Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bob Ellis and the Hot Lips Houlihan affair

I think there are few times I've been so happy with the name of this blog.

Today the twitters were in a frenzy after Bob Ellis wrote a piece of unintentional satire for ABC's the Drum on the current ADF scandal, which could best be described as the work of a dickhead.

In a typically rambling piece, Ellis explained how the scandal had been blown out of proportion, that the ADF should have nothing to worry about, really, because TV shows such as M*A*S*H, Frasier, Seinfeld, Sex and the City and plays throughout history (oh, and the Bible, can't forget the Bible) had hinged on the concept on women being the victims of peeping Toms or gossips - whether in the shower like Hot Lips Houlihan, or over coffee like Carrie and the girls. This was counterbalanced against the concurrent debate running at the moment around women being allowed in high risk combat positions in the military, with Ellis conflating the two to suggest that the young woman's response to her violation at the hands of a fellow cadet as evidence that women are not really not ever going to be capable of handling the rigours of the battlefield. Oh, and the victim should just pull her socks up, and get on with life, because she'll get over it in "3 years, or maybe 10" or "as in a Tracy and Hepburn movie" (movies have so much to tell us about our lives, don't they Bob!) she may have "married the boy".

Sound like some batshit insanity I'm just making up? If you haven't read it yet, please do. You can't capture it second hand without losing that certain "ellisosity" (to quote Jonathan Green).

A lot of the debate on Twitter was around why Jonathan Green (editor of the Drum online), chose to publish the Bob Ellis piece. It's a legitimate question - as many people pointed out, the Drum, which often does republish blogposts that have particularly resonated with readers or captured an issue (just this afternoon a piece from Greg Jericho [@GrogsGamut] on pokies was featured), would most likely not have published this piece if it had come from another source. It's not particularly inspired, and to suggest it shines a light on the issue does a compliment to Ellis he has not earned. Green's response:

Now, you could argue that the almost universal response on Twitter questioning Ellis' piece being posted were calls for censorship, but as many have responded, isn't one of the main jobs of an editor to choose which pieces to publish? The pieces that you do publish reflect on the nature and quality of your publication, whether it be a newspaper, a journal or a generally respected opinion website, so to a certain extent you practice some caution on what you publish.

It wasn't so long ago that Green pulled Marieke Hardy's piece hoping for Christopher Pyne to be savaged by "a libidinous dog", and issued an apology on the site. And a much shorter period of time since the hoax perpetrated by someone using the name "Alene Composta" to claim that Barry O'Farrell was cruelly referring to Kristina Keneally as "the moose" in backroom campaign conversations (the foolishness of falling for this hoax was critiqued well by Media Watch's Jonathan Holmes on the Drum itself).

In that piece, Holmes refers to an e-mail from Green where he states, "Unleashed... is intended as a 'town square' public forum... If a piece is readable, meets legal and Edpol criteria then it can be considered". And maybe that's true, but as above, you have to wonder whether anyone but Bob Ellis would have been published for this piece. To his credit, Green did post this response from Michael Brull later in the day, which does add an opposing voice to the "town square forum".

And maybe, as Green argued in a conversation on Twitter with John Bergin (@theburgerman, director of Digital News for Sky News Australia), it's not his place to save Ellis "from himself", and to censor him from the site. Which would be all fine and well if Ellis wasn't being paid for his contributions, and the Drum wasn't continually providing Ellis with a paying outlet no matter what he feels like coughing up each week.

As someone who identifies as left (and generally finds the call of left bias at the ABC to be largely an indication of the bias of the accuser), I find it hard to believe that The Drum would continued to publish a right-wing commentator as they descended into insanity as Ellis did throughout the course of the NSW election, suggesting first that Keneally couldn't lose because she was beautiful and O'Farrell fat, then that she levy a banking super tax and give free dental checkups to the elderly, before finally praying for another national disaster or international civil war to eclipse the election itself to save the object of his affections. Oh yes, and after all this did not occur, and Keneally lost the election, he came out to say he knew all along it was going to work out this way, because Kristina did not follow his clear instructions for victory.

Perhaps I'm wrong, maybe we have the Gerard Henderson files to look forward to. But the fact that the ABC published these pieces allows people like Bolt (more on him later) to ask how long Ellis would last if he was a Liberal supporter, rather than dyed in the wool Labor, which is something Green shouldn't really be opening the Drum, and the ABC by extension, to.

Of course, as I said, Twitter did go a bit crazy in response to the piece. Dan Nolan (@dannolan) sparked a fire with #bobellislogic:

which continued throughout the day, with all manner of hilarious leaps of logic - I particularly liked this one from Nick Seymour (@nickseemore), continuing the TV show theme of Ellis' piece:

"Bob Ellis" is still trending in Australia at the moment, so whether or not you agree with Green's decision to publish Ellis' piece, there's no doubt it's probably driving the kind of traffic to the Drum that it never usually gets. And not just in volume - Andrew Bolt, the king of traffic generating bile himself, congratulated Ellis on the logic of his Drum piece today on his blog.

The last word, I guess, should go to the person who is perhaps Ellis' most adoring fan, with a tattoo of "and so on, and so it goes" and a dog named after the man, Marieke Hardy. I asked her at some stage in the morning what she thought of his piece, via twitter, as I couldn't see her point of view gelling particularly well with the one Ellis was championing today. Surprisingly (we don't actually know each other) she replied to me pretty much immediately, saying that she hadn't yet, but was going to right away. There was a rather long pause. And then this:

1 comment:

  1. I think Defence should seriously consider forming 'women only' battalions. Then they could show us their true worth without being pestered by immature men.