Monday, December 30, 2019

Can the Left overcome its patriotism problem?

The British Leftist below, Angus Colwell, recognizes that the Left is not patriotic and proposes that there is a third way between rejecting patriotism and accepting it

He has a point that the mainstream political Left in both the UK and the USA were once patriotic.  We all know of the advice by JFK about asking what you can do for your country but it was also true in Britain. As a Times writer put it:

"When the mourners sat in the pews at Clement Attlee’s funeral in Westminster Abbey in November 1967 they were played, at the request of the deceased, the musical setting of a poem by Cecil Spring Rice. "I Vow To Thee, My Country" is a fitting testament to Major Attlee, the Gallipoli veteran who was as patriotic, almost as stereotypical, an Englishman of the first half of the 20th century as one could imagine. The congregation went on to sing Hubert Parry’s setting of Blake’s Jerusalem and John Bunyan’s To Be A Pilgrim in a festival that commemorated a successful prime minister and a great patriot."

So why has that changed so drastically?  Colwell doesn't know.  Maybe he is too young. He just thinks it is unnecessary.  But it is clear what has happened.  And it is encapsulated in the campaign slogan of "Supermac":  "You never had it so good".

Attlee was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 26 July 1945 to 26 October 1951.  Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963.  What lay between them was the great postwar expansion of prosperity that was seen in Britain and elsewhere. And it was an expansion of prosperity that poured down through all the social classes.  Macmillan was referring to the eradication of the dire poverty in which working class Britons had found themselves at the end of WWII compared to their state in his era in the 1960s.

And the spread of prosperity throughout Britain led to a gradual erosion of working class support for Leftist salvation.  When  McKenzie & Silver wrote their book on the British working class in 1968, a quarter of the working class was already voting Tory.

But that was a tragedy for the Left.  The chronic anger and unhappiness that is Leftism lost its customary focus and justification for existence.  For generations the Left had a clearly defined enemy:  "The bosses".  The entire program of the Left was to "save" the workers from their Tory oppressors.  But when a big segment of the workers started siding with the Tories, that entire program was called into question.  To hate the Tories was also to hate a large segment of the workers!  That was too contradictory even for the Left.

A new focus for criticism had to be found.  And as the whole nation was becoming bourgeois and thus developing Tory instincts, habits and beliefs, there was only one possible target left:  The nation as a whole.  The whole nation was now essentially bourgeois so the whole nation had to be demonized.  And that has gradually developed into the recently seen major breakdown of working class loyalties at the hands of Boris Johnson. Boris has finally shattered the "red wall". Trump in the USA also gained massive working class support in 2016.

So the class basis of politics has changed markedly. The Left have lost a lot of the workers and gained educated elitists instead. And tertiary education is now widespread so the gain for the Left is not inconsiderable.

There are still poor people in Britain who hold to a traditional belief that the Labour party is on their side but that may be something of a last gasp of the old polarities. To the Leftist antipatriots of today, the workers are now no source of virtue so internationalism has become the Leftist dream, a dream with little working class support.

So, no, there will be no revival of Leftist patriotism

Notes:  "Windrush" refers to the opening of Britain's doors to  black immigrants from the Caribbean in 1948.  Colwell regards that as an achievement. Given the stratospheric rate of violent crime among people of African ancestry worldwide, others might regard it as a great mistake.  He also regards the legalization of homosexual marriage as a Leftist achievement, even though it was an initiative of the Conservative Cameron government

We hear someone identify as a “patriot”, and we suspect “racist”. If we see an English flag flying outside someone’s house, we suspect they harbour Ukip-sympathetic views. This judgement has been given an authoritative reinforcement too: a British Army leaflet leaked earlier this year was titled ‘Extreme Right Wing Indicators & Warnings’, and included people identifying as ‘patriots’ on the checklist for potential racists.

Billy Bragg wrote in The Progressive Patriot (2006): “Reluctant to make any concessions to reactionary nationalism, we have, by default, created a vacuum, leaving it [patriotism] to the likes of the BNP and the Daily Mail”. In 2006, the right had a complete monopoly on patriotism, and this has not changed. Yet, throughout our national stories, it has more often been the left that has invigorated the change that we now rejoice and revere.

