June 27th 2009


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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Peter Costello calls it a day

EDITORIAL: New South Wales puts Australian firms first

VICTORIA: The threats to Victoria's electricity and water

GENERAL MOTORS: Restructured GM won't thrive without new mindset

UNITED STATES I: Obama's celebrity-style media spectacle

UNITED STATES II: Cairo speech impressed Western media, not Islamic world

IRAN: US conciliatory approach to Tehran backfires

ASIA/PACIFIC REGION: East Timor consolidates stable democratic government

UNITED STATES: Husband and wife spied for communist Cuba

SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY: How science can diminish humanity

EUTHANASIA: The perils of euthanasia "with safeguards"

MEN AND IDEAS: Bob Santamaria's role in Australia's culture wars

OPINION: The Japanese threat facing Australia in 1942

Failure of stimulus packages (letter)

Russia's population crisis (letter)

IPCC's political agenda (letter)

MEDIA: ABC Chaser's war on common decency

CINEMA: Hollywood morality for an audience of fools - State of Play

BOOKS: SHAKESPEARE'S SHATTERED YOUTH: Laming or Elixir? by Lucy Sullivan

BOOKS: CROSSING HITLER: The Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand, by Benjamin C. Hett

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MEDIA:
ABC Chaser's war on common decency


by Angus Chapple

News Weekly, June 27, 2009
Only after a huge public outcry did ABC management finally suspend a TV comedy show which made fun of terminally ill children. Angus Chapple reports.

ABC television's program The Chaser's War on Everything plumbed unparalleled depths of bad taste on June 3 when it made terminally ill, bed-bound children the subject of its "humour".

The performers outraged ABC viewers, from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd down, with a segment featuring a fictional "Make-a-Realistic-Wish Foundation".

Child actors wrapped in bandages, and with sickly-looking dark circles drawn under their eyes, were presented with "realistic gifts", such as a pencil case or a stick, instead of being granted a wish to go to Disneyland or meet teenage heart-throb Zac Effron.

The skit ended with cast member Chris Taylor telling viewers that there was no point in making "extravagant" and "selfish" wishes come true. "Why go to the trouble when they're going to die anyway?" was the punch-line.

PM's rebuke

Afterwards, Kevin Rudd castigated the show and said that the performers - Chris Taylor, Julian Morrow, Craig Reucassel, Andrew Hansen and Chas Licciardello - should "hang their heads in shame".

The ABC's The Chaser's War on Everything has had a long history of conducting headline-grabbing stunts. In September 2007, when world leaders, including the then US President George W. Bush, were gathered in Sydney for an APEC conference, cast members managed to drive a fake motorcade through three checkpoints into the security exclusion zone. One of the performers, Chas Licciardello, dressed up as Osama bin Laden, stepped out of an official-looking limousine and was arrested along with his entourage.

A NSW magistrate later dismissed charges against them.

Foolish and dangerous though that escapade was, it has now been surpassed by the ABC program's latest exercise in bad taste. The Chaser's War on Everything, with its latest predatory invasiveness, is now no longer comedy, but a cultural war against normality.

The mother of a terminally ill girl broke down after viewing The Chaser's "Make-a-Realistic-Wish Foundation" segment. She and her husband were shocked by how the tasteless skit paralleled their daughter's battle with cancer.

"They tied a scarf around one of the heads pretending she's lost her hair, which of course my daughter did," the tearful mother (known only as Rochelle) told Sydney radio station 2GB.

Then Rochelle dropped a bombshell when she revealed that the child actors in the hospital scene were the children of The Chaser's producer, and that the producer's family had been family friends before the broadcast. They had known first-hand of the ordeal Rochelle's family had suffered for the last two years, yet they went ahead and based the skit on her daughter.

"I watched the skit and felt sick to the stomach," Rochelle said.

Another disgusted viewer complained: "Preying on sick kids and their families for a laugh? Utterly, utterly, utterly repulsive."

A father of a terminally ill seven-year-old boy exclaimed: "What on earth were the people involved with the show thinking? Not only the morons that came up with the idea of the skit but also all the people down the production line who approved it."

After the broadcast, the ABC issued a deliberately ambiguous statement. It said: "If an unintended consequence of this was to attack a group in the community who nobody feels deserves to be the subject of satirical content, then we apologise for that today, but The Chaser will go on."

Only after a huge public outcry did ABC management relent, and suspend, the program - but only for a fortnight, so as to allow "The Chaser a chance to regroup and review their material".

The cast of The Chaser clearly enjoy a privileged position, courtesy of the public purse. They (correctly) believe that they have the approval of ABC management.

The Chaser crew should be revealed for what they truly are - taxpayer-subsidised, self-appointed stalkers engaged in culture wars.

Their show is devoid of any reference to the lines of wit, comedy, satire and, indeed, morality, which have informed the great comic writers and performers of the past. They are not comedians - they are professional nihilists. Traditionally, comics have been moralists, declaring war on the seven deadly sins, especially on pomp and pride. And that is why their works are revered as classics.

By contrast, The Chaser continues the hoary tradition of Dadaism, which relies not on wit but on shock and confrontation.

Australia's greatest living poet Les Murray has pointed out that our nation's intellectual elites despise normal Australians as "subhuman rednecks".

Abolishing The Chaser will not be censorship. Rather, it will symbolise a belated acknowledgement that "a war on everything" has limits and boundaries.

ABC management should terminate The Chaser. It should not receive another cent of taxpayers' money.

The public should make this view unmistakably clear to ABC management, through contacting their federal members of parliament.

- Angus Chapple.




























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