Well said, Bert

Dreadful choice we have in this year’s election, but perhaps some things really are more dreadful than others. This morning in the Sun-Herald is a letter from Bert Candy.

The decision by the executive of the Liberal Party to give Cory Bernardi the top position on their Senate ticket in the forthcoming federal election – despite his speech asserting that there could be a link between homosexuality and bestiality, as well as his association with an extreme right American organisation (”Smoking Gun”, January 27) – says a great deal about the political leanings of the Liberal power brokers.

A person with these questionable views can hardly represent a modern Australian electorate and, by endorsing him again, the Liberal Party is guilty by association. With pundits indicating a Liberal landslide, it appears that the extreme right have the numbers.

Bert Candy Lemon Tree Passage

Here is the man concerned:

He is clearly on the right of Genghis Khan. The recent story about him, to which Bert refers, appears online as Abbott’s man under fire over extreme right lobbying.

TONY Abbott’s handpicked former parliamentary secretary Cory Bernardi has apparently breached strict rules by failing to declare his ties to a right-wing, pro-tobacco group fighting gun controls.

The organisation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, was involved in a High Court challenge against the Gillard government last year and has financial ties with big tobacco.

The US-based council is working with the National Rifle Association to block President Barack Obama’s guns crackdown after the Newtown school massacre. An ALEC member since 2009, Senator Bernardi was dumped as Mr Abbott’s personal parliamentary secretary in September after he made a speech to Parliament that warned against legislating for gay marriage on the grounds it could open a legal path to bestiality and polygamy….

To get some idea of what kind of fruitcakes and downright subversives Bernadi sleeps with see ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection and Three States Pushing ALEC Bill to Require Teaching Climate Change Denial in Schools.

ALEC Celebrates Groundhog Day 2013

Groundhog Day is on Feb. 2 and fittingly, ALEC and its corporate patrons continue to sing the same tune, simultaneously promoting fracking, blockading a transition to renewable energy and pushing bills mandating teaching climate change denial on par with actual science.

"It’s the same old schtick every year, the guy comes out with a big old stick, raps on the door,"actor Bill Murray said in the classic film Groundhog Day. "They pull the little rat out, they talk to him, the rat talks back, then they tell us what’s gonna happen."

Replace "guy" with "corporate lobbyist" and "legislators" with "rats" and that’s ALEC in a nutshell, serving as a mere microcosm of the current American political system at-large.

And of Cory Bernadi’s idea of a mate and a good thing for Australia’s way of conducting business. And of where his brain really lives.

A person with these questionable views can hardly represent a modern Australian electorate and, by endorsing him again, the Liberal Party is guilty by association. With pundits indicating a Liberal landslide, it appears that the extreme right have the numbers.

No way, I say. Some things really can be worse than Julia.

And speaking of the Right, cop the things crawling out from under logs to greet the bouffanted boofhead from Holland.  And look closely at the group who invited him.  I see they have the obligatory Oz flag at the top and a quote from Mary Gilmore. I wonder if they realise she was a life-long Communist.  Mind you she is an under-rated poet who certainly deserves to be better known, as this poem (not on that site) shows:

Nationality

I have grown past hate and bitterness,
I see the world as one;
But though I can no longer hate,
My son is still my son.

All men at God’s round table sit,
and all men must be fed;
But this loaf in my hand,
This loaf is my son’s bread.

On that anti-Islam group’s site you will find Robert Spencer at al, pretty much as you would expect, but you also find this, which I reproduce exactly as it is:

Ayn Rand: The Collection.
Her book ‘Atlas Shruggs’ is considered by many in the International Counter-Jihad and Freedom Movement as foundational work for the relation between the free individual, the state and the collective society.

Surprise, surprise!

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They are all so sane and balanced, these people, are they not?

Meanwhile here are a couple of free eBooks from ANU that you could read as a way to ensure your own sanity.

Australia: Identity, Fear and Governance in the 21st Century, Edited by Juliet Pietsch and Haydn Aarons (November 2012).

The latter years of the first decade of the twenty-first century were characterised by an enormous amount of challenge and change to Australia and Australians. Australia’s part in these challenges and changes is borne of our domestic and global ties, our orientation towards ourselves and others, and an ever increasing awareness of the interdependency of our world. Challenges and changes such as terrorism, climate change, human rights, community breakdown, work and livelihood, and crime are not new but they take on new variations and impact on us in different ways in times such as these.

In this volume we consider these recent challenges and changes and how Australians themselves feel about them under three themes: identity, fear and governance. These themes suitably capture the concerns of Australians in times of such change. Identity is our sense of ourselves and how others see us. How is this affected by the increased presence of religious diversity, especially Islamic communities, and increased awareness of moral and political obligations towards Indigenous Australians? How is it affected by our curious but changing relationship with Asia? Fear is an emotional reaction to particular changes and challenges and produces particular responses from individuals, politicians, communities and nations alike; fear of crime, fear of terrorism and fear of change are all considered in this volume.

Multiculturalism and Integration — A Harmonious Relationship, Edited by the late Professor Michael Clyne and Dr James Jupp (July 2011).

Multiculturalism has been the official policy of all Australian governments (Commonwealth and State) since the 1970s. It has recently been criticised, both in Australia and elsewhere. Integration has been suggested as a better term and policy. Critics suggest it is a reversion to assimilation. However integration has not been rigorously defined and may simply be another form of multiculturalism, which the authors believe to have been vital in sustaining social harmony.

May help you counter the dogs’ breaths that are so noisome out there, and will no doubt get worse and skankier as the year goes on, God help us.

Monday salmagundi

“Salmagundi is also purportedly a meal served on pirate ships. It is a stew of anything the cook had on hand, usually consisting of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, and onions, often arranged in rows on lettuce and served with vinegar and oil, and spiced with anything available.” – Wikipedia.

Oh yes!

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Memories of the Albury Hotel, my one time alternative lounge room where I met M and Sirdan, among others — based on a photo by Bruce Part who worked there:

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Why I won’t be watching QandA tonight, aside from the fact Janet Albrechtsen is on it:

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Today Paul Sheehan wrote a total puff piece about Gina Rinehart. If he isn’t already on her PR team he should be soon after this. Talk about fawning! In contrast, please consider More myths from the mining oligarchs.

