Wednesday, April 29, 2009

William Kininmonth, the scientific wreck called The Australian and the cultural wreck known as Canberra

(Above: fireworks, a vanished dream, like Guy Fawkes, who still has much work to do in Canberra).

Ever think you've gone barking mad? A day in Canberra will do that, and so will a quick tour of News Corp, which exhibits first class signs of schizophrenia.

First to Canberra. What a dispiriting town it is, when all's said and done, a bit like putting up Washington against New York. Buildings that want to be testaments to the rulers, like the pyramids, but without the majestic megalomania the ruling class once took as divine right.

Between meetings I've been able to duck out and check some of the cultural institutions. For some reason, I took a look at the National Museum. Without wanting to sound like Prince Charles - scrub that, I want to sound like Prince Charles - the building is an architectural wreck, and now it's a curatorial wreck as well, its contents only suitable for primary school students and retirees on their grey tour of Australia, though a healthy dose of Alzheimer's would help them get through the place with a nostalgic smile.

The museum can thank the right wing commentariat for much of its current predicament. In a culture ostensibly built on the ratbag and the larrikin, any notion that Australia has had an interesting and dynamic history, culturally as well as socially and politically, has been scrubbed from the record, and the infantilization of the interpretative presentation is now almost complete.

It's a fitting legacy to John Howard - who even put Christopher Pearson on the board, and who had some bizarre picket fence, lamington and scones view of middle class Australia, which now has its home in this building, degutted and flensed of anything that might be interesting or different. You'd be better off with an hour of Barry Humphries.

Wide ranging museums always have a harder time trying to get a coherent exhibition and interpretative strategy in place, but I've never managed to be in a museum at once so empty, so banal and so parochial, picked to death by the crows of right wing political correctness. 

If for some tragic reason you visit Canberra, check out almost any other museum - the national gallery (not the one they have in Victoria), the portrait gallery, the war memorial, old parliament house - before you bother with this collection of cultural detritus that reminds me fondly of the revolutionary museum off Tiananmen Square in Beijing (though I also see that the interpretative disease is about to do over old parliament house as well). 

Even more depressing, the ACT is now moving to ban fireworks completely, yet we hear nothing about this tragedy from the right wing commentariat. Sure in the old days you might lose a finger or a two, or even an eye (losing both was beyond careless), you might blow up a letter box, or give a cat a heart attack, or send a dog howling under the bed, but it's a measure of how nanny state we've become. Poor old Tim Blair is left to kill himself by smoking. He might call that defiance, but it sounds strangely sad and schoolboy to me. Whatever, it doesn't sound like Guy Fawkes in his prime.

Can the call for nanny state rule over us get any worse? Oh that's right Janet Albrechtsen's just suggested Stalinist show trials for wayward politicians! By a whole new bureaucracy!! Stick a pineapple up my bum, I've heard it all now, and it almost makes Canberra a wonderful joke full of good humor. I hear bureaucrats are so excited they're almost killing themselves to get on to Dame Slap's preliminary study group with a view to developing a working party to form a broad strategy. Oh yes they and the lawyers on the show trials will have tremendous fun and even better fees. How's that song go, send in the clowns, oh don't bother they're here.

But back to News Corp and corporate schizophrenia. Over the past few weeks I've been drawing attention to the wonderful global energy initiative being promoted by overlord Rupert and the dark forces - their latest headline story involves FOX using star power to educate students about renewable energy.

Then you flick over to The Australian, and there's the latest installment in what is now a relentless, monotonous round of global warming bashing, this time by William Kininmonth under the header Cold facts dispel theories on warming.

WTF. I wouldn't mind if this kind of loonacy was kept to the pages of Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt if it was going to be part of the regular diet - you know if you graze there, you can expect popcorn and M and M's and a 40 fag a day habit, and not a whit or jot of bran to keep your brain regular.

But The Australian keeps running this stuff without any thought there might be some counter-balancing scientific research in play.

Kininmonth exhibits the usual hysteria of celebrants of Professor Ian Plimer, and in a couple of cases his interpretation verges on the bizarre. For example, when he praises the Senate, the public and their representatives for showing innate common sense, and the Senate for being poised to reject the government's cap and trade legislation, he neglects to mention that this is partially because the loony greens don't actually believe the government is being tough enough.

Sometimes Mr. Kininmouth, the enemies of your friend just remain loony enemies.

There's more, plenty more, culminating in Kininmonth celebrating Plimer's authoritative book as providing an excuse and impetus to re-examine the scientific fundamentals. 

Okay, so let's hear from some scientists rather than from professors of history at Wollongong University blathering hot air about Greek tragedy and hubris.

I guess the editors of The Australian have learnt from the intelligent design controversy that there's always fun to be had printing the controversy, rather than the more mundane matter of ascertaining the actual state of play in a sober way, without ostentatious displays of spittle and foam.

Ah well I don't buy it, and I guess it's free online, so where's the harm. There's actually plenty of real science available on the intertubes, and soon enough hard copy newspapers will be like trilobite fossils, of endless fascination to students visiting the National Museum and marveling that, like dinosaurs, they ever existed, and stalked the earth at the same time as humans did.

(Below: FOX American Idol stars use their deceptive fame to inculcate into young people a useless obsession with renewable energy and solar power. Expect a denunciation of this farrago of News Corp nonsense in The Australian some time soon. Or as Johnny Mathis once sung, at least before the twelfth of never, and that's a long long time).

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