Bill Chandler writes: Re. “Charting the clash of civilisations” (yesterday, item 15). Thanks for the apology about leaving out a word (“fundamentalist”) in your most recent foray into the “clash of civilisations” – but not so quick! Slack writing/editing about such an important issue betrays your real thoughts (as Freud would say) – and you become exposed as a part of the problem. I am sure keen journalists such as yourself would use words like “peace” and “reconciliation” if only they were shorter. “War”, coming in with a very emphatic ‘W’ and just three letters is much better for headlines. “War on this” and “war on that” is lazy journalism. It is also becoming a bit tedious. Press “Tools” then “Thesaurus” in MS Word and consider the alternatives. More importantly, the repeated use of the term “war” usually betrays lazy political analysis. Keep this sort of simplistic writing up and you will have the honour of making Andrew Bolt look like an in-depth thinker, not just an entertainer. Here’s to good journalism.

Tony Kevin writes: The big problem with (the aptly named) Christian’s hypothesis that we are at war with (“fundamentalist”, is it now?) Islam is the flagrant one-sidedness of his examples. It would be just as easy to compile long lists of innocent dead with these sorts of names – I won’t bother to date and place them, anyone can Google them – Sabra, Shatila, Fallujah, Jenin, Grozny, Srebrenica, Mogr el-Deeb, Kandahar … and countless other places large and small in the Islamic part of the world where civilians keep suffering huge human rights abuses at the hands of American, Israeli, Russian or Bosnian Serb military forces. (eg, if you Google “wedding party” and “bombed”, see what you get). Are they/we making war on Islam? Is that Christian’s view? Were the 100,000 people in Iraq whose deaths our coalition has caused, since and as a result of its invasion, “enemies”? I’d prefer to think all this terrible bloodshed by “our side” – I don’t like that usage – is the result of criminal calls by our foolish and bad leaders or by their “just following orders” military Daleks who pull the triggers for them. “We” are not at war with Islam – just the nutters who have too much power over us might think they are, and foolish journalists who swallow their spin. I know I am not at war with any kind of Islam. Christian’s methodology is all wrong here. It’s actually beyond a joke, it’s nauseating.

Geoff Robinson writes: Two cheers to Charles Richardson on the “war on terror”, but liberals should be aware that Islamic fundamentalist regimes are bad news for their unfortunate citizens; high levels of poverty, slow economic growth, gender inequality, state repression, ghastly penal codes etc, etc. They make communism look good. That’s the real danger they pose to humanity. That is why liberals should work for their overthrow, not because of the danger to the West.

Nick Shimmin writes: If Crikey intends to indulge Christian Kerr in the amazing xenophobia of his very own War on Islam (which is of course providing a great service in the interests of tolerance and understanding, exactly what we need in the world today, and especially in Australia), perhaps readers would like to balance this with the “Lie by Lie” list on the US government here. I would suggest we start compiling a similar list of Howard government lies, as collating all this with the collected memory of Crikey readers would in fact provide very useful ammunition for the next election. Does Crikey have the character to start this? Will someone on the Crikey staff take responsibility for organising it? How about you, Christian? The list starts now… And by the way, Mr Kerr and Mr Hitchens, we could start a list of Christian and Jewish outrages against Muslim populations which would be just as long as your list, my friends. That list can start here too, with the Philippine army genocide in Mindanao, the Sabra and Shatila massacre… And away we go! TWO new lists for Crikey readers!

Chris Simpson writes: Does Christian Kerr have some warped sense of humour? I mean, war against Islam, sounds like the bleating of those right wing nutcases in the American Enterprise Institute (and their Aussie mate at the Sydney Institute). He may like to post a readers list of terrorist acts against Israelis but let’s be objective here. For every terrorist act in the West, you can also list the numbers (but we never do ) of innocent people killed daily by Israelis in the occupied territories and by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Has he ever thought Islamic fundamentalism may be one type of response to this? Samuel Huntington must be grinning from ear to ear. Maybe Mr Kerr should preach this on a pulpit somewhere in the American Midwest or even the US congress. Bound to get applause.

Nic Maclellan writes: Concerning Naomi Robson and her search for cannibals: There is evidence of symbolic, funerary cannibalism in parts of Melanesia (the last major epidemic of kure – an illness probably caused by eating people in funeral rites – was in the 1950s in Papua New Guinea). However Naomi Robson’s exploits follow in a path of many intrepid explorers who’ve used cannibal imagery to give Pacific islanders very bad press. Vanuatu anthropologist Kirk Huffman has studied the myths and reality – a 2003 Catalyst program shows how Melanesians have got a bad rap for cannibalism. Funerary cannibalism was reasonably widespread in South America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific in the past, but Huffman argues that survival cannibalism is only practiced by Western cultures (people eating each other on lifeboats, Donner Pass, during famines etc). From the 18th Century onwards, popular images of Pacific cannibals were contrasted to pictures of beautiful hula girls to reinforce the mythology of Polynesian paradise and Melanesian hell – a stereotype largely created by Christian missionaries and traders in the colonial era as an excuse for their land grabbing. So all in all, it’s rather unfair to blame Melanesians for cooking pots.

