Some Thursday nights you turn on the TV and wonder what insane Fassbinder movie about five people tormenting each other in a madhouse SBS is running now — and then realise that it’s Q and A on the ABC. But last night’s was special, with Christopher Hitchens sandblasted and propped up like a Beluga whale in a suit, between Frank Brennan and Sally Warhaft, the latter’s blond curls not the only way, that evening, in which she resembled Harpo Marx.

Still, not Sally’s fault when another participant was Anne Henderson, on day release from the Sydney Institute. There’s one rule of these gabfests — don’t get into a fight you can’t win — and Anne should tattoo it on the back of her eyelids for future reference, for her baiting, needling attack on the Hitch was deeply embarrassing. Her initial argument — that she and other “cultural Catholics” had visited people in detention centres but lefties hadn’t and that showed how much better religious people were — was not only a patent falsehood (most of the visitors and campaigners for refugees were from the left) but left her open to Hitchens’s obvious point, that Hamas and Mother Teresa made the same claims for their questionable (in different ways) commitment to human good as evidenced by charitable works, and it was no real proof of anything.

Perhaps Anne’s failed attempts to stop Hitchens finishing a sentence was a recognition that she had exposed her flank to attack — didn’t do no good because he flipped her like Truckosaurus monstering a monster truck at a … monster … truck … running … thing. Gutsy effort on his part, not least because Anne was wearing enough hard metal finger-bling to take a stint at lead vocals for Iron Maiden if she wanted — so much so that her sharpened rings were clanking against her water glass for the first 10 minutes, like a bell round the village madman’s neck.

But why did she take such a dumb strategy with the Hitch? That delusional, irritating, petty, ungracious, resentful approach, who would have advised Anne Henderson to …

Oh. Right. As you were.

BTW, do both Gerard and Anne do the bling thing? Are they old rockers? The Sid and Nancy of the Sydney Institute? Is its real name the Sydney Vicious Institute? And if Anne is Nancy (Spungen), what role does that leave Nancy (Henderson), the Hendersons’ seeing-red dog, who edits their 1996-retro-styled Media Watch website? Maybe this is an SBS movie after all …

“Dean hasn’t been gagged by Kraft” the wife of Dean Robbins, inventor of the much-derided Isnack 2.0 name for the new perishable version of a product that otherwise lasts for years. Well, if there’s no gagging that Kraft is responsible for, clearly Dean’s not eating vegemite.

“The death of Irving Kristol brought back fond memories of the founding of Quadrant, quothquoffed Peter Cabernet Coleman in the pages of the Australian Spectator, the English part of which is now being edited by a real estate firm named Fraser Nelson. Well it would wouldn’t it? Both Quadders and Kristol’s magazine Encounter were creatures of the Congress For Cultural Freedom, a CIA-front outfit established in the early 50s.

Interestingly the recent CIA history Legacy of Ashes establishes as literally true what we have hitherto suggested only metaphorically — that the CCF was established at the same time as funding began for Latin American coups and death squads (the “goddam Murder Incorporated in South America” LBJ groused that the Kennedys were running), and by the same director in practically the same week, the bloke being an alcoholic who later blew the back of his head out.

Quadrant’s founding lunatic was James McAuley, its first editor, saved from his own suicide by a literal belief in demonic possession, a religious way of rendering his psychotic bipolar disorder more grandiose — and then projecting it onto the Cold War world, thus licensing any depredation by the West as part of a cosmic struggle. McAuley went on to write half a dozen genuinely great poems — when even God had failed him, and he was left with whisky, adultery and Tasmania. Or, as it is otherwise known, “cultural Catholicism”.

The Oz continues its cruel attacks on its own staff, with a fresh editorial about teaching literature in schools, deriding those who believe that books are simply texts, as taught by people like Jacques Derrida, Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, etc. What sort of idiot thinks these things? Let’s check Amazon:

Criticism in Society; Interviews with Jacques Derrida, Northrop Frye, Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, Frank Kermode, Edward Said, Barbara Johnson, Frank Lentricchia, and J. Hillis Miller by Imre Salusinszky (Hardcover – 1987)

Currently unavailable

Has the Oz’s NSW state roundsman bought up every copy of his 1987 book of interviews, which thousands of arts students in Australia used as a crib in essays, when the actual works of Derrida were not so much tried and found wanting, as found difficult and not tried? (or as we call it “cultural Catholicism”). The book’s chief virtue was to give every interviewee a copy of a Wallace Stevens poem, and ask them to deconstruct it (except for one, Bloom, I believe, because Imre forgot to bring the poem — an early sally by a political roundsman who got the date of his own state election wrong).

How many of those students became teachers, curriculum designers etc? And when will Imre S find the stones to defend the theoretical approaches he spent two decades teaching — on the taxpayer’s dollar, before he became a Hayekian, railing against cultural subsidies (which was before he became head of the Australia Council’s Literature Board). As we used to say in the trenches, differance* is prior to identity, and some questions are undecidable.

*No not difference, differance, which is difference without positive terms (i.e. the meaning of the line in a fraction, without any consideration of the actual top and bottom. I mean duh. What did you do, a food hygiene certificate or something?

Welcome to the Losers’ Club Henry Ergas! The CEO of failed private venture Concept Economics, which hilariously failed to tighten its belt before the recession (apparently the one concept that didn’t occur to them was economising), has now circled the drain and lodged in the gully trap of right-wing commentary, the Oz’s op-ed colonnade.

The first one was a doozy, a spitting attack on Lindsay Tanner’s gentle ribbing of Ergas on Insiders (in which Tanner had the grace not to mention Ergas’s corporate embarrassment), which saw the Erg compare the Rudd government’s mild public investment policy to North Korea. More, please, Henry, and an answer to the question as to why you look like a body-double for Friedrich Von Hayek.

I mean not just a physiological resemblance — he’s chosen the same glasses and soup-catcher moustache that the Magus of Mont Pelerin affected. It’s weird, like a tribute act, or going to a friend’s place and finding the decor consists entirely of pictures of, I dunno, Hayzee Fantazee. The facial expression suggests more fibre in the diet may make for a happier Henry, with the “as” requiring less “erg”.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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