Tarts, floozies and endless holes

At risk of piling on to an already quivering heap of sanctimony and outrage, there are some things that need to be said about last night’s Q&A.

First, the absence of serving politicians makes the show considerably more watchable. No one really wants to see Mark Dreyfus and Sophie Mirabella do their level best* to avoid hurling voluminous epithets at one another across the bench in between recited talking points.

The presence of smart, urbane people on the panel makes it immediately better. To paraphrase one of Mr Denmore‘s tweets that night, the show works best when it feels like you’re watching a particularly sprightly and animated dinner party, attended by witty, well informed people from various political stripes. Last night was close to that.

However (and you just knew the ‘however’ was coming), there was a great deal to be deeply worried about.

Barry Humphries may be a living treasure and all, but it’s probably past the decade when you can refer to someone’s skin colour being dark because he was ‘poorly lit’, and have that be the joke. Not the setup to some witty play on racial politics, but The Joke.

It’s probably past time that you can refer to a sex worker as a ‘tart’ purely because she’s a sex worker. In particular, coming from David Marr, it was deeply disappointing. Then, rounding on Gina Rinehart, calling her ‘fat and ugly’, and referring to her mine being and ‘endless hole’ (to the self-satisfied chortling of the audience) began to point to a ‘casual misogyny‘, which is far better covered in this piece by News With Nipples.

Worst of all, perhaps, was the open and willing hypocrisy of pretty much the entire panel when, after tearing into Gina Rinehart’s personal appearance because of her temerity to make money and speak out on mining taxes and carbon prices, they then rapidly sprung to the defence of Cate Blanchett and her right to speak out on carbon prices.

They were appalled – appalled – at the way Ms Blanchett was treated by the media when she poked her head up, seemingly unaware that they sat at a desk being beamed live across the country by the national broadcaster while calling Australia’s richest woman fat and ugly.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Rinehart fan, and I can’t stand her (and her ilk’s) effectiveness at dominating the national conversation on the Importance Of Mining To Australia. In fact, it was pretty depressing to see Tony Jones leap to Rinehart’s defence by trotting out the tired (and measurably wrong) line that she was an innovator and job creator whose industry single-handedly saved the Australian economy. The fact that one of the most august presenters on one of the most august programmes was buying into that particular piece of garbage justifies attacks on Rinehart’s bullshit advocacy for her own interests. But it doesn’t justify politically slanted misogyny.

Which raises the question why Jones saw fit to defend Rinehart’s economic importance, but not her simple human dignity? Why did he not quietly pull up Marr (who, I will give the benefit of the doubt and was simply on a bit of a verbal tear) when he started smearing a sex worker whose ACA interview had yet to air? Why did he not tell Ms Margolyes that calling a woman ‘fat and ugly’ is probably inappropriate on a high-minded national TV show (which raises the question of why he didn’t correct Germaine Greer for her ‘you’ve got a big arse, Julia’ crack a few months back)?

While it’s great to have entertainers, with their carefree willingness to be, you know, entertaining, on the show, the fact that they are less accountable than politicians means they are often less careful with their words. And that can lead to trouble.

The biggest problem behind all of this was the fact that those delivering on the hypocrisy and sexism were, by and large, hugely charming and funny, with impeccable comic timing. The old adage that you can get away with saying or doing anything if its funny tends to stand true. Last night’s panel was, by and large, stocked with professional entertainers, well-versed in the art of bringing the crowd along with them. And bring the crowd along they did, all the way to ‘Gina’s endless hole’. I’ll happily admit to catching myself chuckling at some of the gags before realising their substance.

Q&A is a hugely important part of Australia’s social, political and cultural scene, and the willingness of the producers to forgo the easy option of commissioning a shouting match between opposing politicians should be commended. But please, please, let’s just try to remember that if even a show like Q&A can’t keep its head out of the muck, what can we possibly expect from this?