Australia is in the grip of a group of mining oligarchs, who are spending enormous amounts of monety to shape the economic debate to suit their own very narrow interests. They are opposed to the mining tax (a resource rent tax) and have in the past denied the state (on behalf of all of us) owns the resources that they plunder for private profit. They have also sponsored national tours of leading climate-change deniers (such as Lord Monckton) who are known to trade on distortions of the truth. Overall, there personal resources guarantee them access to the daily media and they use it relentlessly. They also write books which get national coverage and have a record of suing peope who criticise their views. The result is that there is very little critical scrutiny of the propositions they advance to justify their claims. Some of the propositions are pure fantasy yet they have gained traction with the public who have been too easily duped by the promotional onslaught. Here is a little sojourn into the fantasy world on one such oligarch.
The most recent example of this oligarchic-intervention is launch of a new book last week by the richest person in Australia, Ms Gina Rinehart.

I last wrote about Ms Rinehart in this blog – A veritable pot pourri of lies, deception and self-serving bluster.

At that time, the richest person in Australia – mining heiress – who has been fighting it out in the courts with her own children over their grandfather’s inheritance – echoed the Ann Raynd line that the “billionaires and millionaires” create all the jobs and help the poor but the latter are too lazy to do their bit.

She claimed that “billionaires and millionaires are doing more than anyone to help the poor by investing their money and creating jobs”.

Even though the current mining boom has seen her wealth (derived from an inheritance from her father who was a mining magnate) increase by more than $A20 billion in a few year claims that “anti-business and socialist policies for hurting the poor”.

She also claimed that socialism in Australia is “killing off investment in Australian projects” and called for the minimum wage to be cut…

In A veritable pot pourri of lies, deception and self-serving bluster:

… Apparently, socialism in Australia is “killing off investment in Australian projects”.

She wants the minimum wage cut and attacked the poor by saying that:

If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain; do something to make more money yourself – spend less time drinking, or smoking and socialising, and more time working. Become one of those people who work hard, invest and build, and at the same time create employment and opportunities for others.

This sounds like it is coming from someone who is “self-made”. The reality is different. She inherited her wealth and didn’t have to do any work to be at the top of the wealth distribution. And then came the socialist state we call China who launched its development phase at just about the right time for Gina – she has made a fortune from companies that dig our resources up, put it into trucks, take it to a ship and send it to China.

Of-course, the empirical evidence is the opposite. The lower income groups in Australia spend less of their budget on alcohol than the higher income earners.

In this 2010 study – Drinking patterns in Australia, 2001–2007 – from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (an Australian Government research body) we learn that (Table 2.6):

… people that are currently employed are most likely to be recent consumers of alcohol.

A lower proportion of the unemployed consume alcohol (within the previous 12 months of the survey) relative in work.

Digging deeper, we find that in terms of the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage (based on the SEIFA Indexes), which measure how well off a person is across a range of indicators, that the first quintile (“the most disadvantaged 20% of people in Australia”) have the lowest proportion of alcohol consumers and between 2001 and 2007, the proportion dropped.

Conversely, the highest quintile (the most advantaged Australians) are way out there in terms of proportions of that cohort that use alcohol. The AIHW Report concluded that:

… as the socioeconomic status goes up, the proportion of people consuming alcohol also increases.

Later, the Report analyses alcohol use and income and concluded that:

When personal income by alcohol drinking status was analysed, the data show that as personal income increases, so does the prevalence and frequency of drinking … For example, the prevalence of any alcohol consumption is 95% among the highest income group, compared with around 80% among the lowest income group, and there is a fairly constant gradient across these groups. This applies for both sexes.

The March 2012 edition of the ABS Australian Social Trends – carried a feature on “low economic resource households” – which is a cute way of say those who are poor.

The article presented data (for 2009-10) on expenditure on goods and services by the poor relative to the rest of the population.

We learn that:

In 2009-10, the average weekly equivalised expenditure (adjusted to include imputed rent) on goods and services of people in low economic resource households ($500) was 57% of the average expenditure of other households ($872) … Housing, food and transport were the broad expenditure items that accounted for the largest proportion of expenditure on goods and services across both low economic resource households and other households. Among those in low economic resource households, these items accounted for 57% of total expenditure, while for those in other households they accounted for 45%.

In terms of weekly equivalised expenditure, the Low economic resource households spent $A10 a week on alcoholic beverages (1.9 per cent of their total spending) whereas the rest of the population spent $A21 a week on alcoholic beverages (2.4 per cent of their budget).

Spending on other items relating to “socialising” were also much lower in absolute and proportional terms for the poorest Australians…

Inconvenient facts from an economist, eh! Still, I am sure Paul will love her as much as ever.

I considered going up to South Sydney Uniting Church, but didn’t – partly because my neighbour down here asked me to a barbecue at The Bates Motel and I though being neighbourly was important. Had I gone though:

Homily
Reign of Christ, Year B
“Celebrating Community”
South Sydney Uniting Church
November 25, 2012

Psalm 93; 2 Samuel 23:1-7; John 18:33-37

‘Trust

“Is the brutalisation of the weak by the strong just what happens behind closed doors, when families, orders, tribes and forces self-police? Is it, in short, inevitable?” asks Elizabeth Farrelly. “Because it’s not just sex, or violence, or corruption, though those are bad enough. To my mind, this kind of abuse is theft. The child abused by a priest isn’t just sexualised, degraded and humiliated. As surely as Roberto Curti was robbed of his life by spontaneous official torture, the abused child is robbed of his or her budding trust in authority and, by extension, the world. Children are very moral animals, with an intense and intuitive feel for justice. To be betrayed and defiled by the supposed source of truth and goodness leaves a child truly broken hearted. In the case of grubby planning decisions, politicians are the slimy adults and we the broken hearted children, but the destruction is similar. We are the victims of systematic environmental theft” (Elizabeth Farrelly, “Developing a tale of comeuppance”, SMH, 21/11/12).

I’ve been thinking on Farrelly’s words for a few days. Power corrupts, she laments. Without an alternative to abusive power we are doomed to fear and hopelessness. One way out is by way of the victims of abuse – by way of their courage and by way of their critique of the systems of abuse. Michael Mullins, editor of Eureka Street, made a decision last week not to publish an essay on media bias against the Catholic Church. He wrote: “Any hope that the Church has of being a credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ depends upon its ability to accept its current humiliation and give glory instead to the sexual abuse victims whom it has humiliated.” God be with you

Nambawan Pikinini bilong Misis Kwin na Namba Two Misis Bilong Charles

…and other matters.

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Yes, we now have The Prince of Wales plus Duchess of Cornwall in the house… Believe they go to a horse race today.

