Friday, March 28, 2003

What's in this for me?

Coinciding nicely with fourteen years olds taking to street en masse to protest the Iraq war, eternal sophomore Phillip Adams (see my Sunday March 9 post), flogged the same cause in print on the same day, and also seemingly allowed his hormones to impair his judgement in the process.

Or at least, this is the kindest way I can find to describe Adams’s badly-misfired, ostensibly-rhetorical question: "What's in it for us?" (re Australian military Iraq involvement).

There’s no URL for his Op Ed piece in The Australian 26 March 2003, but a few of today’s letter writers can be viewed having a go at Adams.

In the manner of an inexperienced cross-examiner, Adams obviously presumes to know the answer as he asks the question. Apart from the dubious “us” he refers to (is Adams talking about all his fellow Australians worth $50m+, or just the (much smaller) gang who have accrued their mega-wealth principally by milking the “public teat”, as one of today’s letter writers put it), there is an ugly, neo-Shylock-ian sting (self-inflicted, of course) in the question’s tail. If Adams doesn’t mean to be talking about money here, what else is on his bargaining table? Australia’s buying a sort of protection from Al Qaeda, by not joining the allies in Iraq? How grotesquely mercantilist does this man go?

For those interested in the life and mediocrity of Phillip Adams, there’s no biography yet available (which is a bit strange for an Australian with 30+ years in the media/cultural industries under his belt). In terms of Adams and the “public teat”, there’s some useful information in Anne Coombs “Adland” William Heinemann 1990, pb. As “Adland” is not indexed, Adams-hunters may want to go straight to pp 34-35, 51-56, and 86-92.

Apart from having long had the self-serving knack of convincing governments of all persuasions to funnel money into things worthily vague (“Life. Be in it” and the “Commission for the Future” being just two examples of Adams’s taste for expensive, expansive – and commissionable – projects), Adams emerges as a quite shameless political powerbroker in the 80s, one of an ilk now most associated with Sydney shock jocks. And, despite all his pseudo-left bleatings, Adams’s most distinguished contribution of all to Australian life and industry may well end up being the generous terms he negotiated for an exit from an ad agency that he then co-owned (and that he had originally been made an equity partner of, almost as soon as he walked into the already-established outfit). The mother of all severance packages and money for jam – a nice precedent Adams set almost two decades ago, for generations of spivs to come.

Finally, in the best Adams tradition, of haute jingoism mixed with "there’s gotta be a bob in this for me", I’d like to offer my readers a new national anthem (or at least the start thereof):

Australians all, let us re-voice –
What’s in this shit for us?
With brickies and bosses all in cahoots
Our home is girt by loot
Our land abounds in ad campaigns
Of duty, balloons and tack
In history’s amnesia, let’s ask who’s gonna please ya
Advance Australia Back

P.S. Not actually sure where the “bob” will be in this for me. I’d feel like a bastard taking royalties from school assemblies etc singing this. Perhaps if, on the strength of these inspiring lyrics, “we” established a taxpayer-funded “Commission for the Past”, and I was made its foundation chairperson.

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