Friday, April 27, 2007

We Australians know who we are and what we are

Though our Leftist intellectuals don't, of course. The following is a report by an American living in Australia. See the original for links

Today is ANZAC Day, and it's my second since coming to Australia. It's a singular day from an American point of view, and there are two aspects of it that I'd like to share which make this "holiday" so different from any other I've experienced.

For those who don't know what ANZAC Day is, it is equivalent to Veteran's Day in the States. It was first observed in 1916 and is held on the day when the first Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed at Gallipoli in 1915. Since then it has come to encompass all of Australia and New Zealand's war veterans. More can be found at the Australian War Memorial website.

The first aspect of ANZAC Day is, appropriately, the first thing of the day. At places throughout the country, even in very small towns, ceremonies are held in the time just before the sun rises, commemorating the landings at Gallipoli. Unlike some might expect at 5 in the morning, the crowd is not sparse. During my two ANZAC Days in Newcaslte, it has been raining during the ceremony - this morning was exceptionally wet and windy. However, the crowd did not diminish; the traditions were not departed from. We all stood there in the wind and the rain, remembering the sacrifices made by Diggers throughout history. (I use the term "we" because, though not an Australian, I appreciate the fact that Australia has stood by the US in every conflict the US has fought...and I'm fairly certain it is the only country which can claim that.)

As I think about my own activities on 11 November in the States, I can't say that (even though I am a veteran) I ever felt the kind of patriotism and bonding as I have during this morning ANZAC ceremony. There is sense of community during the ceremony, even if it only stems from the simple fact that so many people decided that the commemoration of ANZACs was important enough to wake up at 4:30 in the morning for, important enough to stand in the driving rain for.

The second aspect stems directly from that sense of community. Over and over again, I've been reminded that one aspect of Australian culture celebrated on ANZAC Day is the idea of "mateship". To an American, that sounds like a very strange word. A very rough translation might be friendship, but that's not really enough of an explanation. It actually has a definition: "a mode of conduct among Australian men that stresses equality, friendship, and solidarity." That seems a little simplistic to me, but the point is probably adequately made by those few definitive words. It is a relationship in which, from what I can tell, social status and breeding fall by the wayside and looking after your mate, your true friend, is of utmost importance. And what's more, you can expect them to do the same for you.

Perhaps it's better for me to quote at length an Australian here. In a speech given in London, November 2003, Prime Minister John Howard said:

The two world wars exacted a terrible price from us - the full magnitude of that lost potential, of those unlived lives can never be measured. And yet, some of the most admirable aspects of Australia's national character were, if not conceived, then more fully ingrained within us by the searing experiences of those conflicts.

None more so than the concept of mateship - regarded as a particularly Australian virtue - a concept that encompasses unconditional acceptance, mutual and self respect, sharing whatever is available no matter how meagre, a concept based on trust and selflessness and absolute interdependence. In combat, men did live and die by its creed. 'Sticking by your mates' was sometimes the only reason for continuing on when all seemed hopeless.

I wonder what sort of examples will be around in America when I have a child. At the moment, it seems that the most "celebrated" (which, incidentally, is a word which I have no respect for any longer) forms of bonding belong to those in the thug world, the celebrity moronosphere and hip-hop "culture". I hope these are replaced by something more akin to mateship. And I hope that in the US there can be something developed, some tradition built which echoes the sentiment of ANZAC Day, but in an American vein. These two things, I think, would go a way towards enhancing Americans' national and personal identities.


Turning society into Room 101

`In denial', `phobic', `hateful'. increasingly, certain kinds of speech are depicted as a sickness, and censorship is seen as the cure

Censorship is entering into a dangerous new dawn. In the past, certain ideas and forms of speech were silenced on the (usually overblown) basis that they were immoral, corrupt, a threat to `national security' or `public safety'. Today, thoughts and speech that fall foul of the mainstream are depicted as a mental defect, a pathology, a sort of virus that requires therapeutic intervention and corrective education. People are silenced because they are `in denial' (of the Holocaust or climate change), or because they're `phobic' (whether Islamophobic or homophobic), or because they spread `hate speech' (they're consumed by irrational hatred). All of these new censorious categories - denial, phobia, hatefulness - speak to the pathologisation of certain ideas. Speech is increasingly depicted as a sickness, and censorship as the cure.

Those who question historical facts or contemporary consensuses are described as being `in denial'. This afternoon the European Union looks set to introduce a new law that will make Holocaust denial a crime punishable by a prison sentence. On one level, the term `Holocaust denial' refers to the simple fact that certain scurrilous historians and skinhead gangs deny that the Nazis exterminated six million Jews. On another level, these individuals are said to be `in denial' - that is, they have a mental disorder. In the past, many rightly recognised that Holocaust denial sprung from ideology; it was the deniers' subscription to fascistic or anti-Semitic beliefs that led them to question the truth of the Holocaust. Today Holocaust denial is said to spring from psychology. One author writes of `the psychology of the deniers', arguing that anyone who believes the Holocaust did not happen is `at base a troubled soul' (1).

