Wednesday, 15 September 2010

It's not every day that you receive a momentary cerebral pang that transports you back in time some 250 years. But the other day that's what happened to me when I heard on the nightly news the speech delivered by federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott as he addressed his battle-weary and hungry-for-revenge partyroom troops gathered, once again, to hear the bad news. "We're a band of brothers and sisters," Abbott intoned with gruff and manly sententiousness as he reached (in my mind's drifting eye; it has a habit of doing this when I listen to Abbott talk; when I listen to Gillard talk I tend to concentrate more acutely despite her very weird accent) for the waiting cup of hearty sack (or claret; it's difficult if not impossible to buy sack, a type of fortified white wine, these days) which he would then raise aloft in the direction of the portrait of the Queen that (of course; you have to ask?) hangs in pride of place within the confines of the crowded room.

"Three cheers!" "Hip, hip, hurray!"

Boys, you might get away with this kind of behaviour at an eighteenth-century themed fancy-dress party ('Band of Brothers' was the self-stylisation used by Admiral Horatio Nelson's victorious team of ship captains, heroes of numerous sea-battles leading up to the victory offshore at Trafalgar where the great man was shot and died a-weltering in his own blood aboard his flagship) but it's really not advisable under normal circumstances lest unwary (and often armed) people think you're as demented as a flying fox that has just feasted on a wheelie bin full of rotting passionfruit.

As to the image used so recklessly with this post, it was a compromise (as so many, many things are in these New-Paradigmatic days we live in) and I settled on a detail from a painting called Washington as a Statesman by Junius Brutus Stearns (1810 - 1885) that depicts the first US president addressing the Constitutional Convention back in the days when sack was, after all, still widely available on the streets of Boston if not on the shores of Port Jackson.

So I'm going to coin a new label for attitudes such as the one struck by Abbott just a few short days ago: claret and beefsteak. As in "Bring out the Claret and Beefsteak and let us pass the jolly Wassail 'round, Boys!" It's a certain type of masculine celebratory stance vis-a-vis some event of moment or contradiction, in this case a political setback of great moment and significance. For politics, as we know, truly came of age in the eighteenth century along with coffee houses, tobacco smoking and gazetteers. Sure, we had to wait another 150 years before HARD NEWS was born along with the professional journalists who would produce the stuff, but the male-oriented glamour of the era is unmatched in its splendour, strength and poise.

Passing the wassail by men in stockings also involved a fair amount of singing, which reminded me of The Australian's attempt to counter the attack on their virtue by that execrable Paul Barry of the ABC's Media Watch program on Monday night, which had at its centre stories published in the newspaper about the Australian Greens. Geoff Elliot went to substantial lengths to get good, juicy quotes from a number of highly-professional and (therefore) unimpeachable sources for the story. But it was the use of the epithet "robust" in the headline that mostly caught my eye.

Hence: 'Robust' = 'Claret and beefsteak'. QED.

I expect to see more efforts from the Murdoch-owned broadsheet in a similar context. Its Right-wing bias seems to be a point of no significance if you go by the response I received from one person on Twitter. When I had, a few days ago, brought to general notice a couple of instances from my past when the independence of Murdoch editors had been questionable, he snorted derisorily in a biting tweet and called me a puling girl for being so laughably innocent. As if it was news.

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