Razer's Class Warfare

Feb 13, 2018

Razer: Q&A dresses up narcissism and calls it democracy

If you're wondering if Monday nights have changed, it's just business as usual: "A group of people fresh from the Qantas Club Lounge think about themselves, and the medium they inhabit in that moment, as democracy itself," writes Helen Razer.

Helen Razer — Writer and Broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and Broadcaster


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65 thoughts on “Razer: Q&A dresses up narcissism and calls it democracy

  1. Nudiefish

    My wife sometimes puts Q&A, (I suspect) just to annoy me. I must leave the room to save myself the effort of throwing objects at the TV.

    I can’t imagine why the stupid show hasn’t been put to sleep years ago. Possibly from the day that our urban smoothie, Malcolm Turnbull, donned a dead animal and thereby established his credentials as a left-winger.

    1. Helen Razer

      Hey. Leather. It worked for Hillary Clinton and Christine Lagarde.

    2. Lee Tinson

      Yes, you should absolutely leave the room. Here’s a thought: get Foxnews. Sounds like it should suit you just fine.

  2. klewso

    These programs are defined by the politics of their presenters, paid to indulge their opinions and politics – their interuptions.
    The Dum – the likes of Baird and Fanning – “the hypocrisy of the left”/”a fear of Islamophobia means that there isn’t an open debate and that cripples the Left”??? Unlike Baird’s Right – where Molan was only a Major-General? How could he be expected to know that there is “radical violent fundamentalism” that isn’t Muslim?
    Overington with her “Newhouse/Wilson” record, of all people to promote, for Fanning to ask about the dangers of “government censorship”? The way Limited News “shields” us from the embarrassing facts they don’t want us exposed too?
    Machin, Fanning and Stanley “to discuss Jethro’s latest cock-up”? The only surprise was the Red Dwarf crew didn’t have “Cat” Kelly, “Rimmer” O’Doherty and Crieghton on again, to cover?
    Sales and the way she frames her interrogations/chats depending on party? Who’d know anything aboout anything more than Morrison, with his unquestioned forays into trying to get ASIO to nobble refugee applications and how Labor’s negative gearing plans would wreck the economy and home prices (the truth of which he, Turnbull et all suppressed? … Hurry up Laura Tingle?
    While Matter of Opinion should be the name of Stan Grant’s new revue.
    While conservative groupie Alberici gets the gig as “Chief Economics Correspondent” – how long before we get our view of international economics blinkered by Dave Buik again?
    Democracy inaction.

    1. Lee Tinson

      Oh yes … Molan is a big problem.

      I guess we need to see and hear idiots like Overington from time to time to let us know what’s going on in the media we refuse to support by reading it.

  3. Dog's Breakfast

    I have always assumed that the need for ‘balance’ was destroying the quality of the ABC, but they have rather taken to it with some alacrity.

    I won’t watch ABC for political commentary any more, and not even for news unless I’ve missed the SBS evening bulletin. The aping of the commercial news style, particularly the throws to people standing around court rooms, outside houses where murders were committed hours ago, and the like, are just depressing.

    Having said that, the throws to people reporting from floods, bushfires, where they actually add to the news is justifiable. Surely it ain’t that hard to draw a line.

    As it is, Tarquin fintinbimtim bus stop ole biscuit barrel’s opinion is not equivalent to our new Australian of the Year, Professor Michelle Simmons, or other genuinely expert individuals. Balance does not mean equal time. Chris Kenny imbalance makes up for the entirety of political correctness gone mad, all on his own.

    1. klewso

      They’re “drilling down” so often I wonder how many opinion blocked sludge pipes they have to hit before enough is enough.

    2. AR

      I esp love the way a finance story opens with the same shot of the Reserve Bank in Martin Place they’ve used for a decade (check the clothing, even on a couple of blokes walking by) and then cuts to a note-counting machine.
      Really adds to the informational impact.

  4. bref

    I get that your level of cynicism won’t allow you to see any virtue in a show like Q&A, but as someone not in the media, it is instructive for others who otherwise never see the journos or pollies in the flesh, so to speak. If it wasn’t for shows like the Drum, Q&A or Insiders and sometimes 7.30, I’d never see any of them in action. I don’t see see similar shows on the commercial channels. Its easy to tear into a show like Q&A, but I don’t see any constructive criticism. Maybe its time for an organisation like Crikey, in conjunction with expert journos like yourself to put on its own panel show online and show all of us how it should be done.

    1. Lee Tinson

      Good on you Bref. You said it so much better than I could do.

