On the way to the Forum

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The Romans knew that invading and conquering people was no good unless you could almost immediately get them to love you, at which point you had created a prison in which the inmates could be given the key, would keep themselves locked up with hardly any need for guards.

Basically they had discovered, 2000 years early, the proposition that no two countries with McDonalds (or in this case fish sauce) ever go to war with each other. That is, you bring Roman culture to the barbarians, and next thing they are too busy sitting in bath houses, and worshipping Roman gods, to go to war. And too interested in profits from trade with the motherland, and the status and luxuries that went with being more Roman than the Romans.
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Pixels made flesh

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“What do we want?”
“A slogan.”
“When do we want it?”
“Now.”

Went to the Canberra “March in March” protest today, so need to write about it. Everyone else has written about their own experiences among the 100,000 plus people who marched in cities and towns all over Australia in last three days, so I should too. 100,000 people, by the way, virtually ignored by the media (except to complain about one or two signs, out of thousands, with a rude word or two, in order to discredit the event), but whose actions, just 6 months into the term of a new government, are unprecedented.

The Canberra event was much like the other events everywhere. It all had a pleasantly amateurish feel – no professional protesters or rent-a-crowd here. Ordinary people with no second names (“I’m Jim” “I’m Lisa” and so on) standing in front of an “open mic”, most clearly for the first time, saying in a few stumbling, and in one case tearful, words, why they had made the effort to come. Young and old, radical-looking and very conservative, men and women (about equal numbers), straight and gay, Aboriginal and “indigenous” (as one Aboriginal speaker put it), local Canberra and “from Goulburn” “from Newcastle” “from overseas”, healthy and not-so-healthy.
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Down down

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As I write the hunt for any sign of the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 is still proceeding unsuccessfully.

These events bring out the worst in the media, and I find another reason to avoid watching tv news bulletins. The shameful sight of a paparazzi gang at the airport surrounding frightened and frantic relatives of passengers is enough to turn my stomach, and again make me wonder at the morality of the media. Also interviews of relatives on tv programs, questions designed to elicit grief and tears which alert cameramen are ready to close focus on. And nonsense about “fate” and “miracles” and prayers, and stories of people who almost caught the plane but didn’t or did catch the plane when they shouldn’t have.
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The buck stops here

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“The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head.” (Aristide Briand (1862-1932)) Well, Aristide, Prime Minister of France 11 times, was certainly a Socialist when young, but perhaps felt himself as an international statesmen becoming more right-wing as he became older.

It is an aphorism that is endlessly quoted, with knowing smirks, by the Right, most famously by Churchill, trying to counteract the opposite observation – “Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.” – by John Stuart Mill. And trying to counteract modern studies showing that politically conservative people have on average a lower IQ than politically progressive people.

Not the point I want to discuss though, though related.
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Paladin

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A bit of respite for you on this blog as the climate systems of the planet start to go haywire under the relentless warming.

I have, as I told you a little while ago, been watching DVDs of old movies and old and once-enjoyed tv series. Am finding it now impossible to watch news and current affairs on tv because of their relentless triviality alternated with the promotion of Rupert Murdoch’s grim vision for life, the universe, and everything. And where once were quality drama and comedy and documentary programs there is now a wasteland of “reality tv”(!) and poor quality, mostly American, cop shows and clones of “Two and a half men” (three halves, tops). [Yes, yes, I have auditioned for a part in Grumpy Old Men, but was turned down for being too grumpy].

Have discovered that there are now companies who have available, streamed or on DVD, thousands of old series, in demand by the Grumpy Baby Boomer set, that huge market. So, one can choose the targets of ones grumpiness, or enjoyment, in the comfort of the home.

Anyway, I have discovered, among box sets of “Two and a half men”, many gems. Including one I never thought I would see again “Have gun will travel”, I had previously listed this among my best tv of all time essay and the more recent update but noted that I hadn’t seen it in 50 years and wasn’t sure how it would stand up to a re-visit. Now I have, and it does.
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Hustled

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I’ve been re-watching a whole lot of old DVDs lately (yes, yes, instead of blogging) – Callan, Dad’s Army, Party Down, Monty Python, a very small glass of Last of the Summer Wine, and, of course, Groundhog Day! Just been watching Hustle (yes, yes, I know, ok?).

