Posts tagged "media"

The Anna Wintour of Australian political journalism

Ladies and Gentleman, meet Gerard Henderson. Gerard is the Executive Director of the Sydney Institute, a think tank based in Sydney, Australia. Gerard appears occasionally on the ABC television program “Insiders” and writes a column that is published each Tuesday in the Sydney Morning Herald. In addition, Gerard is an expert on haute couture, a ruthless doyen of the fashion world who casts weekly barbs at those who fall afoul of his exacting standards. 

  • March 22, 2011: “This is not a fashionable point. Yet the record indicates it was the administration of George W. Bush which first raised, in a serious manner, the issue of democracy in the Middle East.”
  • February 15, 2011: "She ran a fashionably anti-Bush line and failed to question the message of Fair Game.”
  • December 7, 2010: “The unfashionable fact is that HIV/AIDS is rife in large parts of Africa because many African men have multiple sex partners.”
  • October 19, 2010: "The term ”disconnect” has become increasingly fashionable.”
  • June 29, 2010: "It is fashionable to accuse Costello of lacking the intestinal fortitude to challenge Howard.”
  • June 22, 2010: "It is fashionable for members of the press gallery to refer to the unpopularity of the leaders of Labor and the Coalition.”
  • March 16, 2010: "This will not occur until the ABC becomes genuinely pluralistic and junks fashionable group-think.”
  • August 4, 2009: “Certainly Hitchens’s support for the invasion of Iraq was unfashionable, but believing religion is the root of all, or at least most, evil is common among the Western intelligentsia.”
  • April 28, 2009: "But the OECD is concerned that industrial relations reforms might make a bad situation worse. It speaks the unfashionable truth here…”
  • November 25, 2008: "These days it is quite fashionable to call for an apology, either from an individual in response to his or her behaviour or someone else’s behaviour.”
  • November 11, 2008: "It was fashionable a year or so ago to criticise John Howard’s advocacy of the Anzac Legend.”
  • November 4, 2008: "It is difficult to recall any other election in a democratic society where the media has been so obviously supporting one side in a two-sided contest. It is not so much a case of conscious bias as the prevalence of fashion.”
  • October 21, 2008: "The Australian media would be well advised to be more sceptical about economists with messages on their (fashionable) T-shirts.”
  • May 13, 2008: “Such questions are rarely raised because it has become unfashionable to query the public sector’s role in education and health.”
  • February 19, 2008: "In fashion-conscious cliche land, it’s important to “reach closure” before “moving on”.
  • October 16, 2007: “The unfashionable fact is that nations which have paid heed to Catholic social teaching have had poor economic outcomes.”
  • June 6, 2006: "The unfashionable fact is that East Timor was not ready for immediate independence”
  • April 26, 2005: "Once it was fashionable to support the communist victories in Indochina.”
  • February 1, 2005: “The Prime Minister performed well at the Davos economic forum last weekend in stating a clear, albeit unfashionable, position - that Australia continues to support the Bush/Blair stance…”
  • June 8, 2004: “For much of his presidency Reagan was unfashionable among the Western intelligentsia…”
  • February 18, 2003: "Pacifism is back in fashion. Not since the mid-1930s has absolute nonviolence (meaning opposition to war, irrespective of whether the cause is just) seemed so fashionable.”

David Brooks enjoys a rarefied spot in the political discourse — a conservative with crossover appeal among liberals. But this is a function of style, not substance. Brooks deserves credit for not reflexively hewing to a Fox News-friendly interpretation of the news, but he also doesn’t engage substantively with the political and economic issues he comments on.

His column earlier this week, on “The Experience Economy,” demonstrates this vividly. It bears all the hallmarks of a Brooks classic. Reference to the hot policy book of the moment? Got it: Tyler Cowen’s “The Great Stagnation” — and in the first sentence, no less. Substitution of “values” explanations for political, economic and historical context? Check. A set of generically benign character traits anthropomorphized into an “average” (ostensibly white, middle class, male) American? Not just one, but two.

