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The Australian Would Like You To Get Off Its Goddamn Lawn

Today, The Australian published the journalistic equivalent of a clenched fist being shaken at skateboard. You can read it here. It’s got no byline, which is fitting because you get the sense that this article was brought into being not by a single author but by several, who all stood in a circle and wanked into a fax machine. The editorial reads like something drunkenly written on a napkin up the back of the Walkleys while glaring across the room at Latika Bourke.

It’s petty, it’s indignant, it’s self-righteous and it’s angry. It’s also got a kind of haunting and beautiful fragility to it. Like an old man with his bathrobe tangled in a bush.

Confronted with the dawning age of Twitter and Internet and Women Wearing Pants Of All Things, The Australian – daily broadsheet and our nation’s answer to a question I’m reasonably sure no one asked – lashes out. Taking their cue from Dylan Thomas, with this editorial The Oz is is raging, raging against the dying of the light with all the dignity and gravitas of a tantrum on the floor of Kmart.

After what reads an awful lot like an obit to Paul Kelly — “his penetrating insight and peerless authority” – the editorial begins with a paragraph about how pleased they are with all of their other columnists. It has such a strange tone that if I were Dennis Shannahan, Greg Sheridan, Judith Sloan or David Uren, I would begin to worry that I was about to be gently fired.

These are columnists, we are told, who have the wealth of experience required to report the news. When Whitlam was dismissed, they broke the story; when Menzies beat Fadden, they bore witness; when Edmund Barton challenged Alfred Deakin to a hot air balloon race around the world, they were there, cheering from the sidelines as our first and second Prime Ministers soared skyward.

Not so everywhere, alas. The editorial then goes on to lament the current media landscape. This rant reads like something Aaron Sorkin would write after suffering a severe concussion. We’re warned of “callow reporters”, of “trainee talking heads” and a “baby-faced press gallery”. The trivialities of Gen Y are setting the agenda, apparently. Time was that news was reported by serious people in serious hats with cards that said ‘press’ tucked into them; nowadays it’s a 13-year-old zipping about the studio on a segway, blabbing on about Pokemon cards.

Sure to leave no stone unturned and hurled about the glass house, The Oz takes aim at Fairfax, saying that they’ve lost touch with their readers and the respect of the older hands in the newsroom. Ya hear that, Fairfax? Old Man Maguilicutty says you’re shithouse! Go cry into your accolades and circulation figures, pinkos!

It ends, of course, with an attack on the ABC, saying “Triple-J alumni have wrested cultural and editorial control” — which is a reasonably baffling claim to make given that it is less a ‘fact’ and more a ‘thing Nick Cater tells people who are too scared to disagree with him’. Although I will say that making Tom Ballard the host of Four Corners was a bold move.

The most remarkable thing about reading this self-congratulatory, partisan editorial about journalistic standards is the sense you get that at any moment you might be sucked into some kind of terrifying irony-vortex. The lack of self-awareness on show is bordering on impressive — especially when, in an editorial dedicated entirely to self-gratification, The Oz takes issue with The Monthly’s use of the word “onanistic”.

For all its faults, the piece manages to perfectly capture the fear and panic brought on in our newspapers by the digital revolution. It’s like a mosquito trapped in amber, but instead of a mosquito it’s a 60-year-old man having the new photocopier explained to him before angrily asking what was wrong with the old photocopier.

One day, maybe, the DNA from that 60-year-old man will be extracted and make possible the most tedious theme park the world has ever seen, and these titans of journalism can once again roam the earth.

Until then we’ll have to forge on without them, and settle for news of our dystopic future as told by children and robots.

-

Ben Jenkins is a writer. He tweets at @bencjenkins

  • Guest

    Hi Ben, for a counterpoint to the ‘Oz’ article check out ‘Content and Its Discontents’ in the October issue of ‘Harper’s’. (Paywalled but not to expensive on Zinio)

    • Simon Collinson

      Even better: stop reading the Oz and subscribe to Harper’s. You won’t look back – I didn’t.