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The first picture comes from and is linked to The Sydney Morning Herald, the second I ripped off the Prince’s own site. Hope I don’t get sent to the Tower of London for that. He is here as part of a Diamond Jubilee Commonwealth tour – his Mum having been more than a touch venturesome herself this year but deputing her Nambawan Pikinini to come to this part of the world on her behalf. A shame as I was rather looking forward to her arrival:

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Before arriving here the Royals were in Papua New Guinea – hence the Tok Pisin heading today. (The Duke of Edinburgh is apparently oldfella Pili-Pili him bilong Misis Kwin.” Love it!)

You may read a first-hand account from PNG: Having Dinner with Nambawan Pikinini bilong Misis Kwin na Namba Two Misis Bilong Charles. That blog leads to others from PNG – itself well worth the visit.

I like having C and C here. The older I get the fonder I am of the rather dotty monarchy we in Australia inhabit and the less likely to vote for a republic any time soon; I did vote for one at the turn of the century. It will seem very rude of me but I really do like NOT being American and our head of state NOT being a politician. I also don’t mind the best of the tradition and the world links history has given us. Keep it that way as long as possible, though it is hard to see the system lasting all the way to 2112…. Apparently the young and cool rather agree. No, you won’t find me joining Professor Flint’s mob though – not that desperate.

And as for Charles: he’s not as dim or useless as many think.

And while I am on eccentrics and conservatism – not that Charles is a textbook conservative – I did rather enjoy the (rerun) of Kitchen Cabinet with Barnaby Joyce last night. In fact Kitchen Cabinet is proving quite a treasure.

Last night too QandA went to Perth. An excellent episode, and a reminder that we really are locked too much into the Sydney-Melbourne-Canberra axis.

You probably missed it…

Last night I watched ABC News 24 at 9.30pm because I had seen this promo:

It was one of the most informative features on the current US election that I have seen. It added considerably the what I knew about the 21st century Republican Party, aside from its amazing array of total nutters of whom Romney is one of the best of a bad lot. Is it true that most of Middle America rely on Fox for their knowledge of the world, that in places there is hardly any alternative? If so, that is beyond sad… And for the world, as well as the USA, it is an appalling thought.

So glad we have ABC, SBS, and through both even things like Al Jazeera – and easy to see just about anywhere in the country with access to digital, cable or satellite—not to mention via the Internet.

The Republican Party is at a crossroads, and regardless of its chances of retaking the White House next week, its future is far from assured.

On the eve of what may be one of the most remarkable comebacks in American political history, some long-time conservatives fear their party has been drawn too far away from the political centre.

It may not stop Mitt Romney being sworn in as president in January 2013, but it may in the future confine The Grand Old Party to permanent opposition.

And that wouldn’t just be bad for conservatives, it would be bad for all Americans, because while the minority party may not be able to get much done on Capitol Hill, it can exert tremendous power to obstruct and prevent anything being done.

The unprecedented use of the filibuster in the US Senate since the Republican Party went into the minority in 2006 could be just a prelude to the profound dysfunction and gridlock that would bring the federal government to a complete halt.

And most worryingly, that would suit some Republicans just fine.

The Republican Party, once proudly the party of Lincoln, has now become the party of Reagan.

It still stands philosophically for individual freedom, but to current conservatives the modern slave-master is the government itself and taxation is the whip and yoke.

Yet Reagan’s record of cutting taxes has been distorted, proponents of the new orthodoxy that no Republican will even support a tax increase conveniently ignore the fact that while Reagan cut taxes sharply in 1981, he raised them 11 other times.

But his legacy has been streamlined into a tax-cutting, cold war-winning all-American hero.

And to be sure, president Reagan achieved many things, but also blew out the deficit and amplified the gap between rich and poor.

Still, that trickle-down, low-tax message has made a comeback in recent years with the rise of the Tea Party Movement, but it is out of step with many Americans who value the role government plays in ensuring they can get health care and other social services especially into their old age…

I examine the forces driving the Republican Party further to the right and the legacy of president Reagan in a new documentary, The Party Of Reagan, featuring interviews with the most influential conservatives in America today, leading members of the Reagan administration and Reagan’s son Ron Jr…

Ron Reagan Jr.
Sen. Alan Simpson
Edwin Meese III.
Sen. Arlen Specter
Prof. Roger Porter
James Fallows
Patrick J. Buchanan
Bruce Bartlett
Mike Lofgren
Grover Norquist
Gary Bauer
Matt Kibbe

Well done, John Barron.

I earlier caught up with the moving Australian Story on Journalist Malcolm Brown.

DARREN GOODSIR, SMH NEWS DIRECTOR: We’re now in a period where we’re considering who is going to stay and who is going to go.

MALCOLM BROWN (throwing papers into a recycling bin): Well that’s it. That’s my life’s work. I don’t want to be compulsorily made redundant so I decided ‘Well, it’s time to move on’.

DARREN GOODSIR, SMH NEWS DIRECTOR: It’s not just Malcolm who’s affected. It’s a tough decision to make.

KATE MCCLYMONT, SMH SNR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: It’s been incredibly difficult to work today. In fact no one seems to be doing much work. There are little pockets of people and somebody will come back from the Editor’s office waving their white envelope, saying ‘I’ve got redundancy’. Other people are just putting their white envelopes under their coats. People have been in tears. (choked up) It’s been… It has been really difficult, incredibly difficult thing. Because you look at these people who are going, it’s people you’ve worked with for years and you think ‘I can’t imagine what…’ You know, how are we actually going to get this paper out without the experience of the education reporter, the medical reporter, Malcolm Brown’s work?

MATTHEW MOORE, SMH URBAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: I’ve been married to this joint for nearly three decades now. So it’s been… it’s been my life.

DEBORAH SMITH, SMH SCIENCE EDITOR: It’s a sad day but it’s also a good day because I’m confident that science and environment, which is my passion, is going to continue at the Herald and we’re going to do it well here. And we’ll continue to lead the country in that coverage, which is what throughout my career I’ve always (choked up) wanted to achieve.

Next Sunday’s must see: This ABC mini-series on the James Hardie asbestos scandal packs a punch.

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Nailed it … Anthony Hayes stars as Bernie Banton in Devil’s Dust.

Are your p*bes as radiant, shiny and glorious as mine?

W*ll! Fancy *sking the Pr*me M*nister something like that? The things you can do when you are on F*cebook! Just ask A**m Subwoofer H******, apparently, who inserted that into a Facebook interview done yesterday by Julia Gillard. I have done the redactions lest anyone be o**ended. "McPiss off you red-headed bloody McClown" was another gem of subprime public intelligence — at least until Julia’s minders, who were monitoring what seems to have been a bit of an unfortunate venture into Web 2,  managed to hit the delete button.

