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Walkley on blogs

October 22nd, 2005

The Walkley magazine (home of the Walkley awards for journalism – the nominees are in this issue), has a feature about blogging, including a bit from me. The money quote from the main article is

Daily Telegraph columnist Anita Quigley spoke for many journalists when she wrote on August 10, 2005: “Why some pimply-faced geek, sicko or average Joe Blow thinks someone else wants to read every random thought that crosses their mind is beyond me. Alongside the belief that we all have a novel in us – we haven’t – blogging is the ultimate form of narcissism.�

There’s also an online blogging forum, but it hasn’t really got started yet.

Also from the Telegraph, a piece by Malcom Farr, which I’ll link without comment. Hat tip, Surfdom

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  1. October 22nd, 2005 at 23:50 | #1

    “blogging is the ultimate form of narcissism.â€?

    So?

  2. October 23rd, 2005 at 01:07 | #2

    We are now in a world of infinite punditry and commenteriat. I bet they are ticked off that now anyone can compete with them in their previously protected industry. Punditry now has to provide quality and consistency to get eyeballs. For many of the lazy trolls that infest our mass media, I suspect they would not be able to compete without the protection of the mass media’s circulation.

    Why would I read Miranda Devine when Catallaxy is orders of magnitude better in quality and subject matter? Why would I read Alan Ramsey when Larvartus Prodeo exists?

    Bah.

  3. Andrew
    October 23rd, 2005 at 07:35 | #3

    Blogging the ‘ultimate’ form of narcissism?

    What an inane statement. Where does the leave something like human cloning as a form of narcissism – the ultimate plus 1? 2.5?

    It’s this sort of reliance on stupid cliche that commenters on blogs rip into in real-time, and why I’ve lost interest in most commentators in the MSM.
    If they’re bloody professionals, why don’t they try writing better than the amateurs?

  4. Jason Soon
    October 23rd, 2005 at 10:34 | #4

    Hmm, has Anita Quigley ever tried reading her rag and that of her past employers like The Sun in London ? Slightly more brain food than that free MX paper they hand out to commuters – only slightly. Has she tried reading the vacuous Sunday papers with their social diarists?

    Why some hack journalist with not much of an education or knowledge in anything except working for sensationalist tabloids thinks that someone else wants to read every random thought that crosses their mind is beyond me.

  5. October 23rd, 2005 at 10:50 | #5

    Hey, I dont have any pimples!

    I think that Farr has half a point. Left wing blogs have better scientific substance but Right wing blogs have better comic form. Lefties seem to have forgotten the old maxim that “comedy is not pretty”. Uncivilized disucssion and coarse languare are de rigeur for the Right. If the Left want to raise a laugh they will have to raise some hackles.

  6. Katz
    October 23rd, 2005 at 11:14 | #6

    This from Malcolm Farr (cited above):

    “That’s what democracy is for – to save us from the humourless.”

    During the Howard years, at least, democracy seems to have failed abyssmally.

    (However, Tony Abbott’s discovery of the product of his teenage rumpy-pumpy, followed almost immediately by his discovery that he had been two-times all those years ago was, I admit, quite comical. Keep the yuks coming Tone.)

  7. October 23rd, 2005 at 13:45 | #7

    I am sure that Jack would never say that his posts get the rest of the world rolling in the aisles, or perhaps I just miss the corruscating wit of the above remark.

    The real joke is that the paid jokers in Australia almost all come from the Left – just look at the big coloured thing in the middle of the letters page on any Australian broadsheet.

    The rest of us are mostly not funny, because it is hard work and requires a rare skill. Witness Nabakov or the Governor General or our beloved Flute. Or the occasional bouts of snark in places like Troppo or the one-day-to-return-in-glory Back Pages.

    What passes for funny in the Right is mostly just insult. Yer mother wears army boots. Yok Yok. Sometimes under a mantle of a pompous and easily concocted persona. “The Left, once again at its senile and self-defeating best..” Yok, yok again..

    We could do that stuff. Personally, I can’t be bothered because I have more important things to do with my time than wear a raincoat down in spittle city, convincing no-one and exercising no organ more valuable than my spleen.

    The Telegraph piece, of course, is simply hilarious. I will be emailing it to all my friends, who will immediately abandon all pretences of socialism, recognising the crushing power and rightness of Farr’s brilliant intellect, utterly confirmed by a sense of humour which could be used as weapon for freedom just amplified through tannoys suspended from low flying aircraft in Iraq.

