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“Fellow Earthians” – that’s the bit we’ll quote!

Pure Poison IconNoticed anything revealing in the News “the Greens should be destroyed” Ltd “Punch” smears on Bob Brown’s Hobart Speech?

Here’s David Penberthy’s “Calling occupants of interplanetary Bob”, last week:

The speech – which Brown opened with the phrase “Fellow Earthians” – was a deep ecologist ramble across a range of themes, including the possible existence of aliens, the disappearance of the dinosaurs, the fact that Bob saw a shooting star the other night and believed it was a portent heralding a new form of participatory democracy.

(Uh, that’s not what Brown said – he referred to “global democracy” as a “comet” of an idea. Is Penbo seriously a writer who’s never heard of a metaphor?)

Here’s Anthony Sharwood, today: “Earth to Bob. Little green men won’t save the world”:

A quick recap. Last week, Brown delivered the third annual Greens Oration in Hobart, in which he argued that a global government might be the way to solve the world’s environmental problems. This in itself was odd enough, but the really weird stuff was his frequent references to aliens, presaged in his now famous “Dear Earthians” intro.

What’s revealing is that neither article contains any other direct quotes. At all. If Brown’s speech was really as “wacky”, “batty” and “barking mad” as Penbo and Sharwood claim, surely there’d be some other juicy quotes in it? Some more hilarious examples of this crazy person who’s gone way off the deep-end, this mad “UFO spotter” with his “thousands of words of madness”?

And yet… neither David nor Anthony could apparently find any.

The reason, of course, is that whilst Brown did pick an unfortunately odd-sounding opening phrase (“Earthians” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, which is presumably why you rarely hear it from anyone but bad science fiction writers and crystal-wearing hippies who relish sounding weird), the rest of the speech made quite reasonable points.

I’m not sure why it’s suddenly “mad” to speculate that humanity might not be the only intelligence in the Universe, but it’s certainly something that’s exercised the minds of countless very intelligent and rational people in the scientific community for a very long time. And Brown is hardly the first rational person to suggest that one reason we might not have heard from other possible intelligences is that they might wipe themselves out before developing the capacity to contact us. Nor is it particularly crazy to note that human civilization is somewhat dependent on us not making the planet unliveable.

The biggest problem with Brown’s speech is his call for the development of a “one person, one vote, one value” global democracy. And that is because such a global democracy is more than a little incompatible with a world in which authoritarian nation states like China contain such a large proportion of the world’s population. I don’t know if Bob has a particular proposal for tackling this problem (and keep in mind, in the speech he was calling for global democracy to be an aim we work towards, not something we impose in five years involving submission to overpopulated dictatorships: it’d hardly be a “democracy” if a fifth of the voters have their votes effectively controlled by their government) but it’s something worth asking him. It’s something worth having a serious discussion about.

Or we could just call him a loonie and throw stuff at him. Obviously the simians in the cage at News have made their choice.

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  • 1
    Aliar Jones
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Aliens clearly have the edge here, since News Ltd and their minions are obviously busy creating doubt about ‘education’ and ‘science’ and serving greed of corporate polluters whilst riffling the pockets of the stupid and hacking into the privacy of the innocent, it’s obvious even Aliens would care more about the human race and our planet than they do.

  • 2
    RobJ
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Jon Faine has also been busy ridiculing Brown, selectively quoting him. Faine asking others who called in defence of brown if they believed in ET life. Well to dismiss the possibility is absurd considering the sheer size of the universe, Faine seems to be dismissing the possibility, but that’s what people with narrow minds, incapable of comprehending that the universe is massive do.

  • 3
    susan winstanley
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Well said.

    The knuckle-draggers at News think they are being funny, hawhaw, but they miss Bob Brown’s light and gracious humour.

    Went right over their heads, whoosh.

  • 4
    dendy
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    There really is a problem with journalists reporting matters that touch on the scientific. Typically, a journalist will have a humanities or similar background. It is rare to find a political commentator who has a science background. Penberthy studied law. Sharwood economics.

    If they had any interest in science they might have heard of the Drake Equation. Perhaps even gone to the trouble of digging up some old Carl Sagan videos of ‘Cosmos’. In essence Drake and co postulated that there are so many stars in our galaxy that the skies should be alive with radio communications from other civilizations. So where are they?

    The answer may be that intelligence is a lethal mutation. Societies capable of transmitting radio signals probably don’t last very long. Drake suggested such civilizations might last ten thousand years. I have to say, that seems a bit optimistic to me. We’ve had radio communication for a bit over a hundred years. Will we last ten thousand? Not unless we pull our finger out and start looking after this planet a bit better than we have been.

    That, as I understand it, was Brown’s point. Not really new. Not really that controversial. And completely misunderstood (perhaps deliberately, more likely genuinely) by poorly educated journalists.

  • 5
    fractious
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    When you look at the gentle treatment of the Greens in the media, it’s no surprise that Brown thought he could get away with his extraterrestrial ravings at the Hobart Town Hall

    Gerard Henderson is executive director of The Sydney Institute.

  • 6
    liliwyt
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Apart from the obvious bullying tactics being employed by News Ltd against the Greens (ugh, just had a schoolyard flashback), I’m wondering if there’s something else going on here.