  • Bern

    Hi Ben, for a counterpoint to the ‘Oz’ article check out ‘Content and Its Discontents’ in the October issue of ‘Harper’s’. (Paywalled but not too expensive on Zinio)

  • Mark Terrett

    excellent metaphor usage

  • monkeytypist

    The Australian is a daily broadsheet.

  • Lapsed Ascetic

    Although I hate to defend a Murdoch rag, Ben Jenkins does exactly what the original article complains about. All style, no substance and few facts. It’s opinion, not news and not even good analysis. It’s as though he’s grabbed a few sound bites from a Media Studies degree and thrown them in to make himself appear erudite to his benighted readership. The Australian article wasn’t complaining about the delivery medium (which Ben focussed on) so much as the lightweights contributing to the drivel. Plenty of pithy and insightful commentary appears online, just generally from people who have done their “tour of duty” in positions like press-officers to MEP’s etc, not muppets with media degrees from Bathurst.
    I recently had a discussion with David Marr about the dearth of international quality journalism in Australia and also the lack appetite for it here. After spending a decade in London, I was stunned how parochial and asinine most Australian media/journalism is compared to its UK counterparts. Where are our Andrew Marrs, Paxman’s, Dimbleby’s etc? We’re a third of their population but we don’t generate a tenth of their quality journalism. Thank f*ck the Guardian opened an Oz edition, so maybe some of our supposed senior writers can have an internship and absorb some decent analytical skills. Off topics I know, but after initially robustly defending local output, even David had to concede that the UK is peerless for it breadth and depth of media output – regardless of its delivery channel.

    • Kay_Fabe

      “I recently had a discussion with David Marr…” Well la-dee-fucking-da, Your Majesty.

      “Off topics I know, but after initially robustly defending local output,
      even David had to concede that the UK is peerless for it breadth and
      depth of media output”.

      Listen to this person and respect his opinion, Internet! He’s on a first-name basis with David Marr, goddammit!

      • Lapsed Ascetic

        If you think bumping into Mr Marr (hardly a world icon) and having a chat is big-noting then you are truly a parochial individual. The point of raising it was only to show that even a great defender of (and contributor to) Australian content, conceded that we can and should do more with our resources to lift our game. We punch above our weight and are internationally recognised in many arenas – literature, film, sport etc – but journalism is not one of them. Judging by the inanity of your contribution to this discourse, perhaps it’s no wonder…

        • Evan

          There is that arts degree coming in hard. 3 years of school to have an anonymous attempt at proving your own self worth. Lapsed Ascetic = someone who has worked out that his major in hipster hasn’t worked out too well for him and is now bitter and full of big words.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Arts degree again? C’mon one trick pony mate. You had me going with the Dog metaphor. So sad, much disappoint, so fail.

          • Greame

            “So sad, much disappoint, so fail.”

            Are you 12 years old? Between this and the childish slapfight above, you really need to grow up.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            I don’t really. Thanks for your input, have a nice day.

          • Greame

            Just stop, you’re embarrassing yourself.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            ok.

          • http://www.anothergrumpycommuter.wordpress.com/ georgefripley

            What’s wrong with Arts degree? And why are you so bitter – what insecurity are you trying to make up for?

    • Matt Roden

      “It’s opinion, not news” – correct! And labeled as such!

      • Lapsed Ascetic

        Correct. But you miss the point (although I should have used the word “journalism”, not “news”). It’s stylistically representative of what all too often poses as “analysis” in online media. And what’s more troubling – for all too many of us – is the only type of “journalism” we consume nowadays.
        And before all the fan-boys come out in defence of Ben, if you’re publishing content online and can’t accommodate earnest criticism, you don’t belong here. F*ck knows I’ve sent my fair share of scathing comments to Paxo, Marr (Andrew), Newsnight etc when I’ve felt they’ve been “wrong”, it’s a part of mature debate.
        Of course I’m being somewhat petulant in my original post – it’s makes discourse more lively and interesting – but the central thrust of my arguments is supported by simply reading what’s out there.

