Diplomat in Chief strikes again

By James Morrow in Sydney

1 April 2010

Not content with having gotten India off-side over Australia's maladroit handling of attacks on overseas students, Kevin Rudd is now working assiduously at offending the Americans - or at least a certain population of them:

Reports news.com.au:

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has hit back at a jibe by US actor/comedian Robin Williams that Australians are just "English rednecks".

Williams, who recently toured Australia, made the comment while appearing as a guest on the popular "Late Night with Dave Letterman Show", the Herald Sun reports.

"The Australians are basically English rednecks. 'You down there, how are ya? Good to see you. Hello','' he said.

Speaking to Triple M radio show host Eddie McGuire in Melbourne on Wednesday, Mr Rudd said: "First of all, I think Robin Williams should go and spend a bit of time in Alabama before he frames comments about anyone being particularly redneck."

 "That's my first response."

Well, he certainly told Mr Williams, didn't he?

As helpful reader ARMJ who passed this item on to me writes, "And what other stereotypes of Americans does Rudd hold? New Yorkers are what? Jewish bankers? Tennessee or West Virginia? Hillbillies? How about Chicago? Italian mobsters? It is astonishing that a leader of an American ally who also claims foreign affairs as his strong suit would so easily be provoked into making such a disparaging remark based on outdated naive stereotypes. And of course he didn’t think for a minute how that remark might offend Americans and put Australia into a bad light and impact on our economic and other interests. It’s yet another example of what a cad he is seen to be overseas and how that behaviour adversely impacts Australia’s interest. He’s simply not taken seriously anywhere."

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11:58 PM on Thu 01 April 2010

Mr. Rudd might be interested to learn that Alabama is home a NASA site, which employs real, live rocket scientists.


12:01 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Blame Bush!

Larry Anderson

12:03 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Well, as much as I once thought Mr. Williams quite funny, I would not have accepted his "joke" at the expense of Australians. Comedians do whatever they think will get a laugh. As a "Yank," I'd much rather have the Diggers on my side than either lefty comics stretching for a laugh, or politicians who try to make mileage out of imagined insult. But then, I'm just a guy in "Fly-Over" country in the US, and apparently don't matter...


12:09 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

The real ignorance revealed here is believing that any Hollywood type would deign to set foot in Alabama. If the prime minister believes that Robin Williams believes that Australians are any more backwards than people from Alabama, I don't think he's got much to be concerned about. It's quite likely that Robin Williams thinks that Alabamans and Australians are fully interchangable, aside from the particular ridiculous accent they have.


12:10 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

I'm an American, and I'm not the least bit offended by what Mr. Rudd said. Of course, I'm not from Alabama, so that does make a difference. On the other hand, Robin Williams---who used to be funny---is just a low-brow embarrassment to our entire nation. I'd apologize for him and for the rest of our entertainment industry, but there's so much to apologize for and so little space to do it in. As an aside, I had a wonderful visit to Sydney about 6 months ago and enjoyed myself tremendously. Drove up to Cessnock and all through Hunter Valley to visit wine country. Wonderful scenery. You've got a great country there, my friends.


12:14 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Alabama doesn't have a particularly full redneck population, them is good ole boys.



12:17 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

As an Alabamian myself, I am puzzled: why would the PM go after Alabama, not the terribly unfunny Robin Williams? I don't find either the PM or Williams all that enlightened.


12:26 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

I think the typical U. S. response would be: "Kevin Who?".

American Mike

12:27 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Agreed. But let's also agree that Robin Williams acted like an ass. And while we're at it, it's only a matter of time before Obama throws Australia under the bus. The rest of us will keep loving you guys, though.

Tom_in_Georgia, USA

12:28 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

I do not understand why Rudd is so thin-skinned as to latch onto a remark made by a COMEDIAN that had no real meaning or was reflective of the opinion of an entire nation of some 300million people. Doesn't he have a real job somewhere that needs the time he spends looking for some perceived slight? OTOH, I might just get myself on TV and proclaim that Aussie men wear pink panties just to see the reaction of this poor twit.

ic from Chicago, home of AlCapone and BarryO

12:28 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Only the liberal establishments and the leftists found "rednecks" disparaging. Some of us, the right wing nuts love our rednecks almost as much as our cowboys, and miss dreadfully our Cowboy-in-Chief.

Merrill Guice

12:45 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

As the true rednecks are of Scotch-Irish descent, I am sure there are plenty of them in Oz. Salt of the earth people they are, too. If a bit xenophobic. I'm from rural South Georgia USA so I can speak to it.


