The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Stop the Boats: The World Tour

David Pope Cartoon – The Canberra Times

Australia, my favourite country on the entire planet, has long been an example to the world. The miracle of our meteoric rise to prosperity, our egalitarian ethos, standard of living, progressive and enlightened social policies and our commitment to diversity have long been the envy of countries around the world. And now, so I’m told, we have become a world leader and exemplar on the issues of border protection and immigration control.

It has been pointed out by our esteemed Prime Minister that the recent tragic death of Syrian child Aylan Kurdi is a sad but telling endorsement of our government’s policies designed to ‘stop the boats’. Apparently, if European powers were to emulate our magnificent maritime border control strategies, children like Aylan Kurdi would now be happy, safe and content somewhere else. It’s uncertain where “somewhere else” is, but who really cares? The essence of the policy is that whatever happens to these people, it doesn’t happen anywhere where we can see it.

Sure, some fringe radical publications like The New York Times might take exception to our actions, calling them inhumane, draconian and questionably legal, but there’s no accounting for the odd loony yelling at the world in isolation, is there? I mean, really – it’s not like anyone even reads it, right? It’s not a respectable media outlet. No, when it comes to journalistic respectability, Ray Hadley and Alan Jones beat The New York Times hands down.

Clearly, the best way to save the lives of refugees is to ensure that they are unable to leave the war zones that their homes have become by any means that might be considered illegal. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all, because that clause in the UN Refugee Convention about not penalising people for paperless travel, or for the means they choose to travel by when seeking asylum clearly doesn’t apply to us. I’m not exactly sure why it doesn’t apply, but the architects and administrators of our border protection policies assure me that refoulement, mandatory detention, de-facto punitive deportation and internment and all the other delightfully kind and generous things that we do for asylum seekers are perfectly legal. And I’m happy to take their word for it because nobody likes a queue-jumper. Especially when they’re jumping a queue that doesn’t exist. The cheek of it!

So now it’s time to take our dog and pony show on the road and really show these backward, primitive countries with their foolish ideas about “humanity” and “obeying international law” what can really be achieved when we all get behind the simple and elegant idea that if we can’t see it, it didn’t happen. Tony Abbott, with a breathtaking show of class, logic and appropriateness, has co-opted the death of a toddler in order to better plug our unique brand of humanitarian, life-saving, tow-them-somewhere-else-to-die brand of absolute compliance with our international obligations.

Yes, Australia, this is a proud day for all of us. History will remember this as the time when Australia showed the world exactly how we deal with human suffering, desperate pleas for help and all that other left-wing, bleeding-heart garbage. So let’s rise to our feet, people, and be upstanding for the long, slow clap that our fearless political leaders so richly deserve.

It’s Not the Border Force, Tony. It’s You.

Our illustrious first subject, Tony Abbott, released a statement yesterday saying that people who demean the Australian Border Force should be “a little ashamed of themselves”. Just a little. Well, it should please the PM to know that I am always a little ashamed of myself, especially after the weekend.

But back to the Australian Special Chuck Norris Medal Force, or whatever it’s called.

Mr Abbott said it wasn’t fair to ‘pillory’ the Australian Kung Fu Cobras because they’re there when we need them. “They do their job on our borders, on our airports, in the seas, to our north,” he said, proving once and for all that an inability to communicate effectively in English is contagious.

Thing is, though – it is fair. It is definitely fair to ‘pillory’ this organisation if we look at the nature of its recent failings in context,  the context being this government’s failure to communicate with the public in a meaningful, sensible or comprehensible way – a failure so consistent that it is impossible to believe that it’s anything but deliberate. When we look at the inspired zealotry of the offending press release from the Australian Shadow Eagle Fists Of Immigrant Doom, we can clearly see the stamp of Mr Abbott’s radical Messianism all over it.

