28 November, 2013

The rules: Causing offence

Anyone who has spent more than a little time in online discussion will probably have come across this little nugget:
You don’t have the right to not be offended.
It’s true; you don’t.

Saying something that you know is going to upset people can be a powerful way of getting your point across and making people think.
It can be.

However, using the ‘you don’t have the right to not be offended’ argument is usually the last (if not the first) refuge of a jerk.

08 November, 2013

What's wrong with Christopher Pyne

I tried to just let this go and not go on a rant about it, but I can’t contain it.

The ABC’s Q and A programme ditched its tag line, “Experiments in Democracy” a long time ago and rightly so. Over the years, it has degenerated into a kind of pseudo-intellectual thunderdome, full of trivia, point scoring and gotcha moments. And every Tuesday morning, there must be a hundred ’blog posts along the lines of “Holy crap! Did you hear what _____ said on #QandA last night? Zomg, how stupid!”

Once in a while though, usually by accident, it does provide some insight, and we got it from a seemingly trivial question on last week’s edition.

An audience member asked the panel to mark the passing of Lou Reed by naming their favourite Lou Reed song. After a few panellists offered answers that were respectful and relevant, there came 90 cringe-inducing seconds which showed everything that’s wrong with Christopher Pyne.

It started when Judith Sloan outed him as having never heard of Lou Reed. There’s nothing wrong with never having heard of Lou Reed in and of itself. Pop culture questions are often used to try and catch politicians out and a smart person would just be honest about it. Not Christopher Pyne, though. That would be too simple and obvious for him.
First, he compounds his ignorance:
“No, that's not true. I had heard of Walk on the Wild Side. But I'm a ‘70s child. Lou Reed wasn't big in my era.”
Yes, he was, Chris. The 70s were the height of Lou Reed’s relevance.

Having been alerted to the existence of Lou Reed prior to the show (Yes folks, the topics are discussed before the show, sorry!), he could have at least borrowed someone’s smartphone to look up Wikipedia (a perfectly legitimate use of the resource). Instead, Christopher Pyne’s arrogance just assumed that if he wasn’t aware of Reed’s work, then he must be from a different era.

After being corrected by Ray Martin about which era Lou Reed was big in, Pyne immediately changed his story:
Yeah, well, I didn't like him. I didn’t listen to him. He wasn't playing where I was going.
How can you not like someone you weren’t even aware of? Now you’re just lying!
There’s nothing wrong with not liking Lou Reed. Even his biggest fans would have to admit he’s an acquired taste. There’s nothing wrong with not listening to him, but in the space of a sentence, Pyne tries to turn an accident of where he happened to be during the 1970s into a conscious choice. He’s flailing all over the place in an attempt to make himself look good when it doesn’t even matter.

He then kicks the smarm into overdrive with this, complete with “air quotes” for the man’s name:
“It’s such an ABC discussion to end with a discussion about Lou Reed.This, you know, heroin addict and transgressional. So ABC. Apparently we’re all - if we don't know who is Lou Reed is and love his music as a heroin addict and transgressional whatever apparently we’re not in the loop.”
Having made an utter fool of himself without any need to, Pyne now attempts to play the victim, framing the entire conversation as some kind of leftie elite attack on normal people like him.
But then…
“What about Dvorak or Tchaikovsky?”
Uh, oh! Chris blows his cover.

Now, I love a bit of Tchaikovsky when I’m in the mood and no-one who does should be mocked for it. However, the Liberal party spent three years pitching themselves at… well, I don’t like to say “bogans,” but, oops, I just did. And I daresay that Mr and Mrs Mortgage out there in the outer suburbs that the Liberal party considers its new base are far more likely to own Transformer than anything by any 19th century eastern Europeans. In fact, I’d go so far as to guess that the only Tchaikovsky that 90% of the denizens of the Liberals’ beloved Rooty Hill have ever heard would be a disco version of his 5th Symphony which was used as the theme to the Paul Hogan Show. That’s if they’re old enough.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with preferring Dvorak and Tchaikovsky to Lou Reed but it does make a bit of a mockery of the Liberals’ pose of standing up for ordinary Strayans against the interlektewal elites; the same kind of elites Pyne pretended to be attacked by in his previous sentence. Make your mind up!

While all this was going on, Wendy Harmer was being talked over by most of the men on the panel, which is par for the course for women on Q and A. When she finally managed to get a word in, she asked what Pyne’s ultimate 70s music would be. Joel Fitzgibbon suggested what everyone was probably thinking: that Pyne would be an ABBA fan. Bingo!
“ABBA dominated the ‘70s…There’s nothing wrong with ABBA.If you want people to dance at a wedding, play ABBA.
He’s right. There’s nothing wrong with ABBA. They were incredibly musical. However, it has to be admitted that part of ABBA’s brilliance was to make sophisticated pop music that was also very accessible to people with not much taste in music otherwise.

I will defer to a Coalition front-bencher’s greater knowledge of what gets people dancing at weddings.

It’s not as if Pyne was the only one on the panel who was unfamiliar with Reed’s work. When the question came to Fitzgibbon, he admitted his ignorance, made no excuses and moved on.
“Well, I’d love to claim to be too young, Tony. I can’t do that. It might be sacrilegious, I don’t have one [a favourite Lou Reed song] and it wouldn’t give much away because my wife always criticises me for not listening to the words.
How simple was that? No need to go carrying on like an over-the-top Chris Lilley character.

You don’t have to listen to Lou Reed, you don’t have to like him or have even heard of him, but if you can’t even express just a little bit of sadness that someone died who meant a lot to people, then you’re a bit of a dick.

Unintended consequences are a funny thing. Last week’s Q and A managed to show us everything about Christopher Pyne in microcosm: ignoramus, crybaby, elitist, buffoon, and in charge of the nation’s schools.
Good luck!

By the way, my favourite Lou Reed songs are Dirty Blvd and What’s Good.


02 November, 2013

Raising the stupidity ceiling

Any politician, economist or commentator who tells you that Australia needs to increase its credit limit in order to avoid a crisis like the one seen in the US last month is either stupid, or thinks you are.

I'll tell you why at AusOpinion.