Media Circus: RIP Gough Whitlam Edition

I saw Gough Whitlam in person (from only a few other persons’ distance away) for the first and only time a few years ago at a theatrical production of political satire at Sydney’s Seymour Centre – he was in a wheelchair and looked quite frail, but still immensely alert, observant and imposingly dignified. He was surrounded by clumps of admiring political and media figures coming and going to just have a few words with him on the night. I remember that much more clearly than I remember the show in question.

The 1972 “It’s Time” election campaign happened when I was just old enough to realise that government was a thing but did not yet grok politics. I still remember the huge air of excitement around the promised changes and the introduction of those sweeping new legislations and what they seemed to mean for ordinary working people like our family, neighbours and friends.

By the time of the Dismissal in 1975 I was beginning to understand the basics of our political system but not much more, and then as people explained to me over the following years (with varying levels of clarity and plausibility) how this seemingly incomprehensible reversal had come about via purely political manoeuvrings, I realised how important it was to understand the operation of political tactics to push ideologies both for and against the people who compose the electorate. Fundamentally, Gough (or at least the government led by Gough and the government that followed Gough) are my blogging origin story, or at least what set up the mindset that eventually got me blogging back in the first place.

The giants who strode the political landscape of my youth are toppling one by one, leaving only gnats swarming over the entrails of serious political principles while Big Money shakes shiny things at us all, politicians very much included.

As usual for media circus threads, please share your bouquets and brickbats for particular items in the mass media, or highlight cogent analysis or pointed twitterstorms etc in new media. Discuss any current sociopolitical issue (the theme of each edition is merely for discussion-starter purposes – all current news items are on topic!).

Categories: culture wars, environment, ethics & philosophy, media, parties and factions

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6 replies

  1. On Gough – he had a good innings, and he shaped the politics we’ve lived with for the last forty years. My condolences to his family.

  2. The biggest change in everyday habits that I remember taking place in the three years of the Whitlam government? It stopped being usual for people to talk of the UK as “Home” (always pronounced so that it was obviously capitalised). Sure, my nana still did that and so did quite a few other nanas, but you stopped hearing teachers do it.
    In retrospect it was probably only ever us Anglo-Celtics doing it anyway, wasn’t it? Still, it was definitely a Thing.

  3. First Dog on the Moon’s cartoon today is about Gough. It made me cry.

  4. I’m rather enjoying the gallows humour of #ThingsLongerThanOscarsSentence.

  5. Does anyone else remember when the accents of the newsreaders started to change from decidedly British to Australian? I link that to Gough and ‘it’s time’: though we were still talking about cultural cringe for decades after him.
    Reeva Steencamp’s family are saying ‘at least he got some jail time’: clearly, expectations were low. Less than for killing a rhino.
    I am very sad about a movie actor’s face no longer containing any recognisable features, purportedly due to a healthy life. O rly?
    Good news- Ursula LeGuin has a new book of essays out.

    I see these things and think “They cannot be serious” but they are.
    Scott Morrison is trying to quietly legislate the Refugee Convention out of existence.
    I’m going to look at pictures of kittens for the rest of the day.

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