        • Evan

          Lapsed just let it go man. No-one cares about your toffee nosed crap. You can’t even take a light hearted blog post and just let it go without showing everyone just how awesome a librarian or substitute english teacher you could be. You should just get over it and fuck your big red pen you use to mark the comments on the internet. You two obviously have a thing.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Toffee nosed? What does that mean? You speak English like Google translate.

          • Greame

            So rather than actually looking up the term, you chose to write your little comment and show the world just how ignorant you are. Bravo.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            and you replied.

    • Wren Heggart

      Reads a satirical piece on a blog and bemoans the lack of newsworthyness and facts? As to the David Marr and residing in the mother country references, what can one say? Wanker leaps to mind.

      • Lapsed Ascetic

        Howdy Wren, please read my reply to “Kay_Fabe” re David Marr and “Matt Roden” below re newsworthiness.

        I was directed to this piece by a friend’s posting on FB. I have never heard of “Junkie” or Ben, so the context of it being on a blog is irrelevant to me. As far as “satirical” goes, a huge amount of intelligent and scathing criticism is couched as satire – so labelling it as such does not exempt it from criticism itself.

        Ben was being critical of an article in a manner I thought comedic but analytically lazy, and I expressed that opinion in ways that have deeply resonated with frustrated Australian readers from both sides of politics in many forums in the past.

        The fact that you have to resort to even lazier and out-dated apologist references (mother-country) and terms like “wanker” renders your response little more than insipid background noise. At least have the spice to call me a fatuous c*nt, or is that too British? :)

        A quick scan down your comment history with its 1950′s clichéd “pom” references further reinforces that opinion. Both countries have moved on in ways that have obviously left you far behind (despite your protestations on your FB page). They both have their strengths and weaknesses (a point I made in other replies here) and it is entirely valid to express a disappointment in your home country’s performance in some area.

        With regards to the small “L” liberal rights you bemoan (on FB) are being eroded by the big “L” Liberal party, even a cursory glance at the UK’s laws on such matters as same-sex marriage would leave a casual observer in no doubt that we are indeed at the “ass-end of the universe” as Keating put it, when it comes to progressive legislation compared to the Europeans.

        • Wren Heggart

          And yet, my comment resonated with you enough for you to reply with your predictably pompous pontificating. And for the record, you’re not a cunt, just a wanker.

          • Matt Roden

            Tiii-iii-iii-iiiime, is on his hands, yes it is.

          • Wren Heggart

            Poor guy. He’s obviously worked hard on being a great writer but he lacks that intangible something that would cause anyone to give a fuck about what he says.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Here is a sample of your recent posts

            Wren Heggart • 9 hours ago

            Poor guy. He’s obviously worked hard on being a great writer but he lacks that intangible something that would cause anyone to give a fuck about what he says.

            Wren Heggart • 10 hours ago

            And yet, my comment resonated with you enough for you to reply with your predictably pompous pontificating. And for the record, you’re not a cunt, just a wanker.

            Wren Heggart • 12 hours ago

            Reads a satirical piece on a blog and bemoans the lack of newsworthyness and facts? As to the David Marr and residing in the mother country references, what can one say? Wanker leaps to mind.

            Discussion on Telegraph

            Ashes 2013-14: vicious ‘banter’ has rebranded Test cricket and is an excuse for witless abuse

            Wren Heggart • 5 days ago

            Gormless Pom proves John Liew full of shit with threat of violence :-D

            Wren Heggart • 6 days ago

            Hahahahaha, oh i have to admit, these Brits run rings round us uncultured, intellectually inferior Australians. Look at this 178rod guy…does anyone know what this galah’s comment means?

            Wren Heggart • 7 days ago

            Fat, red faced, tory-voting accountants and other miscellaneous, lonely losers.

            Wren Heggart • 7 days ago

            But the bad teeth comment is true. Brits have terrible teeth……and bad breath too.

            Wren Heggart • 7 days ago

            Splendid retort, well played sir. Tough but fair!

