08 June 2009

Why The Chaser should not be called to account


It's amazing what gets the creative juices flowing again. I haven't really blogged seriously for quite some time. I haven't even looked closely at the blogs I like.

But this isn't about me. Well, maybe it is a little bit.

But you know, anger is an energy. And last week, I had it in spades.

Last week, Wednesday night on ABC1, the TV sketch comedy show The Chaser's War on Everything broadcast this little sketch:



I admit not to seeing it at the time. I'm not usually home on Wednesday nights, so I usually wait until Thursday night to watch the repeat on ABC2.

On Thursday, I suddenly noticed a flurry of Twitter posts calling for the heads of the Chaser boys. Investigating this further, talkback radio and the media were all over this sketch, calling it a variety of names, usually preceded by "sick".

I must admit, my curiosity was well and truly tweaked by the time that I got around to watching the repeat.

Once the episode had finished screening, I had one of those "Is that it?" moments, where I felt that I had missed something. And sure enough, I had.

The ABC and The Chaser had cut the frigging scene!!

That's right, folks. They had, not only cut it, but they had issued a statement on video apologising for it, and regretting any hurt that was caused. Not only that, I think that it was Julian Morrow who had indicated that they had called the real Make A Wish Foundation to apologise.

The ABC have since taken The Chaser's War on Everything off the air for two weeks.

But let's have a more critical view of this than what the mainstream media have done.

I'll just get this one out of the way quickly: Anyone who listens to talkback radio, NOVA or the Austereo networks deserve contempt. How is this related to this post? It's only related in passing, but I thought that I'd get this one out there. Indeed, I have given Ms Dikkii instructions that, should she catch me listening to talkback radio, she's to immediately have me taken out the back and shot.

Secondly, who made it this far who believes that the sketch was making fun of sick kids? If you answered "yes", you also deserve contempt. This sketch was actually making fun of frivolous charities like Make A Wish. I'll discuss them more in a few moments. Which begs the question: If The Chaser did call Make A Wish to apologise, precisely how insincere was the apology?

Thirdly, The Chaser's modus operandi (as suggested by the title of the TV show) is to make fun of everything and anything. This means that charities (I use that word only in its strictest legal sense) such as Make A Wish were ripe for targetting.

Fourthly, I have no evidence that talkback radio shock jocks actually looked at the sketch prior to going nuts about it. Just think about that for a while.

Fifthly, why the talkback radio shock jocks left Andrew Hansen's marvellous Billy Connolly impersonation untouched (from the same episode) is a mystery to me.

Finally, The Chaser have done far more controversial stuff than this in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. Which begs the question: Now that cutting stuff is an option with these guys, exactly what is going to be cut next?

The Chaser boys are certainly not stupid. The fact that they've swallowed any pride that they might have and apologised is understandable, in light of the controversy that this sketch created.

But here's the thing: They should not have apologised. Nor should they have caved into ABC management over this. I have lost a great deal of respect for them over this and whilst I'm not greatly convinced that the apologies were sincere, the record will show that this is an apology that has been made. And it will be harder in the future for Morrow, Hansen, Craig Reucassel, Chris Taylor, Chas Licciardello
and Dominic Knight (I'll leave Charles Firth out of this) to back down and claim that they were coerced into making this apology.

The sketch was squarely aimed at frivolous charities like Make A Wish. The Make A Wish Foundation are there to assist dying children by granting them a wish or two before they die. They make a big song and dance over flying terminal cancer patients to Disneyland or introducing them to Pink.

This might sound wonderful to you and some of you are probably asking, "Dikkii. Why not grant these dying kids a dying wish?"

I put it to you that the Make A Wish Foundation is diverting hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars away from legitimate medical research. Indeed, their 2008 annual report makes the astounding claim that they:

...met all of its Wish granting obligations for 2008...


Obviously, what constitutes a "Wish granting obligation" is a grey area, as they also say on their application form that granting a particular wish is entirely up to the Make A Wish Foundation.

In 2008, they raised AUD 1.75 million. And while this is small compared to some charities, the question should be asked, couldn't this money have been better spent funding legitimate medical research?

In the pages of the annual report, wish recipients talk of meeting the Mythbusters or going to see Liverpool play.

Liverpool. Flying economy class from Melbourne to London's Heathrow airport currently costs about AUD $1,680 through Thai which I used Webjet to find for me. Add in spending, transportation, accomodation, tickets to the game and similar for a minder (presumably a parent) and you are looking at about AUD $10,000 all up. Probably more.

Wouldn't it be better if this amount of money was spent on legitimate medical research?

This blogger is more interested in stuff that the charity is rejecting. While we know that someone in 2008 according to their annual report got to go to Seattle to see the Boeing factory, what about the kid whose wish for a blowjob from Cameron Diaz was knocked back? This may sound extreme, but exactly what gets knocked back? What wishes don't they grant, and what is their internal wish granting criteria?

I would, therefore like to issue a wish of my own in the middle of all this: The Make A Wish Foundation should come clean about the quanta of denied wishes. That is, we should get details about exactly what is being declined, how many, and what is their internal wish granting criteria.

