Still laughing at “THE DISABLED”

The previous post looks at some of the theoretical issues surrounding the criticism of Michael Noonan’s film project “Unlikely Travellors”.

The following short clip is from Noonan’s work.  This is entitled “Unlikely Skipper”

This clip made me smile! 

 It is clearly the persons disability that is the focus of the humour – he is having difficulty with his task and gets frustrated.

I think it is groovy.



Filed under disability, Uncategorized

25 responses to “Still laughing at “THE DISABLED”

  1. Peter Thomas

    I’m so pleased. So you didn’t get caught up in the detail of language rules? In your previous post, you mentioned in passing that:

    “the persecuted academics have also spoken of the actors as “boys”which is a bit of a faux-par within disability protocols when discussing adults, including young adults. The two men in Noonan’s film are 20 and 40 years old.”

    I guess you know the man here is the 40 year old from Downunder Mystery Tour. After referring to the “boys” and “girls”, the instructor then calls the man “son” though I expect they are quite close in age. I only bring this up because you have shown such interest in vocab in other places.

    You got rather stuck into Atle for his statements in the youtube clip due to his vocab, which seems a little unfair when he may just have got tripped up between the connotations of “disease” vs “condition” vs “disability” in English, likewise with the “patients”. Of course, you seem mostly annoyed at him for having worked in an institution – being one of the class of workers you blame for much of the paternalistic oppression of people with disabilities, the idea that there is a “disabled community”, and various other social evils.

    Is it the case that, from your perspective, the conflict between Hookham, MacLennan+ their friendly disability advocates on one hand, and Noonan, the men and Spectrum on the other, is analogous to or part of the conflict you identify between contemporary enlightened legislation favouring self-determination for people with disabilities, and the disinclination of care providers to give up their power? Noonan has only said that he wants to overcome public prejudice against disability, not to attack the current structure of provision and idiom of care, but do you think that this is what he’s implicitly doing?

  2. Pingback: Laughing at “THE DISABLED” - power, perception and prejudice. « PARADIGM OZ

  3. Hi Peter,

    The fellow in the International students youtube seems to have no trouble speaking english. Are you saying that he “may have trouble understanding sub-texts” which was reason enough for Gary to say that one of Noonan’s actors should not have been in front of the camera?

    However, in consideration of english being this persons second language, it is most instructive that in the midst of a campaign about disability, indeed one that he is apparently a spokesperson for – he has never been exposed to the correct terminology or discussions about terminology. It obviously hasn’t even occured to those masters of the english language who surround this guy and make up this movement.

    Vocabulary is not a question of political correctness. It is a question of socialisation and identity.

    I haven’t got a clue what Noonan reckons, I speak for myself only.

  4. p.s. Peter,

    vocab is a matter of socialisation and identity for people like the fellow in the youtube as well as people with intelectual disabilities. His language clearly describes him as different and seperate. He even felt uncomfortable in the presence of Noonan’s actors.

  5. p.p.s. – yes “son” is wrong. However there is a difference between an ignorant P.E. instructor reinforcing this stereotype and ignorant self appointed spokespeople for the rights of “the disabled” reinforcing the same stereotype.

  6. Peter Thomas

    John, thanks for your quick response. Yes, Atle speaks English well. I taught foreign students for 5 years, including many from Scandanavia, and in my observations slip ups with apparent synonyms and difficult searches for ‘just the right word’ are not uncommon (if that’s what it was, I just think deserves the benefit of the doubt). yes, maybe he should have been drilled on the significance of some words by any ‘handlers’ he might have, but the same could be said for the PE teacher who was in Noonan’s film, a far more involved production than Strong’s interview. Also, in my observations of the high days of political correctness debates in the 80s and 90s, it was always about socialisation and identity.

    Perhaps Atle has a horror of people with disability, but I don’t see any reason to think so from the clip. He didn’t say he was uncomfortable in the lecture hall because the 2 actors have disabilities, but, in his own account, because he thought they were being made to look stupid. I wonder if you accept the possibility that people with disabilities could be made to look stupid, just as anyone else could. If so, is there a way of registering concern about this that is not oppressive?

    It could be that Atle and some other detractors who have seen the film have an automatic ‘perception of difference’ when it comes to disability, and believe strongly that a certain protocol of decorum and sensitivity should be observed in dealing with disability, representing it etc. If I understand you correctly, you argue that such an approach informs conceptual and material structures which oppress people with disabilities, denying them agency and full participation in life. From this perspective, violating the representational decorum would be liberatory in itself? Is there no limit factor, or does everything that violates the decorum necessarily a positive step?

