Why Troppo Armadillo?

hightower.jpgSince I’m making insomniac posts that technically breach my resolution to have a holiday from blogging while finding and re-inserting my dummy, I thought it might be a good idea to explain the origin of the blog title “Troppo Armadillo” to readers. The “Troppo” bit is easy enough. Several of the TA bloggers (myself, Jen and Wayne Wood) live in Darwin in Australia’s tropical north.

The “Armadillo” bit is a cryptic reference to a saying that once emblazoned the website of US left-ish pundit Jim Hightower (not to mention a book he wrote):

The middle of the road is for yellow lines and dead armadillos.

Its inclusion in the title involves a double irony, in that I label myself a political centrist, but haven’t yet been squashed flat (not quite anyway).

I wouldn’t want to arbitrarily categorise my co-bloggers, but I think it’s fair to suggest that they’re all centrists too, at least in the sense that they’re not partisan adherents of either major political party.

In my case, laying claim to a centrist label also involves an assertion that I’m neither strongly left nor right-leaning in an overall sense. Some of my views are ones that most people would associate with the left while some are more commonly found in Right Wing Death Beasts. To the extent it’s possible to measure such things objectively, my results on political quizzes like The Political Compass are always in the dead centre, so I feel pretty comfortable that the label is a reasonable one.

But you pay a high price for being a centrist in this sense. Humans are tribal creatures, and most of us badly need our fellow creatures to stay in their tribal groups, and in the political sphere the basic tribes (however unsatisfactorily) are those of left and right. Anyone who hops about and refuses to stay in one or other of those tribes consistently makes people feel intensely uncomfortable, and some of those people get angry and abusive when they’re feeling uncomfortable.

I’ve noticed that the anger is most acute when I post consistently for a week or two in a vein that makes them think they’ve got me ideologically pigeon-holed, and then I post something that has a strong slant towards the other tribe. Polite tribalists then start calling me a “faux centrist”, while the less intelligent ones accuse me of “peddling hate” or worse.

When I’m feeling positive, causing discomfort to ideologically-constipated readers doesn’t worry me at all. It’s a mildly amusing game. But sometimes it does get tiresome being accused of lacking good faith merely because I won’t stay in the little box to which they want to consign me.

Jim Hightower is correct to that extent. Sticking to one or other side of the road is a lot more comfortable, but it’s something I just can’t do. I don’t hold my opinions arbitrarily or just for fun; they’re usually arrived at after at least a little bit of thought and reflection (and often quite a lot). It’s just that they’re not consistently on one side of that ideological yellow line people carry in their heads when they’re evaluating political material. If I was controlling the yellow line-painting machine, it’d end up wiggling wildly all over the road.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
This entry was posted in Uncategorised. Bookmark the permalink.
34 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

This is just a housekeeping comment to change the email address in my comment cookie. The previous one pointed to an old email address that I was forced to close when it got so full of spam as to be unuseable. With a bit of luck I’ll avoid that fate this time by sticking a “nospam” extension on it to defeat the spambots.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2022 years ago

Welcome back, Ken. I didn’t get a chance to respond to your ‘dummy spit’ thread, but hope I wasn’t part of the leftist bloggers who left you so disgruntled at the time.

I try to avoid anything nasty. I must say that a lot of the other leftist ones I read are pretty civil too, but maybe I’m a bit biased.

The whole purpose is dialogue – so I’m not personally offended by disagreements, or failure to convert to my view.

Over on the leftist blogs, we practically venerate Fred, even though we never agree with him on anything.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2022 years ago

Welcome back, Ken. I didn’t get a chance to respond to your ‘dummy spit’ thread, but hope I wasn’t part of the leftist bloggers who left you so disgruntled at the time.

I try to avoid anything nasty. I must say that a lot of the other leftist ones I read are pretty civil too, but maybe I’m a bit biased.

The whole purpose is dialogue – so I’m not personally offended by disagreements, or failure to convert to my view.

Over on the leftist blogs, we practically venerate Fred, even though we never agree with him on anything.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2022 years ago

Sorry about the double up. Got a cannot find message to my original post so tried again.