The psychologisation of certain ideas is even clearer in the discussion of `climate change denial'. Those who question the scientific consensus on global warming - or even the political consensus around environmentalism - are written off as `deniers'. And there are frequent shrill and intemperate demands that these deniers be denied public platforms. Apparently they are deluded and possibly hysterical. The Ecologist magazine has written about the `psychology of climate change denial'. It argues that the vast majority in society (excluding those `handfuls of people who have already decided to stop being passive bystanders' - ie, the greens) have responded to warnings of global warming by sinking into `self-deception and mass denial' (2). One online magazine, Climate Change Denial, is dedicated to analysing the public's `weird and disturbed' response to climate change (3).

When certain ideas are held to be the products of psychological disorder, then those who subscribe to them are easily sidelined. It is censorship as a form of sectioning. An individual is censured both for his own good (to cure his self-deception) and for the good of society (to protect others from falling into the pit of `mass denial'). This has a deadening effect on public debate. After all, what is the point of engaging with those who are `weird and disturbed'? Some environmentalist thinkers explicitly argue that there can be no debate with `climate change deniers'. The Ecologist claims that `denial cannot simply be countered with information.there is plentiful historical evidence that increased information may even intensify the denial.' (4) Instead people must apparently be manipulated. In its report Warm Words, the British think-tank the IPPR argued that `the task of climate change agencies is not to persuade by rational argument but in effect to develop and nurture a new "common sense.. The "facts" need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken.' (5)

The labelling of those who question certain scientific claims or green policies as deniers, individuals suffering from self- or mass deception, removes the need for any meaningful debate about the politics of environmentalism. That might explain why the IPPR says climate change scepticism cannot be countered by `rational argument' - because such scepticism is apparently not rational. Deniers, and the public in general, must be corrected, treated, re-educated. According to the IPPR, government officials and climate change agencies `need to work in a more shrewd and contemporary way, using subtle techniques of engagement'; the aim should be to `treat climate-friendly activity as a brand that can be sold' as that is the only `route to mass behaviour changes' (6). When critical arguments against environmentalism are emptied of their rational and political components, the result is the shutting down of debate and the manipulation of thought and behaviour.

Meanwhile, other viewpoints are chastised and censured on the grounds that they express a `phobia'. In particular, certain views of Islam or homosexuality are now widely referred to as `Islamophobia' and `homophobia'. The British authorities seem singularly obsessed with combating Islamophobic ideas and speech. The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 - a deeply censorious law which created an offence of `stirring up' hatred against someone on the basis of their religion - was brought in largely on the back of concern about outbreaks of Islamophobia. Last year the EU passed a resolution titled `Homophobia in Europe' which encouraged member states to curtail homophobia, including homophobic speech.

The redefinition of certain ideas as `phobic' writes them off as irrational, even disordered. The EU resolution on homophobia describes it as `an irrational fear of and aversion to homosexuality and of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people' (7). And as Jane Adolphe, an associate professor of law at Ave Maria School of Law in Michigan (and an active Christian), has pointed out, phobia is a psychiatric term - and `thus only a doctor could determine if a set of behaviours amounted to the condition of "homophobia".' Increasingly it is not only spiteful or inciting speech about Islam or homosexuality that is described in this psychiatric fashion. Moral judgements and political views are also frequently labelled `Islamophobic' or `homophobic'. In Britain, Muslim community groups label criticisms of certain Islamic practices, such as women wearing the niqab, as Islamophobic. Religious figures' moral opposition to gay marriage is described as `homophobic'. Now, whatever you may think of the priests' stance, Jane Adolphe has a point when she asks: `Is it phobia if you want to discuss outlawing homosexual marriages.? To suggest so is an infringement on the right to free expression.' (8)

In the past there were `isms' - racism, sexism - which many recognised as being the products of ideologies that ought to be challenged through rigorous public debate. Now there are phobias - homophobia, Islamophobia, Jewphobia (a new name for anti-Semitism), and Christophobia (a hatred of Christianity, apparently). Or there's just `hatred': restrictions on `hate speech' are justified on the grounds that it is also blind and irrational. Where the era of isms recognised that people took a decision, however wrong, to be suspicious of black people or to oppose immigration or women in the workplace, the era of phobias treats prejudice and certain moral views as disorders. And thus where you might have had debate, even protests and conflict, in the era of isms, today there are only demands for censorship or re-education to cure people of their irrational way of thinking. (Ironically, homosexuality was once considered to be a mental disorder in need of correction; today, many gay activists and their supporters in government have taken on board very similar language to describe those who are critical or suspicious of homosexuality.)