If you think about it, Customs and Immigration officials are generally ordinary Australians, and I can’t see a situation where being crow-barred into a military uniform and being told to pretend you’re on Windward Post at Gitmo would be anything but deeply repugnant to an ordinary Australian. It’s just not what we do. So, just like any cultural change, Abbott’s people would have had to find and convert managers who would be willing to sell the idea of the Australian First Strike Angry Bird Apocalypse to its rank and file.

And thus, we find the genesis of the kind of idiot flunky able to think it a good idea to imply that the Australian Ballistic Harpoon Waffen would be stopping and searching dirty foreigners in the street. This is a debacle that has the fingerprints of Abbott brand radicalism all over it.

It’s not the poor bastards who suddenly have to work in the Australian Murder Death Kill Falcon Brigade who we’re angry at. They’re just doing their jobs, be it “on the airport” or “in the seas”, and we’re grateful to them, except when they throw away our foodstuffs and cause hours of crap television.

What we’re angry at, Mr Abbott, is you. It’s your insistence on using inflammatory and divisive language. Your repeated willingness to compromise  our civil liberties in order to meet shadowy and virtually non-existent threats. Your destruction of our global reputation through continual showboating on matters of national security. Your inability to attract people capable of drafting legislation that isn’t clumsy, inelegant, redundant and heavy-handed. And, more than anything, it’s the fact that all of this useless activity is undertaken at the expense of running our country – a country, I might add, that we all rather like.

So yes, Mr Prime Minister, we should be ashamed of ourselves. But what we should be ashamed of is not our criticism of the Australian Black Taipan Super Strike Force. We should be ashamed of ourselves because we chose you to lead us.

Australian Border Force. Nuff Said.

It was with an unpleasant mixture of consternation and embarrassment that I heard of the combination of Customs and Immigration into a single paramilitary unit called the ‘Australian Border Force’. I saw the press conference: a bunch of civil servants shuffling uncomfortably in faux military uniforms, wearing every medal they were able to muster and, most likely, wondering how the Customs strike was going. And that’s the thing – on the very day that the ABF was announced, one of its critical, frontline arms was on strike. For me, this kind of set the tone. I knew, from that moment, that this whole humiliating experiment in misdirected aggression was going to be a farce from day one.

My prediction, unsurprisingly, was borne out yesterday. The official version of the story is that a ‘junior staffer’ released a poorly drafted press release about OPERATION FORTITUDE that gave the impression that random visa checks were going to happen tonight on the streets of Melbourne’s CBD. At first I thought, “I can believe that – it’s a credible story and it’s been released with a speed that suggests truthfulness.” But then it occurred to me that in a newly-minted unit, there are going to be a lot of people sitting around who do not yet have very much to do. Which means that it’s unlikely that an elementary mistake like this could be made, and very likely that there would be people on hand to spin the aftermath with breathtaking speed. It also occurred to me that OP FORTITUDE was a World War II operation in which a phantom army was created with the intention of deceiving the Germans. Hmmm… creating a false army. Is someone, somewhere, trying to tell us that those within the ranks think it’s as ridiculous as we do?

Because a fake army is what this is. Mr Abbott has touted manning increases in this newly formed Stasi… I mean, Border Force, but most of these increases are putative and the modest increases that have already taken place can all be accounted for by increased manning to handle the transition. So, apart from some snazzy fascistic uniforms, and a tendency to wear dad’s medals at press conferences, our border protection capacity would not appear to have increased by one single whit. I can confidently say this even though I have absolutely no idea how much a ‘whit’ is. Because it doesn’t matter – the net increase in capability is zero.

I try to be balanced – I really do. Mr Abbott is a public servant of long standing, with a proven commitment to civic duty and a sincere personal and professional investment in our national interests. Okay, so maybe he’s incapable of coherent speech on most occasions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s stupid. Really. I just said that. Everything I know about the man points to the fact that he cannot possibly be the gigantic idiot that he is portrayed to be in the press, and I work very hard to preserve this knowledge in my own mind. But he’s not helping. Stunts like this Australian Border Force nonsense are wearing away at my self-restraint. I’m sorry, but what in the name of reason was he thinking? On what planet was this blustering, tokenistic, shambolic and utterly stupid gesture going to make our country better or safer in any way whatsoever? How in God’s name was a ten million dollar re-branding job going to help a pair of organisations that are routinely underfunded, undermanned and generally ignored by the country at large? And I say in God’s name because, with this PM, God, apparently, is never very far away.