            Wren Heggart • 7 days ago

            Blaming others for your failings? Did I mention failing to take responsibility? You sound like an indignant teenager!

            Wren Heggart • 7 days ago

            Er, what’s your excuse then, Smitty?”

            Ma’am youre an oxygen thief. Nothing in this history indicates that you are even biologically capable of being in the same room as an intelligent thought.

          • Wren Heggart

            And nothing you’ve said indicates you’re capable of writing anything original. ‘Oxygen thief’? ‘Being in the same room as an intelligent thought’? Insults from 2008. Try using your own brain, Rohan.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Ah resorting to ad hominem, after being accused of communicating solely through ad hominems. Genius, Wren, do all your friends compliment you on your ability to be needlessly critical whilst contributing nothing of your own.

            You don’t actually have much to say, so I’m just going to presume you’re some reactionary 19 year old who thinks reading the God Delusion endows them special intellectual powers. I’ve got news for you, you’re talking right out of you limbic cortex, pure reactionary bile..

            Use my own brain? Who’s else would I be using? Clearly, you can tell from the way I typed this, that my bodi
            es autonomous functions are still going, so it’s pretty safe to say, I’m using my own brain.

            And don’t talk to me about 2008, had you even finished puberty yet?

          • Wren Heggart

            Rohan, have a look at your own comments. There’s nothing but insults. I understand you’re feeling indignant because of the bad teeth comment but like those sunglasses, hypocrisy is not a good look.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Hhahah C’mon, do you take me for a 16 year old girl, that’s not going to work on me “ooo you hassled my sunglasses I’m so cut”

            Trying to make me insecure won’t work when I already demonstrably don’t give a fuck what you think. C’mon you can do better than. Well actually, no, you’re not very good at this.

          • Wren Heggart

            Rohan, you’re actually beginning to sound slightly unhinged. I’m sure lots of girls think you look like a proper celebrity, I just don’t go in for the ‘douchebag’ look personally.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Really,? because following me around and trying to insult me and pick on little things about my appearance, that’s pretty textbook attraction dude.

          • Wren Heggart

            Rohan, I only said something about your sunglasses, no need to get all spiteful and vindictive. Try this exercise: breathe in the love, breathe out the hate. Besides, I’ve only responded to your comments to me so you’re a bit delusional claiming that I’m following you around?

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            I don’t care what you say about me. I saw you trolling Lapsed,, in a pretty spiteful manner, and I gave you a taste of your own medicine. Getting a bit too much for you now?

            Not so nice when the shoe is on the other foot isn’t it? I hope you’ve learnt a valuable lesson today about respect.

          • Wren Heggart

            Here’s a sample of one of the articles you engage with and your response;

            6 Reasons I Don’t Respond to Your Messages on OKCupid or in Life

            ‘I find this article inherently anti-male’

            OK, I guess that tells us everything ie bitter and resentful, humourless, white, self centered middle class male? Or have I taken that out of context and been extraordinarily presumptuous?

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Just the last one. You’re not even close to the mark about me. That’s prety much the equivalent of yelling out John, in a crowded, just go for the lowest common denominator, and hope something sticks eh?

            Besides I never pretended to be nice – I just troll the trolls. And you are quite legitimately a troll. You only serve to prove Mr. Kellys point. You’re a mediocre, group polarized, morally ambiguous, talentless reactionary. Shit, you even suck at being a sucky person.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Also if you’re going to try and pick up on my comments on articles, try not to use one that was universally panned in the comments section.

            I do find your stalking flattering though, it’s just a shame about your weight …

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Overruled – you opened yourself up to this kind of attack after you specifically attacked Lapsed, you can’t call people cunts, wankers, and then disparage something they might have as a passion, and then expected to be treated like a protected species.

