Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 4.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Literacy dogs

Children can now read to dogs. Reluctant or weak readers can now attend sessions at local libraries and read to therapy dogs. Organisers claim it encourages reluctant readers to develop the vital habit of reading and thus improve their literacy skills.

Surely that’s a good thing. Yes, but is it necessary?

First of all, dogs can’t read. Secondly, reading to dogs won’t solve Australia’s literacy problems. Australia has some of the lowest literacy (and numeracy) levels in the developed world, and solving this problem requires a joint effort from society, governments and parents, not from dogs.

Parents must:

Read to their children.

More actively support reading and study in every year of schooling.

Spend less of their own free time glued to their devices while at home.

Buy and read books themselves.

Stop attacking teachers.

Stop buying their children smart phones, and stop paying for their data.

Society must value school teachers and academia, and governments must adequately fund all levels of education as well as increasing teachers’ salaries. Otherwise, the following scenario is likely to develop:

One reluctant reader enjoys reading to a therapy dog. The child insists on reading to a dog, even at school where most reading occurs. The student is allowed to bring a dog into every class. That student is not the only reluctant reader. Soon, school classrooms are overrun with therapy dogs. Teachers are then forced to integrate dogs into their curriculum after attending at-cost ‘literacy dog’ training sessions in their free time. Multiple dogs cause chaos in classrooms and in the playground, and at the end of the day, who will be forced to clean up the mess?

Even some university students, at one of the more prominent universities in Sydney, are able to pat a dog upon entering an exam hall – to help calm their nerves. The country’s best and brightest can’t handle the stress of doing an exam. More proof that this country has gone soft. More proof that this country has gone to the dogs.

Image: 2PhotoPots

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 3.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Vaccine dogs

Dog lovers now have another Instagram account to follow. The account features pets accompanying their owners to COVID-19 vaccination centres in Australia. Sure, it’s a nice distraction from Australia’s shambolic vaccine rollout, which places the nation 101st in the world, but it distracts from the shameful reality. Only 2% of Australia’s population had been fully vaccinated at the time of writing this article, and the city of Melbourne has been plunged into yet another lockdown.

So incompetent is the current federal government in its handling of the pandemic, and the preceding bushfire crisis, that the prime minister’s popularity fell. In response, Scott Morrison was photographed with a cute little dog. 98% of Australia’s population are not vaccinated against a deadly virus, but the prime minister was photographed with a dog and his popularity has since increased. A sure sign of a gullible population. A sure sign of a country that has gone to the dogs.

But wait, there’s more…

Another prominent person was photographed with a dog. Tongan rugby league star Jason Taumalolo played his 200th NRL game for the North Queensland Cowboys recently, and the NRL/ Cowboys PR team arranged for his family to form a guard of honour as he ran onto the field. His dog was included in the guard of honour. An emotional Taumalolo rushed to pat and cuddle his dog (before acknowledging his wife and kids) and social media erupted with compliments for Taumalolo. They’re forgetting the time in 2016 that he was fined for throwing eggs at cars.

A dog’s breakfast

Cafes, beer gardens, picnic areas, barbecue areas, children’s playgrounds, sports grounds and beaches are overrun with dogs these days. Many of these places are officially off limits to dogs. In addition, most accommodation providers are pet-friendly, despite what PetCulture might think.

Strangely, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when patrons are required to check in, socially distance and use sanitiser, muddy, sweaty, dirty dogs are still allowed to sit next to, or on, the furniture at eateries throughout the country.

Mobile dogs

Dogs have even found their way onto public transport. Guide dogs have always been permitted on public transport, as they should be. Now therapy dogs, or companion dogs, are allowed on buses trains and ferries across the country. Sufferers of mental health issues can now bring their dogs with them, and dogs of any breed, size or temperament can be therapy dogs. Subsequently, inefficient, overcrowded, slow and outdated public transport has been further compromised to satisfy the owners of dogs.

