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Trying hard to hate the Kardashians and succeeding in not loving the ABC

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Hating the Kardashians is a popular pastime and should be easier than this. I’ve failed all day to be genuinely repulsed by young Kylie Jenner’s prenatal video tribute to herself, and am yet to fail better. Damn, I thought I’d jump on this hot topic early and bash out a tragic narcissism lament. I could ‘ve even made it a bit pop-feminist and reminded all you misogynists that Jenner was, like, totally forced by the male gaze into pushing out her baby on YouTube, just as the noblewomen of yore. However, I couldn’t be arsed.

(Oh. If you are among Daily Review’s posher clientele, you may not know of the Kardashians. Or, at least, you may not like to concede that you know of them. Either way, here’s a precis: “Kardashians” refers to a family largely peopled by striking young women, several with magnificent bottoms that have no truck with gravity. Kardashians were proximate to celebrity for some years.

Founding members include the late Robert Kardashian, defence attorney for OJ Simpson, and Caitlyn Jenner, glamorous Republican. The beautiful Kim Kardashian was personal assistant to Paris Hilton when the heiress was very well known. Eventually, perhaps inevitably, Kardashians produced Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which was to some tweens’ 2007 as The Brady Bunch had been to me. I.e. a comedy about a blended family with money, leisure time and a standing army of Alices. Prosperity and at-home laser hair removal endorsements followed. Kim was wed—and is still wed—to an unusually gifted musician. )

Hating Kardashians—most particularly as a news event— is a popular pastime. And so is the loving defence of ABC news. But, I have failed at both.

The Kardashians are as rich in assets and connections as their program is poor in “meaning”, to be sure. Yes, young Kylie Jenner did upload a record of her childbirth confinement to the internet this morning and, goodness me, 20 million pairs of eyes have viewed it at the time of writing, while the children of Yemen die unobserved by all, save for US intelligence operatives. Still, you know, whatever. Can’t work up the hate.

If folks feel inclined to watch a woman watching herself at the gynaecologist, at the burger drive-thru or—and, god, I really liked this bit—at her sumptuous baby shower where all participants are clad in identical pink baby-girl pyjamas as they (a) enjoy baby-girl-themed pink latte art and (b) pose in front of a wall built entirely from baby pink roses, what of it? Yes, it’s funny that Jenner makes a point that she elected not to monetise her pregnancy—a shocking claim that reveals such a partnership deal to be the Kardashian norm. But, what news would people be consuming were it not Kardashians? Something worthy on the ABC?

Hating Kardashians—most particularly as a news event— is a popular pastime. And so is the loving defence of ABC news. But, I have failed at both.

News reports of a fresh-baked Kardashian may be seen as hard evidence that people are stupid and/or too obedient to the rhythms of mainstream pap. Recent news reports on the ABC, however, are far more dangerous: they show us that journalists themselves have become obedient to the will of the powerful.

When we click on Kylie Jenner “News”, we expect no true revelation. There will be a reality TV style “reveal”—a weight loss, a “secret” pregnancy, a baby name—but these are rarely perceived by audiences as more than part of the Kardashian rhythm. When we look for ABC news, we expect to hear a dissonant noise, to see power scrutinised.

The ABC made much of its Cabinet files revelation, which turned out to be more of a reality-style reveal.

And what did we see last week? The revelation that the ABC was in possession of “hundreds” of classified cabinet files. Now, I could be wrong here, but I’m counting the publication of six documents. We saw, on ABC TV, news footage of ASIO hauling away kilograms of pages, but we are entitled to view, by my count, ‘round sixty of these.

The ABC made much of its revelation, which turned out to be more of a reality-style reveal. While some of the information deemed safe for our consumption may have a little more lasting democratic value than Instagram pictures of Kylie’s baby pink baby shower, the purportedly democratic function of a “free press” itself seems under threat.