            I’m fully cognizant of the fact that some people (like elephants) are just jerks, regardless of gender. For you, I think … invertebrate is a very apt description. You can’t handle what you dish out (shame we can’t say the same thing about your attitude to food)

            What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Whilst that might be true. He can actually convey a point. You have failed to do so, and again completely validated the stereotype presented by the Australian

          • Wren Heggart

            You begin your comment with ‘whilst that may be true’ and go on to allege I’ve failed to make a point? Sorry, you’ve just invalidated yourself.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Yes I have, you’re just arguing that because I placed a fullstop there instead of a comma. If you can’t navigate around that, just don’t bother debating.

            Don’t pretend that you can weasel through this. All you’ve done in all the posts of yours I’ve quoted, is bitch out other people. Let’s see how your opinion stands up under scrutiny eh?

          • Wren Heggart

            Sorry Rohan, I’m confused. You say ‘Whilst that is true’, could you please clarify what it is that’s true?

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            “And yet, my comment resonated with you enough for you to reply with your predictably pompous pontificating.”
            - [Whilst that might be true, he can actually convey a point...

            " And for the record, you're not a cunt, just a wanker."

            ..You have failed to do so, and thus completely validated the stereotype presented by the Australian.]

            Might want to work on your comprehension skills if you want to run with the big dogs. Also avoid alliterating.

          • Wren Heggart

            Avoid alliterating and say ad hominem whenever you get the chance?

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Yes “Also, always avoid all awkward and affected alliteration.” It’s a writers joke. Don’t worry, you’ll learn all this stuff by the time you finish high school (ideally)

          • Evan

            POPCORN IS GREAT!!!!!!!

            I love watching two arts degrees go at it on a blog noone reads. It’s awesome. Like two fleas who think the dog is the world and somehow they are REALLY important

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            I find that incredibly offensive. Despite all that has been said in this thread, there is no need to go around calling people art students.

          • Ben Jenkins

            What the fuck is happening?

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Not a lot,, what about you?

          • Wren Heggart

            Hi Ben, basically Rohan came in and started being mean to everyone. He called me fat and said something about you getting your panties in a twist.

          • Ben Jenkins

            Huh! Okay. Well he seems like not a very nice person, so don’t worry about that I guess.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Nice try Wren. Is that why you posted all out of order? To create the illusion that I just randomly attacked you? You know the posts are timestamped right?

            “Wren Heggart Matt Roden

            • 14 hours ago
            Poor guy. He’s obviously worked hard on being a great writer but he lacks that intangible something that would cause anyone to give a fuck about what he says.”

            Attacking a man’s hobby or passion is tantamount to attacking a woman’s appearence. Also, Wren, you’re kinda fat.

            But honestly Ben, you wrote this piece of trash, so I don’t really care if you think I’m mean.

          • Wren Heggart

            Honestly Rohan, time to give up mate. Everyone can see I bashed you up. Now you’re just coming across like a jilted lover who needs a restraining order.

          • Wren Heggart

            Always heartwarming when a third flea decides they can’t resist any longer and join the fray.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Even funnier when the third flea thinks it’s a stallion.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Look at this gem “Wren Heggart • 7 days ago

            But the bad teeth comment is true. Brits have terrible teeth……and bad breath too.”

            Who believes that anymore? The Brits have one of the most comprehensive national health care scheme. You seem almost oblivious to the external world.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Also, why can’t you reply to posts in chronological order….

          • Wren Heggart

            *writes note* anal retentive, anger issues when feels loss of control, likely insecurity born from overly critical mother.

          • Rohan Kirkpatrick

            Hahaha are you trying to be genuinely funny? Nice. So first year psyche? I love psyche chicks, man. But honestly trying to use Freud 101? Now who’s being unoriginal?

    • Steve Johnson

      So you’d be talking about Janet Janet Albrechtsen, Miranda Devine, Piers Ackerman? All News contributors? Depth of analysis and breadth of experience? Cough.

    • guesty

      Actually if you took the time to read it, rather then thumbing through your thesaurus to try and sound like an intelligentsia, you would see he has address the entire original article. He’s quite carefully gone through each point, defined and critiqued it and summed up rather well. Fair cop if you just said you didn’t like his humour or that it wasn’t funny, but trying to claim he did poor critical analysis technique only exposes your own ignorance.

