Sunday, May 30, 2010


So you have probably heard by now that New Matilda has been terminated. As of June 25, it will be no more.

This, quite naturally, makes me very sad. Of coruse it's not nearly as great a blow to me personally as it is to the team, who've worked like trojans on the site and now find themselves out of work. But it's still terribly disappointing for me, because it's a site I've been writing for since 2007, the first place to publish my work, and I think the home of the best humour writing I've done.

As I am quoted saying in Crikey (and also, for some reason, at Tim Blair's blog, where I was shocked and wounded to discover that Blair fans don't know who I am), nobody would know my name if it weren't for New Matilda. If you're reading this blog, it's probably because of New Matilda. Were it not for their willingness to give a slab of space to a nonsense-spouting non-entity, there's a good chance my writing would still be exactly nowhere. Of course I'm still pretty obscure, but without NM I wouldn't be that.

And so it's a depressing time for me. There's loads of stuff being written now about the implications for independent and online media, and it may well say something about the future of the media. New Matilda just couldn't make any money out of its model, because online advertising is simply not a big moneyspinner, even if a lot of people are reading. Maybe the Crikey subscription model is the only one with a chance of working; but if that's the case, will any new outlet have to ape Crikey to get anywhere?

In any event, there's no doubt that this is the passing of a little piece of alternative, thoughtful, analytical Australian media, and I do think it's a great shame. NM was something different; it gave voice to little-heard views and unknown writers (like me) and it was a noble counterpoint to mainstream media commentary.

(Some are holding out hope New Matilda can be saved; I doubt it can in its present form, but I do hope that maybe the name and the ethos can be continued somehow.)

But it's soon to be gone, and I suppose we will all move on. Thank you to all those who read my and others' work on; I hope you'll keep supporting independent media, and see the NM battalions fighting on new battlefields in future. No doubt there'll be more to say before June 25; and I do hope you'll keep reading up until then.

As for me, watch this space.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Weekly Inspiration

A New Feature At BPWWOO!

Get feel.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gays; Football; Etc.

I do not like disagreeing with the smart and stylish Ms Helen Razer. I intensely dislike it; it gives me a migraine and makes me irritable. So it's fortunate that I am rarely forced to do so. But unfortunately one of those rare occasions has now cropped up.

Even more unfortunately, it's on a matter of homosexual issues, on which I am in no way an expert, and not being gay, not particularly well equipped to comment form a position of empathy. But even so.

I disagree with Helen's article which comments on Jason Akermanis's article in the Herald Sun.

The reason I disagree with it is because I really think Helen has misread it. If, as she says, all Akermanis was saying was "it wasn't a good idea for players to "come out" due to the storm of publicity such an act would brew", there'd be no problem.

If Akermanis had simply written that homophobia is a major problem in the AFL, there'd be no problem.

If Akermanis had said that any player who came out as gay would be subject to enormous pressure and vilification, there'd be no problem.

If Akermanis had said that he would advise a gay footballer to keep it secret purely because of the potential damage it would do that player, there'd be no problem.

But he didn't. He said players should stay in the closet, not just for their own sake, but so they didn't damage the "fabric of a club". So they didn't make their teammates uncomfortable in the locker room. Because once he played with a gay guy and nobody wanted to shower with him. Because, in fact, there is too much homoeroticism in football for homosexuality to be acceptable!

And there's the problem. Because if the fabric of a football club is such that it cannot handle homosexuality, the fabric of that club is not worth keeping intact. And if other players are made uncomfortable by the presence of a gay teammate, that's their problem, and they should go away and work on it as much as they need to to take their place in the 21st century as normal, fully-functioning human beings without idiotic hang-ups about gay people.

Now, I get where Helen's coming from. All those voices who pressure closeted gays to come out are misguided; nobody should "have to" come out if they don't want to. Nobody should have to define their sexuality if they don't want to. And if Gary Burns is launching a human rights complaint against Akermanis, then, well, Gary Burns is kind of a tool. And when she says:

Speaking from a personal experience, as many weighing in on this matter have, it's exhausting being defined in the terms of one's sexuality. And this is how one is explicitly defined after the disclosure, "I'm gay" or, worse, "I'm bisexual". Try it as an experiment in your workplace this afternoon. You will be treated as a hyper-sexual peril who cannot be trusted with anything including the stationery supplies. It's exhausting.

I get it, and that sucks. It's terrible.'s really pretty easy for those of us who are perfectly able to live whatever lifestyle we want to, to form relationships with who we want to, to take whoever we want to out for dinner, to kiss whoever we want to in public, without worrying about getting vilified, abused, and ostracised by our friends and colleagues, without worrying about our career being crippled, without worrying about witnesses who might run to the paper to splash our name across the front page - in short, for those of us who have no need for a secret life - to tell others they shouldn't make such a big deal about their sexuality.