  7. Peter,
    I know nothing of Noonan’s work so I can’t analyse the youtube clip too much. But it seems to me that Noonan has documented a normal occurence in daily life, warts and all. I did not even pick up on the “boy” comment, the Micky Mouse shirt is what caught my attention in this regard. However neither of the men were prepped for political correctness, they just were what they were – warts and all. If the guy likes Mickey Mouse that’s cool with me.

    The fellow in the international students youtube is what he is too – warts and all. But he was prepped and part of a media campaign.

    Yes, today we have political correctness and forgotton what it is all about.

    Of course people with disabilities can be made to look stupid. That boofhead from the footy show – Sam Newman likes to pick people with disabilities in his vox pops. He treats them like stupid and laughs at them. He similarly humiliates women.

    The question is whether it is somehow different to laugh at a person with disabilities than with someone perceived as “normal”.

    My article refers to Dave Allans finger and steady Eddy – Eddy’s stage name is directly laughing at his disability.

    These people poke fun at their disability so why shouldn’t the actors in Noonan’s film?

    And if they do and someone feels confronted(the international student)

  8. (cont – dont know what happened)

    If someone feels confronted by this humour, should the humour be banned or the observer change channels? Really, I think the person should explore where this discomfort in themselves comes from rather than insisting they should not have to be confronted by it.

  9. Peter Thomas


    I think these questions go together:

    “The question is whether it is somehow different to laugh at a person with disabilities than with someone perceived as “normal”.”

    “If someone feels confronted by this humour, should the humour be banned or the observer change channels? Really, I think the person should explore where this discomfort in themselves comes from rather than insisting they should not have to be confronted by it.”

    especially as they’re categorical questions and there probably aren’t categorical answers. I’d suggest that there are instances when laughing in the general direction of someone with a disability is no different to other laughter, better or worse, and others where there is a difference. Likewise I think there is some challenging comedy that is worthwhile and does or should cause people to consider the nature of their resistance to and discomfort with it. But I don’t accept that anything that’s offensive can hide behind that with equal justification.

    I think your example about Sam Newman is interesting. If he harasses a range of people, *is* it different when the butt is someone with a disability? Whether it is or isn’t, if one feels confronted, disgusted or whatever by Newman’s determination to humiliate all comers, how far is that simply a matter for self-reflection, as if it were one’s own fault? Couldn’t it be that he’s just performing very old kinds of domination and humiliation, and justifying it as resistance to a somnambulistic political correctness?

    I wonder if you think there are no issues about representation in general, and representation of intellectual disability in particular, at all, given that one can always find something else to watch. Would it matter if the witness-detractors were right, that the footage largely makes the actors ‘look stupid’ and thus reinforces traditional ideas about the idiocy of people with intellectual disability?

    I remember a tv ‘doco’ (Current Affair probably) 10 years ago that offered an unemployed single parent family the benefit of a sensitive portrait of their existence, gaining extensive co-operation from them in the process. There was another such about a year ago, this time offering the sensitive portrait to Muslim youth. Both shows were spectacularly successful in their own terms, setting or reinforcing the national agenda. The first put ‘dole bludgers’ front and centre in an election year, the second spawned the headline “we will never assimilate”, a substantial misrepresentation of the man speaking’s position, produced by an unkind cut. I think this raises issues about representation that quietist naval gazing is not an adequate response to, despite the existence of alternative viewing.

    I think that Noonan’s project would be extremely tricky to pull off in practice, and, because of its nature and ambitions, if it fails it’ll fail badly. H&M’s account of the footage was not just an objection to disability and comedy winding up in the same thesis abstract. They came away from the screening claiming that the show put the 2 men into situations structured to make dealing with their disability harder, not easier, that made their disability more obvious, and so exaggerated and dramatised their ‘difference’ from other participants – reinforcing the ‘disability box’ with the village idiot model. That the men participated willingly led to the thesis that they had been mislead as to the programme’s nature, and that Noonan had somehow convinced them to participate against their better interest. As I listed above, they wouldn’t be the first to be convinced to be in a doco against their better interest.

    H&M took the view that Noonan was deliberately producing humiliation comedy, and so made some harsh statements about him. But it seems to me from the project’s self-description that, if it went awry in progress, the footage would look just like H&M say. I don’t see that self-contemplation is the only proper response to that.

    Whether or not the progamme should be binned, banned or legislated upon, I’d have thought the first issue for its makers would be to get it right – to make a programme that has the effect that they set out to have. Circling the wagons and defending their reputations makes no obvious contribution to that that I can see. Engaging with audience response would do, but I don’t see how that can fit with the idea that if someone doesn’t like it, it’s their problem.

