Saturday, September 06, 2008

Moralisers on a PC witch-hunt

As an advocate of choice in reproductive matters and in the conduct of personal morality, I strongly disagree with Sarah Palin. However, I find myself in the strange position of disagreeing even more with those who seek to cast her in the role of a 21st-century witch.

Feminists used to complain that in medieval times it was mainly women who were accused of being witches and burned at the stake. Now many of them have signed up to a vicious, internet-driven witch-hunt. She "returns to work three days after giving birth", exclaims one feminist, before adding that Palin is "living the life of a caricature of the feminist who 'wants it all"'. Jane Smiley, the Pulitzer prize-winning essayist, asks: "How does she square her role as a mother and a politician?" Her lament is echoed by minister Debra W. Haffner, who finds it "hard to imagine how a new mother of a five-month-old baby, no less one with special needs, is running a state, no less a national campaign". With a distinctly mean-spirited tone, she adds: "Maybe it's gotten a lot easier since I had mine."

Fervent advocates of women's rights have no hesitation about adopting outdated chauvinist morals and rhetoric when targeting a woman they don't like. Smiley castigates Palin for her "bitchy and arrogant point of view", which is "characteristic of all conservative women". Many supporters of the pro-choice lobby have adopted a radically new definition of choice. It now means "choose what we think is good", otherwise you will be denounced as a feckless breeder or an irresponsible mother.

America's cultural elite is rarely inhibited from expressing its contempt for ordinary folk. But when it comes to circulating rumours and conspiracy theories, it can outdo the most gullible, poorly educated trailer trash. The virulence of the language adopted by the anti-Palin crusade reflects the contempt with which the American cosmopolitan elite regards common people. The direct and transparent denunciation of ordinary people's morality and lifestyle by self-confessed progressive and liberal commentators is rare in a culture that professes to be non-judgmental and tolerant. Such vicious stereotyping would meet with condemnation if it were directed at minorities or another section of society. That is why such contempt usually is transmitted through euphemisms and through nods and winks.

In the US, such attitudes are expressed through terms such as NASCAR dads, Valley girls, Joe six-pack or redneck. In Britain, NASCAR dads have a different name. They are dismissed as chavs, white van man, Worcester Woman or tabloid readers. These are people who do not write for the Huffington Post and whose lifestyles are alien to those of the very high-minded cultural elites. Some may even resemble those folk in Australia who voted for Pauline Hanson. That they breed, are unashamedly carnivorous, are not on a diet, drink beer, sometimes smoke and partake in the cruder pleasures of life disqualifies them from being treated as the moral equals of their cosmopolitan superiors.

The invective hurled at Palin is not so much directed at her politics but principally at her lifestyle. It shows that the real dividing line in the US election is not between Left and Right but between lifestyles. Indeed, the politicisation of lifestyle has become one the most distinctive features of public life in contemporary America. Some seem to take their lifestyles so seriously that they do not simply disagree with people who have a different outlook from them; rather, they heap contempt and loathing on those who possess different manners, habits and values.

What is most striking is the passion and force with which certain individuals are attacked if they take a different position on, say, the right to abortion or the right to bear arms. These denunciations suggest some people, most notably those in the liberal elite, feel their identity - as expressed through their lifestyles - is being called into question by those who dare to disagree on the environment, abortion, sexual behaviour or any other issue. That is why the denunciation of Palin has assumed such an intensely personal and bitter character. When lifestyle becomes politicised, the new breed of politically correct moral crusaders can not help but embrace the language and outlook of the witch-hunt.


To Palinize...

By Victor Davis Hanson

Palinize: to slander and caricature a working-class female public figure for the noble advancement of liberalism.

Sarah Palin-self-made woman, and governor of Alaska-is being reducing by the left to a hickish, white trash mom of five, analogous to the manner that esteemed jurists like Kenneth ("cigarette lawyer") Starr and Robert Bork were slandered by the media as incompetent right right-wing fanatics, and Clarence Thomas was pilloried as an affirmative action sex-maniac. Why does the left and liberal media, in McCarthyite fashion, now seek to destroy rather than just oppose these public servants?

First, there is the annoited's notion that the noble ends justify the slimy means, that whether the issue is abortion or affirmative action or any other hot-button social gospel, the supposed interests of the many override the common decency that should be afforded the few.

