Friday, November 18, 2011

Silence on Peter Roebuck reminiscent of Hey Dad! scandal

The scandalous Andrew Landeryou is wasting no time in getting stuck into the ABC and Fairfax over the life and crimes of Peter Roebuck. He says management must have known about the commentator's creepy and destructive behaviour for a long time yet they did nothing about it.

Landeryou is well known for, er, going in hard on issues. Pointing the finger at Roebuck's employers, he says

The public ought expect that they hold to the same standards they demand of others in this situation, that they conduct an urgent inquiry into the extent of their employee’s wrongdoing and immediately offer help, compassion and compensation to victims of Peter Roebuck’s sexual and physical attacks and while they’re at it offer a belated apology and end to the stonewalling that has so far characterised their shameful behaviour.

Maybe things aren't as cut and dried as he makes out. Still, I think he's got a point.

And the sad, sordid situation reminds me of another high profile media scandal. This one involved actor Robert Hughes of Hey Dad! fame. Last year Sarah Monahan, who played the daughter Jenny in the hugely popular eighties sitcom, claimed that Hughes molested her. Similar allegations were made by others, and actor Ben Oxenbould claimed he witnessed a disturbing incident that he reported to the show's executive producer. Yet at the time nothing was done about it.

To my knowledge the story hasn't gone much further than that. It's still at the "he said, they said" stage, and may well be the last we've heard of it. Since the issue hasn't gone to trial Hughes is entitled to a presumption of innocence, of course.

Still, if the accusations are dinkum, many powerful people who knew of them must have turned a blind eye. That's unedifying, to say the least. 

And I am certain there are a helluva lot of powerful who did know about these claims. That's because when I was a lowly actor and comic in Melbourne in the early nineties I heard such rumours myself!

I didn't believe them, though. I thought the whole story was a sick joke; just the kind of baseless suttlebutt that would arise from a petty, bitchy culture like Melbourne's performing arts scene.

But as we've now learned they may well have been true after all. The lack of any serious investigation into the claims at the time says a lot about arts world culture, none of it good.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Peter Roebuck the latest "tortured artist" to die tragically

I haven't the slightest interest in cricket so I know very little about Peter Roebuck. To be honest, I had never even read any of his columns. (I had heard of him, though, and had a vague idea that he was respected, eccentric and florid.)

Maybe Roebuck was a flawed genius, as so many people have been saying. But frankly I think that all this fruity eulogizing is just another example of the tortured artist myth, this time applied to sport. Ian Fuge called him "the bard of summer" of all things. And have a read of this turgid piece of purple prose from Greg Baum:

He was social in cricket hours, solitary out of them. When the cricket caravaners headed out at night, mostly he would go to a cafe by himself, sit in a corner and read a book. He had the Pimpernel's ability to absent himself from a party suddenly without anyone seeing him leave.

He was a loyal friend who felt the pain of others as acutely as only the highly intelligent do. But he did not express empathy easily. He was flawed; of course he was. He fought to reconcile himself to his flaws, and it was the central drama of his life. He was tormented as only genius can be. The circumstances of his death attest to it.

Sorry, but that's just silly. The bloke was a misfit who wrote insightfully about cricket. End of story.

What's alarming about that piece (and many others singing Roebuck's praises) is that it airbrushes over the bloke's obvious dark side. While it remains to be seen whether the specific allegations that led to his death were true, there's no denying he had form on this kind of behaviour. In 1999 he pled guilty to 3 charges of common assault.

I suspect that the creepy reverence the bloke is now getting is not just to do with his career as a commentator. It's also due in part to his achievements as a champion cricket player in his youth. 

It all makes sense. Sport -- like singing, acting and other performing arts -- is entertainment, after all. So if you can give the audience a thrill with your deft skill with bat and ball they'll forgive you for a hell of a lot -- and for a very long time as well. 

Not only that; they'll even go out of their way to link -- and even attribute -- your sporting prowess to the violence in your soul. It's a very neat form of self-deception, actually. It enables the fan to maintain his admiration for someone who often doesn't deserve it.

Hell, there are lots of brilliant sportsmen who would never beat a teenager with a cane, and many excellent commentators who would never throw themselves out of a window if the going got tough. That's more than sufficient proof of the falsity of this tortured (sporting) artist myth, isn't it?

