What does winning mean?

Julian Zytnik writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s campaign bites” (Thursday). I have this teeth-grinding frustration — and I suspect many do — with Richard Farmer’s daily columns. He selects and presents stuff from the media but often doesn’t give it enough critique. The “chunky bits” fly onto the page in this strange vacuum of judgement. I know that’s possibly intentional, in an attempt to come across as this hard-bitten, world-weary voice of experience. But to me it just makes him read like Graham Richardson or some other doyen of the NSW Labor Right — hyperpragmatic, tactically focused, wary of anything “bleeding-heart”, all about the deal or the splash.

And hence the value and success of everything Labor or the Coalition do can only be assessed in relative terms: what do the polls say, what do the betting markets say, what does the front page of the Tele or Herald say, how did the tactic play out in western Sydney, what created the media buzz, etc. The same approach is there in his daily assessments of which party “won the day”.

So despite his “s-x appeal” gaffe Tony Abbott still wins the day yesterday because “the concentration on him stopped Kevin Rudd having much impact”. On this basis Candidate X could dance in a chicken suit and Candidate Y could bring about world peace and X would still win the day because he/she stopped people — maybe for a day — noticing the world peace. Is this what winning means? One thing is missing: an assessment of “is this policy or action right?”. The problem with the value-free style of presenting material is that mere selection can be taken as endorsement. And I suspect in some cases it is. A classic case in point is his reference to the Bill Leak cartoon of Sarah Hanson-Young and Christine Milne. Even without his admission that he chuckled, I have to ask the question, why did he select it at all? What lifted this above the pack?

At least, in his defence, I am pleased to say he’s called some of the recent Tele front pages for what they are: beat-ups.

The government we deserve

Eveline Goy writes: Re. “It’s grim up north — and boring everywhere else” (Friday). I know it’s boring up north — I’ve lived there a long time. Compliments on a lively and exciting piece — venting frustration and anger — at the sub-par performance of both parties in this election. Are they really serious? If this doesn’t help the minority parties, I don’t know what would. Do they really mean it when they say that people get the government they deserve? It’s just too cruel!

The whiff of poor research

Andrew Millard writes: Re. “No s-x appeal in sight at Lindsay candidates’ forum” (Thursday). Margot Saville writes:

“My favourite candidate was Mick Saunders from the Australia First Party, which opposes multiculturalism and free trade. He told the audience that Australians should ‘get their own backyard in order before taking in refugees’. ‘You ask the blind woman who was attacked at Ashfield station by a refugee what she thinks of refugees,’ he bellowed. But how did the blind woman know her assailant was a refugee — the smell of turmeric? Sadly, we never did get to chat.”

It took me two minutes on Google the see that the woman went to the police, they checked CCTV footage, and tracked down a 25-year-old recent arrival (via boat, I’m reluctant to say) from Bangladesh. The piece would arguably have been more powerful had the flippant, penultimate sentence been removed.

An English lesson

Colin Smith writes: Re. “Wherefore art thou, Tony Windsor?” (Friday). Thanks for helping to perpetuate an almost universal mis-reading of Shakespeare’s English. When Juliet said “Romeo, Romeo — wherefore art thou Romeo?” she was not saying (in modern English) “Romeo, Romeo — where are you Romeo?” — as if she couldn’t quite see him in the dark garden below.

The correct reading is “Romeo, Romeo — why are you Romeo?” The archaic word “wherefore” meant “for what reason, why, for which reason” (Oxford Dictionary). It survives today only as a noun in the expression “the whys and wherefores”. And this correct reading, of course, ties right into the great issue of the play — the fact that the love-affair of Romeo and Juliet was “star-crossed” by the infernal irrelevance of who they each were!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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