In the case of Jeremy Corbyn, it is his characteristically immature misunderstanding of history that has led to his party, and ideology, being plunged into electoral oblivion. The right’s ownership of patriotism predates Corbyn’s leadership, and it is both the soft and hard left’s inability to connect the country’s past and present with its future, that has left the party in its current state.


The left-wing journalist Paul Mason views the idea that Brexit lost Corbyn the election as inaccurate. For him, Corbyn lost the working class in 2018, not 2019. The most damaging fiascos in this year were Corbyn’s handling of the Skripal poisonings, and Labour’s initial refusal to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism when drafting their code of conduct. Corbyn’s response to the Skripal poisonings (instinctively siding with Russia) was a vindication of the popular idea that Corbyn’s suspected antipathy towards Britain was tangible and influenced his policy. His refusal to sing the national anthem, his opposition to Trident, his meetings with the IRA — all of these were common knowledge at the 2017 general election, but the Skripal poisonings proved his discomfort with his country fully guided his national security response and his previous record was more than inconsequential left-wing quirks.

The IHRA debacle’s impact was twofold: it meant that the antisemitism crisis in the Labour Party exploded into the mainstream for over year, culminating in both the departure of nine Labour MPs earlier in 2019, and the Chief Rabbi’s intervention during the election campaign. It was deeply damaging for Labour in Jewish communities. But, at large, the antisemitism crisis was not necessarily a wider vote-loser in its own right, but supplemented other suspicions about Corbyn as menacing. For many who didn’t know where the antisemitism came from, it was ominous and perturbing. To those who understood where it came from, it was emblematic of Corbyn’s aversion to patriotism — aligning with Palestine, which was, in the minds of many, akin to aligning with Islam against the west. When election campaigns were interrupted by Islamist terrorism, Corbyn’s own links with militant groups appeared to some to be proof of sympathy with the enemy.

These two errors were completely avoidable. Had Corbyn condemned Russia like Theresa May did (which happened to be the finest hour of her premiership) and adopted the IHRA definition, his anti-monarchist views could have seemed like harmless quirks, and the antisemitism in the Labour Party kept in house. It is right and a relief that these two critical flaws of Corbyn were exposed — and yes, it is Corbyn himself, not Corbynism — otherwise his most dangerous instincts and tendencies could now be in Downing Street.


There is a deep irony at the heart of many on the left’s understanding of history. For many, there is no grey area between support and deplatforming, between reverence and eradication. Labour’s pledge for a formal inquiry into Britain’s colonial past is welcome, and a review of our empire is long overdue — Edward Said should be as recognisable a name as Edmund Burke. But this historical framework has slid into cancel culture, most emblematic in #RhodesMustFall movements. Removing statues, and thus removing figures from history, is to not revise and remember — it is to forget. The casual absorber of history may not be as familiar with Cecil Rhodes as with other tyrants, and tearing down statues is not going to improve that. Similarly, deplatforming and cancel culture suppresses the symptoms of an ill society, rather than addressing the causes.

Corbyn himself’s own view of history is riddled with irony. His hero, John Lilburne, was a strident patriot. Corbyn and McDonnell both revere Clement Attlee’s government (1945–1951), and the creation of the NHS, the nationalisation of 20% of the economy, and the establishment of the welfare state. Yet Attlee was the man who led the British development of the nuclear deterrent. Attlee had a clear vision of “collective security”, a concept Corbyn fundamentally misunderstands.

Attlee also exemplified a progressive, left-wing patriotism. His government advocated for the creation of a ‘New Jerusalem’ — a prosperous and egalitarian society. Are these not the two things Corbyn wants to reconcile most of all? Attlee had the benefit of a postwar climate — he was able to advocate for a patriotic unifying bond to replace the gloomy bonding activity that was World War II, building a new nation. But now there is a void that needs filling — a yearning for unity and common identity — that Labour must look to inhabit.

The Dutch writer Ian Buruma observes that in the comparatively peaceful twenty-first century, there is a “weird longing for the state of war, for the clarity it brings, and for the chance to divide one’s fellow citizens…neatly into friends and foes”. As society grows more secular, the unifying bonds that religious practise once maintained are replaced by various creeds. Often, it is nationalism that fills the gap. The Irish political scientist Benedict Anderson depicted the nation as a socially constructed “imagined community”, a home in the minds of people who perceive themselves as part of that group.