Or am I being too harsh? I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Hamster Wheel's relentless, laugh-killing, left-wing bias

Watched The Hamster Wheel again last night. I have watched it this week and last because I want to work out exactly why the Chaser team's work is so consistently awful. They just seem to have a reverse Midas touch when it comes to comedy.

I can sit there watching their sketches and not crack a chuckle for ten minutes flat. As I wrote before the political subtext is not the sole cause for the show's lameness. Still, its relentless, right-on bias is a big part of what makes it so cringeworthy. (There are other, er, qualities contributing to this effect. But I'll just write about the ideological subtext for now.)

Predictably, they go in hard and nasty at the commercial media, but avoid mocking the ABC. And if they do include the national broadcaster as a subject in sketches, it's all really chummy and self-referential. For example last night they had a tragically unfunny segment utilizing some of Australia's most well known TV journos who were past or present employees of the ABC. It was uni review level bathos that had them all gushing about the classic work on the Zoot Review.

So even when they're trying to be balanced the Chaser boys reveal their prejudice. Take last week's episode in which they did a skit about the absurdly high number of terribly bad things that can be caused by climate change. It fell short of questioning the warmist dogma of course -- that would have been a big no-no. It was more of a jibe at media sensationalism. But even that missed its mark because the hacks who've been splashing these terrifying prognostications across the font pages have been citing scientists -- many of whom have clearly been playing politics themselves while purporting to remain objective.

As well as missing the real target the sketch was several years out of date. I can recall bloggers remarking on the sheer number of catastrophic consequences linked to climate change from about the middle of last decade. (Here's one such list. Clearly, the project has been going for quite some time.)

Another example from last night: The Hamster Wheel had a sketch about News Ltd's sledging of the Greens, as if the party were a bunch of cute wittle pixies who were being outrageously monstered by the "hate media". Bob Brown himself could have written it.

Again, they tried to show "balance". Also in the show was a piss-take of Robert Manne's domination of The Monthly. But this just mocked Manne's obvious pomposity. There was no condemnation of the nanny-statist perspective that pervades the magazine itself.

Actually, I don't know why they bother with these feeble attempts at fairness. But they've been trying it on for years. (The title of the Chaser team's old show comes to mind here -- it was not a "war on everything", just some things.)

If they just ditched this pretence then they'd still be about as funny as cot death. But at least they'd be genuine. And you'd have to give them a few cool points for that.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Charlie Hebdo firebombing and left-wing satire

Clearly things are coming to a head in France when it comes to Muslim immigration. Not only has the government decided to ban the burqa, but some crazed fundamentalists have just firebombed the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo for mocking the Prophet.

Of course we shouldn't be surprised at the reaction. Only a few years ago half the Muslim world was in uproar and many people died because of a few crappy cartoons. But what's interesting is that Charlie Hebdo is actually a left-wing newspaper. Surely that's a sign of just how fractured things are over there.

Here's a pithy description of the paper's underlying attitude from the Beeb:

The tradition combines left-wing radicalism with a provocative scurrility that often borders on the obscene.

That's a pretty good description of a lot of Australian satire, too. But I suspect that the French version is also often witty and funny -- two qualities that most such Aussie mockery lacks.

That begs the question: If lefties are openly mocking Islam in Europe, do you think it will start here? Can you imagine the Chaser boys taking the piss out of the Prophet?

Somehow I can't see it happening. It's about as likely as them doing a sketch about Julia Gillard and her former lover.

And just on that issue of provocation, and how different cultures react to it: Interesting that a few jokes can anger Islamists to the point where they're burning stuff down. Yet the mostly left-wing Occupy movement has to work really, really hard for weeks on end on a global scale to annoy democratically elected Western governments into reacting to it.

And what do these states do? Well, they basically just shift the human flotsam that has been clogging -- and stinking -- up the city centres. No firebombings there, as far as I can tell ...

Yet those same lefties are convinced that this Western social system is more destructive and unjust than the Islamist one. You'd think their tiny minds would just explode with the force of such obvious nonsense.

But nup. Doesn't seem to bother them at all. Somehow they manage never to think long and hard enough about the issue to see the idiocy of their position.

While I find their determination to deny the bleeding obvious depressing, I do have to admit to being kind of impressed by the intensity of it all the same. I mean, hell, it must take so much energy.

Hmm. Maybe that's why they're so damn shiftless and lazy?