12:53 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

What's really interesting here is that, a true redneck doesn't consider the term offensive in and of itself.
It's the non-rednecks who use it as a, supposedly, derogatory term who come off looking like the true fools that they are, especially to rednecks! I was born in the South (US) and I'm proud to live here. Perhaps Robin Williams should spend some time in Alabama (or Georgia - my home state) and learn what the term really means. If Australians understood how true rednecks feel about themselves, their region, and their country, they would consider this a complement, not an insult. I certainly would.


12:56 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

It may come as a surprise but nobody particularly cares what the Australian PM says about America or Americans. We've got pretty thick skins and we've been basking in near universal hatred from the rest of the world since World War II.

Patrick Carroll

1:00 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Dear Lord! Obama is running Australia.

Warren from Indiana

1:03 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

I'm deeply offended by Mr Rudd's comments and I believe that America should punish him by refusing repatriation of Mr Williams thereby forcing Mr Williams to remain in Australia.

j/k I actually don't hate Australians enough to inflict Robin Williams on them for an extended period of time. Thank you for temporarily taking him off our hands!


1:06 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Robin Williams is Canadian, not American.


1:07 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Hey, he makes Joe Biden and John Kerry seem like Mensa members. Damn the list could go on and on in the Obama administration.


1:19 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

We Yanks don't get offended that easily. Even the fine folks from Alabama joke about being rednecks. Many wear the label as a badge of honor. The comedian Jeff Foxworthy has an entire routine around "You might be a redneck if..." insults and his audiences are by and large "rednecks".

Robin Williams is funny because there is a slight element of truth in what he says. Ya'll jus outa get yourselfs some senses of humor, ya hear?


1:44 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

I'm from Kentucky. No, I didn't marry my cousin. I've heard all the hillbilly jokes and it don't bother me none. In fact, some of 'em a pretty funny.

"Why do guys from Kentucky attend family reunions?" Answer: "To pick up girls!"
"Why is sex education and driver's education not scheduled for the same day in Kentucky schools?" Answer: "It's too hard on the mule."

So this particular redneck is not bothered by what your PM said about the rural south. Besides, ever since I got in a fight with and then ended up drinking with a couple of Royal Australian Navy guys in Sattahip, Thailand in the late 60s I kind of like Ozzies.


1:44 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Let me check....Does Robin Williams speak for the USA? Nope. Is he part of the government in any capacity? Nope. How about Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd? Pretty sure he speaks for Australia.


2:12 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Actually people became rednecks from doing something honorable, working. My people became rednecks by bending over while first plowing, then sowing, then weeding and finally harvesting, all in the sun, all day, every day but Sunday. Yes, our necks burned bright red, the skin on our ears burned and blistered. All from hard, honest work that, eventuually built a nation and fed the world. Neither Williams nor Rudd know a durned thing about rednecks and not much more about honest work.


2:18 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

I've never been so I don't know, are there a lot of English in Alabama? I can understand Rudd getting upset about being compared to the English, the national identity is based upon being rednecks who were too criminal for England, but are there that many English in Alabama?

Ric Locke

2:31 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

David (1:53, above) has it right. Those of us who ARE rednecks aren't offended -- we think it's funny that the self-declared intelligentsia consider it an insult. This is, or was, fairly routine for Americans in various walks of life. The song "Yankee Doodle" was written by an Englishman as a deeply sarcastic insult aimed at the stupid and unsophisticated Colonials, and was adopted by the self-same Colonials as something like a theme song.

I've visited Australia several times, and despite the fact that I don't care much for Robin Williams I'd have to say that he was on target with that one. You might be a(n Australian) redneck if:
* the roo bars on your ute weigh more than the engine does.
* the largest container in your house has beer in it.
* you know anyone actually named "Sheila".
* the guy at the drive-through beer store has your order ready as soon as you get to him.
* you wonder why cricket doesn't have cheerleaders.
* you put the Esky in the boot first, then pack suitcases around it.
* you refer to the center of the country as "The Great Australian F* All".
* you get disability benefits for injuries you got playing "rugger".
* you think American footballers are wimps for wearing all that armor.
* you have ever lit the barbie using petrol taken from a guest's car.
---and on and on.

When somebody throws a punch at you, the correct move is to back away, wait 'til he's off balance, then jerk his arm so he lands on his face. The same principle applies to insults of that character. Soak it up, treat it like a compliment, and laugh as the a*hole flounders.



