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Feb 11, 2014

Razer's class struggle: who cares about Schapelle aside from journos?

The tabloids tell us every scintillating detail about Schapelle. The broadsheets tell us the bogans who read the Murdoch press are idiots. They are both completely wrong.


The “cultural” reading provided by the nation’s better weekend news outlets is usually bad enough. It seems to focus largely on “critical” interpretation of online dating and the ethics of cooking with quinoa. Last weekend, however, it was especially naff when it was given over to writing about writing about writing about Schapelle Corby.

The term “meta” does not begin to describe this piece by Lauren Rosewarne in The Conversation, which was not actually about Corby — only “cheap” and “racist” media do that! — but about the author’s own experience of writing in another outlet about Corby, which apparently led to someone saying something mean to her on Twitter. The Sunday Age had a more legitimate take on the risks of reporting about Corby as Sins of the Father author Eamonn Duff spoke of threatening phone calls he had received.

That all journalists are likely to receive death threats at some point in their careers notwithstanding, at least Duff could spin a good yarn about the Corby truthers. This was mildly interesting until other Fairfax journalists wrote about Duff writing about his travails, which, to be frank, weren’t ever entirely unprecedented. You point publicly to someone’s guilt, and someone is bound to point back.

But the piece by Rick Feneley used the fact of Corby’s strongest supporters to build his case that the story “obsessed a nation”. And then The Guardian declared Corby a “national obsession” by rehashing the once true but nonetheless very dull comparison of media coverage for Corby as against that of the Bali Nine.

This coverage is as transparent as it is stupid. Talk about having a bet each way. First, liberal media are producing no fewer images or generating any less profitable SEO in writing about writing about writing about obsession about Schapelle. Second, they are saying things, as in The Guardian piece, that are not worthy of a good first-year student. I mean, not to be a dick about it, but these “revelations” that decent-looking young white women get more play in the media as victims or perpetrators of crime is about as fresh as the nasi goreng at Kerobokan.

That it is a stale observation doesn’t make it any less true. Unless, of course, it has become less true — and I genuinely believe that in the case of Corby, it has been less for some time.

I had no sound evidence for my professional suspicion that no one gives much of a crap about the Corby story until the dreadful miniseries Schapelle managed to score less than half of the viewers than the INXS biopic on a rival network. That more people wanted to see a fake Kylie in a bad wig snog some dude who looked nothing like Michael Hutchence than the “real” story of the boogie board bag I think is a reasonable indication no one cares to learn much more about this case.

I have seen in both progressive and conservative media the assertion, respectively explicit and implicit, that Schapelle is a “national obsession”. Rupert Murdoch’s media give us detail on Schapelle. Liberal media give us nothing but snotty op-eds on Schapelle.

“Traditional media do not always take the pulse of the culture properly. They got it wrong again.”

Many of the “think” pieces on Schapelle assert that Murdoch media detail on Schapelle is evidence that people who read Murdoch press are dumb; ergo, Australians who are not Us are dumb. In short, these columns amount to: LOL, look at them reading about Schapelle. Let’s write about writing about Schapelle. To prove that we are not dumb.

They both have it wrong. The purported millions who were interested in Schapelle “unironically” did not watch that silly show. And the readers of The Guardian, The Age and The Conversation and anywhere our worst cultural studies proponents now publicly rub themselves didn’t either. These Enlightened readers clever enough to see that Schapelle is a white woman were most likely too busy congratulating themselves on not watching a show enjoyed by a bogan mindset that doesn’t actually exist.

We have invented an underclass to blame for all our own ugliness.

If you don’t believe me, go and read Fairfax’s The Daily Life. Almost every column is people are so dumb and prejudiced but we’re not”. Ditto much at The Guardian. These publications build on the hideous mass delusion that We are reconstructed while They remain victims of stupidity. These publications have made an imaginary class of bogan our national political unconscious.

Can we at LAST say that the Celebrity Criminal story has had its day and that traditional media have just made another error in trying to extend its life? Can we at LAST stop pretending that there is hard evidence in the culture of boganism?