  8. October 23rd, 2005 at 16:24 | #8

    “Why some pimply-faced geek, sicko or average Joe Blow thinks someone else wants to read every random thought that crosses their mind is beyond me. Alongside the belief that we all have a novel in us – we haven’t – blogging is the ultimate form of narcissism.�

    FTR, Quigley’s boss, Rupert Murdoch, was happy to order all 175 of his newspapers to support the war. Murdoch’s politico-economic rationale for this order looks pretty flimsy in retrospect:

    Most revealing of all was Murdoch’s reference to the rationale for going to war, blatantly using the o-word. Politicians in the United States and Britain have strenuously denied the significance of oil, but Murdoch wasn’t so reticent. He believes that deposing the Iraqi leader would lead to cheaper oil. “The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy…would be $20 a barrel for oil. That’s bigger than any tax cut in any country.”

    As Greg Cochran mordantly remarked later, the “War for Oil” had become “War for No Oil”.

    This example of MSM group think represented an abject failure of the press, and journalistic ethics, at a time when they were most needed. So Quigley should put her own house in order before engaging in catty, spiteful attacks against healthy competition.

    Whereas the cybersphere in general, and blogosphere in particular, at least played host to a much more useful and informative debate. The bloggers, pound for pound, packed far more investigative punch than the average Murdoch hack on the most important political issue of the noughties:

    Greg Cochran & Jerry Pournelle blew holes in the neo-cons WMD hoax before it got off the ground,

    Steve Sailer pointed out the pitfalls that Arab consanguinity posed to any attempt at Iraq nation building,

    Pr Nordhaus and Pr Q. shot the Pentagons cost estimates full of holes,

    some geek discovered that Downing Streets WMD dossier was plagiarised off the net; and

    - one errant “Joe Blow” figured out that Wolfowitz strategy was to make a “ditch the Saudis/hitch the Iraqis” US client state swap in Mesopotamia.

    Not all of these cyber sleuths are amateur bloggers. Some even have day jobs that involve journalism. But none of them could have made these discoveries without using blogoshpheric assets and modes of communication.

    So these “pimply-faced geek, sicko or average Joe Blow”, whatever their narcissistic disorders, compare well, morally and intellectually, with press hacks cheerleading a war for cheap oil.

  9. October 23rd, 2005 at 17:07 | #9

    sigh…as a lefty I have to admit, the right definately generates more humour than the left. The Telegraph piece is evidence of this. It’s just a pity that so much of this humour is unintentional.

    Oh well.

  10. October 23rd, 2005 at 17:34 | #10

    With puss,dripping from cheeks, i am taking it pretty hard here. Gone off me food. Miss all the jokes on, “The Insiders”,apart from the blokes on it. Are they going to tell us who caught the advertising contract for I.R. ?

    Maybe, a little media investigation into a business that is able to pay extras,who do not work,have no acting experience, cop 6000 dollars for half a days work? All at the taxpayers expense.

  11. October 23rd, 2005 at 18:50 | #11

    What David said. I’m still searching for a right-wing Gummo Trotsky.

  12. October 23rd, 2005 at 18:58 | #12

    DT, I see you speak Turkish, no no?

  13. October 23rd, 2005 at 19:01 | #13

    Yep there is Left Wing Humor. You have just got to look. This example was instantly discovered via Inquisitor,a new search engine.

  14. jquiggin
    October 23rd, 2005 at 19:53 | #14

    I still find PJ O’Rourke funny. But it gets tired with repetition. How many PJ O’Rourke clones does the world really need?

  15. abb1
    October 23rd, 2005 at 20:19 | #15

    The issues are big, with the Right tending to be pro-Howard, pro-Bush and pro-Israel, and the Left the opposite.

    Is Israel such a huge controversy in Australia – right up there with Howard and Bush (and where’s Blair)? I’m surprised. I know a couple of Aussies here and I never detected any particular interest. Rather, I noticed, they do take a lot of interest in everything British, flying to London more often than others, even Brits (who often profess their dislike of their motherland). What’s the deal with Israel?

  16. Nabakov
    October 23rd, 2005 at 23:50 | #16

    “This example of MSM group think represented an abject failure of the press, and journalistic ethics, at a time when they were most needed. So Quigley should put her own house in order before engaging in catty, spiteful attacks against healthy competition.”

    Have to say I’m with Jack here.

