The Oliphant in the room. Why don’t Australian readers see more work by Pat Oliphant? The Adelaide-born artist would have to be the finest political cartoonist in the English-speaking world, yet his work barely appears in the land of his birth. Given our easily-spooked media, it’s even less likely to now, after this reaction to “news” that the Gaza massacre was simply a war-crime from start to finish.

Though Oliphant is an equal opportunity offender — he was condemned by the American Arab committee for a piece showing rich Arabs indifferent to the suffering of fellow-Muslim the 2005 tsunami victims, among other incidents — the cartoon is still strong meat, effectively showing Israel as a headless force, pushing a Jewish barrow, so to speak, to drive the Gazans over a cliff.

If it doesn’t cross the line, it has its toes right on it. But the star of David is on a flag after all — it’s as much a political as religious symbol now, especially in a context where Jewish history is drawn on to justify the wanton and sadistic violence in Gaza. A cartoon portraying an adulteress being beheaded with a Muslim crescent would probably be an apt comparison.

But what’s really weird and telling about the event is the US Anti-defamation League’s response, via its venerable director Abraham Foxman:

Pat Oliphant’s outlandish and offensive use of the Star of David in combination with Nazi-like imagery is hideously anti-Semitic. It employs Nazi imagery by portraying Israel as a jack-booted, goose-stepping headless apparition. The implication is of an Israeli policy without a head or a heart.

Foxman is not concerned that the cartoon may portray Judaism itself as vicious and cruel — he identifies it as a political attack on Israel (presumably the cartoonist’s intent) and sees that as “anti-semitic”. Implying the Gaza attack was dumb and evil. Good God, where will Oliphant publish next, Ha’aretz?

Look out for the cartoon in any Australian publication that ran the Danish Mohammed cartoons, in solidarity with free speech. Look hard.

FOX in a hole. Speaking of things FOX-ish, supporters of Rupert’s gift to cable news are gloating over the ratings surge the channel has been experiencing since the Ascendance of The One in January. FOX News is now rating second for all cable channels in the US — not news channels, all channels — with CNN and MSNBC pulling up at 21st and 23rd. In the scheme of things, that’s less impressive than it sounds — a total of 2.15 million viewers for FOX, against a million for CNN, with Obama’s Youtube (let alone Leno) appearances gaining millions more — but that hasn’t stopped the conservatoriat from gloating about its new-found success.

They shouldn’t, for this reason. FOX News does have a lot of new viewers. I’m one of them, and like me, hundreds of thousands have been attracted to it because we can watch it with unalloyed pleasure. They lost. And now they’ve gone insane. MSNBC, the leftish mirror of FOX was attractive when one needed a Keith Olbermann to pillory and lampoon the right as a means of sanity-maintenance, but why watch it now? Who’s he got to rail against?

Why not watch FOX anchors declare Obama to be a socialist, a communist, a fascist, a McCarthyist (for wanting a list of bonus recipients, from bailed out banks) etc etc. Who needs central-casting NPR leftie Rachel Maddow (save for her classic joustings with Pat Buchanan) when you can watch ex-alcoholic stand-up Mormon convert news anchor Glenn Beck sob openly on camera about the destruction of the US? It’s really on a par with an 18th century after dinner trip to Bedlam to laugh at the crazies.

Like Rupe’s Oz operations, FOX news was about the greatest disservice the dirty Digger could have done to American conservatism — a 24/7 bubble-chamber in which the myth that Howard/Bush/McCain/Palin somehow represented the pure beating heart of America, who would prove the polls wrong. Established to counter a mild liberal (by US standards) bias in CNN, Fox destroyed its own usefulness by becoming a private-sector Pravda, the endless attacks on Obama’s passing association with an ex-sixties radical, etc etc, so boring that they became hypnotically interesting. Kremlinology took over as one became attuned to minor variations in tone, that might indicate a major policy shift.

That’s for its contrary audience. For its core demographic — angry white shut-ins — it remains the only repository of good sense, during the occupation. Like the Tories in the UK and Australia, the US right seemed determined to interpret rejection as mass bewilderment and media bias. Before they decide that listening to the public and reconstructing conservatism might be a good idea, they will waste years, most of it by watching FOX News.

Bolt’s long bow. Is the Bolter finally losing the remainder of his marbles (all cats’-eyes, no doubt)? On his Hun blog, he notes the death of Labor unionist Laurie Short — a man so old that he had known Sir John Kerr when that man was a Trotskyist — and concludes:

He was a nice man, too, and as the pragmatic conservative and humanist he became after repenting his communism would have seen straight through the global warming con. (italics mine — GR)

From which gobbet one can only surmise that the Bolter had a) met him, b) never asked him what he thought about global warming, c) decided to impute opinions to him that he may not have held and d) turned his death into raw material for his all-consuming obsession.

It gets better:

Paul Howes, now holding Short’s job, is rightly alarmed that Kevin Rudd’s emissions trading scheme will cost his members jobs, but is still too young to take that extra step that the older Laurie would have dared — and tackle the great global warming scare campaign itself.

We not only know what Laurie would have believed, but how he would have acted.

Hard to find a better example of Stalinism in action (“Comrade Short heartily endorses Chairman Bolt, from beyond the grave!”) and a disgustingly self-serving and cowardly use of the reputation of someone now unable to speak for themselves, under the guise of honouring their memory. Still, eggs and omelettes, eh Andrew?

A broken Britain hoax. You know a hoax has been effective when it obliges the most credulous suckers to deny everything they previously believed, as the price of avoiding a total collapse of their reputation. The Demidenko defenders who said that this “raw witnessing to history” etc should be told had to turn around and say that actually the whole thing didn’t matter at all, when it turned out that the author’s family were from Scunthorpe (OK, OK Helen, Paddington, London — dunno how this Scunthorpe thing started). The Quadrant hoax had Keith Windschuttle saying that evidence doesn’t matter that much.

But little compares to the silliness that surrounded Alfie Patten, the 13yo-going-on-9yo “father” of Maisie Roxanne, born to Chantelle Stedman, 15 a few months ago. This was a symbol of “broken Britain” Tory leader David Cameron and a conservatoriat chorus bellowed, even though early-teen pregnancy has been rare and falling in the UK for years. Meanwhile Chantelle and Alfie’s folks coined it for tabloid appearances of the trio, employing, ineivtably, PR guru Max Clifford, already busy with the Jade Goody deathwatch.

Now Alfie is starting to learn what it'[s all about, with DNA tests proving that he isn’t the Dad — who could be any one of the half-dozen older boys Chantelle was entertaining in her parents’ East Sussex home. Indeed Alfie — who is reportedly devoted to the child — appears to have been set up, with Chantelle’s folks allegedly having instructed their daughter to erm finger the youngest of her swains as the Dad, for maximum paid-tabloid outrage.

It’s — excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little — more broken-record Britain than anything else, another story of moral collapse projected onto modern life. Not good, but scarcely Gomorrah. And leaving outraged commentators with the option of arguing that they would have reacted similarly without the pregnancy (Exclusive: Teens Have S-x!) or confessing that they barked like Pavlov’s ideologues, the moment they saw the baby-faced baby father on Page One.

Contradictions at the Oz. And, inevitably, one appears in the Oz, having said last year that Obama’s election would transform the US, and, now, that he wasn’t doing it very effectively. Most people wouldn’t see a contradiction in criticising your own side for poor performance in the execution of shared aims — the Oz does, because, for them, criticising your own side is the contradiction. As Dostoyevsky says in The Gambler, there are some journalists you don’t need to bribe, they’re sycophantic by nature.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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