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In dogged pursuit of a mongrel act

<i>Illustration: Glen Le Lievre.</i>

Illustration: Glen Le Lievre.

The Tories and their army of media toadies wage their war on the ABC with increasing fury, sniping here, a charge from the big battalions there.

Whimpering in the trenches is one Chris Kenny, once a factotum to Lord Downer at the peak of his global glory, now a minor columnist for The Australian and a hugely unwatched talking head for Sky News. As he tells anyone who'll listen, he is much insulted by a Chaser comedy sketch on ABC TV last September which showed him Photo-shopped, pants down, apparently in carnal congress with a canine.

The party line pumped out from the News Corpse fortress in Surry Hills is that "the highly respected" Kenny would have settled for a simple apology. But the Green-Left ideologues at the ABC arrogantly spurned his approaches, forcing him to sue for defamation.

This is economical with the truth. I have it on good authority that a month ago Kenny's lawyers fired off a letter to the ABC – without prejudice, blah blah – demanding:

1) $95,000 in cash.

2) A formal apology acknowledging that Kenny's contribution to public debate has always been "fair, reasonable and rational".

3) That apology to be broadcast in prime time, 9.30pm on a Monday evening after Media Watch and before Q&A.

I fall about laughing as I write this. Naturally the ABC knocked it back. No media organisation – including News Corpse itself – would have rolled over for that little doozie. You would have every aggrieved nutter in Christendom hammering on the door, rendering satire or comedy shows impossible.

Kenny's behaviour is pathetic. There is an ancient convention that if you have your own media outlet, you don't sue. You are able to hit back. But this is typical of the ratbag right, which dishes it out but can't take it. Clamouring for attention, he bathes in the warm glow of wounded amour propre.

With powerful friends on side, including the Prime Minister. Barging into the case in his oafish way, Abbott announced on commercial radio that the ABC was "defending the indefensible," and threatened that "next time the ABC comes to the government looking for more money, this is the kind of thing that we would want to ask them questions about". Disgraceful.

Queensland's finest legal mind, the saponaceous George Brandis, is also up in arms. As federal Attorney-General, he is outraged by the ABC's mockery of Kenny. But, perversely, he remains bent on removing section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, thus clearing the way for Melbourne's village idiot, Andrew Bolt, to resume his racist sneering at indigenous Australians. So it's OK to rubbish black academics but not Murdoch hacks.

It was hilarious watching Soapy bluster his way around this daft contradiction on Q&A last Monday. Seated next to the fragrant Lisa Wilkinson, squat and unblinking, he looked like a cane toad in a rose garden. No doubt he would defend to the death my right to say this.

****

 

The dazzling panoply of American right-wing idiocy has been on display at the Conservative Political Action Conference in the US, an annual event known as CPAC.

Held this year at the deliciously named Gaylord Resort on the banks of the Potomac River in Maryland, CPAC 2014 attracted political fruitcakes from sea to shining sea. The Senate Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, took to the stage brandishing a rifle, an act that would have seen him locked away for psychiatric treatment in most Western democracies.

To a horrified silence, Wayne LaPierre, boss of the National Rifle Association, warned that "there are terrorists and there are home invaders, drug cartels, car-jackers, knockout-gamers, and rapers and haters and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all".

Fortunately, he had the answer. "There is no greater freedom than to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want," he quavered.

It was Sarah Palin who stole the show with her closing speech. The former vice-presidential hopeful and darling of the Tea Party laid them in the aisles with a long rant about President Barack Obama's foreign policy failings.

Russia and Ukraine were particularly worrying for her. As she once famously said, she knows a lot about Russia because it's quite close to her home state of Alaska. It turns out that Obama, weak and indecisive, is just pussy-footing around with that Vladimir Putin.

"Mr President!" she screeched. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke."

Great idea. Reduce the Kremlin to glowing ash. Should fix everything.

****


Like so many of my fellow artistes, I have been agonising all week about whether to withdraw my contribution to this year's Sydney Biennale.

The angst amongst us has been palpable as we contemplate collective action to protest at the capitalist oppression of the multimillionaire Belgiorno-Nettis family. My partner and muse, the mime and performance sculptor Alphonse Nguyen, has been so traumatised he has been unable to swallow so much as a mung bean or glass of absinthe since Monday, poor dear.

But after much thought, we have decided to go ahead. Alphonse and I agree it would be selfish to deprive the Sydney cognoscenti of our talents. As planned, he will be at the Wynyard bus terminal, clad from neck to knee in plastic shopping bags and miming Sylvia Plath's haunting poem, Thalidomide, while erecting his tableaux vivant of decapitated chickens and blood-stained Woolworths supermarket trolleys. A must-see.

My own oeuvre is a little more commedia dell'arte, perhaps. I will be strolling masked but otherwise naked through Martin Place at lunchtime, with a trumpet up my arse playing Joseph Haydn's very challenging Concerto per il Clarino in E flat Major.

But with a difference. In solidarity with the downtrodden masses, I shall pause at the Pitt Street intersection to slowly cut off my nose to spite my face. It is the artiste's duty to teach the Belgiorno-Nettis lot what they can do with their filthy lucre.

 

smhcarlton@gmail.com

Twitter: @MikeCarlton01

50 comments

  • I love you, Mike!! One of the saner voices in the media these days. Keep socking it to those cane toads in the rose gardens! You're simply the best, better than all the rest.

    Commenter
    Sheryl Gwyther
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    March 15, 2014, 10:24AM
    • @Sheryl Gwyther:
      Right on the money Sheryl. Don't you just love the convected outrage of the Ltd News columnists doing their masters bidding to strike a blow against the ABC. I see poor old Piers Ackermann is at it again this morning giving his opinion for the umpteenth time about the left wing conspiracy existing at the national broadcaster. Still and all it reduces their collective workload as they seem to be copying each others rants and only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Keep up the good work Mike Carlton, Australia needs your objectivity.