The answer to these questions leads unavoidably to a conclusion I’m unwilling to come to. The Australian Border Force is a stupid idea, with a stupid name and, apparently, is staffed by people too stupid to understand their own powers or the English language. Which means that the minds that came up with it are equally stupid, and Mr Abbott’s was one of them.

What’s in a name? Well, usually, the conceptual vision of the creator of whatever’s being named. In this case, the name says it all. Australian Border Force. Vague, mindlessly and needlessly aggressive, writing cheques that reality cannot cash. Remind you of anyone?

Trump And The Problem With Democracy

A lot of people think that the stuff Donald Trump says is insane. They comfort themselves with the fact of this perceived looniness and the idea that his supporters will eventually find out he’s insane and fall away from his campaign.

They’re wrong.

Trump isn’t insane. He’s not even mildly crazy. The stuff that comes out of his mouth is not at all out of step with the opinions of many ordinary people. Let’s chew on that one for a second. The stuff that comes out of his mouth is not at all out of step with the opinions of many ordinary people. This is a bloody terrifying thought and one that most Liberals are keen to disprove or dismiss, but the fact remains. In just the same way that Tea Party gibberish has a widespread, broad-base appeal, so does the kind of hateful guff spewing out of Trump’s hatch.

Why? How? I mean, seriously, how? Well, it’s simple. It is a sad fact that a significant proportion of the human population suffers from a type of cognitive dysfunction commonly known as ‘stupidity’. And that an even more significant proportion labours under the impression that wilful ignorance leads to rational decision making. There is a long, long list of examples of both these conditions, far too extensive to go into here, but the general trend is that there is always, at any given time, a huge section of the population willing to believe anything that supports their inherent prejudices.

Which is fine. Really. It is, generally speaking, a matter of no importance whatsoever if an ordinary person believes that they have been abducted by aliens, texted by God, victimised by Mexicans or boat people or disadvantaged by being white. Such opinions and beliefs, while being mind-bogglingly stupid, don’t really matter for the most part, because the people who hold these opinions are generally too busy working, raising families and watching prime time TV to do anything about them. But when you combine this kind of cognitive dysfunction with an election cycle, enfranchisement and an unscrupulous cowboy willing to exploit feelings of this kind for his own personal aggrandisement, we end up with a very dangerous situation indeed. A situation that, in fact, exposes one of democracy’s greatest flaws.

In the words of the late, great Terry Pratchett, “The problem with democracy is that everyone gets a say.”

We need to wake up to the fact that a potential majority of the group ‘everyone’ believes that the world is crap because immigrants, that the best way to pursue international diplomacy is to continually bluster and make threats and that the best thing to do with the poor, the vulnerable and the funny-looking is to build a giant wall and put them on the other side of it. Because this is the general level of political sophistication of that portion of the population that is usually sneeringly dismissed as ‘ordinary people’.

This is the height of foolishness. We cannot continue to pretend that racist, sexist, intolerant and xenophobic belief sets are ‘fringe’. They’re mainstream. Just because the upper middle class and the intelligentsia can no longer bring themselves to criticise foreigners under any circumstances, this doesn’t mean that racism, bigotry and general pig-ignorant stupidity have been vanquished from the world. This swing to Trumpism exposes one of the most dangerous vulnerabilities of the progressive society – the fact that we have left a huge portion of the population behind. We say and do liberal, progressive things in our little political echo chambers, but the reality is that most people simply haven’t got it yet. Most people, as we can see, exist somewhere on the Trump spectrum, because the smug, self-congratulatory narrative of progressivism never even bothered to try to explain itself to ‘ordinary people’. We have a lamentable habit of assuming that propositions relating to humanity, tolerance and equality are axiomatic. They’re not.