    As for this whole right wingers are funnier thing thing, it seems they trot it out every 12 months or so, along with the “our chicks are sexier” and “South Park kool kidz rule” riffs. And every time they do, it smells more and like they’re trying to convince themselves more than anyone else – specially now as so many of their talismans and shibboleths from the Iraq war is good to steely-eyed rocketman Bush is in control to Howard’s got his finger on the nation’s pulse are all turning in front of their eyes to week-old kitty litter.

    I mean if you are really funny, sexy or cool, you don’t brag about it. You just are. Otherwise you just sound like a teenager desperate to convince yer mates you’re not a virgin.

  17. October 24th, 2005 at 01:20 | #17

    “If you are really funny, sexy or cool,” writes Nabakov, “you don’t brag about it.” You mean like Quiggin, Nab? This from January:

    “The left wing of Ozplogistan swept the awards, which is partly a reflection of who bothered to vote, but partly a reflection of the extent to which the left now dominates the virtual sphere in Australian politics, however poorly we may be doing In Real Life. When I started blogging in the distant days of 2002, right-wing bloggers dominated the scene. A year ago, I’d have said the balance was about the same as in the Australian electorate as a whole. Today, although there are some good right-wing and centre-right blogs, they are a distinct minority.�

    The left “dominates”? Brag on, John.

  18. October 24th, 2005 at 02:25 | #18

    Lower case Tim, Pr Q was not bragging that his blog was funny, sexy or cool. Read it again and try to understand it this time.

  19. snuh
    October 24th, 2005 at 08:35 | #19

    u gotta luv how farr identifies tim blair as a funny blogger. because there’s nothing funnier than a writer with an obsessive-compulsion to correct the spelling mistakes of everyone else on earth. also, turkeys.

    he is clearly the very height of comedy, from which the left could learn a lot.

  20. still working it out
    October 24th, 2005 at 09:15 | #20

    There is a simple fact: the most talented writer’s are not working in the MSM.

    This is because the primary qualification for becoming an MSM opinion writer is not actually an ability to write, think or analyse, but rather overcoming the barriers to entry to that profession. Social networking and luck play a much greater role in the selection of MSM opinion writers than ability. The removal of those barriers to entry that blogging has allowed is mecilessly exposing this.

  21. October 24th, 2005 at 09:20 | #21

    Anyone who thinks the Right has a monopoly on humour has never read Fafblog.

    Did anyone hear the Ramona Koval / Hilary McPhee / Andrew Whatsisname panel discussion, from the Sydney Writers festival, on RN yesterday? Anyone else banging their head on the keyboard and moaning softly at the gratuitous insults of the MSM? a medium which allows people like Bolt and Alan Jones to maunder on at will?

  22. Russell
    October 24th, 2005 at 13:46 | #22

    Helen – I started listening to that program but turned it off – couldn’t stand the self-satisfied tone about New Matilda – surely the most disappointing ‘left wing’ presence on the web.

  23. October 24th, 2005 at 13:53 | #23

    Science has proved that the main difference between the left and right of the blogosphere is that the right blog on the same topics and link to each other, and the left is just a bunch of unorganised slack-linking individuals, blogging all over the topic shop. At times I’ve even noticed that the cumpulsiveness of the right’s angst over organising topic conformity reaches to criticism of left bloggers if they don’t blog on some topics deemed totally compulsory, which is pretty strange if you think about it.

  24. October 24th, 2005 at 17:27 | #24

    cs – come back and whip us into line!

  25. October 24th, 2005 at 21:31 | #25

    The Right will always be funnier than the Left because humour is essentially deflationary ie taking the piss out of someone or thing. It is also a form of cruelty, which is something Right wingers take a certain malicious relish in inflicting.

    The Left tend to assume that human nature is better than it actually is. Whilst the Right do its best to make sure that human nature is as bad as it can get.

    So the Right will always be able to find or create space to topple idols. Therefore the Right will tend to be funnier than the Left, at least in a normal Open society.

    The last thirty years proves this, with most of the funniest political writing coming from the Right wing leaning satirists eg Orwell (sort of) Muggeridge, Solzyhenitzen, O’Rourke, K. Amis, Conquest, Waugh (E & A).

    Of course the Private Eye, National Lampoon and Nation Review crews could, at a pinch, be called Leftwing satirists. But they tended to be kicking at a rotting door. Once the Old Tory/WASP Establishment had died or been pensioned off the New Left had very little soft targets to aim at.

    And that was when the New Left itself became the softest and juiciest of targets.

