Tag Archives: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Kitchen Cabinet’s empty.

25 Mar

I’ve only watched one and a half episodes of the ABC TV series Kitchen Cabinet, a program in which the public broadcaster’s chief online political writer Annabel Crabb, “cleverly uses food as a vehicle to humanise her interview subjects.”

I’ve never doubted that politicians are human. No other species so vilely manipulates its fellows in the blind pursuit of power.  Watching them eat, drink, and pretend they’re revealing their real selves does nothing to “humanise” them for me, given that “humanise” means to make more humane, humane being a state characterized by “tenderness, compassion, sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering or distressed.” Of course no politician is entirely bereft of all of these qualities, and some have many, and even Hitler loved his dog and Eva Braun.

But the bottom line with all politicians is winning government, and it’s the rare specimen indeed that will put humanity before that goal. In this they remind me of the religious right who put God before humanity, in fact between politicians and fundamentalist religions humanity doesn’t stand much of a chance.

Aside: I refer to Hitler only as an extreme example of how even our most monstrous monsters have tender moments, not to imply there is any resemblance with any of our politicians because clearly there isn’t. I shouldn’t have to say this, but people sue for less.

The idea that a sanitised dinner party with media savvy politicians recorded for public consumption by four cameras is going to humanise anybody, suggests that the ABC thinks we’re brain-dead suckers, unable to tell reality shows from reality.

Plus, it  sounds rather too much like Auntie has ventured into offering free public relations services  for select pollies, who must have been beside themselves with delight at being offered the opportunity to put on their human masks and spin themselves silly, all for free.

That this carnival was created and facilitated by the chief online political reporter causes my stomach to lurch. I have nothing against Ms Crabb and I want her frocks, but there is something viscerally awry with this combination. I do not want to see my public broadcaster’s chief online political reporter engaged in intimate food and wine consumption with my politicians. I just don’t. I want boundaries. I do not like this blatant fraternising.

I would like to believe that the ABC is on my side, that is, an independent, unbiased as possible link between me and the politicians. When the chips are down, I want an ABC that will ask the hard questions without fear or favour, because its journalists are working in the public interest, not those of the politicians. I want the ABC to intercede for humanity. What else is a public broadcaster good for?

Instead, we have an ABC that aligns itself with the pollies, creating a dyad that excludes the public. Occasionally we are invited in to vicariously experience the lifestyles enjoyed by both, rather like a virtual tour round the palace, afternoon tea with the Queen chucked in to keep us slavering and curious in a Jerry Springer kind of way, about what we can never be part of. It is an us and them situation.

Considering that the public pay for both the broadcaster and the pollies, this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs.

What will humanise politicians in my eyes is when they treat asylum seekers with respect and decency. When they just get on with legalising same-sex marriage. When they turn their attention to the homeless, especially children, most of whom will never get to eat watercress soup and Persian love cake washed down with a nice red. In short, when politicians stop making everything a political power struggle and put humanity first, then I’ll think of them as humanised.

As Immanuel Kant put it ” all politics must bend its knee before human rights, and only in this fashion may politics ever aspire to reach the stage where it will illuminate humanity.”

I’m sorry to say this series has done it for me. Ms Crabb has no credibility as a chief political journalist left, as far as I’m concerned. That is not to say she didn’t succeed as the anchor for the series. I think she did it very well. However, I am left with the image of Ms Crabb in far too cosy culinary congress with the pollies, and this image will, I fear, override all others.

That the ABC should produce a series such as Kitchen Cabinet indicates that the grumblings and protestations about Auntie are firmly based in reality. Just last week a website was set up to accommodate complaints of bias that have been doing the rounds on blogs and Twitter for some time now. Kitchen Cabinet has convinced me like nothing else has thus far, that there is a great need for a coordinated public protest against the increasing alignment of some ABC journalists with politicians, an alignment that excludes the interests of the public who pay both their wages. This time, I think, the ABC has gone too far.

Leaky boats and marshmallow pies

10 Jul

Johnny in the sky with rainbows

It was with a sense of “did this really happen” that I watched Leaky Boat on ABC TV on July 7. On ABCTV blog you’ll find a timeline of the events of 2001 from the “Tampa” to the “Children Overboard” affairs covered by this documentary, in case you’ve been on Mars for the last ten years, or overseas where they don’t have meltdowns over a few asylum seekers like we do.

Immediately following the doco there was a Q&A “leaky boat” special, with the usual suspects holding their usual positions. Because I’m bored witless by listening to the same old same old from absolutely everybody on this topic, I decided to pretend I was an intergalactic traveller who’d fetched up in Australia just in time to watch these programs. Of course I had an intergalactic knowingness that allowed me to immediately cotton on to what most of it was about. When I got bogged down, I asked the dog. If he told me without detectable bias I let him lie in front of the fire.