It is not hard to see how this idea of nationalism slides into racism. To borrow the terminology of the psychologist Henri Rajfel, our societies resemble an out-group which we do not feel comfortable identifying as part of, rather than an in-group. Those who do identify themselves in respect to a nation can stray away from the idea of loving their own country, to the more ugly idea of national, and often following that, racial superiority. Progressive patriotism is loving your country in its own right, not in comparison.


This “progressive patriotism” seems a blue-sky elusive concept. But it can exist, just in the same way that nations exist. Nations are not imagined communities as Anderson writes — they have material realities. Shared landmarks, shared food, shared cultural tastes, shared weather — as we know all too well from our small talk.

The best exemplifications of progressive patriotism are in sport. Eric Hobsbawm wrote that “the imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of 11 named people”. Jason Cowley, editor of the New Statesman, wrote a vital article in the summer of 2018 about England’s football team as the embodiment of a progressive idea of nation. He compares 1984, when a subset of England fans refused to accept England’s 2–0 win at the Maracanã because a goal had been scored by a black man (John Barnes), with the cultural (and sporting) success of the current England football team. When the 2018 World Cup came around, we saw a multiracial team, fully integrated with each other, happy to wrap themselves in the England flag — the picture of a history of immigration to England.

While that is England, Britain broadcasted its own progressive patriotism to the world at the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony. There are flaws with this fundamentally Whiggish view of history — while our history is not necessarily one of inexorable progress, the idea of progression and story is our “bridge between the future and the past” as Orwell put it, and helps us to celebrate the positive things that have bonded us as a nation.

At the Olympics Opening Ceremony, these were Britain’s industrial revolution, the NHS, and our literary and cultural heritage. It featured Paul McCartney, the Arctic Monkeys and Tinie Tempah. The ceremony celebrated the women’s suffrage movement, the Windrush generation and featured mixed-race families and grime artists. It was, as Forbes put it, a “love song to Britain”.

The reaction of the Conservative MP Adrian Burley was that the Opening Ceremony was “leftie multicultural crap”. But Burley inadvertently made a telling historical judgement — the association with a “love song to Britain” — patriotism — with “leftie[s]” — the left.

The things that we revere have been largely invigorated by the left throughout our history. The creation of the NHS, women’s suffrage, the legalisation of homosexuality — these are celebrated today by the right, but were enacted and pressured by the left. The Conservatives are proud of introducing same-sex marriage in 2012, but conveniently forget to mention that more Conservative MPs voted against it than for it. It was passed with Labour votes.

Inevitably, to embrace this kind of patriotism we need to accept a few myths — the Olympics Opening Ceremony did so when it championed the Industrial Revolution as an act occurring from within England’s “green and pleasant lands”, and not reliant on the colonial expansion like it was. Tom Holland, reviewing Margaret Macmillan’s The Uses and Abuses of History, highlighted the advantage of slight fabrications:

“Without the mythologisation of Magna Carta, the history of liberty in the English-speaking world…would have turned out very much for the worse; without Churchill’s romantic evocation of Britain’s island story in 1940, Hitler may never have been defeated”.

The culture war over Churchill’s legacy fought by the left is an example of their current disassociation with progressive patriotism. We need to acknowledge Churchill’s racially abhorrent views and remember and condemn them, not remove them and him from history. That Britain defeated Nazism in 1945 is an unequivocal good, possibly the most in history, and removing the spearhead of that from our memory can lead to a strange sense of relativism. This leads to what the philosopher John Gray observed — that “sections of the left relativise the Holocaust, treating it as only one among many crimes against humanity”. This relativism sparks a fierce conservative backlash, which tramples all over the middle ground, polarises our politics and drowns out the grey area of remembrance of Churchill’s triumphs with acknowledgement of his deep flaws.

This historical cancel culture is an acutely modern idea. Yet the left’s aversion to nationhood is not. Orwell identified the left’s disassociation with patriotism in England Your England (1941), an essay written during the Blitz. His observation at the time that “the English intelligentsia are Europeanised” rings true amidst the Brexit debate — many liberals prefer to identify as “European”, or more often, “Londoners”, and feel an aversion to identifying as “English” or “British”.

What has changed since when Orwell was writing in the 1940s is the expansion of disassociation from patriotism from the intellectual elite to the modern left at large. Colonial guilt — which is justified and vital — has mutated into a deeper cultural embarrassment and self-hatred, of everything Britain stands for.

