Tag Archives: Andrew Bolt

The arbiters of taste: who will control society?

14 Jan

security-vs-liberty

 

In his blog for The Monthly on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Mungo McCallum concludes his Readers’ Digest argument that laughter is the best medicine by observing that even those wielding automatic weapons can’t fire them if they’re doubled over with mirth.  “After all,” he writes, “even the most rabid fanatic would find it hard to aim a Kalashnikov while guffawing.”

McCallum’s piece is about the lines that are or should be drawn between satire, humour, and offence, but what he fails to address is who exactly is to determine those limits, and what criteria they are to employ in order to arrive at their judgement.

This is another aspect of the battle for societal control so relentlessly fought by groups such as Collective Shout and individuals such as Melinda Tankard Reist, with whom I have locked horns on more than one occasion. See the Category Defamation Threats on this blog if you want to know just how hard these people will go after you in an effort to shut you up and impose their views.

I know people who find Seinfeld cruel and unfunny. I know others who find The Simpsons offensive to their sacred notions of family. I’ve heard arguments that the HBO series Breaking Bad, in which a regular high school chemistry teacher morphs into a drug lord after learning he has terminal cancer, has led to an epidemic in the manufacturing of methamphetamines. I find McCallum’s line quoted above offensive in its casual dismissal of the profound seriousness of rabid fanaticism. I don’t find it satirical or humorous, and I suspect it could only have been written by someone who has little first-hand knowledge of any kind of terror.

The point is, something will always offend someone. There are those who are outraged because every cliff top in the country is not fenced off to protect us from falling over it and sustaining injury, or death. There are those who want to kill every shark in the ocean because now and then one of them eats someone. There are those who believe being hurt and offended is so great an injury laws can and should be passed to prevent their emotional distress.

There are those who take out their Kalashnikovs because they believe being insulted and offended are justifications for murder. There’s very little that can be done about someone with that particular mindset, and if all other provocations are denied them through censorship of potentially provocative commentary they will still kill, on the spurious grounds that an entire mode of existence is offensive to them and it’s their right to eradicate it.

The fight for the power to wield societal control is constant, and it takes a myriad of forms. In general, our liberal democracy is controlled by the values of the bourgeoisie who are, also in general, obsessed with issues of law and order, affronted by graffiti, entirely precious about their right not to be offended, insulted or otherwise emotionally ruffled, and consumed by notions of decency and what they determine to be appropriate. Look at our politicians if you don’t believe me.

There is no doubt that words can damage. Vilification of any kind causes hurt and damage and destruction. Rather than impose legislation that seeks to prevent and punish the utterance of damaging and destructive words, satirical commentary, unfair criticism, racial and religious abuse, I would prefer that we instead focus our attention and resources on education and remediation. I think this because largely legislation has no effect at all in everyday situations, and in many instances can make resentment against the other, whoever the other happens to be at any particular time, even worse.

In my opinion, legalisation that seeks to control who can say what, when and where is driven by bourgeois desires to exercise social control and create a perceived utopian culture in which proponents of bourgeois ideology feel most “comfortable.” While the bourgeoisie have not yet resorted to firearms with which to impose their vision of the world, they have instead demanded a level of surveillance and state control over language and how it may and may not be used that is astounding.

While I do not agree with Attorney-General George Brandis that everyone has the “right” (whatever “right” means in his context) to be a bigot, it seems to me that legislation attempting to prevent the expression of bigotry is doomed to fail, except in very rare high-profile situations.

The battle for societal control will not be won by silencing. It is a wrong-headed and prejudicial battle in the first place. We cannot, for example, silence the Murdoch press and even if Andrew Bolt came a cropper with his racist views what was gained in the larger sense by his stumble? He hasn’t shut up, he’s just as offensive, if not more so, and he gained an inordinate amount of support and sympathy. In general, his name is remembered as a consequence of those events, and not the names of those vilified and insulted, or the nature of the vilification and insult.

I know from my own experience of being threatened with legal action if I didn’t retract and shut up that it only made me more determined to express views I believed to be worthy of expression and that I had the right to express, because why shouldn’t I? My views were extremely offensive and insulting to some. So what? Theirs were equally offensive and insulting to me. Neither of us should have been silenced, and only one party (not me) had the financial wherewithal to threaten the other with silence or ruin.