  10. Peter,

    There is a paradox in what I am saying.

    On the one hand, I say people should not be labeled or socialised as different or as incapable.

    On the other I say that people’s disabilities should indeed be focused on, even as the point of humour(e.g. the skipping).

    This paradox would be a contradiction if we were all the same, with the exception of “the disabled” who were different.

    However the truth that extinguishes the contradiction is that we are all different, nobody is the same.

    There are some people who demand the right to be acknowledged as disabled. I was reading an article suggesting their are fewer disabled people in Afro-American society than in Anglo- American society. The suggested reason was that black communities did not get the same level of health and community services which are the institutions that create notions of disability and impose them on people. The article, while rejecting “disablism” was also demanding to be recognised as disabled in order to access support services rather than pretending there is no disability amongst the poor.

    Others demand to be known as disabled because they reject the patronising plattitudes of “we all have disabilities” or “focus on abilities not disabilities”. These people say such euphamistic termonology fails to acknowledge the reality of pain and shit that some people go through on a daily basis.

    So I say that any person can make fun of themselves and their ideosynchracies – some will be offensive and some will not. But what makes it offensive has nothing to do with whether a person has a disability. However the basis of Gary and John’s criticism is that the film is offensive because this stuff is happpening to “disabled boys”.

    I speak on bush telegraph about racist and mysogenist attitudes by Gary and John in their criticism of the Boulia pub scene. Disability is just the third of the trilogy which explains Gary and John’s discomfort.

    Yet many such as yourself want to engage in a detailed criticism of Noonan’s work which you and most others have not seen.

    Again as I said on Bush Telegraph, this has become a Pauline Hanson Campaign. Pauline (or John and Gary) say “we don’t like it” and the ignorant masses shout “we dont like it too”.

    This whole campaign is going to look really stupid (and disabled) when Noonan’s work goes public.

  11. Peter Thomas

    yes, I have been criticising the Noonan project, in part and whole, without having seen it. This is not unusual for film&media academics, nor unusual in the discussion of yet unfulfilled phd projects. One sees what one can, and if this discussion is uninformed then it was not my descision to make it so. It has always seemed to me a deliberate gambit to reduce the quality of adverse comment, and a rather shifty one at that. Contrary to your idea of how he should proceed, Noonan was showing it publicly and guaging how audiences dealt with it – which I say is a sensible strategy given the nature and aims of his project. The material dissappeared precisely when the students he’s shown it to began talking to each other, and some of them to support H&M, and talking to students who hadn’t seen it. QUT went to the extremity of banning such discussion from the students’ blog site, which suggests to me that the material was neither well appreciated nor defended by those who have seen it. I think this raises serious issues for the project, but you reject that there could ever be serious issues with this project, or its aim or nature, given that its apparent attack on the status quo is worthy in itself without qualification.

    I think your point that “we are all different, nobody is the same” is quite correct, but I’m less certain what to do with it. Though you’ve not said it so clearly before that I’ve noticed, this point is central to your overall blogging on the topic. My response is “sure, but where do we go from here?” Your point potentially challenges the legitimacy of any and all identity politics, as well as any available form of collective bargaining. You have mentioned Hanson and, despite the proportional volume and emptiness of her programme, there were policies in there which did gain popular support. One of them was the hostility to Aboriginals being treated any different to other Australians. This was a resentful discourse, but there are liberatory equivalents – collective bargaining frees workers from the tyranny of union settlements, ‘there is no such thing as society’ frees individuals from class-based thinking and self-definition, and that the dismantling of disability provision and advocacy will free people from the insidious self-pathologisation inflicted on them by the same, allowing them a better quality and participation in life, simmilar to that of the impoverished people you mention above.

    You’ve argued against any rhetoric that identifies “disability” as a thing, as that identification can only take place by the imposition of difference. As nobody else needs no protection no how, neither do people who’ve been shoehorned into the disability box. I’ve tried to answer this by going the other way, that, disability box or no, there are issues of representation, but I don’t think you accept that there is or ever was such a thing as an issue of representation, nor that ‘amoral trash’ is a meaningful concept beyond that all should be able to participate in it, object to it (so long as there are no consequences), and have the opportunity to switch channels to avoid it. I still think there’s something a bit on the nose about ‘Bum Fights’, but you may want to disagree. At least it is a representation of people without homes that does not sentimentalise them.

