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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

yuk & apologies to Tim Blair « Previous | |Next »
July 30, 2003

This guy cruised our local Adelaide Festival of Ideas a while back. The Sydney conservatives yelled and carried on. I wondered what all the fuss was about, and I had a bit of fun at Tim Blair's expense. I had never heard of George Monbiot. I gather that he is a columnist for The Guardian. So I read the article in The Age with interest-(its been downloaded from The Guardian)

It's trash. The main argument is this:

"...we must first grasp a reality that has seldom been discussed in print. The US is no longer just a nation. It is now a religion. Its soldiers have entered Iraq to liberate its people not only from their dictator, their oil and their sovereignty, but also from their darkness....So American soldiers are no longer merely terrestrial combatants; they have become missionaries. They are no longer simply killing enemies; they are casting out demons."

Well, the US is a Christian nation and its domestic political discourse under the Bush Administration is full of religious imagery. But the US is still a secular nation committed to liberal democracy. But we have more:

"... Like all those who send missionaries abroad, the high priests of America cannot conceive that the infidels might resist through their own free will; if they refuse to convert, it is the work of the devil, in his current guise as the former dictator of Iraq."

That reminds me of Anne Coulter. But as great as Anne is, she is still not America. Remember all those treasonous liberals she hates so passionately?

George makes short shift of secular democratic liberalism and free markets that shape the American way of life as he says that:

"..the Americans had now become the chosen people, with a divine duty to deliver the world to God's dominion... It is not just that the Americans are God's chosen people; America itself is now perceived as a divine project....The US no longer needs to call upon God; it is God, and those who go abroad to spread the light do so in the name of a celestial domain. The flag has become as sacred as the Bible; the name of the nation as holy as the name of God. The presidency is turning into a priesthood."

Ye gods. And there is lots more. We eventually get to the terminal point: the US is fascist ;ie., similiar to fascist Japan. And we end on:

"Those who seek to drag heaven down to earth are destined only to engineer a hell."

Eh? Did not the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein engineer a living hell for the Iraqi people.

And this is taken to be serious journalism. What has happened to The Age. I used to read it once. I read it less and less these days. Its a similiar experience to Norman Geras and The Guardian.

So Tim I can understand why you pointed the finger at George. It is looney tunes. Sure, even a form of new fundamentalism.

If we keep George in mind, then what Janet Albrechtsen says in her recent Sinners and fanatics article on the new fundamentalism makes sense:

"A new fundamentalism is stalking the Australian political landscape. Often couched in the language of religion, it is in fact deeply rooted in politics.

Its adherents, like all fundamentalists, keep their politics of hate simple. Rejecting nuance, ignoring the complex, they present us with the world according to them. If we disagree with them on issues such as Iraq, illegal immigration, a republic or indigenous affairs, our motives are impugned or, worse, we are evil, shameful, depraved. And because there are so many of us who disagree with them, they preach that Australia is an evil, shameful, depraved place."

After reading George Monbiot on why the US is a fascist state I just have to agree.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:05 PM | | Comments (7) | TrackBacks (1)

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Monbiot's piece is nutty, and I've never had much time for him, for various reasons. But Albrecsten could be just as well decrying her side of the fence as the other. These sorts of sledgehammer characteriations that decry the lack of nuance in the other side's arguments even as they rely on precisely the same lack of nuance for their rhetorical impact aren't to be taken seriously either, I don't reckon.

Tim, I agree fully.
Albrechtson is also describing the work of Anne Coulter very well. Or a Piers Ackerman.

Its a very familar style. Fostered to stir things up, and sell newspapers.

It is truly sad that debate in this country is becoming so polarised and extreme. The level of hectoring and outrageous views, either turns most people off or turns them into barrakers for one side or the other. (I point the finger at the Internet, the blog, and the flaming newsgroup post for the inreasingly emotionaly charged language and poor quality thinking that has entered the public debate)

The real debate, that occurs in the middle where ideas, and not celebtrity pundits battle it out seems to be lost. Where is this country going? Does anybody know? Does anybody care?


So, Rex? Thoughts?

Albrechtsen's analysis could just as easily be applied to quite a bit of her own work as it could to Monbiot's purplish prose. It's depends on your vantage point.

As time goes by and both the landscape and our vantage points change, you might find Monbiot's position jangles a little less. He will enter the pale again. In time, you might even nod your head a bit.

You're right that the type of American Monbiot refers to; simultaneously ignorant and hysterical, is not 'America', any more than the fact that a significant minority, perhaps a majority of Australians support the Government's actions over Tampa and refugees means we're a nation of heartless cowards.

But our rednecks don't matter except to us; America's redneck voters matter to everyone on the planet and to generations not yet born. If the monomania that Monbiot discerns reaches critical mass, the fact that millions of decent Americans disagree with it won't matter so far as the rest of us are concerned. It means the nightmare will continue and may get worse.

I was prompted to write after reading this at Salon, via Slacktivist:

'Just as presidential Svengali Karl Rove, dressed in a light-gray suit and mint-green striped tie, began to speak Friday at a gala dinner for college Republicans in Washington, piercing whistles sounded. A half-dozen protesters had made their way into the auditorium, and they began to chant something inaudible about George Bush and death. Security staffers ejected them within seconds, but even before they were out the door, hundreds of clean-cut collegians were on their feet, shouting "KARL! KARL! KARL!"

Then the chant changed, and they were screaming "USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!" their faces hard and triumphant atop blue suits and evening gowns as they belted out the letters. They screamed and screamed and then erupted in wild cheers.

It was the first night of the 55th biennial college Republican convention at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, and around 1,000 young people had gathered for three days to hear speakers like Rove, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, former U.S. Sen. Bob Barr and right-wing polemicist David Horowitz. On the Hilton's second floor they organized, plotted strategy for the 2004 election, and generally paid homage to President George W. Bush, whose grinning visage appeared on everything from T-shirts to handbags. Even more, they gloried in Americanness, a state that many seem to regard as both quasi-religious and the exclusive provenance of their party.'

While I love many many things of America, I fear them as well. Their angry, dismissive religiosity, its mixing with agressive, market dominance by leviathin corporates and a huge arsenal makes them a force to be feared.

You can say what you like, but we should always be wary of one so powerful and so certain of righteousness

While I love many many things of America, I fear them as well. Their angry, dismissive religiosity, its mixing with agressive, market dominance by leviathin corporates and a huge arsenal makes them a force to be feared.

You can say what you like, but we should always be wary of one so powerful and so certain of righteousness