A spokesman for the government said: "This is the first federal question-and-answer session by a major political figure in Australia – it is the first of its kind. There was a huge response in terms of questions; there’s been a lot more that have been tabled for future use. There is a tiny minority of offensive comments and they are moderated after being published."

Certainly this and other recent events concerning someone called Jones have been raising all manner of interesting questions about the nature and place of the “new media” vis-a-vis democratic process, free speech, and so on and so forth, issues raised by then screwed over on Qanda last night – one of the most pathetic Qandas in recent memory, with the exception of a wonderful few moments from Nilaja Sun in response to this:

Jessie Huynh asked: Nilaja Sun: What challenges did you face to change your career path from being a teacher to a solo writer and performer? Was the transition from teaching a group and feeding off the students to enhance your abilities in the classroom, to having a barrier between you and your audience, difficult to adapt to?

Malcolm Turnbull has weighed in with characteristic flair:

I should note in this context another misguided Labor proposal to rein in the media – to provide that media acquisitions, currently subject to clear black letter trade practices and cross media ownership rules, to become subject to a public interest test. This is a concept so ambiguous it is readily open to interpretation in a very partisan political way.

Another point of objection I raised was that it was naïve to imagine that a statutory regulator would make newspapers more benign. After all the Sydney radio shock jocks including Mr Jones, are regulated by ACMA and are regularly investigated and occasionally upbraided for one outrage after another without any noticeable improvement in their discourse.

Even if Mr Jones had made his remarks about the Prime Minister’s late father on air, I doubt if ACMA would have found a breach of the code. Mr Jones has frequently urged the Prime Minister be thrown out to sea in a chaff bag and no breach of the code was found.

But in this case the effective response to Mr Jones was not regulation, or less media freedom, but rather the use by thousands of people of the enhanced freedom afforded them by the social media.

Mr Jones has complained that he has been the victim of social media bullying saying that “ if it happened anywhere else in society, this kind of bullying or harassment or intimidation or threatening conduct, the police would be called in.”

But it is difficult not to believe that he is getting a dose of his own medicine. After all Mr Jones has waged more than a few onslaughts against individuals and businesses and encouraged more than a few email campaigns of his own.

As George Megalogenis observed on twitter today – “We all agree, don’t regulate the media. But why do you want to regulate the masses?”[8]

Mr Jones believes his association with certain products will encourage people to buy them. But if other people take the view that an association with Mr Jones will lead them not to buy those products, why are they not able to tell the advertiser of their view and encourage others to do the same?

Is people power the antidote to media bullies?

SMS and instant messages were powerful enough in years past, but the reach and functionality of the smartphone connected to social media networks has enabled opposition political movements even in the most repressive societies to mobilize and challenge and in some cases, ultimately, overthrow the Government.

The impact of these technologies have been particularly profound in China where despite extensive Internet censorship the Government is now no longer in complete control of the means of self expression. Citizens unhappy with local officials can, and frequently do, take their case online. A decade ago they would have had little chance of their concerns being published in a local newspaper.

As Geoff Raby reminded us last week, there would have been no prospect of the excruciatingly embarrassing Bo Xi Lai saga and related leadership struggles being so widely reported and debated within China in a pre-smartphone era.

So have we reached a nirvana for freedom of speech – with everyone a publisher via their smartphone, a platform so compelling that even the greatest newspaper mogul of all time, Rupert Murdoch, has become a tweep!…

(I also enjoyed, as a sometime Classicist, Malcolm Turnbull’s talk to the Classical Association of NSW, though it makes me feel even more like some mouldering old relic to reflect that when Malcolm was studying Latin and Greek at Sydney Grammar I was already teaching at Cronulla High!)

But at least Malcolm Turnbull seems to know how Twitter, Facebook etc work. On Qanda last night Christopher Pyne, who I suspect also knows, came up with a wildly improbable scenario that the nasty comments in Julia’s interview were somehow part of a plot to distract us all from thinking about the (largely nonexistent) effects of the carbon tax on our economy. 

TONY JONES: Okay. All right. I’m going to hear from the rest of the panel. Christopher Pyne, you jumped in there.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, just on the blog…
TONY JONES: Are you suggesting that the staff had some role in this?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I don’t know, Tony, but I do think it is peculiar that since her staff are moderating the Facebook discussion, they allowed trolls to breakthrough…
KATE ELLIS: Does anybody here know how Facebook actually works?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Yeah, we do but…
KATE ELLIS: Like people post on a wall and you delete it if you don’t agree with it. People post first and then you delete it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, why didn’t her staff moderate those remarks off instantaneously. Why did they live them on there and them make a big political story out of it?
KATE ELLIS: Well, they did. Once they were put up, they were removed.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I just think it’s passing strange that if her staff were moderating this apparent first in national politics, that they allowed these very unpleasant statements to be put up on the Facebook rather than, as soon as they appeared, removing them instantaneously, which didn’t happen. So I think that’s peculiar…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Can I just say that some of the things you’ve said are complete assertions that have been utterly denied by Tony Abbott and you stated them as facts. That’s the first thing. Secondly, the Tony Abbott I know is a person who has absolute regard for strong women and surrounds himself with them. His wife, Margie, his chief of staff Peta Credlin. He loves and respects his three daughters and his two sisters. To suggest that Tony Abbott is a misogynist is part of a smear campaign designed to stop him becoming Prime Minister and let me say this: it is a distraction from the issues like cost of living pressures, job insecurity, the economy, and Labor wants us to have that distraction. They want the Australian public to talk about everything other than the economy, job insecurity, cost of living and the carbon tax and unfortunately that question falls for that Labor Party campaign. To Margie Abbott came out on Friday, because she was thoroughly sick of people telling bald faced lies about her husband. Tanya Plibersek, Nicola Roxon, unfortunately Kate Ellis, others have been responsible for this, what’s been dubbed the handbag hit squad. It is an outrage what people have said about Tony Abbott and it is as offensive to suggest he hates his wife, his three daughters and his two sisters…
GEORGINA FREEMAN: I didn’t say he hates his wife.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: …as the things Alan Jones said about Julia Gillard’s father…

Piers Akerman was decidely strange, as Matthew da Silva notes today.

