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

The Australian's upside down world « Previous | |Next »
May 15, 2010

The Australian's op-eds just get worse---to the point of looniness. If the strategy is to develop a conservative perspective on, and an interpretation of, the events of the day, then the stridency becomes ever more shrill and the claims ever more extreme--to the point where its columnists live in an inverted world.

The latest example from its stable of Conservative hacks and ideologues is an op-ed by Melanie Philips, who has a column in the Daily Mail and runs a blogs for the UK The Spectator in which she teases out the left's secrets and sinister patterns.

In her Londonistan (2006) book Philips claimed that radical Islamism has established London as a base of operations, blaming what she sees as the broader failures of multiculturalism, cultural relativism and appeasement in Britain. Britain is "sleepwalking towards cultural suicide" and "has capitulated to Islamic terror" etc.

In her Blind ideology is dancing on the grave of reason op-ed in The Australian Philips takes aim at the progressive intelligentsia's style of thinking.

She says:

Across a broad range of issues, the progressive intelligentsia appears to have junked the rules of evidence, objectivity and rationality in favour of fantasy, irrationality and upside-down thinking.Take man-made global warming, for example.The belief that the planet is on course for carbon Armageddon is now embedded in Western politics. Yet the evidence that the climate is warming to an unprecedented and catastrophic degree just isn't there. The seas are not rising, the ice is not shrinking, the polar bears are not vanishing, and there has been no significant climate warming since 1995.

In Philips' inverted world science is ideology and an irrationality, whilst her opinions and fundamental religion are reason, which is the reverse of the actual situation in our world.

However, this is what conservatism actually means today. This kind of inversion is what those who gather around the Australian actually believe, and the subterranean racial and class resentments leads to the idea of the Left's conspiracy machine.

Philips' perspective in her upside down world is that:

Such irrationality, intolerance and, indeed, bigotry run counter to the cardinal tenets of a free society based on reason and the toleration of dissent.This is because these dominant ideas are all rooted in ideologies: environmentalism, anti-racism, anti-Americanism, anti-imperialism, anti-Zionism, egalitarianism or scientism, the belief that scientific materialism alone explains everything.

She has written a book on science as a form of irrationality that engages in a witch hunt, whilst environmentalists are fascistic. So science stands for the anti-enlightenment. The claim is that science is ideology because it wrenches the evidence to fit a prior idea and sacrifices truth to power.

Philips claims that, in attacking science and the progressive intelligentsia, she is defending a free liberal society. However, the very extremity of her claims and the demonisation of her opponents indicates that she has dumped the whole idea of a liberal public reason based on argument and debate. Criticism can, and should be made of natural science, environmentalism and scientific materialism in a liberal society but this is done though argument not blanket condemnation.

The Australian's political strategy is one of forcing political change through orchestrated crisis that makes an enemy of those who work for the Rudd Government. News Limited, with its ruthless and nasty culture has has been conducting a war on the government primarily via The Australian. Surprisingly, the ABC takes its political compass from the ugly Australian.

Maybe this inverted world is an expression of an emerging conservative populism? If so, will it led to genuine grass-roots organizing: voter registration, letter-writing campaigns, building mailing lists and staffing phone banks, canvassing neighborhoods at election time, and, above all, getting elected and mounting direct challenges to incumbents, regardless of party?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:29 PM | | Comments (6)


Melanie Philips is one of my favourite comedy writers. In fact the whole Spectator stable is one big laugh these days; the US version is even worse than the UK parent, if such a thing is possible. Every edition demonstrates why satire is impossible to do any more ... you could publish lots of it on 'The Onion' and people would think it was meant to be a parody of the loonier wingnut blogs.

Mr Denmore has an excellent guest post up on LP outlining how we came to have the media we have. He makes one of those obvious points you rarely see made elsewhere - there is so little straight reporting these days that we're offered views on developments before we're told of the developments themselves. I'd go further and argue that we're offered views instead of news. So Melanie Philips' and Andrew Bolts' views are the news.

Climate change isn't a single event and we're not going to wake up tomorrow and find out whether it actually happened or not, so it's more vulnerable than, say, a train wreck or political speech, to the replacement of reporting by opinions.

In the greater scheme of things I don't think news media has the power and influence it thinks it has. It's a bit like the unions used to be, when they made such outrageous ambit claims they undermined themselves.

In his The Failed Estate Denmore says:

the notion of a media as the ‘Fourth Estate’ –a guardian of the public interest against the rich and powerful (the nobility, the church and ‘the town’ traditionally were the other estates) – is for all intents and purposes defunct.

For the commercial media-- such as Murdoch's-- it surely is. But it is not so for the ABC.

Mike Hussey snatches victory for Australia! It's all good....

Yes, these tabloid op ed writers and their editors need shooting.
Have recently been engaged in communication with one of their victims, who beleives in the "Proposition 21" conspiracy theory out of the US; that is, there is a major plot by capitalism (Jews, Reds?) to hand power over to the Greens, so that these then implement a major cull of the global population.
Yes, that's right.
And poor, silly (often religious) people at the mercy of these tabloid scabs spend their lives in terror; a perpetual Chicken Little moment lived in dread of Greenies coming in the pitch black of night to take them off to the camps.

paranoia has been a characteristic of American politics for ages. It is now a core part of the American Right--eg the Tea Party movement, which is the latest upsurge of an American populism against the elites that calls for accountability in government.

Maybe The Australian is framing politics in Australia through the eyes of American populism?