SPANKING THE MONKEYS

by Ross Sharp

In this ever changing world in which we live in, it is indeed a secure and comforting sign that ours are surely blessed lives of sweet constancy when we are so regularly presented with the opportunity to read the same article about the same thing in twelve different places about thirty times a year …

To wit: 

“Whither the future of media and journalism in this brave and confusing new world of rapid technological change and innovation?”

… It’s like visiting a zoo and watching a monkey m*sturbate. At first, you wonder what it’s doing and pay it some curious attention, then you giggle and point, and then it gets a little awkward so you move on, maybe you get a pie from the diner, certainly not a hot dog, not after seeing that, but it’s not something you’d want to make a habit of watching on a regular basis.

People would think you were strange.

But not watching doesn’t stop the monkeys from m*sturbating, and m*sturbate they do, with alarming frequency, all over our blogs and our news and our Twitters and our Facebooks and our televisions and our radios, they m*sturbate each other, they m*sturbate themselves, they watch the other monkeys m*sturbate each other and themselves, then they go and write about all that they’ve seen and all that they’ve heard, and we wind up with this

“Social media is revolutionising traditional media’s forms and practices: Twitter allows users to curate their own news streams; Facebook “likes” drive a growing proportion of online traffic; commentary on blogs, usually written for free, is regularly at least as expert if not more than what appears in newspapers.”

Please stop telling us what we do not need be told in order to know it, he asks, oh so plaintively and with a hint of the street-begging match-seller in his modest request. Stop spanking the monkey. He’s sore and would like to be left alone.

We see much the same as this on programmes like “Insiders” and “Q&A” and “Meet The Press” and in columns by people who have “opinions” on things and find themselves paid to tell us what their opinions on these things are, a mystifying conundrum  the logic of which often eludes me considering some of the people whose opinions are sought, thereby proving itself a true conundrum indeed.

Typically, these televisual or columnly acts of journalistic and op-ed frottage will find the likes of Andrew “Whistler’s Motherfucker” Bolt cooing over Tim “I’m Very Sorry, I’ve Never Read Any Of Your Work” Blair cooing over Piers “You’ve Got To Be Fucking Kidding Me” Akerman cooing at Gerard Henderson in his white bowling socks and beige y-fronts as he wanders from out the backyard dunny carrying a glass jar full of scrunched up tissues in one hand and a hairbrush in the other.

I am, however, by now quite inured to this repetitive spectacle of the nodding dogs of journamalism willingly proffering their paragraphs and darker passages for a public proctological from their comrades-in-ideology, playing as it often does like an over-extended take on The Aristocrats but with a cast of hundreds and a much damper underfelt underfoot. (Hell is not “other people”, it’s being the only outsider at The Walkleys).

Yet the “whither the future of media and journalism” question, no matter how many thousands of words have and can and are being thrown at it, always arrives at the exact same brief and brutal conclusion, which, to my mind, rather negates the reason for the thousands of words being thrown at the question in the first place, which is, as William Goldman so accurately said of the movie business, “No one knows anything.”

“In the meantime, [Wendy] Harmer agrees, there is only one certainty — that “no one knows what the f-ck is going on”. Which is kind of stimulating: “Eventually something will crawl out of the primordial soup, grow legs and walk on land. We don’t know what it is. But isn’t it fantastic to be in this soup?””

News as crouton. Or parmesan rind.

We do not know what the future of the music industry is, we can but hope there is music in it, and by which platform this music reaches my ear is of no consequence to me whatsoever. Similarly, what “form” journalism, reporting and feature writing may take in the future should concern only those wonks looking for a new way to shill whatever shiny box of shit it is they’ve been asked to flog to the rest of us via whatever slim or puffy organ best serves that function.

We can but hope there are words in such stories from the future as well, words written by people who know how to use them and use them wisely.

For that is what I read. Words, not “mediums”. I don’t have a pointy hat and a glass ball, for one. Put enough words next to each other, and do it well enough, you have the art of communication, of information and entertainment, no matter what the platform. Put enough “mediums” next to each other, you get a Psychics & Supernatural Expo at Darling Harbour.

[Enough of that, please, Mr. Sharp.

Makes you give in and cry.]

I bet nobody will notice what I just did there.

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