  26. October 25th, 2005 at 08:01 | #26

    The Right will always be funnier than the Left because humour is essentially deflationary ie taking the piss out of someone or thing. It is also a form of cruelty, which is something Right wingers take a certain malicious relish in inflicting.

    That would explain, of course, your scintillating wit and comic verve, Auntie Jack. Solzhenitsyn’s [N.B. correct spelling] not funny either.

    Quigley and Farr clearly don’t know what they’re talking about. If they wrote on blogs their lazy incompetence would result in evisceration. Says it all, really.

  27. Katz
    October 25th, 2005 at 08:29 | #27

    “The Right will always be funnier than the Left”

    Gotta agree with Jack on this.

    However,

    “The Right will always be more amusing than the Left”

    Now that’s a lot more problematic.

  28. jquiggin
    October 25th, 2005 at 08:36 | #28

    Jack, even in the light of his retrospective canonisation by the Right, it seems bizarre to characterise Orwell as “right-leaning (sort of)”. In particular, his contemptuous dismissal of “silly-clever” conservatives could be applied without modification to Mark Steyn and his imitators.

  29. Katz
    October 25th, 2005 at 09:05 | #29

    For an historical perspective on this, the Right has never quite got over the outcome of one of the Great Debates of the Middle Ages: Did Jesus laugh?

    After a lot of inquisition and many visitations by some particularly scary Cistercians and Dominicans to various monasteries whence was heard quite audible giggling, the official position of the Church was insisted upon. No, Jesus DID NOT laugh.

    The Right, having sucked on the sour teat of Christian orthodoxy, has for centuries found it very difficult to spit in the face of the Faith of their Fathers. Thus they feel uncomfortable whenever they feel a chortle, a snigger, or a chuckle coming on. Outright laughter, of course, was quite out of the question.

    Now, it is true that parts of the Right have successfully secularised themselves in the last century or so. But chaps like P. J. O’Rourke are symptomatic of the continuing difficulties that they have with many of the elements of actual humour. They tend to see the application of their excoriation of their hate-objects on the Left as a kind of cultural chemotherapy. They hope against hope that after the successful application of humour, humour itself will cease to be necessary. Like Marx, after the crisis, Rightist humourists look forward to “the withering away of humour”.

    Right wing humourists work for a world where nothing need be funny any more, and no one will ever think to ask again whether “Jesus laughed”.

  30. October 25th, 2005 at 10:06 | #30

    OMG! She’s totally convinced me!

    Think I’ll go delete my blog now.

  31. October 25th, 2005 at 12:19 | #31

    [Humour] is also a form of cruelty

    Ah. If only I’d spent more time pulling the wings off flies and less time reading Thurber and Spike Milligna.

  32. October 25th, 2005 at 18:29 | #32

    jquiggin Says: October 25th, 2005 at 8:36 am

    Jack, even in the light of his retrospective canonisation by the Right, it seems bizarre to characterise Orwell as “right-leaning (sort of)�. In particular, his contemptuous dismissal of “silly-clever� conservatives could be applied without modification to Mark Steyn and his imitators.

    I sort of agree with Pr Q here, but I am going to defend my point. So perhaps a clarification is in order.

    Orwell was a bourgeois socialist who affected a kind of proleterian style. A kind of reverse image of Waugh, who was a bourgeois liberal who affected a kind of aristocratic style. Their personas were their greatest comic achievements, so they need to be handled with care (ie dose of salt) in any attempt at literary interpretation.

    Pr Q is correct to argue that Orwell was a Left wing socialist in substantive political committments. He also had withering contempt for the naive sort of Tory. But he was “sort of Right wing” in his literary style since his most famous satire was directed at toppling Left wing idols. (Homage to Catalonia and the Road to Wigan Pier oscillate between romanticised sentimentality and old-fashioned outrage.)

    [Yawn alert: 4 pars of social theory to follow.] The function of intellectuals in an Open Society is to fashion critique of social institutions that fail to live up to moral ideals. (They are no use running actual and existing institutions – under capitalism they cant get a “real job” and under communism they had to be liquidated.)

    Leftwing intellectuals critique the Open Society on behalf of low-status social classes – proles, women, ethnics, indigenes, non-human animals. There is always plenty of work to be done in this department because low-status outnumber high-status and some elites will always try to get away with murder against the populus.

    The established pillars of society – patriarchal family, capitalist firm and nationalist state – more or less run themselves. Alpha-males really dont need anyone to stick up for their work, they are self-justifying on performance. So Rightwing intellectuals cannot in good faith make much of a living critiquing these institutions.