As the ABC felt free to show mocking footage of one anonymised ASIO worker straining with the weight of classified files, it did not feel free to show us many of the files. This, apparently, is in the interests of nation security blah blah blah. Which is all very well and good, until we see reference to potentially significant stories, and no files accompanying them at all.

On the special blockbuster gateway built to all those files the ABC elected not to share, the claim is made that government consulted with columnist Andrew Bolt about changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, this is shocking. And, no, not because he’s Andrew Bolt, but because any person very recently found to have breached a law—I’m sure you’ve heard of the 18C provision—is, perhaps, not the best and most objective consultant. Andrew Bolt has denied that he was, per claims by the ABC, consulted—or, as the ABC had it the “only person specifically named as having been consulted” (my emphasis). Without the release of documents that ABC had in its mitts, we’ll never know. Those Australians who favour Bolt will not believe that he was consulted. Those who find Bolt’s presentations execrable will remain sure that he was. We have a claim and a counterclaim and no compelling evidence, which, frankly, I’ve had a gutful of since people started making entirely unsubstantiated claims about “Russian interference”.

Meantime, if there was a true break with public trust here, it was not effected by Bolt himself, but by Australian government. If, as is claimed, Bolt “consulted”, or even offered an opinion, about 18C, he is not the story, as the ABC has permitted him to become. A government that may have actively sought advice from media personnel of the low populist columnist standard is the problem. So, where are the documents about that, and if they really imperil security, as is claimed, let me teach you how to spell REDACTED. What national interest could be at stake in correspondence or documents about an amendment that was never made?

Where are the documents on Rudd and the “pink batts” controversy? Again, forget who the guy is. Think that the charge that the Australian government was warned about safety risks and chose to ignore them is one so substantial, it merits substantiation. Especially if it is a charge made by a media organisation that had previously and colourfully named the affair “A Lethal Miscalculation”, and one about which reports assessing risk management have already been published.

These claims may be true. They may be not. Either way, as my Crikey colleague Bernard Keane has it today, withholding source documents was not a choice the ABC was compelled to make. Keane is right to say the organisation could, “have followed the example of The New York Times in its handling of the Chelsea Manning material.” This was to give the US State Department no choice but to advise on redacting names and details that could imperil national security, or the safety of individuals.

All we really know from these documents is what the ABC wants to “reveal” about itself.

Speaking of protecting individuals. I ain’t no spy, but if I had access to metadata records—and remember, Aussie Cobbers, 60 government agencies can access some of your most private information without a warrant—I could certainly find the name of the chap who handed the documents over to the ABC. What was John Lyons thinking when he boasted of the ABC’s commitment to protecting national secrets, even as he offered up secrets about his source?

Perhaps exactly what he was thinking when he falsely valorised his organisation for its commitment to detail and to bravery. The brave thing is to publish, and the meticulous thing would be to get government agencies by the short and curlies and say, “We’re going to publish this anyhow, so you may as well help us redact.” I just do not buy that publishing files on Andrew Bolt’s alleged dealings with the government on legislation could endanger national security. And, jeez, if these documents do reveal Bolt’s deep entanglement with the state, then, we’re screwed. Which would be nice to know in advance.

Of course, the documents, which we have not seen, are very likely to demonstrate no such thing. Probably, some of the faux-intellectuals of the Coalition consider Bolt’s a Great Mind. Whatever. That wouldn’t be surprising, but it would be of interest/good for a laugh. But, who knows? No one until the documents are released. Which they won’t be. We gave them to ASIO. Aren’t we marvellous.

What is to love, with these cabinet files? That the ABC is not WikiLeaks?

All we really know from these documents is what the ABC wants to “reveal” about itself. If you are to believe Lyons, who spends a load of time telling everyone how much better his funded organisation is as a source for real, unvarnished news than the unfunded WikiLeaks, this is: the ABC is trustworthy. In my reading, the ABC is craven. Possibly lazy. Either way, it would apparently prefer to protect government secrets than describe them. If The Post were to be remade with Lyons, ABC’s Head Investigative and In-depth Journalism, in the role played by Meryl Streep, it’d be pretty boring. Oh. Apart from the bit where he leaks the identity of Daniel Ellsberg. Something, by the way, that WikiLeaks has never done.