    To my mind, it seems to stem from the same place that the anti-racist racism comes from. That is, the line being pushed by conservative anglo-saxon (mostly) men (let’s call them CASMs) that differentiating between the races is counter-productive, we should all be treated the same, as long as the CASMs get to define where the boundaries are. We should all speak the same language, dress the same, have the same beliefs – as long as they are what CASMs feel comfortable with. But that only goes as far as nationalism, not globalism. It’s easier to control the parameters within a nation (comparatively) than it is to try and reconcile the much larger numbers of “different” people in countries where anglo-saxons are in the minority.

    Therefore, the whole concept of “think globally, act locally” is anathema to the CASM.

  • 7
    AR
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Are Mudorc’s minions becoming even more unhinged as they realise that the eclipse of the SunKing draws closer?
    It’s one thing to pander and pontificate and mislead to amuse readers but to what end – the destruction of intelligent public discourse? apre moi, le deluge or scorched earth?

  • 8
    savemejeebus
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t anybody get that Brown was quoting Al Gore’s head from Futurama. The episode was ‘Crimes of the Hot’ and was about how the Earth’s scientists could solve the very real and imminently destructive problem of climate change caused by the robots. “My fellow Earthicans, as I discuss in my book Earth in the Balance and the much more popular Harry Potter and the Balance of Earth, we need to defend our planet against pollution. As well as dark wizards. …”
    Good on you Bob for being a Futurama fan.

  • 9
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    MOvie makers have been making movies about aliens in space for decades, are they all mad?

  • 10
    The Pav
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Dear savemejeebus,

    Isn’t Futurama produced by a part of News Ltd/

    If so wouldn’t the Sun King be more than a little miffed that his own employees can’t recognise their own product

  • 11
    gssiam
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Is it me or does anyone else thinks that all the right leaning journos have a secret club with their secret handshakes etc. So they can all come up with the same crap.

  • 12
    Fran Barlow
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    There is a lot I could say in rebuttal of the small-minded misanthropic trolling of Penbo and his gang, but having just read the text of the speech from Senator Brown, I think the better answer is to advise that others read it and reflect on it.

    It is a speech in the best liberal humanist tradition. Here and there I would take issue with Senator Brown’s formulation of the problem. He is clearly a liberal democrat rather than a socialist. Yet this is the speech of a profoundly ethical, thoughtful, erudite and generous man. When I read his words, I’m reminded why I support the Greens and despite the trolling about our alliance with the ALP, why I don’t support the conservative parties (the L/NP & ALP) in the parliament.

    There’s nothing embarrassing about that speech, or if there is, it’s that it comes from the lips of someone widely held to be an extremist rather than someone from the mainstream. It seems to me that no reasonable person could take issue with the sentiments he expressed, even if they doubted the practicability of what he was proposing. It is not Senator Brown who has taken leave of his senses or is speaking from another planet. It is the people representing what they would no doubt see as responsible commentary who are speaking from another planet — one that knows nothing of humanity or its needs.

  • 13
    monkeywrench
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    I read the usual News Ltd. drivel concerning Bob Brown/ Greens, knowing that if I actually went to source and read the original, I would find normalcy instead of idiocy. Many Australians have difficulty accepting that News Ltd. and its staff are on the idiocy side of that equation.

  • 14
    Steve777
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Funny that Gerard Henderson et al didn’t quote the opening sentence – “Never before has the Universe unfolded such a flower as our collective human intelligence, so far as we know.” The extra terrestrial references indicate that Bob Brown is aware of speculations among cosmologists about possibilities that they cannot now, or perhaps ever, prove or disprove.

    The rest of the speech makes proposals that people can agree or disagree with but deserve to be discussed, not ridiculed as the ravings of a cracked mind. I don’t know Anthony Sharwood, but normally respect David Penberthy and Gerard Henderson. The latter two, in deciding to play the man tabloid style, just went down in my estination.

  • 15
    anpl
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    The lesson of this story is, if you want people to take you seriously, don’t start with a collection of letters that isn’t an actual word.

    Earthians? Does he want to make people think he’s nuts?

  • 16
    Aliar Jones
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    The lesson of this story is, if you want people to take you seriously, don’t start with a collection of letters that isn’t an actual word.

    Earthians? Does he want to make people think he’s nuts?

    I wish I could believe for one millisecond that it would make the slightest difference to the way they reported anything regarding the Greens.

    If you really do then I think you need to review their coverage before he ever started making knowing pop culture references.

  • 17
    anpl
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know the pop culture reference.

    Aliar, your point is valid, but he doesn’t need to make their job easy, does he?

  • 18
    Fran Barlow
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know the pop culture reference.

    As someone pointed out above, Futurama. Don’t you watch US TV? Odd!

    Aliar, your point is valid, but he doesn’t need to make their job easy, does he?

    On the contrary — it’s a good thing that he doesn’t pander to them. The people who sneer are never going to be sympathetic — and these are not people whose sympathies would be worth a stale cracker in any event. Those thoughtful people who, prompted by the trolling as I was, read the speech and reflect on it won’t fail to be impressed by it — and that is sufficient warrant for Brown’s choice of words.

    That said, that it apparently got under the skins of the dimbulbs at the Murdochracy, prompting them again to reveal their general misanthropy and likewise their special animus towards their ethical superiors to all who would listen, is a substantial bonus.

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