Neale Talbot
2022 years ago

Ken, you and are seem to be on some sort of mental wavelength at the moment… I just declared my various leanings here:
http://www.wrongwaygoback.com/pbs/archives/2004/08/i_talbot.php .

I would love to see more bloggers declare where they stand.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Don

No, it certainly wasn’t you (or any of the regulars). There was an anonymous coward who posted a couple of really repulsive comments, and another chap called James something or other who does comment from time to time but certainly won’t be missed.

Strange as it may seem, I should confess I actually quite like Phillip Adams in some ways. I think he’s a fine radio interviewer (especially with non-political guests where he doesn’t feel compelled to expose his own biases). And I fairly often agree with his political viewpoints too.

It’s just that he’s so derivative (sometimes to an unethical extent), so lacking in original or penetrating analysis of most issues, and so monotonically hostile and one-sided in his attitudes to Bush, Howard and Iraq that I find his column a complete turnoff. I wouldn’t even mind that if he didn’t devote almost every column these days to such utterly predictable Bush/Howard/Iraq rants.

I don’t even strongly object to Adams’ general derivativeness (as long as he acknowledges sources), because it must be almost impossible to maintain an unbroken stream of well-written, interesting and original columns for so many years. I’ve only been doing it on a strictly amateur basis for a couple of years, and I’ve already started repeating some of my pet topics.

It does of course raise the question of whether it’s time to put Phil out to pasture and fill that column space with a pundit with energy and fresh ideas. Tim Dunlop or Don Arthur would be perfect, given that the Oz presumably feels it has to have a leftie to balance all the RWDB staffers.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Neale

I’m not sure which of us should be more worried. My viewpoint coincides almost precisely with yours on every single point. Maybe we should consider forming a League of CDBs (no W because you can’t really have a wing in the middle). Trouble is, we’d probably end up like that hackneyed joke about the centrist demo chant: “What do we want? Gradual change! When do we want it? In due course!”

Neale
Neale
2022 years ago

Well, that is frightening. Where do I sign up?

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

Ken, I was wrong to say you hate Adams. I was angry that Adams was being represented as an apologist for Saddam, which seemed very unfair. But I agree that my assumptions about your motives were unwarranted, and that my tone was hostile, and I apologise.

This blog is in fact a constant source of enlightenment and entertainment, and your legal posts are always impressive and helpful. I wish I had said so before.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

James

OK. And I’m sorry too. Civility in action.

A now non lurker
A now non lurker
2022 years ago

What utter garbage. I couldn’t resist and had to come back and see. Sure enough, complete garbage. Civility it seems to you Ken is to call someone a wanker on your page, and when people disagree with your take on it, you abuse them in a subsequent post by questioning whether they are that fucking stupid.

So instead of calling your post(s) pathetic, I should have just called you a wanker. That would have been acceptable?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Yes, that was the anonymous coward I had in mind. I’ll leave his comment up this time (at least unless it provokes others to join an acrimonious ongoing dialogue, in which case I’ll simply delete all of them). If he keeps posting this sort of nonsense, I’ll probably have to teach myself how to do IP address barring. Please just go away. If you haven’t worked out that I agree I overreacted to the Adams/Irving meme, then you can’t read. No purpose is served by reviving it, except to recreate an unpleasant and nasty atmosphere. If you like that sort of atmosphere, go and create it somewhere else.

Tim Lambert
2022 years ago

You cannot escape the iron grip of Godwin’s Law.

Oh, and guess how Bunyip reacted when someone likened Windschuttle to David Irving.

Sedgwick
2022 years ago

He may have already done so.

A propos of the link above (and aware that giving gratuitous advice to grandmothers on how to suck eggs is an equally malodorous practice) maybe in the stylesheet makeover the links might be made to be more obvious. ? They tend to blend seamlessly/invisibly into the general text. (Underlined? Bolded?)

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2022 years ago

Ken’s point there about putting Adams out to pasture raises an interesting issue, I believe.

I think one of the real problems we have in this country is the skinny mindset of our op-ed writers and even news journo’s.

