Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Academic Mind In Action

WE HAVE all heard of the village idiot who, when asked why an illiterate man would write a letter his dog, replied that everything was OK because, while he could not write, the dog could not read. This morning in the Age, the old saw is given something of a modern twist, the opinion page being supplied with a pair of writers who dispense ignorance to readers via editors who know no better. The star attraction is Stephan Loondowsky who, as usual, serves up a litany of falsehoods, not least of which is the assertion that former Senator Nick Minchin and his sceptical kind deny the link between tobacco and poor health. There is nothing terribly new about Loondowsky’s latest seepage, which should not come as a surprise. The only thing more given to stupidity and repetition than Age contributors are the editors who publish them. Just in case you have forgotten Loondowsky’s urgent need for treatment, here is everything in today’s op-ed but delivered in spoken form: 

Now Loondowsky takes some topping -- although not, thankfully, in any sense that might get Peter Slipper excited -- but the Age manages it all the same by deploying the Parkville Asylum’s Don Edgar, who goes on at great length about society’s obligation to provide for all. To support this view, Edgar quotes Alfred Dolittle from Shaw’s Pygmalion. And remember, Edgar is aprominent academic, someone you might imagine to enjoy more than a nodding familiarity with one of the last century’s most notable plays. Here is his version of Dolittle:
George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion character Alfred Doolittle laments his lot as one of the ''undeserving poor'': "Think what it means to a man … he's up against middle-class morality all the time … 'You're undeserving, so you can't have it' … I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more …'' Doolittle was right. Evidence suggests it is rich, well-educated, higher-status people who feel entitled, not the poor.
Here is Dolittle’s original speech. As readers will note, Shaw is ridiculing both Dolittle’s selfish, grasping sense of entitlement and his eagerness to “sell” daughter Eliza for a quick fiver. 
What am I, Governors both? I ask you, what am I? I'm one of the undeserving poor: that's what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that he's up agen middle class morality all the time. If there's anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it's always the same story: 'You're undeserving; so you can't have it.'

But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow's that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don't eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I'm a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving.
What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything. Therefore, I ask you, as two gentlemen, not to play that game on me. I'm playing straight with you. I ain't pretending to be deserving. I'm undeserving; and I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it; and that's the truth. Will you take advantage of a man's nature to do him out of the price of his own daughter what he's brought up and fed and clothed by the sweat of his brow until she's growed big enough to be interesting to you two gentlemen? Is five pounds unreasonable? I put it to you; and I leave it to you.
As all but Prof Edgar knows, Shaw was a socialist and keen to improve the lot of the downtrodden by, amongst other things, keeping the lucre of largesse away from graspers like Dolittle. Somehow, by the end of his column, Edgar has arrived at precisely the opposite conclusion, writing:We should not pit the ‘deserving’ against the ‘undeserving poor’, or we will all be poorer in every way.”

If you are inclined to spare a kind thought for the poor, focus first on Fairfax shareholders, who grow poorer by the day. Do you think the piffle their newspapers publish might have something to do with it?


  1. A text can mean anything that suits the purposes of the one writing the critique. Herman Melville only thought he had written an amusing story about "a big fish that got away". Nothing like the whopper that subsequent generations of Lit Critters made of Moby Dick.

    It's called Post Modernism isn't it ?

  2. Welcome back, Bunyip.

    A li'l note about the post above, the link to fauxfacts share price, isn't.

    Another hint, if I may, Squire - use the five year price chart, it's more 'dramatic'.

  3. No doubt Loondowsky wrote his piece at least as slowly as he spoke, particularly helpful for me, I just can't read quickly, though happy to be a bit smarter than the village idiot's dog.

    Funny that Q&A will have a panel discussing climate change on which there is not one qualified geologist, atmospheric scientist, geographer, topographer not even a mammologist or paloentologist. I guess a social researcher and writer, a former Liberal Minister, a comely young lass,founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, mining magnate, Chief Executive of the CSIRO will have so much to contribute to the topic. Can hardly wait.