What we need to do is think about is what can be done that will actually achieve fundamental change, instead of focusing on window dressing and  band aids that at best do nothing and at worst incite those who are silenced by legislation to even more devious expressions and behaviours.

McCallum is wrong, laughter is certainly not the best medicine when faced with a Kalashnikov, or being otherwise silenced by punitive measures employed by the state at the behest of the hegemonic bourgeoisie.

The best medicine is to resist and refuse efforts to silence, to be subversive, to transgress, to contest, to challenge, to protest, to be civilly disobedient, to refuse to be shut up by those who are “uncomfortable” with certain forms of expression. Your discomfort is not my problem, tell them. It’s yours. I’m sorry you feel it, but there are ways you can deal with it if you have the courage, and silencing me is not one of them.

I laughed my head off, said someone taken hostage by murderous ideologues never.

 

 

Freedom to speak badly: one rule for protestors, another for Bolt?

24 Mar
Bad Manners Are Unedifying

Bad Manners Are Unedifying

 

Peter van Onselen devotes almost an entire page in the Australian this morning (paywalled, sorry) to complaining about the “unedifying” display of bad manners by some protestors who took part in the March in March rallies, comparing them with the infamously abusive banners held aloft by the three hundred or so activists who took part Alan Jones’s 2011 Convoy of no Confidence against Julia Gillard and her Labour government.

I would appreciate someone drawing up a comparison of the two situations, given my impression that the number of participants in the Jones rally carrying offensive placards constituted a far greater percentage of the whole than those in the March in March rallies.

As van Onselen concedes, in the Jones protest virulent expressions of rage and hatred were legitimised by the presence of leading politicians photographed under the placards. No such validation took place of the relatively few offensive banners on display during March in March.

“Calling a conservative a fascist and portraying his image to replicate Hitler is deliberately designed to undermine their ideological positioning in the same way that calling a woman a ‘bitch’ or ‘witch’ carries clear sexist intent,”  van Onselen states, in his comparison of the two situations.

I would not so readily presume an equivalence between sexist intent, and the desire to critique, albeit with a degree of hyperbole, an ideology. Sexism attacks the woman for nothing other than being a woman. Describing Abbott as “fascist” in no way attacks his gender, and is merely commentary on the manner in which he is perceived to enact his conservatism.

Placards claiming that the Abbott government is “illegitimate” are not abusive, offensive or threatening, rather they are simply wrong, and likely being employed as payback for the years of the LNP opposition equally inaccurately describing the Gillard government as “illegitimate.” What is apparent is that there are hot heads and wrong heads on both the conservative and Labor side of politics. This should not come as a surprise to anyone.

Along with Tim Wilson, Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, (I’m sorry, I don’t know what that title means) van Onselen is disturbed not at the exercise of freedom of speech demonstrated by both rallies, but at the ill-mannered, impolite, potentially violent and “irresponsible” speech used by a small number of participants in their signage. A similar rabid element is guilty of foully derailing many otherwise useful Twitter discussions, claims van Onselen, quite rightly in some instances, though there are sensitive souls renowned for “rage quitting” Twitter when they confuse disagreement with abuse.

Van Onselen and Wilson’s desire to see public speech free from offensive, insulting and at times threatening expression is shared by many people, but quite how to achieve that remains a mystery. Bad speech must be countered by good speech, Wilson has asserted, however, taking the case of Andrew Bolt as an example, it’s difficult to see how someone with a large public platform such as Bolt, or fellow shock jocks Alan Jones, or Ray Hadley can be challenged by the people they offend and insult, who rarely have an equivalent public platform from which to counter their attacker’s bad speech with good. It is for this reason we have legislation intended to protect people from racial vilification, for example, the very legislation Mr Wilson is now intent on seeing repealed, as he believes it interferes with the absolute freedom of speech he appears to favour.

I can see Wilson’s point, however, as long as there are more powerful enunciators of bad speech with large platforms than there are good, perhaps we need other precautionary measures.