It has led to a strange self-alienation amongst many, rendering themselves void of a place for identity. Worse, it feeds the worst impulses and backlashes of the nationalists, as the left attempt to proselytise this abandonment of nation for all (most of whom are comfortable identifying with nationhood). The middle way we need is through acknowledgment both of past glories and mistakes — for example, reconciling our colonial guilt with our positive history of immigration since the Second World War is how we make certain concessions to myths without mistreating history.


At the 2019 election, Labour did not lose due to a wholesale rejection of their economic policies (which remain popular). Labour fundamentally abandoned patriotism, and nation as identity. As did the Liberal Democrats. Labour’s catchphrase “for the many, not the few” was ironic when choosing to advocate negating the decision of the “many”. The “Liberal Democrats” is an ironic name for a party who back overturning democracy — an act more at home in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary than the British centre ground. Able to monopolise Farage’s grievances in respect to nationhood, Johnson was able to emerge as the only mainstream patriotic figure at this election, and is reaping the rewards.

The Leave vote was an inherently patriotic act. Unfortunately, some who voted Leave did so according to the comparative nationalist view of nation — a misplaced view of superiority. But many voted Leave in a more affirmative sense — as a vote of confidence in our nations and the institutions that govern us.

The Brexit vote was a vote of confidence for our parliament, our judiciary, our civil service, and an expression that we are happy to be governed by them. Standing up for these great institutions, slightly Whiggish though it may be, is an example of progressive patriotism in the political sense — it is not refined to culture and sport. The subsequent demonisation of each of those institutions has been ugly and has enhanced distrust of our own country, provoking Leavers and Remainers for different reasons.

If we didn’t trust the European bureaucrats who supposedly governed us, but do not then in turn have faith in our own institutions either, who do we trust? The Brexit vote has so far enhanced social dislocation, not addressed it.


The left must emerge as the progressive patriotic voice in Britain. It was the left who enacted legislation to bring the Windrush generation to the United Kingdom, the left who first endorsed women’s suffrage, and the left who legalised homosexuality. Our most successful black, female, and LGBT sportspeople, musicians, actors and public figures are not successful in an “imagined community” — nation exists, and their success is the consequence of history, of progressive legislation of past governments, and a progressive idea of our nation.

Forward-looking, innovative and progressive patriotism must not be confined to sporting events. It is the left who were the invigorators of it, yet it is the left who are currently exacerbating the backsliding of it. The left must acknowledge responsibility and pick the mantle back up.


A Response to the Editor of "Christianity Today"

The magazine's amoral view says more about its editor than about Trump.

The editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, Mark Galli, wrote an editorial calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

In my view, this editorial only serves to confirm one of the sadder realizations of my life: that religious conviction guarantees neither moral clarity nor common sense.

The gist of the editorial — and of most religious and conservative opposition to President Trump — is that any good the president has done is dwarfed by his character defects.

This is an amoral view that says more about Galli than it does about the president. He and the people who share his opinion are making the following statement: No matter how much good this president does, it is less important than his character flaws.

Why is this wrong?

First, because it devalues policies that benefit millions of people.

And second, because it is a simplistic view of character.

I do not know how to assess a person's character — including my own — outside of how one's actions affect others. Since I agree with almost all of President Trump's actions as president and believe they have positively affected millions of people, I have to conclude that as president, Trump thus far has been a man of particularly good character.

Of course, if you think his policies have harmed millions of people, you will assess his character negatively. But that is not what never-Trump conservatives or Christians such as the Christianity Today editor-in-chief argue. They argue that his policies have indeed helped America (and even the world), but this fact is far less significant than his character.

In the words of Galli: "(I)t's time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence."

This rhetorical sleight of hand reflects poorly on Galli's intellectual and moral honesty.

Galli and every other Christian and conservative opponent of the president believe their concerns are moral, and that the president's Christian and other conservative supporters are political.

This is simply wrong.

I and every other supporter of the president I know support him for moral reasons, not to win a "political poker game." Galli's view is purely self-serving; he's saying, "We Christian and other conservative opponents of the president think in moral terms, while Christian and other conservative supporters of the president think in political terms."

So, permit me to inform Galli and all the other people who consider themselves conservative and/or Christian that our support for the president is entirely moral.

