First published on 28 Feb 2013. Updated on 28 Feb 2013.
As you’re probably aware, writing is one of the highest paid professions in Australia. The list basically goes as follows: mining magnates, celebrity lawyers, drug dealers for professional sportspeople, hired killers, and then us hacks. Those ivory towers that politicians occasionally accuse us of living in? They literally exist. In fact, the view from the gleaming APS Towers is a spectacular tribute to the millions of elephants slaughtered to build it, because I – like all journalists – make the sort of sweet scratch that makes those sorts of insane and impractical dreams possible.
And that is why every writer in this country is so excited by Clive Palmer’s plan to rebuild the Titanic. Leaving aside that Palmer is our social and economic equal, a no-nonsense-multimillionaire regular Joe who pulls on his Pope-skin trousers one leg at a time just like the rest of us, his ambitious maritime schemes are a testament to the gloriousness of human achievement and how one person can truly do anything, provided that they put their mind to it, and have an obscene personal fortune and ties with Chinese shipbuilding firms.
Rebuilding the Titanic is such a big, bold and stupid plan that you can’t help but get excited about it – especially when it includes such cute touches as segregated class-based accommodations and a determination to look externally as much like the original as possible while, one assumes, not including authentic touches like enormous structural faults. It’s also set to travel from Southampton to New York only without, it would appear, any unadvertised stops at the bottom of the North Atlantic.
And he’s so quotable! “One of the benefits of global warming is there’s not as many icebergs,” he said at the announcement, according to The Age. Such a good quip – and really puts global warming where it should be as far as mainstream reporting goes: less a serious concern, more a bit of a good-natured joke.
In fact, if you happen to own a news organisation and like to see a certain rightish wingish economic and political line being editorially toed, Palmer is a godsend. Look at him, the big genial goof, with his Titanic plans and hilarious conspiracy theories about the CIA controlling Greenpeace! It’s a much more adorable face to give to the mining industry than, say, the offspring-suing, poor-people-admonishing, environment-about-a-shit-not-giving Gina Rinehart.
Palmer is a businessman in the mould of Donald Trump: loud, self-aggrandising and with a glorious seeming lack of personal insight. He’s a figure of fun, the real-life equivalent of a cartoon supervillain determined to build a giant laser to write his name on the Moon. Meanwhile industry magnates like Rinehart seem to be more interested in less grandiose goals, like merely collecting all of the money in the world.
But Palmer? Why, just imagine him, arms akimbo at the stern of his mighty ship, bellowing “I’m the king of the world!” Hilarious! He’s basically Scrooge McDuck, taking time out from swimming in his coin vault to go on adventures with his interchangeable nephews to find exciting ways of making even more money. The only significant differences are that Scrooge has a monocle and Clive wears pants most of the time. How can you possibly think that he – and by extension, the impossibly super-wealthy as a whole – could do anything that’s not ambitiously awesome?
Remaking the Titanic is a marketer’s dream, and it’s a fun way to rehabilitate the idea of the eccentric billionaire in a cuddly way. Gina, maybe it’s time to start talking about a space colony, or a sprawling undersea city, or writing your name on the Moon with a superla… OK, maybe not that one.
Oh, who are we kidding? She’s probably already picked out a font.
My money’s on Comic Sans.