June 1st 2002


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Embryonic Research - Is government money funding private profit?

EDITORIAL: The Budget - time for new directions

BIOETHICS: Medical breakthrough: researchers turn skin cells into T-cells

CANBERRA: The fallacy behind the disability crackdown

Straws in the Wind: Voodoo dolls / Rodney Rude for a Logie?

HEALTH: No answer to party drugs: AMA

BANKS: Kiwibank has 150 branches in New Zealand

Rag Trade (letter)

SBS traduced (letter)

Boat people: another view (letter)

Trade hypocrisy (letter)

East Timor (letter)

Refugees? (letter)

UN Special Session on Children splits on abortion, sex education

DEMOGRAPHY: Budget ignores an ageing Australia

MEDIA: Sport - how media moguls play to win

CHILDREN'S BOOKS: 'What Should My Child Read?' by Susan Moore

BOOKS: 'Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A portrait of Paul Keating' by Don Watson

BOOKS: 'Science, Money and Politics', by Daniel Greenberg

BOOKS: 'GERMAN BOY: A Child in War', by Wolfgang W.E. Samuel

OPINION: Dangers in cross-media monopolies

Books promotion page

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Straws in the Wind: Voodoo dolls / Rodney Rude for a Logie?


by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, June 1, 2002
Voodoo dolls

One of the most deplorable, not to say pathological, features of contemporary social and political life, here and in Europe and the USA, is the demonisation, and ritual degradation, even symbolic assassination of public figures with whom a political party and its journalistic allies disagree.

In Europe, it has just led, with the predictability of Greek tragedy, to the murder of a Dutch radical Conservative political leader, Pim Fortuyn - as it did to Mr Rabin's assassination. And the daily, worldwide media abuse of the Pope has made mandatory the most elaborate security measures in order that he survives: but security measures which have the effect of often separating him from close and relaxed personal contact with his flock.

Christopher Pearson (The Age) and Andrew Bolt (The Herald Sun) have already written about the recent and dangerous uglification of our media and many of our political class; but more needs to be said.

The best way, and the most morally-despicable way, of demonising (even dehumanising) individuals, or groups such as Jews, Arabs, communists, capitalists, etc, is via the cartoon, which has a long history. Nazi and hardline Communist journalists and politicians turned their opponents into animals, insects, bacteria, degenerates, or human monsters - e.g., jackals, cannibals - as a way of putting them beyond the pale. Creatures without normal human attributes, feelings or virtues - hence meriting exclusion, persecution, punishment, or worse. The worse eventually followed, in the Nazi and Communist cases.

A friend has sent me two recent cartoons from The Age and one from the Australian Financial Review. All Fairfax.

One, amusingly, of April 30, has a large opinion piece by Gerard Henderson headlined: "A thin skin on matters of opinion", subtitle "Liberal Party's reaction to criticism in the media is farcical." Amusingly - I suppose - because towering over the article is a giant cartoon of John Howard and Philip Ruddock. Howard in jackboots, a belt holding a truncheon and a set of jailer's keys. One eye closed, the face malevolent. Restraining on a leash, a dog - presumably a guard dog - with a studded collar, holding what looks like a cosh in its mouth. The dog, with a lowering countenance, is being patted on the head by Howard. It is Philip Ruddock. Political pornography?

But why have the Libs a thin skin on matters of opinion? Is this cartoon a matter of opinion?

The second, The Age of May 7, also has an article by Gerard Henderson, asking "Is Pauline Hanson an ideological equivalent of Jean Marie Le Pen?" "Thankfully not," writes Dr Henderson. Thankful that Le Pen is not another Pauline - or vice versa?

The confusion arises from the continuous hate-speech from the media, starting with Ms Hanson's surprise winning of a Federal seat: hate-speech legitimised by scared politicians of all parties - scared for their seats and of threats to "Le System".

As Andrew Bolt wrote: "Remember the hysterical abuse by our cultural élite - the left-wing protestors attacking her supporters - how weakly police protected her." Or her supporters. This was not the police choice, I'm sure. So, many people never got to learn her policies - any more than many Dutch voters found out about Fortuyn's policies, until he was murdered.

Now it turns out that he was a humane, and politically creative man, with views very similar to a great many Dutchmen. We learn this from the same people who wrote, until his murder, that he was a fascist or an "extremist". But the giant cartoon, again pre-empting the article, has Pauline and John Howard - one a pen, the other a pencil, lying side-by-side in an open box with "Race Issues" on the side - and entitled "The Great Aussie Le Pen and Pencil set". So, Pauline and John Howard are Australian Le Pens.

Thankfully, their eyes are open - otherwise, it could have been a makeshift coffin, a la Guatemala.

Gerard Henderson has all the bad luck. These cartoons totally undermine the cases he was trying to make - and given his political experience and temperament, Dr Henderson knows where this sort of stuff comes from, where it can end, and how it tells us much more about the propagandists than it does their hate objects.

The third cartoon - from another Fairfax production, the Financial Review, has Howard - dehumanised, pointy-head, enormous lips, I suppose they are lips, a humanoid. Ruddock, in the usual jackboots and brown-shirt uniform holding a knout; instead of a swastika on his arm, a dollar sign. That, I couldn't follow. (Avoid libel?) But ... so the snakeheads and their advocates here perform for nothing? Pull the other jackboot.