    2. bref

      I’ve even thought of a format you can follow. Some 10 or more years ago I was a big fan of a show called Breakroom Live. From memory it featured a satirist and economist and they literally used the breakroom at the company where they worked. Just a desk and their computer cameras and their biting, usually anti-Bush commentary. There you go, build on that and I think you could have a huge audience.

      1. Jack Robertson

        Yes, yes, a satirist! Yes yes, more biting commentary! Oh, please can we have more biting satirical commentary on the ABC! Because that’s what will save us all: more satire, more bitingly humourous political and social commentary, from smug, marginally talented twenty somethings with a Bathurst Comms degree and Jon Stewartian delusions!

        Oh, hurrah huzzah, Oh please please please clever ABC TV programming folks, give us more politicky, bitingy, cleversy satirey thingies on the telly, oh, yes, do…


        1. Jack Robertson


          How about a one hour program where allegedly ‘serious’ journalists try to look each other in the eye while discussing this bloke’s ongoing tribulations?

          Satire or irony not allowed.

        2. bref

          When the reality is as awful as it is in this country, when all the ‘serious’ experts and journos are just going with the status quo and supporting the gutless mediocrity that Canberra has become, yes, I think satire has a place. But you miss my point, I put forward the idea of a shoestring budget, online commentary show, not necessarily of a satirical nature, that would be more in line with what Crikey and Helen think would deliver that the ABC doesn’t. The Planet America format is a similar idea.

          1. Jack Robertson

            Yes fair enough…I actually think your idea of a Crikey TV show is a ripper. Because as somebody once said, the quality of TV politics/talking head shows comes down to one thing only: the quality of the brains behind the talking heads. QA is shit because most of the guests are shit: lacking originality, wit, an interesting POV, unpredictability, grace, decorum (intellectual not genteel). Etc. You’d get interesting TV from the crew here; also, because an internet TV show doesn’t become an epistemological cage, defined by format/timing/technical imperative etc.

        3. AR

          Are you channelling the late, great Peter Cook, the long suffering funder of the British Private Eye?
          As he often pointed out with his vodka bottle, the Berlin cabaret satire did so much to prevent the rise of Fascism.

          1. bref

            Don’t forget Clarke and Dawe 🙂

          2. Jack Robertson

            Yeah I am. You know, must if what passes as ‘satire’ now is illiterate sarcastic smart-arsery. Same problem as most TV shows: not enough Talent. Cook was genuine original, but also – like Jon Stewart – smart enough to know it’s self-consuming limitations and get out of it before the joke was on him.

            What we actually need is less satirists/comics and more straight men. Because television is in a way fundamentally satirical, as an entire mode. Faked, proximate, facsimile reality…

          3. Jack Robertson

            The biggest lack in most younger ‘satirists’ is a fatal lack of affection for their targets. You can’t satirise something authentically unless you love it.

  5. klewso

    They’re like Blue Hills. If I want to know about the thoughts of Chairman Rupert I’ll subscribe to his many and varied media outlets and dependents, reliant on Limited News opinion to feed and validate their own and their dependents.
    Why the ABC has to promote and do PR for such a media empire (to show us what we’re missing?) at our cost – while neglecting others in comparison – is beyond me.

  6. klewso

    I missed last night’s episode so I watched tonight’s.
    In this one Linda Reynolds pushes a barrow-load of Liberal Coal-ition platitudes and gets down to unpacking.
    * That there is no difference between a business and government – Jethro.
    * “Poor Jim Molan” :- laugh at him and you laugh at the uniform?
    * All those poor people whose family fled war zones – they can’t help not having the proper paperwork of lineage : meanwhile the party she is a sitting member for does what it does to refugees on the grounds they do?
    Jones still has that penchant for interceding on behalf of panelists of the certain right persuasion and taking Turnbull (the PM who was adamant about ‘what Labor’s negative gearing would mean to the economy and your home values’? Who in an earlier life went into partnership with Abetz, Lewis and Grech in a “Utegate” franchise? And is certain that “Corporate tax cuts = more and better paid jobs for the plebs”?) at his word?
    Chris Kenny was pretty funny though (supporting Linda) – his stand-up about terrorism :- the likes of “psychopath(?)” Muslims committing crimes like the Parramatta shooting and the Lindt siege = “terrorism”?
    The funny part was not mentioning what it was when non-Muslims (Gargasulous? Maddison?) do something similar? Maybe they’re just the acts of “individuals with mental health/drug problems”?

    1. klewso

      And of course Reynolds was selling those “New lamps for old” magic lamps off that “Corporate Tax Cuts = more and better paid jobs” barrow too.

