This is one of many brief reviews of panel show The Verdict littering the internet since it aired last night. The program, a bastard issue of Q&A and The Footy Show, is, as one might reasonably expect and as all reviews will tell you, more dreadful than both of its parents.
There is no Tony Jones to simulate gravity and there is no bloke in a dress to make us laugh. There’s a host, Karl Stefanovic, who appears torn between the performance styles of an RSL floor show and a TED talk. And, apparently, there’s Mark Latham.
There are few persons more grating than the former ALP leader. And this is less because he says “offensive”, “dangerous” things that mock liberal tolerance and much more because he has had direct pipe laid between his id and his mouth.
Once, he went to the trouble of refining his waste, but now, he bypasses scholarship altogether in favour of just crapping out repression. It’s annoying, because the occasional corn kernel of truth appears in the hot sewer of his speech. But, let’s not inhale too much Latham when there’s an entire internet huffing on his stench and pretending to be shocked when it vomits.
Let’s consider what is fundamentally “wrong” with The Verdict. And that is, nothing much in particular save for the fact that it is on TV.
Finding fault with The Verdict for its notable failure to improve the conversation of the world is a bit like blaming the air for being polluted. There are many claims that this program, which is chiefly made of yelling, is the product of negligence.
And yes, it is a deluded outrage mechanism and yes, “this should not be what passes for comment” etc. But to hope that television could offer us anything more than a reflection of our own collective misdeed is to wish for television to be something that it simply is not. To wit, a guardian of morals and not a partner to their lack.
The world is hurtling in the direction of hell on tracks made of continuous welded idiocy. This is no late-breaking story and surely, those of us in the dining cart of the Blockhead Express know that our days of making high-speed table talk are numbered. We must see by now that we are all passengers doomed to die midway through a conversation. Still, we are surprised every time the silverware shudders and every time the on-board entertainment reflects our destination, we say “Well. I had no idea that I bought a ticket to hell”.
We bought a ticket to hell. For this, we cannot blame Mark Latham. Mark Latham, who performed exactly like Mark Latham, is not the reason we are going to hell. He’s just the conductor that reminds us that this is where we’re headed.
If there is a “good” thing about The Verdict, it is that is reflects common modes of exchange very clearly. To watch this program is to be lost for some painful minutes inside the worst kind of Facebook thread.
It has its passably eloquent bully—obviously, Mark-o—and its impressively calm influence of progressive tolerance, last night played by Mamamia’s charming Jamila Rizvi. And, then there are a few reliable facts, provided in this case chiefly by Curtin University’s Anne Aly, but these suffer elision in a discord of self-interest and illusory half-ideas.
Most offensive of which, in my view, were not provided by Latham but by the cultural Right’s Anne Henderson who seems not to have recovered from the paranoia of the Cold War. A fun reason to endure this program, which technology too easily permits, is to watch the Sydney Institute representative talk about communists. Just like your cranky old uncle might do on Facebook.
Other than providing doctoral inspiration for communications students of the future and a reason to Tweet, there is no real value, here. It’s just people saying things quickly and badly then suffering egoistic misinterpretation by others who respond more quickly and worse. Which is to say, it’s just like real life.
We don’t improve real life, really, by improving television. There are those critics who worry that the intolerant language of Latham in particular will have a negative social impact. But, at the foundation of the belief that entertainment television can do bad is the hope that it can also do good and I remain resolutely unconvinced that such a thing is possible. Television can simply repackage bad ideas. Whether it is Q&A, whose false and sober appearance of “democracy” routinely only features people arguing for mild improvement to liberal democracy, or Karl’s other show, it’s just a sound-and-light show.
The world is hurtling in the direction of hell on tracks made of continuous welded idiocy. First-class diners seemed unaware of their fate and continued to talk about how either (a) those in second class or (b) the intolerant language used about those in second class was largely to blame for inconvenient changes to the menu.
Without an inconvenient change to another track entirely, we can’t expect much more food for thought than this.