    1. PhillipGeorge(c)2012April 27, 2012 at 12:31 PM


      for God's sake include a[u][b]botanist, a farmer, or a serious aquarium owner.[/u][/b]

      Even underwater plants want higher concentrations of CO2.

      Why do green house owners - the real green house effect owners - try to put more CO2 into their microcosms.

      It makes dollars and sense.
      The hot house walls are the boundary conditions for that environment and the extrapolation is, from that, legitimate.

      Rising CO2 levels is fabulously good news. Politicians aren't the good news story.

    2. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.April 28, 2012 at 10:25 PM

      And with James Delingpole in town, no surprise that Their ABC didn't ask him, as one of the world's most internationally significant bloggers on climate change, to come along and take part.

  4. Neither Edgar is a shrinking violet.
    When one reads their blurbs [written by themselves, no doubt] one is struck by the absence of false modesty and their self-evluations.

  5. Bunyip,

    I mentioned it elsewhere but the more one studies this topic one slowly comes to the conclusion that fabricating history and evidence, in the intellectual sense, is done by the Platonists and their modern day successors as exemplified by the individuals reported on above, unwittingly, and presumed to be factually correct from common assent. Windschuttle's Fabrication of Aboriginal History series is another example of this academic fabrication of reality.

    I raise this because, lately, I have been studying the revisionist Holocaust literature and the first conclusion I came to was that the Holocaust paradigm seemed to share many traits with other fabrications of history - whether as reported by Windschuttle or the more recent publication by the author of "Am I Black Enough for You", to name some uppermost on my memory. Put simply, the Holocaust was/is a fabrication.

    Do a Google on "SS Angora Rabbits" and have a gander.

  6. Why did Landowsky not actually name the papers he referenced with disdain in his video!!! It is called scientific rigor! Worried about putting his money where his mouth is.

  7. Umm, I am confused. Wasn't it the climate scientist who - it has been proven through the ClimateGate e-mails - that they rigged the Peer Review System; thus the so called 'Deniers' could not get anything printed.

    Wasn't it the AGW brigade refused to release their data so others can scrutinise them?

    This smacks more of rhetoric that and grand standing.

    I have tried to have something printed through the peer review process (not AGW related - but education) and because the reviewer disagreed, it was not accepted. Peer review, in my mind, is one way of ensuring that journals do not print contrarian views.

  8. Prof, my withdrawal symptoms our now abating. I concur with your comments on Loosen-dope-skis nonsense but I think you may have meant to write, in the first para, 'sewage' rather 'seepage'.

  9. ".Evidence suggests it is rich, well-educated, higher-status people who feel entitled, not the poor"

    Edgar seems to have been on the public teat for most of his life. He's married to Patricia Edgar who also seems to have culled a fair amount of taxpayer-provided spondoolicks over the years. They are both inter-connected with 'progressive' royalty of the likes of Gough Whitlam, Hilary McPhee and Phillip 'Squatter' Adams.

    I don't think it would be unfair to describe them as 'higher status people who feel entitled'.

    Consuela Potez

  10. The usual bunch of selfimporant know all who really know bugger all ,cant wait for ABC Pty Ltd and SBS Pty Ltd when the politburo is Destroyed at the next election and we persuade Abbot to sell the Propaganda wing of the alp mob.

  11. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.April 28, 2012 at 10:22 PM

    Prof, this was exactly the edition of The Age that I read, and in my comment on your next post I have already said what I thought of it (I don't necessarily read your work in proper sequence; mea culpa). These two pieces were the ones that completely astounded me to find in a major newspaper. What tosh. Melbourne has my sympathies. Thank goodness they have you to suggest improvements.

  12. Is that really Loondowsky? He's kinda creepy! Are you sure it's not satire? Compared to Dr David Evans I know who I'd listen to and who is more qualified.

  13. Perhaps Loondowsky might venture some comment on the wonders of 'peer review' as applied to Gergis et al 2012:

  14. The greatest denier of all:GLOBAL TEMPERATURE

  15. Anyone who mentions the Holocaust and Aboriganal history in the same sentence looses all credibility .