    The Right wing really has no purpose in life other than the critique of Leftwing intellectuals. Fortunately the Left have developed a large alternative institutional universe, the academy, bureaucracy, media etc which gives the Right something to chew on.

    This is the kind of critique that occupied Orwell in his later, more famous literary work. So in that sense it is defensible to say that Orwell was a “sort of Right wing” satirist. Certainly that is the way he comes accross in Animal Farm and 1984. And the Right correctly sensed that his satirical work was a weapon in in the ideological struggle against the Left.

  33. October 25th, 2005 at 19:10 | #33

    Fyodor Says: October 25th, 2005 at 8:01 am

    Solzhenitsyn’s…not funny either.

    If I did not know Fyodor I would swear he must be joking. AS is probably the greatest satirist in modern European history, given the scope of TGA and the scale of its target. TGA itself is a real thigh-slapper, peppered with a constant stream of sarcastic remarks, mordant observations and ironic asides.

    AS was a soldier, prisoner-labourer and teacher before he became the worlds most powerful writer. All these occupations have essentially ridiculous aspects which have fuelled some of the great comic works.

    OTOH, given Fyodor’s general form, he is probably serious in his appreciation of AS’s literary gifts. Which is kind of sad, for him.

  34. October 25th, 2005 at 20:02 | #34

    Correction: the target rich satirical environment created by the Bush admin does mock the Right’s putative lock on political humour.

    The Bush admin’s “right wing” policies are so bad that they have single-handedly revived the flagging Leftwing satire industry in the US, witness the Onion, Michael Moore, Jon Stewart. Even Chomsky is back in fashion now that Bush looks like becoming the US’s most Latin American-style ruler.

    But I regard Bush-ism as an monstrous ideological mutation that is doomed to extinction. So when Bush is gone Lefty satirists will be scratching about to find someone else half as bad to kick around.

    Satire requires taking the elite down a peg or two. Howard has developed a form of immunity from satire because he has not, until now, strayed that far from mainstream populist values. In fact he has cleverly positioned himself as an anti-elitist which makes it hard for satirists to ping him.

    Also, it is hard for people to laugh at a premier who has presided over the doubling of their property values.

  35. October 25th, 2005 at 23:42 | #35

    Quigley’s comments about bloggers may well just be a case of the pot calling the kettle black (why, as Jason observes, do professional journalists assume they’re necessarily any better than bloggers), but at the same time I don’t think she’s necessarily wrong about the narcissistic aspect of blogging. Which is something I say as 1) a lapsed blogger who is now content to post the occasional photo and 2) someone immensely irritated by Anita Smugley. I don’t think anyone here has proven yet that it’s not narcissistic. God knows that’s at least partly what motivated my own blog (and to some extent this very comment), i.e. I have an opinion and I believe you deserve to be exposed to it.

    As far as the question of humour goes, Jack is right about humour being ultimately about the subtraction of urine from a given target. I’d only say that, back in those long-ago days when I still bothered to read rightbloggers, relatively few of them seemed able to stay on the right side of that fine line between being funny and merely being abusive.

  36. Nabakov
    October 26th, 2005 at 01:18 | #36

    “As far as the question of humour goes, Jack is right about humour being ultimately about the subtraction of urine from a given target.”

    Taking the piss out of folks you think are wrong.

    “…relatively few of them seemed able to stay on the right side of that fine line between being funny and merely being abusive.”

    Pissing on others who think differently.

    Two generations of angry, bitter white men crapped themselves with glee when PJ O’Rourke (a good buddy of Hunter S. Thompson incidently) started poking fun at various sacred cows (which yes. many were more than ripe for slaughter). But since then we’ve been treated to them echoing the sound of PJ’s now voided bowels.

    He did write some good stuff, but who gives a shit about O’Rourke now. In the US (our motherland), Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, the Onion et al (not mention the great talk show jabbers that reflect popular opinon like Letterman) have picked up the torch that Will Rogers, HL Mencken and Ambrose Bierce used to light their cigars.

    If everyone pssing through here named their top ten greatest comedians ever (there’s a post concept John Q.), I bet you most of them would have been of the side of the just plain folks and not our rulers. Unlike most rightwing bloggers who now seem to spend most of their time defending or spinning the boss’s fuckups.

    “There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.” – Will Rodgers.

  37. October 26th, 2005 at 08:36 | #37

    TGA itself is a real thigh-slapper, peppered with a constant stream of sarcastic remarks, mordant observations and ironic asides.