A trip to the Sydney CBD recently highlights the problem. Two young adults boarded an overcrowded bus heading towards the city centre. The tattoos, attire, cigarette breath, vocabulary and general demeanour of the pair suggested a troubled past and a fondness for illicit substances. The dog was some kind of Pit Bull, Mastiff, Bulldog breed – short, muscular and aggressive. It appeared agitated and nervous and its presence clearly concerned the people sitting close to it. As I pondered how this breed classifies as a ‘therapy dog’, I heard the owners say that it had recently become a therapy dog, and that they were taking it to the local shopping mall,

“…to get used to people…”

The couple soon alighted, leaving the bus with the overpowering stench of a sweaty dog.

Image: Gabriel Crismariu

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 2.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

A dog is a child…

Owners of dogs (and other pets) were recently invited to sign a petition by online pet company PetCulture asking employees to grant their workers the same rights as parents.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper, as well as website Kidspot, ran articles about the petition, which calls for employees:

  1. To be granted sick leave to care for their pets.
  2. To be granted leave to welcome their new pet family members.
  3. To be able to have their pets stay with them whether they are glamping in a five-star resort.

The article is not an April Fool’s Day joke (although one pet owner featured in the article is a comedian). It is not merely another example of lazy, shallow, gutter journalism from a NewsCorp publication. It is an advertorial (a paid advertisement dressed up as an editorial) placed by the ‘new online pet store’ PetCulture. Regardless, it indicates an obsession with pets in a country that has gone to the dogs.

The petition lists three primary demands.

  1. Owners expect time off work, on full pay, to look after a sick pet, just as they would look after a sick child. Colleagues would have to cover for the pet owner and/or the business would suffer a loss of productivity and profit. In addition, employers are expected to support the notion that pets are equal to children.

Some parents love their pets as much as their children, and some children love their pets with equal devotion. But does a dog or cat need the same attention as a sick child? If so, why can a healthy dog or cat be left unsupervised for hours or a whole day, but a young child (or even a teenager) cannot be left for hours on end? Owners seem to be forgetting that even though a sick animal requires appropriate medical attention, their innate survival instincts will stop them from falling down steps, or from touching or eating something that could harm them. Children lack the same survival instincts.

  • Owners are demanding time off, on full pay, to welcome a new pet into the home. How long does this take? An ‘expert’ recommended two days be spent familiarising the animal to its new surroundings. Easy, bring the pet home on a Friday afternoon, use the weekend to welcome it and return to work on Monday. Even within a less structured work schedule, time can be made to welcome a pet without taking time off work.
  • Clearly the word ‘or’ is missing from between ‘glamping’ and ‘in’, because five-star resorts don’t offer glamping, no matter how fancy the tents. Nevertheless, pet owners are complaining that they are prohibited from taking their pets to the most luxurious and expensive accommodation options, at a time when many Australians can’t afford to take a holiday at all, let alone to a five-star resort, especially after the financial stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poor timing

PetCulture appears to have mistimed its advertising campaign. They are calling for greater access to luxury resorts just as JobKeeper and JobSeeker have been removed or reduced, and many Australians still don’t know when they’ll return to full-time, stable employment. PetCulture may be positioning itself as a high-end pet supply company, but the press release is still rather poorly-timed, especially since pet access to five-star resorts is one of the top three listed demands. This is a great example of clever marketing. It’s also a great example of a first-world problem, and a great example of a country gone soft.

PetCulture’s advertorial also claims that:

“…introducing a new animal member to a home is stressful, so it’s important to be supported…”

Really?

Fighting a bushfire is stressful. Fleeing domestic violence is stressful. Losing a job is stressful. Is introducing a pet to a house really that stressful?

Pet peeves

In recent years, pet owners have petitioned various levels of government to pressure landlords to allows tenants to bring their pets into rental properties, which has always been at the discretion of landlords.

Renters complained that owning a pet increased the difficulty of finding rental accommodation in an overcrowded and expensive rental market. A solution to this problem exists: don’t own a pet. Sit down, and do the calculations. Examine current and future earnings and expenses, and estimate the length of time that will be required to buy a property. Buy a property, then buy a pet.

Petitioning the government to change rental laws is symptomatic of a problem plaguing the nation: citizens expecting the government to bail them out of a problem of their own creation.