    This is getting long (again), but what I wanted to get to was the exaggerated sense of guardianship that has emerged from H&M and many of their supporters. As a class of action I’m suspicious of it, as it’s inseparable from paternalism, but I’m also suspicious of an argument that then turns around and suggests that any and all forms of guardianship type behaviour are unnecessary and unlovely. This extreme polarisation of issues leaves the choice as between an authoritarian regime and Dickensian one. This is what I’ve been trying to get at by pointing out how categorical your statements are, and now that your complete rejection of any discourse of vulnerability is too far reaching to be acceptable at that extreme.

    Given the extremity of the position that seems to have started with Gary, it’s fair enough as a rejoinder. But, if for you his statements conjour a nightmare of forced institutionalisation and disempowerment, I think yours chime with the nightmare he’s having about the return of a Dickensian situation of exploiteers fielding freakshows. For me, that would be a nightmare, though I’m not convinced it’s on the horizon yet, but it’s unclear to me if it would even be a noteworthy development for you. If Michael’s work gave some viewers the idea that it would be ok for the Dickensian situation to reemerge, or lowered any existing resistance to it, I’d call that an ‘issue’.

  12. Peter, you seem determined to ideologise me into a corner.

    I shall not answer each of your pronunciations as to my position, only one. Your somewhat exagerated claim……….
    “I’m also suspicious of an argument that then turns around and suggests that any and all forms of guardianship type behaviour are unnecessary and unlovely.

    You seem to have missed the point in my article about advocacy, support structures and disability legislation. Look at it again.

  13. Peter,
    an excerpt from the article

    “Another principle of disability legislation is that the role of guardians, advocates and support people is to assist people with disabilities to participate fully in the community as if they did not have a disability – the world is modified so that the disability is no longer relevant, not modified so that it is reduced to the level of the disability. The role of the assistant is to complement their client’s capacity, to fill in the gaps caused by the physical or intellectual disability so that the client can be a full and independent citizen.”

  14. By the way Peter,
    It may be true that media academics make a habit of critiquing things the haven’t seen. However this in-house sloppiness has been extended to a world wide media campaign with escalating innacuracies, dare I say – lies being generated.

    Have you seen this Times article?

    “The film, called Laughing at the Disabled, featured two mentally handicapped men who were sent into a bar to ask if there were any women looking for romance. One of them was severely beaten by a drunken Aboriginal woman.”

    My comments c&p from Bush Telegraph

    I was quite disturbed by Gary and John’s criticism of the Boulia Pub scene in Noonan’s rushes. It seems that the critique not only dehumanises men with disabilities as asexual children, it also dehumanises Aboriginal women with an apparent stereotype of a drunken slut. It seems to me that what may at worst be a sexual joke in a pub (how unusual) between two consenting adults, has been represented as a drunken slut molesting a child.

    The speculative sensationalism that has characterised the campaign against Noonan’s work has been extended to the international reporting including inflaming ignorant criticism of Noonan’s work and international stereotypes of Aboriginal women and Aboriginal violence.

  15. Peter Thomas

    ‘Peter, you seem determined to ideologise me into a corner’ – pretty much, but that’s because your polemic was substantially ideological. I really liked your concrete description of the evolution of legislation, provision and thinking regarding disability – the centre of which I thought was blockage on allowing the subjects of care participation in its management. But the implications of your polemic were rather wider – that pretty much all disability advocacy and care provision – the ‘disability industry’ – was a nefarious plot to hold a group hostage by needlessly pathologising them, the proper response to which is complete dismantling and deregulation. You later raised the possibility that impoverished Americans are better off because no-one is making a quid by stealing their rights through convincing them that they are ‘disabled’.

    I think in the discussion you’re having at Socialist Unity you bring out the tensions in your polemic yourself that I’ve been trying to get at here – the polemic supports indefinite deinstitutionalisation and attack on ‘protections’, but your concrete stuff suggests that top-down management structures need a participatory element. This is what I’ve been trying to ideologise you into a corner about, to find what limit factors you perceive that lead you to favour institutional change in practice rather than pre-emptory deinstitutionalisation.

    I’ve never lecturered or written about a work that I have not seen as if I’d seen it. Studying in Brisbane, you come across major theoretical tracts that are based on films that have probably never been shown in Brisbane and were certainly not then available, but I couldn’t afford to ignore the core scholarship of the discipline. In that case I look at the arguments made about the work for internal consistency, logic, convincingness. I saw the Times article when it came out and noted the distortion, I’d have written to them only all the feedback now there was already there when I visited – if people are reading it again now, it’s probably only because you’ve been linking to it all over the blogsphere.

