Diary

Gadfly
Grouper Greg’s Aunty agony

What a marvellously engaging week we’ve had, made all the more diverting by a couple of creatures who emerged from the Black Lagoon.

First, there was Grouper Greg Sheridan from The Catholic Boys Daily, complaining on Insiders about the ABC doing what in the trade is called journalism.

Specifically, he had his knickers in a twist about the investigatory work ABC reporters had done on Cardinal Pell. Grouper, a failed seminarian, thought the investigation was unfair because it was a “monolithic” attack.

“The ABC is so powerful that it needs to do better in terms of internal balance. With great power comes great responsibility,” he lectured gobsmacked viewers, who were wondering whether this could possibly be someone who worked for a newspaper that has religiously used its power to take down innocent people. Someone mentioned the name Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

Grouper hates the ABC so much that a day later he turned up on Virginia Trioli’s radio show in Melbourne to discuss foreign affairs, only to be distracted by a little set-to over whether the ABC “put together” Tim Minchin’s song about Pell.

He said that Aunty had a “glass jaw” and its personalities “gang up on innocent human beings in a way that constitutes a breach of human rights in this country”.

To the great relief of listeners he then hung up the phone, presumably so he could get back to his bedroom to write more Pellograms about his hero, who is happily cultivating cabbages at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney’s inner west.

ABC people love inviting Greggy on their shows for the pleasure of having the national broadcaster trashed by the old trog.

It’s possible there’s no need to get upset at all. According to Malcolm Trumble, Lord Moloch told him The Catholic Boys Daily is not influential as it is hardly read by anyone.

New foe WHO dissed

Then we had the Jones Boy, heartbeat of a grateful nation, with the urgent suggestion that the Mad Monk should be the director-general of the World Health Organization.

And why not? Abbo and Greggo are sort of superannuated altar boys and, when he was PM, Abbott wanted to appoint Grouper as a high commissioner or ambassador. Now Big Al Jones wants to appoint the former PM to shake up the health of the entire globe.

And this at a time when Palaeolithic conservatives such as Dave Sharma, MP, are itching to tie the WHO’s funding to “reform”.

Why WHO needs to be punished by Dave and others is perplexing when – contrary to all the bloviation – its record during the plague crisis has been pretty damn good.

On January 9, China alerted WHO of the outbreak in Wuhan, nine days after a doctor set off the alert online. WHO issued a media statement about this and, on January 23, one about “containment measures” the Chinese had put in place.

On January 15, WHO announced that the “coronavirus outbreak shows Asia needs to step up infection preparation”.

On January 30, the organisation declared to the world “that the outbreak of [the novel coronavirus] constitutes a public health emergency of international concern”.

It was not until February 28 that Australia recognised the contagion as a “pandemic”, and the country didn’t introduce social distancing until mid-March – about two months after WHO announced China had told it about the outbreak in Wuhan.

On March 11, WHO formally announced that coronavirus was a pandemic. Two days later, Schmo Morrison said there was “absolute reason for calm” and he was going to the footy and encouraging others to do the same.

WHO’s pandemic announcement was a late call, but by then it had issued multiple alerts about the spread of the disease and the need to urgently respond.

Instead, attention-deprived Liberal Party backbenchers want a shakedown of WHO, when really there should be an inquiry into why politicians in the West ignored the threat for so long, notwithstanding a stream of alerts from Geneva.

Still, the Monk might make a great chief of the global health organisation. In 2016, he opposed a proposed hike on tobacco taxes, describing it as an “increased tax on workers having a smoko”.

Fresh off the boast

A colleague tells Gadfly that he has just put down William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy, about the East India Company and Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey, who expanded the might, pillage and wealth of the company.

In 1772 the East India Company had got into dire trouble, partly due to a famine in Bengal, and was in need of a government bailout – possibly the first bailout in corporate history.

Clive appeared before a parliamentary committee, where he listed many of his magnificent achievements in India. He concluded:

“Mr Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished by my own moderation.”

An excursion into Trumble’s A Bigger Picture leads to the thought that nearly 250 years earlier Clive may have been channelling the greatest leader Australia never had.

Silence observed

It’s Anzac Day today, strangely muted without the marches and brass bands. Senator Jacqui Lambie is not letting the virus get the better of the moment.

She has organised for citizens to sign an online “poppy pledge”: “This pledge is my promise: I will not forget them. I will stand at my driveway, at dawn this ANZAC Day, in silence, to honour those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.”

More than 20,000 people have already signed Jacqui’s pledge. Asylum seekers and refugees held in offshore detention by Australia are unlikely to be included in the 20,000 or so. They no longer have the benefit of the medevac legislation for urgent treatment in Australia, which was repealed on Senator Lambie’s casting vote.

We were assured there would be some lasting benefit in her decision to sign on to the government’s agenda to make life as miserable as possible for those in offshore detention. The details of the deal were too secret and delicate to announce at the time because of “national security”.

That was almost six months ago and still we don’t know about the magic deal she hatched with her political pal “Pete” Dutton.

Bryson howler

Barristers in New South Wales were grief-stricken when the state’s bar association notified members that John Purdy Bryson, QC, was now shoving up daisies.

“The Hon John Purdy Bryson QC, former judge of the Supreme Court of NSW and the Court of Appeal, died on Friday, 17 April 2020,” read the solemn notice.

Hold the flowers and condolences. Shortly after, another notice appeared:

“Correction ... It was John Henry Bryson (1951-2020) of Second Floor Selborne Chambers who sadly died on Friday, 17 April.”

John P. Bryson, QC, sprang back to life, sending a message to members with obligatory dollops of Latin: “Ave neque vale. Monday’s InBrief  headed Vale reported that I had died. An quisque latet error. Greatly exaggerated. No untoward event befell me on 17 April and as far as I am aware none is impending. Please take this reversal as well as you feel you should.”

Trumpette revived

A diagnosis for the Bone Spurs President’s psychological condition has been identified. It’s known as the Dunning–Kruger effect and in a nutshell it is a phenomenon whereby stupid people do not know they are stupid.

The American online magazine Salon went into quite a bit of detail earlier this month, quoting psychologist David Dunning’s description of this “cognitive bias”:

“In many areas of life incompetent people do not recognise – scratch that, cannot recognise – just how incompetent they are … For poor performers to recognise their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack … The incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

This is a bit gentler than the findings of a 2016 study by Dr Kevin Dutton of Oxford University, who ranked various world figures using psychometric tools. He found that Trump had more psychopathic traits than Adolf Hitler.

On the Dutton index, Trump scored 171, which was two points higher than Hitler. We wonder what our own Benito Dutton might score on the index.

An instance of a manifestation of the Dunning–Kruger effect could be seen in March when the president visited the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he told an anxious gathering: “You know, my uncle was a great person. He was at MIT. He taught at MIT for, I think, like a record number of years. He was a great super genius. Dr John Trump. I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 25, 2020 as "Gadfly: Grouper Greg’s Aunty agony".

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Richard Ackland
is the publisher of Justinian. He is The Saturday Paper’s diarist-at-large and legal affairs editor.

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