And at some time in the near future, assuming they can read, those ‘ordinary people’ are going to vote.

 

Cecil the Lion

About four days ago, a story broke on RT, Reuters and AP about a well-loved lion having been hunted and killed. The vast majority of the world, including me, ignored it. Two days later, a dentist and bow-hunter from the US called Walter Palmer stepped forward to air his concerns that he ‘might’ have been the killer of this animal. Clearly, Dr Palmer (do you call dentists ‘Dr’? Everyone else is just calling him ‘bastard’) was not at all familiar with the internet and was therefore unaware that hunting creates a larger and more sustained reaction than child murder, one punch kills and mass shootings combined.

A great many posts wished for Palmer’s dentistry business to go bust and for Palmer himself to be immolated, driven to suicide, hunted by lions or killed by PETA activists. His clinic’s Yelp profile, FB page, address and telephone numbers, both business and personal, were released. Netizens all over the world bewailed the death of Cecil the Lion and condemned Walter Palmer for cowardice, malice and general evilness. His practice was shut down and he was inundated with angry calls and death threats. When a FB page called ‘Cecil the Lion’ put up a post asking for people to direct their outrage not at Palmer but at the law that continues to allow hunting, it drew about 667 responses, very much along the lines of these below.

“Regrets killing him,more like he is cacking himself of what will happen to him,now it’s world wide,hope someone shoots him”

Worthless piece of shit, hope you get hunted outside your practice u fucking c*nt!!!!!!!

HERE IS THE BUSINESS ADDRESS OF THIS WANKER. PLEASE REPOST AND RUIN HIS LIVELIHOOD

Which seems to be a fair summation of the world’s opinion of game hunting in general and Palmer in particular. Apart from the Zimbabwean government, of course. They seem to think big game hunting is an essential funding source for the upkeep of Hwange National Park. But there’s always a few loonies out there to ruin it for everyone.

In any case, I’m disgusted, appalled and ashamed at this disgusting episode. I’m also a bit sad about Cecil, and confused as to why killing for trophies is still done in this day and age, but mostly I’m disgusted, appalled and ashamed of the baying lynch mob that has gathered around Walter Palmer.

Firstly, I’m willing to bet that more than 99 percent of these keyboard warriors had never even heard of Cecil a week ago. I certainly hadn’t. Another thing that most of these people would never have heard of is Palmer’s 2 children. I wonder what kind of time they’re having now, and whether the netizens of the world believe that they deserve it, having committed the dread crime of being the offspring of such an egregious criminal? Some netizens have even suggested that a fit punishment would be to hunt and kill these vile offspring to show Palmer ‘how it feels’. There’s also the fact that Palmer runs a sizeable dental practice – do his partners and employees also deserve to suffer from the taint of his association? Probably, but we’ll never know because the mob decided before any of these questions could be examined.

Okay, internet – I get it. Hunting is wrong. Fine. But how on Earth did I miss the memo that said applying sanctions to a man by the means of mob rule was okay? And why are people not more outraged about other stuff? Like Dylann Roof? Or the man who was in the news yesterday for organising the commission of at least 500 sex offences against his own daughter? I suspect it’s because hunting is a ‘safe’ one. Whether you are genuinely outraged or not, if you get on television and cry about the death of a lion and rail against the cowardly practice of hunting dangerous animals at night, you will get a surge in popularity because practically everybody out there is loudly feeling the same way via Twitter. This is something we can all join in on – an outrage that doesn’t raise uncomfortable questions of race, gender or sexuality, that doesn’t seem to target any significant cultural group – it’s a good, old fashioned pecking party directed at one man. And splashing all over every innocent individual that man knows. But we wont worry about that – can’t think, pecking.