I couldn’t help but wonder, as I read the article, what van Onselen and Wilson would make of public demonstrations in other countries, Mexico perhaps, where I witnessed protests in which politicians were represented by enormous papier-mache figures with grossly exaggerated sexual organs, accompanied by banners that claimed they fucked both dogs and their mothers and ate children. Nobody saw any cause for offence. Compared to such robust expression, the complaints seem rather prim.

Amusingly, van Onselen concludes his article with the reminder that “Protest is as an important part of democracy as are institutions designed to uphold democracy, but only when practised within the spirit of Australia’s well established political structure.” I am completely unable to see how any of the offensive signage fails to fit in with that spirit. Australian politics have, for the last few years and most certainly during Gillard’s entire term of office, been such that one would think twice before taking school children to witness Question Time, and I really don’t know who van Onselen thinks he is kidding.

The ongoing discourse about how we should conduct our discourse is unlikely to change anything. Van Onselen’s piece appears to make the claim that those who offend middle-class sensitivities undermine the more moderate message and concerns of mainstream protestors, and destroy their credibility. This may well be the case, but only because people such as van Onselen make it so, opportunistically denigrating the whole on the basis of the actions of a very few.

It is not possible to eradicate voices some consider undesirable from public expression. Otherwise we would not have to put up with the Bolts. A sign held aloft at a demonstration cannot do one tiny fraction of the harm done by Bolt, Jones and the like. If we are to conduct serious conversations about how public discourse influences attitudes and behaviours, surely we must start by interrogating the enunciations of those with the furthest reach.

Scott Morrison. Racism. The facts.

14 Jun

Racism: (just to refresh our memories)

1. the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate the others.

2. offensive or aggressive behaviour to members of another race stemming from such a belief.

3. a policy or system of government and society based upon it. (Macquarie Dictionary)

Morrison sees votes in anti-Muslim strategy. The opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate…But after Mr Morrison’s comments this week on the cost of asylum-seeker funerals and his role in the controversial decision to cut a Howard government program to fund schools in Indonesia, colleagues are privately questioning whether he is trying to pursue an anti-Muslim political strategy unilaterallysources say Mr Ruddock, the shadow cabinet secretary, was particularly “blunt” in his rejection of the suggestion, saying a well-run and non-discriminatory immigration policy was essential for nation building.
Lenore Taylor, Sydney Morning Herald, February 17 2011. [emphasis mine]

Ugly game of race baiting. Morrison decided to see if he could win some political points by inflaming racism and resentment. More specifically, he zeroed in on some of the most vulnerable people in the country for political advantage.

Morrison publicly raised objections to the government’s decision to pay for air fares for some of the survivors of the Christmas Island boat wreck to travel to Sydney for the funerals of their relatives.

Some were Christian funerals, others were Muslim. But all of them were foreigners, all of them were boat people, all of them were dark-skinned, and to Morrison that made them all fair game. Peter Hartcher, SMH, February 19 2011.

From the blog of well-known free speech advocate Andrew Bolt comes this quote from ABC journalist Stephen Long. I am obliged to reference Mr Bolt’s blog because it appears the ABC have removed this episode of The Drum Online from their website. Mr Long was a panellist on The Drum earlier this week. Along with other panellists he was invited to express his opinion on various topical issues. With reference to the Coalition’s recent comments on immigration policy, Mr Long observed:

I think that it is a cynical manipulation of an underlying prejudice in the Australian community and that it has very little policy merit. It is fraught with problems and it is really awful actually and I think Scott Morrison in particular as a spokesman in this area has just pushed way beyond acceptability in a way that he is willing to pander and manipulate that level of prejudice in what is essentially a racist manner. He is my local member in the electorate for Cronulla, the scene of the Cronulla riots …

Mr Long’s opinion was consistent with that of some of Mr Morrison’s political colleagues, and other journalists. However, Mr Morrison demanded an apology from the ABC for Mr Long’s remarks. The ABC aquiesced, and the apology was delivered on air yesterday evening by the show’s host, Steve Cannane.

This leads me to wonder why it is acceptable to describe someone as “pursuing an anti Muslim strategy unilaterally” but unacceptable to describe that activity as “racist” (refer to definition of racism above). Perhaps there is a way of pursuing an anti Muslim strategy unilaterally that is not racist? Perhaps the activity is indeed racist (check definition again) but under no circumstances are we allowed to say so?