The pathologisation of what are seen as unacceptable ideas emerges from today's moral uncertainty. At a time when few can agree on what is right or wrong, when those old ideas about protecting the `national good' or `public decency' no longer enjoy widespread support, speech and thought tend to be curtailed at a psychological level. Individuals are no longer chastised for transgressing moral boundaries and punished with censorship for doing so; they are described as having irrational or disturbed thought patterns, and offered therapy. This opens up the possibility of new and more insidious forms of censure. Recently in America an actor who called one of his colleagues a `faggot' was ordered by his TV network to `enter a rehab programme to examine why he would say such hateful words'. In Britain, reality-TV has-been Jade Goody was sent to anger management classes after she clashed with Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother (9). We can expect more of this sort of thing the more that ideas are relabelled defects.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, O'Brien, the torturer in Room 101, offers to cure Winston Smith of his anti-party thinking. `You are mentally deranged. You suffer from a defective memory', O'Brien says. `Fortunately it is curable.. Shall I tell you why we have brought you here? To cure you! To make you sane!' It seems that some are keen to turn contemporary society into a big, open Room 101, where dodgy ideas or critical thinking are also cured. Hands up if you would rather remain `sick'.


Australia: Free speech concerns strangely missing in attack on conservative radio host

THE quality of justice in NSW is most strange. The Appeal Court bizarrely found it necessary to disqualify Margaret Cunneen, one of the best Crown prosecutors the state had the good fortune to employ, from a gang rape case; a senior judge agreed with a Muslim defendant that - on highly specious grounds - female court staff could not handle his drinking water; and broadcaster Alan Jones has been convicted of a criminal offence for broadcasting the name of a most repellent young man of questionable age after his identity, through error, improperly appeared in The Daily Telegraph.

Jones, who has for years been Sydney's most successful morning radio host, has always been on the receiving end of crude insults from those with smaller audiences and larger egos. But it now appears the judiciary - and the wannabe judges who run the highly politicised petty authorities - are joining the fray. Notably silent have been the legions of self-anointed protectors of free speech, the civil libertarians and civil rights lawyers because Jones's audience is not theirs and his appeals to common sense and understanding of government process usually expose them as the poseurs they are.

The self-acclaimed leaders of the media, who will be out in force to tut-tut over incursions on press freedom tomorrow night at a dinner to be addressed by Jonestown author Chris Masters, have kept their mouths smugly shut. They only want freedom for their speech, not that which challenges their politically correct vision of how the world should be.

Jones was found guilty under a rarely used law designed to protect innocent young victims of crime and children involved in criminal activities. The section of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act holds: It shall be conclusively presumed that no child who is under the age of 10 years can be guilty of an offence. That Act defines a child as a person under the age of 18. Tell that to the train drivers who had a brick thrown at the front of their train, or try convincing a victim of the mobs now ruling George St, that those responsible for bashing them cannot be guilty because they were too young.

The law against publishing is even more ridiculous, prohibiting naming individuals even when they are dead at the time of publication or broadcast. It means, as one legal eagle has said, that should the premier of NSW have a child murdered by al-Qaeda, that child's identity could not be disclosed by the press during any subsequent court action.

Jones's case involved members of a large Pakistani Muslim family, four of whom are convicted gang rapists and their late father was facing perjury charges when he died. The court heard that on April 10, 2004, a car thumping with loud music and bearing the number plate "ON DOLE" attracted some rude gestures from passengers in a taxi. The driver cut the taxi off at the next lights and at least two people got out and attacked the taxi and its occupants. One of them, who later claimed to be 14 years old, used a metal pipe. The taxi driver attempted to defend himself and struck out with a screwdriver, hitting one of the assailants, who later died.

The supposed 14-year-old was a key witness in the Crown case against the taxi driver. He had a lengthy criminal record, had used multiple aliases and many birth dates. During the trial he said he was 14 or 15 "or something like that" and at a later hearing that he was "16, 17". His father didn't know and his mother could only guess, basing that guess on her assertion her first child was born in 1978. No one knew - least of all the prosecution. Even the magistrate could only deduce the witness was born between 1988 and 1992.

Jones read The Daily Telegraph's report of the ongoing trial on air and was prosecuted by the DPP. Unfortunately, the DPP wasn't prepared and asked for continual delays running from 2006 and into this year, and all the while Jones was paying his counsel.

Even the fact the prosecution's case was based on a witness it was prosecuting for perjury didn't seem to trouble the magistrate. Nor was she concerned by his police record, the evidence that he bashed the taxi driver with a metal pipe, or that he had even bashed his own sister. Legally irrelevant to this case, perhaps, but most telling about the character of the "child" whose identity had been inadvertently revealed by Jones and The Daily Telegraph.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Helen Syme said she accepted Jones's argument that the urgency of breakfast radio meant he could not check everything that went to air. "From time to time, negligent or reckless behaviour may occur," Syme said, fining Jones $1000 and handing him a nine-month good behaviour bond - and a criminal record. Radio 2GB licensee Harbour Radio was fined $3000 and News Limited $4000. Jones is appealing the case. The transcript is worth reading. If this is the sort of justice meted out to a first offender, why should criminals have any respect for the law?



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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