Imagine how many brilliant, keen, committed and ready new writers there are, available on tap for the benefit of this country.

Why are the tired old current lot still dishing it up to us daily? Surely it has something to do with contacts, knowing the system, and from that the notion that they can maintain some sort of cohesive and saliable force (not being put-upon by pollies, for instance). But the negatives in their embeddedness is starting to show. They’re too comfortable by far.

Of course, the big business need is to maintain that bankable stability. A freshen up here and there would not hurt, surely?

This is not about being idealistic. It’s about keeping the product and the market fresh and eager. We’re all numb!

Professor Quiggin raised an excellent point (Retrospective Framing) yesterday, not only worth considering, but acting on, I feel. He says effectively that a predisposed mindset towards a politician or event detrimentally affects the clear reporting of it. Might sound way too obvious, but his subtle and perceptive example of recent events shows how drastically the public reception of reporting of an event could be altered. The positives for our society in a journalistic and commentator change, one way or another, are exciting and compelling.

Bring it on. Out to pasture, you tired buggers, leave your black book on the table, and let’s freshen up.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Sedgwick

In my browser, the hyperlinks in the post and comment text are underlined by a dotted line that becomes solid on mouse hover. That seems to me to be adequately prominent and even quite elegant. However, the sidebar hyperlinks are certainly pretty obscure, as you say. I’ll certainly tweak that aspect, and with a bit of luck someone more expert than I might be able to advise me about the column width/resolution problem that some readers (I suspect ones with earlier versions of IE) are having.

A now non lurker
A now non lurker
2022 years ago

Or did you mean this law?

http://penny-arcade.com/view.php3?date=2004-03-19

Ken, I apologise if your that fragile that you can’t have your own language and tone thrown back at you. I must confess did not see that you agreed that you overreacted about other people’s posts so maybe I need to go back to school and learn to read. If that is your way of apologising then sure, apology accepted on their behalf. I’ll just assume that you can’t apologise for accurate commentary reflected in your own style when it comes to my original post.

My email is included if you have the courage to discuss this further.

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

Ken

I think your email munging will only make it easy for spammers to strip out the obvious NOSPAM.
Look here for detailed info on howto:
http://www.faqs.org/faqs/net-abuse-faq/munging-address/

A now non lurker
A now non lurker
2022 years ago

No, that is my email address (in the last post and this one, not the previous ones).

A now non lurker
A now non lurker
2022 years ago

Whoops.. Apologies Francis. I misread the author of your post. Ignore previous one.

Sedgwick
2022 years ago

Ken, was only referring to links in ‘Comments’. I use Firefox (mostly) and links in the main body do come up as you describe.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Thanks Francis. I’ll have to fix it up in other places as well (e.g. for all the co-bloggers in the bio section). I’d hate to see my new email address end up like the old one. I was getting 50 or more spams a day. Apparently the MT comment function refuses to accept an email address that doesn’t include the @ sign, which makes it impossible to follow the advice contained in the page you linked. I’ll check if it’s possible to modify the preferences within MT editing site, to permit use of (AT) and (DOT) instead.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Sedgwick

I’ve just had a look at the stylesheet again, and I might avoid any more tweaking at all myself, and just hope that a html guru comes along and offers to help. I’d like to have the post body hyperlinking code carried across to all hyperlinks, both in comments and on the sidebar, and I’d like to fix the problems with the width of the post column. It seems the code writer has used cell padding, but I’m not too sure exactly which elements I’ll need to change the padding on, or by how much. I’m pretty comfortable changing colours in stylesheets, but I get nervous beyond that.

Sedgwick
2022 years ago

Not sure whether this [SPAM BOT – LINK] is of any use, but it’s what I use down in my neck of the old growth forest.

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

Bah – Heres me thinking it was a musical reference to the famous World Armadillo Headquarters. I had imagined youse at Troppo as a latter day Commander Cody & Lost Planet Airmen types.Another dream shattered.

