Friday, February 26, 2016
Multiculturalism has proven divisive, not coalescent, so let’s ditch it
Like bad 1970s fashion, multiculturalism needs to be binned, Janet Albrechtsen writes from Australia
Sometimes the obvious questions don’t get asked. Maybe it’s the stubborn power of orthodoxy that puts a spanner in the spokes of our otherwise critical and curious senses. Whatever the reason, it’s time to ask this: why do we still have a minister, let alone an assistant minister for multicultural affairs?
Hasn’t this cultural fad overstayed it usefulness? Just as questions are asked about whether taxpayers should keep funding multicultural broadcaster SBS, given its raison d’etre has waned, isn’t it time we asked why we still need government ministers ministering the multicultural word to the people?
There is a sense of urgency around this question after last week’s inauspicious start by Craig Laundy, the new Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
Laundy sounded like the very model of the modern multiculturalist — modern in the sense of 1970s modern.
Last week the Liberal MP from western Sydney adopted the condescending voice of those 70s multiculturalists, speaking down to us, telling us that he knows better than us. And just like 70s multiculturalism, he caused division rather than cohesion.
Laundy’s sentiments might please the large voting bloc of Muslims in his electorate but the rest of us were riled by his haughtiness when he said that when people “dive into this debate” (about Islam) and “say controversial things, I would argue the vast majority are speaking from a position that is not well-informed”.
That’s multi-culti speak for saying shut up, you’re too stupid to understand Islam or question Islam’s ability to find an accommodation with fundamental Western values such as the separation of church and state, free speech, gender equality and so on.
Alas, people aren’t stupid. We see that countries ruled by the Islamic faith have cultures diametrically opposed to Enlightenment values. We can see enclaves of Muslim migrants in Western countries have kept practices at odds with those values. We are entitled to ask questions about the level of gender inequality among Muslims. We are entitled to ask why some young Muslim men chose Islamic State over Australia; why genital mutilation and child marriages happen in countries such as Britain and Australia.
If Laundy finds our questions “controversial” then, sadly, he has caught that debilitating multicultural virus. Like a virus that takes hold of host cells in the human body, multiculturalism’s self-loathing virus started invading Western societies more than 40 years ago. Like a form of cultural cancer, it has weakened our ability to defend our most fundamental values and, worse, it has meant the only culture open to critique and question is our own.
To be fair, Laundy is not alone among Liberal MPs who inadvertently expose why multiculturalism must be discarded.
Last week on the ABC’s Q&A when Liberal MP Steve Ciobo was asked whether he believed in free speech, he said: “I’m attracted to the principle.” Really? That’s it? I might be attracted to a dress in a shop but I’m not committed to it. Surely a Liberal MP, a minister, can do better at defending a core Western freedom. You’re not going to convince anyone about the virtues of free speech by saying you kind of like it, with the same commitment as you might say you like cornflakes in the morning
The multicultural virus has impaired even self-professed cultural warriors. As prime minister, Tony Abbott decided that defending free speech by reforming section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was too hard once a few migrant groups kicked up a fuss.
Sure, the Senate was unhelpful, but rather than make a humiliating retreat, a warrior of Western culture should fight on to defend the marketplace of ideas, rather than kowtow to the marketplace of outrage that has been fuelled by multiculturalism.
And why wouldn’t Laundy champion all the usual multi-culti guff given the tone set by the more senior Minister for Multicultural Affairs. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, another so-called Liberal Party cultural warrior, didn’t raise an eyebrow, let alone utter a word, when Abbott dropped his promise on free speech. We expect this cultural cowardice from Labor and the broader Left, but when voters can’t look to the Liberal Party to defend our basic values the cultural landscape is indeed bleak.
Remember that multiculturalism was never a policy with broad support. Research by sociologist Katharine Betts reveals multiculturalism wasn’t even a story of ethnic agitators: it was largely trumpeted by a group of Anglo-Australian activists so small that “most of them could and did meet in one room”. Twenty years after Malcolm Fraser included multiculturalism in the Coalition platform, a poll by the Council of Multicultural Affairs found the rank-and-file supporter of multiculturalism was not the migrant but the well-educated Anglo-Australian living far way from migrant enclaves.