    Both of us are prepared to comment and produce judgements on the work we’ve not seen – in principle you support it, and warn all and sundry that the work is so good that we’ll look silly for bagging it. Based on the lump of thesis statement, descriptions of the footage, and defence by the maker and others closely involved, I’ve taken the opposite view, the ins and outs of which I’ve already gone into. You raise the pub scene that’s received such sensationalistic coverage – it seems to me that it is not H&M who are busily dehumanising and stereotyping, their complaint is that the footage does. Then there is the weird behaviour of the maker around it – it is hotly disputed whether the scene was ever to be in the series. Since the scene became a matter of controversy, Noonan has said not, tho H&M insist that this was not the position at the candidature seminar and also cite one supervisor’s robust defense of it. As the project aims to breakdown stereotypes and prejudices, the footage is only successful in that it does this. If it’s successful, why not use it? If it wasn’t successful, why show it in the seminar at all? That this scene seems to have done more than any other spark the controversy, was shown but is now disowned, suggests to me that the project is experiencing problems with meeting its aims – part of which is controlling the significance of what’s on the screen so as to enlighten the audience.

    Early on, when Noonan and H&M were only annoying each other privately, H&M wanted to see more footage and Noonan wanted them to read more of his thesis writing, on the grounds that they’d not understand the footage otherwise. More recent disinclination to expose the footage to outside parties has been similarly motivated by the fear that it would be misunderstood if taken out of context. But I really wonder how far the significance of the footage – how it’s audience sees it – can be shifted by theorising, voice over narration or any other textual addition. You can’t just tell people that it ought melt their prejudice, is really a good thing and that they are being enlightened by it – it either does or it doesn’t. The footage isn’t more enlightening than it seems – it’s exactly as enlightening as it seems. The other defensive position, that those that don’t like it have failed in their duty as audience members, is perverse and self-contradictory. It is the film that succeeds or fails in breaking down the prejudices of its audience, not the audience who succeed or fail in their response to the film. This attitude that if the audience don’t ‘get it’, it’s their fault and of no further consequence, flies in the face of making a film to change public attitudes.

  16. Peter,

    I have heard criticism of Gary and John that they criticised Noonan’s movie without reading his thesis. You seem to be confirming this. Is this true?

    You are ideologising me into a corner because you are not listening to what I say, just imposing your analysis onto your perception of what I am saying.
    e.g. you seem to have ignored the above excerpt about the role of carers. You say you have read the Socialist Unity discussion, where I in fact defend the nature institutions, saying they are capable of being “heaven on earth”

    again I say, try and develop an analysis of my opinion based on my opinion, not some manufactured characature that fits in with where you allready stand.

    My broader analysis of disablism is not something I conjured up, it is a key theme in the disability industry. google “disablism” and see what you come up with.

    I have made very few comments on Noonan’s film except the 90 sec clip above. I have commented on Noonan’s justification for his project which I fully support. What I have commented on in detail is Gary and John’s article, which I have indeed seen. That is my primary source for the Boulia scene. It is the attitude in their article that I object to. I have corresponded with Noonan and encoouraged him to keep the pub scene in because it raises similar questions of prejudiced objectification of Aboriginal women as well as Noonan’s actors.

  17. Peter Thomas

    at Socialist Unity you write “This [the closure of many residential institutions] was done in the name of principles similar to what I espouse such as deinstitutionalisation but the result has been people have become isolated and vulnerable to landlords. I agree with what appears to be the motivation for closing Remploy but the question has to be asked, what will people do now?” Tell me if I am over interpreting, but in your polemic you favour deinstitutionalisation and reject the vulnerability thesis, as you signal above. In your concrete statements on particular situations and developments you accept that there is vulnerability (as you say above) and favour institutional reform. Honestly, I’ve not been ignoring your contributions on concrete issues, I’m very impressed by them. But these are in tension with your ideological statements, which are far more extreme. You yourself say that these particular instances of deinstitutionalisation are something you support in motivation, and done on principles *similar to* to the ones you are espousing. In the espousing you’ve done here, I’d say ‘same as’, it’s your concrete statements that mark a distance between your views and blank, thorough deinstitutionalisation as a good in itself.

    Your ideological statements have been extreme enough to rule out as reactionary any manifestation of guardianship, special provision, perception of vulnerability or difference, potentially even your own nuanced treatments of actual occurrences.

    I didn’t think you invented disablism or were finessing your position on the fly. Scope’s page on disablism will, I think, heighten anyone’s perception of vulnerability. This is sourced to public prejudice and societal perception of inferiority, but it is not an argument against provision.

