Monday, 2 January 2012

As I Please: Henderson Agonistes: A Fool For All Seasons

It was unwise, I suspect, of Gerard Henderson to say in his column this morning that the ABC was going leftward, ever leftward, since he himself is going leftward even faster.
In 1997 he was urging that the ABC be privatised. Now he is brazenly taking money from it; for appearing irregularly on Insiders, whatever money that might be ('your thirty pieces of silver,' his mentor Santamaria would have called it), on top of the ninety thousand a year or so he gets from the lazy louche leftist-latte-elitist rag the smh now that its sister elitist rag The Age has fired him for premature fascism, or whatever the sin was, and the drifty-eyed somnolence he induces in bus commuters every Tuesday morning. He even favours boat people now, and urges they get a fair go, an extraordinary thing to do, and very irritating I would think to his secret backers whoever they are -- and he must not say, he cannot say -- and their alleged secret backers ASIO, or the CIA, or MI6, or Mossad, or Hughes Tools or whoever.
He says in this morning's piece that Margaret Thatcher was right, entirely right, to turn the Falklands dispute into the Falklands War by sinking the General Belgrano when it was on its way home to safe harbour and threatening no-one, and six hours away from any possibility of imperilling any servicemen, and thus ensure the death of hundreds of sailors and soldiers and civilians on both sides of a war that none but she was keen on; and Julie Rigg by contrast wrong, very wrong, to call her 'a tyrant' merely because she allowed her political foes to starve to death in prison and ordered the assassination of 'terror suspects' in another country, Gibraltar, in breach of that law of nations which thinks this kind of thing premeditated murder. The ABC should have made Rigg apologise for saying this, Gerard humphed. A balanced broadcaster would never say this, even thirty years later, of even Suharto, or Kim Jong Il, or Francisco Franco.
Gerard claims very few right-wing voices are to be heard on the ABC though Peter Reith, who was very nearly Liberal Party President, has an Unleashed column each week and Tony Abbott is printed whenever he writes in and about a third of its contibutors are Liberal voters and half its respondents Liberal staffers or climate change deniers and its boss Mark Scott, a Howard appointee, continues in office unharassed by latte-lapping mutineers, a passionate Christian, Liberal voter and Sunday churchgoer like Gerard himself. 
But for Gerard this is not enough. Perhaps the ABC should be privatised after all. When did he stop believing it? He should tell us about this. When did the Saviour appear to him on the Damascus Road saying, 'Keep the ABC, my son, and use it for my glory, and for the earthly mission of John Howard, my Chosen One'?
Gerard's view in 1997 was that the ABC should be put on the market and bought up by a consortium headed by Singo or Packer or Murdoch or Alan Jones. He has never recanted from this or apologised for it, and behaves as if he never said it. He also called George Bush 'the Winston Churchill of our time' for invading Iraq and going on quest for those atomic bombs which all sane folk well knew were buried, for some reason, under a sandhill there. He also called me 'the false prophet of Palm Beach' for saying John Howard would lose his seat and jeered at me for six years in his quarterly for saying it, calling me a writer of 'doggerel' and never quoting any. He has a convincing tone of voice, rather like that of Rudd, and he writes rather well from sentence to sentence, but he is nearly always wrong. And he follows the CIA line so strictly it's hard to believe they don't buy him the odd lemon squash from time to time, or send him a box of chocolates.
He has refused to debate me for twenty years, afeared that I might assault him, or use bad language, or take off my clothes or something, though Tony Abbott did once, and found it quite a nice experience, and me a fairly civilised fellow, and did it again a year later.
The great problem for Gerard, and for most of the Right, is the old oriental one of 'saving face'. They were wrong about Vietnam; wrong about Kruschev; wrong about Utzon; wrong about the Birthday Ballot; wrong about Nixon; wrong about Che; wrong about Dubcek; wrong about Allende; wrong about Whitlam; wrong about John Lennon; wrong about Dunstan; wrong about Hawke; wrong about Deng; wrong about Gorbachev; wrong about Ortega; wrong about Greiner; wrong about Carr; wrong about Rann; wrong about Kennett; wrong about Bracks; wrong about the yellowcake of Niger; wrong about Bin Laden being already dead or on dialysis; wrong about Hicks; wrong about Habib; wrong about Haneef; wrong about Howard; wrong about Nelson; wrong about Swan and the world economy; wrong about Obama's chances of election; wrong about the intellectual grunt of Sarah Palin; wrong about the sanity of Glenn Beck; wrong about safe nuclear power; wrong about Iraq; wrong about Afganistan; wrong about Karzai; wrong about Murdoch; wrong about the speed of global warming; wrong about the strategic intelligence of Alan Joyce; wrong about the viability of the Arab Spring; wrong about Bachman, Perry, Huntsman, Huckabee, Paul and Santorum, and yet they have to behave, as Gerard always does, with a kind of Mandarin unflappability as though they are always right; and they never are.
And yet they get up each morning and go on television and pretend they are. And they never are. And they never have been. If anyone can give me an example of them being right in the last fifty years he or she should inform this website in the next fortnight or so.
Think hard.
Which is one way of saying, I guess that they're very good actors, nearly all of them. Nearly all of them look unconflicted, but Gerard twitches a bit in the clinches.
Gerard is worse off than some of the others  because he also believes in a human-sacrifice and hellfire-burning religion that requires him to eat Christ's living flesh most Sunday mornings and burned a lot of Jews in its time, and must somehow pretend to believe that God is in charge of things and a very nice fellow who loves us very much though he's killed nine billion of us thus far and lots and lots of Jews in ovens lately and visits earthquakes on Christchurch so often that the city fathers soon might change its name. I hope he drinks a lot of whisky before bed, because he's in a lot of intellectual trouble with his Christianity and his humanist wife and his guru Howard who likes locking up children in hell-holes though Gerard, lately, oddly, changeably, does not.
I invite him to come to Gleebooks at a time of his convenience and have a chat.
We could call it 'The Right Thing To Do'.
He would be, in Kingsley Amis's wonderful phrase, 'Christendom's premier fucking fool' if he does not.


