‘Mad as a cut snake’ as insulting as ‘meow’
The argument that much of Australia’s media and associated journalists are cultural-left in their leanings is proven by last week’s events involving Senator Penny Wong being insulted by the infamous ‘meow’ interjection and Bob Hawke’s very public description of Tony Abbott, the leader of the federal opposition, as ‘mad as a cut snake’.
If the Canberra-based media commissariat is fair and balanced, there’s no doubt that the ex-ALP Prime Minister’s snide and offensive description of Abbott would have received the same coverage and condemnation as Senator Bushby’s interjection.
Given the hue and cry against Senator Bushby’s catcall against Senator Wong, it only stands to reason that if critics are consistent they will also have to call old silver budgie to account.
Senator Bushby has been criticised and abused across the length and breadth of the nation for his impersonation of a cat sound employed to unsettle Senator Wong during a heated Senate Estimates Committee hearing.
Hawke’s gratuitous labeling of Abbott as “mad as a cut snake” is equally as insulting.
Let me explain. While urban in nature, much of Australia’s culture and history is based on the land and, unlike the Emerald Isle where Saint Patrick worked his miracles, snakes in the great southern land have long since achieved a reputation as dangerous, unpredictable and poisonous.
Corner a snake in the woolshed, under a bale of hay or under a bit of corrugated tin and you only need to cut its head off with a shovel to see how acrimonious and offensive Bob Hawke’s description of Abbott is.
To be labled as “mad as a cut snake” for an Australian man is an offensive and low insult, it suggests, like a headless snake that you are out of control, totally pissed off and a danger to all.
If women find being described as cat-like offensive and insulting then equally as insulting is being associated with the venomous, deadly creature that silently slithers when preparing to attack.
To denigrate and vilify the leader of the opposition in such a way on the nightly news, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard standing along side and giggling like a school girl in response, only adds salt to the wounds.
Read Henry Lawson’s The Drover’s Wife and you will quickly understand and appreciate how offensive the insult is. Left alone in her bush shack, caring for her young and vulnerable children the story recounts how the deadly serpent that once tempted Adam and Eve threatens the family’s safety, peace and security.
As feminist, postmodern, cultural studies students understand it is also true that the signifier ‘snakes’ is phalocentric in nature. In a patriarchal, Eurocentric and binary culture, where men dominate and oppress women through physical and emotional coercion, it’s clear what ‘snakes’ alludes to.
Deconstruct the description “as mad as a cut snake” and it is obvious what Bob Hawke is really trying to imply. By using the insult Hawke, the ex-trade union womaniser and heavy drinker, is questioning Tony Abbott’s manhood and capability as a potential Australian Prime Minister.
As well as being a Rhodes Scholar, a successful journalist and astute politician Tony Abbott has also proven himself to be down to earth, a straight talker and somebody who can share a beer with the mining boys in the Pilbara or sit in the dirt with indigenous Australians living in central Australia.
Clearly, such a figure, compared to the persona adopted by Julia Gillard since becoming Prime Minister (is this the real Gillard or the fake one?), resonates more with the Australian electorate and explains why the Opposition enjoys such a commanding lead in the polls.
Hawke’s insult is clearly calculated to undermine Tony Abbott’s appeal to what were once known as the Howard battlers; those aspirational voters in the marginal seats that decide elections.
In the Australian vernacular there is no greater insult than to be abused as being “as mad as a cut snake” and I wait in anticipation as the commissariat in the Canberra press gallery calls Bob Hawke and Julia Gillard to account.
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