What is to love, with these cabinet files? That the ABC is not WikiLeaks? What can we defend? While it remains true that the ABC offers audiences news and current events coverage worth defending, we can only suppose that these wayward moments are yet to be noticed by John.

Seriously. Send me to Kylie’s Instagram, where I know the revelations will be edited, workshopped and ultimately made as a branding statement. I can’t hate Kardashians. I do have a little bit of a growing problem with the “fearless” ABC.


Photo of Kylie Jenner via

34 responses to “Trying hard to hate the Kardashians and succeeding in not loving the ABC

  1. Thank you Helen, for being the only scribe I’m aware of to draw attention to further evidence of a Fourth Estate less intent on ensuring government transparency than on keeping government ‘sweet’. For the first time (in my knowledge) that Cabinet papers are made available before the expiration of confidentiality (i.e. while STILL relevant to live policy issues and that reference decisions made by CURRENT serving MPs who purport to represent the people (I don’t think anybody really believes that any longer, but what the hey!) This could have been a moment that provided some momentum for public discontent, for some impetus for a demand that policy makers be compelled to recognise and reinvest systems of governance with actual aspects of liberal-democratic practice. If one more politician bangs on about ‘Australian values’ in the name of excluding ‘undesirable’ immigrants (think Howard on Australia Day 2006: ‘respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, a commitment to the rule of law, the equality of men and women and a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need.’ LOL)

    Turnbull rebooted these last year: “Australian values unite us.  Freedom. Parliamentary democracy. The rule of law. Mutual respect. The equality of men and women and a fair go. The opportunity to get ahead, but lend a hand to those who fall behind. Our reforms will put these values at the heart of our citizenship requirements.”

    Bullshit! But maybe spreading this bullshit among the public might have increased the volume of demands that the government actually introduce reforms to do so!

  2. Thank you Helen , I have been watching and waiting for a comment like yours .
    What did you make of the 4Corners hyped piece on the money launderers,?
    I can see a cohort of bright young “marketeers” lining up to fill any vacuum created by the arrest of KK , after all , 3% of 4 billion is not a bad bargain in exchange of 5 years in a correctional facility.

  3. Thankyou Helen Razer.
    At least now we know not to trust the ABC with anything which might embarrass their political masters. Heaven help this country as the people are sleep walking into a broken democracy.

  4. Indeed, the person who gave these documents to the ABC must be regretting that decision. What a waste. Surely, the intention was to get them out there, into the public domain, not to have them meekly returned to government protection. We know where NOT to go in future, if we come across anything interesting! The cowardly, cringing national broadcaster.

    Mind you, what has happened to the ABC, including the destruction of many of my favourite features, is disgusting. Shier attacked the culture, but Guthrie is attacking the very foundations. This will be Turnbull’s legacy, for all of us who loved the ABC: less coverage of world affairs, less in-depth reporting, less coordination, less programming and more colour and movement distractions.

    1. Who says that that anonymous person even existed. Probably sent across by Malcolm Tremble as I have read somewhere – to get at within LNP opponents and poor old Kev ’07 – that colour pink again. And as for ugly Guthrie – send her to Samoa and keep the various ABC libraries AND librarians. Radio now all over the shop – and TV – who knows what is where – and trite news coverage worthy of all the commercial Murdoch/Packer crap!

  5. Yep Helen,
    I can see the Leaker as some sort of Tom Hanksian sort of character on a Pacific Island, handing off a HELP! bonfire, only for the spotter plane’s crew to piss on it while doing a flyover and then continue on their way.
    The Rudd thing was the most confusing to me, either they had something about safety, or they had something about accountants worried about end of year financial ledgers but, it seems, they just couldn’t be arsed trying to work it out at all. Or, (scarier) the ABC is so fucking terrified of the Govt that it was too scared to work it out. That’s definitely not a place a healthy democracy should be.