*not very good

5 thoughts on “Tarts, floozies and endless holes

  1. So, do you want to say that Gina Rinehart is slim and gorgeous? Maybe ‘fat and ugly’ is factual not insulting?

    Well, of course she’s neither of those things, but aggressive ad hominem attacks against her are needless and hurtful. If she’s behaving in a way that deserves query and attack, then attack the behaviour, not the woman. Also, imagine how people would respond if people attacked a beloved celebrity with words like that. In fact, it’s the kind of language that Kyle Sandilands routinely is chastised for. Ed

  2. They’re entertainers! Not politicians. Why expect that no one’s feelings will be hurt? [sorry this is coming in single lines]
    Are you saying ABC programs should never hurt people’s feelings?

    Not saying that they don’t hurt people’s feelings, but the risk to their reputation and career is far less than to a politician. A politician accused of misogyny will be in the firing line for days, copping it from all sides, and has a direct opponent whose job is to make their lives miserable. An entertainer has to say something pretty awful to get the equivalent level of opprobrium. Ed

  3. A fine good morning Mr McSween, it seems once again our corners of the ether have crossed, and as always I have come away from it with your aerosol Id spattered across my chest and face in gelatinous pearly gobs. Hawt. It tastes starchy…
    but I digress…

    I have been following from a distance, being somewhat loath to shitpost all over your new blog like I did the old one. Fortunately a funny thing happened; I accidentally grew a whole bunch of cannabis. This being Adelaide and me being in possession of a couple of dozen seeds I had collected during my circumnavigatory tour of Australia by Commodore station wagon, I thought “I’ll just chuck ’em in some potting mix and see what happens.”

    To cut to the chase, somewhere in mid May I suddenly realised I had about a pound of dope and had been sitting on a dog bed in my shed mixing psytrance for an audience of Self for about a month. It occurred to me that I was clearly smoking faaar too much dope (I think my tongue is burnt), so I started eating it. Last weekend I was sitting on the dog bed chatting with Siva (Destroyer of Souls and Eater of Men – The Bhang is sacred to Siva) and He said to me “Soma will tell you when you have had enough Soma” and then in the middle of a job interview on Wednesday it occurred to me that I had completely forgotten how to be straight! Shit job anyway. Cool story huh?

    So I’ve had a couple of days off, and suddenly feel like writing again. “First it giveth… ” eh?

    Seem to have digressed again.

    I really don’t watch much TV these days, what with the psytrance, the cannabis and the CoD and all, but I used to love monday night’s ABC. I really got the shits recently with QandA – firstly for giving oxygen to Geo. Pell and then the “Change your mind” bollox, my domestic serenity was severely disrupted by my constant bellowing “What the FUCK is this anti-intellectual bullshit doing on the ABC?”

    The question remains unanswered and my psychologist gave me some breathing exercises, so I’ve calmed down a bit, but your critique of this week’s proceedings (which I didn’t watch , being preoccupied with collecting XP off foul mouthed teens after I prestiged last weekend) has again knocked the scab off it.

    All this began with Crownies. I didn’t watch the show, of course, but the promo’s alone looked seriously out of place in Auntie’s house and set off a fresh wave of bellowing in mine. This on the heels of the low fruit professional controversialism of Bolt on Insiders, it was clear that the ABC was sniffing around some pretty odiferous new directions.

    Clearly all this has little to do with the essential thrust of your latest entry.

    But by mentioning Bolt I get to segue slightly into something germane to some of your other more recent posts (which I now remember was the point of the cannabis/dog bed story: to say that I wanted to comment on some of your other posts here as a sort of Meta Comment, having been too stoned to do so at the time they were written.) To wit:Robert Manne’s Blog on Lord Monckton and the future of australian media. (http://www.themonthly.com.au/blog-lord-monckton-and-future-australian-media-robert-manne-4575 ) fascinating stuff. How cool is Robert Manne? I’m hiding behind a Murdoch blocker so I have no idea what Bolt is up to these days, but She of the Inherited Holes and Cross Media Acquisitions is sure to shed the pounds as she keeps dancing to this little tune. Looking forward to the worst election coverage evAr!

    Speaking of which, the Adelaide Advertiser isn’t even waiting for the election – editorialising a couple of fridays ago about the pressing need for IR reform and including a two page spread replete with colour graphs no doubt detailing the massive economic benefits which will flow from training 12 year olds to operate Haulpaks in open cut pits for Twenty Bucks an hour (demonstrating future generations benefiting from the Resources Boom and giving weight to the argument for decreasing mandatory super back to 3% as the full “trickle down” comes into effect over the next half century) I feel a very strong compulsion to explain how I came to be reading the Adelaide Advertiser, but shall say simply that I was lighting a fire with it for the sake of brevity.