But such debates are part of the culture wars in Australia, as we saw later the same day when Piers Akerman appeared on the ABC’s Q and A. The same kind of issues popped up, and the same fundamental lack of understanding about how social media works. We had Akerman sagely pointing a trembling finger at "The Twitter", and comparing a Facebook page (which he knows nothing about) to a blog (he once moderated one in a professional capacity). And there was the same propensity for the blokes – Akerman, the Liberals’ Christopher Pyne, and ex-Labor MP Lindsay Tanner – to talk over the top of the women. Host Tony Jones was forced to step in on a number of occasions in order to ensure Labor MP Kate Ellis had enough air to reasonably present her opinion on the panel…

Matthew’s main topic in that post is this interview on 2GB:

It’s a long interview and worth listening to. A number of topics were covered, including Alan Jones’ propensity to inciting violence, and his track record in this vein during the lead-up to the December 2005 Cronulla riots. Smith tried valiantly to play down Jones’ role in that affair but this sort of nimble footwork by a 2GB shock jock would merely have further angered those who participated in the social media campaign against Alan Jones. Like the 45-minute "apology" Jones gave after being caught out saying John Gillard "died of shame", Smith’s performance yesterday with regard to the Cronulla riots merely indicates that 2GB radio announcers do not believe that Jones did anything wrong all those years ago. It is difficult to see how progress can be made on the count of public civility if 2GB still harbours resentment over something that was officially sanctioned, and for which Jones received a public rebuke from the media authority. How can the two sides agree on the nature of appropriate conduct in the media if there is disagreement on such basic things?

There is so much around the traps on all this now as the issues raised are rather greater than the bloody Parrot. You can go from Gerard Henderson on the one hand – why do I keep thinking the word “anal”? – to Jenna Price on the other.  Or Michelle Grattan:

…there is a fine line — between firms responding to public opinion, and being intimidated by a campaign targeted at them, especially when it bombards them individually. A number of those remaining — before Macquarie Radio stopped all advertising on the program — were small enterprises. Their vulnerability to damage from a tough campaign is proportionately greater than that of larger companies.

By giving ordinary people a voice, social media is empowering voters and consumers. This is obviously a good thing, whether it is to enables them to have more political say or get better service from companies.

But the medium also has potential to bring out the worst as well as the best.

While Jones’ enemies, especially on the left, are glad to see him get his comeuppance, they should also remember that in other circumstances some of his nastier allies on the right could also mobilise support to hunt their targets…

Yesterday, even though I had not signed any petitions about Jones as I explained before, I did "like" Destroy the Joint because I did "like" what I saw there.

the grand prince of bogans .....

And now, just for fun:

Seems like this is quite a week for remembering…

First there’s this one:

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But important as that is, no doubt most Australians and very many in Indonesia will be thinking of Bali.

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I can recall when and where I first heard of it – in The Forresters in Surry Hills while having Sunday Lunch with Ian “The Dowager Empress” Smith and others. My colleague at that time at SBHS, Russell Darnley, was considerably closer.  Read Russell’s own account on that link and also My First Visit to #Bali Since the October 2002 #Bombing (2010).

Violence and extremism are no more a recent phenomenon in Indonesia than in countries like the UK and the USA.  Both Indonesia and the USA fought wars of national liberation against colonial powers.  Both have constitutions and a sense of nationhood, grounded in such violent struggles. Many countries have their own uniquely violent histories and their own particular forms of extremism.  Attempting to make some historical sense of violence, extremism and associated acts of war and terror, requires some consideration of their context.  This is often a useful exercise because it helps to resolve a sense of perspective and scale.

The Bali Bombing was an horrific event that touched me personally, yet for me it’s difficult to distinguish between the madness of the suicide bomber and the madness that suffuses the actions of a nation state that, while understanding the imprecision of its technology, still persists with actions that euphemistically result in collateral damage, the death of innocents and destruction of their homes and infrastructure.  When I see images of white phosphorous raining down as people scatter in terror, I’m reminded that we live in a world where love for our fellow humans is held in scant regard by many.

Writing about the Bali Bombing of 12 October 2002 is a theme that recurs for me, but I’ve published only a small part of what I could say on this tragic event. Some of my work is far too graphic for accessible online publication, such material best lends itself to the print medium not the openness of the Internet. More is yet to be written but I’ve waited for a greater maturity of insight, which I hope might come, before writing further on this subject.  Part of the process has been a re-visiting of the places where I lived and worked before and during those tragic days…

See also Honours for carers of Bali wounded (2004).

There are some good items appearing at the moment in The Sydney Morning Herald. For example: Bali’s hidden bomb victims.

…"They all know I am a widow of a Bali bomb victim," Rencini says. "I’ve been coming here for more than two years. They don’t treat me special because of that, but they do treat me kindly. We are all here struggling. This is a man’s world; I am a woman. They protect me."

By the end of the night, Rencini has earned the equivalent of $4.50 after costs – less than half the price of a cocktail at a tourist hotel bar.

She is one of many widows, fatherless children and survivors who are the hidden victims of the Bali bombs. Each has dipped into a near unimaginable well of resilience to survive, often helped by the good hearts of strangers…

And while some direct their energy into a generalised hatred or fear of Islam – we all know the Islam=Terrorist mindset – we would do well to reflect on the many nuances we non-Muslims and non-Indonesians hardly ever grasp, thereby missing what could be parts at least of real solutions, solutions that are indeed appearing right now and deserve to be known and encouraged. For example: Turning away from radical doctrines.

The radical Islamist preacher who once helped establish terror group Jemaah Islamiyah in Australia admits he wanted to make the country a financial hub for the attempt to overthrow the Indonesian state.

Abdul Rahman Ayub was once one of Australia’s most wanted men, also believes a cell of 30 or more jihadists that he helped indoctrinate may remain active in Australia and that authorities know little about them.

Ayub, who was the deputy leader of JI in Australia to his twin brother, Abdul Rahim, has told The Sun-Herald they were sent by Indonesia’s godfather of terrorism, Abu Bakar Bashir, in 1997 to train young radicals in their form of Islam.

Abdul Rahman Ayub … once one of Australia’s most wanted men. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Both brothers stayed until 2002, the year of the Bali bombing. In his first interview with an Australian journalist, Ayub says the brothers taught perhaps 100 people about the violent form of jihad.

”When I came back from Australia in 2002, to my knowledge there were about 30 people [who were still radicals in Australia],” he says. ”I don’t know about their recent development, whether they’re still active or not, but I believe they are still there. Neither I nor ASIO know the exact figures, nor how active they are.”

Ayub was trained in Afghanistan between 1986 and 1992 to fight as a mujahid, or holy warrior. He was an expert in unarmed combat and became a confidant of the Bali bombers Hambali (whose wedding he helped pay for) and Mukhlas. He says at one time he respected Bashir ”more than I respected my parents”.