In the 70s, multiculturalism was sold to the people as the tolerant, moral alternative to earlier evil policies of assimilation and integration. But assimilation and integration were not intolerant ideas. On the contrary, these policies invited migrants to Australia with the promise they, too, could become Australians and enjoy the values that made Australia the country of first choice for millions.
When migrants arrived in postwar Australia, there was a sense of obligation to the new country. The transformation of thousands of poor, displaced migrants into comfortable middle-class Australians in a matter of a few generations is one of the great success stories of integration. The traditional three-way contract was simple: majority tolerance, minority loyalty and government vigilance in both directions.
Becoming a citizen meant accepting responsibilities in return for clearly understood rights and privileges. A migrant renounced “all other allegiances” to swear loyalty to Australia.
More than 40 years later, asking for minority loyalty is regarded as a sign of intolerance. Against a backdrop of entrenched multiculturalism and a human rights frenzy pushing the right to be “separate but equal”, it’s now a case of the host nation owing the migrant.
The great multicultural con is that its proponents deliberately refused to define the term. They opted for feel-good ambiguity. So it meandered along meaning different things to different people. To some, it meant no more than promoting a culturally diverse society loyal to core institutions and core values. Meanwhile, a more virulent form took root, emphasising ethnic rights to be separate but equal, promoting cultural and moral relativism and identity politics where immigrants were no longer Australians, or even “new” Australians.
Multiculturalism endorsed what Theodore Roosevelt called a hyphenated loyalty to country. SBS uses the phrase Muslim-Australians, not the other way around. That hyphenated loyalty has undermined an obligation on migrants to embrace a common set of values.
Worse, multiculturalism demanded that we tolerate the intolerant. To be sure, tolerance is a worthy goal. But it’s meaningful only when tempered with moral judgments about what is right and what is wrong. That is a debate we must all be able to be part of.
American Opinion and the Case for Israel
A recent Brookings Institution survey presented at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. indicated a growing American partisanship toward Israel and the Middle East. But an analysis of an online survey taken in November suggests strategies for Israel's friends to counter growing Democratic Party estrangement with Israel amidst an enduringly pro-Israel and Philo-Semitic American population.
Survey director Shibley Telhami said that Israel is dramatically becoming what fellow panelist and Brookings expert Tamara Cofman Wittes called a wedge issue. As Telhamiwrote in "Politico," the Republicans' pro-Israel base is an indicator that "GOP candidates are principally catering to an evangelical base that has become Israel's biggest support base in American politics." A survey press release noted that while Evangelical Republicans make up only 10 percent of the American population, 23 percent of all Republicans and 77 percent of Evangelical Republicans want the United States to favor Israel. In all, 40 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of self-identified evangelicals "say a candidate's position on Israel matters a lot," compared to 22 percent for Independents and 14 percent for Democrats."
Telhami pointed out that, by contrast, the biggest story of all was the 49 percent of Democrats who said that Israel has too much influence on American politics; 14 percent said too little, and 36 percent said about the right amount. The striking partisan divide of this key finding impressed him, as the corresponding survey results among Republicans for too much, too little, and appropriate Israeli influence were respectively 25 percent, 22 percent and 52 percent. The overall American breakdown is 37, 18 and 44 percent, while 39 percent of evangelicals said that Israel has too little influence (23 percent too much and 38 percent the right amount), and views of too little Israeli influence increase with age.
Other survey findings revealed growing partisan divides between a pro-Israel Republican Party and a Democratic Party that is becoming increasingly more critical of Israel. The survey questionnaire results showed that 45 percent of Republicans wanted the United States to side with Israel in its conflict with Palestinians, while 51 percent wanted America to lean toward neither side. By contrast, only 13 percent of independents and 19 percent of Democrats desired pro-Israel American partiality, while 80 percent of independents and 75 percent of Democrats wanted impartiality.