    Oh yeah, Auntie, The Gulag Archipelago’s a laugh-riot. One belly-laugh after another, what with all the slavery, degradation, torture and execution. It’s a veritable comic masterpiece. You should read Anne Frank’s diaries – the saucy little minx really whoops it up.

    Here’s another gratuitous tip for future reference: the presence of gallows humour doesn’t make a hanging an inherently funny event.

    You’ve clearly:

    a) not read the Gulag Archipelago, or any of Solzhenitsyn’s other works (hint: Cancer Ward is his deliberate – and unfunny – satire); and

    b) demonstrated a sense of humour more stunted than even I thought possible.

    Congratulations! You’ve undershort my – already low – expectations once again. Seeing you in action, I often wonder if you walk around with a shovel looking for holes to fall into.

    And what Nabsy said.

  38. October 26th, 2005 at 09:54 | #38

    Fyodor Says: October 26th, 2005 at 8:36 am

    Here’s another gratuitous tip for future reference: the presence of gallows humour doesn’t make a hanging an inherently funny event.

    Gallows humour is still funny, despite being about the gallows. Thats why they call it “humour”. Duh!

    Fyodor is a rather slow fellow. One often finds oneself patiently explaining the bleeding obvious to him. He is being a naive literalist or doing his usual part-time job of spreading mischievous misrepresentations.

    I never said that AS’s depiction of Soviet forced labour and death camps was humourous in itself. I suggested that AS’s satirical commentary on the powers behind the Gulag was funny.

    AS’s humour mainly comes from juxtaposing the high-minded ideals of a classless society under utopian socialism with the insane and inhumane reality of forced labour, torture and executions in the Gulag. A bit like juxtaposing rosy visions of multicultural amity with a ride down snipers alley in Sarajevo.

    George Orwell’s satire in Animal Farm and 1984 works on much the same principle. No one suggests that Big Brother is a funny fellow. But most people call 1984 a satirical work, with plenty of witty remarks about the Party’s hypcritical machinations.

  39. October 26th, 2005 at 10:19 | #39

    Nabakov Says: October 26th, 2005 at 1:18 am

    If everyone pssing through here named their top ten greatest comedians ever (there’s a post concept John Q.), I bet you most of them would have been of the side of the just plain folks and not our rulers. Unlike most rightwing bloggers who now seem to spend most of their time defending or spinning the boss’s fuckups.

    There is some truth in this but not the whole truth. It is hard to be genuinely funny when your side has the money and guns. The National Review used to be kind of funny when Buckley fumed against Carter. And in the early days of Clinton, when it could style itself as part of the Opposition. But under Bush it has become, a gang of fawning synchophants, apart from John Derbyshire.

    I agree with Nabakov that the Left has for the moment got the upper hand in the political humour stakes. This is due to the overwhelming political dominance of the Republicans and because the Bush faction is so bad, situations which may not last.

    [Bore alert: one par of yawn-inducing social theory italicised ahead for ease of skipping.] An intellectuals job is to fashion a critique of social set ups. A Rghtwingers intellectuals job is to critique Leftwing society and ideas. Humour usually reqiuires satire of elites.

    Rightwing humour is a form of populism which teams up the RWDB humourist and the regular guy against the la de da, hi-falutin, Chaddonnay drinking, latte sipping cultural elites. Most cultural elites mostly subscribe to a form of Soft Leftism that is pretty easy to make fun of because it usually consists of dandied up moral posturing.

    Rightwing humour satirises Letwing cultural elites. The social reference groups of Right wing intellectuals is not Wall Street or the Pentagon. It is Harvard and Hollywood. In this context most RWDB humourists are “just plain folks” poking fun at their social betters.

  40. Will De Vere
    October 26th, 2005 at 10:22 | #40

    There are many interesting and useful Blogs, especially this one, but I liked a Gregory cartoon in a recent ‘New Yorker’ of two dogs talking; one says ‘I used to have my own blog, but now I’ve gone back to meaningless barking’.

  41. October 26th, 2005 at 12:37 | #41

    Shorter Jack Strocchi: AS’ depiction of Soviet forced labour and death camps wasn’t funny, but he told a couple of jokes so he’s probably the greatest satirist in modern European history. George Orwell was satirically funny, and he’s right-wing. Or not. It depends on me being able to tell left from right.

    Keep digging, Auntie.

