baldassare catiglioneNeither the name nor wisdom of Baldassare Castiglione (above) is often mentioned in Canberra, which demonstrates once again that the most insightful prophets are seldom honoured. The Renaissance author was the go-to authority on the manners of the Italian courts, penning a series of instruction manuals that detailed how a dutiful and ambitious courtier should comport himself. To get ahead, to be noticed and bathed in the approving smile of one’s prince,  the key was sprezzatura, which amounts to a cultivated and effortless nonchalance. The trick, as he explained it, was to invest enormous effort beforehand in order to appear absolutely at ease while oozing well-oiled words likely to win a ruler’s  ear and favour. Were Castiglione to be re-incarnated by Lake Burley Griffin he might well find himself less valued, his grasp of the flatterer’s art put to shame by the ferocious talent for obsequious adulation that makes Fairfax Media’s Mark Kenny such a prize specimen, even by the standards of a press corps that includes Leigh Sales, Barrie Cassidy, Peter Hartcher and so very many others.

From today’s report on the latest stop in Malcolm Turnbull’s majestic progress about the planet, a sampling of  Kenny’s sprezzatura at its most oleaginous:

…Successive weak governments, fearful of change, have failed Australia. Turnbull aims to set a new course by embracing change at home and overseas…

…Preeners and pugilists have strutted their worth, usually proving to have none, leaving a once bold nation unsure of itself…

Ah, but our Prime Minister’s publicist sees those days done and dusted.

…[attending CHOGM] is not an obvious priority for a time-starved republican prime minister who styles himself as “Tomorrow Man”…

… Turnbull, a man who exchanges Thucydidean wisdom with the President of China…

… Australia, he wants them to know, is back – back in the international community, back participating in multilateral forums, back in the digital economy, back in the climate change discussion, back in the 21st century…

… his relaxed relationship with economic disruption, with change as opportunity rather than threat…

Turnbull’s nuanced Australia presentation – one that eschews dogma, and instead synthesises solutions as needed, applying the best arguments and policies…

Among the topics briefly touched upon in his manual, The Book of the Courtier, Castiglione invokes medicine as a metaphor for statesmanship. Had he been exposed to Kenny’s worshipful prosehe would have been able to recommend an instant and immensely potent emetic.

Courtier Kenny’s latest exercise in sprezzatura can be read, and marvelled at, via the link below.

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