    I haven’t seen anyone in this controversy dispute that the aspiration to break down prejudice is a bad thing- this dispute is over whether Downunder Mystery Tour will actually do it. In particular, it’s accused of doing the opposite – not in its Confirmation Document (there is no thesis yet), but in its footage. I doubt that anyone puts much stock at the mass transformatory potential of a PhD or confirmation document, the hopes are invested in the footage. I do not know if H&M have read the confirmation document yet, but they did refuse it when offered in lieu of the footage. They did hear Noonan’s presentation of his project and defense of it against them, but apparently this did little to convince them that they weren’t horrified by the footage. The active ingredient in the whole project is what happens when an audience sits face to face with the footage. I don’t know what effect you think exposure to the confirmation document will have over that.

    It seems to be down at present, but Unlikely Travellers has a website featuring a longer promo clip ( The clip and commentary suggest the programme has 2 segments, one in which a larger group of people go through various exercises (like skipping) which leads to the selection of a smaller group for the trip to Africa. Whatever formidable challenges there may have been in that project, injecting some people with some disabilities into a combination of the secluded community tv genre (like Big B, Celeb/Get me out of here…) and the travelogue is substantially simpler than doing this with the attack-comedy tv genre (Borat, Chaser, Norman Gunston). This is why I dispute that a minute of UT is an adequate indication of the quality of Mystery Tour, the demands of the projects are too different.

    Looking back at H&M HES article. There is the assertion of inadequacy and difference of the men in the particular pub situation- that they appear inept, that they could not understand the interviews, and “a drunk Aboriginal woman amorously mauled William”. There is an explanation of Aspergers in terms of difference and lack. The drive of the piece is that the scene reinforced and exaggerated stereotypes and thus extracted comedy from pointless humiliation. It’s unclear whether H&M think that it’s unethical ever to turn a camera on a tipsy indigenous woman cuddling up to a man with a mild intellectual disability – but maybe, and if so then that view is everything that you say about it. That such footage is necessarily a scene of horror is also insupportable. This is not what H&M say, they say that in practice the scene was horrifying to them and humiliating of the men. In the UT clip on youtube, the titles at the end say that “His disability isn’t funny. But he is.” H&M’s criticism of the footage is that the opposite happened there, that the men themselves were thoroughly overshadowed by the foregrounding of their disabilities, which was then exploited for low comic value. This would be an objectionable thing were it to occur, surely?

  18. Hi Peter,
    yes I admit my style is a bit polemical and perhaps that may be causing confusion.

    I do not think there is a single dichotomy, with institutionalisation and what you call provision (I am assuming you mean something like service provision and support?) on the one hand and deinstitutionalisation and a laisez-faire attitude to support and supervision on the other.

    As with the Remway and Seven Oaks stories (on socialist unity) there are good institutions and bad institutions and those in between, which is a matter of management and staff attitudes. While I can take a hard principled line (structuralism?) in discussion, and this hard line informs my decisions, in real life nothing is that easy unfortunately and, especially in the disability area, we are always forced to choose between evils which may indeed contradict our fine ideals. I suppose you have some fine ideals about academia which are dissapointed by your day to day involvement in it.

    I supported the closure of Seven Oaks at the time but changed my mind because the people that lived there wanted it to continue. My principle of self determination is stronger than my principle of de-institutionalisation.

    I still dont think you have understood what I am trying to say about support structures (legislation etc.). I’ll try a different tack. For some people who do not have the capacity to engage as an equal citizen in all areas, they employ such things as support workers plus they have support networks like family, church, therapists, workmates etc. All of these people, including the person with restricted capacity, make up a corporate entity that is the equivalent of an equal citizen, fully capable in every way. This collective is the sovereign authority over the person, just as the free citizen is the sovereign authority of themselves. The imposition of well intentioned acedemics, welfare workers or investigations from agencies such as the Adult Guardian should have no more power over the life of a supported disabled person than any other. This does not mean that the collective is unacountable, they are subject to the same laws against abuse and neglect as the rest of us, even more so by way of such things as the disability services act. But in the end this collective should be independent and self managing. Again fine ideals get easily scrambled. In real human relationships, such as between a parent and their offspring their are hierarchies and dominance aplenty. While I may go tsk tsk when a parent refers to their adult offspring as a child, or dresses them in a micky mouse shirt, or tells them that they have to go to work when they dont want to, I am more than happy to stay out of it because it is private family business. There is a fine line between authoritarian domination and prompting and active encouragement.

    So, there are many sticky situations with no simplistic answers. However in the debate of ideas, apart from acknowledging the imperfection of reality, it is important to articulate key principles, dare I say universal principles (ooh!). But my universal principles are such things as self determination which itself leads to a plethora of moral ambiguities to be confronted.