  6. Helen, nothing to see here, ABC takes it up the @#$ yet again -makes a mockery of journalism’s basic tenet of keeping those bastard’s honest (or was that the Democrat’s?) either way, like you say ABC aint no wikileaks…..

  7. IMHO the ABC had a duty of care to return the documents unread as soon as they read the “Classified” on the cover. There is no “WHISTLEBLOWER” motive here just some journos getting overly excited about a windfall of some documents which most reasonable people regard as confidential.

    If the ABC genuinely wants to do some deep and meaningful investigation then go for it but this was just lazy and tacky.

    And then they added to it by publishing a little bit of it and then caving and handing it over. So pitiful either way.

    Maybe they read them and realised they were all pretty ho hum and not worth the trouble…

    And Helen, if the government didn’t get some kind of input from Bolt who apart from being the most recent person seriously involved in an 18C case is the loudest megaphone in the room on the issue, I would think very poorly of them. Your implication is that they hand in hat went and saw Andrew to get his seal of approval – if you have some proof then expose it but if just your opinion then put a lid on it. There are enough fruit loops out there expressing their irrelevancy on every subject under the sun without you adding your two bobs worth.

    1. There is no such implication. This is clear postulation based on the currently unsubstantiated claims made by the ABC.
      I’d advise a course of reading comprehension, but fear you’re too far gone. I think “most reasonable people” would agree.

  8. All the usual partisan BS aside, Helen did use the word that has become the most appropriate descriptor of the current crop of ABC (so-called, self-styled) journalists – “lazy”.

  9. Helen, you write: “We have a claim and a counterclaim and no compelling evidence, which, frankly, I’ve had a gutful of since people started making entirely unsubstantiated claims about “Russian interference”.”

    There is a difference between “collusion”, the focus of the link that you provide, and a charge for which I agree there is little substantive evidence thus far; and “interference”, of which there is plenty of compelling evidence and almost universal consensus.

    Despite not being the subject of your article, this type of flippant assertion is unnecessary and, more importantly, incorrect.

    1. The link provided is to an interview with the best-selling “authority” on “collusion”, Luke Harding. His book, which continues to be profitable, is sold with the promise that it “proves” the case of Trump-Russia collusion to affect the outcome of the US election.
      This assertion, which as we now know was one made by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and not the security agencies claimed, is not meaningfully underscored in Harding’s book, or elsewhere. Because there is no evidence.
      Yes. Trump is repulsive. Sure. But so is a media focused on Russia Russia Russia to the extent it overlooks an aching lack of evidence.
      If there were attempts that could be shown to meaningfully influence the US election (a $100,000 spend on Facebook ads by sources that may or may not have been Russian is not meaningful. The Clinton campaign spent millions on Facebook ads in the last few weeks of the election alone) let’s hear them. Until then, we could maybe focus on what the current President is actually doing, not saying with his dumb mouth.
      The Russia thing is a rumour. One started by a campaign team. One founded in the Steele dossier, which (and I don’t get why this shocks no one) actually paid Kremlin operatives for information.
      Sheesh. We don’t have to pick sides in media. Yet, we do. No number of facts will dissuade liberal mainstream outlets that there is no compelling evidence of Russian interference in the US election. None.
      Meantime, the true reasons people rejected a promise of more meoliberal governance are barely discussed. Which is great, right. Let’s not analyse why Trump actually became President. Let’s just sit here and say he really never became president and more votes and Hillary is awesome.
      FFS. Try to read outside the Guardian.

      1. Thanks, Helen, but I once again disagree with your analysis. The only issue that I intended to point out was that there is evidence of interference in the US elections by the Russians. That interference may or may not be “meaningful” but evidence of that interference is strong.