Straight people get to do all that. In most spheres of life, gay people do too. Those of us making a living commenting on these issues, like me, or Helen, or Gerard Whateley, or Michael Shmith, certainly do: should we be in a relationship with a partner of our choosing, nobody will tell us we have no right to tell anyone about it because it's all too much for our fragile industry to bear.

In football, they don't (apparently this also applies to politics - see David Campbell).

And that's they key. It's not about making a big hullabaloo about sexuality. It's not about being a "career homosexual". It's not about anyone having any kind of "duty" to come out. It's about saying, if people don't want to hide their sexuality, they shouldn't have to. If you don't want to say "I'm gay", or "I'm bisexual" at work, don't. It's idiotic to suppose you should "have to". But if someone asks you about your partner at work, you shouldn't feel that you have to lie about it either.

A footballer should be able to hold his boyfriend's hand on the Brownlow red carpet. A footballer should be able to kiss his boyfriend in public. A footballer should be able to mention his boyfriend in an interview. Or not, if he doesn't want to. But nobody has the moral right to tell him he shouldn't.

The first one who does is going to cop it, pretty harshly. It will take massive courage to do it, and I don't blame anyone who chooses not to go down that path. Nobody should ever be pressured to come out, in any walk of life. But nobody should be pressured not to, either, and THAT is where Akermanis breaks down, and where his supporters make their mistake too, in my opinion.

Because Akermanis may hope for a day when "coming out isn't a big deal", but the fact is, that day will never come unless people actually do it. Nobody will ever let you sit at the front of the bus as long as you stay in the back with your mouth shut.

I hope no gay footballer feels he "has" to come out. Or that he "has" to stay in the closet. But I hope someday soon some DO come out, because that inestimably brave act will be the first step towards ensuring future footballers don't have to be that brave, just to stop hiding.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Shocking Revelations and So Forth

So the media story is that Jessica Watson "sailed" around the world. Oh really? Well, I am here to tell you it is all a hoax! There are startling inconsistencies in Watson's story, and if you dig a little deeper you find a tissue of lies and cover-ups designed to prevent the people from discovering that the entire "round-the-world trip" was manufactured in a studio in front of a green screen. Jessica Watson's "circumnavigation" is no more real than Neil Armstrong's "moon landing"; Elvis's "death" or Simon Crean's "leadership of the ALP".

And now, finally, we have the photographic evidence to PROVE IT. Here we see a photo supposedly of Jessica "at sea". It's not immediately obvious, but if you look closely and for long enough, you will see clear evidence that she is nothing of the kind.

But anyway if you would like to read a bunch of funny jokes about Jessica Watson, check out my latest at New Matilda.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Give Generously!

I know you love me! Of course I do!

So why not declare your love to the world? You can do this easily by buying something from my Store.

Buy any of these items of UNBELIEVABLY SEXY Ben Pobjie merchandise, and you will be envied by almost everyone in the world, PLUS you will help my Comedy Festival show become a reality. Every purchase sees a percentage put into the Festival Fighting Fund.

T-shirts, hats, mugs, or cheap stuff like badges, stickers and stuff. G'wan!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Compare and Contrast

Miranda Devine:
In a chaotic world of aggregators, of Google and Twitter and specialist web feeds, a newspaper is a "credible one-stop shop" of local news where all the hard choices have been made for the reader. Which is why not trashing the brand is more important than ever. Sorry, Catherine.

Miranda Devine:

(for the more complete story, check out Pure Poison)

Wow...that brand is looking ever so good.

Miranda then deleted her comment about how gay men have sex with animals. I don't know why; it's almost like she thought some people might have considered it inappropriate.

Anyway, good to know Fairfax has standards.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Coming Soon!

I bet you're thinking to yourself, "Sure, Ben's a prolific and incredbly talented and unconventionally handsome writer, but why can't I get along to a high-class venue and, from a comfortable seat, watch him IN THE FLESH saying funny and insightful things?"

Your day of gazing winsomely at the moon are over, my best beloveds. Check out two upcoming appearances I'll be making at the Emerging Writers' Festival:

In The Pub: Freelance Writing: Joanne Brookfield will host a panel wherein myself and fellow pens-for-hire Chris Flynn and Claire Halliday discuss the ins and outs of a freelancing life. We'll be reading our first paid piece as well. Come along, hear whatever we have to say, and have a drink with me. It's at The Workers Club, 51 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, from 7.30pm on Wednesday, May 26. Tickets $20 and $10 concession. Head here for details and tickets.

Wordstock: AC/DC. Last year Wordstock was on the subject of Nick Cave; this year I and a group of other sweet-smelling performers will be devising our own interpretations of the songs of AC/DC. Last year's was fantastic, and sold out. So do hurry up to get a spot at this year's which will no doubt be even better. It's hosted, incidentally, by the luminous Clem Bastow, and takes place on Thursday, May 27 at BMW Edge at Federation Square. Tickets $20 and $10 concession. Hit 'em up here for details and tickets.