— To us, putting pressure on the Iranian regime — one of the most evil and dangerous regimes on Earth — by getting out of the Iran nuclear deal made by former President Barack Obama is a moral issue. Even New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who loathes Trump, has written how important the president's rejection of the Obama-Iran agreement has been.

— To us, enabling millions of black Americans to find work — resulting in the lowest black unemployment rate ever recorded — is a moral issue.

— To us, more Americans than ever being employed and almost 4 million Americans freed from reliance on food stamps is a moral issue.

— To us, appointing more conservative judges than any president in history — over the same period of time — is a moral issue. That whether the courts, including the Supreme Court, are dominated by the left or by conservatives is dismissed by Galli as "political poker" makes one question not only Galli's moral thinking but also his moral theology.

— To us, moving the American embassy to Israel's capital city, Jerusalem — something promised by almost every presidential candidate — is a moral issue, not to mention profoundly courageous. And courage is a moral virtue.

— To us, increasing the U.S. military budget — after the severe cuts of the previous eight years — is a moral issue. As conservatives see it, the American military is the world's greatest guarantor of world peace.

Yet, none of these things matter to Galli and other misguided Christians and conservatives. What matters more to them is Trump's occasional crude language and intemperate tweets, what he said about women in a private conversation and his having committed adultery.

Regarding adultery, that sin is for spouses and God to judge. There is no connection between marital sexual fidelity and moral leadership. I wish there were. And as regards the "Access Hollywood" tape, every religious person, indeed every thinking person, should understand that there is no connection between what people say privately and their ability to be a moral leader. That's why I wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal 20 years ago defending Hillary Clinton when she was charged with having privately expressed anti-Semitic sentiments.

That the editor of Christianity Today thinks the president's personal flaws, whatever they might be, are more important than all the good he has done for conservatives, for Christians, for Jews, for blacks and for America tells us a lot ... about Galli and the decline of Christian moral thought.


A Feminist Bothered by ‘Everything’

By Rachelle Peterson

Meghan Daum is a liberal feminist who, in her forties, finds herself out-lefted by the new left. The Problem with Everything: My Journey Through the New Culture Wars recounts her inability to fathom Fourth Wave Feminists who declare themselves afraid to attend college or seek “lean-in” type jobs (oh the rape culture!) and her schism with Social Justice Warriors whose “self-proclaimed utopian vision” sometimes sounds to Daum “a lot like authoritarianism.”

Daum grew up picketing for the Equal Rights Amendment and chokes at the thought of “heartbeat bills” limiting abortion. But she cringed at the crude, profanity-laden Women’s March and thought some of the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, even if true (and she believed they were), didn’t amount to “a big deal.” She finds Betsy DeVos a “troubling, even repugnant, specimen” but cheered when DeVos rescinded the Obama Administration’s Title IX guidance that gutted due process. To her, the definition of a feminist means being tough. To today’s feminists, it means being “fair.” Worse still, Fourth Wave Feminism might just be “narcissism repackaged as revolution.”

A skilled, incisive writer (she spent eleven years as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and now writes a biweekly column for Medium), Daum deftly unmasks the hypocrisies of the new left. Isn’t it sexist to decry toxic masculinity while denying toxic femininity? (Daum has a page-long list of examples.) If a woman can regret a sexual experience and retroactively categorize it as rape, shouldn’t a man be permitted to raise concerns about preying feminists who believe men should gratefully accept any sexual encounter a woman deigns to bestow? (Daum has stories of men not forced, but coaxed, into sex by their female dates, in a manner not altogether unlike some of the “rape” stories women tell.) Isn’t it only fair to acknowledge the many ways women wield incredible power over men—including by threatening to ruin them with #MeToo-type accusations?

In a chapter devoted to the college campus, Daum questions the vaunted statistic that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted while in college. She also wonders how much of the activism on campus is mere performance theater.

But here’s where her account begins to falter. Daum’s major critique of campus activists and the new leftists, in general, is their lack of nuance. They fit every incident into a prepared storyline of oppression. They see every event as a black-and-white matter of morality. They perceive nuance as “a dog whistle for centrist and right-leaning scolds whose privilege blinded them to the severity of the crisis before them.”

All true. But Daum treats the new left as simply too extreme in its zeal for good principles—she talks about the “excesses of feminism”—and never considers that it might actually be wrong about some premises. Partly this is because Daum herself is a leftist who shares some intellectual roots with today’s activists.