But it is a genre coming straight from Streicher's Der Stürmer with Jewish doctors (ironic, remembering Stalin's subsequent Jewish Doctors' plot); Jewish men with great hooked noses about to rape young blond German women patients. And much else beside. This political pornography has now taken root in our media - along with its McCarthyite hate speech, and is the lingua franca at Left BBQs and coffee shops, and school staff rooms.

I remember little like this during the Cold War, the Split or even the Vietnam War. Tasteless stuff, sure - one Guardian art form once depicted Menzies standing under a shower, pot-bellied, unshaven. Tasteless, childish - but vicious?

But all this Left Reactionary anger and group delusion accompanied the rise of our old "New Class". They made the earlier political warriors seem like basically decent fellows. Which in essence, most of them were - albeit often drunk on hyperbole. But as our patently superfluous kleptocrats start sensing a fourth Coalition victory already in the making, some very ugly behaviour is coming to the fore. So I hope - quite seriously - that Howard and Ruddock have good security arrangements. Better than those of Pim Fortuyn or Walter Rathenau.

Contemporary groups and situations to be singled out for pity and compassion followed, predictably, by expressions of indignation, then anger and then the targetting of those alleged to be promoting these evils or earlier to have caused them ... Those persons, objects and situations change or are changed around from year to year. Indeed, from week to week, if the media and certain kinds of political parties have anything to do with it - fashion, as it were. But the supply, the flow, of group indignation, of anger, of visceral hatred, remains continuous. Unquenchable. It is the constant. And, being of unconscious origin, knows neither time, nor space.

After a while you begin to realise that there are people, nowadays many people, who almost appear to spend their lives seeking out situations concerning which they can then experience... or rather announce, their pity and compassion; then their indignation, to be faithfully followed by anger. All as triggers for acting out feelings of hatred and vengeance - of a kind, and to an extent, normally considered as indefensible, or outrageous, or as wholly out of proportion.

But, quite frequently, the defence, the justification for these bizarre excesses, is that we are facing such a situation of moral iniquity and an assemblage of such vicious people masterminding these heinous activities: immigration ministers, treasurers who cap spending on pharmaceuticals, a prime minister who won't say "sorry"; a Dutch politician who said on immigration, "Enough is enough" ... that the situation was too drastic, too urgent for niceties (interventionist states talk this way, frequently).

So, a whole sub-culture of people, dealing in images of righteous anger and therapeutic violence, legal or extra-legal, surfaced in the 60s and became institutionalised as the cultures of complaint and ritualised retribution. Which will not go away unless they reform their ways. But, that would be very difficult for our New Class malcontents and closet sadists, for, in the end, theirs is a major existential problem. Made worse by invincible incomprehesion.

Rodney Rude for a Logie?

Paul Gray wrote a feisty ironic opinion piece in the Melbourne Herald Sun (May 14). It concerned the Federal Government's banning of the French gloatie - pardon, pornographic art film, Baise-moi. Gray was apprehensive that all the old anti-censorship blowhards from the 60s would saddle up their llamas and spit their way down the street to the ABC, then The Age, then the Sydney Morning Herald: and then, wouldn't we get an earful, then a face full!

Yes, sure. But don't we already?

I haven't come across anyone who will say that this film possessed artistic merit: we didn't lose a Bergmann or a Pasolini. No, from all accounts, it was a Gallic flick with violence, murder, rape, revenge and cruelty, to make money: with a plot very similar to others used before. That is, neither were we missing out on great literature.

There are, needless to say, numerous porn movie houses freely visitable and for years past. And, apparently, an abundance of porn on the internet. Ask any schoolboy art lover. So why this razzamatazz from the avant-garde? Because depictions of extreme violence and murder linked directly with scenes of explicit sex is banned. So, the "reforming" film makers considered the Baise-moi formula potentially more profitable than what's on legitimate offer now. Which is why our entrepreneur libertarians wanted Baise-moi admitted and shown in the centre of town. After which, there are only snuff movies to legitimise. I'd be sure that our civil libertarians will try something along those lines, in concert with the cash-for-comment critics.

A further ground for the visionaries wanting this film ensconced in town, and defended by celebrity critics, is that, through prurience and class snobbery, the beautiful people don't want to be seen sneaking into and out of a straight porn movie house. The woman over the road might see them - and soon everyone at the Radical Bookclub Readathon would be whispering that he/she is a perv. And not true! Rather, an avant-garde Patron of the Arts.

But the real strategy, I suspect, to return to Mammon, the patron saint of all hucksters ... concerns Money. Bigger money than this flick.An unbanned Baise-moi would be followed by a flood of the same, like the snakeheads' boats. Even more to the point, given the desperate vapidity of the television here on show, and its rapidly fading appeal, our moguls, some of whom also own cinemas, have been trying everything to turn a zloty.

If Baise-moi and its successors made it here, then stand by for some creeping, utterly malign changes in mainstream cinematic and television fare.

But ... we wouldn't expect all of our State Labor governments to want to enforce this Federal ban, or any ban like it. Where there is muck, there's brass. As some Premier said to some Attorney General.




























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