  • Adam

    Brilliant!

  • Mark Timothy Rabanus-Wallace

    I rather thought this article was a good example of what the original was complaining about. All rhetoric and barely the shadow of a real argument.

    • Lapsed Ascetic

      Whilst he may be a decent stand-up comedian on the pub circuit, Ben seems to have been trained at the Andrew Denton school of satire. Cloying, obvious and pandering to a middle market. Even on a middle of the road satirical production like “Have I Got News For You”, Denton would be left floundering like a political ingénue by the likes of Hislop and Merton, and Ben wouldn’t even pass the audition…

  • yowatsup

    The people that complain that the media has become too partisan and pro-certain political parties (see: generation y) are the very people that express overly and overtly politically partisan views (under the guise of ‘reporting’). See also: Tony Abbott haters.

  • unsubscriber

    Thank you. Perfectly said.

  • clementine_ford

    The funniest part of this is that Lapsed Ascetic has left 5 comments on an article he asserts as ultimately worthless. Bender, is that you?

    • Lapsed Ascetic

      What can I say, it’s a slow night and teasing the indentured eyeballs of Sound Alliance Pty Ltd’s cash cows seemed more fun than re-runs of “The Thick of It”.

      If delivered honestly and with conviction, not much is truly “worthless”, nor is Ben’s article. Bear with me (I’m new to these InterWebs) but I’d actually assert your comment was a straw man you just painted for the purpose of a glib one-liner. Sorry, I had to Google who you were – having scanned some articles I’m suitably impressed by your ability to shock the ignorati of Bondi and Brunswick. Truly. Next time my sister has a miscarriage in a stairwell in Farringdon, I’ll be sure to point her to your podcasts for some light relief.

      The funniest part, IMHO (that’s the lingo, ya?), is that you take time out of your creative schedule to contribute so deftly to Neil Ackland’s branded playground for the under 30′s, but I’m humbled that you do.

      NB – Katelyn: Is this the Clem girl you said was a bit like an Oz “Jo Brand” ? Seriously? Mark Thomas is a “troublemaker”, Sarah Millican is a humourist, Kirsty Wark is a writer and journalist, Wolf & Paglia are nominally “feminists” and Hilary Clinton is actually “unfuckwithable”. Clem just seems to be a exhibitionist – or am I missing something?

    • Chay MacTavish

      “…this one chick was so nasty, I
      just fucking had to weigh in and let her have it.”

  • Rohan Kirkpatrick

    The author of this piece clearly falls into the description laid for him. Not only does this author show bias, and then completely seem to attack a straw man – but his tone his condscending, like I somehow can’t mae up my mind for myself?

    And then there is : “It’s petty, it’s indignant, it’s self-righteous and it’s angry. It’s also got a kind of haunting and beautiful fragility to it. Like an old man with his bathrobe tangled in a bush.”

    The first line applies to you more than the article. You’re being petty. The second part is just insulting; didn’t anybody warn you about purple patches during your degree?

    You suffer the same flaws as all terrible Gen Y commenters do, you’re condescending, without having any reason to be. You replace arguments with ad hominems.

    Ben you’re as guilty as fuck of being a pretentious, content-lite, uninformed douchebag. I thoroughly enjoyed watching you get your panties in a knot, and watching your wounded ego try and polish this turd of an article.

    • Evan

      IT … IS … A …. BLOG!!!!

      You people are hilarious. I was wondering where all the arts degrees go to hang out.

      • Rohan Kirkpatrick

        I’d presumed most arts degrees hang on walls.

    • Greame

      The irony of this comment is so thick you could cut it with a 2×4.

  • http://newstechnica.com David Gerard

    Who the fuck is loop11.com? Over half the time my browser was trying to load that page, it was trying to fetch something from loop11.com …

  • KenFabos

    Ben, so many responders insisting that your commentary is shallower, pettier and more condescending than The Australian’s suggest you struck a chord. Sorry, but the seasoned professionals really do it better than you; more practice maybe?