Trenchant Lemmings
"Arrive in a clown car, bursting with anger."
Robert Weaver
Sydney, Australia
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The weblog description is a misquotation from Steve Aylett's Indicted to a Party: What to Do, Who to Blame.
The weblog title links to the "No Country Redirect" version, for whatever that might be worth.
July 30, 2015

July 03, 2015

Here's everything you need to know about Ray Martin as we are informed of his leading an external enquiry into Q and A's unconscionable lapse of etiquette by letting someone, albeit someone who is something of a knobhead, state the blindingly obvious. From the leader's debate of the 1996 Federal election, an election, as Federal elections tend to be, fought, in theory, on national issues.

RAY MARTIN: All right. I want to give you both a chance to sum up, but a quick question, a news question. Were you shocked by the Federal Court's ruling about the behaviour of Rupert Murdoch's companies in Australia over football?

PAUL KEATING: These are corporate matters under the Trade Practices Act, Ray. I mean, you would have to know basically all....

RAY MARTIN: But the judge's use of words like deceit and dishonesty and duplicity and corrupting tactics. Is that coming to....

PAUL KEATING: Yes, but why ask us, Ray? I mean....

RAY MARTIN: Because Telstra is in partnership with Foxtel in terms of pay television. You're also going to give them Fox Studios.

PAUL KEATING: But what are you trying to say, now? I manage the Rugby League - is that it?

RAY MARTIN: No, you are in partnership with a company that has been severely criticised by a Federal judge.

PAUL KEATING: For a pay television business. But Super League is a creature of the News Corporation and News Limited and the ARL.

RAY MARTIN: So there's nothing on TV licences or about newspapers in Australia? There is no reflection on that?

PAUL KEATING: Look, this is essentially about corporations. It is a corporation tussle.

RAY MARTIN: Any alarm bells for you on this?

JOHN HOWARD: Can I just say something about it. As a lover of Rugby League, I hope that court decision is a catalyst to reunite the game. I think the division and the bitterness, the rancour, that has occurred and has cut in half a great game and I would like to see....

RAY MARTIN: Any alarm bells? We don't have your communications policy, but any alarm bells about a company, in newspapers and television in Australia, that gets that sort of critique?

JOHN HOWARD: Oh, well, I mean, they are entitled to further procedures of the law like anybody else and I don't think somebody in my position should be making ex cathedra judgments.
In case you need reminding: Murdoch had just received an unfavourable ruling from the Federal Court in the Super League war. His opponents handed a (temporary) win were the ARL, owned in part by Kerry Packer, also owner of Channel 9 and, thus, Ray Martin's boss. Was Martin's irrelevant grandstanding in a national forum over this PR coup for the man he worked for just something he instinctively decided to pursue, or did he obediently comply with a memo? In either case he performed like the company man he was.

(Just in passing, notice Howard's impressively craven attempt to say something that would please both feuding media magnates, while also posturing as a man of the people. One for the ages, I think.)

In early November 2014 I was most amused (almost as amused as I was at the time by the spectacle of US Navy Seals arguing about who had the right to be called a hero for gunning down an unarmed man) by SBS's description of Martin, while spruiking First Contact, as "an award-winning journalist". Martin was, at one time, a journalist; he, later, won a bunch of Silver and Gold Logies for being a popular TV personality. If he'd won the fucking Nobel Prize for Chemistry that still wouldn't make him an award-winning journalist. (It would make him a journalist and award-winning chemist.) Just saying.

June 05, 2015

As digital methods have become more central to literary study, Shakespeare’s works have proved a tempting testing ground. In a 2011 article, Ward E.Y. Elliott and Robert J. Valenza of Claremont McKenna College tackled the claim of Shakespeare’s widespread wordsmithing. They concluded that new words attributed to Shakespeare are “probably overcounted by a factor of at least two” — in part because early versions of the Oxford English Dictionary relied heavily on Shakespeare for textual citations. Indeed, as more works become digitized, Shakespeare’s number of first-use citations in the OED is dropping, from 3,200 at midcentury to around 2,000 today.

Meanwhile, in another 2011 article published in Shakespeare Quarterly, Hugh Craig, of the University of Newcastle in Australia, took on the belief that Shakespeare’s vocabulary is truly “beyond comparison,” aligning Shakespeare’s plays with about 100 others of the period to “dispel the myth of his exceptional vocabulary.” Craig found that, accounting for Shakespeare’s greater output and survival rate, he was not so different from his peers; on average, he employed a narrower variety of words per play than now-forgotten colleagues like Robert Greene and George Peele. “The truth is much simpler,” Craig wrote: “Shakespeare has a larger vocabulary because he has a larger canon.”