  42. October 26th, 2005 at 13:56 | #42

    I’ve just bought Terry Pratchett’s “Going Postal”. Deconstruct that and see where he is going with it if you like. Oh yes, there’s some nice gallows humour at the beginning just before they hang the (anti)hero.

  43. Tony D
    October 26th, 2005 at 16:50 | #43

    If you liked “Going Postalâ€? try “Monstrous Regiment”. Not sure where Pratchett is going these days, much less human farce but more establishment farce. I think he might be finding it hard to resist…

  44. October 26th, 2005 at 20:46 | #44

    Fyodor Says: October 26th, 2005 at 12:37 pm

    AS’ depiction of Soviet forced labour and death camps wasn’t funny, but he told a couple of jokes so he’s probably the greatest satirist in modern European history.

    Both AS and Orwell were larger than life complex men. This might be difficult for a small-minded person like Fyodor to grasp. But he will just have to be brave about that.

    The idea that TGA’s satiric potential was exhausted by “a couple of jokes” is a travesty. The book starts with a black humour anecdote about zeks digging up a ten thousand year old frozen salamander and “devouring it with relish”. Ivan Denizovitch ends with Ivan being thankful that his One Day in an Arctic slave labor camp was a good day since he got some extra gruel. AS’s many books on the camp system continue in much the same vein, with derision and scorn heaped on conniving camp officials and foolish Leftwing intellectuals who were suckered by them.

    AS’s humour relies on “irony”, the juxtaposition of consequences perverse to intentions which underscore a more general theme. Perhaps this sort of literary technique us bit above Fyodor’s head. I know now why I have to have screaming irony alerts bookending every figure of speech, lest they be done to death by Fyodor’s tedious interpretations.

    And AS’s satire is the “probably the greatest in modern European history” mainly because of the scale of the target – the major alternative ideological social system of the 20th C. And the effect of the barbs – the communist system collapsed in part because dissident intellectuals made it laughable. AS and Havel and the rest of the slavic black comedians made the Soviet system look ridiculous.

    George Orwell was satirically funny, and he’s right-wing. Or not. It depends on me being able to tell left from right.

    Its compex but not rocket science. Orwell was both: Leftwing in his ideological politics and Rightwing in his literary politics. His political constructions were obviously Leftwing, such as the ILP and POUM. But his best litarary works (1984 & Animal Farm) were satirical criticisms aimed at toppling Leftwing idols ie following the Rightwing tradition of debunking Leftwing intellectuals and their rackets.

    To make matters even more complicated (this may cause Fyodors little head to spin!) Orwell fraternized with Europes bohemian elite but in his personal life was very much the bourgeois gentleman. The package came with private schoolboy anti-semitism and a distaste for Leftwing camp followers and fellow-travellers:

    We have reached a stage when the very word socialism calls up…a picture of vegetarians with wilting beards, of Bolshevik commissars (half gangster, half gramophone), or earnest ladies in sandals, shock-headed Marxists chewing polysyllables, escaped Quakers, birth control fanatics, and Labour Party backstairs-crawlers.

    Sound familiar?

    Tom Wolfe is another Right wing intellectual who has tapped into the rich comic vein of debunking Leftwing pretensions. If there is a better social satirist writing in the English language right now I would like to know.

    Of course there has been a revival of Leftwing satire in the past few years. They have more work to do now that Rightwing governments rule much of the EU, US and AUS – and not without some misadventure. This recent reversal of comic fortunes underscores the Decline of the Wets thesis.

    Fyodor would probably prefer that I not rub his face in that fact.

  45. October 26th, 2005 at 23:19 | #45

    Ah, the joy of socks. One thing I’ve noticed is that Pratchett has finally discovered chapters.

  46. October 26th, 2005 at 23:46 | #46

    Chardonnay!

    My sides!

  47. October 27th, 2005 at 08:07 | #47

    Shorter Jack Strocchi: eating frozen salamander and gruel is really hilarious. Irony doesn’t mean what I think it means. It’s rather ironic that I don’t understand satire either…I’m still confused about Orwell but I insist on playing him both ways. That way I won’t be wrong about him either. Ramble, Tom Wolfe, ramble, Decline of the Wets Thesis, ramble.

    The Gulag Archipelago is not satire, Auntie Jack. It’s a mostly accurate history of the GULag system, as experienced by AS and his fellow convicts.

    That you find humour in the wrong places is not entirely surprising. You should take a look in the mirror sometime and enjoy Jack Strocchi the way the rest of us do.