Traditional media do not always take the pulse of the culture properly. They got it wrong again.

If a bogan is a victim of false consciousness who believes Australia to be something that it is no longer, then all the snobs who congratulate themselves on not being interested in Schapelle in the face of great interest (which DOES NOT exist) are bogan.

I am going to be sick if I read another “we are so much better than the bogans” piece. You know what? THIS is the dominant form of “journalism” that has replaced Celebrity Criminal journalism. Awful pieces of writing that seek to flatter the reader into believing they are better than everyone else.

The commentators intelligent enough to describe the racism, sexism and other systems that actually inform our culture are so keen in seeing it only as the sole work of bogans, they repress all their own prejudice and write a whole load of shit.

I will finish with some search engine savvy keywords just in case I’m wrong: Schapelle Schapelle Schapelle.



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29 thoughts on “Razer’s class struggle: who cares about Schapelle aside from journos?

  1. susan winstanley

    Well said Helen

  2. botanista

    Despite my best intentions, I have just read an article about Da SchapCorb. Damn you Helen Razer.

  3. Will

    Arguably this is the first Razer piece published by Crikey that isn’t totally asinine and objectionable. Though obviously the bogan mindset does exist. INXS outperforming Corby doesn’t mean the story doesn’t have heightened attention in the community that’s particularly potent in the blue collar world and with stay-at-home mothers. Nor does it mean that missing white female syndrome is in decline as a gene of blockbuster news. But one data point is better than her usual effort of zero substantiation.

  4. Northy

    But on the other side of the press the commentators spend all their time criticising the latte-sipping inner-city lefty elite, arguing they are not real Australians. One flick through the Daily Tele shows how obsessed they are with this topic – in my opinion far more so than the elite press with bogans.

  5. Phen

    But wasn’t the INXS special the “TV event of the year”?? How could anything compete against such a landmark piece of televisual history?

  6. Stevo the Working Twistie

    Nice piece H.

    I propose that we henceforth expunge the name “Corby” from all future publications and broadcasts. This will allow the woman to get on with her life, while at the same time relieve us of the tedium of having to hear about it. It’s called a “win-win situation”.

    Also, the TV ratings probably say more about INXS’s bogan credentials than they do about the audience’s level of sophistication.

  7. Scott

    Plenty of university professors read “Women’s Weekly” and “Who”
    Plenty of self professed “intellectuals” post rubbish on Crikey.
    Escapism is where you find it. And so it is with Corby. She is just entertainment. Left wing, right wing, doesn’t matter. She’s a cash cow and the media is happy to strap on the milking gear.
    All media outlets get the advertising dollars; whether its from sympathy, outrage or contempt.

  8. Venise Alstergren

    But Helen, surely the fact you are writing about this woman gives her a legitimacy she doesn’t deserve?. You have merely added another “writer, writing about another writer of….etc

    The real story, albeit a much harder piece of work, is to query the shonky behaviour of Chanel 9 for spending their shareholders’ presumably hard earned money chasing after the ‘bogan’ audience with no real idea of how the money will be well spent. Or is the whole sorry deal a case of Chanel 9 believing in their own bullshit?

  9. zut alors

    It would be a step in the right direction if this is the last piece Crikey publishes relating to Corby.

  10. sparky

    I usually read your stuff Helen but unfortunately this one had a word beginning with Sch and another with Cor. At that point I stopped, I don’t care what it’s about.