2:54 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Rudd meant to say that Alabamans bitterly cling to their guns and religion.


3:03 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Speaking for all Americans, I am willing to overlook this. He is a politician and you can only expect so much!


5:52 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

I'm a lifelong Texan and long-time admirer of you cousins Down Under.

This week on HBO's "The Pacific" miniseries, the WW2 marines on whom the series is focused were "on holiday" in 1943 Melborne, and the filmmakers did a grand job in conveying the figurative and, sometimes, literal love affairs that sprung up between Yanks (even Yanks from Texas, which strikes us as an oxymoron) and the Aussies.

A couple of Christmases ago, my dad -- who finally passed in his sleep last summer at age 85 -- told MY kids stories from his time on shore leave from the USS Zeilin (a troopship) in Melborne in 1944. His eyes genuinely LIT up at the memories. And yes, he did get to return, in the 1980s, and had nearly as good a time again (limited only by age, not hospitality, which was again UN-limited).

My simple (if long-winded) point is this: Yeah, well, Mr. Rudd did sort of step on his privates just a little bit. But our Mr. Obama commits faux pas worse than than at a rate of about 20 per week. I do worry that he'll end up getting the Brits thoroughly mad at us. But Oz and America also have a special, and tough, relationship -- and regardless of what the clowns in tuxedos do or don't say, you folks and us'n (including our rednecks) are pretty sure to get along well, pretty much always. And you can take that to the bank!


7:12 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

I'm not a redneck, but I _am_ a "swamp Yankee" (northern cousin of the rednecks) and all I have to say is... no worries, mates... ;)

Steve of the Deep North in Oz

7:45 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

That both nations are still fortunate enough to maintain the culture of some of last century's hard working rural poor is of no concern. Of greater worry is that we both have prats in the nations' capitals.

Georgia boy

8:29 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Today I rise, not to kid our neighbor Alabama, but to defend her. The big story from Alabama is the recent gunning down of a faculty tenure committee, in Huntsville, the NASA center that assembled the fireworks toted to Florida where the fuse was lit on TV. That gun-person (gunman being sexist gender bashing speak) was an enlightened Boston liberal activist neuroscientist. Rednecks shoot at food. And eat it.


9:47 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Imagine if anyone in the US had any idea of what some Australian comedian said on an Australian TV show. No one knows and no one cares. Then imagine if the President responded to said comedian. That oh itself would be a shameful embarrassment to the US, let alone if his response was to insult Australia. I guess Robin Williams has a point.

Some Guy

10:14 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

I have news to Australia, we have no idea who your prime minister is. Nor do we really care what he has to say.

bandit - Boston MA, USA

11:00 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Robin Williams is just a typical condescending Hollywood lib - they think putting down other people is a howl - unfortunately for them calling other people stupid doesn't make you any smarter - unfortunately Mr. Rudd fell for his game when ignoring it would have been better.

Bill Peschel

11:01 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

How can you not love a country whose greatest poet (Ern Malley) never existed?

Cousin Dave

11:22 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

I am one of those Alabama rocket scientists. We have a string of jokes here that go like this: "You might be a high-tech redneck if... you fly your own airplane, and it's painted black and has a big number 3 on the side."


11:38 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

Williams is not a politician or diplomat, he pretends to do comedy. If anyone in america bothered looking into what random Australians say about americans they would probably find something they didn't like as well. That doesn't mean the PM should go out and attack Alabama. I highly doubt he's ever been, either. Shut up, Rudd.

Ken Finney

11:41 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

>>2:06 PM on Thu 01 April 2010
>>Robin Williams is Canadian, not American.

If being born in Chicago to US citizens--mother from the New Orleans and a father from the American Mid-West--makes one a Canadian, then sure, Robin Williams is Canadian.

But we don't want him. You keep him.

Don Meaker

11:56 AM on Fri 02 April 2010

I grew was born in OK, grew up in NY, and work in CA, and yes, I did marry my cousin...We got engaged in Germany where she was a college student. Does that make me a redneck? (not that there is anything wrong with that)..


1:38 PM on Fri 02 April 2010

Both America and Australia were used as penal colonies. Our ancestors must have been some swindlers to convince the dumb Brits to punish them by sending them to a place with fairer climes, fertile lands, and more interesting wildlife. It's probably one of the reasons why we're not standoffish pricks, or frigid in bed.


7:59 PM on Fri 02 April 2010

Yea, well I've been to Alabama and I've never heard anyone there say, " A dingo ate my baby!"

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