  19. p.s. Peter,

    I do think Noonan’s film has the potential to make a significant difference, ironically because of the international criticism against it. It will spark discussions and debates everywhere.

    I only say potentially because the films could be duds, meaningless – I reserve my judgement until I see them. But if they are duds, they are still worthy experiments, at least in terms of Noonan’s Academic agenda.

  20. Peter Thomas

    John, I hope it does spark debates and rather wish it would. You’ve had a hard time getting people to engage, QUT responds with technocratic mumbojumbo of the kind more usually associated with Canberra, Noonan defends his integrity, and H,M and co. conjure up a nightmare scenario and swap fury regarding it. A debate is exactly what we’re not getting. Noonan’s detractors argue that he has a bad idea that has produced horrible results, Noonan argues that he runs an honest camera and has everyone’s permission, QUT spokescreatures say they haven’t a clue what’s going on but it’s all been to committee. A series of entrenched positions.

    In the centre of it is the structuring absence – the footage. Noonan tells us that he’s a good guy and has gone about it the right way so rack off till it’s finished, QUT tells us it’s fine as it has all it’s boxes ticked, and H&M work backwards from the footage that horrified them, asserting that if all the boxes are ticked then the form is wrong, and if the production team are happy with that then they’re heads are screwed on backwards. As a token, the Unlikely Skipper clip has gone up, but it’s not a particularly good reference point for Downunder Mystery Tour. There is another clip from this finished programme that would be much handier for judging Downunder’s qualities. The clip where Noonan asks the men how they’d respond to a woman fancying them both is similar enough to Downunder that several witness detractors – who were determined to say that they liked UT – mistakenly claimed it was from Downunder. If some people then wanted to assert that it was marvelous and ground breaking and others that it was trip back to the middle ages, then atleast the argument could be about the footage instead of just being a series of polemical articulations smashing against each other in the void.

    Also, I think that Noonan could do worse than distance his aspirational project from the disciplinary juggernaut that is currently attracting international infamy. Maybe he didn’t know what his complaints would lead to, or maybe he doesn’t care who gets trodden on how hard, but his connection to the discipline is an item in the entrenched partisan opposition he’s facing. At least he could refrain from launching further accusations now that the extremity of QUT’s process is obvious. I don’t see what good it does the project to be so closely associated with one of the nastier workplace disputes of recent times.

  21. yes Peter, this is not the best example of academia engaging with the debates of our times.

    Did you read my first rambling comment on the issue on Bush Telegraph? I said (what I call) literacism is the problem. The real world is refracted through the monotonous experience of processing text and secondary or represented experience – instead of direct engagement in reality and locating intelectual exploration there. This is the inadequacy of modern academia, not just QUT. QUT management have been rabid in the area of management, and used the disasterous consequences of their insipid and mediochre academic vision to reinforce management agendas.

    The tradgedy is it would have been so simple to handle this a different way.

    A lot of people have criticised Noonan for not releasing his stuff. This seems to be the main criticism of the guy. Some also say he shouldn’t have complained in the first place. I in no way support the punishment that Gary and John got but Noonan had a legitimate reason to complain about the philistines article.

    I wouldn’t release it if I were Noonan either. Apart from the fact that no other film maker is judged by their rushes or forced to defend their work before it’s released, he has indeed sufferd a great blow to his reputation. The whole world thinks he is a Borat. He has been publically villified and harrassed at QUT. He would be a fool to give any more fuel to this hysterical herd mentality.

    It would not take a particularly clever P.R person to devise a strategy of giving critics all the rope they need to dig themselves further into a hole (so to speak). This would have to be the most successful pre-publicity campaign of any independent Australian documentary ever.

  22. Peter Thomas

    John, you note that 1) it’s a real pity the dispute wasn’t handled in a different way 2) it would only take a novice PR spiv to realise the usefulness of letting critics destroy themselves with inaccurate exaggeration 3) Noonan has got stick for not releasing any footage since 2 May (including from me) 4) Noonan has been criticised for his complaint and 5) he is now enduring being campus fink.

    Many of the opportunities to deal with it differently were missed between 20 March and 2 May (the HES is not all that well read- most blogging in the wake of Philistines was sympathetic to Noonan and hostile to H&M). The case still had little profile in the days after 2 May, but by then the campus fink effect was settling in ahead of the world-blog-whipping-boy phenomena, which took off largely in early June. Noonan was still showing the work 2 May, so things can’t have been all that bad next to what they were to become. The bad campus vibe emerged after H&M were served with the charges on 2 May. Noonan’s complaint went all the way back to 20 March, and when he’s spoken to the press this is largely what he’s spoken about, and it’s the topic of discussion that came up in the courtroom- M made him feel like a child molester. The charge against H&M is boiled down by QUT flax as ‘abusiveness’, and this is about 20 March where M is supposed to have yelled (this is a separate charge to the content of what he said).