Housing crisis

Housing in Australia is becoming increasingly problematic. Rental properties remain scarce and overpriced, and home ownership is out of reach for many Aussies. Australia is estimated to have the world’s biggest gap between median salaries and median house prices, and many young Australians will never be able to buy a property.

Furthermore, social housing developments are insufficient and more Australians will be forced into homelessness or substandard accommodation – many of them older women. Meanwhile, the politicians who could introduce policies to alleviate many of these problems are too busy being photographed with cute dogs. The people who could vote out the current government are too easily persuaded by photos of politicians with dogs.

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 1.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Dogs v native animals

Australia is home to an estimated 29 million pets and about 25.7 million people. That’s right, more pets than people. We might have to stop teasing New Zealand about having so many sheep. Most of those pets are dogs and cats, and roughly one in three households has a pet dog.

Australia also has the world’s highest rate of native mammal extinction – outright. Pets are one cause of the extinctions. Cats are the single most destructive introduced species in the country, and wild dogs cause large-scale destruction. Wild dogs were once pet dogs. Native mammal extinction points to a disregard for native animals among Australian people who demonstrate an obsession with pet animals. Australians clearly prioritise dogs and cats over wildlife.

Natural disasters

Even during the Black Summer bush fires of 2019/2020, concern for pets over native animals was evident. Unfortunately, many pets were lost, but millions of native animals also perished in the unprecedented fires. However, at one emergency centre, evacuees complained that their pets were not allowed inside the building, because health and safety regulations prohibit the entry of pets into the premises. Evacuees and fellow Australians erupted on social media and blasted the evacuation centre co-ordinators. The dogs were safe, they had food, water and medical attention, and they were supervised outside the premises. Even some of the evacuees themselves chose to sit outside the building while they waited for the fires to be put out. Australians decried the treatment of pets, while millions of native animals were dying.

National parks

Pet dogs are banned from national parks in Australia. Domestic pets have an adverse effect on native wildlife. Some dog owners ignore signage and they take their dogs into national parks. According to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, rangers cannot effectively monitor all of the parks to prevent domestic pets from entering, because they lack the resources. National parks services are not sufficiently funded by government.

Where is the national outcry?

Why aren’t Australians demanding the protection of our national parks? Perhaps for the same reason that Aussies are not doing more to protect another national icon, the koala.

Experts warn that koalas could become extinct by 2050, and wild dogs are a major cause of koala deaths, along with land clearing and climate change. Environmental groups and concerned citizens are campaigning for habitat protection to ensure koala survival, but where are the owners of the 29 million pets?

Koalas are also a major contributor to the nation’s (pre-COVID-19) tourist sector and the economy. Tourists flock from all across the globe to see a koala up close. They will not fly halfway around the world to look at someone’s pet dog.

Wildlife shelter vs pet shelter

Controversy surrounds changes to the RSPCA NSW Blue Mountains Shelter in Katoomba, near Sydney. Essentially, the debate centres around the expansion and modification of the shelter to cater for native wildlife harmed by the 2019/2020 bush fires. The fires were so widespread in the Blue Mountains that the national parks and the animals therein are still being rehabilitated.

RSPCA members and community members have voiced objections to the inclusion of native wildlife in the shelter. The RSPCA conceded that:

“…wildlife could be stressed by the sight, sound or even smell of the dogs…” and thus dogs would have to be housed in a completely separate building. One member then stated:

“I am concerned for the dogs which will need to be locked away in the new, totally enclosed kennels…” and a local politician, Kerry Brown, expressed similar sentiments.

Many of the animals housed at the shelter are strays. They are animals left without a home due to the neglect of owners. Therefore, rehabilitation of native animals is being obstructed due to concern for dogs.

The RSPCA website states that:

“Along with cats and dogs, RSPCA helps a wide range of other animals from horses to rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, goats and sheep. All of these animals are non-native, (birds may be native or introduced). Rabbits cover Australia in plague proportions and destroy native flora and fauna, as well as crops. In contrast, an organisation called WIRES (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) cares for native animals. If the majority of Australians heard the names of these two organisations, which one would they be more familiar with?

Image: Gabriel Crismariu

Why not adopt a council?

Randwick City residents are being encouraged to adopt the entire council following the enormous success of the council’s Adopt a Drain initiative, which asked ratepayers to care for a public facility that would normally be the responsibility of the local government.