Darwinists /Darwinites /Darwinistas /Branch Darwinians should appreciate the car parking mural on this page:
http://www.austinlinks.com/Music/armheadq.html

August 7, 1970, Eddie Wilson opened the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin. On New Year’s Eve, 1980, Kenneth Threadgill played the last concert. These pictures were taken the following day, January 1, 1981. During its ten year run, the Armadillo was the venue to play in Texas, hosting many local and national acts, including Taj Mahal, Leon Redbone, Asleep at the Wheel, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, Steve Fromholtz, BB King, Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, Greezy Wheels, Edgar and Johnny Winters, the Pointer Sisters, Bonnie Raitt, Chuck Mangione, and many others. It was also the home of the Austin Ballet Theatre and the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. There was a beer garden outside, and inside it was a huge cavernous place, where you had to sit on the carpeted floor with the smell of beer and ashes from previous performances.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Francis

If only you’d told me before I wrote the post, I could have claimed Armadillo World Headquarters as a subterranean influence and no-one would have known any different. Maybe I should have stayed cryptic.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

BTW I’ve added you to the blogroll. Cheers!

David Tiley
2022 years ago

As per this and a certain other closed thread, we are all absolutely right about culling the pundits, It is really important – cross generational commentary, new points of view, challenges to old certainties, training and circulating new voices and minds.

I reckon no one should write a weekly or more column in a large newspaper for more than twelve months unless they either
a) work as practical journalists on the ground (Michelle is safe) or
b) they run a blog with an active comments section.

Pumping out the punditry week by week is just too hard. Everyone gets stale without interaction. That’s one reason why Adams is still useful on the radio (IMHO) but a yawn in the Australian.

(and I’ve got a beautiful if impractical theory here, but let’s not muddy things by talking about Margo).

Rex
Rex
2022 years ago

I admire those with the persistance to get past the first paragraph of an Adams column. I’ve not been able to for years. It’s not the content. Its the style. It sends me to sleep.

As others have noted however, on RN Adams is a different story. He is an engaging interviewer, and his subjects really respond well to his flattery.

Michael Duffy (the right wing Phil) on the other hand, may be able to write (I can’t say), but he is dead boring as an interviewer. Maybe he’ll get better, he chooses great topics, gets interesting subjects, but leaves the listener thinking “is that it?”.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

Ken, I do like this blogsite and your writings however I am a tad curious how someone as sensitive as you ever got into politics particularly ALP politics.

As someone who has copped it from some of the best and worst and yes even on this site the comments thrown at you were moderate in tone.

I think JQ has it right. He merely cuts out the rude language and lets it hang there.

After all that windbagging I will merely say keep in the Ken and keep writing even on some of your curious left wing social theories because you are interesting and very readable.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Homer

Funny you should reflect on my psychological suitability for politics. I’ve been doing the same over the last day or two, although from a slightly different perspective. In fact I re-wrote my bio-sketch on this site only a day or two ago, and included this passage:
Ken is a law lecturer at Charles Darwin University in Darwin, and a former Labor member of the NT Legislative Assembly (1991-94), holding numerous economic development shadow portfolios. He began to suspect that he’d chosen the wrong profession when CLP government Ministers took to labelling him an extreme economic rationalist (which was true, at least by comparison with their peculiar brand of corrupt agrarian socialism). This suspicion cystallised into certainty when, in a blinding flash of self-awareness, he realised that he was an anti-social introvert and quite uncomfortable in large crowds or meeting new people. For anyone wondering why he didn’t work this out much earlier, it’s a good question.
As for excessive sensitivity, it really depends on my mood and what else is going on in my life at the time. Sometimes I inadvertently let off steam on the blog for other things that really have nothing to do with it, and only realise later that that’s what I’ve done.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

Ken,
I should enlarge that i was making an observation not a criticism.

It also occurs to me you were more suitable to being Treasurer of N/T rather than Opposition spokeamn for treasury.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2022 years ago

Ken, the problems of being in the centre: it was elaborated on in Walt Kelly’s immortal “Pogo” comic strip half a century ago.

“Ever seen two dogs fighting over a bone?”

“Yeah.”

“Ever seen the bone fight back?”

trackback
2022 years ago

I, Talbot

Left, Right, Left, Right