    Yet the charges were laid in response to the HES article, and those that relate to the article are not of abuse or anything to do with behavior, but because the article is held to be inaccurate and thus defamatory (the case that they may be accurate but defamatory has not been tried). It is also from the article that the defamation/inaccuracy is held too spread out to cover the supervisors, school and so on. H&M were not charged with fielding a critical account of Noonan’s project or the school which bore it, but a misrepresentative one. One of the main ways this vague charge was stiffened up was the problem of whether the pub clip was or wasn’t going to be a part of Downunder Mystery Tour, not their description of the clip.

    So, some of the main charges are thin and circumstances of their having been made are dubious. If Noonan was suffering significant campus vilification before 2 May, then it was a bit reckless of him to bring his actors to campus for the lecture screening. In any case, the scale of campus interest in the case escalated rapidly after the charges were laid, and it is not then a motivation for the laying of charges, the laying of the charges created the difficult atmosphere in which he now operates. The serious blow to his reputation comes after the charges are laid- the HES article was largely a fizzer and would not now enjoy much of profile if blogs and online news services weren’t forever linking to it. It wound up reprinted in the CM on the occasion of H&M’s suspensions, the latter having made page 1. I can’t quite see that bit as something H&M did to Noonan.

    And some of the main charges are embarrassingly thin- that M shouted, that in an email M affirmed his preference for his mother’s advice to Noonan’s views, that H&M were wrong about the status of a clip vis a vie the intended finished series – a clip that does exist, features the occurrences they described, and was shown as evidence of activity and achievement in the project’s first year (or what? A bit of a laugh at the end of the seminar?). These charges would not be worth making unless they tripped technocratic processes. They are trivial but can cost a career if deployed with skill.

    Finally, the unavailability of the footage. I still say that periodic small scale exposure of the rushes ought to be integral to the project – the effect on the audience is the key thing to be produced, not some high-theory hoohar or partnership funding arrangement – though now is clearly not a good time. Also, I’ve been saying for 6 weeks that its unavailability was a strategic move to to impose an info vacuum that would either cause the debate to fizzle or make sure that adverse comment ran a high risk of being inaccurate to some degree. Passive aggression.

    H&M at least had a big issues to blow their tops about, whether they were right or wrong in their estimation of the situation, whereas this institutional white-anting is a violent deployment of trivia. Disputes on disability issues between parties of widely opposing views or readings of a situation are always likely to be volatile – it’s a touchy subject. If this project is to be such a momentous leap in the campaign against prejudice and marginalisation, it was inevitable that there would be controversy and hot disputes. The lowness of the means by which this project has dealt with this is in tension with the highness of its stated aims.

  23. support worker

    I can’t believe anyone would see this clip as inspiring or funny. As a support worker of two of the people featured in this film I was disgusted to see what a joke has been made out of their INABILITY to perform. From knowing these people on a personal level I know how very capable they are!! Why was the focus put on the man who couldn’t skip instead of being shared with the girl who was quite able to skip in the background. It states that it is about empowering people, how? by laughing at them?!?! Surely it would be empowering to show people with disablities being able to perform tasks as anyone else would rather than laughing at them falling over. Shame on Michael Noonan and Spectrum.

  24. Errin Marrone, aka “support worker”

    You work for “Life Stream Foundation”

    What is “Life Stream” and what is their interest in Noonan and Spectrum’s film?

    According to Life Stream’s website, Steve Kerin is its deputy chair. Steve Kerin is also the solicitor acting on behalf of Gary MacLennan and John Hookham.

    Can you clarify Lifestream’s interest in this matter?

    Is this something to do with proffesional rivalry, or competition for funding? How can a disability organisation take such an active role in attacking another disability organisation – based on no information?

    The families of the people involved are featured at length in Noonan’s film, premiering at BIFF tomorrow. Your fraudulant claim to connection to these families is quite sick.

    John T.

  25. Erin,
    I notice that you have claimed on other blogs that you are a “dear friend” of Darren (the man in the skipping video above) and you were unaware of his involvement with Noonan.
    Darren prepared for the trip to Egypt for a year beforehand. Seeing the movie and seeing him speak on Sunday night, there is no way a “dear friend” would not know of his involvement – it was obviously a major event in his life for the last couple of years.

    Why have you told so many public lies to attack Noonan? What is your agenda?

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