Colour me confused.

On his website Mr Morrison, who is a member of the Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church, writes: “My Christian faith remains the driving force for my family, beliefs and values.”

Note to commenters: As Mr Morrison appears to be sensitive at the moment and may even incline towards litigation, please take care not to leave any comments that might be construed as defamatory.


Bolt the revisionist caught in distortions of historical facts for personal gain!

23 Oct

I bet there are women everywhere who’d give a great deal for the opportunity to take public revenge on an old lover, as has Suzanne Walshe, ex fiancée of Andrew Bolt, in this article in The Age.

There’s also plenty who’d rather have needles in their eyes than trot out ancient hurts for everyone to see. Whatever floats your boat, is what I think.

Bolt has publicly refered to Ms Walshe in less than flattering terms, negating the almost six-year slice of life they shared and their engagement, by stating in an interview that he once was a “minder for a belly dancer” who was his “then girlfriend.” It was the belly dancer bit that alerted Ms Walshe to the fact that Bolt was talking about her, as she put herself through college with this employment. The cad later went on to deny there had ever been an engagement, effectively erasing his serious relationship with Ms Walshe from his account of his personal history. Ouch.

“Minder for a belly dancer?” What’s that supposed to mean? He fought off other males?

This just goes to prove, by the by, what I have argued many times to the moralistic furies who want to ban pole dancing, strip shows, belly dancing and the like. There are many young women who choose to support themselves in these occupations while they learn to be doctors, lawyers, academics and a whole host of other vocations. So unless you’re prepared to finance them leave them alone, it’s none of your business if they like to get raunchy.

A series of strangely formal and constrainedly histrionic emails ensued between the two, accusative on the one side, quite grovellingly apologetic on the other. “I am not trying to wipe you from the record of my life.” Bolt protested, even though he wrote on his blog that he couldn’t recall ever being engaged to anybody, except, presumably, he might have been to his wife at some point.

Suzanne fires back with claims of not just an engagement ring but an Irish wedding ring as well that Andrew told her to wear upside down, the custom being that Irish wedding rings are worn upside down during the engagement, then turned right side up after the wedding. The things you learn. Walshe also included in her article a touching note that Andrew sent with the ring (he was apparently in Dublin at the time) as proof positive that she wasn’t making any of this up. Ouch again. That might be a line-crosser, but it’s hard to say.

For myself, I read the personal emails of others made public with a voyeuristic thrill of horror and disbelief. Such communications are almost always cringe-worthy because of their very nature, let alone for what is written in them. I imagine firing off emotive notes intended only for the recipient (which I have done, I admit it, hasn’t everyone?) then waking up one morning to find them splattered across a national daily and I know I’d want to go to outer Mongolia and never, ever come back. Half the nation takes sides about how you’ve conducted your private life, and a good many of those sides are going to be nastily turned against someone, whether the writer or the revealer.

I have some empathy with Ms Walshe’s hurt feelings. It is not pleasant to discover that the man you loved enough to marry (till your common sense kicked in) has turned your six-year relationship into a one-line joke, dismissing it and you as never having been of any importance to him and claiming to have forgotten that he wanted to marry you into the bargain.

If Andrew Bolt is this fast and loose with his own history, where does he get off complaining publicly about how anybody else chooses to recount theirs?

Still, this does happen all the time in people’s accounts of their lives. Things left out, things left in, truths stretched, subjective experience that fails to correlate with the experience of others involved in the events. Family members end up in court charging one another with defamation. Siblings write books about their parents that appear to be written about entirely different mums and dads, and then never speak to one another again. Who owns the story? Whose story is “true?”

There is a considerable body of critical opinion that considers the “facts” of a life always to contain elements of fiction. The nature of memory is enigmatic, as is the question of how facts are remembered by the subject. For example in his autobiographical novel The Facts, Philip Roth states that “…memories of the past…are not memories of facts but memories of your imagining of the facts.”

I wrote that in my Honours thesis.

Luckily Suzanne appears to have kept a written record in the form of Andrew’s letters so he’s stuffed.

It turns out that Ms Walshe broke off the engagement. I’d venture to suggest that people generally attempt to erase or repress memories because they are painful in some way. Likewise people often become dismissive and derogatory about past intensely emotional events for the same reason.