We are supposed to think that given one's cosmic sense of fairness and caring, the white knight always is afforded a little human leeway in slaying dragons in the here and now. To save the utopian vision of "two nations" John Edwards, presidential candidate, hundreds in the media passed on verifiable stories of his adultery, the financial support of his mistress, and his blatantly untrue assertions in public press conferences; by the same token to stop "one nation" Palin, the private life of a 17-year old girl must not only be aired, but distorted and in some cases invented.

Second, as in the case of a Palin or Thomas, there is the notion that the slandered deserve it as interloppers-unauthentic women or minorities due to their conservative views, who piggyback on the hard work of feminists and those in the race/identity politics movement. They purportedly do not show enough appreciation and deference to the pioneers who suffered so much to give us abortion on demand, quotas in hiring, etc. and as ingrates thus get what they deserve. For talking-head feminists that a Sally Quin, Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton-unlike Sarah Palin-had a well-connected, influential male around to energize her career is of no concern-except perhaps to make the animus against the outsider upstart even greater.

So class plays a lot too. The liberal left buys into the Gore notion of offsets-that by backing ever more entitlements, and public assistance, the caring liberal is allowed to feel a little tsk, tsk about Alaska moose-hunters, teenage white girls getting pregnant, and small-town mayorships, without incurring the charge of elitism. Writing a story about a struggling family or an illegal alien wrongly deported, introducing a bill to help working moms, announcing that an Obama speech is the equivalent of the Gettysburg Address, all that lets you unload on the Palin's teenage daughter or Palin herself in ways that any unbiased observer would consider sexist, snobbish, and condescendingly cruel.

Being a mother of a Down syndrome child, raising five children, rising, without money or family influence, to the governorship on an anti-corruption and commonsense platform, in addition to trying to run the largest-sized state in the union, critical to both the energy and defense security of the nation, all that should have made liberals and feminists, if reluctantly, nevertheless appreciative of her success in a mostly male political world. Not this week, perhaps-but soon there will be a backlash against all this creepiness. Just watch...


Romanticizing "noble savages" (Aborigines) still going strong in Australia

No one at all seems to dare tell people that some Aboriginal traditions are about as ancient as Pilates, and even less useful. Take the "indigenous afternoon tea" that Melbourne's Bayside Council put on for Reconciliation Week. Asked by a ratepayer what was so Aboriginal about the tea, Bayside's chief executive indignantly replied: "Indigenous food was provided and included chicken and mushroom pies, kangaroo and burgundy pies, emu and vegetable pies." Pardon? Oven-baked pies? Made with chicken? And vegetables? And flavoured with burgundy? This is as Aboriginal as Gordon Ramsay.

This is "indigenous" only to someone determined to imagine traditional Aboriginal society as an inner-urban Eden of people in deep communion with Nature, yet still supplied with the essential luxuries of cooked dinners, fine wine and hot-and-cold running sustainability experts.

And there's no shortage of people much like that. Take Melbourne University lecturer Wayne Atkinson, a Yorta Yorta "elder" on the grounds that his Mauritian great-grandfather married a part-Aboriginal woman. Writes Atkinson: "One can reconstruct a rather idyllic picture of Yorta Yorta lifestyle. It is clear that the people did not want for anything in terms of food and security and their lifestyles fit nicely into the picture of affluence . . ."

How sweet. But it's a dream as tenuously linked to the harsh reality of tribal life as is Atkinson's own genealogy. Yet who dares challenge such dubious recreations of Aboriginality, even when they reinvent paralysing taboos and stereotypes?

Just this week, Dr Mark Rose, general manager of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association, damned HarperCollins for planning to publish an Australian edition of the Daring Book for Girls with a chapter explaining how to play the didgeridoo. Rose, billed as "a member of the western Victorian Gundjitamara Nation", said this betrayed a "mammoth ignorance" by encouraging girls to play an instrument that Aborigines had banned to women, knowing it would make them infertile. "I wouldn't let my daughter touch one," he said. "I reckon it's the equivalent of encouraging someone to play with razor blades."

Oh, really? This university-educated academic with his pale skin and European looks seriously thinks his daughter would be rendered barren by touching a hollow piece of wood? Or is he saying any backward taboo should be maintained, even if its only purpose is to limit women's freedoms? But the real joke is that Aborigines far, far darker than Rose - and from parts of Australia that actually have didgeridoos - don't believe in the tradition he's defending.