Mostly Daum professes to be simply uninterested in questions of existential truth or actual right and wrong. “It wasn’t just ‘truth’ I was after. It was that pesky nuance thing,” she explains. She wants greater personal freedom, including the freedom to hold complicated or contradictory opinions (she clings to “our basic human right to be conflicted”). She also wants the freedom to draw the lines where she thinks they should be drawn—namely, at “real” chauvinism—without bothering to explain why today’s leftists shouldn’t enjoy the same line-drawing privileges. She dislikes the new left’s purist approach not so much because she thinks it’s flat-out wrong, but because its lines are just a little too crisp. She wants murkiness. She declares that “in the end, to be human is to be confused.”

This “let life be messy” dogma buys Daum a lot of wiggle room. She can breathlessly praise the Intellectual Dark Web—Jordan Peterson and Bret Weinstein are particular favorites—for their willingness to “dispense” with the “anticipatory self-inoculations from criticism” (by prefacing a talk on sexual assault, for example, by endlessly repeating that that rape is real and terrible). But when George Will wrote a column characterizing victimhood as a “coveted status that confers privileges,” he was “essentially correct and yet incredibly stupid” for failing to offer those same obligatory concessions. (In The Problem with Everything, Daum herself burns many pages on the requisite liberal catechisms.)

She can concede that young feminists, leveraging their “thin skin as their most powerful weapon,” are performing a “brilliant move of jujitsu.” And yet sixty pages later, she declares these same fragile women “put those men on pedestals they might not have been on to begin with,” thereby “doing a jujitsu move against [themselves].” Daum’s love of contradiction and complication sits ill at ease with her complaint that the new left, too, can be self-contradictory.

If clarity versus murkiness is the main divide between Third and Fourth Wave Feminists (and along with them, leftists and new leftists), Daum attributes that divide almost entirely to technology and natural generational shifts: “The world has changed so much between my time and theirs that someone just ten years younger might as well belong to a different geological epoch.” She allows she might be particularly sensitive because just as the new left gained ascendancy, her marriage fell apart. But for the most part, she blames “aging and feeling obsolete,” being an “oldster,” becoming an “official” member of “Team Older Feminist.” She attends her 25-year college reunion and comes away mourning, “Oh, the irrelevance! The obsolescence! The creak of aging out before you even get old.”

This is either a brilliant rhetorical move or a fatal flaw. Does Daum intentionally veil her criticisms in her own personal story, knowing that young leftists credit “lived experiences” with far more weight than they do outright arguments? Does she call for moral murkiness because she calculates that articulating a counter-position is too aggressive for activists who plug their ears at naysayers?

Or is she really admitting that her older leftism—superior though she believes it—lacks the moral standing to mount a serious offense to today’s left? That once her generation embraced moral relativism and discarded “truth” as meaningless, they practically invited the next to see themselves as the personal arbiters of right and wrong?

Or perhaps it’s both. Daum tells the story of interviewing potential apartment-mates while a graduate student in New York.  One, a thirty-something man, suggested he buy the food if the female roommates do the cooking. Daum found it hilarious. Such a chauvinist did not merit outrage. He was outdated, “a human-shaped dust bunny being swept, before our very eyes, into the trash bin of history.”

The implication is that today’s fragile feminists have inadvertently rescued the chauvinist from those trash bins, rehabilitating him into an ever-present, even necessary, character to serve as the foil for their feminist narrative. Score one for older feminism. And yet, one can’t shake the sense that Daum fears she is now the one headed for the trash bins of history. She, along with the rest of her generation, leaned heavily on “outdated” and “old-fashioned” as synonyms for “bad.” Now she’s vulnerable to those same charges. That leaves her just one more problem in the vast web of the problem with everything.


Activists hijack worthy groups like the AMA, RSPCA

By MAURICE NEWMAN, writing from Australia

It is understandable that, across the world, trusted organisations have become havens for left-wing activists. After all, the reputation of venerable institutions precedes them, making them ideal Trojan horses in the battle for ideas.

Take the Australian Medical Association. It is presumed to be the voice of the nation’s medical profession. Perhaps it is. But gone is the heyday of the 1960s when 95 per cent of medical practitioners were members. Today, a mere 20,215 doctors, or about 19 per cent of registered practitioners, belong. So it’s far from clear the AMA represents the views of most practising doctors.

