Flat White

You too can wallow in Waleed’s wisdom, thanks to their ABC

14 December 2020

11:06 AM

14 December 2020

11:06 AM

Waleed and Scott are two of ABC radio’s intellectuals.  Doubtless, they’d correct me to say they are ‘the’ two intellectuals at the national broadcaster. Let’s be frank — they are two of Australia’s most cherished public intellectuals.

Of course, I speak of Waleed Aly (no introduction required) and Scott Stephens, the editor of the ABC Religion and Ethics website and frequent commentator on both.

I mean, what could be more fascinating that a couple of middle-aged male egos tossing around the really weighty issues of the day?

Together, these two command the taxpayer-funded microphone on Wednesdays at 11.30 am and their remarkable efforts are repeated on Saturdays at 12.30 am (graveyard hour) and Sundays at the more civilised 10.00 am. This all happens year-round and ‘their’ show goes out nationally. 

Each show cherrypicks some pre-ordained ‘hot’ topic, but rather than simply analysing the subject in common-usage English, these two prefer to marinate their dialogue in verbiage more suited to a monastery or a philosophy tutorial. 

The online spiel for the show tells us this:

In a world marked by wicked social problems, The Minefield helps you negotiate the ethical dilemmas, contradictory claims and unacknowledged complicities of modern life.

Well, that certainly should be a crowd pleaser!  The obvious implication is that we need these two to make sense of the great moral challenges of our time.  The further implication is that without them we — the riffraff uneducated listeners — would remain ignorant, even unaware of the world around us.

Among the numerous snags with this truly bilious engendering piece of public broadcasting is the oozing self-satisfaction with which Aly and Stephens seek to ‘educate’ the masses. 


The game, it seems, is that by dipping into the glossary of philosophical terms (think philosophy 101) and liberally spraying these around, you’re bound to sound erudite and learned. 

By simply adding ‘ism’ to the end of virtually any word you transform from mere mortal to a kind of verbal celestial being — a demigod — able to dumbfound listeners in a single monologue.  

The other ingredient critical to one’s placement in the intellectual firmament is nonchalance. Aly teaches us this. In centuries to come, we will still know it was Aly who taught us the centrality of nonchalance as the ‘secret’ ingredient to true intellectual stardom. 

Wisdom flows from his lips like water cascading over rocks.  Nothing rehearsed, nothing studied and preferably nothing remotely comprehensible.  Wrap it all up and kick it around because there’s nothing else to do, and hey presto, people reckon you’re the forward party of the second coming! 

This week just past it was Scotty’s turn to drag an oh so talented Aly to the mic to unpack his lengthy treatise that appeared in the November issue of The Monthly under title: Woke Power and Politics — How liberalism’s blind spot let cancel culture bloom.

So get this. Aly feigns reluctance to discuss his own work in The Monthly while his ‘co-host’ positively wets himself describing the sheer brilliance of Aly’s work (and therefore his mind).

On any measure this is junk radio.  It’s low-cost space-filler designed to pump up the very considerable Aly ego beyond bursting point.  

Precisely what Stephens is deriving from the experience isn’t at all clear. 

Yet again our national airwaves have been commandeered for the personal advancement of people who earn their ‘real’ incomes elsewhere. Ali is, of course, a regular panellist on that other intellectual tour de force, The Project. Here he gets down with the real people.

Don’t forget that in addition to being (our) public intellectual, Aly is also a writer, TV presenter, radio guy, MC for hire and, of course, he’s an academic.  So that covers the field. But wait. There’s more.  Aly is, of course, also a talented rock musician!

Is there anything at all this remarkable fellow cannot do, I hear you ask?  As it turns out the answer is a resounding ‘no.’

Remarkable really doesn’t come remotely close enough to describe this individual’s astonishing talents.  A 21st-century man for all seasons and all reasons 

By the way — contrary to the drivel on The Minefield website — the show is not free.  

We pay for it – and I for one – deeply resent doing so.

Take a listen to it and you be the judge. 

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