Flat White

Tonightly is not the new punk

3 September 2018

8:35 AM

3 September 2018

8:35 AM

It’s been over a week since the most recent Liberal leadership spill. The lurching between the wets and the drys has (thankfully) been steadied somewhat by its shiny new leader. Scott Morrison is, for lack of a better term, an ideological compromise. He’s not so flouncy as the perpetually moderate Malcolm Turnbull, nor so steely-eyed-ex-cop as the stoically conservative Peter Dutton. Our new Prime Minister is the perfect middle ground.

Scott Morrison is not one to court controversy; he is largely inoffensive. If you didn’t follow federal politics closely, you probably wouldn’t know what he looked like, so adept is he at keeping himself out of the media spotlight. There is, however, one little chink in the ideological armour; Scott Morrison is a Pentecostal Christian.

Morrison’s Christianity is the perfect slice of pious pie for the salivating, anti-conservative cultural left in the media to munch on. After a week of media mumbling, ABC’s Tonightly with Tom Ballard struck the first real blow. In a song and dance spectacular (featuring comedians Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd and Bridie Connell), Ballard introduced a faux Christian rock duo called the ‘The Shadow Ministers’, in a musical parody of Morrison’s strong stance on stopping the boats, which the duo tried to portray as at odds with Christian values.

The lyrics, “We love Jesus but not refugees… if Jesus was a refugee we would say f-ck off we’re full”, is a good summation of the song.

The routine garnered some distinct reactions. Your average atheist leftie delighted in the song’s allegedly irreverent, controversial take. The traditionalists, on the other hand, were outraged the ABC would be so disrespectful as to mock Scott Morrison’s faith. The centrists and the centre-right, not so much fazed about religious mockery, instead threw around the ever-present conundrum of whether or not the ABC would make fun of Morrison if he were of another religion; most notably Islam.


There was, however, a fourth reaction. It was the response generated in most people, upon viewing the two-or-so-minute routine, and it was simply, “This is not funny.”

Yep; when push comes to shove, the primary problem with Tonightly’s take on the new Prime Minister is that it simply wasn’t amusing or edgy. Which, for a show attempting to be both edgy and amusing, is bad news. It is not, however, surprising, and is symptomatic of the steady erosion of comedy when it comes from the cultural left; a patch in which Tom Ballard squarely sits. The left has, for decades, prided itself on its status as the bastion of ‘counterculture’. They did, after all, drive the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, and the punk pushback against the prudish, culturally oppressive Christian right in the nineteen-nineties. But right there is the problem; they’re still stuck back then.

For some reason, the cultural left hasn’t realised that they now dominate the cultural mainstream. They do not seem to comprehend that they did, in fact, win the culture war against the prudes and the scolds of the late twentieth century. Or, maybe they’re choosing to remain oblivious, rather than lose their status as inhabitants of the ever-cool naughty-corner. And why wouldn’t this be the case? They’re led by Generation X and Baby Boomer ex-hippies who would rather hang onto their past life as cultural superheroes, than evolve as sensible human beings. As such, they have passed on that entirely passé narrative of the evil-white-Christian-oppressors to unwitting millennials.

Tom Ballard (and others like him) is a sorry millennial casualty of the identity crisis of newly-irrelevant socialists. Their influence is the same reason Ballard seems to think gratuitous swearing is still ground-breakingly funny. A couple of decades ago, it probably was, but nowadays the F-and-C-words are a fairly common part of the Aussie vernacular (for better or for worse). However, sitting high in his inner-city ivory tower, along with his latte-sipping comrades, they all conveniently refuse to see that their Anglo-bashing, four-letter-word-using, anti-Christian narrative has zero countercultural relevance in the modern public sphere. All it does is reinforce the ‘existing power’ of green-left dominance in popular culture. Ironic, since the reinforcing of existing power is what lefties insist they are fighting against.

It is a little sad, therefore, to watch the folks at Tonightly faff around mocking Christians like it’s still the edgy, controversial, irreverent thing to do. Their fresh-faced, ideological bravado is almost charming to watch in its naivety. It’s akin to observing a small child talk excitedly about waiting for Santa, and wondering whether it’s kinder to let them down gently or allow them to live in their fantasy bubble until they (hopefully) realise the truth for themselves.

It would certainly be a harsh blow if you revealed to the likes of Tom Ballard and the rest of the millennial leftie wannabe cultural-punks that they live in a world where white Christian men are the only group you can make fun of with zero risk to your reputation, job, relationships, or personal safety. Rather than boundary-pushing satire, Tonightly’s mocking of Scott Morrison’s Christian faith is up there with the most banal, politically correct, boring, passé, unfunny things you can do. Ballard et al are not cementing their status as countercultural comedy overlords; they’re proving their irrelevance.

If, for instance, Tom Ballard wanted to be really cheeky, he should have commissioned a song-and-dance routine about incoming NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi’s Muslim faith. A Pakistani-inspired musical commentary about burqas and female genital mutilation? Now that’s edgy. However, nowadays, even legitimate criticisms of Islam, let alone outright parodying it, lead to anything from being called a bigot or an Islamophobe, to winding up, you know, dead (Je Suis Charlie). Given this quite blatant example of the cultural sphere we inhabit, it is extraordinary the left still fails to realise its cultural narrative no longer rocks the boat of social conventions. The willful ignorance is delightful.

As such, perhaps it’s appropriate to suggest, again, and much to the anticipated chagrin of lefties everywhere, that conservatism is, in fact, the new punk?

Illustration: ABC Television.

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