Ratepayers are thus being asked to adopt other public services.

Library – Street Libraries and Book Clubs will replace conventional libraries. Avid readers can take and leave books at their leisure. No library cards, no overdue fees. Book Clubs will provide a physical space to read and discuss literature without the distractions of screaming toddlers and free-range parents, remote workers using free WiFi, and teenagers ‘studying’ collaboratively.

Lawn mowing – Time for a good old-fashioned Working Bee. BYO mower, Whipper Snipper and edger to local parks and sports fields, as well as lunch, snacks and water. Make the playing surface playable, and put all those grass clippings into green bins. Nearby residents will supply a case of beer.

Redundant Rangers – Control your own dog. Keep it on a leash. Keep it out of prohibited spaces, and pick up after it.

Lifeguards – Randwick residents will be required to supervise their own children at swimming pools and beaches, freeing up lifeguards to work on their tan. Cleaning of public pools will also be handed over to locals. Anyone got a Creepy Crawly?

Street lighting – Locals will line the streets with candles and solar camping lights every night. Rosters will be circulated soon. Authorities will clamp down on groups of men carrying burning torches.

Rubbish collection – No more rubbish trucks. No more 5am wake-ups. Green thumbs will adopt green bins, conservationists will adopt yellow bins and the apathetic Aussie mainstream will adopt red bins. Locals can also take their own rubbish home from public spaces, and stop dropping cigarette butts.

DA- Home owners can approve their own Development Applications, just as property developers have been doing for years.

Tree planting – Locals will give up their free time to plant native trees in conjunction with council staff, only to see them all bulldozed by Gladys and the gang once they grow tall enough to house a koala.

Flag raising – One lucky citizen will be assigned to raise the national and state flags each morning. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags will fly on designated days so that locals, like politicians, can pretend to care about Indigenous Australians.

Adopt a Council will begin immediately, and will allow council to concentrate on more urgent busines such as erecting colourful banners in public spaces and congratulating themselves in SCENE.

Locals have already started rolling up their sleeves to protect this patch of paradise, and have begun to ask:

Do we need politicians?

First published in The Beast magazine, June 2021.

Dogs Under Attack at Mackenzies Bay.

Dogs at Mackenzies Bay are under attack after Waverley Council approved plans to construct a park for SUVs at the tiny beach. The news has angered pet owners who resent the intrusion of off-road drivers into a space they are not allowed to use.

The showdown is set to rival the most brutal and bloody sporting contests in history after months of bickering between the two parties on social media.

An SUV driver sparked the conflict with a simple remark.

“An SUV would crush a little pooch,”

To which a pet owner replied,

“A medium-sized pet dog has the same carbon footprint as an SUV.”

From that point it was on.

The beachside fight will take place with no regard for social distancing or health concerns, and will begin as soon as council completes the construction of the SUV facilities.

An access road will plough through Gaerloch Reserve, across the coastal path and onto the rocks, and a boat ramp will be a launching site for jet skis. Hoses will allow drivers to wash the sand, oil, motor fluids and other debris straight into the ocean. Council has also opened a tender for a car wash café to be built on the site, but pet owners reminded drivers they have taken over every café in the Eastern Suburbs.

Vitriolic pre-fight tension included the following attacks:

“SUVs will scare away the sunbathers, we’ll have it all to ourselves,”

“But dogs scare coastal birds away, and many of them never come back to this resting spot.”

“We’ll rip a hole in this beach with our circle work,”

“Just watch our pets damage native and planted vegetation with their digging”

“Slip, slop, slap with motor oil,”

“Yeah, well SUVs don’t poo, but dog faeces alters the coastal soil’s nutrient profile.”

“That’s right,” supported a fur friend, “and our dogs will destroy the original soil and the ability of remnant native vegetation to regenerate”

Pooch parents reminded the drivers that most owners pick up after their dogs, before one of their members admitted to never scooping up a soggy dropping from a rock pool, and claimed that the natural tides of the bay wash away everything anyway.