If we were really serious about stopping hunting, rather than having a hatestravaganza on someone who can’t kick back, our rage would be focussed on the people who routinely issue permits to kill big game animals for sport. We would be trying to put enough pressure on them to change their ways and find some other means of funding their wildlife reserves. But we’re not. Which means that it can’t possibly be big-game hunting that we’re actually concerned with. What we seem most concerned with, in this instance, is finding safe and popular targets for frenzied outpourings of hate. Which, if you think about it,  is a kind of hunting in itself.

Who Are the United Patriot’s Front?

Not being an avid watcher of the far right, I was blissfully unaware of their shenanigans until various organisations started advertising this weekend’s rallies in Melbourne and Sydney on my Facebook newsfeed.

I should explain that, having noticed just how tightly shut an echo chamber the internet can be, I deliberately follow several feeds and pages that are diametrically opposed to my own beliefs. This ensures that I am not just hearing my own opinions in different words, and is closer to the ideals that I think should inform our usage of the internet.

It was for this reason that I began hearing about an organisation called the United Patriot’s Front (not to be confused with the Sudanese separatist movement), a far right, ultra-nationalist, anti-Islamic group that could be described as a splinter group of Reclaim Australia, if only because their founder is a former spokesman for Reclaim and split off on the assumption that the bulk of Reclaim would follow him (they didn’t). The UPF are initially quite difficult to gather information about, largely because of the looseness of their organisation. In digital terms their existence is confined to a handful of Facebook pages, some very angry Youtube videos, and a website with the message “Please bare [sic] with us while this site is under construction”.

This means that in order to find out about who they are and what they have to say, one has to go through the rather depressing process of reading their material and watching their videos. What we first gather about these people is that they are angry. They are, in fact, very angry indeed. What they mainly seem to be angry about is the existence of Islam, having a confused idea that just because violent political ideologies in the Middle East happen to identify with Islam, that Islam must therefore be the enemy of civilisation. They also appear to be angry about female genital mutilation, cherry-picked passages of the Quran, Halal certification, the media and, weirdly, communism. The upshot of their worldview appears to be that a vague entity that they label ‘The Left’, in cahoots with the ‘Communist Media’, is conspiring to destroy the Australian way of life. So far so garden variety loony. Unusually, they are also inordinately angry at the idea of being called racist. I could just about understand this if I was able to believe it. Unfortunately, their non-racist credentials are seriously questionable. Aside from their public and close association with more or less openly racist parties and groups, there is clear evidence that a senior neo-nazi was invited to join yesterday’s bus trip from Sydney to Melbourne, and that he was prominently and loudly kicked off only after various media outlets had detected and reported his presence.

As for numbers and support, this is also a bit nebulous. Many of the ‘allied organisations’ they reference do not appear to exist and their on again off again relationship with Reclaim Australia is obviously fraught. Far less fraught is their relationship with parties like Australia First and the National Democratic Party of Australia. Their turnout at the Melbourne rally yesterday, which would ordinarily serve as a good guide, is difficult to calculate as their leadership failed to name the pre-rally point, meaning that by the time the rally had begun many of their supporters appear to have been stuck on the wrong side of the police lines set up to protect them. This is sourced from their Facebook page and would appear to be fairly indicative of their general intelligence and organisational ability.

So what are they? Farcical or dangerous? It’s extremely difficult to say. I, personally, find them deeply worrying. The brand of non-reflective, anti-intellectual ultra-nationalism that they push seems to me to have the potential for mass appeal. There is a significant portion of the Australian community who are sufficiently ill-informed to buy in to the kind of xenophobic anxiety that groups like this push. It is interesting to note that their FB page has over 8000 likes and their founder’s page over 22000. And the half-truths and fabrications that they publish are no more radical or bizarre than the comments on Islam that I hear from many ordinary Australians on an almost daily basis.

Why does a group like this even exist? Neo-nazis and fascists haven’t had this kind of a popularity wave since the ’90s, when the Howard government attempted to access deep-seated anxieties about Asian immigration in a bid to garner populist brownie points.

Wait a minute… I think I’ve got it…

Reclaim Australia – Reclaim What?

