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Greens Derangement Syndrome: Fairfax edition

There was a triple whammy of Greens Derangement Syndrome in Mark Kenny’s Saturday comment in Fairfax, in which the Greens were blamed for:

  1. Most likely killing the same-sex marriage plebiscite;
  2. Killing the Malaysian solution; and
  3. Killing all hope of carbon pricing by not supporting Rudd’s emissions trading scheme.

Such a powerful party, with 10 sitting federal members, directing the course of history! Apparently Labor (contra same-sex plebiscite), and the Coalition (against the Malaysian solution and emissions trading) are without any political agency. How does Kenny come to attribute all this to the Greens?

The answer is pure political cynicism. Kenny can’t see a political party as an entity with a set of values that it treats as inviolable. Any stand on principle is assessed as an act of communication — towards the meeja and especially the press gallery — rather than a political act in its own right.

That’s an ultimately circular position, and one that positions the press gallery at the centre of public consciousness — at a time when they’ve never been less influential. It’s the same, tired, dying obsession with two-party horse-trading, which is the only way the press gallery can really comprehend politics. The plain fact is, there’s a good argument for voting against a plebiscite in Parliament, even if you agree with the aim it might achieve — on the grounds that Parliament is established to make changes to laws, and one of the virtues of representative parliamentary systems is to contain and focus social debate that would otherwise cause irreparable social divide.

Arguing (as your correspondent has) that the same-sex marriage movement should just focus on the cause, and respond to the plebiscite with “bring it”, is not the same as saying that parliamentary parties should simply wave through a cynical political diversion like the plebiscite. If not only Greens supporters and pro-gay marriage forces, but the wider community oppose a plebiscite, it’s hard to see how this amounts to a cynical move. Ditto the Malaysian Solution, which has been canonised in retrospect as the answer to all our problems — even though it dumps refugees in a non-signatory country, still stuck in developing-world poverty, and filled with ethnic tension.

The same is true of Rudd’s emissions trading scheme, which the Greens argued, accurately and reasonably, could be effectively set to zero, serve as a classically Rudd-esque PR operation and hand billions of compensation to Big Coal at the same time. All standard issue, but good to get it all in one story in a triple grand slam. Maybe Kenny could award the Golden Whisk* to himself?

Helping Gerard Henderson

In his Saturday column, Gerard Henderson has added a brief correction note at the end. Better make it a permanent feature. In this week’s story on 18C — good little Gollum, taking the party line — the blame for political correctness is laid at the feet of “French philosopher Herbert Marcuse (1898 -1979)”. Possibly, Gollum, you mean the German philosopher Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) — born in Berlin, drafted into World War I German army, leading light of the Frankfurt School?

Elsewhere in the article (which substantially echoes your correspondent’s remarks on the Q&A stoush on free speech earlier last week) Gerard praises Brendan O’Neill as the member of a one-time small-C communist grouping with a libertarian bent. Gerard is sparing his own blushes here. The Revolutionary Communist Party (1981-1996) of which he speaks were anything but small-C. They were a resolutely Leninist grouping, who argued that many other leftist groupings had been captured by social issues (such as environmentalism, anti-racism), rather than working-class revolution — very inconvenient for the current 18C fatuouswa. Perhaps next week’s column can be all corrections?

The Oz goes feral over 18C

On 18C, and not the least bit funny at all, is a front-page story by Hedley Thomas, on the QUT 18C complaint, initiated by an administration officer, Cindy Prior, against several students. The Oz has been using this case as a battering ram against 18C for several weeks now — with increasing obsessiveness, as the government insists 18C won’t be re-opened.
Now, they’ve taken it to a new pitch: publicising the psychiatric assessments of Prior as the centre of a 2000 word story. Since Prior alleges PTSD arising from the incident, based on existing trauma arising from racism, there’s plenty for Thomas to work with, and which I don’t intend to repeat here. Suffice to say, that if Prior is genuinely suffering from PTSD, which two of the three examiners appear to agree with, having her full psychological assessments splashed over the front page of the Oz is not going to help. The Oz would no doubt reply that the documents are public — but there’s a big difference between them being public in a set of legal papers and splashed over the front of a broadsheet.

This is a nuclear-level attack on someone that the Oz has dogged for months, constructing her as a target for relentless attack. They haven’t done anything like it since they launched an equally deranged assault against UTS academic Larissa Behrendt, hinged on a bad-taste tweet. Strange how it’s indigenous women with a profile who come in for this no-holds barred treatment, ain’t it? Someone might suggest that there was more to this than the mere cases at hand.

Cindy Prior exercised her legal rights under a law the Oz doesn’t like. That law remains because Tony Abbott didn’t have the guts to go against the 1500+ submissions from multicultural groups who opposed the change to 18C, and which convinced him — probably accurately — that an election could be lost on the issue. The Oz doesn’t have the guts to go after such groups. In particular, it won’t challenge the Jewish community peak bodies, who, reliably right-of-centre on foreign policy, nevertheless came out against the law. So it attacks the powerless, and finds a scapegoat for right-wing failure of nerve.

The idea that public interest is served by exposing, in detail, the psychological assessments of one individual – when those assessments actually show her to be suffering the ailments she claims — is laughable. If the aim is to create sympathy for an anti-18C position among wavering people, I suspect the Oz has badly overshot the mark. The whole story has a sleazy air of sadism and hate about it. Isn’t there anyone remaining at the editorial centre of the Oz with a human dimension remaining? Someone to get a group of culture warriors with a dose of cabin fever? Probably not. They’ll mount these public attacks until they push someone to self-harm or worse. They will eventually get a scalp. Literally.

Coincidentally, one of the many CLP MPs to lose their seats in the Saturday NT election was Bess Price, the NT businesswoman who had been the subject of Behrendt’s very funny tweet. The Oz et al feted Price as the bold new future of etc, against the culture of entitlement, etc. Sadly, Price lost her seat with a swing against her of 35%. Yeah, you read that right. Her response? “For me as an Aboriginal person, I’m so disappointed in the other Aboriginal voters.” That’s the sort of entitlement attitude the Oz comes down on hard. I’m sure we’ll see mention of it any day now.

Poor persecuted ‘freethinkers’

Finally in the 18C follies, we have what must be the lamest attempt at self-martyrdom ever from, of course, Jennifer Oriel in today’s op-ed section. Sing, little bird! “Since Australian freethinkers risk punishment under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act for telling the truth about Islamism, I will …” Ha. Jennifer, they didn’t come for Planet Janet Albrechtsen when she reversed an academic’s findings to erroneously accuse young European Muslims of being gang rapists. Since you’re just a Discount Factory Seconds version of Planet, I doubt they’ll be coming for you.

And that was the weekend that was!

*An old in-house Fairfax award — a kitchen whisk, sprayed gold, mounted — for best beat-up. Kenny’s Sunday story notes that it was found by someone clearing out an old Fairfax cupboard — presumably preparatory to renting out yet more ex-newspaper space for commercial rental.