Similarly, 49 percent of Democrats were willing to impose economic or more serious sanctions upon Israel for continued settlement of territories won in the 1967 war, while 46 percent would do nothing, or limit the U.S. response to a verbal protest. By contrast, in the survey questionnaire results, 68 percent of Republicans at most would support verbal protests, a position taken by 57 percent of Americans overall. Democratic attitudes reflected the party demographic changes noted by Telhami and the anti-Israel audience questioner Serge Duss, who referenced 2012 Democratic convention controversy regarding the declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
The survey press release said that "American views of Muslims are strikingly partisan," although any personal knowledge of Muslims improved their favorability ratings across the political spectrum. Among Republicans, 41 percent expressed somewhat or very favorable views toward Muslims, as opposed to 67 percent of Democrats (the general population was in the middle of these results, at 53 percent). The "Muslim religion" distinct from its adherents scored even worse, with 73 percent of Republicans responding unfavorably to Islam in the questionnaire, along with 68 percent of independents. Even 47 percent of Democrats responded unfavorably to Islam.
Telhami contrasted strong bipartisan favorability for Jews and Judaism from survey responders, yet said that conservative support for Israel in a highly partisan America can alienate Democrats from Israel. Jews received a total favorability rating of 88 percent, but Telhami's discussion of possible explanations for evangelical attachment to Israel visibly disturbed some audience members. As the press release pointed out, 66 percent of "Evangelical Republicans say that for the rapture or second coming to occur, it is essential for current-day Israel to include all the land they believe was promised to Biblical Israel in the Old Testament."
While such theology may guarantee Israel a specific American support bloc, the survey data indicated that Israel's friends should seek broader alliances in America with those concerned about Islamic threats to the free world. The survey revealed a public relations disaster for Islamic doctrine, irrespective of whatever good relations Americans have with Muslim individuals; Islam's future image is unlikely to improve, "religion of peace" refrains notwithstanding. While some may worry about Islamic immigration to the United States, Israel faces far greater threats among its Muslim-majority neighbors.
While Hamas jihadists rule the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority - with its Sharia-compliant Basic Law - indoctrinates Palestinian children in Islamic antisemitism and Iran's Islamic Republic manifests wider regional threats to Israel. Contrary to the preferences of many Democrats (but not most Americans), such threats call into question further pressure for "land for peace" Israeli withdrawals from the historic Jewish heartland ofJudea and Samaria. The survey itself indicated that Israeli-Palestinian two-state solutions make decreasing sense to many Americans, contrary to panelist Susan Glasser of "Politico," who described this as a "mainstream consensus" policy position.
On the other hand, supporters of the Jewish national homeland should associate the Jews and Judaism admired in America with Israeli pioneer accomplishments in building a developed democracy unique to its region. Among other things, Judaism's ethical valueshave created the Middle East's one society, where minorities such as Arab Muslims and Christians can live freely without fear. Strategic analysis also shows that this democracy is a strong American ally, particularly against militant Islam, contrary to the views revealed in the survey that Israel draws unmerited advantage from America.
Israel faces increasing challenges from the political left in America and elsewhere, but facts, and not just sectarian faith, favor Israel. Israel can indeed win a battle for the hearts and minds of American voters, and political leaders who take anti-Israel positions may well come to appreciate Genesis 12:3's prophetic warnings.
There's no shame in Zionism: we must reclaim the word from anti-Semites
Throughout the country, and particularly on our university campuses, it is being suggested that, in moral terms, nothing separates the appalling white supremacist apartheid regime of South Africa with the Israeli state. It was reported yesterday that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had ordered his officials to complain that posters comparing the two regimes had been illegally placed in the London Underground.
It’s an old trick frequently used by the hard of thinking: think of a country or person you don’t like; think of another, entirely separate, country or person that everyone dislikes, then say that country or person A is the same as country or person B.
Perhaps the protesters and poster-putters-up are too young to remember when apartheid was actually a thing – a bit like those youngsters who celebrated the death of Baroness Thatcher, even though they were babes in arms when she was forced out of Downing Street. But being young is no excuse for ignorance of the facts, which are that Israel isn’t just a democracy – it’s a social democracy, where women enjoy equal rights, where there exists a flourishing LGBT community, where trade unions are well organised and strong and where the press is unfettered and critical of the government.
But there’s no need to take my word for it – why don’t you ask Arab citizens of Israel which Middle Eastern country they would rather live in? The answer given by 77 per cent in one recent survey was (drum roll, please) Israel.
Michael Dugher, the former Shadow Culture Secretary who was recently sacked by Jeremy Corbyn, made a speech to a Labour Friends of Israel meeting last year in which he declared: “I am proud to call myself a friend of Israel. I am proud to call myself a Zionist.”