Taylor's closing words from the sketch were, "They're only going to die anyway." Charities like Make A Wish make us feel good about spending on the terminally ill, and not on research that might have prevented these kids being terminally ill in the first place. They must, therefore, be called to account and not The Chaser.

9 comments:

alpineopinion said...

Your logic is out the window mate. The Make a Wish foundation is operating within the premise of its existence. Everyone who contributes to it (and at $1.75 million for 2008, that's not a lot) obviously wants the money to be used to grant these wishes, not for research. The same people most likely contribute to cancer research too. In your enthusiasm to support these dullards, The Chaser, I think you've lost sight of reality. Cheers, Ray Dixon

Dunc said...

Yeah, I'm with Ray here - after all, medical research is a much more expensive and inefficient way of saving lives than, for example, distributing rehydration salts in Africa, so should we really be "wasting" money on research when we can save so many more lives with what we know already?

There is always somebody worse off, and there is always a better way to spend the money. Besides, it's a charity. People give more money to animal welfare charities than they do to charities which help the disabled (in the UK, anyway)... You can argue that that's wrong, but it's their money and their choice.

Me, I occasionally give spare change to alcoholics and drug addicts on the street. I know exactly what they're going to do with it...

Dikkii said...

"Their choice"

This is a line I hear trotted out normally when one can't think of a better answer. I hear it frequently used by alcohol and tobacco companies to defend a line of marketing.

Whilst I'm not immediately suggesting that it's necessarily irrelevant (I could, and with good cause) I will suggest a couple of things.

Firstly, if a charity such as Make A Wish was upfront and open about their wish granting process, the question about whether as many people would contribute remains.

Secondly, Make A Wish exists to grant a very small (an "elite", if you like) number of patients a material wish. This might make them happy. What about those who don't get their wishes granted? Who gets theirs declined? What does Make A Wish do in these instances? And how many of these are there?

Remember, Make A Wish granted 438 wishes in 2008 (from their annual report). How many applications did they receive?

Lastly, while $1.75 million may not seem a lot, the question remains (directed at Ray, not Dunc), would this not be better if it was spent on medical research? I can't see a "yes" or a "no" in your comment, Ray.

Dunc, your point about rehydration salts in Africa is, I would suggest, entirely unrelated. Make A Wish is about "they're all going to die anyway". Rehydration salts in Africa is about saving lives immediately.

A further question is raised by this example: Is it not true that without the necessary medical research in the first place, we would not know to use rehydration salts?

I raised these questions above. The line "it's their choice" goes absolutely no way towards answering these questions.

KitKat said...

EVERYBODY is going to die anyway. Why should anyone bother doing anything to help anyone?

Some of these kids take many years to die, but we as a society seem to have decided there is such a thing as "quality of life". "Wishes" granted by Make a Wish could be considered part of palliative care, which is seen as both respecting the dying person, as well as those around them. Terminal illnesses can be excruciating and many such sufferers spend many miserable months or even years in and out of hospitals. Something good happening for these people, along the lines of a "Wish", will most likely have good psychological benefits for both the patient and their families. The benefits of these things are difficult to measure.

Medical research is not as cut and dried as you seem to think, Dikkii. A lot of work goes into improving quality of life - some treatments might extend life by 5 years, some may not extend life at all, but relieve pain. Many mainstream treatments do not "cure" anything. Do you think money should not be spend on anything that is not going to be an absolute cure? Many of these treatments improve quality of life in a physical sense, and are accepted as mainstream treatments, why is an improvement in a psychological sense such a stretch?

Dikkii, have you watched anyone close to you die a slow and painful death, and wished for a way to make their passing easier in some way? And if some people choose to donate to a charity that might do that, who are you to object? If there was any serious, genuine implication that Make a Wish was being unethical, then it should be investigated, but there have been no such allegations widely disseminated. Do you really think it unreasonable that some apparent wish for a blow-job from Cameron Diaz was rejected? How the hell were they supposed to grant that?

Equating "it's their choice" in donating to a charity and marketing addictive, damaging substances like tobacco and alcohol is stretching it a bit. I don't know of any long-term negative health benefits from a typical, moderate donation to charity in the same way that tobacco and alcohol can have negative health benefits.

There are huge amounts of money being doled out around our society that could be "better" spent on medical research, climate research, environmental work, child support, animal welfare etc etc etc. 1.75 million IS a small amount of money. Sol Trujillo earned how much??? Is that half his bonus or something? Payments to sportspeople? What if their sponsors donated all that money to medical research? Where are you going to draw the line?

As for The Chaser skit that this was all about to start with, I thought it was pretty weak, didn't clearly make it's point and wasn't actually funny. Their Vatican skit also wasn't funny (oh, how hilarious, a joke about Catholics and little boys, ooh, and a blimp prop, ho ho ho). Andrew Hansen's Billy Connolly skit on the other hand was a good piece of satire. In all, of the two Chaser episodes I've seen this year, I have been very disappointed. The "secret" jail in Poland skit? Piss weak.