However, he denies he had any advance knowledge of the Bali attack and insists he never wanted an attack on Australian soil.

”My mission was to preach Islam … Bashir told us not to commit any violence in Australia – we treated Australia as a country for taking political asylum,” he says.

”But we did teach jihad against Indonesia, against Suharto at the time. We taught about forming an Islamic state, but in Indonesia, not in Australia.”…

Ayub says the attack of September 11, 2001, Bali and Roche’s plot were errors that had changed how Islam was regarded and had damaged his own faith in violent jihad. ”I was furious. I was very against those attacks because it hurts Muslims themselves … It hurts humanity and it hurts our principles,” Ayub says now.

Over a number of years he abandoned his former belief in the overthrow of the Indonesian state. He says he believes now that Muslims should fight only as soldiers in a war zone.

Ayub hoped Indonesia might become an Islamist state but now believes it cannot be rushed: ”It’s God’s decision. If Allah wants to give it to us, it will happen.”

He works around Jakarta as a freelance theologian, preaching Islam. His brother, who left Australia three days after the Bali bombing, runs two schools. Abdul Rahim declined to be interviewed but, according to Abdul Rahman, has also given up belief in violent jihad.

With about 35 other former mujahideen, Abdul Rahman is working through the ”Afghan Alumni Forum” to de-radicalise some of Indonesia’s young jihadists and inoculate Indonesians against the radical doctrine.

You might prefer that people like this all became Christians/Atheists/Agnostics/Dudists and forgot all about Islam, but it isn’t ever going to happen. On the other hand, this is now someone that no longer reoresents any kind of threat to us – and isn’t that the outcome we really desire as well as the outcome we can actually have, it appears. Bless the “Afghan Alumni Forum”, I say.

See also Indonesia’s jihad factories: uncovering nurseries of terrorism’s next generation.

I see that at the time I tangled, so to speak, yet also almost agreed with Piers Akerman, whose bon mots on Alan Jones we can no doubt look forward to on QandA tonight. Let’s replay 2002:

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Piers Akerman has really done a fine job on Osama bin Laden in today’s Daily Telegraph (Sydney). Now it so happens that I do not disagree with much of what he says: Osama bin Laden is a frightening creep with a very deep hatred of the West and is undoubtedly a ruthless, dangerous, fanatical and murderous opponent of tolerance, particularly for "any who may be interested in fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling or trading with interest" — all of which, incidentally, are frowned on by the Bible and, traditionally, by the Catholic Church and to this day by the Anglican Church in Sydney — not to mention my own (or erstwhile own) Presbyterian Church**. There is a certain irony in Akerman here, as gay-friendliness (to select one aspect of interest to me) is not really the thing one associates with Akerman, though intoxicants is possibly another matter. Or so I am told.

Nor do I disagree that bin Laden and his like (that sad and murderous young man in Indonesia comes to mind, the human bomb that it is now thought blew up Paddy’s Bar in Bali) are "perverting the tenets of Islam", to quote Akerman’s headline. Well, they are at least perverting what the majority of the practitioners of Islam actually believe, though the Good Book (the Islamic one) is just as embarrassing as its Jewish and Christian cousins in this respect. All the Big Three Sacred Books have things in them that are anti-civilisation.

The best thing to do with such books, in my view and also in the view of many others, is to grant their historicity, their contexts of origin, and to jettison what is in them that reflects their age and keep what is still of value, or what still offers guidance for living, as much in all of them does. Islam is in a difficult position here as it has been even more bibliolatrous than Christianity, and proper critical study of the Koran, while not unknown in the Islamic world, encounters difficulties. But so does proper critical study of the Bible in ultra-Orthodox Jewish circles, where the age of the planet equals the current Jewish year (did you know the Jews count from the Creation?), or in Bible Belt America where the seven-day creation still has its supporters, along with nutters who believe the 1611 Bible is itself the very Word of God, and so on. We will consign them to Landover Baptist Church where they belong.

OK, so what is my complaint then, since so far it appears I agree with Akerman essentially? It is this: he is such an prat that he leaps into the theology of Islam with a show of knowledge without even checking his well-thumbed Children’s Encyclopaedia, let alone the Koran, and therefore commits a series of howlers that would have a Muslim kindergartener cacking himself with laughter, except that in the current climate such pig-ignorance is both stupid and dangerous. One recalls what George Orwell said, quoted a couple of entries back. Akerman represents the nadir (a good Arabic word) of opinion journalism; if advertising is brainrot of a particularly pernicious kind, Akerman’s attitude towards accuracy is brainrot of an even more insidious kind, since his opinions become the opinions of thousands of loyal readers. His worldview, God help us, becomes theirs. He is their surrogate brain, as it were.

Had he done his homework, Akerman would have known that the Koran itself, and subsequently Islam, has from the beginning counted Moses and Jesus as prophets. He would know that Islam has no quarrel with the fact that Judaism and Christianity predate it, as it in turn predates Presbyterianism. He would know that at times in Islamic history this has led to policies of toleration for other "people of the Book"– Jews and Christians. For example, the persecuted Jews of Spain found refuge under Islam. It is true that Osama bin Laden does not represent this more benign stream of Islam, of course — Akbar the Great or Suleyman the Magnificent he definitely ain’t. But Osama did not invent the Islamic interpretation of Moses, or the Abrahamic origins of the religion, or its connection with Jerusalem (for what that is worth, which is no more or no less than the Jewish and Christian connections — in other words, best forgotten for the sake of everyone else in the world.) You would think Osama had, to read Akerman.

Then Akerman is so unreflectively Eurocentric (as he almost always is) that you would think Osama had invented Islamic (and Third World) disquiet with Western/American culture and power (the Crusades and all that subsequent Imperialism and the current mess in Israel/Palestine). Yes, Osama exploits these issues, no doubt; but he is not insane in pointing out that they are issues, and the West has been very remiss in coming to terms with them. He is Hitler-like in the way he uses the issues for his own ends, but just as Hitler did not have to invent the ruinous state of the German economy in the 1920s and the injustice of Versailles, so Osama does not have to invent the postcolonial legacy. All this is much better argued by others, so I will not continue, but refer you, for example, to the site the Empress sent last weekend.

Finally: although, as Akerman points out at the end, Christ did say vague things about "rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s", the separation of Church and State is in fact a very recent beast indeed. Ask a Catholic or Presbyterian in early nineteenth century England about that — if you could. Further, it is something the anticlerical Enlightenment won for some of the West (Ireland took longer, Russia under the Tsars never succeeded) not something which the Church willingly granted. It is, further, something the USA still has not really learned — in God We Trust and all those arguments about prayer in schools. Which is not to say that the USA is not a million times more desirable than a Taliban-style (or Cromwell-style) theocracy; it is. And it is true that such liberal values are very much threatened.

