We are all in this together, so I have been agonising over what more I can do to get our economy and in particular the tourist and cultural sectors back to pre-Covid levels of activity. And I think I’ve hit the jackpot! As you know, I have been incensed at the antics of the fascists at the Nova cinema in trendy Carlton who put a black ban (if you will excuse the mixed metaphor) on their cinema ad promoting Australia Day. I saw it on what will turn out to have been my last trip to the Nova. The ad was a great promotion of our national day and covered all aspects of Australian life, including, as the irony of all ironies, a segment about Aboriginals and their contribution to our vibrant, diverse, egalitarian multi-cultural community. The Nova received one solitary objection to screening the ad, by way of a tweet from someone in that exciting new occupation, an ‘indigenous activist’. The tweet was based on the notion that Australia Day celebrates the invasion of Australia, colonialism, racism and genocide and that, accordingly, all adverts for it should be banned. Naturally, the cinema surrendered five minutes after the tweet and issued the usual grovelling apology that is now de rigueur for all cowardly Australian businesses when they get the slightest criticism from the dreamy Left. But to show that they are really cuddly and totally with it, the Nova went further; yes, it admitted, the ad would have made the audience ‘uncomfortable’. I took up this capitulation with the owners, who were friends of mine and whose response was so weak that it could win them a gold medal in the Woke Olympics. It was a decision of management, they squeaked, not the owners and therefore they were not responsible. So, another strike against them for abandoning all sense of responsibility, just like directors of the ABC.
Now, just across Lygon Street, and directly opposite the Nova is Readings Bookshop. And, as the two establishments stand like ‘two great houses, both alike in dignity’, how appropriate it is that the latest attack on free speech originated right there. Readings, once renowned as an edgy, independent and alternative bookshop, has held decades of talks, book launches and drinkies at meet-the-author gigs. Three years ago, they held a discussion on transgenderism with guest speaker and author Julie Bindel. Julie’s line is that transgender ‘women’ are not real women and should not use women’s change rooms and toilets, where real women want to be with their own. The extremist lobby, however, whose mission is to destroy every aspect of an ordered society, want blokes who were blokes but are now girls to have an open door to the women’s loo and anything else that takes their fancy and also to play in girls’ football and other sports teams. It took three years of protest from the extremists, but eventually Readings gave in and took its turn at issuing the grovelling, regulation apology. And it was no half-hearted one. ‘We apologise’ said Mark Rubbo, head of Readings, formerly courageous publisher and promoter of free speech, ‘for any hurt caused by highlighting the work of an author whose current stance is to divide our community’. In other words, they should have de-platformed Julie in the first place and probably burned her at the stake and then there would not have been this inconvenient debate. But let Julie have the last word, showing that even the Left is now in danger of being cancelled and de-platformed. ‘Readings have publicly humiliated me and insulted me. They have cowardly capitulated to bullies when for decades they have supported a diverse range of writers and publishers.’ Atta girl!
So, back to Covid-19 and restoring Melbourne’s vigorous intellectual and liberal lifestyle. I am going to do my bit by running a conducted tour of intellectual Carlton, with some carefully selected highlights to show the visitor how far we have come in the long march from barbarism to the sunlit uplands of freedom and civilisation. First, we stop at the Nova for the welcome to country and smoking ceremony and to catch the shortened, approved version of Gone With the Wind that omits any scenes with confederate flags, Robert E. Lee, blacks picking cotton and anyone singing ‘Mammie’. Then, after a refreshing lentil tea and asparagus muffins, we cross Lygon Street in time to catch the 3 p.m. book burning at Readings. There is always something new in these offerings and Readings have laid in a good stock of the latest works to be banned, including several by the toxically patriarchal Dr Seuss and some of Tintin’s malevolent adventures including that high-water mark of racism in literature, Tintin in the Congo. As an optional extra, you can grab a souvenir of this happy, purgative day. A hot favourite: From Arthur to Martha. One womin’s lonely march from builders labourer to Professor of Womins Litracha at Melbourne Uni. And we should have time for a prophetic quick wave to the statue of General Gordon, the so-called hero of Khartoum, before it is removed from outside the State Treasury by Andrews’ cleansing royal commission into colonial oppression.
And, talking about Melbourne’s cultural icons, the Age reported last week with that sense of unbridled excitement that would have greeted discovering Halley’s comet or the source of the Nile, that Chris Bowen had visited ‘a coal mine’ in Queensland. I thought it must have been a misprint or perhaps the editor had gone mad. The idea that an ALP statesman would actually visit a mine where normal people in normal jobs worked and sweated to look after normal families, seemed so alien to the modern ALP as to be ludicrous. Fortunately, on closer scrutiny, it was only a mine that produced nice, metallurgical coal for steel and not the nasty, dirty type that produces energy. So, fortunately, young Chris’ mantra is still safe: ‘Don’t vote for anything my party says about coal!’.
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