The Chaser:

Keith Thomas writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. I did not see The Chaser‘s program, but I find your editorial opportunistic, shallow and law-student-ish itself. The topic selected by The Chaser is ripe for criticism. The Make a Wish Foundation, Kids with Cancer and the like may well do valued work, but they are the type of cynical enterprises that advertise and perform publicly in ways designed to tug on our heart strings and part us from our money.

Enterprises like this know their images can make us feel guilt, sympathy, generosity and compassion so quickly we soften our judgement and hand over our cash for an immediate warm glow and conscience salving. Far more people could be helped if we didn’t fall for a quick feel-good cash transaction, but instead got actively involved in Erin Brockovich-like activity — the hard stuff: donating time and energy, campaigning doggedly over years to clean up polluted and polluting environments and other work that would actually prevent illnesses, deformities and premature deaths and promote health and well-being.

John Mellor writes: The Chaser’s “War on Humour” is a joke. But it’s not funny. There is something seriously wrong with our community if people think that these offensive serial pests behaving like 1960s first year uni students are clever. Running out of ideas is no excuse to offend people – especially those with emotional scars from tragedy. The Wish Foundation was totally insensitive. What now, a funeral where The Chaser interrupts the service to put the casket on a gas barbeque? Or is that the week after next?

What is serious is that The Chaser producers abuse their media power in order to enrich themselves at the expense of others and they target the vulnerable who have no right of reply. Time for the ABC to tell the producers that they have failed in their brief to create a comedy show (one assumes comedy is within their contract), drag the thing from the screen and ask for our money back.

Being cruel on the public purse is not on.

Christian Kent writes: Let me be The Chaser‘s apologist for a moment: We’ve all made jokes about what we would wish for if we were these kids, wondering how much we could get away with. This is escapism masking some quite misplaced jealousy; that is ripe for satirisation. The Simpsons did it a long time ago, too. These kids can’t ask for a date with Claudia Schiffer, and won’t, but I do give to the Starlight Foundation explicitly to bridge that gap between fantasy and reality. All the wishes end up being “realistic wishes” anyway, even if we like to think they’re not.

We’re the targets of the satire, not the kids.

Paul Gilchrist writes: Re. “The Chaser’s only true sin is to be unfunny” (yesterday, item 21). No doubt Ralph Horowitz is right to say The Chaser is showing a terminal lack of good ideas and is aimlessly using shock to get attention. But isn’t there another consideration here? Since when is it acceptable to insult and upset innocent and vulnerable people for your own amusement? That is just wrong and uncivilised. Before we worry about how Obama is going to solve the Middle East problems, think about what it means to do violence to our neighbours right here.

Jane Connor writes: To joke about a terminally ill child is inconceivable and cannot be explained rationally. I am outraged that tax payers’ money is spent on this thuggery.

Tiananmen Square:

Chris Hunter writes: Re. “Tiananmen Square revisited: a Crikey history wrap” (yesterday, item 4). No Biennale, no great contemporary “master”, no earnest art lover, has ever come close to showing, making, or describing a statement as powerful as that of the “Tank Man” of Tiananmen Square. The sight of frail humanity standing in the path of monsters of steel, carrying two bags, as if rudely interrupted from the checkout of a supermarket, has left an indelible mark on human consciousness.

Like Australia’s end of WW11 “Dancing Man”, or the Vietnam war’s nine year old naked girl, screaming in pain, fleeing a napalm attack on her village of Trang Bang, these extraordinary images are life’s own art, disturbing, elating, destroying. But can we learn from them? And if we cannot, as it appears, then why a Biennale, why an Australia Council, why anything?

Climate change cage match (now with its own blog):

Ken Lambert writes: Last week The Economist‘s Science & Technology section (23May09) reported that jelly fish like thaliaceans (a type of gelatinous chordate) are one third carbon by weight and in their billions could sink twice as much carbon to the ocean bottom as dead planktonic algae; hitherto assumed to be the main way of sinking carbon to the ocean bottom. “The carbon cycle has thus acquired another epicycle — something that will have to be added to computer models of how the climate works”.

Indeed, if the previously understood *main way* of sinking carbon to the ocean bottom by dead planktonic algae was given the magnitude of 1 unit, our Economist‘s newly discovered thaliacean pump would add two units; making a total carbon pump of magnitude three units. Our main way has just been tripled. Seems like a worthwhile addition to computer models, especially when one carbon absorption variable is tripled and then compounded for 40 years to tell us what the temperature will be in 2050.