Brooks begins by discussing Cowen’s thesis — that America has reached a technological plateau resulting in lower, slower growth — but quickly shifts to making the same argument he makes in just about every other column: It’s the values, stupid. Throughout the piece, Brooks extrapolates broad conclusions about shifts in American society based on observations of trends among the elite; for example, the idea that the average American organizes conferences for a living and goes on exotic vacations, when in fact most Americans don’t have a passport. And he portrays changes in the global economy as the result of American cultural shifts, rather than the result of policies or structural forces.

Alyssa Battistoni, “David Brooks’ bias toward elite values,” Salon, February 18, 2011

A little while ago, Ilya Gerner linked to a very nasty — and, one suspects, quite accurate — review of David Brooks’s new book The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. Gerner’s link read “Greatest. Book Review. Ever,” and after he excerpted a portion, he recommended reading the whole thing, which is commendable advice. In doing so, I discovered the earlier piece about Brooks, also published at Salon, from which I’ve quoted above.

It is that article that genuinely ethers Brooks — and Brooks deserves the take down. He is, as Battistoni says, a conservative with crossover appeal among liberals, and I suspect it’s not because, as conservatives believe, he has any particular moderation in his views, but because he knows how to talk the language of the left. His willingness to venture outside the narrow confines of neoliberal economic prescriptions makes it appear as if he genuinely engages with ideas outside the general conservative wheelhouse, and his fondness for discussing values and culture gives him superficially the air of a college professor rather than an adherent to the ideology that claims that — to use Margaret Thatcher’s words — “there is no such thing as society.” David Brooks loves society; specifically, the high society he belongs to and the unspoken Mayberry-ideal of America that all his ideas are ultimately aimed at producing. His Bobos in Paradise nonsense is an attempt to put a sociological sheen on standard right wing caricatures of “elites” and their opposites: worthy, middle class, white Americans who form traditional nuclear families and supposedly agree with men like Brooks.

Brooks’s values-talk sounds nice to liberals because he couches it in scientific rather than religious terms, and he only makes his judgments implicitly. Where the coasts are filled with people who think the ’60s means Woodstock, says Brooks, the population of the Midwest supposedly consists of people who remember the era for the jobs it produced. We know who Brooks sympathizes with, and it’s not his New York neighbors. Never mind that his social segments are stereotypes and his analysis is shallow. Brooks is as infatuated with the idea of a “real America” as Sarah Palin is; he just talks about it like someone who takes Starbucks to his bookclub meetings, instead of buying a Budweiser at the bowling alley. Oh, look, now I’m doing it too!

That’s why, for conservative political analysis, I prefer Ross Douthat, say, or Reihan Salam. Conor Friedersdorf. David Frum perhaps. None of these lack the “crossover appeal” Battistoni mentions, but it’s because they show a willingness to sincerely engage with ideas from across the political spectrum, rather than because they present a soft, fuzzy, liberalized take on conservatism. David Brooks may appear kinder and gentler, but he’s intellectually sloppy, not moderate.

Incidentally, I wonder if there is a left wing version of Brooks; a liberal who speaks the conservative language and therefore impresses that end of the political spectrum? I suspect not; liberals, to use Frum’s words, identify with the pluribus in the American motto, whereas conservatives better understand the unum. Liberals are hence more likely to be looking for conservatives with whom they don’t completely disagree, but most conservatives will tend to see liberals, even sympathetic liberals, as not properly part of the orthodoxy. But I welcome correction on that last point.


We are living in the middle of a massive global struggle over the rights and freedoms of women, a life-and-death matter for a billion women and girls, and secular middle-class Western feminism is proving irrelevant.

- Paul Sheehan, “Scarlet soles are a red rag to feminists’ ideology,” The Sydney Morning Herald, April 11, 2011

naysayersspeak:

Really, Paul Sheehan? Western feminism is irrelevant?

Tell that to the women earning 83c in the dollar when compared to her male colleagues.