  11. Rob Baker

    I truly think that, guilty or not, Schapelle has been the victim of trial by media from the get go. Aussies love to fill up on half a hatful of knowledge so they can wax lyrical about their “informed opinions” later on down the pub.
    The fact is, I caught a portion of Underbelly:INXS the other night and had to laugh at the delicious irony of the scene where the band were forced to scoff down drugs they had “inadvertently” brought into some country. After which, they went on in other scenes to maintain a heroic pace of drug abuse. But then, I guess it’s much more romantic if you don’t get caught out at it.
    Yet wait – the drugs did eventually catch up with INXS, didn’t they? How different the representation of two sides of the same coin. Drugs are bad, mmmkay? Oh yeah, except when the result is a bunch of “classic Aussie songs and memories” we got from INXS, as opposed to ten years of the same old, same old National Lampoons Bali Vacation – which provides the always-ready-to-judge everyday Australians a convenient perch to look down on someone who screwed up. Any chance we get. No matter who we are, where we are from, what class or culture we belong to – that’s one thing that unites us all; the tendency to assume the position of self-righteousness from afar. The media provides the conduit; encouraging Aussies to express the poisonous belief systems we are being raised with that, surprise surprise, can be traced back to years and years of media indoctrination.
    So, what’s the alternative to subscribing to the broadsheet ideology? Listening to those loudmouth morons, Stefanovic and Koch? No thanks. It just beggars my belief that something as trivial as the Corby case has become some sort of dividing line of class distinction. To be perfectly honest, I’d never even lent it that much thought. But now I know that if you are reporting it, you must be much better than the class who’s reading it. What a strange, small world we live in sometimes.

  12. Tom

    The thing that stands out on this occasion is how the social media meta-furore about the amount of interest being given to Corby led her release, and the screening of the TV movie, by several days.

    We’re used to there being a “linked and liquid” internet marketing blitz from content and artist agents in response to manufactured controversies – eg Miley Cyrus at the VMAs – but it would be interesting to chart the origins of the preemptive furore this time around.

    Was the early rejection of discussion of Corby led by early reports about her being paroled, seed work by commercial media, or was it endogenous to social media?

  13. Liamj

    “THIS is the dominant form of “journalism” … Awful pieces of writing that seek to flatter the reader into believing they are better than everyone else.”
    True not just for some segment of oz opinionists but for majority of infotainment, including the above OP & this comment.. the black hole of lulz consumes all who consume it.

  14. Dogs breakfast

    “Many of the “think” pieces on Schapelle assert that…”

    Think pieces, on SchCorb. Good to see you put quotation marks around the ‘think’. Regardless, the conjunction of think piece and Corby left me dazed and confused.

    “But on the other side of the press the commentators spend all their time criticising the latte-sipping inner-city lefty elite, arguing they are not real Australians. One flick through the Daily Tele shows how obsessed they are with this topic – in my opinion far more so than the elite press with bogans.”

    Well said, Northy. Hard to refute. Didn’t Alan Jones build a radio career sneering at the elites as his chauffeur parked the Bentley?

    Some seriously sharp commentary from the proles here. If nothing else, Razer does get some intelligent people responding. A scathing post by Rob Baker, so full of bitter reality. Love it.

    ” that’s one thing that unites us all; the tendency to assume the position of self-righteousness from afar.”

    Oh yeah, in epidemic proportions.

  15. Yclept

    So stop mentioning Corby and do some good by mentioning names like Jock Palfreyman…

  16. Loz Eronnie

    “It seems to focus largely on “critical” interpretation of online dating and the ethics of cooking with quinoa.”

    This sentence amuses me because I remember being contacted by Helen Razer who requested an interview because she was doing a piece on online dating.

  17. klewso

    “Your Piranha Press at Work”

  18. klewso

    What I’m waiting for is the viewsmedia – knowing how sensitive the Indonesians are – trying to get her to say something that will get her wound up back in prison?
    What a scoop(full).

    [“How did you feel when you couldn’t find your son ….?”]

  19. Salamander

    I watched the Schapelle telemovie. It was surprisingly good. But since none of you watched it, you will never know.

  20. Jack Phat

    Tell someone who cares.
    I haven’t read your article but I felt the urge to purge my feelings.

  21. negativegearmiddleclasswelfarenow.com

    The website http://www.expendable.tv paints Eamonn Duff’s work on Corby family in a very unsavoury light.

    The website claims that Duff used discredited sources to fabricate smears and spread disinformation about the Corby family. I’m sure Duff is aware of these allegations – he wont sue however because he doesn’t want his work exposed to the exacting glare of a trial.