I do think that there has been something of an over-reaction to the skit in general, as it was more dumb than intentionally hurtful, but I do think The Chaser can, and have, done much better stuff.

Dikkii said...

Welcome back, Kitkat.

"Wishes" granted by Make a Wish could be considered part of palliative care, which is seen as both respecting the dying person, as well as those around them.

My question, then, would be if it should be regarded as “palliative care” isn’t this the job of Medicare and the PBS?

The benefits of these things are difficult to measure.

I agree, however…

Medical research is not as cut and dried as you seem to think, Dikkii.

Your conclusion is at best somewhat tenuous. At worst, it’s downright bizarre. I agree that medical research is not a cut and dried affair, but at least some of it gets done. And when the results are inconclusive, it still adds to the human knowledge bank. And inconclusive research often gets looked at in the future in order to do better research. “Cure”?? Who said anything about a cure? Who even hinted that such “cures” as you describe them are even guaranteed? Gimme a break KitKat. Rhetorical questions are not your style.

Dikkii, have you watched anyone close to you die a slow and painful death, and wished for a way to make their passing easier in some way?

Yes. But what if I’d said “no”? Yes, giving a trip to Disneyland to a terminally ill kid is pretty good. But what do you say to the other kid who is NOT getting a trip to Disneyland?

And if some people choose to donate to a charity that might do that [do the wish thing], who are you to object?

I suppose that I can’t. But I can point out that it only helps a small elite group of kids and doesn’t enrich the human knowledge bank, can’t I?

If there was any serious, genuine implication that Make a Wish was being unethical, then it should be investigated, but there have been no such allegations widely disseminated.

Nor have I made any such allegations. Are you aware of something I’m not?

Do you really think it unreasonable that some apparent wish for a blow-job from Cameron Diaz was rejected? How the hell were they supposed to grant that?

I did point out that this might sound extreme (the CD BJ) but riddle me this: Where exactly are the guidelines as to what does get approved? The public, and in particular parents of terminally ill kids have a RIGHT to know.

Equating "it's their choice" in donating to a charity and marketing addictive, damaging substances like tobacco and alcohol is stretching it a bit.

No it’s not. It’s just as irrelevant and unhelpful a response no matter what the context is.

There are huge amounts of money being doled out around our society that could be "better" spent on medical research… [snipped] Where are you going to draw the line?

We can both agree that until the following example happens:
(A)The Chaser does a sketch aimed at Sol Trujillo (for example);
(B)The media misinterprets that as a racial attack on Mexicans;
(C)Talkback radio etc goes off their brains over it; and
(D)The ABC enforces cuts/suspensions/takes The Chaser off the air etc
These examples are ultra vires to this thread and shouldn't be addressed until then.

And I don’t know what planet you live on, but here on earth, $1.75 million is a lot of money, even if in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t seem like much.

As for The Chaser skit that this was all about to start with, I thought it was pretty weak, didn't clearly make it's (sic) point and wasn't actually funny.

I initially felt that this was irrelevant. But I’ve thought about it some more, and it’s more relevant than what you think. To whit: The Make A Wish sketch (agreed, not all that funny) was NOT aimed at sick kids. The Billy Connolly sketch (which was a scream) included a joke where a dead body was the butt of the joke.

There was no controversy about the Billy Connolly sketch whatsoever despite the fact that it was certainly worse (as in sicker humour). Could that be because people found it funny?

If so, why can’t people be honest and say that they simply found the joke unfunny? Are The Chaser boys that untouchable?

Asteroid said...

My question, then, would be if it should be regarded as “palliative care” isn’t this the job of Medicare and the PBS?

Dikkii, do you really think that Medicare can pay for every possible kind of beneficial treatment?

Your twisting of the term "elite" to cover children who suffer the burden of terminal illness is a sneaky way of reducing the reader's compassion for them.

I do agree though, that it should be possible to find out which wishes are denied.

Dikkii said...

Hi Asteroid.

Medicare. Apart from stuff currently awaiting trials or evaluation from Medicare or the PBS, can you name one clinically proven treatment that Medicare or the PBS isn't providing for?

And you're right. I'm not above sneaky linguistic tricks, however the "it's their choice" is another. It's pretty much a red herring designed to shift responsibility off the shoulders of those who really need to shoulder it.

You misread my use of "elite" though. I wasn't referring to children suffering terminal illness, just those select few who get wishes granted. Please do not suggest that I'm suggesting that children who don't get wishes granted are part of this group.

At the end of the day, though I see my interest in the goings on of Make A Wish as a side-piece to the original discussion: The Chaser's sketch DID NOT have sick children as the butt of the joke.

For those who DID understand the sketch and are still irate, since when are charities like Make A Wish exempt from being joked about?

Dunc said...

Dunc, your point about rehydration salts in Africa is, I would suggest, entirely unrelated. Make A Wish is about "they're all going to die anyway". Rehydration salts in Africa is about saving lives immediately.

The point I was trying to make there is that there is always a "better" way of spending the money.

Dikkii said...

Fair point, Dunc.