Terry Kidd writes: I have followed the contributions by Peter Wood, Tony Ryan, Kevin Brady and Geoff Baars on the study/learning of Aboriginal languages in schools with interest. I consider that so far Tony Ryan has struck the most realistic chord by asking exactly what will be taught. I don’t want to debunk the idea because it has merit, if it can be achieved. I have a close friend who is quite senior in her field in education who has a very good grounding in her culture via her mother. A few years ago my friend started a project to try and build a dictionary/translator for English and the various languages spoken by the Western Desert tribes. My friend was well versed in who originally came from which “country” and had strong connections to her own “country”. Her original thoughts were that the Western Desert tribes all spoke one language with slightly varying dialects. She eventually abandoned her project because it became too complex. She found that “tribes” was a misnomer, the varying peoples were in fact clans, much smaller than tribes, and spoke widely varying languages, not dialects. Further complicating the issue was that often these languages were spoken only 150 km apart. For instance, the people from Jigalong spoke a different tongue to those from Punmu despite both clans often being described as the one tribe. My point is that the resources that would be required in order to identify, catalogue and then to teach the “local” language in schools, and often that would mean that a language would only be taught in one school, would be inappropriate to the benefit gained. I am reminded of the annual Jigalong v Punmu footy matches that were very fiercely fought with an intense rivalry. I’d imagine that one clan’s children being taught the other’s language in school would be enough to force confrontations with fighting sticks. Laudable idea, impossible to implement.

Katherine Wilson writes: Christian Kerr wrote yesterday (comments) that it is “not true” that the Catallaxy blog comprises “largely Centre for Independent Studies men” as I wrote in a Crikey story (“The blogger formerly known as Demidenko” – 11 September, item 18). However, the major players on that site at the time of writing were in fact strongly associated with the CIS. Andrew Norton is employed by the CIS; Jason Soon has many times described himself as a CIS contributor and erstwhile employee; Rafe Champion “used to write something called Rafe’s Roundup”, apparently something published with the CIS. Only yesterday Soon wrote: “A lot of us seem to be linked to the CIS. Why? Because there are only two think tanks that espouse libertarian ideas in Australia and the CIS is the market leader.” Was my description, then, “untrue”? (Originally, I wrote “CIS types”, but “CIS men” seemed more appropriate, given there were no women on the site before Helen Dale joined.) I did not write “employees”, and I think the connections are worth including in my story, in the context of Dale’s stated “dramatic shift to the right”.

Gabriel McGrath writes: Re. “Commercial TV is a cruel business”. Sure, I like a good “Nine-bash” as much as the next person with a positive IQ, but I reckon yesterday’s report from Glenn Dyer (item 22) is just wrong. Most of Nine’s problems on Wednesday night come from the fact that Ten is so strong. I know plenty of people who are not big commercial TV viewers. They will NOT watch all your Idols, Losers, Border Security etc etc… But they WILL switch to Ten each Wednesday for (a) A bunch of comedians being bloody funny and (b) A hospital drama that’s better written, plotted and acted than 90% of the stuff on TV. I’d suggest there’s not much Seven or Nine could put on that will make those people switch from Ten on Wednesday nights. And now that Seven has discovered a new genre – “real life police shows for people conned by the phoney war on terror” — Nine’s fighting for the scraps on Wednesday nights.

Richard Middleton writes: Tony Ryan states (yesterday, comments) in reference to Bolt’s criticisms of Gore… “He makes ten points that deserve serious discussion…” Tony, no offence intended to you, but I can only assume from your comments that you know as little about the climate debate and Science 101 as The Dolt does. His facts are wrong, his grasp of the science involved is absolutely woeful and his inferences are transparent and laughable. In short, his column is nothing more than a pile of BoltSh-te. For a start, do a quick Google on “Richard Lindzen” and “oil industry” to get an idea of his credible sources. I have offered to educate him in the science involved so that he may understand why so many are concerned, but he has never taken me up on my kind gesture and continues to act as the focus of a small and fortunately shrinking, minority of blinkered nay sayers. Why he does so is beyond my abilities (considerable though they may be) to understand…

Louis White writes: Re. “More night finals for AFL” (yesterday, item 30). The fact is the AFL announced a couple of days ago that the Adelaide vs West Coast/Western Bulldogs would be played at 3pm at AAMI Stadium on Saturday week. Your correspondent alluded to the fact that the AFL was contemplating a night final for the second preliminary final when in fact that was never going to be the case as the winner of the match mentioned above was always going to be granted seven days to recover for the grand final.

David Lobbezoo writes: Is Nick Place serious in writing that the Bulldogs/Collingwood final last Sunday “was probably the best finals moment of the series so far” (yesterday, item 30). Better than the Sydney/West Coast match? Somebody seems to be betraying his Victorian-centric bias. Or, far more sensibly, does he just loathe Collingwood like the (vast) majority of non-Collingwood AFL supporters?

Terry Maher writes: I couldn’t agree more with both Nahum Ayliffe and Stephen Mayne the other day (13 September, comments). Stephen Mayne’s PP campaign diary is excruciatingly embarrassing and he should give it away because its content is far from “interesting” – even with the delusional eccentric baby pix. Spare us all, please…

Michael Tatham writes: Has Crikey become the w-nkers blog? Item 11 yesterday has Richardson v. Kerr. Item 13: Mayne v. Kerr in response to Kerr v. Mayne. All the little fish in the fishbowl getting cranky with each other – isn’t that interesting. 

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Peter Fray

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