Cultural Comment Politics

Nancy and the Cow – Gerard Henderson the Cherry Picker

The Preston Institute was named in kind-of honour of Gerard Henderson’s Sydney Institute. So it is somewhat fitting to me that after all this time, that Mr. Henderson is the topic of today’s blog.  Henderson’s Tuesday Herald piece about the Destroying the Joint business is a glaring example of Henderson’s cherry picking of quotations to support his tenuous accusations of hypocrisy. It also shows his mendacious cherry picking of past history to bash the ABC.  As ever, his article is in italics.

It’s not destroying the joint, but this double standard is a cow

Who would have thought that a throwaway piece of old fashioned Australian slang could, within a few days, become a matter of international interest? But that’s the modern world of instant communications , home to the ”IIA” syndrome. Meaning ”insult, indignation, apology” in that order.

“Good old fashioned Australian slang” – sounds a little like someone justifying “Abo” as a “good old Australian word”.  Language does change for a reason – especially language that was designed to denigrate the person being discussed.  Henderson, however, dismisses that requirement.  That isn’t conservatism, that is a reactionary response – as in “it was good enough in my day”. The same goes for his slight on “instant communications” and the IIA syndrome – positing the idea that apologies aren’t really necessary, especially if you use old slang.

By the way, people – I think this means that any old slang is fine now when you are referring to Gerard.

When walking my dog Nancy early Sunday evening, I turned on to BBC Radio’s World Today Weekend program. Feminist Jane Caro was banging on from Sydney about just how sexist Aussie blokes really are.

Hendo is sounding more like his Media Watch Dog self here – throwing in an irrelevant Nancy reference. Also, the reductive phrase “banging on” is not the usual type of language we see in Hendo’s Herald articles.  Denigration is fine when you are the one doing the denigrating in GerardLand.

Caro soon downloaded how 2GB presenter Alan Jones had recently declared: ”Women are destroying the joint.” The reference was to the former Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon and the Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore. Then Caro commented how one-time Liberal Party operative Grahame Morris had called 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales a ”cow”, after her interview with Tony Abbott.

Shocking, when you think about it. But not if you think for long. For starters, leftists such as Caro are invariably telling us that Jones is a mere shock-jock. Shock-jocks attempt to shock. That’s what they do. As to Morris, well he was born in country NSW. Calling a person a cow in such abodes is so common that the word gets an entry in G.A. Wilkes’s A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms.

Caro being a “leftist” is Gerard’s usual labelling schtick – and it is always amusing to see Henderson defending the likes of Jones for his desire to shock people with offensive phrases and commentary. It’s amusing because as we shall see later, Henderson has a different view towards people who shock with offensive phrases when the subject is someone “of the right”. Hypocrisy is rich in HendoLand.

It’s also fine in HendoLand to deride someone if you’re from the country. They are Different out there, and that’s ok.  So ok, that is justifies a discussion of 19th Century literature.

Wilkes reported that in Three Elephant Power, ”Banjo” Paterson wrote that in Australia the most opprobrious epithet one can apply to a man or other object is ”cow”. Moreover in Bobbin Up, the feminist Dorothy Hewett had a character saying: ”I starched your petticoat stiff as a board, and it was a cow to iron.”

It fits the Henderson agenda to speak warmly of the 19th Century, considering that he seems to prefer 19th Century Industrial Relations policies. Indeed, he does seem rather at times to be a character created by Charles Dickens.

Sales soon activated the IIA syndrome. The Morris insult made, she quickly threw the switch to indignation, tweeting: ”I’d rather be a cow than a dinosaur.” An apology was inevitable. So Morris returned to the scene of his verbal crime on ABC Radio 702 to deliver a mea culpa. However, from what Caro told the BBC, there will be no forgiveness any time soon – despite the fact that no one suggests Sales even faintly resembles a cow.

In this piece of logic, Henderson is assuming that Jane Caro speaks for everyone – “no forgiveness any time soon”.  Maybe people have forgiven Morris for his bovine remarks. We won’t know because Caro speaks for all.  In any case, from what Hendo has been suggesting, there was no need for an apology – it’s fine for someone to call a woman a cow.

It seems the level of measurable insult declines if it is directed at a conservative – male or female – by a continuing leftist. At this year’s Mid-Winter Ball at Parliament House, Julian Morrow, one of the ”Chaser boys” (average age late-30s) referred to mining entrepreneur Gina Rinehart as ”the elephant not in the room”. Laugh? The room, full of journalists, joined in the joke – knowing it was a personal putdown.

And here Henderson returns to an event he will make frequent reference to for many, many columns – the Midwinter Ball. It’s his new “Latham lost control of both houses, he he he” moment.  It is entirely irrelevant to the case of Jones, Morris and Caro – but because Morrow belongs to this “leftist” tribe of Henderson’s mind, they are all the same.

