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The other face of John Howard « Previous | |Next »
October 4, 2006

John Howard's speech to Quadrant at the Four Seasons hotel in Sydney last night is yet to go online. But the edited extracts and commentary that are circulating indicate the ideological warrior in the culture wars. He targeted the "soft left" who still hold sway in educational and cultural life and treat the teaching of Australian history as an afterthought. He says: 'Nowhere were the fangs of the Left so visibly on display in a campaign based on character assassination and intellectual dishonesty than in their efforts to trash the name and reputation of Blainey'.

Howard celebrated Quadrant for serving as a beacon of free and sceptical thought against fashionable leftist views in the 1960s and 1970s and as Australia's home to all that is worth preserving in the Western cultural tradition. This meant that it has 'upheld the best traditions of free thought and vigorous debate, often as a lonely counterpoint to stultifying orthodoxies and dangerous utopias that at times have gripped the Western intelligentsia'.

The occasion was Quadrant celebrating its fiftieth year of publication about the intersection of politics and literature. There is a confidence amongst the present conservative elite. They say that conservative ideas represent the political mainstream, and are no longer swept aside as being outside the boundaries of serious (and morally respectable) consideration. So what does the conservative's intellectual magazine say about the culture wars of the present?

Sadly it is more of the same old stuff about the nausea-inducing debased intellectual Left. The latest editorial says that:

What is objectionable about the orthodoxies now fashionable amongst the educated middle class (those who can usefully be referred to as the “chattering classes”) is that they have become increasingly oppressive. Moreover with the takeover of the universities by the post-1968 generation these orthodoxies are perpetuated through education, in the indoctrination of both future school teachers and of future generations of all professionals, including the next generation of academics. The rise of “political correctness” has made dissent from the progressivist consensus more difficult, both for students and for rising professionals, and even for those in established positions. The consensus pervades the media to the extent that what outsiders often perceive as bias is seen by insiders as the natural views of good thinking people from which no one can properly dissent. There is even a kind of neo-McCarthyism which encourages the pursuit and the abuse, or ridicule, of any who question the consensus.

The conservative elite don't chatter? Only the soft left engages in neo-McCarthyism? The hard edged cultural warriors at The Australian, and the Murdoch tabloids in Sydeny and Melbourne, do not engage in a form of censorship characterised by bullying? It is only Quadrant that defends the great tradition of free and open debate, to make possible dissent, while at the same time insisting on both civilised discourse and rational argument? Our universities do not protect and care for these values?

To say that only Quadrant stands for cultural freedom is to imply that the leftism in the universities is totalitarian and has such a stranglehold that universities are no longer centres of free and open debate. That is a fiction. The reality is that Australian conservatism has been, and still is, intellectually impoverished. Quadrant continually reminds us of the poverty of that conservatism.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:49 AM | | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)

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» a new political culture from Public Opinion
From what I can gather conservatives used Quadrant's 50th anniversary dinner to claim victory in Australia's culture wars. The long march of the left (hard and soft) through our institutions in civil society has been rolled back. Geoff Pryor What has b... [Read More]



I'd like to know when the conservative mainstream ever lost the reigns of power in Australia, except for the Whitlam years,they have dominated the discourse and the pwoer structure.

But, that misses the point that the conservatives believe in total victory of their ideology.

They will not give in until every progressive is gone from a position of influence - and even then they would keep hammering away at the ghosts of the past to reinforce their warped view that there is some great left wing conspiracy of elite intellectuals waiting to tear their wonderful system down.

Unfortunately for the conservatives, their greatest enemies lie within.

I guess that John Howard as a cultural warrior would see himself fighting Keating---economic liberalization which he agreed with (bipartisan) but progressive culture which he opposes. The battle for Howard is over culture not economics.

It's no longer the ALP as they, under Beazley have dumped Keating's cultural progresssivism and embraced cultural conservatism. So the target has to be the cultural elites in the universities and the media. The ALP has given up the fight on culture--that must rile Keating.

I don't understand the "indoctrination of future generations of all professionals" practised by the universities. Didn't Peter Costello, Brendan Nelson, Tony Abbott etc etc ad nauseum go to university?
The argument is patently poppycock.

the indoctrination implies totalitarianism.

I guess that one way to make sense of Quadrant's (ie., Paddy McGuinness')claim re the "indoctrination of future generations of all professionals" practised by the universities" is that the humanities have allowed themselves to be taken over by lefty postmodernism, and that postmodernism is deeply opposed to critical thinking.

You are right: it is an odd way to defend cultural freedom.How you can get indoctrination from 'progressive consensus' is beyond me.'Political correctness' sure has to do a lot of work.