Guest post by Chris Leithner
I’ve long suspected that the people who design the front page of The Australian have a wicked sense of humour, and today’s (16 November) front page confirms that suspicion. The first paragraph of “Home Scheme Falling Short” reads “Four out of five proposed renovations to houses in several central Australian communities have been scrapped because of cost blowouts in the crisis-ridden $672 million Aboriginal housing program, which is yet to build a single house.”
The lead article (“Bid to Rescue Climate Talks”), on the other hand, informs us that “Kevin Rudd and his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderon, have been at the centre of the late bid to prevent the collapse of next month’s Copenhagen talks, amid acceptance that the conference will fail to produce binding targets for reducing global carbon emissions.” It quoted the Prime Minister: “It’s going to be as tough as all hell but, let me tell you, I believe that everyone is seeking right now to put their best foot forward.” A PM whose government has failed to erect a single dwelling for Aborigines in the Northern Territory nonetheless persists in the delusion that he can “save” the world’s climate. Who needs gifted comedians when we have the front page of The Australian to start the day with a hearty laugh?
“The larger the mob, the harder the test” wrote HL Mencken in The Baltimore Evening Sun (26 July 1920). “In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.”
Mencken continued: “the Presidency [and, it’s worth adding, Australia’s Prime Ministership!] tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House [and The Lodge] will be adorned by a downright moron.”