Some days it’s hard to know whether to read the newspaper or empty a staple gun into your genitals. Depending on the day and the publication, often the staple gun will leave you in less pain and better informed. But even amongst the torrent of mediocrity the Australian press pisses out on a daily basis this stands out. Meet John Hirst, historian, writer, and Larry David impersonator.
Usually copying and pasting individual sentences from a piece of writing would undermine the reader’s understanding of the author’s argument. But Mr Hirst has produced a piece of writing so incoherent and so totally lacking any proof for his assertions that reading isolated passages will probably give you a better idea of his meaning.
Here’s John talking about single parent households, specifically single mums, in the context of why welfare is an unsuitable solution to their ills:
“The mothers are given to junk food, daytime TV and no-good boyfriends, who might develop designs on an adolescent daughter. The worst mothers are addicted to drugs and alcohol and under their influence neglect and abuse their children. Pru Goward, the New South Wales Family and Community Services minister, reported recently on cases in which babies had to be removed from their mother at birth to ensure they survived.”
HOLY SHIT-STORM BATMAN, how’s that for a sentence?
“The mothers are given to junk food, daytime TV and no-good boyfriends, who might develop designs on an adolescent daughter.”
Envision for a moment the friends of said mothers discussing their problems: “Not only is Sandra dating Mitch, who’s raping her daughter, but she really enjoys Whoppers AND Dr Phil.”
Fuck you Sandra. How dare you date a man who might “develop a design” on your daughter. Someone’s been reading too much Austen and Dickens, though Johnny boy’s patronising view of women seems to date from that era too doesn’t it?
And not only that but it seems like people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol are poor mothers. It seems being a drug addict leads to bad things.
But does the Hirst-tron back that shit up with some serious fact-bombs? Here’s the sentence that follows the paragraph above:
“The number of reports of child abuse has grown enormously.”
Yes, we know, and?
“It is not often realised that these do not represent a wider spread of abuse. The same hardcore abusers are being reported again and again. Welfare is the economic underpinning of the regular abuse of children.”
OH IS THAT SO? There’s not “a wider spread of abuse”? You haven’t heard there’s a Royal Commission into the systematic rape of children in religious institutions? You’re wrong Hirst, you’re just totally, completely fucking wrong. Child abuse may occur in poor house holds but to assert that it isn’t a universal problem is sheer bigotry. If the last few years have demonstrated anything, it’s that people in positions of power, often very rich people, abuse that power. Jimmy Saville wasn’t on the dole. The presumption that removing poor women from welfare would reduce abuse is insane. It would disempower them even more. And the suggestion that the problem is their taste in men is pure misogyny. But let’s accept your logic. If the boyfriends are rapey, surely if mum has to go out and work that’ll just make it easier for him to develop his “designs” on the daughter? Right John?
But don’t you worry people, John knows why this is happening:
“The work of Professor Julie Quinlivan and others shows that some teenage girls do plan to be pregnant. They live in poor, troubled families, dislike school and have the chance of only a dead-end job. A baby gives purpose to their lives and someone who will love them. Their escapist fantasy is supported by the government, which, if they become pregnant, will supply a single-parenting payment and rent allowance.”
Shame on you girls. Shame on you for not having the insight to realise that you’re too poor to breed. Shame on you for your disgraceful desire to feel wanted and loved. Shame on you and shame on the state for supporting your “escapist fantasy” that despite coming from “poor, troubled families” you can ever have a life with meaning in it, ever have anything more than the dead-end job you deserve because you’re stupid and poor.
Sorry, was I drawing inappropriate conclusions there? Don’t worry here’s the next sentence:
“Whatever the efforts these mothers make, their children are likely to have a bleak future. Anyone of common sense would know that setting up a poorly educated teenage girl to run a family is madness, but the policy continues.”
Yep. You just read that. Written in a national newspaper. Here’s the conclusion:
“This is not to say that a teenage mother should not have any support. There could be managed hostel accommodation for them where their babies would be safe, and they would have help and a chance to improve their skills and take part-time work. The public money spent on the single-parenting payment and rent assistance would help with the costs of the hostel.