February 26, 2015
The Report

Recommendations are made about immigration, suggesting policies and legislative changes “necessary to support decisions to grant or revoke an initial visa, subsequent visas, and citizenship.” This came in light of the assessment that “in the same circumstances, Monis would likely be granted entry to Australia and citizenship if he presented in 2015”.

Immigration processes had to “reflect changing national security considerations” – a desperate admission of post hoc ergo propter hoc. The Monis who presented himself at the Lindt Café was not the same man who arrived in Australia in 1996. Reading between these lines, the report is expecting immigration officials to be skilful clairvoyants. The more likely outcome will entail exclusionary rules.


Then come the “programs”. Emphasis is made on expediting “work on a Countering Violent Extremism referral program, including ensuring it is appropriately resourced”. This suggests that Monis, deemed mentally ill on the one hand, and a radicalised agent of Islam on the other, could be the beneficial subject of such panaceas. The very idea is tinged with more than a touch of ludicrousness, given the nature of the man’s disposition to begin with. Oscillating between forms of sectarianism, idealism and philosophical costumes, he was arguably beyond the reach of any such recipe for action. What the Martin Place Siege report suggests is a sweetly targeted delusion: that radicalisation programs necessarily work in their theoretical and practical scope, and that Muslim communities must be strongarmed into being agents of the cause.

As a final point, the report uses the incomprehensible verbiage of the modern bureaucrat analyst, centred on such organisational gibberish as “prioritisation” models. There are “Lead Prioritisation Categories”, schematised as “High Priority Lead”, “Medium Priority Lead” heading down to “No Priority assigned” which are, incidentally, those “Leads not relating to imminent threat and with few security indicators.” A cardinal rule of security policy: make it unintelligible.

February 18, 2015

I don't read newspapers anymore — I just lie to myself and cut out the middleman, but I think it's important to note that the press themselves are not actually outraged by what they report on as being offensive. No tabloid journo — whose life is invariably a shattered kaleidoscope of prostitutes, gambling, cocaine, self-loathing, literally going through a stranger's bins, erectile dysfunction and cocaine — is genuinely offended when some students dress up as the Twin Towers for Halloween.

Outrage just makes good copy. It's easier to write, and simpler to understand. A tabloid hack knows that their average reader can barely read and they're not going to try to communicate anything like ennui in the vocabulary of a ten year old.

Offence is often simply an attempt to deny reality. Avant-garde film makers get attacked for saying things that are avant-garde; comedians get attacked for making jokes and footballers get attacked for being stupid. Nowadays offence is taken symbolically. It even gets translated into symbolic terms. Imagine if I did a joke along the lines of...

"The thing about that paedophile ring at Westminster is that they weren't even the worst MPs. There were people in Parliament who were to the right of MPs that STRANGLED KIDS. And they actually did more harm than paedophiles. I mean, the nonces tried to do harm in their own little way, but Thatcher fucked ALL the kids."

Not my finest work, but it doesn't matter because if it started a shitstorm, the joke itself wouldn't be printed. I would be in trouble because I'd joked about abused children or made a sick joke about a dead pensioner. The joke itself would be translated into these terms so as to maximise offence and minimise its message. I would be adjudged to have transgressed on a symbolic level, like some gibbering 13th Century Heretic.
Frankie Boyle, not writing for the Independent.

February 01, 2015
Cornered by the Horde

I recall this scene from any number of zombie movies...

...but never this adorable.

January 31, 2015

Rundle on The Imitation Game:

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Turing is arrogant, aloof and quick with a putdown. He delights in making his colleagues feel stupid, and in making his superiors guess his actions. He’s bitchy and cute. He sees the war as a bore, a problem to be solved, not a moral-political-national struggle.

None of this accords with anyone’s memory of Turing, but it matches a set of cliches, that of the mid-century capital-H homosexual. ‘Turing’ is, put simply, queenish. The film has simply decided that a certain cultural style of being homosexual can be used to construct Turing’s whole character.


[T]he Colossus computer came along when the Engima code had been largely decrypted. Though it was built to Turing’s design, its true architect was Tommy Flowers, the head radio engineer at the GPO research unit, the person charged with building the thing. A working-class boy apprenticed to the GPO at 13, Flowers had the key insight, that ‘Colossus’ should have stored programmes – that is, that the various things a computer did shouldn’t have to be reloaded afresh each time. That is the computer: the thing I’m writing this on, the thing you’re reading it on.

Flowers and his team worked hundred hour weeks for eleven months to build Colossus. He and they appear nowhere in the film.