Tell that to the women who leave male-dominated industries due to the culture.

Tell that to the women who miss out on preselection, when just 20% of candidates elected in the last NSW election were women.

Tell that to the woman who is raped, then told it’s her fault for wearing revealing clothing, or drinking too much, or, god forbid, having a sex drive.

Oh wait, you just did.

The very fact you feel comfortable telling my peers and I that our feminism is irrelevant demonstrates quite conclusively that you don’t actually understand what you’re talking about and that you don’t grasp the extent of the problem of gender inequality in the modern world.

Can I just suggest that perhaps you take the time to watch this excellent video made by students at Sydney Boys’ High?

I suspect they’d have a thing or two to teach you.

While I have no desire to diminish any of the excellent points made above by Erin, in regards to the quoted portion above, feminism is almost irrelevant; it’s actually just a tool Sheehan is wielding in his ongoing struggle against immigrants and brown people. (You figure out the code after you read enough of his columns.)

Paul Sheehan is, let it be said, one of the worst people to be paid to write in Australia. His craft involves three aspects, and he is good at none of them. He is a poor thinker, a poor debater, and a poor writer. By that last one, I mean that he literally struggles to put readable sentences together. He and words have a decidedly uneasy relationship and he has never shown much facility in using them to express anything.

I want to make clear that I’m not making this criticism merely because I disagree with Sheehan. In a banal way, I sometimes do agree with him, in that we may coincidentally desire similar outcomes to occur in certain circumstances. That is, however, no greater an indication of him possessing sense than the famed occasional accuracy of a stopped clock. Sheehan is quite unlike other sometimes conservative Australian writers; Gerard Henderson — in spite of a self-indulgent and silly tic — usually makes an effort to put some thought into his arguments, while Janet Albrechtsen, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt, and the like exist to say outrageous things which delight those who agree with them and infuriate those who don’t. All three succeed in that mission admirably. Sheehan, however, presents as an aspiring serious thinker who is too stupid to understand how extensively he is hobbled by his own vapidity.

I read Sheehan’s column today — I usually make it a rule to avoid his nonsense — and the above extract is in context almost a non-sequitur. His subject is actually something about shoes, but as is wont to occur in a Sheehan column, the substance of that something is unclear. He says that Christian Louboutin has proved that feminism doesn’t understand complexity, or something, and also there’s a bit about the sort-of-timely Australian Fashion Week, and now you see what I mean by Sheehan being incapable of putting together a coherent argument. Despite his conviction that “academic” “feminist” “ideology” is deeply flawed, he argues against nobody in particular and criticizes no specific ideas. The first person he names with whom he disagrees is Betty Friedan, whose Feminine Mystique, Sheehan points out immediately, was “written 50 years ago.” Was this his point: to say that he disagrees with a text published in the early ’60s? If so, what does that have to do with anything that has happened since?

I criticized David Brooks recently as having an inflated reputation, but I should make this distinction clear: Brooks is overrated and too well-respected by the left, but he succeeds at his job. Paul Sheehan, on the other hand, should never be paid to write.


The Third Shift: you can have my blue jeans when you pry them off my cold, dead ass.

[A]s an aging baby boomer I find it vastly reassuring to see that there are honest, creative artists still making their way up amid the commercialization.

Paul Krugman on Arcade Fire.

At least he knows what he’s talking about where economics is concerned.



Here is Grandpar Simpsons. He plays Homers dad in The Simpsons. He is always asking everyone where his glove is and he can never find it. I love the Grandpa episode where he gets shot in the arm by Apu and Apu panics and trys to strangle him but Grandpa manages to escape but still nearly dies. He is really easy to draw because his hair is the same colour as his skin.

I feel the internets have been responsible for some top-quality trolling in 2011. There are many, many more of these here.

