Thursday, February 2, 2012

At Long Last, A Real Enemy

LONG before they put video screens or even cassette decks in cars there were games like Spotto to keep the little ones occupied. Does anyone remember it? Little cards printed with trucks, cows, trees, clouds and what have you, all to be observed through the window and crossed off the list? Variations on the game, prompted by parental suggestions, soon took root, so that a long trip might see quests to name a dog breed for every letter of the alphabet, or composers, major cities and, inevitably, VFL footballers.

One challenge the nippers never faced was compiling an A-Z of Australian intellectuals, and just as well. If the grown-ups in the front seat had heard Clive Hamilton offered as a suggestion for “H”  – not that the like of him existed back then, mind you --  blinding laughter might have seen the car run off the road. Adults were different in those days. Seeing off the Depression and a couple of serious wars must have done something to their sense of perspective, and a poor, ranting fellow forever beside himself about imperceptible shifts in temperature and weather would have been an object of indulgent ridicule. Silly Clive, he does no harm down there on the Yarra Bank.

Ah, but the Spotto kids grew up, as all do, to find themselves the luckiest ever born. No foreign threats, no susso or rabbit for tea.  TVs and bountiful times, inoculations and a good certainty of hitting at least the three score and ten -- for the child of the Fifties’ those were birthrights.

And their kids, the ones now two+ generations removed from first-hand knowledge of just how genuinely nasty the world can be, what of them? Every action demands an equal and opposite reaction, and the business of growing up is no different. There needs to be something to push against, and if the enemy’s vileness owes much to the imagination so much the better. Bogeymen won’t actually cut your throat or blow you up, so it is just fine to take issue with Tony Abbott’s Catholicism, never the goings on at the el Ratbaggi mosque. Bristling and snarling  is part of every young pup’s training. Israel, Big Carbon, Maccas, even the bloody thermometer – that was some tempting smorgasbord of wickedness, all items fit for rants and raves, and each just right for bleeding off some of that adolescent bile. Down on the Yarra Bank, Clive and many like him heard the racket, caught whiff of think-tank sinecures and comfy campus gigs, and rose to the moment.

And those angry kids? The ones least familiar with soap are still out there, camped in the City Square or jeering at Jews outside Max Brenner’s chocolate shops. The smarter ones, they scrubbed up nice and moved with their imaginary enemies into glass offices with plenty of bicycle racks out the front.

Yesterday some such specimen at Fairfax had the opportunity to publish something interesting, perhaps even a little provocative, about Gina Rinehart, free speech and the Fairfax raid. Such an article might even have touched on the company’s narrow and ever-narrowing demographic, how that shrinking audience might have a big something to do with the moribund stock and shrunken prospects.

They might have done that. Instead it was the Jeremiah from the Yarra Bank who was hauled into the spotlight with instructions, as usual, to froth on command. There would be no adult laughter this time, not as once for a bit of Spotto silliness. Outrage and furious applause on one side and silence on the other. The explanation for that is simple. The last adult abandoned Fairfax long ago, leaving only a choir to heed the incessant preaching.

With the exception of Rinehart, there is no longer anything about Fairfax to command a grown-up’s respect. What interests her, however, is not likely to please the editor whose first instinct was to tap Hamilton for that opinion column. This is a genuinely odd development, and sad in its way, because the businesswoman’s likely arrival on the Fairfax board fulfils every luvvies’ lifelong dream.

Finally, at long last, they have a genuine, bona fide enemy to contend with.And perhaps, if the innocents' screams are loud enough, some adults might come back to see what is going on.


  1. I remember Spotto. You got the cards from BP service stations.

  2. Kae, the prize is yours: You get two extra pears, which have to be eaten before the fruit-fly inspection past Sale.

    1. Gee, thanks. We usually managed to eat ours before we got to the border.

      Gina should buy it and gut it. Pillage and plunder would be a good start.

      And still supporters of the Fairfax media can't see it as biased, but tag all Murdoch as biased to the right. Terminal stupidity.

  3. Spotto...lightweight. Better was the Shell Passport which was stamped at every Shell garage you filled up at while on holidays.

  4. Grandfather Bunyip was very loyal to Mr Mackay, who had the BP servo, so it was Spotto all the way.

  5. And I well remember standing with assorted siblings by the dump bin on the side of the highway in the blazing sun stuffing down a couple of kilos of assorted fruit between us. My frugal Scottish father, who was sent to Oz after his father died in WWI just in time for the Great Depression, stood over us to make sure we did not waste a single sliver.