Some fat bloke has decided to address tomorrow’s Reclaim Australia rally in Mackay. This isn’t usually something any sane person would care about, but in this case, the fat bloke is an elected representative. Reactions to this decision have been, to say the least, extreme. People have condemned, lauded, vilified and eulogised the man (George Christensen). When asked to explain his decision, he replied that he had read the ‘charter’ of the group and felt that it was something that he could get behind.

So I decided to read what he’d read and try to understand what he saw as being worthy of support.

Reclaim Australia has a 24 point manifesto outlining all of the things that they wish to ‘reclaim’. Grammar and spelling don’t seem to be amongst them and are often made conspicuous by their absence. This might sound snobbish but I would suggest that any group that lacks the nous to engage someone who can actually write and spell to construct their website is probably seriously lacking in other areas as well.

The first thing that jumps out at the reader is the sheer scope of the group’s demands. They have something to say on everything from anti-discrimination law and the wearing of ADF uniforms to Australia’s membership of the UN (they’re apparently against it).

The next most noticeable aspect is the organisation’s tenuous grip on reality. For example, they seem to labour under the impression that the UN can compel Australia to write new laws, rather than the reality, which is that Australia voluntarily supports various conventions and then writes legislation to reflect this support.

And then there’s the sheer ignorance and confusion of the document when considered as a whole. In essence, it is strongly reminiscent of the ‘Occupy’ movement – a random political grab-bag of half-formed ideas and ill-digested observations. And, most significantly, they share a confused sense of being somehow victimised by the modern world. In the case of Occupy it was multi-national corporations and capitalism. For Reclaim Australia, it is globalisation and ‘political correctness’ that are somehow preventing them from attaining happiness.

Basically, it’s stupid. I’d like to rebut each of the 24 points, but that would involve writing a lengthy volume on law, history and international relations aimed at a primary school audience, and that would be unutterably dull for all of us. Instead, I’d just like to point out a single, horrifying truth.

An elected representative, sitting in Federal Parliament, is sufficiently stupid to read this stupid, poorly spelt, barely literate document and decide that it outlines a political philosophy worth endorsing.

For those of us who enjoy a good laugh, the manifesto can be found at the link below:

http://www.reclaim-australia.com/reclaim-what-.html

Ms Bishop Rode in a Helicopter!

Roughly eighty percent of my cumulative social media news feed is actually news. NPR, ASPI, FPI, BBC, ABC – the alphabet soup goes on and on. On top of this, I have my special interest feeds made up of forums and push sites for everything from hacking to design to international security. With all this heavy, worthy information, the tiny remnant that is cat pictures, dinner shots and someone’s wife in a bikini is something that I often fail to notice at all.

With this configuration, you’d think that I’d managed to scrub most of the stupid from my social media experience but, unfortunately, in a moment of conscience-pricked madness, I chose a handful of feeds relating to Australian politics. I know, I know – but I thought that, as I’m constantly banging on about the ‘informed electorate’ and the ‘engaged citizen’, it would be seriously hypocritical of me not to keep at least half an eye on the goings on in my own country’s corridors of power. Which is fine, but the result is that I have simply replaced all the angst I suffered from the ‘I have nothing to say and will say it without learning to spell’ crew with ‘Australian politics’. Let me explain…

In the rest of my news feed, the Greek PM appears to have partially won his game of hardball with Europe, but potentially lost it with his own country. A moment to go down in history on multiple levels has occurred – the Iran nuclear deal has gone through. A group of very smart people are explaining to me why China’s stock market value is predicated on money that doesn’t exist and why this is okay for now, but not for the future. Another group of very smart people is inundating me with impossible numbers relating to Pluto. Boffins from all over the world are analysing and predicting ripple effects from the Greek debt crisis and the Iranian nuclear deal. Other boffins are breaking these and other situations down for me into dot-point briefs and detailed reports. Somebody has taken a picture of his wife in a bikini. and a man in Florida has been arrested for repeatedly having revenge sex with an alligator. Okay – so it’s not all highbrow, but you’ve got to admit that it’s all mindbogglingly interesting, at least.

