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

the great persuader « Previous | |Next »
March 28, 2006

Well, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, has been and gone. T'was a fleeting visit. Much political love was shared around by all. This was wrapped up in an affirmation of liberal modernity with strong words against those opposed to modernity.

I missed watching Tony Blair's speech to the joint houses of the Australian Parliament yesterday. I was at the gym. But I caught pieces of it on the television and I watched the joint media conference with John Howard this morning. So I'm relying on my impression of sound bites and headlines.

The Blair man is silver tongued--a magician with words who can carry you away with his optimistic rhetoric about a fundamental transformation in Middle East politics to the point where you have to give yourself a hard pinch. An editorial in the London Daily Telegraph captures this great persuader aspect well:

For Blair's prestidigitation depends on his presence. As long as the conjurer is on stage, we suspend our disbelief. When he goes, we will shake our heads and see that schools are churning out illiterates, hospitals are grimy, policemen fail to catch criminals, tax revenues are squandered.

RowsonC7.jpg
Martin Rowson

We suspend our disbelief about Iraq too, don't we when we listen to this defence of U.S. policy in the region. This is a policy based on the pillars of an Americanized Iraq as a replacement for Saudi Arabia and Israel; a policy that tacitly supported an expansionist Israel; one that defines Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon as the enemy of America. The image of sparking, and supporting, a wave of democracy means we don't question what supports the pillars.

We get so carried away with the image of Sunni, Shiite and Kurd factions negotiating together to form a unitary democratic government that we forget there is there is no Iraqi government, since the squabbling elected politicians haven't formed one.We forget that, when this government is formed, it will be a weak federal government confronted by strong regions that may break up federalism. Or that the aspirations of Iraqi Shiites is to build an Islamic republic. Or that it is the occupation that has fuelled the rise of a radical fundamentalist Islam in Iraq.

We are so bouyed by hope that we forget about the way the Sunni attack on a Shiite shrine in Samarra last month caused cycle of revenge between Sunni-Shiites. Or that Iraq is in a state of civil war, or that Baghdad is surrounded and cut off by guerrilla insurgents who keep on blowing things up.

Then Tony Blair walks off stage, the effects of the spell wear off, and we start to remember how bad things are. We then begin to question the analogies with Nazi Germany and begin to see the rhetorical tricks.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:58 AM | | Comments (11)
Comments

Comments

For a forensic analysis of Blair hyperbole and rhetoric, look no further than here.

Hey,Phil with the blog,that little bit on Curmudgeon on Blair was so Kool.I loved it.But hey,to be serious!.You know when Blair was first elected P.M. and routed the Tory's in 1997.,I fell to my knees and looked up into the heavens and said "Yes there is a God" I thought this is it the second coming,I was drunk on the emotion of the moment.Every conservative I had argued with over the years on those scum bag tory's was vindicated.I mean shit the Jeffery Archer doll I stuck pins into I threw into the rubbish bin.My beloved Labor Party was in,let us celibrate with street party's.How little did I know at the time what this man Blair really stood for.Of course now I know.Blair stands for Blair,and nothing else.This man is so shallow and smarmy he makes me ill,and I say that with all the sincerity I can muster.He has made telling lies an art form and what's worse he has been caught out,and people still fall at his feet.He can go around the world and make all the speeches he likes about Iraq and democracy,but the guilt of the boner he has pulled on the Iraq war is written all over his face.If there is a heaven Mr Blair forget knocking on the door cause you aint getting in.

Phill

Phil,
'tis very clever.

I enjoyed this one about the Vicar of Downing Street's first sermon on saving civilization:

the Reverend's policy of starving and bombing people until they vote for what is good for them is "not a clash between civilisations". The Reverend's enemies are, by definition, not civilised; indeed, those who persist in their errors can end up de-urbanised, too. The battle in which the Reverend is engaged is "a clash about civilisation. It is the age-old battle between progress and reaction". Bombing countries back to mediaeval conditions is not a reactionary policy, presumably thanks to all that state-of-the-art radiation.

Very good.

Yeah, 1997 was a big year in the UK and I guess a lot of us hoped we were seeing the shape of the future here also. "The Third Way". What utter bullshit: like "compassionate conservatism", it was Thatcher in disguise. The really sad thing is that under Blair, 'New Labour' has spent like a sailor but all to no avail - the indicators are going backwards. They're created enormous bureaucracies of middle and senior managers and great tomes full of KPIs and targets and whatever, and services have got worse. The worst of both worlds. Just 'cos Blair strings words together better than anyone here doesn't make him a messiah, particularly as - just like certain people we could name - his fine words bear no resemblance to reality. I was talking to the old man tonight - he's 90 and so can't do much, but he waslistening to Question Time today. His considered opinion is that we're f**cked, and he's seen it all - so we must be.

