Perhaps it is because my little cat died last week and I am feeling naff.
Perhaps it is down to the fact that I am one of those unfortunate sods who became a professional writer before the internet accelerated and I find myself unable to shift gears and write at the breakneck speed tiny wages demand.
Whatever the case, neuropathologist I have had it up to my ill-tended teeth with writing op ed for a living. I quit. It has become an unprofitable pain.
Today I wrote a short piece at the request of an editor. I proposed that Sophie Mirabella, syringe a fairly obscure politician, attracted a level of revulsion with which her influence was incommensurate.
In my head, it was nothing but a reasonably considered jocular urging to the left to hone its thinking and find its focus. I said, don’t look at THAT when you should be looking OVER THERE. I proposed that Mirabella was disliked more for her personality than for her policy and that progressives might do well to guard against this sort of critique.
On the internet it played out rather differently. And caused me such a headache, I am positive that writing this sort of thing is exactly how I must not spend my labour.
Here’s my piece. My associate Cathy Alexander at Crikey made the same argument a little later in the day. Although Cath didn’t get bollocked, we’re both saying: loathing a political nobody is both an unseemly and destructive progressive behaviour.
I said, very very plainly, that Mirabella was an awful politician but that her bold stupidity combined with her lack of power made her far less terrifying than the Quadrant-crowd.
I said that she is a sideshow; an impotent nothing whose freakish death we applaud while the real circus continues.
Man, I got bollocked. Even more than usual. When former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser singled my article out for derision and several of my colleagues posted this information on social media with no little amusement, I just thought WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL. This writing gig is crap.
I got a truckload of bile dumped in my face for a tiny bit of money and even folks I knew quite well rushed to misinterpret my bold claim that this politician is unremarkable and not deserving of, um, such a truckload of bile in the face.
Why did you misread my short piece?
I did NOT say was that Mirabella was above critique. I did NOT say was that Mirabella was subject to a particular kind of critique because she was female. (I made a single reference to Mirabella’s gender at the end of the piece. It wasn’t the argument.) I did NOT say that I loved the Coalition and wished to bathe their feet with my hair while bringing myself to climax on an hairbrush made of illicit ivory.
I just said to take joy in the demise of an impotent twit is the work of impotent twits. It is a waste of hate, I said. Revelling in this smug mudbath makes no sort of sense.
Now, SM might have peed all over her electorate through the “devil-vulva” I describe in a piece that, surely, only a brain made of Roquefort could see as being a defence. But writing about Indi was not my point and it was not my brief. My brief was to write about how the volume and intensity of critique of Mirabella was incommensurate with her status: basically middleweight.
I believe that it’s useful for someone sympathetic to point out logical inconsistencies in popular left argument. Because in this age of micro-niche lifestyle politics, we don’t want to be preaching to the choir than knows only the horrible song of John Butler, now do we? Or. Do we.
I cop it with my critiques. And. No. I am not being egocentric in making this claim. In the past three months, the publications Overland, The Daily Life and The Guardian have published sundry pieces on what a menace to “constructive action” I am. And the newly “left” Malcolm Fraser has left his Government and healthcare-destroying behind him to troll me: The Left’s Enemy.
I continue to express a belief that the left’s infatuation with gesture and symbol and occasion has eclipsed its interest in material justice. Every time I utter this thought, I am called a simpleton because “we can do both at once”.
Except no one is doing both at once.
Why has the symbolic eclipsed the material? Why do we seem to fancy, say, the ceremony over an irrelevant politician’s defeat to actual talk of policy?
I ask these questions and the answer I often get is This Helen Razer Person is Stupid.
I can actually handle the rape “threats” which are little more than the exhaust-vomit from an unwell mechanised-troll but I WILL NOT TOLERATE being called stupid. And racist. That one hurts.
It really hurts my feelings.
Call the Whaaaa-mbulance.
Actually, don’t. Don’t give a shit about my feelings. They’re irrelevant to the broad debate. Which I would continue to happily engage in if paid by the insult. $5 for every affront to my intelligence $5 for every shitty leftist blog that begins with “What Razer fails to grasp” . $5 for every claim that I write “for the attention”.
But attention is not profitable. What IS profitable is pitching articles like:
(a) isn’t Mirabella awful??
(b) how beautiful it is that same-sex people want to exchange vows??
(c) aren’t loads of Australians racist??? Lucky we’re not!
If I could write these, I’d probably not have had to borrow money for my Eleven cat’s euthanasia.
But I cannot flatter the reader and tend to fracture rather than mirror his views and this, as it turns out, is a REALLY bad way to make a really bad living.
So. Yes. Stuff this. No more. I have to find a new gig. Email career advice to helen AT badhostess DOT com. I currently earn about $420 per week so anything equal-to-or-greater-than that.
Feel at your liberty, as an alleged friend did today, to charge me with being able to “dish it out” while failing to sup on your bitter desserts.
But what I dish out is argument about which I’ve spent most of the day speculating and what I get back is a middle finger and a poverty-line wage. Can’t do it. No more.
In criticising the self-interested inaction of the left, I am not disavowing all that is left. It doesn’t mean I believe I Know What’s Right. I just know what’s wrong when I see it. And bugger me. People have been drawing A LOT of rainbow crossings lately.
And I know this stuff feels good. Rainbows feel good. Twibbons feel good. Rainbow Twibbons feel SUPER good and so, too, does hating Sophie Mirabella. But this infatuation with symbol, gesture and status update is not harmless. It makes us feel as though we’ve done something. It gives us an illusory sense of change.
But you HATE it when I say this. You HATE it.
So I won’t say it anymore.
I have written capably to a large audience for some time for next-to-nothing. I made a contribution that was not without merit. And one to which you are no longer entitled. Because you give me shit and pay me shit.
All I am really saying is that conditions for the professional writer have become untenable. And I quit because the money is terrible and the snark is worse.