October 04, 2004


Margo Kingston's unstable followers don't ask for much. All they want is to see their simple creed written in the sky, as though by the hand of God:

On the 26th of September the Liberal Party are having their campaign launch here in Brisbane. All of the nationís media will be focused on this one event and we thought it would be amusing and effective if we organized for a skywriter to write the words ĎNot Happy Johní over Brisbane city during the launch. The cost is $2 800 so we're looking for donations from anyone who wants to contibute to Howards End.

But even this basic want was denied them by the callous Howard regime:

John Howard's Coalition Government has gagged the public service - bullying once fearless bureacrats into towing the government line. It now appears that they are trying to gag public debate in the lead-up to the federal election.

A coalition of concerned socially minded citizens has banded together to fund a protest against the Howard Government. The group organised a sky-writer to voice their heart-felt concerns in the skies above Brisbane during the Liberal Party's campaign launch. The intended message, "Not Happy John".

In a damming reflection of the Howard Government's determination to control public debate, it appears conservative forces have rallied to discourage the skywriter into reneging on the company's undertaking to write the message.

This is despite the small business man, Rob Vance from Ace Above Skywriting, agreeing to go ahead with the job just hours before the payment was due.

The skywriter advised organisers that he had "concerns about his client base" and that he could comment no further.

Group representative Genevieve Siddle said "the contractor had been booked for three weeks and the whole time had known the content of the message, the only concern had been the possibility of bad weather".

"Why is it that Brisbane Liberal Lord Mayoral Candidate Campbell Newman can successfully have a banner towed over Brisbane city for several hours annd the people of Queensland have been effectively gagged?"

"We don't know how this has happened. This is the kind of thing you read about happening in other countries, how can it happen here in Queensland?".

Weíve all read of how, in countries other than Queensland, aerial skywriters are commonly silenced by Howardian fascist dictatorships. (Usually we read about it in better English, but thatís another matter.) Yesterday the Not Happy John crowd got their wish, however; the subversive phrase finally appeared in the skies above Sydney. Immediately politicised by the apparition, thousands stormed Liberal Party headquarters.

Or they would have, if "Not Happy John" hadn't proved such an unwieldy aerial phrase. By the time "John" had been completed, the "Not" was an indistinct blur; then the "H" morphed into an "N". An attempted comma became a bloated dash. I didnít see it, but according to reliable witnesses Sydney residents saw something like this:

(big cloudy shape) Nappy-John

Posted by Tim Blair at October 4, 2004 04:58 PM

The cats of Australia have made their choice.

Posted by: Clem Snide at October 4, 2004 at 05:13 PM

Viva la revolucion !

Posted by: Bill O'Slatter at October 4, 2004 at 05:27 PM

Ha ! 'conservative forces' cue: 'Darth Vader's theme from Star Wars.

Are conservative forces like car-key elves? You know they are around, and you know they've put your car keys somewhere. That Howard, and his forces, they're just meddlesome elves really, some mischief here, some mischief there, all in the name of bringing down democracy.

Posted by: nic at October 4, 2004 at 05:32 PM

Isn't it "toeing (or toe-ing?) the line", not "towing"?

I've gotten in arguments about this. Someone please enlighten me.

Posted by: Kevin at October 4, 2004 at 05:39 PM

I wonder when the first line was towed.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at October 4, 2004 at 05:42 PM

Exclusive photos!

Linkage 1

Linkage 2

Posted by: david at October 4, 2004 at 06:25 PM

LMAO! Nicely captured, david. :)

Posted by: PW at October 4, 2004 at 07:51 PM

Now try and convince me that Margo Kingston isn't the PM's secret weapon!

Go Margo!

'Happy John'
'Nappy John'
'Snappy John'

Not... Happy John?
Surely not!

Posted by: OM at October 4, 2004 at 08:40 PM

I find the Kingston quote,"bullying once fearless bureacrats into towing the government line," most curious. In American English the expression would be,"toeing the ... line." Is Australian English so very different than American; or does her brain reside in such a rarified environment that she is incapable of understanding simple metaphors that have been in common usage for at least a century.

Posted by: Tom at October 4, 2004 at 10:18 PM

You are right, Tom. Kingston's spelling error means that her argument is wrong. In fact, such a basic mistake must mean that the converse is true: the government does not bully bureaucrats in Australia.

Posted by: Alan Green at October 4, 2004 at 11:15 PM

Indeed it does Alan, thanks for pointing that out, would've missed it otherwise...

Posted by: RhikoR at October 4, 2004 at 11:40 PM

Tim... I have read your blog for a long time and this is the biggest laugh ever... I so wish I was there.

Posted by: ape at October 5, 2004 at 12:39 AM

The previous skywriting adventure?

(Yes, a cheap shot, but I couldn't resist the obvious reference.)

Posted by: jeremy in NYC at October 5, 2004 at 01:00 AM

Is Australian English so very different than American;

No, though we do tend to say different from or different to rather than different than.

I think the main problem, as elsewhere, is ignorance. So there was some journalist who called a souvenir a "momento" and another who, having some sort of ecstatic experience, said that (s)he was "wrapped".

Posted by: Janice at October 5, 2004 at 09:40 AM

If this was about a group of lefties preventing a skywriter from writing "You're a hero, John Howard", the article above would be about people reclaiming democracy.

Boycotts are obviously only acceptable when the Left organises them.

Sometimes I think you're too harsh on Kingston, but then this sort of thing comes up and I take back everything I thought. She's fundamentally anti-democratic (a democrat only when it suits her). Isn't there a name for this sort of behaviour (apart from "stupid")?

Posted by: Hanyu at October 5, 2004 at 12:36 PM

Having spent the contents of Treasury on war, demolishing schools and hospitals, woodchipping trees and building concentration camps for refugees and welfare recipients, the government has run out of petrol, and needs a tow- hence towing the government's line. Simple. Perhaps Margo was also reminding Mr. Howard of his approaching dotage, trying to scare him into retirement before he drops his bundle at some major public event, hence nappy John. Anything else I can help you with, you reactionary bigots and earth rapists?

Posted by: Margo's Apologist and Therapist at October 5, 2004 at 02:10 PM

Such concern for environment- using more fuel to pollute atmosphere to tell us they are not happy with John.
Well I am Very happy -thankyou, and just the thought of the Hawke'Keating or Cain /Kirner years are the stuff of financial nightmares not to mention Gough and his profligate waste and shonky deals.
and I am NOT a Liberal Member- but certainly at present a liberal voter- you bet.

You can keep your charismatic leaders with a vision for the future- if you want visions , smoke pot and leave the running of the country to a couple of 'boring old accountants' who do not spend more than they earn and have the sense to have good locks on the back door.
I and my family just want to create our own visions for our own life and we don't need Marks ladders handed out- We will make, or buy our own and climb it if and when we desire.

Posted by: Rose at October 5, 2004 at 03:04 PM

Kingston's spelling error means that her argument is wrong.

Oh no! Another strawman burned before his prime. A moment of silence, please.

Posted by: Sortelli at October 5, 2004 at 04:17 PM

I don't know if anyone is still interested in this, but as this website (http://members.aol.com/MorelandC/HaveOriginsData.htm) explains, the probable origin of the expression 'toe the line' (which is, incidentally, how it should be spelt) is nautical, and refers to the practice of making miscreants line up with their toes on a particular seam in the ships' decks' planking, or for a similar proceedure as part of a roll-call. You see, Margo, the information is out there, if you feel like doing any actual work.

Posted by: Steve W at October 8, 2004 at 01:17 AM