Running institutions is a trouble for governments. The better course would be for the government to stop paying the single-parenting allowance to girls under 21 and fund non-government organisations to run hostels for girls who become pregnant and want to have their baby.”
This is the single, coldest, piece of writing I’ve read in a long time. Several of his assertions are totally inaccurate but the underlying logic actually makes me feel ill. Fuck the poor and the poorly educated. They can’t care for their children, even if they wanted to, and we need private institutions to intervene. For a historian, Johnny Boy appears to know virtually nothing about the history of institutions in this country. I’d compare him to a Dickensian villain but he’s too appalling. Yes there are some terrible mothers on welfare, no doubt there’s some sexual abuse, but there’s not a causative connection between welfare and child rape. Poorly educated people, people who are disempowered, are more vulnerable to everything. Welfare helps to ensure that some of them have a chance to alleviate themselves from poverty or at least avoid it’s most pernicious effects. If the annals of Australian history teach us anything it’s that treating disempowered people as if they’re not people leads to shameful outcomes. They’re people with dreams, ambitions, hopes, and potential, and no matter how ill founded any of it may be, for someone supposedly well versed in history to advocate their institutionalisation on the basis of generational poverty springs from the kind of thinking that in the not so recent past, opened some very dark doors indeed. If we’re to keep those doors closed, decent people need to speak up about this rubbish. The Age should be ashamed.
I’ll be performing at the Feast festival from the 14th of November – 17th of November at the Garden Lounge in Light Square.
More details here:
If you haven’t heard already, Melbourne’s comedy scene had it’s very own rape joke controversy last week. A comedy debate was planned at Station 59 with the subject “There’s nothing funny about rape” with all male teams on both sides and an extremely awkward poster.
Just take a second to take all that in. You will not be surprised to learn that Facebook and Twitter were unimpressed and people rapidly unleashed against all involved. Much of the controversy is nicely summarised here: https://itotallyhaveablog.wordpress.com
You can also go to Station 59’s Facebook thread where a lot of it blew up:http://www.facebook.com/pages/Station-59/6429215677
Management has said they weren’t involved and the gentlemen who designed the poster and set the topic have both been apologetic. As have most of the proposed participants.
Quite a few good things that needed to be said were said on the blog below. Several REALLY important things about how a lot of women feel about rape and the risk of rape, that are worth reading aside from all of this are said here: http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger’s-rapist-or-a-guy’s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/?year=2009&monthnum=10&day=08&like=1&_wpnonce=90795f55e6&wpl_rand=3e0a045463
I had a good chat with one Richard McKenzie last night over beers about this whole thing and, without shitting up everyone’s day, wanted to put some thoughts down on the page so I can stop thinking about it.
To be clear, I don’t know many of the guys involved, I don’t know what they were planning to say. This is just a discussion of rape jokes in general.
Some have said you shouldn’t ever tell rape jokes ever. While that’s not a bad rule of thumb (and I’ve never told one) I don’t think there are ever absolutes in comedy. I’ve seen good jokes from Louis CK that involve rape but are told skilfully that prove it can be done. For example here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wu9q4sM1vmc
If you’re a male comic and you write a rape joke the first question you should ask yourself is “If a female (or male) friend of mine had been raped and heard this joke would she/he feel uncomfortable?” If the answer to that is yes then you have a problem. As a professional entertainer (which BTW is what you are as a comedian) you’ve failed at your job. People will like you less as a person. And you’ve probably set some horrible memories off in the mind of someone you don’t know. You should then ask, given ALL that, is my desire to tell a joke about rape so strong that it should outweigh those other considerations? Do I have NOTHING ELSE TO SAY?
I should add that I’ve got close friends who’ve been raped. Friends who’ll hear a strange sound or see something that reminds them of some aspect of the event and shut down. Friends who have nightmares that leave them afraid to sleep, afraid to go out, afraid to talk to people. If you REALLY think that any joke you have is worth triggering that kind of stuff, you think too much of yourself.