Although I’ve been trying to ignore Australian politics since September, since writing about it required more depths of gloom than even I am capable of, Abbott’s latest antics, coinciding with a viewing of Hustle, sent a metaphor racing into my brain.

If you haven’t seen Hustle it is a kind of modern-day Robin Hood set in the forest of London, in which Micky Hood (sorry, Stone), his band of merry men, and Maid Stacey, cleverly outwit a whole series of evil Sheriffs, take their money, and, often, give much of it to the poor. So far so completely the opposite of Tony Hood, his band of merry men, and Maid Julie, right, but bear with me.

At the end of almost every episode there is a standard scene in which the victim, the “mark” opens a brief case in which he or she confidently expects to find a large sum of money. Instead, through sleight of hand, and a lot of lies, the case is full of newspaper instead of bank notes. Meanwhile, back at Eddie’s Bar, the good guys are opening an identical case which is indeed full of money, and they have a jolly good laugh at having outwitted the mark.
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Denial’s advocate

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The MSM standard practice is to interview by taking the worst most extreme antitheses, and or “talking points”, from deniers (for example), and using them as questions for climate scientists (for example). Similarly in interviewing a Labor minister the questions are obtained from the most recent talking points released by the Liberal Party. This practice has become so ubiquitous as to be accepted as merely “the way things are done”.

I guess if you asked a journalist about this they would, after expressing surprise that you were questioning this approach, express a couple of reasons for it. One would be that it saves time, that journalists in this time of media cost-cutting and job-shedding, simply are unable to research a topic in any meaningful way before doing an interview. Indeed I suspect that the idea of “research” being anything EXCEPT reading something from an opponent is now foreign to journalism in Australia.
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Visigoths and Vandals

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It is August*, and the citizens are aware of the barbarians at the gates of their civilisation. The Visigoths have a bad reputation, but they have been secretly chatting to the slaves and convinced them they are really good guys, big supporters of the Lower Orders in fact. So one night the slaves open the locked gates and in come the Visigoths who then proceed to rape, pillage and generally wreck the joint, just as their reputation had suggested. The slaves, and this will shock you, ended up worse off.

Forty five years go by. Not very long, really, sufficiently short for old codgers like me to have seen the Visigoths in action and to think, oh shit, not again. But yes, this time it is the Vandals at the gates. No shenanigans with slaves this time, no need, all sorts of silly buggers have been played by the rulers of the civilisation, the politics is a mess, and next thing you know “The Vandals are coming, the Vandals are coming”. Who proceed to try to outdo those wimps the Visigoths and thoroughly trash the joint, so thoroughly that the year 455 is generally considered to mark the end of the once mighty 500 year old Roman Empire.
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Yes, Rome, what did you think? Oh, I see, you thought you could see analogies with the citizens of Australia terrified of the arrival of Coalition barbarians on 7 September? Well, I hadn’t thought of that but now you mention it…
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Great Expectations

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Hooray, hooray, The Guardian newspaper now has an Australian edition as of this morning. Glad cries from progressives, more and more perturbed, no, angry, at the increasingly blatant right-wing bias of all the other mainstream media in Australia, not just the 70% of newspapers owned by Murdoch, but the others (mainly Fairfax), the radio talk shows, and the public broadcaster the ABC. Please please, came the cry, come to Australia, oh lovely Guardian newspaper where reality creates a left-wing bias, come and save us. And here, at last, they are.
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Gresham’s Second Law

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Rupert Murdoch’s dominance of the Australian media is usually spoken of in terms of the 70% share his newspapers have in the Australian market. That is almost three-quarters of the Australian public are exposed (often with no alternative) to the Gospel according to Rupert every day. Every day exposed to his neoconservative ideology and his absolute determination to destroy those left of centre parties Labor and The Greens.

But the problem is much worse than mere market share. Mr Murdoch, no fool whatever his other failings, realised very early on that, just like a large share holding in a company leads to control of the company, 70% media saturation can be turned into 100% control of political discourse.
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