But then so is good journalism by the likes of Akerman. His grasp of Church History and Western Intellectual History is little better than his grasp of Islam. The trouble is, people will think I am a smart-arse and Akerman is a good bloke, as ignorance tends to go down well with the mob. Ask any commercial radio talkback jock or station owner. The more meretricious the product the more likely it is to attract the ratings, and advertising dollars just come rolling in.

Slightly ironic today, that last point!

** It’s ten years too late, but I should point out that as far as I know no Christian church currently condemns “trading with interest”. Indeed most of them practise this!

Joan Didion, Alan Jones and losing the plot…

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I happened to be reading Joan Didion’s Blue Nights (2011) when Alan Jones’s toxic comments to Sydney Young Liberals on Julia Gillard’s father “dying of shame” were published in, of all places, a Murdoch scandal sheet by a young Kiwi gay journo who himself seems to live under a cloud of blowflies.

He famously (in New Zealand) lost his job on gay television magazine show Queer Nation in 2003 after it was revealed he and his boyfriend had been stalking TVNZ personalities Mike Hosking and Paul Holmes.

Last year he was in trouble after it emerged he approached a student at Victoria University and asked him to lie to university officials in order to gain private information about a fellow student who had accused an ex-Labour MP, Darren Hughes, of a sex crime.

Over the years Marshall has been comprehensively done over in the New Zealand media.

He reportedly suffered from ADHD but even so had his first radio show on an Auckland community station at 14.

He was dumped after questioning whether a ratepayer-funded Asian Lantern Festival represented value for money but moved onto a talkback show where, as a fifth-former at Rangitoto College, he was again dumped for phoning the Auckland City mayor at 3am.

Quitting school, Marshall alerted the media that he was taking the college to the Privacy Commission for refusing to release his records. A job on Investigate magazine followed where he wrote about school suspensions for drug use and then he discovered paparazzi photography…

In an article that year called ”Dangerous Liaisons”, New Zealand’s Metro magazine said the website gave Kiwis their ”first taste of true, titillating tabloidism”. It featured prying pictures of Bronwyn Fitzpatrick, former All Black skipper Sean Fitzpatrick’s wife, gardening in her sarong. There was also a snap of separated father Hosking carrying a pack of nappies; and it accused then prime minister Helen Clark of something unrepeatable.

Marshall then lay low for a number of years before he started producing his ”gotcha” brand of journalism for mainstream New Zealand papers.

But last year he left town and landed a job on Rupert Murdoch’s The Sunday Telegraph….

Oh the ironies!

In Chris Masters’ biography of Alan Jones, Jonestown, the chapters on Jones’s life as a boarding master at The King’s School in Parramatta are very familiar to me. Masters writes of a boys’ Arcadia, Jones sitting up for late nights sharing dreams of success with his favourites, mentoring them and inspiring them, becoming the most important positive influence on their lives. But, Masters writes:

Perhaps the strain of maintaining a complicated pretence was, at times, too much. Jones’ emotional attachment to the boys could not give way to unambiguous physical expression. The curious romantic dance he undertook seemed to exhaust both himself and his unwitting partners.

I knew what I was reading here: the “curious romantic dance” was also our experience with Nizzo. By the end of Year 11 it had exhausted itself but the teacher’s sexual repression was only part of it. I think the bigger rupture was our change from sexually innocent boys into nasty little shits.

— Malcolm Knox on The Old Boy: Knox Grammar’s Adrian Nisbett

See also Who’s for Breakfast, Mr Jones?: Sydney’s talkback titan and his mythical power (2006) by David Salter, former Executive Producer of Media Watch.

It’s the tone that first strikes you. That slightly prissy, impatient, semi-sour way of speaking that makes his voice on radio so distinctive. Not the sleeves-rolled-up journalistic directness of Neil Mitchell, nor the deep, mahogany oiliness of super-salesman John Laws. He gallops through words, almost stumbling over his asymmetrical phrasing and peculiar patterns of emphasis. Language and the microphone have been his only real tools for twenty years, yet Alan Belford Jones – The Parrot – never seems quite comfortable.

That tone. Nagging. Insistent. Unrelenting. Even on the brink of verbal derailment he keeps signalling to his audience: ‘What I’m telling you is urgent. These words are important. You need to know this.’

It’s a voice that speaks to a dominant share of the Sydney talk-radio market every weekday morning…

Jones claims extraordinary power, and he glories in its exercise. His influence flows directly from his radio program, a punishing 5.30–10.00 am, five-days-per-week effort that attracts twice the audience of his closest talkback rivals. He commands the breakfast market in Sydney largely because he’s so very good in the role.

Veteran publisher Richard Walsh, who spent months sampling Jones every morning for the caustic ‘Psittacosis Corner’ column in the Zeitgeist Gazette, is a grudging admirer of his craft. “I’m prepared to concede one thing about Jones. He is a skilful broadcaster. It’s a slick show. He’s eloquent. It’s eloquence I don’t particularly like because he’s eloquent about things I don’t agree with – but that’s like saying the Devil has all the best tunes.” Former Media Watch host Stuart Littlemore QC is less impressed. “The amazing thing about Jones is that he’s not even a lightweight. He has no ideas of his own. His skill – his only job – is to be Alan Jones, going on with all that crazy populist nonsense.”

But it is precisely this mastery of populist nonsense that gives the Jones program its perceived power and influence. He has become amazingly adept at identifying material that can be beaten into a lather of public outrage. The bulk of his program – apart from the advertising – is now devoted to these campaigns: Jones pompously putting himself on the white charger of moral certainty and riding the tired old nag all the way to his next ratings win. It’s done with such arrogance, hyperbole and eruptions of offensive intimidation that few are brave enough to stand against the juggernaut. Out of my way! Here comes radio’s caped crusader to the rescue!…

This morning we see Alan Jones’s mischievous role in the Cronulla incidents of 2005 is back in the news.

ALAN JONES has been forced to say sorry for the second time this week after a tribunal ruled yesterday that he must apologise on air for calling Lebanese Muslims ”vermin” before the Cronulla riots seven years ago.

