The Barbarians are at it again. If it is not statues they want to desecrate, it is the names of suburbs and electorates they want purified, books they want censored, national days abolished and history re-written. They will stop at nothing to impose their world view on everyone else. Having succeeded in most fields, this time they have chosen a new target: music. And the victim is a most unlikely one, the genteel, fuddy-duddy classical music station 3MBS FM in Melbourne, supported by the subscriptions of members. Even more bizarrely, the victim is also the censor, in this latest example of self-flagellating political correctness, as the station has censored itself. As usual, these events have been overlooked by our ever vigilant mainstream media, but they have certainly not escaped the eagle eye or ear of The Spectator Australia.
It all started when the station ran the first in a series of programs called George Mitchell, the Magic Behind the Minstrels. Mitchell was a British producer whose Minstrel Show ran on the BBC radio and TV from 1957 to 1964, with an almost inconceivable audience that peaked at 16 million, including a tour of Australia. Like its American counterpart, Mitchell’s shows consisted of black and white minstrel songs, variety acts and music hall fun and games. With our sophisticated tastes, of course, we would regard it all as a bit corny today and, yes, the musicians were got up in blackface. But it was all harmless and, if anything, a homage to a unique artistic niche. In any event, like it or not, it was part of history and that, of course, is what our new moralists cannot abide, if history is not the way they would like it to be.
Forward to enlightened 2018. The 3MBS show was simply an historical piece on Mitchell and his work and was not a parody of blacks in any way. The first instalment made it to air but was slammed by a solitary listener as ‘racist’, not the least so because it was broadcast during Reconciliation Week and, as we know, the world revolves around Reconciliation Week. You might ask: what has a program on the history of minstrel vaudeville got to do with Australian Aboriginals and the answer is ‘nothing’. But the solitary complaint was enough to send the station into a tailspin and the outrage industry was back in business.
The station’s response has faithfully followed the now tried and tested four- step response of the righteous to all such confected outrage. Step one – Capitulation: ‘our program may have caused offence to some members of our diverse listenership.’ Step two – The Grovel: ‘we unreservedly apologise’. Step three – Expiation: ‘the remaining programs will not be broadcast as advertised.’ Step four – Redemption: ‘we will be reviewing our policies and processes to better reflect our commitment to inclusion and diversity.’
So, simply examining a piece of music history has brought about yet another arrogant piece of censorship and vandalism. The one ray of hope is that the Facebook responses of at least some listeners have been decidedly against the station’s official stance, describing its actions as ‘ignorant’, ‘censorship’ and ‘rewriting history’. One particularly sensible contribution probably sums it all up; yes, it may be that history is not always full of the high-principled conduct we would like to see, but ‘you can’t know the history because this station has chosen to censor it.’ At least I should be safe from the censor’s wrath myself: I have argued on Flat White that Wagner’s Ring Cycle should be banned because it promotes blond, male heroes and is grossly unfair to dwarfs, dragons and incest.
You will recall that I wrote to the Speaker of the House of Representatives last month to ask how it was that during the debate on the same sex marriage legislation, members of parliament and visitors in the public gallery were allowed to get away with cheering, hugging, hollering, waving flags and banners, song and dance acts and backchat between the chamber and the gallery. More particularly, would such conduct be allowed in the future and in what circumstances? I had in mind a bill on, say, reverting to the former definition of marriage. I have now received his reply. It takes a lot to shock me these days about the trashing of institutions, but I think that day has arrived. Yes, the Speaker conceded, good behaviour is expected ‘under normal circumstances’. And bad behaviour would not ‘normally’ be allowed. Moreover, backchat or ‘interaction’ as he euphemistically described it ‘would not normally be permitted.’ But, apparently, we are not in normal times, for what we saw on that eventful day was actually, according to the Speaker, ‘the House operating at its best…’. Really? I hope I never see the House operating at its worst. As for my question whether the same conduct would be allowed in the future and in what circumstances? Well, as the poet said, ‘no answer was the stern reply’.
Finally, the latest news from Victoria on the scarcely believable legislation for a treaty with the Aboriginals. It has passed the lower house and is making its way to their Lordships in the Legislative Council. But wait! The Greens say they now want the Bill to say that the Aboriginals still, today, have sovereignty over the whole of Victoria! The internecine war between the ALP and the Greens suggests that, weird though it may be, the ALP will agree, to avoid being outflanked. When will the Turnbull government show some backbone and legislate so that all treaties, including this nonsense one, are the province of the federal government? If not, be alert and alarmed at where we are heading.
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