My task was to objectively observe the human talking heads and because I was extra terrestrial, I had no difficulty at all being objective.

I tuned in to everybody’s vibes before I tuned into their words. I have to say straight up that I didn’t take to anybody on an energy level. My antennae (disguised so no human could see them) vibrated something shocking when they picked up the mutual animosity, ill will, one-upmanship and totally negative emotion fairly radiating through the television screen. I found it intensely upsetting to be in the presence of such bad feeling, especially when Raye Coleby (of SBS Go Back to Where you Came From fame) started in on a couple of re-settled Muslim refugees about how they didn’t deserve to be safe in Australia because thousands upon thousands of other asylum seekers are trapped in hellish camps, especially in Africa, without the financial means some lucky Muslims have to get themselves out.

Apparently, the dog explained when I murmured a question into his silky ear, this argument is what’s known as the queue question, and the boat arrivals keep jumping it which everybody knows is bloody bad manners and apparently not a good start in a country where good manners are more important than anything else at all. (Really? Is that really true? Is the dog dissing me?)

The fact that a queue is also a Chinese pigtail is of absolutely no relevance here at all, the dog said when I asked.

Wait a minute, I thought, as I watched Coleby become more and more emotional over her Africans, and more and more aggressive towards the Muslims around her.  There’s no queue to get into Australia, not as we understand queues where I come from. A queue that isn’t a Chinese pigtail is when everybody lines up in an orderly fashion to get something somebody else is distributing. That never happens in refugee camps in Africa or anywhere else. People make an application, Australia chooses who it wants. That’s not a queue it’s a lottery. Doesn’t matter how well mannered you are in a lottery.

So what’s Coleby on about?

Then the dog showed me how to send a tweet. My tweet said: “Is that the “real” Scott Morrison?”  because I thought he might be an extra terrestrial like me, standing in for a human. Well, not like me because I come from a peaceful people and he got right in David Marr’s personal space and embarked on an offensive interrogatory attack that a lesser man than Marr might have clocked him for.

Why nobody threw their shoes at Scott is a mystery to me.

My tweet didn’t appear on the screen and for that I blame the dog who should have told me to say something more intelligent like the other tweeters did.

I have since checked my Twitter account and found that I have ten followers, including one who wrote about me in my human form: “She is a woman of strong opinions with a sparse Twitter following.” The dog just shrugged about that. It’s my own fault, he gave me to understand. You have to nurture your Twitter account, feed it, give it time and attention: it doesn’t just happen all by itself.

But I digress. From my lofty alien perspective I find the public arguments over boat arrivals have become so predictable as to be meaningless. I know exactly who is going to say what, and the tone in which they will say it. It’s like saying a word, any word, over and over again to yourself until it becomes incomprehensible. Both sides of the debate carry great burdens of animosity towards one another. Emotions are high, indeed the entire debate has been so appropriated by high emotion that there’s hardly anything else left in it. Anybody who tries to be rational and reasonable is outside of the parameters and won’t get a look in.

I don’t know what can be done about this, because  from the galactic perspective it looks like it’s becoming a kind of mutual masturbatory opportunity for sado-masochists to hurl and receive nasties, and is achieving nothing at all for people who arrive by boat.

It is, however, a sign of our extraordinary privilege that we can expend so much emotion abusing one another about a situation that is not likely to affect any of us. Who in the ABC’s audience at home and in the studio is likely to suffer even a smidgin of disadvantage from a few thousand boat arrivals being re-settled in this country?

Personally, being an intrepid cosmic traveller, I’m always interested to hear another traveller’s tales. I don’t get nearly as bored watching refugees tell their stories as I’m starting to get watching talking heads of all persuasions talking about refugee’s stories. I realise there’s a whole pro and anti boat people industry out there and my perspective will not be popular but I don’t care. I found Leaky Boat fascinating. It was good to see Arne Rinnan again. I found Go Back to Where you Came From fascinating because it humanized everybody involved.

But the talking heads, whether I agree with them or not, I’m over them. Let the people speak. Then I’ll hear.

Picture yourself in a boat on a river, the dog whispered in the firelight, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies…

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore, waiting to take you away,

Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and you’re gone…

That dog. He’s a bloody poet.

Really though, in all honesty I have to admit that when I’m back on earth in my usual form, minus antennae and universal perspective, I will probably just get stuck back into the brawl like I always have. I will jeer and sneer and give the finger with the best of them. I will gasp in outraged horror at something else Scott Morrison says, and I will continue to berate the Gillard government for it’s moral decline into unspeakably horrible plans to transport everybody to Malaysia where they may well be caned without first being stunned.

And why? Because I have to. Because even when it gets tiring and bogged down and you think it’s going nowhere you can’t stop. Because people who arrive in boats are my fellow humans and from that comes everything else, and when I can’t remember that any longer, I might as well sew up my lips,stuff up my ears, and close my kaleidescope eyes.

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