Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dumb, Drunk & Dissappointing

For I guess one quadrant of behavioral preference amongst Australians, free to air TV is really a two horse race - ABC and SBS.

With the advent of digital television, for me it's a ten horse race, and while ABC3 is one of the channels I tune into most (due to a professional and moronical interest in cartoons) I would probably rank ABC as dead last.

I mean, my opinion is borderline invalid I think not just to most Australians, but most people of the world. For one criterion I mark channels downwards for is newscontent, and my mind definitely draws a line between the word 'ABC' and 'news'.

But I was genuinely interested in ABC2's run of 'Dumb Drunk & Racist' when I started watching it, I couldn't help but think of it as ABCs-answer-to-SBSs-Go-Back-To-Where-You-Came-From. But having watched most of it, barring a sudden change in formula for the last episode it is more like to become - Light-hearted-Q-&-A, and I must disclose, Q&A is (in my opinion) the worst* show on television. One of the few shows that compells me to change the channel the longer I am exposed to it.

Both shows I feel are apologetic, their downfall is their attempted to be balanced, to show multiple points of view on issues that don't deserve it. Such issues are climate change, refugees, gay marriage etc. etc.

Dumb, Drunk & Racist promised to be compelling TV that allowed Australians to view themselves through the lens of another culture. It's recurring opening sequence was immediately made of the myth dispelling stuff of showing us that we aren't as important or beloved as we think we are. That we have a real perceptual problem overseas, and in particular India.

I guess the risk was always in the format of the show (bringing 4 Indian Nationals on a tour of Australia) that it would end up being a long public apology that 'most' Australians, 'aren't' racist.

And one could criticise the groundbreaking, world-first, 'Go Back To Where You Came From' as ultimately preaching to the choir, but even so, it held up a mirror, to me, somebody who for the past 7 years or something has been volunteering with a refugee, that may learn something about the inhumanity of this issue.

For me, Go Back To Where You Came From really demonstrated that the Australian public has just about no fucking idea of what refugees are, and even though it ultimately concluded that 'the issue of boat people is complex' its facts were facts, facts that are little consulted, little reported and little discussed in the public sphere. Like how expensive getting a boat to Australia is. That Malaysia is a non-signatory to the UN charter on refugees. Or how bad conditions are in other countries that make migration to Australia attractive.

And it was designed for an Australian Audience. Dumb, Drunk & Racist is pretty much the reverse. It is designed (I assume) for an Australian Audience. It takes 4 Indian Nationals and presents them with facts about Australia so that they will ultimately conclude that Australians are not on the whole 'Dumb, Drunk & Racist' but decent folk. And we the viewers can feel good knowing that another nations problem with us has little substance.

The arguments are beguiling, for example, on the subject of racially motivated attacks against Indians it argues a selection bias. If somebody is assualted, it is a simple case of assualt, a normal 'vanilla' crime. If that somebody is an Indian national though, it becomes a racial assualt, a racially motivated crime, picked up by Indian media and unfairly carried into hysteria. Furthermore, Melbourne based Indian Activist when saying 'the assailents are saying to the victim "go back to where you came from you Indian" I don't see how it can't be racially motivated' is wrong to draw such conclusions from such flimsy evidence, since the same assailants saying to a fat victim 'go back to Burgar King you fat cunt.' would lead pretty much nobody to the conclusion that the victim had been targeted because of a cultural hatred of fat people.

And it may be a fact that our legal system has found no evidence of racially motivated crimes in the cases covered by Dumb Drunk & Racist, but here the program becomes the equivalent of taking 4 citizens of Alabama to Turkey and showing them that 'Islam is okay'.

The real source of dissappointment is that Dumb, Drunk & Racist isn't challenging to the viewers, or even educational. Joe Hildebrandt is a fine ambassador for Australia, but you can tell that by the second episode he has formed a relationship with his guests that makes them inclined to accept his (educated) point of view before the cultural exposures have even taken place. By contrast the guests of 'Go Back To Where You Came From' were left more often alone exposed to the realities of refugee life. When the host did interact it was more in a Jeff Probst from Survivor type tribal council way, asking questions to provoke, without being leading.

I think similar to what Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and I assume Christopher Hitchens attack in the debate of religosity, that moderates protect the fanatics, just as gun enthusiasts protect the rights of gun mass murderers. Dumb, Drunk & Racist ultimately leaves us safe in our stance of 'we're not really racist, just the worst of us, can't let a few bad apples ruin the whole barrel.' etc.

But a few bad apples do ruin the whole barrel, the show itself interviews some of Sydney's Islamic residents whom themselves directly attribute many of the woes of their ongoing existence to September 11, where a small number of Muslims were able to put themselves forward as Islamic Ambassadors to the world. That's what every practicing Muslim and person of Middle Eastern appearance has to live with as the result of Al Kaeda, because their identity was hijacked. So too, do Australian's really need to understand that the world doesn't judge us by our best, but by our worst.

The show really should have been ABC's answer to 'Go Back To Where You Came From' where 4 proud patriotic Australians are taken on a tour of India and exposed to what the world really thinks of us. I could see 'Go Back To Where You Came From' having an imediate and positive impact by preaching to the choir, if at the very least making its viewers more inclined to open that email from GetUp! requesting they sign a petition or email their local politician or donate to an add campaign on all things relating to boat people.

What will Dumb Drunk & Racist do? It will only make well meaning, educated Australians more inclined next time an American objects to a minstrel routine on our television sit back and say 'well the Yanks just don't get our Australian sense of humour.'

I guess though that at least in its lightheartedness, it is nowhere near as bad as Q&A, just dissappointing.

*yes, I am including 'Psychic TV'

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