Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Hasty Jottings from Hater Central

Today's Crikey squatters newsletter alerted me to a charming screed by noted omniscient Gerard Henderson in today's SMH; Mr Henderson takes us through how "Howard haters" seal themselves inside a bubble of class-based leisured privilege & thus remain completely out of touch with what the Man In The Street really thinks. I'm afraid I take this kind of thing personally - though he does mention the university humanities department, so I don't have much choice - and it makes me absolutely fricking furious.

According to Mr Henderson (who has access to the Illuminati's extensive network of hidden surveillance cameras) this is how those of us who aren't celebrating a decade under Howard fritter away our days:

Arise and read the editorial and letters and opinion pages of The Age, Australia's most politically imbalanced broadsheet, judged on its coverage of the national security and industrial relations debates. Admire the cartoons of Michael Leunig, who has drawn Howard as a masked, kneecapping IRA terrorist. Look forward to next Saturday's Herald in the hope that, again, Alan Ramsey will describe the PM as a "duplicitous toad" and refer to him as "Little Johnny". Check The Australian to see if cartoonist Bill Leak still maintains "we are all little Johnnies now; smaller, meaner and less attractive".

Go to work in a university humanities department and talk to your Howard-hating colleagues. It's morning tea time. Go online and check out the most recent criticism of Howardism in John Menadue's New Matilda journal of (almost identical) opinion. Agree with editor Jose Borghino's view that Howard is the "hamster version" of Robert Menzies.

Break for lunch. Drop into an inner-city bookshop to check out the latest Howard-hating thesis on the Morry Schwartz-owned Black Inc's publishing list, including such titles as The Barren Years: John Howard and Australian Political Culture. Admire past copies of Black Inc's Quarterly Essay, featuring the likes of Mungo MacCallum and Guy Rundle. Buy the most recent issue of Schwartz's quaintly named journal The Monthly, featuring yet another (very long) article by Robert Manne bagging Howard.

Spend the afternoon on research. Order a DVD of Richard Connolly's taxpayer-subsidised film Three Dollars. Re-read Rayson's taxpayer-subsidised play Two Brothers. Prepare a workshop on how to establish socialism in at least one country.

Drive home listening to the ABC Radio National's Perspective program, followed by Sandy McCutcheon's Australia Talks Back. Tune into ABC TV's 7.30 Report to see which cabinet minister Kerry O'Brien is interrupting. Check out how alienated George Negus is on SBS TV. Go to sleep listening to Phillip Adams' Late Night Live program. Dream of Gough Whitlam, Howard Dean, George Galloway. Wake up - read The Age.


I just want to say three things about this pile of garbage.

One: the working day I narrated last Thursday is by no means out of the ordinary. It's the norm. I work those hours every day, and so does everyone else I know, and the demands of keeping up with marking, preparation, admin and teaching, and research, leaves no time for reading the newspaper, browsing bookshops, discussing anything but work with colleagues, or, dare I say it, frigging around with material like Three Dollars or Two Brothers, neither of which I would ever, ever, ever consider teaching: I may be a Howard h8tr, but I still know the difference between good and bad art.

Two: I'm not paid enough to afford to buy three daily newspapers, a subscription to New Matilda, The Monthly, a couple of Quarterly Essay titles, DVD-buying etc etc. My discretionary budget runs to one sandwich and one cup of coffee per day. It's a trivial point perhaps but the portrait of the (brulee-chomping?) soy-latte-swilling lefty painted here is also the slyly constructed portrait of someone who's an addicted, indulgent consumer of media that does nothing but reinforce his or her own point of view, all lavishly funded by the taxpayer. A complete fantasy, and a complete fiction.

Three: One partial benefit from being seriously run off my feet is that I haven't actually suffered too much from having to partake of the current round of ten year anniversary paroxysms of delight. (I did enjoy the new and bitter twisted smirk sported by Peter Costello on the few occasions I've caught sight of him on the telly though.) The one bit of national political news that really penetrated my humanities department fog of late was the story about the settlement the Department of Immigration made last week with the child Shayan Badraie after he developed post-traumatic stress disorder while detained at Villawood. Australia, which I continue to hope can really be an honest, decent, kindly nation, utterly failed this child, and how many other vulnerable people besides? And it happened, and perhaps continues to happen, under Howard's leadership. Sorry, what is it we're meant to be celebrating again?

Radio National is nice and all, but I don't need no Sandy McCutcheon to provoke me into a frenzy of despair. I wish it were otherwise.

cross posted to Larvatus Prodeo

14 comments:

R H said...

I would never doubt your honesty Laura.

elsewhere said...

Hmmm, the last par does bear some resemblance to my day altho I only listen to Sandy McEscutcheon by default, usually.

I think he could have begun more appropriately with, 'Arise and write in your blog, then go to LP and see what's doing over there...'etc.