    2. bref

      Poor Jim, he’s learning the hard way, as did Peter Garrett, that politics tends to make laughing stocks out of the unwary. I agree Chris was a hoot, a laugh a minute on tv as he is in print.

      1. Lee Tinson

        Yep. Can’t ever forget that dog.

      2. klewso

        That’s Right. “Double the Standards – Double the Fun!”, that’s our Kenny.

  7. Pamela

    Thank you Helen
    Can’t watch anymore- You have helped me understand why.

    1. Helen Razer

      Thanks, P. Glad to know I have diagnosed your pain.

  8. pinkocommierat

    I’d like to know what the antidote is to the solipsism we see on Q&A. It reflects a broader, dysfunctional approach to “communicating” as distinct from listening, analysing, formulating a cogent argument, and conveying it clearly and concisely.
    But Q&A is the symptom of a broader problem: we all say we’re dissatisfied with spin, sound bites, and talking points spouted by inauthentic role-players who represent one or another brand, yet this seems to be the only currency we accept.
    You can switch the telly off so you don’t scream at it, but you still have people in the real world who act like Chris or Van!

  9. Mark Gibson

    So what would be a better format? What could the ABC do to lift its game? Agree with a number of the criticisms and it’s fun to pan a hapless object like Q&A — inevitably a bit dorky because of its public service remit. But do we have ideas for something better?

    1. bref

      I agree Mark. We often read what Helen doesn’t like about something or someone, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but we seldom read her suggesting how it could be different or better.

      1. Helen Razer

        Oh. FFS. Most thought ever written down is a description of things as they are. Those who recommend a future (Malthus) are usually pretty funny within years.
        It is useful to diagnose, I believe. As do many. There is no requirement to offer a solution, and, indeed, in this case, it would be no help. The ABC is a very ideological organisation in the present committed to upholding the status quo. This is a thing that has occurred. To describe it, using Q&A as a way in, is not without value.
        What would be without value is me imaging a time in which views were not largely formed by the major political parties and almost indistinct from each other and broadcast on TV. And a time in which the views of political parties were not almost entirely governed by market friendly ideas.
        It would be utopian and artless of me to say, “this is how it would look”.
        I am sure that everyone on Q&A believes themselves to be doing a good job, and, in fact, are doing the best job that they can. It is the broader institution of media I am criticising. That’s a big thing. In the effort to understand the things that influence media (even the national broadcaster) it is my hope that readers will consider this understanding and not respond with a frankly adolescent “what’s you solution then, smarty pants?”
        My view is that the West and all its institutions are at a point of crisis. I am not alone in this view. By detecting these symptoms and in helping others who, like me, believe that we are at a time of political and economic crisis see them (I don’t think I am smarter than anyone, I just have more time to think about these things) I believe I am offering some value.
        If you want solutions, I am afraid I dare not provide them.

        1. Damon

          In a time where hiding the true nature of things seems to be the guiding principle for most of the media, just describing how things are can be a revolutionary act.

        2. bref

          LOL. Show me a point in history where institutions haven’t been in crisis. Without doers in the world we’d be nowhere at all. You seem to think that to criticising from the sidelines is a solution of sorts, but it isn’t, it just devalues what is positive in our society.

          1. Damon

            Oh for heavens’ sake, I left Twitter because I tired of trite opining like this. Leave us critics in peace and go back to doing wherever you “doers” do, Bref. In fact, you are wasting your time here. You should be doing.

        3. gerald butler

          For some of the prognosticators at any time in history it is always a time of crisis. It’s not really, it’s just the way the world is evolving. The real crisis is almost certainly climate change which will likely sweep all the sludge of political ideology down the plug hole. Just ask the scientists, not the media or the bought off creeps in Canberra.

  10. Damon

    The transition is now complete. Helen Razer has gone from somebody who my mum once liked, to my soul mate. I am unsure what this means, Helen, but it should be taken as a compliment most certainly.

    1. Helen Razer

      I am also unable to analyse this shift, Damon. Whatever the case, I am very glad my work is useful to you, even if Mum now finds it irrelevant.

      1. Damon

        I think my mum liked you in your Triple J days! I think I’m the only child ever to have been put onto Triple J by a parent. Yes, I was that uncool.

        I watched “Kill the Messenger” again last night and was reminded of your previous piece on the late Robert Parry, who of course collaborated with the late Garry Webb. I can only dream about the types of questions they would have asked on QandA. Of course, they wouldn’t have been allowed to do so. Or they would have been invited on as a “controversial” guest for the other commentators to guffaw about their conspiracy theories.

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