Here is Grandpar Simpsons. He plays Homers dad in The Simpsons. He is always asking everyone where his glove is and he can never find it. I love the Grandpa episode where he gets shot in the arm by Apu and Apu panics and trys to strangle him but Grandpa manages to escape but still nearly dies. He is really easy to draw because his hair is the same colour as his skin.

I feel the internets have been responsible for some top-quality trolling in 2011. There are many, many more of these here.


For Shar, the magazine’s a litmus test. “There are lots of smart people in Washington,” she says, “but the people that read the New Yorker — it means that they also care about culture and art as well as politics.” She hastens to add, “Not that there’s anything wrong with politics.”
Dan Kois, “The New Yorker Group: A book club for the on-the-go Washingtonian,” The Washington Post, April 20, 2011

zainyk:

NYT Front Page - May 2nd 2011.

zainyk:

NYT Front Page - May 2nd 2011.


mootpoint replied to your photo: Um
The Province is not the classiest paper.

katherinestasaph:

Yeah, I figured. I’m just a Newseum geek, like 90% of everyone who’s laid out a newspaper page.

I’m reblogging just so I can tell you all how much I love the Newseum. Amazingly, I don’t think I’ve mentioned my Newseum-love here, but it is deep and abiding. The Newseum is awesome. It really is one of the best things in D.C.

I love the Newseum.


fromme-toyou:

Showtime. 

Remember “cinemagraphs”? They were a whole two months ago, which is, I know, forever in Internet time. There seemed to be two common reactions: the standard media narrative declaring them to be a fascinating new art form, and the internet geek’s disbelieving “LOL it’s just an animated gif.”
Neither was completely accurate. The animated gif is not a new art form, but  Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg’s images have a quality of static tranquility that contrasts distinctly with the hyperactive repetition characterizing the standard animated gif. What really sets them apart, however, is that their subject matter is the refined, the elite, the urbane, and the conventionally attractive. The images are stuffed with signifiers of wealth, class, and vintage good taste. They premium a vacant aesthetic of gentility empty of meaning or emotion. The claim to art is made by what the images are not: they are not pop-cultural, intertextual, amateur, abrasive, or created anonymously. 
And this is why they fail. If these images had a non-digital counterpart, it wouldn’t be anything found in a gallery — the pop art of actual animated gifs has a better claim to that — it would be upmarket advertising. These are lifestyle gifs, suited for selling expensive watches and perfume.
All of which I say to point out that maybe Beck and Burg are on to something. The animated gif might have more potential than its current valuable use of allowing message board users to communicate emotion with reference to common pop cultural reference points. The cinemagraph, however, is currently just an animated gif that focuses on the beautiful lives of leisure led by the rich. Maybe it could be something more.

fromme-toyou:

Showtime. 

Remember “cinemagraphs”? They were a whole two months ago, which is, I know, forever in Internet time. There seemed to be two common reactions: the standard media narrative declaring them to be a fascinating new art form, and the internet geek’s disbelieving “LOL it’s just an animated gif.”

Neither was completely accurate. The animated gif is not a new art form, but  Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg’s images have a quality of static tranquility that contrasts distinctly with the hyperactive repetition characterizing the standard animated gif. What really sets them apart, however, is that their subject matter is the refined, the elite, the urbane, and the conventionally attractive. The images are stuffed with signifiers of wealth, class, and vintage good taste. They premium a vacant aesthetic of gentility empty of meaning or emotion. The claim to art is made by what the images are not: they are not pop-cultural, intertextual, amateur, abrasive, or created anonymously. 

And this is why they fail. If these images had a non-digital counterpart, it wouldn’t be anything found in a gallery — the pop art of actual animated gifs has a better claim to that — it would be upmarket advertising. These are lifestyle gifs, suited for selling expensive watches and perfume.

All of which I say to point out that maybe Beck and Burg are on to something. The animated gif might have more potential than its current valuable use of allowing message board users to communicate emotion with reference to common pop cultural reference points. The cinemagraph, however, is currently just an animated gif that focuses on the beautiful lives of leisure led by the rich. Maybe it could be something more.



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