Even I, a long-term member of Labour Friends of Israel, did a double-take when I read that last line; not because I felt Michael shouldn’t have said what he said, but because it was an act of political courage rarely seen on the national stage in this modern era of safety-first soundbite politics. A Zionist, you say? Well, I mean, I support Israel and everything, but isn’t that going just a bit too far…?
No, it’s not.
The Left (and some on the Right, but mostly the Left) have succeeded in persuading us that the term refers to West Bank settlers, Israeli imperialists and Palestinian-haters. If you’re a Zionist you’re a hair’s breadth away from a National Front thug, the far Left would have us believe. And here, as in so many areas of life, they are entirely wrong.
Zionism is no more than the movement to re-establish and then protect the state of Israel. A Zionist is someone who defends Israel’s right to exist. The Labour Party has a long and proud tradition of supporting Zionism, through luminaries such as Richard Crossman and Ian Mikardo up to the present generation.
But attempts to redefine Zionism and corrupt its true meaning were always dangerous and threatening to the progressive cause, simply because – inevitably – such moves would be exploited by genuine anti-Semites.
Yet that hasn’t stopped many in the leadership of both the Labour Party and its student movement from associating with such individuals.
When Alex Chalmers, former co-chairman of Oxford university Labour Club, resigned his post, he said: “A large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews.” This includes, he alleged, members of the club’s executive using the word “Zio” to describe Jewish members of the student faculty. We may assume that the term is used in its new, distorted, derogatory meaning, rather than its true one.
Are we really that surprised? Isn’t such behaviour already being passively approved by the national leadership of the Labour Party? Not only do we have a leader who can’t even bring himself to utter the word “Israel” when he’s attending a reception organised by Labour Friends of You Know Where. But we also have a leader who calls the terrorist, anti-semitic fanatics of Hamas his “friends”.
And just last week, on 17 February, Ken Livingstone declared on LBC Radio that in his decades in the Labour Party, he had never come across any anti-Jewish sentiment on the Left. It was radio so we don’t know if he was wearing a straight face. This is a man who, as Mayor of London, literally embraced Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a scholar who believes that “every Jew in the world is the enemy” and that Muslims should not be friends with Jews in general, and Israelis in particular, lest such relationships diminish their appetite for fighting.
So is it really that surprising that in the days following the revelation of obscene bigotry and what appears to be anti-semitism among Labour members at Oxford, not a single Labour front bencher uttered a word about it?
I hope the term “Zionist” can be retrieved from the lexicon of the hate-spreaders, the ignorant and the anti-semitic.
And I hope, one day, someone unashamed to describe themselves as such will take his or her place at the head of my party.
Lena Dunham, women don’t want your safe space
Writer and actress Lena Dunham declared, during a recent panel discussion for More Magazine, that she would stay off Twitter until it was a ‘safe space’. She said the only way to protect women’s right to free speech is to clampdown on the misogynistic trolls.
The announcement displayed a startling lack of understanding of what free speech means. The defining characteristic of a ‘safe space’ is that people are forbidden from expressing certain thoughts and opinions within it. If you believe in free speech, even Dunham’s most vile and misogynist trolls must be allowed to have a voice.
But, without realising it, Dunham showed exactly how easily offended people like her should treat Twitter. If you don’t like people saying mean things to you online, if it hurts your feelings, there’s something very simple you can do: stay off it. Millions of people do this every day, without fanfare. Maybe they can’t deal with criticism. Maybe they can’t deal with the occasional idiot calling them fat or stupid. Maybe they simply do not enjoy the experience. These people could be accused of being a bit oversensitive, but compared to Dunham they are heroic freedom fighters – at least they don’t want to censor others.
Twitter is already a hostile place for free speech, where voicing certain opinions can get you twitch-hunted – or even cost you your job. Dunham’s call to regulate Twitter further is not about protecting free speech, it’s about increasing the power of the twitch-hunters. But, worse still, it patronises women. In order to learn to think for ourselves, and engage in robust debate, we must be exposed to a variety of ideas. We must understand conflicting viewpoints in order to hone our own arguments and grow intellectually. This is what Dunham’s young feminist followers need, not safe spaces.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.