Could it be that Andrew still smarts when he remembers Suzanne’s rejection of him as a husband and potential father of her children? Could publicly pretending to forget be Andrew’s revenge after all this time? Is it an indicator of Bolt’s pathological solipsism that it apparently did not occur to him that the woman he so cruelly dismissed might strike back and show him up for the dorky manipulative tosser he really is? Or was it his intention to draw her out in the hope of instigating fresh dialogue with her? How would Andrew’s wife feel about that, I wonder?  Does anybody really care? Does anyone want to read my Honours thesis? Is “pathological solipsism” a tautology? Shall I go out in the kayak this morning? Should I close my Twitter account before I offend more people like I offended Joe Hildebrand the other day by calling him a toothy git, causing him to fire back that I was a troll?

Hoo Haa! Life is marvellous!!

UPDATE!! Andrew strikes back here! Continues to deny engagement! Bemoans Fairfax Press obsession with his private life! 

Satire is not dead, but you’ll only find the good stuff in the blogosphere

8 Oct

Do you want to know what drives Andrew Bolt? Even if you don’t give a tinker’s curse, it’s worth reading this piece by Under the Milky Way. Very funny, very erudite, my favourite combination of talents.

Then trot across to The Political Sword and learn how Sophie Mirabella and Scott Morrison take over the dumped ABC Collectors program. Warning: this piece contains references to a diarrhetic seabird so you might want to leave it till after your coffee and croissants.

And if you want something a little more serious in tone try Rolling Stone on the end of Australia and climate change:

Want to know what global warming has in store for us? Just go to Australia, where rivers are drying up, reefs are dying, and fires and floods are ravaging the continent

Don’t forget to check out the comments, many posted by outraged Aussies. WTF! Rolling Stone doesn’t even write about music properly anymore so where do they get off doing our Oz and climate change!!!! they bleat.

The political climate that nurtures extremism: be careful what you sow

25 Jul

Today the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen will sign the deal with Malaysia that will see 800 boat arrivals exchanged for Australia’s re-settlement of 4000 refugees currently held in that country. As the government has already undertaken not to expel those who’ve arrived by boat prior to today’s deal, they will be no doubt hoping the threat in itself will be enough to “stop the boats.” If this is the case it will allow the government to avoid what will inevitably be the morally messy business of actually carrying out this proposed exchange of human lives, one lot to a very precarious future in a non-signatory country, the other lot to a safe future in Australia.

The fact that we can send 800 boat people to Malaysia immediately signals that we don’t consider them as human as either ourselves, or the 4000 we are re-settling in exchange. You do not send innocent people to extremely dubious futures if you acknowledge them as human beings. The only way to send 800 people to the conditions they will have to face in Malaysia is to first deny their humanity. It is first to deny their worthiness – they are not as worthy as either ourselves, or the refugees we are accepting in their place. We do not have to be as caring about their well being as we do about our own, or the well being of the “worthy” refugees we are re-settling. Why? Because they arrived by boat? Because of where they were born? Both?

These 800 people are not criminals. Our domestic laws allow asylum seekers to arrive here in any manner at all, without papers, and to request refugee status once they get here. The Gillard government could rescind this law. That would  make boat arrivals law breakers. That would stop the boats. Permanently. The Malaysian solution is a one-off. After we reach our quota of 800 the deal is finished.

The Gillard government chooses to maintain the law that allows anyone to seek asylum and permits any manner of arrival. In a Kafakesque manipulation, the Gillard government criminalizes innocent people who are only doing what they are legally entitled to do, instead of changing the law. This is a very slippery slope, and one that should deeply concern all of us: today asylum seekers, tomorrow??

Australia was initially led down this very messy moral path by the Howard government’s racist response to asylum seekers who arrived by boat, exemplified in the events of the Tampa.  With total disregard for our domestic law, and the Covenant we signed with the UN, Howard began a slanderous campaign against boat arrivals that reached its climax in the Children Overboard affair. We don’t want people who abuse their children in this country, he declared, conveniently overlooking the fact that we already have tens of thousands of people in Australia who really are abusing children, their own and others. Australians don’t abuse their children, was the racist message based on a lie. Muslim asylum seekers coming in boats do, and we decent Australians don’t want them. Racism. Pure and simple. Replace Muslim with Jew and see where that eventually takes us.