    The MSM is, as far as I’m aware, yet to reference the extensive work of the Expendable Project even once. Full disclosure of the truth in the broader public domain would extensively damage the all the nation’s major media outlets in a way that would make the recovery of credibility impossible.

    The MSM is in panic mode – the Indonesian establishment has probably released Corby after considering the Expendable Project and its research. They have likely decided that, in light of on their First Lady being spied on and claims that the Australian Navy was too distracted to check their GPS systems, enough is enough.
    The Indonesian elite are probably enjoying some of their own schadenfreude as their counterparts in Australia thrash around trying to contain this. I’m enjoying it too. Its long over due.

  22. linda

    Helen you CONTINUALLY write articles full of “I am better than the hipsters / deluded identity politics fools etc etc etc”. Just a tad hypocritical to have a go at others doing same thing with different target?
    I’m sick of you ALL writing superficial clickbait that pretends to be complex analysis. Self righteousness & myopia are endemic in political movements – there I’ve just saved you several hundred words!
    WHY DONT YOU have a go at a really THREATENING target – you know like the environmental vandals now running our environment policy, convicted share-trading criminals calling for RC into unions, attack on right to education, health services etc etc. This BS is too easy for you

  23. Venise Alstergren

    Comment 8,

    Chanel 9, Chanel 7, what’s the difference?

  24. Dez Paul

    @Salamander – I watched it too. IMO not surprisingly good, but not bad either. I think she’s innocent because I don’t believe anyone would be that stupid, but I don’t invest too much in my opinion on this matter. I don’t think many Aussies do either, at best having a passing interest in it, especially by now. Which is why Razer is right that traditional media were wrong to get a big chubby over it, and then endlessly beat it by writing about others writing about it. A little chubby would have been sufficient.

    Bogans vs elites, as Razer seems to suggest, is a useless framework. We are all both. I have an inner bogan and an inner elite. I’m a contradictory being, just like most. Anyone who claims to be one (or claims that someone else is one), and denies the other, is a snob (if elite) or inverse snob (if bogan).

  25. merrilyn wasson

    Yet another opinion piece by Razer that is all about Razer, what a predictable boor she is and the main reason I will not subscribe to Crikey again.

    If you are about to be sick, Razer, then do stick your head in the barff bucket where it belongs. Are you so superficial and supercilious that you do not understand many people, and I am one, desperately care about Ms Corby, want her to have a fulfilling life, with family and children as is her wish. Wrongly incarcerated at 27, we/I fear that your and your journalistic mates may destroy that chance, along with her media centric family. If you really cared about Ms Corby’s well being, you would not have blasted off your crude, rude opinion, trying to prove you are ‘oh so superior’ to the bogan tabloids or the latte swillers.

    Well you really do not understand the heartfelt sympathy which I, and so many parents and peers feel for Ms Corby. That we don’t feel the same for the Bali 9 is because all have admitted to their guilt as drug runners, Ms Corby never has and never will admit to anything beyond being rather drunk on arrival at Ngurah Rai Airport.

    For what it is worth, I admire the Guardian and the Age, drink Latte, and am seriously worried for Ms Corby. As for you and your asinine article, Ms Razer, suddenly I feel the need of a barff bucket too,

  26. The Old Bill

    Wrongly incarcerated at 27? You must have been watching the Aussie media frenzy on 9,10 and 7 a few years ago Merrilyn.
    I watched SBS news, which included what actually happened when the customs officer had the sheer unmitigated gall to search a tall white Australian woman and find____ marijuana.

    Just a little travel tip, if you are going to smuggle drugs, dope is a bad choice. It smells, is quite bulky, leaves a residue on you and your clothes easily picked up by a sniffer dog, oh and also carries huge penalties in many Asian countries. Maybe she should have tried hash?

  27. The Old Bill

    Almost forgot – sorry Helen, didn’t read the article, the comments were much more interesting

  28. Venise Alstergren

    LINDA: Go girl go. You speak from the heart.


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