        And keep in mind that the evidence of attempted interference emerged long before Trump was the GOP nominee.

        I don’t suggest collusion because I am unaware of anything more than circumstantial evidence. I don’t suggest “meaningful” because I don’t know if it swayed the election or the electoral college. But I have seen and heard much evidence of “interference” by the Russians in the US elections. That’s all, and I don’t think it’s debatable.

        And if you want to analyze why Trump became President, great – that’s a worthy exercise. But as I pointed out on your column last week, simple generalisations don’t cut it. At its simplest, Trump won because he won the electoral college in three states by around 70,000 votes. That’s a fact.

        Everything else is speculation, used by pundits and journalists and social scientists to make a point. Based on your position in this piece, you yourself recognise that.

        Finally, I don’t read the Guardian for the same reasons that you don’t. But it doesn’t mean that everything that they print is incorrect. And it doesn’t mean they’re more or less biased than any other media.

        Instead, I am going to leave the question of collusion for now to the current independent counsel, and to read the evidence that allows them to reach their conclusion. I have little else to go on right now, other than conspiracy minded writers on both sides of the argument.

        As for “interference”, I’m afraid I have reached my conclusion. Along with the majority of legitimate media, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the DHS, the NRA (!), private companies such as Facebook and Google and Twitter, both major political parties, Michael Flynn, the states who had their machines hacked, and Putin himself (the “patriots” who may have done a few bad things, in his view).

        Imperfect messengers? Sure. But I’ll take a punt.

  10. That mocking footage really was something. Yes, we’ve just outed ourselves as nonindependent, self-serving cowards. But hey, here’s a blooper of some poor bugging just trying to do his job! Yep, reputation building stuff that, ABC.

    Awesome Helen as per.

    1. And the way the “Bushie” was described in the Lyons’ piece. My god. Such extraordinary condescension. We have a picture of a dear little simple native who was fortunate to speak to a sassy ABC exec who could “translate” due to the fact that he once went to the bush for professional reasons.
      No. We have a brave citizen who elected to pass on classified documents not direct to government, but to our most purportedly ethical news institution. And, what did he get for his trouble? A hateful, class-based portrait of his adorable ineptitude. Sufficient personal details divulged to make it a simple matter for any one of sixty government agents to trace his identity via metadata. Six documents released.
      This “Bushie” (I’d prefer to know him as a champion of a free press that no longer exists) took great risks to produce nothing but flagrant disrespect. For him, and for us, the stakeholders of the ABC.
      I’m appalled.

      1. Yes, an alienating, patronising, and under the circumstances really fkn weird piece of garbage. I wonder how many people had input into it. Are we being played do you think? Something about all this is making me feel we are being, yet again, diverted from elsewhere. Either way, the ABC is in it up to it’s neck, and treating us like fools. Everything else in those cabinets had to do with National Security? Then those 6 documents seem randomly out of place, don’t they?

        1. If your criticism is I am further endangering the source, that’s not true. His identity would be traceable by employees of those agencies empowered to search metadata. Not everyday people.

  11. Does this not highlight the ABC’s new strategy . . . sensational headlines leading to vapid content . . . click-bait in other words?
    I did suggest this to the ABC itself via their comments section on a previous click-bait morsel, which I’m sad (sort of) to say only resulted in me being blocked from posting comments to the ABC (and no replies to several e-mails asking for clarification) . . . sigh . . . how’s SBS News going lately?

    1. ABC’s various social media arms do seem to very readily block, delete and shut down everything from trenchant criticism to mild curious enquiries that they somehow feel threatened by. The rage website used to be very very bad for that, and these says several ABC Facebook pages don’t even offer the chance for visitors to post directly.

  12. The way this story has developed, away from any Liberal impropriety, smacks of either misdirection or a set-piece.
    Turnbull, like Abbott before him, now seems to stoop as he walks. As if he’s greedily protecting a thick load of shit in his pants.

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