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The death of the ironist

By Richard Stanton - posted Monday, 8 August 2011

When Therese Rein tweeted last Tuesday that 'partner' Kevin Rudd had emerged from his surgery with his 'sense of humor (sic) completely intact' the questions that sprang immediately to mind were – Kevin Rudd? Sense of humour?

In politics there should be no confusion. Politicians are neither humorous nor ironic. Politicians are born with an irony deficiency. There may be an irony in the fact that Mr Rudd's partner tweeted that she believes he has one but that's as close as it gets.

Irony in western political culture is dead.


Rather than being combative and indirect, politics today is direct and downright nasty.

The idea that Mr Rudd or any others of the Labor/Greens alliance are or can be humorous is itself ironic.

The left-of-centre metropolitan media is equally humourless. It is underpinned by irrational attacks on western culture and operates as the voice of the politically shrill.

It's not hard to find examples of humourlessness on the left. Witness the recent ABC Q&A at which Greens senator Christine Milne and retired gardener Peter Cundle were given free-rein to accuse right-of-centre media of igniting racist hatred.

Or the argument from the Fairfax/ABC alliance that the Norwegian shooter, an alleged Christian, drew inspiration from conservative Australian polemicists.

Is Senator Bob Brown being ironic when he refers to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation as 'hate media'? Despite his persistently quizzical leer, Senator Brown himself is a great hater.


The various battles being waged for the moral ground in the culture wars are unwinnable for a number of reasons.

The duality of Australian politics tends to produce similar sets of ironic polarities which are not always easy to understand.

D C Muecke categorised these ironic polarities as disengaged/involved; free/enslaved; dispassionate/emotional; serene/wretched; real/illusory; critical/credulous; and meaningful/absurd.

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About the Author

Richard Stanton is a political communication writer and media critic. His most recent book is Do What They Like: The Media In The Australian Election Campaign 2010.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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