And in the ‘Australian politcs’ section? Breathless, blow by blow coverage of a five thousand dollar helicopter trip taken by Bronwyn Bishop to a golf course somewhere.

Leaving aside the fact that the fact that Bronwyn Bishop travelling anywhere in the general direction of away from me is good news, this is a little disturbing. It’s not as if nothing important or interesting is happening in the world of Australian politics. The efforts of the government to pretend that customs and immigration operations are military. Their breathtaking fiscal radicalism and the embarrassing backdowns and compromises that the public’s rejection of this has caused. The endless stream of ill-considered, ill-drafted and downright dangerous national security legislation that seem to have worrying amounts of support from both sides of the house. The admirable but worryingly rushed push for globalisation behind our participation in deals like the TPP. The list goes on.

So why, then, are we pre-occupied with trivialities like Ms Bishop’s logistical arrangements? I don’t know. On the one hand, we could blame the government itself. It’s no secret that their favourite tactic for offsetting their somewhat moribund record so far is to distract us with crises and trivialities, but there is another side to this depressing, tinfoil coin and that side is us. Why do we allow ourselves to be distracted in this way? Why oh why do we consent to the government’s framing of the political debate as a conversation about nothing? Well, it probably has to do with our need to be entertained.

There’s a show that ran for three series in the US called ‘The Newsroom’. It’s about a news team that made the revolutionary decision to structure their news broadcast on the radical proposition that the duty of news broadcasters is to educate and inform the electorate. In it, one of the characters points out that, currently, news organisations are in exactly the same business as the producers of Jersey Shore. This is sadly accurate. The line between news and entertainment has become so blurred that political coverage now has a similar intelligence quotient to celebrity coverage. The political narrative is nearly indistinguishable from the narrative of Masterchef. And the media themselves are only partially to blame because how on Earth can we blame for profit businesses for supplying a type of product that we lap up with such avidity? They can’t – not really.

Let’s get serious, people. If we want to be entertained, there is a planet-sized body of drama, comedy and reality programming out there ranging from the compelling to the asinine, all fictional, all sensational and all deeply satisfying in its own way. But when it comes to the news – when it comes to the information that we as voting citizens have a sacred duty to obtain and assimilate – let’s try, if we can, to refuse the clickbait trivia that we stumbled into demanding and send a message to the networks that we no longer consent to having important information ignored, sensationalised or trivialised. If we can do this, we can perhaps avoid ever again having to deal with the kind of government and political discourse we have today.

The link below is from ‘The Newsroom’, containing a fictional apology to the US public that should, in my view, be made to every audience of practically every Western media outlet. I am currently working on our apology to the networks for demanding trivia and then complaining when we receive it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXrOqjS9ZyA

 

 

Speaking of Donkeys…

There is a group of people living within our society today that has been accused of many horrendous things. They are accused of treating their women and children so badly that their actions are tantamount to murder. They are accused of deliberate oddness of dress with a view to concealment and subterfuge. They are accused of child rape and child torture. Of persistently committing murder in the name of their religion. People mutter at the presence of their temples and at the sight of them in the street with their beards and their religious costumes. Dark deeds and purposes are said to follow them from their homelands and measures have been taken in law to prevent them from ‘bringing their problems here’, as well as from displacing local culture. But, most significantly, they stand accused of upholding an ideology of destruction – a belief in the downfall of all other civilisations that will facilitate the creation of a global state that will uniformly worship and honour their one true God.

I am speaking, of course, about the Jews.

Now we all know that any such characterisation of the Jews is completely ridiculous. Sure, there are and have been extremists and nutjobs amongst them – but that’s the same for every large group. And besides, who the hell discriminates on the grounds of religion these days? Just about anyone over the age of 12 could immediately point out some serious history indicating where such idiocy can lead.