The setback for the besieged radio personality came as Tony Abbott stepped up his criticism of Jones’s remarks about Julia Gillard’s late father and sponsors continued to desert him…

Jones had called Sydney’s Lebanese Muslims ”vermin” who ”infest our shores” and ”rape and pillage our nation”…

Jones was secretly recorded 11 days ago telling a Sydney University Liberal Club function that Ms Gillard’s father, John, who died recently after long battle with illness, had really died of shame because of his daughter’s lies…

I can’t stand the guy’s voice, entirely a matter of personal opinion of course, so I have rarely listened to him – and having witnessed him occasionally in the flesh around the Inner West of Sydney back in the 80s and having met one of his more distinguished mates, I find even looking at him rather nauseating. However, he does have a loyal following, remarkable for a some time English teacher, admittedly very successful Rugby coach, and apparent closet case of monumental dimensions.

It quickly became obvious that the Parrot’s devotees are remaining firmly on the perch. This morning’s program was an orgy of self-righteousness, a fiesta of victimhood, an echo chamber of exculpation. On Planet Alan, Gillard can do no right and Jones can do no wrong:

“You are the only one preventing Australia from going bankrupt — God bless you Alan.”

“What these communists have done in this country is disgraceful. Keep calm and carry on.”

“All journalists tend to favour the left wing. You’re pretty much on your own so don’t give up.”

At the start of the program Jones declared he would put all callers to air — regardless of whether they supported him — as long as they remained “within the bounds of decency and acceptability”. Here’s a rundown of this morning’s show, complied with assistance from Sentia Media:

6.12: Maria calls to offer her support. She is horrified about what is happening to Australia. She is glad Jones can speak up for her and others…

And he’s my age, or maybe older. I have seen his date of birth in a range from 1941 to 1943. And that’s where Joan Didion comes in again.

In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and following the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue. This period of the blue nights does not occur in subtropical California, where I lived for much of the time I will be talking about here and where the end of daylight is fast and lost in the blaze of the dropping sun, but it does occur in New York, where I now live. You notice it first as April ends and May begins, a change in the season, not exactly a warming — in fact not at all a warming — yet suddenly summer seems near, a possibility, even a promise. You pass a window, you walk to Central Park, you find yourself swimming in the color blue: the actual light is blue, and over the course of an hour or so this blue deepens, becomes more intense even as it darkens and fades, approximates finally the blue of the glass on a clear day at Chartres, or that of the Cerenkov radiation thrown off by the fuel rods in the pools of nuclear reactors. The French called this time of day "l’heure bleue." To the English it was "the gloaming." The very word "gloaming" reverberates, echoes — the gloaming, the glimmer, the glitter, the glisten, the glamour — carrying in its consonants the images of houses shuttering, gardens darkening, grass-lined rivers slipping through the shadows. During the blue nights you think the end of day will never come. As the blue nights draw to a close (and they will, and they do) you experience an actual chill, an apprehension of illness, at the moment you first notice: the blue light is going, the days are already shortening, the summer is gone. This book is called "Blue Nights" because at the time I began it I found my mind turning increasingly to illness, to the end of promise, the dwindling of the days, the inevitability of the fading, the dying of the brightness. Blue nights are the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but they are also its warning.

Because Alan Jones is in – or has passed? — his blue nights phase, is he not?  I have already noted “the daily conference with the wee folk down bottom of the garden”… 

That line is a comment on the thread following Nicholas Gruen’s post on Club Troppo today. The post is a poker-faced transcript of Alan Jones combining the time warp with climate know-nothingism – his usual position. That position was exposed with total accuracy on Media Watch recently. You will find the video has gone global. I have it embedded in the comments on We’ve just had a cool May

There is an amusing but  very incomplete alphabetical list of Alan Jones’s many errors of fact or judgement on Crikey at the moment. On the other hand it must be noted that there are also reasons to praise the man as well, as a letter writer notes in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

I wonder if Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan, Anthony Albanese or Rebecca Mifsud (Chris Bowen’s wife), who were quick to disparage Alan Jones, took the time to listen to his program yesterday morning (”Insults and chaff bags leave Jones in bad odour”, October 2)?

A gentleman from remote WA called in to pledge support. He mentioned he was struggling to get proper treatment for bowel cancer that had spread to his liver and other parts of his body. In true A. J. style, he was more interested in this man’s welfare than of sponsors or negative online comments. Details were taken off-air as Alan wanted to offer assistance.

I am a regular listener. I do not agree with everything Alan Jones says, but with hand on heart I can testify that each and every day, Alan Jones does his best to help those who don’t have a voice or an advocate.

It is a pity that his detractors do not acknowledge such generosity. No person is perfect, but the published bile confirms that his detractors don’t listen to his program and would have us believe that they are somehow better than the rest of us. They are not.

Stephen Iacono Sefton

Fair enough, but not enough.  The greatest mystery about Alan Jones is not that he has indeed used his position for good at times and can be generous. Rather it is that he has somehow gained all this influence based, in truth, on rather little except gigantic assurance and an admittedly impressive role play as Alan Jones, the Wizard of Oz. Who he really is I am not sure even he knows.

From Blue Nights: “Time passes. Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember.” But there can be no narrative when “memory” is persistently saturated with present mood. It is then that the earth shifts under your feet.

Inga Clendinnen on Blue Nights.

Looking at Alan Jones in that notorious press conference I saw a rather pathetic individual who really is getting old and may well be losing the plot, so eaten up is he with his various obsessions…

So surprisingly I didn’t sign the petition to get rid of him one way or another. His importance now is greatly exaggerated and that the Young Liberals even wanted to listen to him says more about them than about anything in the real world, or indeed about the actual achievements or faults of Julia Gillard. In fact I have been rather annoyed that much of the reaction to his bizarre and unfeeling remarks on the death of Julia Gillard’s father has inflated his significance, not to mention his self-importance.

The guy is a dick, as he always has been, and – to mix metaphors – is clearly on the cusp of irrelevance. Let him topple over into it.

Update

My ex-student David Smith adds to my conviction that seeking to get rid of Alan Jones actually gives him oxygen: The allure of conservative victimhood.

In Australia, conservative politics is much more temperate, partly because we do not think our country is at the centre of a cosmic struggle.

Alan Jones is a mercifully rare example of someone whose politics are completely given over to self-satisfied rage. His listeners may complain incessantly about welfare cheats, but conservative politicians do not build entire election campaigns on their complaints.

The word "un-Australian" enjoyed a brief, ridiculous spell in our political vocabulary in the early 2000s but is now the sole property of Gerry Harvey.

Righteous victimhood may be enjoyable, but hopefully the Alan Jones spectacle will convince future Liberal politicians that they have nothing to gain from becoming an Australian Tea Party.