Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Trash at the Centre for Independent Studies « Previous | |Next »
August 15, 2003

The Centre for Independent Studies markets itself as a high quality, independent think tank. It's self-advertisment says that it is one of the best think tanks in Australia and that it's got the intellectual goods (quality).

Jason Soon, in responding to this article in the Sydney Morning Herald says that about half of membership of CIS is libertarian and a significant percentage of that would be quite opposed to the neo-con foreign policy agenda. I presume, judging from a quick read of the material, that the other half of the membership of CIS is neocon and politically conservative. Maybe this mix gives the Centre the intellectual oomph that is so often missing in the media.

Taking it at its word, I've started wandering through the CIS website. Some of the foreign policy material has been appearing in my posts here and here The material provides something to work with, even if some of it is polemics disguised as scholarship by Daniel Pipes. So I've been digging into back copies of its Policy magazine.

I was interested in this review of Blaming Ourselves: September 11 and the Agony of the Left edited by Imre Salusinszky and Gregory Melleuish. My concern is not for the content of the book---I won't be reading it---- but for the way the reviewer handles the conflict over the Iraq war inside Australia, and more broadly, the war on terrorism.

The reviewer is someone called Martin Sheehan and he opens his review review with this insight:

"The image of the left has undergone a profound change in the past 50 years. Rather than being a working class hero, the typical leftist ...nowadays ....worships the Other, which is any culture or society radically different from their own...They are thus not so much in rebellion against poverty and oppression, but rather against conventional morality and common decency. Thus the contemporary left takes its cues from counter-cultural critics and bohemians like Friedrich Nietzsche ... rather than from stodgy Victorians like Marx or Engels."

It's a rough account as you can take your cues from Marx and Nietzsche. But we can let it pass. But note the left 'worships the Other'. That is a sign post of what is to come. The Other stands for the enemies of Western civilization--militant Islamists on Daniel Pipes reading.

And come it does. The political unconscious pours out. I will quote it to give you the flavour:

"The contemporary left sympathises with, if not openly supports, radical nihilists like Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda movement, for their rejection of the liberal capitalist order, and for their defiance of western attitudes and beliefs, particularly those embodied in the political and economic system of the US. In the minds of these people, the Other is always to be identified with, even if that means going against one's own society."

The contemporary left-----not a section of the left mind you----openly supports radical nihilists like Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda movement? Can that be taken seriously? And the contemporary left, as a critic of current policies of the Howard Government, is equated to identifying with Osama bin Laden? Even worships terrorists such as the Bali Bombers? And criticism=treason?

We are meant to take this as an example of quality work by the think tank in Australia?

I have to report that it gets no better. The reviewer goes on to say that he is disgusted by the open cynicism of many left-wing commentators in Australia and by the utter heartlessness of many on the left to mass murder and the plight of the survivors and their families in America after September 11. And, presumably, to the families and friends of those Australia killed in the Bali bombing.

There is a saving moment of redemption in the review. The moment comes when even Sheehan cannot swallow some of "the contributors writing as if any and every criticism of the US foreign policy is somehow tantamount to support for Osama bin Laden." Well, that moment of insight requires a bit of self-criticism, given that Sheehan has already made the equation of criticism=treason above. What is required here is an enlightening reason working on his prejudices.

Alas, self-reflexivity is not Sheehan's forte. Lacking the liberal virtues for public debate Sheehan quickly concludes. Blaming Ourselves he says is an:

"...excellent counter to the type of left-wing intellectual thuggery and hate mongering that has dominated the debate in our media since the attacks of September 11. It is time to call a spade a spade as the editors say in their introduction, and reject the anti-liberal and anti-Western tendencies of the left once and for all. This book is an important shot in that coming cultural war for the soul of the West."

The irony of this, which is lost on Sheehan, is that the whole tone of the book and his review is an expression of anti-liberal tendencies. No attempt is made to engage in debate and dialogue. We have a condemnation of the contemporary Left as the violent hateful Other; certain of its own rightness; and engaged in a violent purge. It is this book which is contemptuous of all discussion and compromise. It is an example of the sneering tone of dismissal.

Okay, the review is junk. Junk is useful as it gives you an insight into the dark and violent political unconscious of Australian conservatives.

But what is trash doing in the pages of a high quality, independent think tank that says it has the intellectual goods?

If they are what they say they are----Australia's leading independent public policy research institute that produces quality work--- then the editors should have refused to print this trash. That they didn't is an indication that the CIS is not what it claims to be.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:07 AM | | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Trash at the Centre for Independent Studies:

» a tale of confusions from
Aah. At last. We have the beginnings of a debate about conservatism and liberalism in Australia. It was kicked off by the confusions about neo-liberalism and neo-conservative in this article by Wilson de Silva in the Sydney Morning Herald about the Cen... [Read More]



It gets no better. The reviewer goes onto say that he is disgusted by the open cynicism of many left-wing commentators in Australia and by the utter heartlessness of many on the left to mass murder and the plight of the survivors and their families in America after September 11.

This must mean we can look forward to Howard endorsing some form of compensation, indeed anything at all, for the survivors and their families after 12 October in Bali.

It would be deep left-wing cynicism of the deepest and most debased kind to remind these RWDBs that it is their man of steel who has repeatedly tried to exploit Bali for political advantage.

I asiduously avoid literature issued from 'think tanks' as being inevitably not well thought about before being issued. This example you quote appears to be one such. Only the Right are right and anyone else are treasonous traitors......Yup, definately to be avoided at all costs.

There is some good stuff on the CIS website --worth reading and engaging with.

The trash is here and there--mostly in the book reviews.

PJ O'Rourke once wrote that no country that puts the word "Democratic" in its name,ever is. I feel the same away about organisations that insist on calling themselves independent.