Instead, we get Turing alone in a shed at Bletchley, putting Colossus together by hand. When the code is cracked, it’s all at once – and they suddenly know the position of every U-boat in the Atlantic. The analogy is obvious, especially if you’ve seen The Social Network: it’s Alan Turing as a proto-Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, and Bletchley Park as the first start-up, the ancestor of Apple and Facebook. The effect is to attribute all heroic power to the genius with the one big idea, rather than the masses.


[T]he weirdest thing about the portrayal of Turing in the film... [is that i]t can’t cope with the full complexity of his sexuality, which shifted over his life, and which we would now call ‘queer’*. Mostly sexually inactive through shyness in the 30s, he made clear his ‘tendencies’ to Clarke when they became engaged; she said it didn’t matter much to her. He expressed a desire for family and children. Through the prism of post-Stonewall essentialist ideas of sexuality you could call that sexual false consciousness. But you could also suggest that the film’s transformation of a real engagement into a sham one is an attempt to impose a highly specific idea of sexuality onto the past, one in which one has to be true to a deep and singular sexuality.
Et cetera

* Oh, right - so when used in LGBTQI it doesn't mean "gay and with a PhD". I did wonder.

September 06, 2014

By various symbols and a five-color code, the city's hotels, apartments and rooming houses are rated either moral, immoral or 'undetermined'. The immoral category, vastly outnumbering the other two, is subdivided into accommodation where immorality is 'countenanced or ignored', places where immoral tenants are 'desired or preferred', and houses 'wholly given up to immorality'.

September 05, 2014

We are just past the starting line of a four-year marathon of Great War commemorations.


The cost of the centenary to Australian state and federal taxpayers – to say nothing of an expectedly vast contribution from private donors – will be in the region of $320 million.

To put that into perspective, the UK has set aside ‘just’ £55 million (around $100 million) for the commemorations, despite the fact that its military casualties vastly outnumbered those of Australia: 750,000 deaths as against 60,000.

July 19, 2014

In other words, Wicked Campers got rid of its slogan because it was unpopular. Yes, some politicians muttered about new laws. But the company didn’t repaint its vans because of repression by the Nanny State but rather because activists mobilised against them. No infringement of free speech took place. On the contrary, large numbers of ordinary people who had previously been silent found their voice – the exact opposite of the Big Brotherish crackdown [Abbott appointed Human Rights Commissioner and IPA hack Tim] Wilson seemed to be describing.

Why, then, did Mr Freedom make this case a cause célèbre? The answer lies in this line:
Despite the success of the online campaign, Mr Wilson said people who disapproved should protest by not using the business.
For Wilson, freedom’s a market relationship, most perfectly expressed when an owner freely chooses to sell a particular commodity and a purchaser freely opts to buy it.


Everyone knows Anatole France’s quip about the law treating the rich and poor equally when it comes to sleeping under bridges – and the same critique can be applied to notions of freedom (for, as they say, free speech is a lot easier when you own a newspaper). But we can make a stronger claim. Because the sale of labour power depends on this double sense of freedom, defending freedom (from a capitalist perspective) means defending disempowerment, since, if workers have other options available to them, the commodity of labour power will not circulate freely.

That’s why, for neoliberal ideologues, any protest or strike represents (in embryo, at least) an attack on freedom, an infringement on the logic of the commodity. From Wilson’s perspective, by campaigning against Wicked Campers, activists are undermining the fundamental relationships of a free (capitalist) society – which is why our commissioner duly leapt into action.
When I say, generally immediately following my standard quip that "libertarians" are not interested in liberty so much as in privatising tyranny, that the preferred political system of types like Wilson would be feudalism, so long as they got to be lords, I am not only - although I am that as well - remarking on the mental pathologies of the average arrested-adolescent Randite, but also referring to what's layed out above. Simple souls like myself might imagine that a free society is one where in a practical sense most of the people have the most freedom possible in their lives, where their behaviour is the least possibly constrained; but for Wilson and his ilk freedom is where a minority have the freedom to exercise their power and influence, and everyone else has the freedom to "freely" contract to be a serf. [And, for that matter, is a system where "deregulation", "private enterprise", "the nightwatchman state" &c are code words for state capture (of an as-usual-interventionist state) by a particular class... but I digress.] Too harsh? Perhaps the glibertarians would prefer to see themselves as good Jeffersonians, which they could be instead: staunch defenders of a man's right to live untrammelled by oppressive government, free to grow his crops, manufacture his nails, and administer his slaves.

Apropos of which, a' course: I'm currently halfway through Domenico Losurdo's Liberalism: A Counter History and cannot recommend it highly enough.

May 24, 2014

Martial Law Selfies

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