And of course check out the entire EWF for lots of writerly spectacle and marvels. It's an excellent event that grows ever bigger and more special each year. Do pop along to something and get literary.

I'll see you there, sweets.

Catching Up

I was asked by someone if there was an archive where might be stored all my articles. Well, all my articles at New Matilda of course can be accessed here, and the ABC Unleashed is where you'll find my weekly wraps - though I don't know how long those stay in the system, but I thought I'd round up what I could of stuff published in other places, and link to it, for anyone who might have come in late and want to browse some of the more exotic corners of Pobjieville:

My work from Crikey, in no particular order:

On Kyle and Jackie O

On my bid to become the right-wing Philip Adams

On Kelli Underwood's AFL commentary

On Hey Hey It's Saturday

On Michael Jackson

On Tiger Woods

On Australia Day patriots

Then there was this, from The Punch:

On Twitter

This, from Christmas 2008, in The Age:

And of course, on Twins, from

Also, a couple pieces from the Australian Rationalist Society's Journal - latest one here about refugees and such. And my first here, about becoming an atheist.

Hope you enjoy reading those.

Apart from online, if you were in the mood to buy real paper books you could find my ramblings in the EWF Reader, on the subject of comedy writing. Or the Death Mook, with my short story, "The Black Angel's Love Song".

Or of course, go to for my own collections, or email to buy them direct.

Of course, if you REALLY want a handy, nationally distributed collection of my pieces, start lobbying your local publishing house to contact me IMMEDIATELY.

But until then, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

For What It's Worth

I feel compelled to comment on the sacking of Catherine Deveny from The Age. Bear with me, or ignore it if you've no interest in my being serious - God knows I would understand that. There's plenty of good commentary about anyway, probably better than mine - from Daniel Burt, for example, or even over at Pure Poison - and anyone who reads PP regularly knows they are no fans of Deveny.

I am going to make no pretence to impartiality here. Catherine Deveny is a friend of mine, so I am by no means unbiased. She's not my friend because I agree with everything she says, but she is my friend and obviously I'm likely to take her side when she gets knocked about like this. So this isn't coming from an objective place and I know it.


For what it's worth, I'm troubled by this. Getting sacked for a couple of posts on Twitter? Really? A couple of one-line jokes?

Now, there is no point arguing about whether the jokes were funny. That's purely subjective, and an argument without a point. It's also irrelevant. Were they offensive? Undoubtedly - they clearly offended a lot of people. But then, what comedian hasn't offended someone? What opinion writer hasn't offended someone? I'm regularly offended by right-wing columnists from all parts, and I've never believed my offence was grounds for their dismissal.

And here we are talking about being offended by actual, serious arguments being put forward in articles published in newspapers - not a couple of throwaway gags of 140 characters or less. So is offending people a sin worthy of dismissal? Clearly it's not. Not even at The Age itself - Catherine's been offending people in droves for years, and they haven't kicked her to the kerb.

Tasteless jokes are common among comedians, and even commoner on Twitter. It would seem a huge overreaction for The Age to take this action based on such minor, disposable comments.

But the thing is, they didn't. The Age didn't act on the tweets. The Age acted on the "controversy". The Herald Sun whipped it up, its readers fell into lockstep behind it, and The Age went along with it.

One can't imagine this working the other way. Were The Age to report on a "storm of criticism" being sparked off by Andrew Bolt's latest vicious slurs on refugees, or to denounce, say, his characterising of Kevin Rudd as a murderer who "fries" people in roofs, one doubts the Herald Sun would feel compelled to sack Bolt in response. Au contraire, they'd probably rub their hands with glee at the controversy.

I'm not denying The Age has a right to choose its own columnists. I was kicked off the radio for making bad-taste jokes, and I never claimed the station was engaging in "censorship" for making that kind of editorial decision. But that doesn't mean the decision is right either. The Age has been dictated to by the hysteria concocted by its rivals, and I think that's a shame. They've lost a distinctive voice that, no matter what sort of reaction she provoked, always provided something different in the paper, which could only have been a good thing. And I think that's a shame too.

And this isn't an issue of whether you like Deveny, or think she's funny or not, or approved of the jokes that got her in trouble. It's an issue of whether you think Twitter jokes should be elevated to a level of importance that will lose someone their job. And it's an issue of whether you think simply causing "offence" is a sin serious enough to warrant getting the boot. I think if being offensive is not allowed, it's a rather sad turn of events for the media.

I'm not going to boycott The Age. It will remain the best paper we've got here in Melbourne. I'm just disappointed, and I respectfully disagree. I hope at some point they might reconsider and welcome Deveny back. I would urge them to.