  48. October 27th, 2005 at 08:32 | #48

    Per the online blogging forum at the Walkey mag which JQ linked to in his post – I did chip in (24 hours or so ago) but my comment doesn’t seem to have cleared moderation. Way to open a dialogue!

  49. Katz
    October 27th, 2005 at 09:43 | #49

    Anyone who doesn’t know that semillon-blanc is the new chardonnay is soooo pre-9/11.

  50. October 27th, 2005 at 09:52 | #50

    Katz,

    When is semillon not blanc?

  51. Katz
    October 27th, 2005 at 09:57 | #51
  52. October 27th, 2005 at 10:01 | #52

    Oh, the horror.

  53. October 27th, 2005 at 10:17 | #53

    Fyodor Says: October 27th, 2005 at 8:07 am

    Fyodor doesn’t know when he is beat by me. So I wont attempt to defend my thesis about AS’s satirical usage. A 2 min search on google reveals that have reached much the same conclusions as me in the appreciation of AS’s literary style:

    I had come to a view of Solzhenitsyn as a dour humourless right-wing dinosaur, but re-reading Gulag Archipelago, I find I’m quite wrong and he’s really very funny, if funny is something you can be about such a system. I guess he uses dry humour to point up the endless absurdities of the system.

    Stephen Cohen, probably the foremost Western expert on Soviet political affairs, also thought that much of the TGA’s effect was achieved through the use of humour against the authorities:

    The [stories] are assembled in a powerful narrative which combines the prose styles of epic novelist, partisan, historian and outraged moralist, interspersed with Russian proverbs, black humor, prison camp language and parodies of Soviet bureaucratese. The sardonically polemical tone throughout the book suits Solzhenitsyn’s subject and anger.

    It doesn’t get any better than that.

    So Fyodor is something of a lone voice in his literary interpretation. What you would expect coming from a solipsist.

    I’m still confused about Orwell but I insist on playing him both ways. That way I won’t be wrong about him either.

    Most people who like Orwell like him because he was not a simplistic ideologue. He contained within himself both Left wing and Right wing attitudes. Although Orwell was Leftwing in his political committments, much of his satire was directed at the Leftwing idols and Leftwing intellectuals:

    Orwell was an uncompromising individualist and political idealist…Both the Left and Right have utilized Orwell’s works in ideological debate.

    Fyodor should try and go beyond his simplistic one-dimensional view of political affairs. Perhaps he needs to get out more.

    That you find humour in the wrong places is not entirely surprising. You should take a look in the mirror sometime and enjoy Jack Strocchi the way the rest of us do.

    The notion of Fyodor and his associates lurking around my bathroom hoping to catch a glimpse of me in my mirror in order to get their kicks is funny enough, thanks all the same.

    Much of my blogging has been dedicated to the relentless criticism of the Soft Lefts cultural policies. I get enough grim satisfaction in being vindicated in this – by the Soft Left itself. So I am enjoying the last laugh – at Fyodor et als expense.

  54. October 27th, 2005 at 12:06 | #54

    Shorter Jack Strocchi: here are two blokes I think think like me. They don’t, of course, but if I imply they do it’ll make me look less like a lonely buffoon out on a limb. Now that I’ve dug my grave on Orwell, I’m going to keep digging until I come out in China.

    Ah, the inevitable Jackerstrocchi Appeal to Authority. Logic and the facts not on your side, you googled up two blokes who reckon Solzhenitsyn wrote some humour into The Gulag Archipelago. These comments in no way support your quixotic contention that TGA is a satire and Solzhenitsyn “probably the greatest satirist in modern European history�.

    What’s next? Your dad’s book review?

  55. Katz
    October 27th, 2005 at 13:21 | #55

    At the Clemson University Primate Research Centre, in the late 1970s, chimps were read randomly selected left and right wing humour.

    Chimps exposed to right wing humour tended to act out their aggression on low-status cage mates.

    Chimps exposed to left wing humour tended to play with their genitals.

    In an extension of the project, chimps were read selections from the Gulag Archipelago. Some fingered the bars of their cages in a manner that researchers described as “pensive”. Lab assistants later noted that the chimps in the “Solzhenitsyn Study” “seemed happier with their condition of captivity than before the experiment.”

    However, this anecdotal evidence was not invetigated further.

  56. October 28th, 2005 at 08:32 | #56

    They should have called in Gareth Keenan to “invetigate” (sorry, couldn’t resist)

  57. October 28th, 2005 at 10:38 | #57

    But he could only be Assistant to the Invetigator.

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