It was not, of course, always so. The views and opinions I pointed out above were not just commonplace, but mainstream, for the better part of 1500 years and across most of the world (and I mean the whole world, not just the occidental part of it). It was a known fact that Jews were members of an evil cult that was inimical to the state, and that its individual members were pernicious and harmful to the unity of any right-thinking community. Of course now we can look back on this 1500 years of history and pretend it was some kind of anomaly. We can see that these opinions consisted of blatant and wilful twisting/misquotation/misinterpretation of sacred texts and ceremonies, as well as a rooted unwillingness to understand the cultural norms of the ‘other’. We can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that this kind of blind, fearmongering stupidity could not possibly gain traction in today’s enlightened, civilised and sophisticated West.

Until we read the Daily Telegraph and the great Facebook Vox Populi talking about the creeping threat of Islamisation. Until we see parties like UKIP and Golden Dawn and the torch and pitchfork waving subhumans who vote for them. Until we listen to anything Cory Bernardi or Geert Wilders has to say and, crucially, consider how popular their views are.

On the frequent occasions in life when I would repeatedly make the same damn mistakes, my father used to tell me a story about a donkey. Basically, when a donkey walks a path and encounters an obstacle that trips it up, it will remember forever where that obstacle is, and will never again trip on it. This story would usually finish along the lines of: “So. You are not quite as clever as a donkey.”

Our Government is Less Intelligent than The Tea Party

One of the stories being splashed all over the progressive media at the moment concerns a Tea Party Congressman called Tom Emmer. Basically, Congressman Emmer went on a tour of African aid recipient countries and came back staunchly defending the benefits of providing foreign aid.

Leaving aside the fact that he had to travel thousands of miles to learn one of the most elementary principles of foreign policy, this is probably, on balance, a good thing. Traditionally, if that word can be used to describe the habits of a tiny reactionary clique in political and intellectual infancy, the Tea Party has been in favour of drastically reducing or eliminating aid to foreign countries. In Emmer’s own words:

“I have made the statement in the past that a dollar that we are spending for instance in Africa, in Kenya, is a dollar that we could probably be using at home to build a road or a bridge.” 

What Emmer realised in the course of his visits, however, was that foreign aid is advantageous primarily to the country that is giving it. Sure, there’s the benefits to poor people and all the lovey-dovey, touchy-feely stuff, but if this was all there was in it there is a fair chance that not a single country in the world would do it. Foreign aid contributes to the stability of one’s neighbours, opens doors for trade and exports into the target countries, creates an additional layer of diplomatic engagement and enhances the giver’s international reputation. There are solid strategic reasons for the dissemination of aid as well. Aid programs can help to facilitate military co-partnership, shore up alliances and guarantees and smooth the way for the maintenance and development of inter-operability, not to mention potentially enhancing the overall stability of the target nations. Or, as Emmer puts it:

“A dollar spent on [foreign aid] is a dollar that we won’t have to spend on additional bombs and bullets and God forbid boots on the ground in the future.”

In terms of Australia’s foreign aid, we generally give to countries that straddle our trade routes, or that we are hoping to export goods and plant to, exploit for resources, or any or all of the above. All of this makes solid strategic, economic and geopolitical sense and these are, possibly regrettably, the principle reasons for providing aid. It is also astonishingly cheap at less than 1.4% of the federal budget and less than 0.5% of gross national income.

Cut now to the Australian government, who have announced whopping cuts in aid to African nations (70%) and to our immediate Northern neighbours (in the region of 30%). The reasons they cite are a little bit vague and confused, but this is understandable as such a discussion requires sentences consisting of more than three words. As far as I can make out, however, once we cut away the repeated use of the words ‘defecit’ and ‘recurrent’, the current government simply cannot make out why we need to send this money over. They point out incredulously that many of the countries that receive aid also give it (and this from a party that believes in trickle down economics), ignoring the fact that some of these countries have been given aid partly on the understanding that they will distribute it through their regions.

What this seems to point to is an inability to understand either the function or benefits of foreign aid. This is disappointing, certainly, but what makes it ludicrous is the fact that our government is incapable of understanding an idea that a Tea Party Congressman has managed to wrap his head around.