At 2 January 2012 at 18:54 , Blogger Terrance Propp said...

Gee, and you say you are tempted to sue people who write things about you! I have no brief for Hendo, the man is a fool and a fringe merchant in my opinion, but this skirts a fine line Bob. 'Secret backers'? Mmmm, I wonder if you were accused of that what your response would be?

I think you two are peas in a pod - ideologically grafted on to your old fashioned and outmoded belief systems and perhaps you've both lost your relevance and worth. Where Hendo sees Reds and Latham's under his bed, you see Bob Carr as a Saint and Shorten as the Messiah.

Gerard's daughter was an ALP staffer, so what does that say?


At 2 January 2012 at 19:46 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Didn't know about his daughter.

Gerard's backers are secret because he won't say who they are.

Which of my beliefs are old-fashioned or outmoded?

Please make a list.

At 2 January 2012 at 20:28 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Please make a list.

At 2 January 2012 at 20:29 , Blogger Terrance Propp said...

I'd say your belief in old fashioned Labor Governments. It's hard to spot Labor values these days. I admired Kristina's sassyness and pluck, Bracks and Rann were decent, honest and considered, but they were all 'safe' as I think you'll acknowledge.

Reading the Cabinet papers from 82-83 you see the zeal for reform in Hawke and Keating. Saying a yen for that is old fashioned is not a put-down or insult Bob; and i share this desire for once was (like Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris) but sadly Labor has lost it's humintarian core.

At 2 January 2012 at 20:42 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

I believe in really old fashioned governments: protectionist, nationalising, anti-bank, pro-worker, price-controlling, practioners of 'Workfare'.

It's all coming back. They're calling it 'infrastructure' or 'The Future Fund' now.

I agree about the humanitarian core. We now rip children away from their father's grave and encourage them with cattle-prods onto buses that take them to planes that fly them for five hours and leave them to sleep for two days on a seat in Broome Airport before dumping them back on the one place they don't want to be, Christmas Island, and wait on a hill for yheir mother to come out of the sea alive.

Gillard Labor: a small pen-picture.


At 2 January 2012 at 21:04 , Blogger J.G.Cole said...

Brilliant stuff Bob Ellis.
Somewhat more restrained than I would have liked....but brilliant nontheless!

At 2 January 2012 at 21:27 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Thank you.

At 2 January 2012 at 22:11 , Blogger Anthony Stoddart said...

I'd be interested to know how Terrance Propp found himself on this website, reading the 1,182 words of this piece, typing a 119-word comment, returning to read Bob Ellis's response, typing 94 more words in a further reply, and yet seemingly continuing to stand by the remark as made to Bob Ellis that:

"perhaps you've...lost your relevance and worth."

Well, perhaps not.

At 2 January 2012 at 23:23 , Blogger Defenestrator said...

Bless you, my son.

At 3 January 2012 at 04:36 , Blogger Mr. Davo said...

Couldn't agree with you more, Mr. Ellis. I thought something was going on. How come you don't get a SMH gig?

At 3 January 2012 at 05:58 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Used to have one. Was very popular. Haven't these seven yesrs even git a letter to the editor printed.

At 3 January 2012 at 06:13 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Sorry, haven't these seven years even got a letter to the editor printed.k

At 3 January 2012 at 15:46 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob, for someone who regularly accuses your commenters of libel, I think you run perilously close the edge sometimes....

I'll contest that they were wrong about safe nuclear power, nuclear power is safe. By far the safest possible power that actually delivers the real levels of energy we need to maintain our civilisation. Yes, renewables might/will get there eventually but we could be building nuclear plants NOW and mitigating climate change while renewables are developed further.

The french (you like them, remember) generate something like 80% of the their energy from nuclear power and have done for some time, no accidents there. Of all the nuclear plants in the world, there have only ever been 3 accidents. Chernobyl, three mile island and fukushima. Three mile island killed no one, injured no one and so far no deaths or illnesses have been conclusively linked to the event.

Fukushima, no one died from a nuclear accident caused by a simultaneous earthquake and tsunami larger than almost any in recorded history. Some ground has been contaminated but the japanese seem to have anything under control. It really makes me angry that people focus on the nuclear accident, which really did little harm, when tens of thousands of people died in the natural disaster that caused the problems in the first place.

And finally Chernobyl. Yes it was a tragic accident, yes people died. How many died, and how many are likely to be affected? Greenpeace and other organisations will tell you it's in the range of several million, but they would say that, wouldn't they? I direct you to this world health organisation site, which will show that Chernobyl wasn't the world ending disaster the people think it is. Tragic, as all loss of life is, but compared to floods in bangladesh, earthquakes in china, etc, the casualties are almost negligible.

On a complete life-cycle analysis, coal kills far more people than any other power source. Nuclear is the safest, it just doesn't feel right so people don't believe it. Like how people deny climate change because it doesn't fit in with their politics.

Anyway apart from nuclear power, yes, they did get all of that wrong.

At 3 January 2012 at 15:47 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

also inb4 CIA nuclear illuminati told you to write it, etc

At 3 January 2012 at 16:06 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Fukushima destroyed the world's third largest economy in an afternoon because of the nuclear component not the earthquake damage.

And you say it's safe?

At 3 January 2012 at 16:06 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

How many people does a destroyed economy kill?


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