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Animus against Adams

October 30th, 2002

One of the striking things about the right wing of Australian politics is the depth of hatred for Phillip Adams. This is evident reading almost any right-wing blogger and is reflected in the frequent claim that what the ABC needs is a ‘right-wing Phillip Adams’.

The indictment against Adams, as I read it, is that he’s a fat, pompous old windbag who assumes that anyone with an opposing viewpoint is a fool or a knave. If there is one thing this country is not short of, it’s pundits satisfying all of these criteria, particularly right-wingers. I could name half a dozen off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are plenty more.
In fact most of these characteristics are occupational hazards of punditry, or of life. From personal experience, I know that it’s hard for an opinion columnist to avoid pontificating and even harder to accept that most of your political opponents are intelligent people who sincerely believe in the policies they are advocating. On the other counts, old age comes to us all and, in a sedentary job, so does weight gain, or a never-ending struggle against it. Perhaps Adams is more prone to these faults than some other pundits, but he’s certainly far from the worst on any of the counts listed against him
So why the particular animus against Adams? His ABC show seems to arouse particular resentment, but would any of the top half-dozen rightwing windbags give up their existing gigs for a late-night show on Radio National? And, given the ubiquity of this kind of thing, what possible purpose would be served by putting on ABC show starring a second-string rightwing windbag In fact, I believe they tried for a while with Imre Saluszinsky but the experiment was not a success for some reason (A Google search reveals nothing to support my memory of an Imre show, so perhaps readers can set me straight on this point).
Adams also has a pretty big slab in the Weekend Oz, but this is mostly devoted to building up the Adams persona (on which more below). And only the most bigoted rightwinger could suggest that the Murdoch press has a leftwing bias.
I think the real reason for the hatred of Adams is that he has succeeded in creating a character. The much-publicized feud with God, the joke books, the rural retreat and simple longevity (has he been in the Oz since it started publication or just since the dawn of living memory?) have gone to create a complete persona – Adams’ political views are just a part of this. As a result, he has not just readers and listeners, but fans. A lot of people have tried this, for example bringing their spouses and children (usually with fey pet names) into their columns. But it’s not as easy as it looks, particularly when you add political comment to the mix, and few have succeeded.
The only pundit who’s been more successful than Adams in this way is John Laws, the truckies’ mate, homespun poet, battlers’ friend and so on. But Laws has exploited every aspect of his self-created character for commercial gain, to the point where even his listeners can hardly take him seriously. As the continuing attacks on him show, the Adams character is a long-running success story.

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