Phil with a blog,
I saw bits of Question Time today--Downer is feeling the heat from Rudd's forensic probing. Downer's arrogance and abuse has gone. He is on the back foot and he looks worried. Yeah I know this only plays well in the Australian equvalent of the Washington Beltway---the policy wonks.

Sill the Murdoch Press has Downer in its target sights.The latest editorial in The Australian says:

Despite all the apparent evidence of commercial corruption and bureaucratic incompetence emerging at the Cole inquiry, two questions are unaddressed. Did Foreign Minister Alexander Downer believe anything he said when he explained the need for Australian troops to fight Saddam Hussein? And if he did, how could he ignore any allegation that AWB was paying off an enemy Australia went to war against twice in 12 years? The Foreign Minister still says he believed AWB's denials that it paid bribes to the Iraqi dictator. It is a curious defence that can easily create the impression that Mr Downer is either a dill or a cynic unwilling to explain what he really thought about the ethics involved if AWB was paying bribes in Iraq. With this week's revelation that as late as last September he was telling the UN's Volcker inquiry that bribery was just a routine part of business in the Middle East, it looks like he is both.

They are direct hits.

What was disturbing in Question Time was the lack of traction being gained by Beazely and Smith on industrial relations front. Lots of energy is put into the huff and puff but little headway is achieved--they are too much into rip it all up rather than highlightng the good points and the bad points and proposing a better national alternative.

Hey Phill with the blog,tell your good Father I agree with him that the whole place is indeed fornicated,and has been for some time.I sit and piss myself laughing when I hear the manure coming out of the mouths of people like Blair,Bush,Howard et al,.these people really do believe this planet can be exploited forever,and there will be no end to economic growth.But more funnier than that they believe that democracy,or indeed the western concept of it, can be forced on everyone by bombing the bejesus out of them.They are all barking mad.What I truly believe is that if all of the names mentioned were truthful they know we are all in a state of denial about what is really going on,and apart from starting wars to the get the wheels of production moving they have no answers.The warnings are begining to appear more and more frequently, that something is crook in tullerook.When some accademics who have spent their lives studying the workings of the planet tell me "You have been warned"this makes more sense to me than the rantings of politicians,who in the main couldn't find their own arse holes with two hands.Although a slow process,I am not in toatal dismay,people are starting to awaken to these snake oil salemen.
Phill.

Phil - all good points. I guess the tide always does turn, it just seems to have been forever that we have been subjugated by the current generation of those born to rule. The denial of reality our 'leaders' seem to radiate is understandable in a sense - you can't have national leaders spooking the populace at every turn. But the art of the long view - which politics should always be - is a hard balance to achieve. If it sounds like I'm becoming an apologist for Blair, Bush and Howard I'm not, but I do feel that we should criticise from the perspective of what politics should offer rather than opposition to a particular ideological position, no matter how repugnant we find it. My principal repugnance at Howard and his bunch to cronies is his dismantling of the institutions of governance that actually make us a democracy - separation of powers; an independent public service (especially the military and police); a robust media (esp. the national broadcaster); unstacked public boards and an open committee system in Parliament. And the rest. I'll pass on your good thoughts to the old man.

Phil and Phil,
is the tide turning with the politics of refusal to the IR reforms by the unions and the ALP?

Phil-likewise all good points and I agree with you.
Of course in my part of the world Oz,the opportunity's we have had to make in-roads into the "born to rule toady's" and to cultivate a paradigm shift in thinking, have been squandered by the true conservatives that exist in (and I can only speak for my observations in Oz)the Labor Party.Human nature mayhaps?for mine who knows.But as a layman in the Party what I can tell you is some of our present leaders are hated in some cases more than the politicians we are trying to defeat.I have always thought that at least the Tory's will use a good measure of vaseline while they are trying to have sex with you.They make no bones about it,they are out to screw the working class,.And what amazes me is they can only govern with the support of what they would describe as the un-educated swill.The mind boggles.
Phill.

Gary.In a word YES.You can just imagine the telephone chatter going on in Canberra at the moment.I wonder who is blaming who at the moment?.
I over-heard this conversation this morning.HOWARD on the telephone to GREG COMBET."Hey Gregy,you don't mind if me and the wife Janet call you Gregy do you Mr Combet,now Janet and I was wondering if you and a couple of Bricky's Laborors wouldn't mind coming down to the lodge for breakfast tomorrow,where we would like to dicuss the new round of I.R. Reforms.The new reforms,would envisage to return to the I.R. Act in the days of the beloved and all round nice guy Mr Bob Hawk,
with a holiday all expenses paid to each worker to a destination of his choice for six weeks every year.what do you say Gregy.Telephone goes dead. Stand by as Channel Nine takes you to the United Nations where Australia's Industrial relations Minister Kevin Andrews is to be indicted for industrial relation crimes against the Australian people.Yea Right dream on Phil.However the shit is going to hit the fan over this lot.You can take that to the bank.
Phill.

Always good to engage with the hopeful! Good stuff. The old man thought your vaseline comment was very apt.