  6. All true Prof. The gorgon like photos the SMH have been using are just a preamble to the photoshopped goodies they have lined up where it looks like Reinhart is eating a baby. Don't fret, as was mentioned at 'the cat', just think, now Reinhart owns 14% of earth hour! This will be good to watch.

  7. Spotto? Spotto?! Youse all must have been city kids.

    When I was a lad we were lucky to walk 20 miles to the nearest siding without a wool bale on our back and return home dragging two dozen scarifier points behind us.

    All jokes aside: I think this is your best yet, Professor. The first two paragraphs are possibly the best thing written on contemporary "intellectuals" in the last ten years. Priceless! Genuine laughter ringing out here in Hong Kong; my next door neighbours (whose TV I can watch instead of my own) are wondering what's wrong with me...

  8. I understand that Ms. Rinehart could buy Fairfax outright, if she cared to, probably out of petty cash. That she does not want to suggests that she has something in mind for the current occupants of the newsrooms. Something lingering, presumably.

  9. A very good point indeed you make about hard times, easy times, and the effect they have on lives, even after the hard times have ended.

    Mrs JB is of Chinese origin, she, her family and most friends, know a great deal about extremely hard times, not the least being famine, revolution, war, and politics.
    "Interesting Times" it is fair to say.

    This could well be one of the many reasons Chinese Australians place such massive importance on Education, hard work, and Family.

    Education is something that can not be taken away from you, family is family, look after each other, hard work is it's own reward.
    Just my two bob's worth.

  10. I've just read the Clive Palmer interview with tony jones where he riffs briefly about opening up a second front on Fairfax.

    So not just one enemy, Bunyip but possibly two.

  11. I can just picture Clive 'spotto' Hamilton, Len-Bore Taylor and A-Dill Horin sitting outside Fairfax HQ with 'Will drop pants for food' signs clutched in their besmeared hands once Gina has her say. One can dream...

  12. "for every letter of the alphabet, or composers, major cities and, inevitably, VFL footballers."
    You must have come from a very posh family, then again we read only 'The Sun' in our family mainly because it had the best comic strips and Keith Dunstan.

  13. Many years ago I remember a talk-back caller on ABC Victoria claim to come from a family of intellectuals. She was taken seriously.
    (Only an intellectual would believe in the given secular pieties.)

    Well written good professor.
    My hope is that Gina Rinehart stirs the hornets nest even more.

  14. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.February 3, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    A litle help here from Wikipedia about the wailing doomsayer prophet Jeremiah, Prof, for those not schooled in the biblical disciplines:

    "Other disciplines that contributed to the training of the young prophet and confirmation of his message are described as not turning to the people,[40] not marrying or fathering children,[41] not going to weddings or funerals,[42] not sitting in a house with feasting,[43] and not sitting in the company of merrymakers.[44]"

    A ball of fun as a younster then. No Spotto for him. A lot like Clive too in his doomsaying. Thus his name lives on, and allows us to fully appreciate the joys of Clive.

  15. Your articles make me glad I can read.

  16. The game I recall playing on long drives was how many cars the old man could overtake. Melbourne-Narooma, Narooma-Melbourne etc.(We're talking Game Fishin' here, Prof) He liked to keep the speedo needle around the 80mph mark; and why not? His record was acknowledged as 28; (and that by family and associates far more reliable than the IPCC) which was equal to the amount of smoke butts in the foot well when he was done.
    Anyway, to ct a lng stry shrt, The old man, for a few years before he died would froth at the mouth at any sight or sound of Bob Hawke, then Keating. This from a born and bred Labor voter. I think it was around that time when Political Correctness started gaining a foothold in the mainstream.

    You see, Clive Hamilton and all his broader ilk, and all the f***wits that enable such, they are only capable of existence because my father(New Guinea veteran, Mentioned in Disatches)and his ilk are either dead, or very, very old and out of power.

  17. I laughed when Steve Price recommend that Andrew Bolt should take over as Editor of The Age, much to Bolta's consternation. The thought of that taking place should be dangled in front of them for a little while longer and make them squirm for as long as possible.

    We can but dream eh?