Re all the free speech bullshit people have been arguing about. Yes, you have the right to tell the joke. People also have the right to be offended by the joke and express that point of view. But if no one ever told another rape joke would democracy end? Would free speech as we know it disappear into an Orwellian mushroom cloud? Would the thought police burst into your share house, put you in a bag and disappear you into a bank vault somewhere in South Australia? No? Then stop whining sunshine. Free speech DOES mean the right to offend sometimes but stand up comedy is entertainment dude. You’re not Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Mandela. It’s 2012 Australia and if you really believe that your right to tell a joke about rape is the tipping point for democracy then you need to stop drinking Mother at 2 AM and have a break from the stage. Comedians are performers and we can be truth tellers and agents of change but free speech is a dialogue and if people start screaming back at you maybe stop and think before you kick off your second rape joke.
Apparently some of the folks involve in organising the debate have been getting death threats and the venue’s been getting horrible phone calls. That’s not okay either and doing that kind of stuff because you’re outraged at someone else’s appalling conduct makes you a bad person.
It’s the Battle Royale the press gallery has been waiting for: “Juliar” vs “K-Rudd”. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (without the Good).
Gillard has a strong front line of some of the most prominent lights in the Labor Party. Kevin has a parade of freaks and malcontents, oh, and the Australian people.
RUDD, Kevin Michael
Born: 21 September 1957
Draft date: 3 October 1998
Knock outs: Beazley, Howard, Nelson, Turnbull, self
Nickname: Lazarus with an actual bypass
Nickname if you know him: F—-face
Strength: Strangers want to shake his hand
Weakness: Friends want to punch him in the face
Political achievements: 2007 Election victory, The Apology, Grocery Watch
Greatest contribution to humanity: Invented the phrase “programmatic specificity”
Biggest advantage: His enemies need to sleep
Allies: Jessica Rudd, Marcus Rudd, Nicholas Rudd, Jasper, Abby, Therese Rudd, Martin Ferguson, the chubby bearded guy, that Scottish leftie guy, Bob Katter.
Hero: was Dietrich Bonhoeffor now Mao Tse Tung
Favourite Film: Passion of the Christ
GILLARD, Julia Eileen
Born: 29 September 1961
Draft date: 3 October 1998
Knock outs: Rudd (TKO)
Nickname: Julia Gillard
Nickname if you know her: Julia
Strength: Running the country
Weakness: Press conferences
Political achievements: NBN, MySchool, Climate Change Tax, Mining Tax, defeating both Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd in 2010 election
Trademark move: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition, Repetition…
Allies: the Labor Caucus, the public service, the Press Gallery, flight attendants, all living acquaintances of Kevin Rudd
Prominent Supporters (Gang): Wayne “Knuckles” Swan, Craig “Valium” Emerson, Bill “Beaconsfield” Shorten
Favourite Film: Kill Bill Volume 2
Why she’ll win: Clinically sane
Why she’ll lose: Charisma of a manatee
Dark Horse Candidate
Toby Halligan has ADD and once broke into the Israeli Embassy, naked. But he is not crazy. He’s mad as hell.
Nominated for Best Newcomer at the 2011 Melbourne Comedy Festival, Toby Halligan turns his attention to doctors, other ‘experts’ and the plague that is Australian politics.
Ever gotten drunk, gone home with someone, and then been embarrassed when you can’t perform? 2010 was the year Australia went to bed with Kevin, woke up with Julia and found Tony Abbott hiding in the closet. The Parliament is hung, Labor’s making Rob Oakeshott look decisive, and the Liberals are nuttier than a box of chocolates.
Australian politics has never been so flaccid and it’ll take more than nasal spray to fix it. Toby Halligan has the hilarious solutions to help Australia deal with its disappointment. Toby doesn’t know how to stop climate change, beat the Taliban or keep footballers from behaving like footballers, but he’ll make you laugh at the idiots who think they can.
He’s been published on thepunch.com.au, in mX and is co-author of diaryleaks.com.au. He is a member of the Political Asylum comedy group and has appeared on With Tim Ferguson.
You can book tickets to the show through Trybooking here: