‘I thought there would be a range of views on this in the panel,’ said wannabe full-time Q&A host Fran Kelly dejectedly as she engaged in a little Maoist self-criticism, grappling with why her radical feminist panel had turned into the ABC’s latest Q&A cause célèbre, definitively ruling her out of contention, it seems, for the coveted job of anchor.
For anyone outside Aunty’s inner-city thought bubble, it’s not hard to see where Kelly went wrong. Normal practice is to invite a solitary sane person to join a panel of four Green Left lunatics and an audience stacked with claqueurs, posing as mainstream voters, who are coached to boo loudly when the pantomime villain conservative appears and occasionally liven up the evening by throwing a shoe at a former Liberal prime minister. The role of the host, on that felicitous occasion, was to feign surprise and offer stern words after the event, then auction off the shoe of the heroic hurler and give the money to charity as a plausible cover for lionising public assault.
That episode was Q&A’s finest hour in its Olympic sport of jeering at everyone to the right of Fidel Castro. Yet who can forget silver medallist whacky Zaky, the al-Qaeda sympathiser who bought a rifle and ammunition, made a will and a video to be played after he died and planned to take hostages at Asio headquarters. Mild-mannered Mr Mallah was invited repeatedly to join the audience and did not disappoint, using his fifteen seconds on the national broadcaster to declare that the comments of the Liberal minister on the panel would justify to many Australian Muslims watching the program their decision to join Isis. Host Tony Jones gave a bravura performance ruling the ‘unexpected’ comment out of order.
Sadly, Ms Kelly isn’t in the same league. When Egyptian-American author and professional provocatrice Mona Eltahawy peppered her speech with expletives and said that what is required to stop men raping women is for women to murder rapists, Ms Kelly did not offer so much as a solitary tut-tut. Instead, betraying her obvious enthusiasm for Eltahawy’s girls’ own lynch mob, she said, ‘Them’s fighting words.’ As the furore mounted, Kelly acknowledged, a week later, that when her handpicked panel seemed as happy as she was to let Mad Mona call for the abolition of the police and prisons and to take the law into their own hands, ‘it was up to me to challenge (her) assertion.’
It should hardly have caught Kelly by surprise. In Eltahawy’s manifesto, The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, she calls on them to destroy ‘the patriarchy’ by being profane, attention-seeking and violent. What she wants to replace the patriarchy with however is not a matriarchy —there are too many women that she despises — but a Mona-rchy. The untermädchen include the 53 per cent of white women who voted for Trump and the 43 per cent of white women who believed Kavanaugh rather than Blasey Ford, whom she calls the ‘foot soldiers of white supremacy + patriarchy.’ Giving a taste of what her realm would be like, she appeared, the week after her Q&A call to arms, at Melbourne Town Hall, dressed in silver sequins fit for the queen of virago vigilantes and told a crowd of 2,000 (including plenty of ‘white’ women) to stand up and shout as one, ‘F–k the patriarchy.’ They dutifully obliged.
Naturally, the self-same radical feminists who thought radio host Alan Jones should be sacked for saying that Prime Minister Scott Morrison should ‘shove a sock’ down NZ PM Jacinda Ardern’s throat, were delighted with what they deemed to be Eltahawy’s ‘supposed’ call to violence, which they claimed was the ‘disingenuous framing’ of ‘a few hundred literal idiots.’
In defending her lamentable performance, poor slow-witted Fran pleaded that ‘in a fast-paced and furious discussion,’ she had ‘missed that opportunity’ to challenge Eltahawy’s feminist fascism. Sadly, it was not just one occasion that she’d missed. Panelist Nayuka Gorrie, described as a ‘non-binary Indigenous writer and thinker’ (presumably to distinguish her from leftwing writers who don’t think,) claimed that indigenous Australians live in a ‘colonial state’ under constant ‘duress,’ experiencing violence from many different ‘systems’ and she ‘looked forward’ to the ‘tipping point’ when ‘people are going to start burning stuff.’ Violence was ‘okay’ she said, because ‘we’ve tried for 230-plus years to appeal to the colonisers morality, which doesn’t seem to exist,’ ‘so yeah, let’s burn stuff.’
To which Fran didn’t say, ‘No morality in Australia? Not even Fred Hollows curing blindness, or Howard Florey who saved millions of lives inventing penicillin, or Edith Cowan advocating for the rights of women and children, or Nancy Wake who risked her own life to fight the Gestapo and save Jews?’ No, what Fran sai d to this call to arson was, ‘I think that’s a really good moment to go to our next question.’
Those in charge of Aunty’s anarcho-syndicalist collective have embarked on an investigation of what was wrong with the program, whether it breached ‘editorial standards’, and to divine, as V. I. Lenin put it, what is to be done.
Here’s a tip. It’s not the potty-mouthed thuggery per se that offends — as Sun Tzu said, know the enemy. It’s the consistent failure to provide a balanced panel. A professional host could see that what Fran’s all-female fiasco needed was Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Nikki Haley or their Australian equivalents — for example, Jacinta Price and Janet Albrechtsen — who would have elegantly demolished the febrile fantasies of the violent femmes. But many conservatives decline the invitation because they know the host and the producer are planning to stack the audience and ambush them while running an inane Twitter feed calling for some partisan clown or other on the panel to be the next prime minister of Australia.
For ABC staff, the outrage the program generated is probably as perplexing as the plot of Aunty’s perennial programming pick, Midsomer Murders. Unfortunately, the outcome of the investigation is equally predictable. Its purpose is not to change anything, it is simply to allow enough time to pass to convince Australians unhappy with the ABC that all they can do is switch off. In 2012, 863,000 people watched the top rating episode of Q&A. It is down to 581,000.
A question for the minister and government: if Netflix can make a billion dollars a year informing and entertaining Australians, why spend a billion dollars of our taxes funding this sheltered workshop for underachievers, with an overblown sense of their self-worth, propped up by outsized salaries. Just don’t expect the answer on Q&A anytime soon.
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