The dirty drivers then boasted,

“Stormwater run off closes beaches for days,” which drew a counter attack,

“Faecal contamination impacts the health of swimmers and surfers at Mackenzie’s Bay and Tamarama Beach, and this pollution will disrupt sensitive marine biodiversity.”

Meanwhile, Waverley Council promised that Rangers will ensure the fight does not detract from the experience of other beachgoers, but will instead be great live entertainment for people on the coastal walk.

“Like an animated Sculpture by the Sea”

First published in The Beast magazine, March 2021.

Image: http://www.frugalfrolicker.com

Argenta and Gold.

It’s time to act, decided Bethany, as she reflected on the preponderance of silver which cast a gloomy pall over her bursting trophy cabinet.

She summoned the detective.

“It’s impossible,” declared detective inspector Gordon G. Wilson, before offering an explanation.

“The problem is Sapphire’s collar. It has heat, fingerprint, voice and retina activation. What’s more, the replacement collar would have to avoid detection from Sapphire’s first groomer, psychologist, stylist, brand manager, second groomer, nutritionist, physical trainer, photographer, massage therapist and third groomer before the dogs even enter the arena.”

Bethany was unmoved.

“You fail to understand detective, that this is my last chance to beat Lady Hamilton. There are strong rumours of ill health at Hamilton Manor.”

“It simply can’t be done,” Wilson reiterated.

The hand that had been lovingly stroking Argenta now reached for a photograph. Bethany slid the single polaroid across the lavish suite’s ornately finished table.

“I’m sure you’ll find a way detective,” she stated, fixing him with a cold unflinching stare.

Wilson sunk in the chair. The colour could be seen draining from his face even in the faint light of the flickering fire. He excused himself and set to work. He would need 12 months and all of his police smarts to accomplish this task.

Bethany was bursting with nerves and excitement. She clasped her clammy hands as she positioned herself behind the judges in the hotel’s elaborate auditorium. Her heart pounded as the parade of pampered Bichon Frises elicited gasps of adoration from the audience.

“Sapphire!” beamed the announcer, and the audience burst into rapturous applause. Bethany’s stomach churned with familiar disgust until she remembered her clever ruse. Her beloved pet was wowing the audience and the judges.

“Argenta!” strutted in to the arena and Bethany’s conflicting emotions resurfaced. Her breath shortened and her mouth dried.

‘Argenta’ paraded brilliantly and camera flashes lit up the auditorium.

Then something happened. Something almost imperceptible. Sapphire lacked her customary rhythm, her famous je ne sais quoi.

Had the judges felt it?

Had Bethany felt it, or was she simply intoxicated with the overwhelming emotions of this daring subterfuge?

The wait for the judge’s decision was torturous.

“The winner of the gold medal, category Bichon Frise, 2020, is…”

Bethany couldn’t breathe.

“Sapphire!”

Wilson now found himself in the same chair, in front of the same fire. The detective’s eyes settled on the photograph sitting next to another silver medal on the ornate oak table.

The detective pleaded his case.

“The switch was made. The task was completed, as per your orders.”

“Then where is my gold medal?” demanded Bethany, who had banished Argenta to the pound.

“It confounded us too,” testified Wilson, “until we swapped the collars back after the competition and discovered that the rumours of ill health were well founded,” outlined Wilson.

“But how? Lady Hamilton was alive and well and gloating pompously on the dais yet again,” protested Bethany.

“The Lady was always healthy,” Wilson paused,

“but Sapphire wasn’t.”

Image: Gabriel Crismariu

Australians care more about their dogs than their prime minister.

Sorry Scotty, but it seems Australians care more about their dogs than they do about you.

Feedback on recent articles centred on Scott Morrison and dog owners demonstrates a much greater passion for people’s four legged friends than for their prime minister.

The articles in question are numerous satirical texts published in a monthly magazine called The Beast, which is distributed in Bondi and the eastern beaches of Sydney.

The first article concerning the prime minister was titled:

“Scott Morrison Imprisoned for UnAustralian Activities”

It suggested that the current elected leader of the democratic nation of Australia should spend the rest of his life in bars – effective immediately. It listed many real shortcomings of the prime minister and his colleagues, and focussed on one particular action which is UnAustralian (you’ll have to read the article to find out).

