Following the daily twitter political media stream, there’s a lot of attention paid to the columns by the key reactionary producers of the outrage industry – Piers Akerman, Andrew Bolt, Chris Kenny, Miranda Devine and Gerard Henderson, as well as the new addition to the stable, Bob Ellis. With Henderson and his dog now joining the Australian, News Limited’s opinion sections have become the Fyshwick of Outrage Porn. Akerman’s latest missive, targeting such things as the British show Peppa Pig, demonstrates how easy it is for the Holt St Jack Horners to swirl Twitter into a storm of furious activity based on nothing of consequence. Piers’ problem is easy to identify and dispose of – he is a lazy reactionary that has a problem with modernity in general, not just the ABC – he disagrees with issues even the British Conservatives support, such as marriage equality. And probably Peppa Pig. We haven’t seen David Cameron and his Tories come out in furious disagreement with Peppa and her agendas – though maybe they did if they read this piece drawing parallels with Cameron’s cabinet and the show.
Akerman, Bolt, Kenny, Henderson and co are keen to claim that they are in touch with “mainstream” Australia in their pieces. It’s an intellectually lazy attempt to dismiss other opinions as not having a grounding in “real” Australia, instead some kind of tower made of elephant’s tusks. It’s the kind of argument negating tactic that we see with phrases like “feelpinion” – used against any of those who argue that understanding of emotive perspectives is important and “politically correct”, used against people seeking equality in the community in terms of institutions and language. “Feelpinion” is a word that has some accurate application, especially if the opinion is just based on one person’s opinion, but there are issues that do require understanding of the emotive dimension in the community – hence why the misuse of the word “feelpinion” as a pejorative insult. “Politically Correct”, however, like “mainstream”, is always a bankrupt, mendacious phrase. The irony of the phrase is that it is often used by those who are politically powerful and hence enforcing a political correctness / orthodoxy of their own. It’s fairly laughable to have wealthy middle class Anglo Celtic men deriding the “politically correct” when they largely run the country and set the national agenda and language.
That is why, for the most part, “mainstream” and the rest are meaningless words and phrases used by people writing in their own intellectual silos, usually removed from meaningful interaction outside their social and media circles. Henderson, for example, speaks of the voters of Western Sydney and Lindsay often – but I can’t recall seeing him at Panthers, Penrith Plaza or even the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre. These opinion writers in newspapers should really be honest and not try to claim that they represent anyone but themselves and their immediate circle of contacts and friends – but there’s not much chance for that kind of honesty with these intellectually dishonest outrage pornographers.
We invariably see at such times many outraged responses – many as ridiculous as the original column – coming thick and fast to such frivolous issues. That is why we see the lots of responses to such things like Peppagate on Twitter and in comment pages of news sites. Meanwhile, the activities of the current government continue afresh and removed from such controversies. The more read parts of tabloid dailies and commercial television stations aren’t as tortuously concerned with the ABC’s programming and salaries of the presenters as the column inches in the middle of the papers. Especially that of the largely unread Australian, whose audience would be the envy only of community radio. The most read parts are swept up more with issues like the one on the front cover of today’s Daily Telegraph – the Coalition’s big spending Badgery’s Creek Airport plans – including the extraordinary step of Federal funding of new rail lines. I can’t imagine as many Twitter comments or as many opinion pieces about that issue than we are seeing with reactions to these phoney culture wars being whipped up by the grumpy columnists of the fourth estate. That isn’t a big problem, though, as Twitter is more a form of entertainment than anything else. And the Peppa Pig stuff has been funny.