Yet it remains influential in public health in a left-wing kind of way, and increasingly fancies ­itself more generally. But, then, health — like the environment — can be weaponised to bring pressure on legislators on a range of social and economic issues, and the AMA’s leadership knows this.

For example, it was a long-time campaigner for marriage equality, citing mental and physical health issues as reasons to vote for change. Yet, despite its advocacy and the publicity pushing for a Yes vote, last year, the first full year after legal recognition, when a surge in same sex-marriages would have been expected, only 6538 couples tied the knot. That’s only 5.5 per cent of all Australian marriages.

While the $100m spent on promotion, and the plebiscite itself, may have been well-intended, there is the matter of opportunity cost. With $100m, the AMA could have concentrated its time and resources arguing for less fashionable, all-embracing health priorities. ­Indeed, University of Sydney psychologists found that the increased exposure to negative messaging during the campaign added significantly to levels of ­depression, anxiety and other “psychological distress” for the gay, lesbian and bisexual community.

The AMA’s high-profile position on the Urgent Medical Treatment Bill, championed by then independent member for Wentworth and former AMA president Kerryn Phelps, seems to be ­another case of questionable judgment driven by politics. AMA president Tony Bartone argued: “There is compelling evidence that the asylum-seekers on Nauru, especially the children, are suffering from serious physical and mental health conditions, and they should be brought to Australia for appropriate quality care.” AMA federal executive member Paul Bauert compared offshore detainees to those ­interned under the Holocaust. Given the number of medical professionals on Nauru and the ­reality it is an open centre, that claim is obscene. Indeed, 40 of 300 refugees resettled in the US ­applied to return.

Twelve months after enactment, the medivac legislation was repealed. But not before 135 offshore detainees were transferred to the mainland for medical treatment. Only 13 were ­admitted to hospital. Five refused treatment altogether. One, ­despite allegedly being ­involved in 50 violent incidents, was admitted after botching a DIY penis ­enlargement.

It now seems clear the AMA’s primary motivation was political. By dramatising the health issues of offshore detainees, it sought to undermine Australia’s border ­security policies that had twice been endorsed by the electorate. Passing the bill may have been a momentary triumph for left-wing activism but, in so doing, the AMA nailed its true colours ­firmly to the mast.

On climate change, too, the AMA’s motives seem ideological. While Bartone says he relies on “empirical evidence”, he treads a well-worn alarmist path despite there being ample evidence to show some of his assertions are mistaken. He dwells on “significant linear associations between exposure to higher temperatures and greater mortality”, ignoring an international study published in The Lancet that finds cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather. Of course, to embrace The Lancet’s findings also would mean acknowledging that climate change policies were causing many needless deaths for the frail and elderly through increasingly unaffordable energy costs. How does this reconcile with the Hippocratic oath’s “First, do no harm”?

Just as the AMA exploits health for political purposes, so the RSPCA weapon­ises animals. Along with the Greens, Animals Australia and the Animal Justice Party, it has supported the abolition of horse racing, zoos, farming, fishing and the eating of meat.

In 2011 it campaigned with ­Animals Australia for the Gillard government to ban live cattle ­exports to Indonesia. In 2014 it co-sponsored a full-page advertisement in The Age supporting a Greens candidate for the Victorian elections. In 2017 it collaborated with Animals Australia and the ABC in a sensationalised documentary that resulted in NSW temporarily banning greyhound racing. Yet, when there are mass cattle deaths on ­indigenous properties in Western Australia because of “catastrophic failures” of cattle management, the RSPCA is strangely silent. WA farmers claim different standards apply when animal neglect occurs on indigenous-owned pastoral leases.

The RSPCA also was slow to declare its position on vegan ­activists breaking into farms and abattoirs. This follows its sister ­organisation calling for animal-rights protesters to shut down Britain’s top meat market. British animal rights activists claim veganism is the best way to save the planet. In Australia, the RSPCA also supports the “scientific consensus that climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, ­including electricity generation, agriculture (including livestock farming), industry, waste and land use”. It seems Australia’s RSPCA is preparing to follow its British counterpart’s lead.

By posing as wolves in sheep’s clothing, left-wing activists have been most effective in influencing political outcomes. And the AMA and RSPCA are just two of the many respected organisations captured. No longer should we ­assume trusted names are true to label.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here.


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