Other articles were titled:

“The Shire Sends ScoMo Back to Where He Came From”

“Waverley’s Nightwatchman Scores a Century”

The articles provoked no response. No letters were sent directly to the author. No letters to the editor were published in the following issues, despite the fact that Morrison grew up in the eastern suburbs, went to school in the area and still has family and friends in the area. The region is also a safe seat for the Liberal Party, Morrison’s party.

Not one reader leapt to his defence.

Why?

The nickname “Scotty” may explain their reluctance. Educated and informed Australians call Morrison ‘Scotty from Marketing’ because they know he is nothing more than a Liberal National Party re-branding exercise. The previous leader, Malcolm Turnbull was seen as aloof and unapproachable. Thus, Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart and Liberal powerbrokers removed Turnbull and installed Morrison, and sent him forth to drink beer, watch football and spout meaningless slogans.

‘Liar from the Shire’ is another popular nickname. The Shire is the region of southern Sydney which Morrison represents, and Morrison is famous for lying about many of his own policy failures. It is also commonly known that Morrison only won preselection for the safe Liberal seat after moving out of the eastern suburbs and running a dirty tricks campaign against the other Liberal candidate.

Australians also know that Morrison is merely a puppet of Rupert Murdoch and the fossil fuel industry. Perhaps readers of The Beast did not rush to defend the prime minister because they are starting to see through the spin.

Maybe the satirical articles have no impact.

Perhaps, but the reponse to the dog articles would suggest otherwise.

Recent articles about dog owners in the eastern suburbs have carried the following titles:

“Safe Injecting Space Planned for Mackenzies Bay”

“Free Literacy Classes for Eastern Suburbs Dog Parents”

“Dog Owners Kicked off Clovelly Dog Park”

All of these articles criticise eastern suburbs dog owners, primarily because they walk their dogs in off-leash areas and ignore the local rules.

Every single article about dogs and dog owners provokes a flood of responses. Readers launch into an attack on the author and the content of the articles. Feedback is impassioned, emotional, personal and usually filled with profanity.

Mistake-ridden responses include phrases such as

“Fuck you and your shit article…”

“Up you’res kieran im gonna take 10 Dogs n do drugzzzz”

Other responses are not suitable for public viewing.

Dog owners react strongly to every single article written about the topic of dogs and the actions of their owners, but ignore articles about the person who runs their country, who was born and bred in the eastern suburbs.

Australians clearly care more about their dogs than their prime minister.

Images: Gabriel Crismariu, Craig Greenhill

Read what you like.

Potentially dire consequences await those who ‘like’ social media posts before or without reading the text. The true message of the post is often not evident in the headline and can be contradictory to the reader’s world view or online image. Liking a post without reviewing its contents could even damage someone’s online reputation.

Be particularly wary of satire. This very website contains an entire category full of satirical articles. Satire uses humour to criticise or ridicule particular situations, organisations or people, and the meaning of the text is very rarely evident in the headline.

Beware of hashtags.

Just because a post is accompanied with hashtags such as pets, dogs, dogowners, furryfriends or fourleggedfriends doesn’t mean that the article is supportive of dog owners or pet ownership. In fact, numerous articles on this website, especially in the Satire category, are highly critical of dog owners and their flagrant disregard for dog walking laws. The articles portray the dog owners as selfish, disobedient, arrogant, disrespectful, inconsiderate and in some cases illiterate. Hardly complimentary. Despite this fact, many pet supply companies ‘liked’ the posts.

The pet companies were responding to the hashtags. They have most likely established their social media marketing strategy to identify and respond to any hashtag relating to dogs, pets and dog owners. The companies believe this increases exposure for their brand.

…but what kind of exposure?

If a pet supply company is seen to be endorsing a text which implies that dog owners are selfish, disobedient, arrogant, disrespectful, inconsiderate and in some cases illiterate, this could backfire severely on the company. The company is essentially insulting its customers and insulting the very people which sustain the business and all of its employees.

Has a business ever prospered by insulting its customers?

Think about what you ‘like’.

Liking an image of a person you admire can also lead to misinterpretation or support of an opinion contradictory to your own.