Ethnomusicologist Linda Barwick, of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, has studied this very question on field trips in the Northern Territory, and writes: "In discussions with women in the Belyuen community near Darwin in 1995 I was told that there was no prohibition on women playing . . . "In a discussion with men from Groote Eylandt, Numbulwar and Gunbalanya it was agreed that there was no explicit Dreaming Law that women should not play Didgeridoo . . ." Didgfest Australia, an Aboriginal-backed festival of the didgeridoo, agrees, declaring: "It is not taboo for Aboriginal women to play the didge in most parts of Australia . . ."

But HarperCollins quickly caved into Rose and said the chapter would be removed. Who dares question an Aboriginal tradition? Or, rather, which inner-urban, book-publishing intellectual even wants to?

The fact is a certain class of sensitive white dreamers - not tribal blacks - actually wants to believe in this natural tribal paradise with its hot pies and cool magic. Think, for instance, of all the whites who queued two years ago to be "purified" by the "sacred fire" lit illegally in our Botanic Gardens by activist Robbie Thorpe.

Thorpe, who has British ancestry as well as Aboriginal, also claimed be an "Aboriginal elder" -- but of which tribe? In 1991, he mounted a forest protest as an elder of the Barbuwooloong clan of central Gippsland. In 2000, he was protesting at Goolengook as an elder of the Krauatungalung clan. And five years ago he was "saving" the Strzelecki forest as an elder of western Victoria's "Gurnai Nation" clans. Now he'd lit a sacred fire in Melbourne that Graham Atkinson, co-chair of the Victorian Traditional Owners Land Justice Group, thought was just a joke by a trouble-making blow-in.

But could you tell that to the white callers who rang 774 ABC in ecstatic tears to tell of being "smoked". Heavens no. Age columnist Tracee Hutchison instead wrote mystically of undergoing this "ancient and gentle healing ritual", and how "humbled" she'd been to be told "I've got some kind of blackfella spirit inside me".

You see how fiercely such whites want to reinvent the Noble Eco-Savage. It's a yearning we've seen since at least 1991, of course, when then prime minister Bob Hawke banned a new mine at Kakadu's Coronation Hill. Aboriginal activists, backed by green groups, had convinced him that if the hill were disturbed, an angry Bula spirit would sicken the land -- or at least kill Hawke's green vote. Never mind that no one had ever linked Bula with the site until the 1970s, or that uranium had been mined there for almost 20 years without Bula giving anyone as much as a headache.

More critically, never mind that the Jawoyn leader, Andy Andrews, begged Hawke to ignore the Bula scare and sent a petition from 92 Jawoyn people asking that the mine and its royalties be allowed to go ahead. Forget it. The white politicians and journalists decided that real Aborigines - the ones they'd listen to, anyway - had to be green pagans, not black rationalists.

Same story with the infamous bridge to Hindmarsh Island, blocked by claims by green-backed Aboriginal activists who claimed it would disturb "secret women's business" and make locals infertile. Again, never mind that many Christian Aboriginal women said this "secret women's business" was not just absurd but clearly untrue. White politicians and journalists once more decided that real Aborigines had to be green pagans, not black rationalists.

And the big joke? Despite this reinvention of black traditions, from "welcomes to country" to smoking ceremonies, most Aborigines aren't remotely as superstitious and traditional as the white dreamers behind this push like to imagine. The 2006 census, for instance, found barely 1 per cent of Aborigines followed traditional Aboriginal religions. Most were just boringly, conventionally Christian.

Even more bizarrely, the 2001 Census revealed that a quarter of the believers in Aboriginal faiths weren't even Aboriginal. Whites just really, really want to believe in black gods and black superstitions in ways that few Aborigines seem themselves inclined.


Australia's new CJ sounds very politically correct

ROBERT French has paid special tribute to the role of indigenous people in Australia's history at his swearing-in today as the 12th chief justice of the High Court at a special ceremonial sitting in Canberra. Justice French said it was a great honour to serve in what Kevin Rudd described - at the time of his appointment - as the "most important constitutional office in the land".

The West Australian, who is renowned for his expertise in constitutional law, administrative law and native title, made special reference to the importance of reconciliation with indigenous people. "Recognition of their presence is no mere platitude," he said. "The history of Australia's indigenous people dwarfs, in its temporal sweep, the history that gave rise to the Constitution under which this court was created. "Our awareness and recognition of that history is becoming, if it has not already become, part of our national identity."

Justice French gave special thanks to his predecessor, Murray Gleeson, whom he said gave him "a bottle of very good whiskey in order to tide me over the difficult moments".

His first case tomorrow will involve an exploration of family trusts before he tackles the issue of sleeping judges on Wednesday.



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 INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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