Shaken by the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Howard then followed George Bush into the invasion of Iraq, based on the folded lie that those responsible for the attacks had something to do with Iraq, and besides, Iraq was hoarding weapons of mass destruction.

In reality, the extremists who struck at the heart of America were from Saudi Arabia and there were no WMDs, but the Coalition of the Willing were not about to let the truth stand in the way of a good opportunity to wage war. Bush had scores to settle on behalf of his father and the first Gulf War. And then there’s the oil. Impossible as well to go after Saudi Arabia as breeders of terrorists. The Saudi princes dine at the White House and invest in News Limited. Think Fox News, and Murdoch’s support for the Iraq invasion.

Regardless of these considertions, a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment focused on Iraq swept across the US and its allies, including Australia. You’re either with us or against us on terrorism, Bush declared, and we say who the terrorists are and where they came from. In a brilliantly executed piece of propaganda, Howard conflated boat arrivals and Muslims with terrorism, struck xenophobic fear into the hearts of many Australians, and won an election that had a mere few months earlier seemed un-winnable by promising to protect us.

However Howard, like those who’ve followed him, did not move to change the law that permits asylum seekers entry. One has to wonder why. If anything would “protect” us immediately and permanently, it would be the rescinding of that law.

The Australian public’s fear and hatred of boat arrivals has not subsided. Politicians have not ceased to exploit this fear for their own gain. We are as deeply racist in this country as we have ever been. The Malaysian solution is racist to its core.

And so to Norway. The right-wing Christian fundamentalist terrorist who allegedly carried out the massacre of over 90 Norwegians on Sunday hated immigrants. He expressed rabid anti Muslim sentiments. He thought his government wasn’t doing enough to keep Norway for the Norwegians. He has expressed hope that his actions will bring about a change in Norway. His slaughter of the innocents was, he claims, gruesome but necessary.

The Norwegian slaughter represents the extreme end of a continuum. Somewhere along that continuum is the Malaysian Solution. Somewhere along it are the folded lies about WMDs and alleged Iraqi responsibility for September 11. Somewhere along the continuum is the virulent right-wing xenophobia expressed by Howard, and upheld by the policies of the Gillard Labor government. Somewhere along it are Alan Jones, Chris Smith, Andrew Bolt, and the rest of the shock jocks who conspire to agitate a fear and hatred of Muslims, and boat arrivals in Australian hearts. The extreme outcome of their racist right-wing anti-Muslim anti asylum seeker rhetoric is the slaughter in Norway.

In Australia, the unthinkable has become normalized in the Malaysian solution. The Gillard government has singled out two groups of human beings, one it considers worthy of saving, and one it considers unworthy. There is nothing we can do to ensure the safety and well-being of this latter group. We know the conditions they will encounter. We will expel these people because they accepted an invitation we continue to unconditionally extend.

You can only take such action against people you consider less than human.

Normalizing official selection practices for human survival and well being is the slipperiest slope of all. Once it becomes acceptable to decide that one group is more worthy of survival than another, once that becomes government policy and is then executed by the expulsion of the “undesirable” group, a country is deeply morally fouled.

If there is any doubt about the racist core of the Malaysian solution, ask why asylum seekers arriving by plane are not transported to Malaysia?  They are permitted to stay in this country while their claims are assessed. Generally they are not held in indefinite mandatory detention. The fact that they have papers is irrelevant to the law, which doesn’t require asylum seekers to have papers.

There is the law. And then there is government policy. In a healthy democracy there should not be discrepancy between the two. In a morally fouled country, there is increasing discrepancy between the two, and citizens should take alarmed note of such discrepancies.

The Malaysian solution is a marker of how far down the slippery slope we have already  travelled. It is the most immoral action this country has taken thus far against boat arrivals. It reveals our racist heart, and our collective ability to dehumanize. Dehumization of asylum seekers has become increasingly normalized over the last ten years and our journey into these dark waters has brought us to the Malaysian solution.

