Passing Bull 45 – The Sick Humour of Mr Dean

Mr Rowan Dean edits The Australian Spectator and he participates in political talk shows on Sky News.  He also has an occasional piece in the AFR which purports to be humorous.  Mr Dean is the ultimate partisan.  When Mr Abbott fell, Mr Dean held a well-publicised wake for the True Believers.  The current Prime Minister is too soft on too many things for Mr Dean.

On Saturday, Mr Dean had a ‘Poor Me’ piece mocking seven Australians who have known more success in life than he has.  Here are two examples of what Mr Dean regards as humour.

  1. Adam Baddes: Forced to change his name because the Good Life he presumed he was entitled to had in fact turned out to be really, really Bad thanks to endemic racism, xenophobia, intolerance etc (see above), this hugely talented sportsman and elite athlete soared to national prominence in 2013 when a five-year-old girl poked her tongue out at him and wiggled her fingers in front of her nose, thereby suggesting that Mr Baddes was descended from an obscure species of Bonobo that once thrived in the Serengeti (as indeed we all are.) Not content with having the girl put under house arrest and humiliated for life, Mr Baddes was appointed Australian of the Year and National Treasure in quick succession. The judges were particularly impressed by Mr Baddes’ heartfelt attempts to express goodwill and unite the nation by throwing imaginary spears at crowds of onlookers and by his Australia Day speech in which he poured scorn on all privileged, white, male, Anglo-Saxon, non-indigenous Australians. 10 stars.
  2. Nova Peris-Backbone: Top Olympian and role-model to Indigenous girls, Ms Backbone was more surprised than anybody when former Prime Minister Julia “La” Grillard decided that as an Indigenous female Ms Backbone should a) be catapulted into the Labor Party and b) be catapulted into the Senate despite having no interest in either. With Ms Backbone happily immersing herself in the senatorial largesse provided by mainstream taxpayers, the judges were hugely impressed by her tearful announcement that the only people worthy of criticising her are Indigenous women. 8 stars.

This is worse than bullshit.  It is vile.   Mr Dean is an ideologue who proudly asserts the rights of bigots, and says that we should all be free to insult or offend people because of their race.

I do not believe that this kind of stuff has any place in a quality newspaper.  I have written to the Editor, Michael Stutchbury, as follows.

….. I wish to complain about Rowan Dean in your newspaper.

Take Saturday’s piece.  It is not just that it is not funny – it is tasteless, and it is predictably so.   The man is, like Andrew Bolt, fixated on race.  Four targets of the Saturday piece are people of colour.  The article oozes jealousy.  His targets have done something.  Mr Dean comes across as a man who leers, sneers, and jeers. 

A colleague of mine described the letter as puerile bigotry about people who have achieved more than the author could ever hope to do.

Shouldn’t we have lost this undergraduate tribalist view of politics, that some call ‘culture wars’, back in the ‘50’s?   When I heard people like Bolt and Dean last year saying that the crowd abuse of Adam Goodes was not related to his race, I knew that they lived in their own sealed world.  I wonder whether either of them has ever stood in the outer at the AFL or NRL and heard the abuse directed to Aboriginal footballers?

I subscribe to your newspaper because I like it and I respect it.  It is close to being nauseating to find someone like Rowan Dean in the same space as Laura Tingle, Tony Walker, or Phillip Coorey.  May I suggest that your readers deserve better?  It is hard enough enduring another ghastly election without this sort of rubbish.

Frankly, it gives me no pleasure to write like this, but I think that I should.

Other people whose opinion I respect have expressed much stronger views.

Poet of the Month: Anna Akhmatova

The first husband of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova was one of a large number of people shot in 1921 under the government of Lenin.  During the worst of the purges of Stalin, known by the Russians as the ‘Yezhov terror’, Akhmatova spent seventeenth months in prison queues trying to get news of her son.  This great poet was therefore well-placed to write of terror in Russia.  The people of Leningrad in 1940 would soon be able to compare the brutality of Hitler to the terror of Stalin.

Akhmatova wrote of the period of terror in a masterpiece called a Requiem.  The extracts for this month come from that poem.  The translations are by D M Thomas in this year’s Folio Edition.

In the Epilogue of the poem the author speaks of the others outside the jails:

I should like to call you all by name,

But they have lost the lists….

I have woven for them a great shroud

Out of the poor words I heard them speak.

She said that she would accept a monument if it were placed

….here, where I stood for three hundred hours

And where they never, never opened the doors for me.


Here, then, is the first extract from Requiem by Anna Akhmatova.



In those years only the dead smiled,

Glad to be at rest:

And Leningrad city swayed like

A needless appendix to its prisons.

It was then that the railway-yards

Were asylums of the mad;

Short were the locomotives’

Farewell songs.

Stars of death stood

Above us, and innocent Russia

Writhed under bloodstained boots, and

Under the tyres of Black Marias.