Friday, February 13, 2009

And speaking of bottom-feeding scum-sucking swamp life ...

The big political group blog Larvatus Prodeo gently, habitually and rightly mocks the style of outraged righteous indignation adopted by many right-wing commentators by running a regular Condemnation (Or Loud Denunciation) Thread in which readers are invited to condemn whatever is annoying them this month.

Loud Denouncers of all stripes have been in overdrive this week, calling the Victorian arsonists mass murderers and terrorists, inventing ever newer and more grotesque punishments for them. This mindset has been fed by the commercial media, for whom an invasive, lingering close-up of some poor sod in tears passes for good reporting, and for whom the whipping-up of righteous indignation in the audience is their chief raison d'être.

At the risk of attracting abusive comments from people who think that if I'm mocking these attacks then I must somehow be defending the arsonists, and yes there are indeed many people whose string and clapper arrangements above the neck minds do work that way, allow me to loudly denounce the loud denouncers (and if any of my Wednesday editing workshop class is reading this, I trust you picked up the deliberate split infinitive there).

Unfortunately this kind of thing isn't the exclusive preserve of conservatives. I have been particularly saddened to hear the PM joining in this chorus; like SA's Premier Mike Rann, Rudd is given (witness his behaviour during the Bill Henson uproar) to making calculatedly populist pronouncements with the same aim as the commercial media: lead the chorus of righteous indignation in order to make the people feel that they are the virtuous and you are at their head.

This is particularly nauseating when politicians do it, because, like some journalists (though fewer and fewer, these days; are journalists getting dumber and dumber or am I just over-exposing myself to the Adelaide Advertiser, apparently AKA the Traumatiser?), they do in fact know better. They are Loudly Denouncing in a cold, calculating and insincere manner, in order to appease and control the populace by rhetorical stealth. I am sure that most politicians and most journalists know in their more reasonable moments that arson often proceeds from a very particular psychological state. Most of those who do it could be described as what my friend L. would call Not a Well Person.

This is not to excuse them, merely to say that the only way to reduce this kind of sociopathy is to understand and control it at the source. Which is where these people come in. Operation Nomad in South Australia has apparently drastically reduced the number of deliberately lit fires in this state over the last few years, and in the wake of last weekend's Victorian inferno, that state is initiating talks with SA Police to discuss setting up something similar in Victoria.

However.

There are two other categories of people currently crawling out from under their icky rocks whom even I would Loudly Denounce without hesitation. Looters and charity scammers aren't even acting out psychological compulsions. They're just the utter bottom of the human barrel.

16 comments:

robert merkel said...

That's fascinating stuff, PC. If I do another fire update on LP I'll add a link.

Fred said...

Possibly the decline in our newspapers is due not to a change in journalistic intelligence but rather the lack of subeditors.

lisette said...

as in so many other thing i totally agree with you. the easy slide into lynch mobness is terrifying

phil said...

I'd looking for the correlation between the intelligence of the journo and taht of the reader, probably mediated by the chance of the owner making money.

But then I would.

tigtog said...

but rather the lack of subeditors

No doubt that there's a decreased coherence to many articles due to the lack of subeditors, but I suspect that the lack of coherence is actually deliberately cultivated in order to court controversy.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Not even a brilliant sub can make a dopey article look intelligent!

Fignatz said...

Your 'looters and charity scammers' are people who cynically and dishonestly try to profit from the disaster. But how do these people differ from the commercial media, exploiting (and often hyping) tragedy and grief to compete for the newspaper buyer's buck or the ratings boost that will entice more advertising revenue? You ask whether journos are getting dumber. The sad fact is that they (and their editors) are ultimately reflecting and reinforcing the values of their cultural / social environment, aka marketplace. Same as it ever was, perhaps, but in today's market economy, probably more so. They're part of the creation of a product designed not so much to tell the generic 'us' what we want to hear, but primarily to sell us what we want to hear – and sadly, most of today's consumers aren't likely to buy it unless it fits in nicely with their décor.

M-H said...

To deliberately split an infinitive is an act of liberation from pointless grammar rules, and I salute you! There are useful grammar rules, but one that advises that it is wrong to ever split an infinitive is not useful.

R.H. said...

Fignatz is right.

It's competitive: outdoing each other.

Fignatz said...

Re split infinitives: M-H is right. Ultimately, writing is about communicating as effectively as possible. So to really get a point across, it's often necessary to emphatically, and even aggressively, split that damned supposedly sacrosanct infinitive. And the other anal-retentive bourgeois hang-ups I can't stand are fear of commas, and the starting of a sentence with a conjunction. So there.

Fignatz said...

Aaargh! Mruphy's Law strikes the smart-arse! What I meant to say in the above comment was: “And the other anal-retentive bourgeois hang-ups I can't stand are fear of commas, and OF the starting of a sentence with a conjunction.”. Damn.

skepticlawyer said...

You are the only person in the Ozblogos who writes well when angry. That's a rare gift. Me? I have a nice line in lawyerly snark and snootiness, but don't ever dare let the angry monster out of her lair.

froginthepond said...

I have huddled in the lee of ABC Melbourne Radio over the last 10 days, and not least because it's the emergency broadcaster.

Though right-wing harpies from the IPA do appear briefly, even in these times. It's the mad greenies that have overrun local council, apparently.

Helen said...

There's a short puff piece in the SMH "blogs" which Miranda Devine has cut down from her longer opinion piece on how the greenies caused all the fires.

It's followed by a slew of approving comments. This drives me nuts because her whole premise - that Greens opposed backburning around rural towns/farms - is a lie. Both the Greens and Wilderness society policies favoured a bushfire toolkit which includes intelligent(!) backburning (not wholesale burning of the country from end to end). But I don't want to join in any political polemic around this topic, not now.

It's just frustrating to see a lie retailed without criticism.
(Haven't looked at that thread today; someone else may have pointed it out.)

M-H said...

Fignatz, I also abhor the ridiculosity of people who won't end a sentence with a preposition, presumably for fear of being laughed at.

Pavlov's Cat said...

And there are so many prepositions to choose from. I mean, to end a sentence with. That's what Goddess gave us prepositions for!