Hotel.Back to my music theme. As Cold Chisel famously chronicled, there was a riot at the Star Hotel in 1979 and police cars were overturned, but it was a riot about the closing of the pub and the end of free beer that night to celebrate. Zero about Vietnam.That does not play into ABC skinny-tie political chic but it does fit my theory about the inversion of cultural power.
A conspiracy can be a phenomenon.Many of the kids from Triple J grew into real talents on ABC TV and radio. Even when they annoy us we often enjoy their shows, and their values affect and increasingly reflect those of their audiences.This is not a conspiracy but a worldwide phenomenon as the generation of the 60s and 70s assumes cultural hegemony.
Hmmmmm. I pulled a pint and mused at his choice of words. The left was the spiritual and intellectual home of dissent, eh?. Maybe. But it was almost wholey destructive of traditional norms. There was much hatred and very little intellect about it. Veiled praise of communist inspired and paid-for destruction doesn't cut it in the Tavern. I had to give him a glass of water.The example is replicated across new media outside the public broadcaster. The Western world is facing a rise in identity politics, often driven by the values of the young who preach tolerance as the greatest virtue of all yet display intolerance of any dissent from assumed pieties. Journalists are not exempt.Yet the radical Left was once the spiritual and intellectual home of dissent worldwide, at least outside Russia, China, anywhere in the Muslim world (which still loves beheading dissidents) and right across the developing world. The Left now warns against violence and violent language but intimidates anyone not on the same values page.
The children of the revolution have become very good at thought control, as Pink Floyd described it in Another Brick in the Wall. So why fear a free vote on same-sex marriage?
Why pretend the burka is anything other than an instrument of oppression. This was the standard feminist position only a decade ago.Why defend the subjugation of French Muslim women as an exercise in those women’s rights to cultural identity?
Can the ABC, Fairfax Media and other progressive outlets be serious about their defence of Section 18C?Back to my Triple J music theme. Pete Townshend got it right with The Who’s 1971 single Won’t Get Fooled Again: “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.” Except the new cultural leaders turn out to be a pretty moralising, humourless bunch who actually oppose freedom of thought and expression.
Hmmmmm.For political reasons mind you.Imagine such an overtly sexist white male record cover being released today. Who’s Next, the fifth studio album by The Who, depicted four men, having urinated on a concrete piling, doing up the flies on their tight denim jeans.Twitter, which seems oblivious to all the racist and sexist abuse that abounds in US rap, would go into meltdown. The Drum and The Guardian would have a moral middle-class field day.
I must find some space on a wall somewhere for some Killen quotes. Meanwhile here are a few for you.
Killen To John Armitage - "If brains were water, your head could be declared a drought area."
(House of Representatives, 26 May 1976)
To Hon Clyde Cameron - "If you will wait for a few moments, even your dull mind will be able to gather up the fragments of the point as it passes by, or through you."
(House of Representatives, 29 April 1959)
"I am delighted to be able to congratulate Mr Gough Whitlam on becoming Leader of the Opposition. Never before has a party been led with firmer assurance into the bleakness of the Opposition benches as was the Labor Party at the last election… May I further congratulate him on the speech he has delivered this evening. It surely would represent the most sustained, accomplished piece of moaning this Parliament has ever heard."
(House of Representatives, 24 February 1976)
"I now come to the Labor Member for Grayndler, Mr Fred Daly. If ever there was a well-merited slogan chosen by his political opponents it was "be decent, be clean, change Daly".
(House of Representatives, 21 May 1965)Would that we could see and hear such fine language again in our parliaments.