    I mentioned something to you about “dumbing down” recently and you replied “… people by and large aren’t dumb, they’re disinterested and disengaged, which frankly they’re entitled to be.” with which I agree, only to add that they are deliberately disinterested and disengaged. Indebted as I am to the views of Manne (His Quarterly Essay “Bad News” and Naomi Oreskes (“Merchants of Doubt” http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v465/n7299/full/465686a.html), your own blogs frequently highlight the fact. For example your “science fatigue” – deliberate obfuscation, by whatever quarters, leading to a “debate” which becomes tiresome to the public, who go back to the kardashians (who are being dished up by the same *corp. who brought you the “debate”). “Politics is booooring!”, “They’re all the Same”, “So called ‘experts'”, “Rool Life!”

    “Anti-Intellectualism is the bludgeoning device deployed against the Nerds of the world.” McSween et al, Hachette Australia. 2010. p191 (paraphrased).
    I would contend that a deliberately fostered climate of anti intellectualism enables Tony Abbott to be Prime Minister Elect on a platform of Luddite Chanting and fuck all else. If the electorate were engaged at anything even remotely like the level of QandA debate, Abbott would have been laughed out of town. But no one is watching QandA ‘cos it’s booooring! I can’t find the figures but I bet ACA/TT kills QandA. I know “dancing with the stars smashed “Go Back…” Most of what have become the major political issues in this country are easily understood and rationalised with the most cursory examination of the relevant evidence, consider our refugee “debate”, apparently millions of australians believe there are hordes of dusky foreigners climbing over each other to invade our sparsely populated north western regions by decrepit fishing boat. The actual facts and figures of the matter, despite being oft quoted in respectabled and reasoned forae remained elusive to these deluded millions as ACA/TT continued to deliberately obfuscate, misconstrue and fear monger the whole business. This is no accident. I know it’s about creating advertising space, but there’s something else underneath that. Your book (op. cit) describes (people) as “pavlovian” So who is it who wants the conditioned response of ignorance and fear so well exercised? Consider again Monckton’s call for “Fox News style” media in this country.
    What value is a well informed and educated body politic outside of a lecture hall?

    In fact I shall say that anti-intellectualism is the current coalition policy.

    Vale TBL. The conversation begun by your redefining of the term made a substantial and worthy ripple in our cultural consciousness which I hope endures.

    TL;DR. Just kidding, welcome aboard! Thanks for the kind words re: TBL. I’m not sure if it’s actually dead, it’s just taking a long nap. Most of our number are gallivanting in countries as dispersed as Thailand, Austria, Ghana and Brunswick, and we reached a point where even when there was a new idea for a post, it would basically be rehashing old arguments. That said, we still have a publisher, and a need to write things, so who knows?

    As for your points on anti-intellectualism, they’re well made and taken. Although I’m always loathe to make declinist arguments on such matters. Every time someone says “it’s worse than evah!”, you’ll find an article from the Melbourne Argus in 1922 saying exactly the same thing, but with nicer words. It has ever been thus. The important thing is to figure out ways to deliver smart arguments to the masses, and I think THAT is what our current politicians are struggling with. New media is making this communication very hard indeed, and it’s much easier in opposition to simply shout everything down. That translates very well to new media. Anyway, I hold out hope that there will be an inevitable backlash against how terrible things are, and we just need to remain vigilant. Ed

    • I wanted tl;dr as a gravatar but they didn’t like the semi-colon. clearly this detox is taking longer than I initially estimated.

      your points are well taken, which is, of course, why i’m getting all fanboi on yoself.

      I wonder sometimes if I’m just maturing out of pop culture (it seems unlikely). were paul hogan and benny hill better than charlie sheen? was Hey Hey < Dancing? is Stussy cooler than Element? Questions for the ages. I do recall reading that Top Hats caused considerable public outrage on debut… Your reminder is balm.
      and neighbours < jihad. probably.

      Funny huh? New Media means greater engagement for half the population and deeper bullshit and circus for the other half.

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