The events in Norway are shocking. They did not take place in a vacuum, such events never do. A climate exists in which such madness can be rationalized and justified by terrorists and their followers. The rhetoric used in such justifications is no different from what can be heard and read in the media every day. It is the rhetoric of hatred of other, and fear of difference. Politicians and media of all persuasions whip up these fears for their own gain. We need leaders who are capable of calming the irrational, not feeding it to gain office.

Leaders who nurture fear, leaders who capitulate to the most base human emotions are, to use Gillard’s word, evil. They perpetuate evil. They nurture evil. They violate the moral law to further their own objectives. It is indeed appropriate to describe, as did Gillard, the Norwegian terrorist as evil. But evil has many faces, and evil resides quite naturally in the continuum. Our leaders would do well to re-aquaint themselves with its meaning.

Be careful what you sow. You may not be able to control what seeds and flourishes.

Sarah Palin on Qanda. Hazaras in boats. End live exports of all sentient beings. Now.

31 May

At the beginning of Q&A last night a startled tweet manifested on screen. “Eeeek!” the tweeter wrote. “Is that Sarah Palin?”

Kate Lundy (???)

The tweet referred to Kate Lundy, Parliamentary Secretary for  Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, and I had the same sense of dislocation when I saw her. Having just returned from the US where Palin was pretty much unavoidable if you ever turned on the television, I thought I was still in that country, and hadn’t  endured that fourteen hour flight home after all. A quick self-inflicted slap to the upside of my head brought me back to the present.  It wasn’t Sarah Palin on Q&A but dear God, it was too close for comfort.

I have no idea if Ms Lundy is deliberately cultivating the Palin look, and to some degree, the Palin style. She might want to think about what she’s doing or else like Tony Abbott‘s anti carbon tax rally, she might attract groups she’d rather not be associated with. We all know how shallow the punters can be, and appearance can count for much more than it should.

Over at the Drum yesterday I discovered an excellent piece by Deakin University researcher Vince Scappatura,in which he analyses the mainstream media interpretation of a report commissioned by the Gillard government on the push and pull factors thought to influence the decision of Afghanistan’s Hazara population to attempt to seek asylum in Australia.

The report reveals that dire economic circumstances, ethno-political disturbances, mistreatment and discrimination by the Taliban, killings, kidnappings, arrests and subsequent disappearances, and the complete inability of the government to protect Hazaras in remote villages are all compelling push factors in decisions to flee. The research concludes that these factors are of more significance than any pull factors endemic to Australia.

However. Andrew Probyn and Nick Butterfly in the West Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald, claimed the report showed that the main reason Hazaras flee in boats to Australia is for a better life. Their actions are a livelihood strategy, they aren’t fleeing bullets, says Andrew Bolt. It’s a lifestyle choice, dammit!

No mention at all of the multitude of factors in play, including persecution and death, that provoke Hazara people to sell up everything, pay people smugglers, and embark on a journey that 80% of them fear they may not survive, but even so, it’s a better bet than staying where they are. They are also aware that they might spend years in vile detention centres being sent mad with grief and uncertainty. Even this, they consider, is better than staying where they are.

Now the Gillard government intends to export Hazaras to Malaysian refugee camps, where they will be further mistreated, badly fed and physically abused. Mother of God, what kind of people are we?

by Jeff Cavins

Over at On Line Opinion today you’ll find an article by me on pornography, the media and Gail Dines. Dines received wide coverage during her anti pornography campaign here , especially from the ABC. However, there has been comparatively little researched response  published on the ABC to the claims Dines makes about the effects of porn, it’s availability, and the media’s responsibility for the ruination of the sexual lives of men. I have no idea why this is so. Thank you OLO for picking up the slack and widening a very necessary debate.

Finally , I cannot bring myself to speak much of the hideous treatment of cattle exported live to Indonesia, as revealed on Four Corners last night. There is no need for a lengthy inquiry into this trade, an inquiry that will only  delay its termination, and prolong the unspeakable suffering of these animals. Alternatives must be found and found immediately.

This is just one more example of a government that lacks any real connection with human beings and other species, not to mention the planet, who are in dire and extreme situations. A government that lacks imagination, and is bereft of decency, morality and ethics. Unfortunately, the opposition is no better.

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