Never mind that there are many amongst this “leftist” tribe who also object to the jokes about Gina Rinehart’s weight.  It doesn’t reflect well on opponents of Rinehart who focus on her physical appearance. It’s her politics and attempts to buy media influence that should be the goal.  Such attacks on Rinehart give people like Henderson, Devine and Bolt material for rebuttal – which they use in every non-sequitur moment possible.

Indeed Morrow’s tone is common for the public broadcaster. The likes of Caro said nothing when Bob Ellis, in January 2011, described the NSW Liberal MP Gillian Skinner on ABC’s The Drum Online as looking ”like a long-detested nagging land lady with four dead husbands and hairy shoulders”. Moreover, the ABC managing director, Mark Scott, defended the publication of the piece because it was ”particularly robust”. You can say that again.

Talking of lumping together, here we have responses to Bob Ellis. Apparently Jane Caro didn’t make any reference to Bob Ellis’ many tirades about women. Not that he’d actually know that, not being a user of Twitter. (Imagine, for a minute, Gerard on Twitter. It is one of Twitter’s biggest pities that no-one has ever done a good fake Gerard account). Jane Caro doesn’t speak for everyone, despite what Gerard says. There are always, however, crowds of people of both genders and largely from this “leftist” tribe decrying Ellis’ decrepit rants on Twitter.  Not that Gerard would mention that. It is by omission and selective quotation that Gerard is at his most intellectually dishonest and mendacious.

Also, it is apparently incorrect for the Drum to post work from a variety of sources. Gerard omits mention of the vast array of “right wing” material appearing on the site, as ever. He does mention, however, an old chestnut.  Marieke.

Earlier, Jonathan Green, the then-editor of The Drum, published Marieke Hardy’s description of the Liberal MP Christopher Pyne as a ”douchebag”. It was later spiked. In 2008, The Drum also ran a piece by Ellis referring to Hillary Clinton’s ”towering frigidity” and complaining (without evidence, of course) that she did not engage in a particular sex act. No word was heard from Caro at the time. In recent times, Green was promoted by the ABC and now presents the Radio National Sunday Extra program.

Back to Marieke and back to Ellis. Again, did Jane Caro tweet about this article? Even if she didn’t, does she have to comment on everything?  There were again a pile of people on Twitter objecting to Ellis. It’s almost become a meme.

But Henderson again excludes facts and those who would make his argument harder to make.  He also has another swipe at Jonathan Green – an editor frequently criticised for publishing many articles by members of think tanks like the IPA and former Liberal Party politicians.  Not that Henderson would mention that either. Here he integrates his greatest piece of spite – insinuating that Green’s employment on Radio National was in some way a poor decision because he published articles by Bob Ellis and Marieke Hardy.  It is breathtaking that Henderson would use an article in the Herald to continue this absurd vendetta based on the flimsiest pretext.

In March, Germaine Greer appeared on Q&A and urged the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to get over her (alleged) ”big arse”. Invited back on the program last week, Greer was at it again. Responding to an approved question, Greer declared Gillard has a ”fat arse” and advised her to ”wave that arse”. This was also not mentioned by Caro in her whinge on the BBC.

Did Jane Caro have to mention everything that has even been said on Australian TV in the BBC interview? Really?

It is true Gillard has been subjected to some sexist comments by the likes of the Liberal senator Bill Heffernan and the former Labor leader Mark Latham. This has been properly criticised. But there were few defenders of John Howard during his time as prime minister. In his 2005 book Run, Johnny, Run, author Mungo MacCallum variously called Howard an unflushable turd, a little c—t and a shithouse rat. Right now, MacCallum’s latest book is being promoted by the supposedly advertisement-free ABC.

I suppose Jane Caro was supposed to have commented on this as well.

But in spite of all the confected outrage, bad language has probably not proliferated. It’s just that what was once said in the pub now features increasingly in sections of the mainstream media and overwhelmingly online.

Has probably not proliferated. Probably not – Gerard’s not sure. What is he sure of is that it’s fine for people to use old slang terms – no matter how offensive – because Bob Ellis and Marieke Hardy used offensive words.

A sense of perspective might help. In the meantime, Morris should be counselled against using 19th century colloquialisms in these oh-so-sensitive-times. And Sales should desist from getting offended about not very much at all. At least it would free up the BBC for some real news from the antipodes.

Yes, perspective. The perspective of Gerard, running the ABC, non doubt. An ABC that wouldn’t be employing the likes of Jonathan Green nor running interviews with Jane Caro. Talking of Caro – if Gerard designed memes, this is how he’s see her:

And then there is this one…

By prestontowers

I had been a teacher observing politics and the media from the outside for some time. I became a political insider, didn't like it much, and hightailed it back to watching it again. And still loving teaching.