Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Monthly and its boy genius

A bit of Melbourne, done the way Melbourne does things, best selective school, most prestigious university, editor at 23. Is it a problem?

Well, it shouldn't be fatal in itself, and given I've found The Monthly pretty turgid and uninspired to date, not the least because it is chock full of the usual suspects, a boy genius might be just what it needs. Might.

Are notions of wisdom and worldliness merely constructs used to maintain hierarchies? Possibly, certainly in the legal profession. But as editor of what aspires to be the leading journal of critical thinking in Australia there might be layers of understanding that you need to be familiar with, to unpick, reassemble, and draw on.

You might understand that most of what the left is attempting to change, and has been thus for over a century, is privilege and a class system that locks people in from early in life, to either extraordinary privilege or making do with the scraps. While we have improved on the old model whereby everything was decided at and by a person's birth (gender, race, religion et al), we have a long way to go.

The neo-Prussian model of schooling with its vigorous focus on using marks as a (fallacious) indicator of brilliance that can be used to settle castes at an early age is still part of the problem. Again- I pause here- if you are of the left. This is contested territory. Nonetheless it pays to understand your own privilege, to avoid being a Malcolm Turnbull (or his happy clapping fans) who believes his success is entirely a reflection of his own brillant perfection, if you are to steer a highly critical vessel along a path less followed.

Are we there yet?

But he is also young enough to still spruik his high school results, sending The Australian the highlights to support his appointment to The Monthly editorship.

Not there yet. Moving on, we can all identify with the compulsion to try and please the establishment in language we think it will understand. It's hard to break.

Is he wise enough to get around the politics of the old men behind the mag? Time will tell, but again an early note of caution:


"I'll be considering their advice very seriously, but they made it clear to me that I'm the editor and I'll be commissioning stories, so I don't know how that situation could come up. They're an advisory board."

If you don't know how that situation could come up, because they are an advisory board, I suggest you have a play on google. Us old farts call this due diligence.

Jonathan Green at Crikey isn't so sure either:


It’s hard not to see in this appointment the desire of Manne and Schwartz to keep control. To install another ingenue; another cypher for the literary and political ambitions of two mid-life men who apparently lack the chutzpah to do it in their own names. The Monthly, the only magazine of ideas in the world edited by the work experience kid. Maybe they could have made the editorship some sort of tie-in with year 12 english? Or convene it collectively through young Ben’s Facebook page? Or maybe not. We’ll see. Good luck Ben. Take it to them.

I agree, good luck Ben. Even if these concerns are valid, it's not his fault, he is clearly very bright, the mag was turgid and almost irrelevant, so I'll criticise no further and instead look forward to being proven wrong.

Laura also questions whether his shining star illuminates any real qualifications for this particular job, Merkel thinks his appointment might be a reaction. Pav values the knowledge of the world, acquired slowly.

1 comment:

F.G. Marshall-Stacks said...

Dear Wise Old Fart, 'due diligence' indeed.
When I was 23, I thought 23-y-olds should be running the world.
On reflection, decades later .... bwah ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

I bought The Monthly for Shane Maloney's contribution.
Boy Wonder will lose me if he losses Shane. It's that simple.