      Commenter
      JohnC
      Location
      Gosford NSW
      Date and time
      March 15, 2014, 1:27PM
    • Saner voices, mmmm. It is amusing watching this spat between the ABC and the Murdoch stable, even funnier when Fairfax join the party. But Carlton, honestly, we know which side of the fence you're on, but do you really think that taxpayers money should be spent on producing caricatures like the one of Chris Kenny and the dog ? Is that honestly a good use of public funds ?

      And to back it up, apparently the ABC now have not one, two or three but nine lawyers in court, trying to defend the crazy thing. We can talk about moral compasses, but in this case Aunty's has gone seriously astray. It fails the pub test, and fails it dismally. Not to mention the humour test.

      Commenter
      Hacka
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      March 15, 2014, 1:57PM
    • Good afternoon Hacka. What is the source of your claim that the ABC has nine lawyers in court. It's not that I doubt your facts for a moment, but life has taught me that there are usually complex reasons for events and a simplistic statement of an isolated fact (or indeed a factoid without context) can be misleading.

      As for your other points, I doubt whether the actual work done in setting up the photoshop image, being intentionally rough to show that it was not real, would have cost more than a dollar - and I, as a fellow taxpayer, am glad that the ABC is out there lampooning the lies and dishonesty perpetrated by News Corpse on a daily and weekly basis.

      Similarly, as a taxpayer, I would be appalled if the ABC did not defend this outrageous attack on the free speech of the Chaser gang by Mr Kenny and his deep-pocketed backers. The ABC had every right to put out this satire, which it patently was, and Mr Kenny, who is a forthright player in the public media space, is showing not only his hypocrisy but also that of the kinds of people who enjoy his views, by seeking damages.

      It's my ABC - and if they don't defend free speech, who will (certainly not Tim Wilson, who appears to be only interested in defending Andrew Bolt's right to free speech).

      Commenter
      Whyalla Wipeout
      Date and time
      March 15, 2014, 2:56PM
    • Regarding the biennale protest, it is entirely reasonable if individuals wish to make a stand - and for people to express their dissatisfaction by threatening a boycott.
      That right is to be celebrated - irrespective of its seemingly "nose cutting off" status.
      However, no-one should get ahead of themselves here - it is really a tame and basically safe action; it is not a Landmesser moment.
      We should keep this quite modest protest in perspective - no need to get "all steamed up".

      Commenter
      Howe Synnott
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 15, 2014, 3:02PM
    • The 'Hamster’s' depiction of Chris Kenny may have been undergraduate and crass, but do we want to stop this kind of political satire? Not me. 


      When it comes to ‘free speech’, for their own particular reasons, people will want to have this particular restriction but not that particular restriction. 


      One person’s perfume is another's stench.
      It is not a matter of 'right or wrong' – simply people with differing perspectives arriving at a different decision; their motives may be just as pure and reasonable.
      I refer you to the decision in "The New York Times v Sullivan" and the Supreme Court's words: "the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice (with knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity)." 

      If the case had gone to court in the USA, it is likely Bolt would not have been found guilty, because 'actual malice' is difficult to prove.
      I am of the view 18C should be scrapped – but respect the opinions of those who think it should be kept. I am not 'correct' regarding this matter - I simply have an opinion.

      In a liberal democracy, thankfully, there is a constant tension between differing views – which will invariably evolve and shift over time. 

      No-one is the keeper of the immutable 'truth'; my opinion is just that - an opinion, and nothing grander.

      Commenter
      Howe Synnott
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 15, 2014, 4:44PM
    • Whyalla - the figure of nine lawyers was quoted on a news program during the week.

      One wonders if the shoe was on the other foot, and the picture was of an ABC presenter, and appeared in the Daily Telegraph, what the ABC's position would be then. One suspects there would be howls of protest, ten questions on Q&A and some "investigative journalism" on Lateline.

      Those Chaser blokes seem to be a bit tired and jaded these days. This skit seemed like a sad attempt at humour by attacking Kenny quite unnecessarily. The ABC have a job to be balanced, and i am looking forward to this year's budget.

      It's not just your ABC Whyalla - it's mine too. And Chris Kenny's.

      Commenter
      Hacka
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      March 15, 2014, 4:53PM
    • Sorry Hacka, but where were you when we had to put up with disrgaceful slurs ('I know nuthink') against Rudd and Conroy (for example) in the Drivel Telegraph pre-election? Your outrage is selective indeed, you hypocrite.

      Commenter
      Stoney
      Date and time
      March 15, 2014, 6:26PM
    • Your comments amaze me... However the nice part about our society is we can watch and read what we like and make up our own minds. . From my point I find it increasingly difficult to read his oponions.. Once I admired his writing now I feel he he really should be retiring, he appears bitter and twisted. I hope you continue to enjoy his ramblings.

      Commenter
      Bob Young
      Location
      Gold Coast
      Date and time
      March 15, 2014, 7:36PM
    • I agree, I love Mike Carlton's work. Unlike Sheehan or Jones or Bolt or Hadley he is funny and upfront about his political stand. I am more than happy for public money to be spent on political satire, both sides of politics have been the focus of Chaser style satire. Much better use of money than bike rides and weddings. Or a great big PPL for the rich. Or a royal commission into pink batts. And I am happy for my public money to be spent on defending the satire. I hope the dog gets compensation.

      Commenter
      Credlinbility
      Date and time
      March 15, 2014, 7:52PM

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