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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 comments

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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.