The starstruck broadsheet press

It’s election time, the season of celebrities and worthies adding their names to open letters and political advertising. A range of them have put their names on an ad designed to pressure Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull to change his mind on Gunns’ Tasmanian pulp mill. And why wouldn’t they? When it comes to this kind of thing the Fairfax press especially is as starstruck as Who magazine’s celebrity-obsessed readers, with The Age giving their opinions prominent front page coverage this morning. According to The Age,

Among the signatories are film director Phillip Noyce, actors Bryan Brown and Rebecca Gibney, playwright David Williamson, celebrity chef Kylie Kwong, Fairfax Media deputy chairman Mark Burrows, Rowena Danziger, a member of the Publishing and Broadcasting board, and Leo Schofield, a former director of the Sydney Festival.

But why should we care what any of these people think about this issue, or indeed on anything else except on things related to their narrow area of achievement or expertise (and perhaps not even that)? Would-be serious papers like The Age should show far more scepticism than they do.

The only signed advertisement I have liked appeared in the SMH a month ago. It was a full-page memorial for Ken Dyers, leader of the wacky Kenja cult, who killed himself rather than face (yet more) charges of sexually assaulting under-age girls. No need for too many tears in this case, I expect. But the signatories were, I thought, unwittingly but amusingly subversive of the whole signed ad phenomenon. Take these examples: Simon Winn, qualified carpenter; Linda Beachley, receptionist; Stevana Geurreiro, Dip, Make-up Artistry; Shane Grant, baker; Chloe Pape, hair stylist; David Pilkington, refrigeration tech; Eoin McGettrick, locksmith. All good, if unintentional, satire on the idea that occupations confer authority on opinion.