By Henry Johnston
Prime Minister Scott Morrison did away with any semblance of pretence of confidentiality when he announced the appointment of Ita Buttrose as the ABC’s alpha dog.
Accompanied by the Liberal Party’s IPA stalwart Mitch Fifield, Morrison approached peak unctuousness as he welcomed Ms Buttrose to the top job.
In fact the appointment is a classic example of the dark art of psyops, practiced by this Government’s finest exponent, the Minister for Communications and Arts Mitchell Peter Fifield.
I assume most of the readers of The AIM Network know the meaning of psyops, but for the uninitiated it is characterised by this definition: “Psychological operations (PSYOP) convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behaviour of governments, organisations, groups, and individuals”.
Ita would, so the theory goes, soften the perception of the government amongst Baby Boomers, reared on a diet of the Goon Show, Blue Hills and Relax With Me presented by Arch McKirdy.
Ms Buttrose via her father’s association with the ABC kindles fond memories of Talbot Duckmanton, James Dibble and a black and white television gardening programme made memorable by the false teeth sibilance of its presenter.
Left-wing bias did not exist in the glory days of the ABC, nor did right-wing or any other sort of bias, for when talk topics were audited, the number crunchers inevitable informed management it was always 50 for the left and 50 for the right. This is because of the folly of forgetting the output of ABC regional radio and television stations.
But the PM, armed with Mitch’s assurance of an impending blancmange future for the ABC, assured listeners Ita would turn back the clock, and restore balance to dear old Auntie.
Certainly the front page headline of Friday’s Australian newspaper, said as much.
In my 15 years’ service at the ABC I learnt an immutable truth about the national broadcaster. The ABC Charter is sacrosanct. And if there is one thing we can be sure of Ita Buttrose like her father before her, will see to it the principles of the Charter are enforced.
But let’s return to the best news story the government could muster this week.
On cue the TV news outlets rolled sepia-tinted footage of a young, Ita tap tap tapping away at the glass ceiling of muscular Australian media enterprises, so beloved by the Blue Rinse Set.
But the Prozac-like calm of Ita’s appointment as chair of the ABC board, lasted less than Andy Warhol’s dictum, “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”
Indeed it is worth evoking another art form – the second string of Mitch Fifield’s ministerial bow – to cast a suitable analogy for the current state of this leprous government.
Opera. In particular Gotterdammerung, by Richard Wagner.
As I write the Federal Government now lists five lame duck ministers in its ranks, with Christopher Pyne and Steven Ciobo swelling the list.
And though only three excruciating parliamentary sitting days remain, the master of psyops and others in Liberal ranks will continue to appoint their cronies, mates and fellow travellers to QANGOs, boards and positions of influence, up to and including the day before this parliament is prorogued.
But with a disgraced cardinal holed-up in a Victorian slammer, images of burning, immersion in water, and the unlikely renewal of the Menzian world, swirl at the bottom of crystal brandy balloons, as smirking toffs like Mitch Fifield contemplate the impending twilight of the sods.
Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale at Brays Bookshop in Balmain an at Forty South Publishing.
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