Galaxy said...

I find the constant bashing of humanities and arts academics in newspapers nothing short of tedious. I feel furious at the ignorance about the humanities academic's lot, working long hours and fighting for the existence of departments and courses on a daily basis, and then I just feel exhausted, because no cogent arguments that are ever published in reply are ever sincerely read or listened to.

I often wonder if the people writing these articles/opinion pieces are simply seeking revenge in the only way they know how for failing Media and Cultural Studies 101 when they were at university getting their journalism degrees. Just as they failed to engage with the concepts of discourse, ideology and hegemony then, they fail to engage with them now but with the extra dose of belligerence and self-righteousness that the power of having a column in a newspaper affords them. They have the perfect platform to maliciously undermine the very people who take as their subject of research the output of journalists and columnists who are influential beyond measure in shaping public opinion. The writers of these articles use their columns to circumvent any valid criticisms of their practices and prejudices and successfully avoid any responsibility, in their own minds, for the consequences of their ill-considered diatribes (public support for the erosion of Arts Faculties across this nation. Even the US still understands the value of a humanities education).

Just on the weekend in the Weekend Australian on page two I read about Paddy McGuinness's summation of ARC grant application proposals from the 'soft' sciences. Of course, from his viewpoint, apparently free of any ideological position or value system, the proposed queer and feminist research projects were 'rubbish'. I'm sure no white, heterosexual bloke has ever proposed anything 'rubbish' or 'wacky'; only good 'hard' research proposals that display 'common sense', oh, and bolster existing power relations.

David said...

Even if my life is much more arduous and much less smug than they imagine, if I annoy right-wing newspaper columnists like GH, PmCG, AB, Janet whatsername so outrageously by my mere existence then it makes it all a little more worthwhile. In the sense of satisfying, but also in the sense of valid.

Howard's 10th was truly revolting. But no-one's saying that people didn't vote for him. I still can't figure out a convincing (to myself) way of dealing with that. And the fact that I don't know anyone who voted for him (as far as I'm aware) only makes it harder.

R H said...

You'd be astonished who voted for him.
And disillusioned. No one is more jittery about interest rates than breakfast-cafe progressives. If they ever vote the way they claim to vote the ALP will get in on a landside.

genevieve said...

Hey rh, that sounds pretty good to me.
Come on Julia, come on.
It sounds like Henderson has definitely overstepped his mark - when I think of all the op pieces he has had published in the Age, this attack is quite astonishing really. More like a " I hate Melbourne" tirade in disguise.
Funny too, because someone else from the Institute of Public Affairs is about to get a gig writing regularly for the Age - so perhaps he has his nose out of joint or summat.

R H said...

That's it

I've done my job here.

Ben.H said...

I didn't bother reading this post, thanks to a startling moment of insight from Mark Davis (? I think) at a panel discussion, when he was asked to respond to something Henderson had written. Davis began to answer, then broke off, paused, and yelled "Who gives a shit what Gerard Henderson thinks about ANYTHING!?" Spontaneous applause.

kfuhbfit!

Lucy Tartan said...

Good Ben. I shouldn't have bothered writing it.

Though I love the idea of Hendo failing Cultural Studies 101.

'Fraid I listen to an awful lot of RN also, Elsewhere. Now the Michael Duffy factor probably contains something of a lesson for lefties in that he's apparently allowed to be as much of a reactionary as he wants in the interests of 'balance', but that's playing by rules that his pals Bolt & Blair etc regard with contemptuous amusement.

worldpeace_and_aspeedboat said...

ooooh... I must be a failed leftie. I can't afford the subs or have barely heard of a lot of the people in your post. shameful me... but lately I've sort of resorted to sticking my fingers in my ears and going 'blah blah blah' until the next election.

because clicking my heels and going 'there's no place like home' didn't work...

kate said...

I'm too busy applying for all the badly paid, casual or short-term contract work that has become the norm for humanities graduates, to respond to Henderson.

Did Henderson pay for his degree or did he get a Commonwealth Scholarship from Menzies?

underwhleming said...

There are many things that really shit me about his rant.
First and foremost is that bureaucrats have been left off the list of 'intelligensia'. I feel excluded.
The second one is that he thinks we are so obsessed with re-inforcement of our opinion.
The third is hypocisy: I think his 'day in the life' is over half of his fucking day.
I think he would spend half his day listening to, tut-tutting and smugly grinning as he hears/reads left commentary. The remainder of his day would be spent complaining about it to his ilk and in his ink.
He is a fucking biased employee at a 'think tank' for god's sake.

Susoz said...

Henderson obviously inhabits an extremely small world. And an entirely male one.
I'm a Howard hater and work in the 'real world', for a recently deceased commercial media magnate.

Sandy McCutcheon. said...

LOL... well I for one am to busy to listen to Australia Talks Back - Interesting blog.