The Frownlow Medal is a satirical award given to the Australia-based professional footballer who commits the worst off-field scandal in any given year. The award exists to criticise the footballers and society’s adoration of them, and uses irony to do so.

An Instagram account holds images of all of the footballers who have so far been nominated for The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame. Many people ‘like’ the posts containing images of their sporting heroes, without knowing that the player is being criticised for their off-field behaviour. The fans are thus supporting or endorsing a satirical award which is heavily criticising their heroes.

Of course, some fans agree with the award’s premise, and can separate the player’s sporting brilliance from their off-field flaws, but many fans ‘like’ unknowingly.

Another article related to football demonstrates this point. The article relates to the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, and attacks his support for the Cronulla Rugby League club and exposes it as a shallow publicity stunt. The article is heavily critical of Morrison, and implies that supporters of the prime minister, and the Cronulla team, have been fooled into supporting and voting for their local representative. Nevertheless, fans of the club ‘liked’ the article when it was posted on this website.

They are essentially liking a post which calls them gullible, uneducated, easily fooled and impressionable.

A food catering service also fell victim to their automated hashtag marketing system. I wrote a travel article about a particularly unsavoury pizza I ate at a local restaurant in China, where I saw customers being given blood pressure checks – after they had eaten. The food catering company had inadvertently associated themselves with poor quality and horrible tasting food – food so bad it could give someone a heart attack.

Be sure to read what you like.

Image: 2PhotoPots

Dog ownership linked to poor literacy.

Mounting scientific evidence has established a direct link between dog ownership and poor literacy among a large proportion of the Australian population.

In a worrying trend for the nation, experts have traced an increase in dog ownership and a decline in literacy standards among the populace, and they fear the problem will only get worse.

The inability to read even the most basic texts is being blamed for the behaviour of many Aussie dog owners. Countless dogs are taken to off limit areas such as beaches, rock pools, parks, children’s playgrounds, barbecue areas and sports grounds throughout the country. The only explanation for such flagrant disobedience is the inability of dog owners to read the multitude of signs informing people of the rules.

Standards of writing have also declined, as the following examples illustrate. In response to an article about dog owners breaking the rules at Sydney’s Mackenzies Bay *, Michael wrote,

“Up you’res kieran im gonna take 10 dogs n do drugzzzz”

This was sent directly to this very website. It is not a text message. Let’s unpack the utterance.

  • It starts with a capital letter, well done Michael.
  • ‘you’res’ is not a word. Michael was trying to say ‘up yours’ which is a crude insult in colloquial English. This dog owner can’t even swear properly.
  • kieran is a proper noun, so the k should be capital.
  • ‘im’ should be written with a capital I and an apostrophe.
  • ‘n’ should be ‘and’ – again, this is not a text message.
  • ‘drugzzzz’ should be spelt ‘drugs’. Michael must have already taken some before he wrote this message.

The second example of the death of the written word in Australia comes from Adam Smith, in response to the same article.

“Hi Kieran. Fuck you and your shit article in the beast. I will make sure and take my Dog to Mackenzies Bay more frequently from now on…”

Adam can swear properly, which is refreshing.

  • the beast is the name of the magazine (which is well worth reading) so it should be written The Beast.
  • “I will make sure and…” should be written ‘I will make sure to…’ so the reader knows exactly what Adam is making sure to do.
  • Dog does not need a capital d, unless Adam is a Christian and thinks his dog is God.

Authorities and educational experts have tracked declining literacy in the country for many years. The national literacy and numeracy test, called NAPLAN, has demonstrated a steady decline among students as they progress from primary school to high school.

University lecturers and tutors complain of undergraduate students who are unable to construct basic sentences or understand basic course material – and they are the best and brightest of the country’s youth. Conversely, Australia continues to fall behind many other countries in international literacy and numeracy standards according to results of standardised exams.

In a country with an undeniable literacy and numeracy crisis, more than one in every three households owns at least one dog, or about 40% of the population.

The irrefutable link between dog ownership and poor literacy is a problem that looks set to plague Australia for many years to come.

*The article referred to is “Safe Injecting Space Planned for Mackenzies Bay” which appears under the category Satire on this website, and at http://www.thebeast.com.au