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ABC deserves Switzer’s critique … only just

When Tom Switzer has something to say, he deserves to be read with a healthy dose of skepticism.  No Left ideologue could have invented a more stereotypical reactionary: Sydney’s North Shore; private school; Sydney University; conservative think tanks; climate change denier; and obligatory ‘other side’ presenter for the ABC radio’s Between the Lines.

Switzer, like many others, claims to be a conservative when really he is a reactionary.  The difference seems to be lost in uncritical repetition of self-representations.  It has never been conservative tradition to oppose progressive reforms, including welfare measures.  Traditional conservatism merely opposes revolutionary change, seen as too rapid to gauge harmful impacts on established institutions and practices.  That is, today, much more nearly the ideological position of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) than of the Coalition–the peculiar post-war alliance between the horribly misnamed Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia.

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Joyce: hypocrisy unbound

Barnaby Joyce can’t help himself: in his own words he convicts himself as an adulterer, liar, and hypocrite.  And still he has the nerve to ask people to ignore this chain of serious failings, and to continue to entrust him with the second-highest public service office in the country.

It is timely to remind all politicians that they are public servants, not divine right princes and princesses.  They have a duty to the nation, not merely to party politics and their own bank accounts.  They should be held to higher standards than Wayne and Cheryl Citizen.

Joyce is either an incredibly simple-minded man who believes his own lies, or he thinks of the public as simple-minded and gullible.  The third option is that he’s following a strategy of deceit designed by his co-conspirator in this matter: Vikki Campion.  She is trained in this sort of propagandizing, and she is certainly the only real friend Joyce has at the moment.

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Jane Austen: petulance and partisanship

Jane Austen

The flash of ‘to the barricades’ anger I encountered recently, when I casually disparaged Jane Austen’s work as not great literature, in what I thought was not that serious a conversation, made me re-examine how I came to make my remark, and why the anger I encountered knocked me back on my cognitive haunches.

It is true that another impetus for delving into this subject is my recent preoccupation with literary critique more generally, but my focus here is Austen, my prejudices about her writing, and how they clash with orthodox views.

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Perfidia (2014)

Perfidia book cover

As with all of James Ellroy’s fiction since the 1990s, I am infatuated with the book.  With the prose and the characters.  Unlike Ellroy’s previous fiction, this one exposes something new, hinting at something that was never Ellroy before.  Or maybe it is a change in my perceptions, seeing something that isn’t there, or was always there.

What I think connects me with Ellroy’s fiction most of all is an old-fashioned idea of passion.  The kind that drives courtship and romance, but also anger and violence.  It is the id unleashed to dramatic effect, where the base expectation is of chaste and civilised containment in an orderly, ordered society.  Writing for The Telegraph, Chris Harvey relayed some of Ellroy’s thoughts on this powerful driver of life and dramatic tension:
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Ellroy bleeds for Hopkins

Book covers

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

– apocryphal, Ernest Hemingway

 

The Lloyd Hopkins trilogy is not Lee Earle ‘James’ Ellroy’s first work, nor his best.  But I can see that he sat his typewriter and bled to produce it.  Perhaps he just didn’t bleed quite enough.  It seems that Hopkins is Ellroy’s fictional alter ego: tall, energetic, nervy, intuitive.  A genius cop who breaks all the rules.  A womaniser who ruins his marriage that way.  A dark past that hovers over him.

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Mark Felt: extended metaphor

Mark Felt poster

Peter Landesman’s film Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (2017) annoyed the hell out of me.  So much that I felt compelled to isolate the elements that motivated my displeasure.  And whether these were of my own confection.  Or whether they lay in the structure and content of the film.  After being annoyed long enough, I concluded the film is likely to become more significant as time passes.  With hindsight.  With the Trump administration in the rear-view.

My mistake, at first instance, had been to expect a story about Watergate.  Or Nixon’s FBI.  Or a G-Man.

That’s what Landesman’s script led me to believe.  On the surface.  Because I fell into the trap of an idiotic literalism in my interpretation.  A literalism of the kind I despise in the last two generations.

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Censorship in the most censorious age

This essay is a reply to a comment by Michael H on an editorial I wrote in August about the Electronic Frontiers Foundation and the Tor Project defending the right for the American neo-Nazi online Daily Stormer to be granted hosting and DNS propagation.  It started as a reply to the reply, but grew longer than expected, and is therefore presented as an essay in its own right.

Fifteen, twenty years ago I would probably have agreed with all of Michael H’s points.  What happened since then included the personal experience of watching Western centre-left parties become conservative, and conservatives become openly, unashamedly corrupt lackeys of short-sighted plutocrats.  Short-sighted because they act nihilistically to destroy a consumer base they need to sustain their own profitability over the longer term, and to maintain stable societies in which consumption, not civil strife, is the leitmotif.

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Media more shallow than politicians

Only today I yet again had cause to link political decline to simpleton journalists.

This time the obvious candidate is the ABC’s Queensland commentator, Chris O’Brien, turning out two stories that are so shot through with ignorance, and an absence of a single clear thought, the ABC should feel cheated to have paid O’Brien this week.

Chris O'Brien
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THE VIETNAM WAR (2017) part 1 of 4

Notes on the overpowering documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

On Patrol

CONTENTS PART ONE: APERÇU | DIRECTORY | GESTALT: PROPAGANDA | GESTALT WELTANSCHAUUNG | GESTALT: EXCEPTIONALISM | GESTALT: CIVIL WAR
CONTENTS PART TWO: GESTALT: AUDIENCE | GESTALT: MULTIPLICITY | GESTALT: COMPARISONS | DIFFERENCES: TIẾNG VIỆT | DIFFERENCES: WOMEN | DIFFERENCES: CONFESSIONS
CONTENTS PART THREE: DIFFERENCES: BARBARITY | SPELLBOUND: FERRIZZI | SPELLBOUND: BEATLES | UNRESOLVED: McNAMARA | UNRESOLVED: KISSINGER | FRAMEWORK: SUBJECTIVITY | FRAMEWORK: MYTHIFICATION | DISPATCHES: BEZOS
CONTENTS PART FOUR: DISPATCHES: PARTISANS | VERDICT: CHỢ ĐEN | VERDICT: ABSOLUTION | VERDICT: ALIENS | VERDICT: VALEDICTION | SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

APERÇU

Nothing compares to this film in terms of that daily sense of obligation, of responsibility, coupled with the possibility for art and expression.

Ken Burns.

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