April 06, 2003

Wogblog and Counter-Enlightenment

I see that the ethnic Italian voice of Wogblog (Friday, April 4) has had another go at Public Opinion along with Gianna. Wogblog, who proudly looks at the world from a ethnic perspective, rejects the view that Public Opinion is keeping the public discussion going in favour of Public Opinion simply defending the left from all criticism. The defence of the left is so extreme that all the crazy views of the left have to be defended even though Public Opinion accepts nationalism and patriotism and rejects pacifism. As Wogblog says Public Opinion's position is, "Defend them all! Even the Jackasses! Never never never just admit they are appalling!"

On wogblog's account Public Opinion defends all the crazy views of the left including that of de Genova, who publicly called for for American defeat - "a million Mogadishus". It welcomed American deaths to teach them a lession about military interventions in sovereign countries. So Public Opinion, in defending Mogadishu was welcoming American bodies being dragged through the streets by the troops of one of the local war lords.

This was attributed to Public Opinion even though the weblog introduced the voice of Invisible Adjunct that said De Genova's view was a moral idiocy, and an explict denial was made in comments box that Genova's position was being defended. Such an attribution meant that Public Opinion is defending all the customs and habits of third world groups: eg; the Koran-and-Kalashnikov regime of the anti-modernist Taliban in Afghanistan. So Public Opinion is defending the Taliban blowing up the statutes of Buddha in Bamiyan because they were pagan idols; their desire to recreate a contemporary verision of the 15th century society of the prophet Mohammed; running a modern soceity on the kneejerk findings of guilt based on a sharia legal code and punishment by stoning, flogging, amputation and execution.

So what is the significance of this claim by Wogblog? On my interpretation Wogblog is saying that the left is morally bankrupt because of its moral relativism; and that this means an 'anything goes' embrace of cultural diversity. This moral idiocy or bankruptcy has arisen because the left has fled the universalism of the Enlightenment and gone over to the Counter Enlightenment. Consequently the [postmodern] left have become anti-liberal, have an enthusiasm for pre-modern political forms and turned a blind eye to the abuses and inequities of totalitarian regimes.

Of course, this charge is never argued for by Wogblog through addressing the arguments of Public Opinion. The latter's weblog said that it was responding to the way de Genova's remarks had been used in an Australian context by Tony Parkinson from The Age to attack the broad left in the culture wars. It went on to say, in response to Parkinson, that Mogadishu could be redescribed as the brutality of urban warfare that may offer an indication of what could happen in Baghdad. We can spell this out in terms of Beruit . Here in the 1982 invasion, the Israeli Army managed to reach Beirut in a few days and laid siege to it for three months without managing to enter the city. So it is not clear what will happen in Baghdad.

The weblog said that the left had traditionally operated with the principle of self-determination of the Iraqi people ---eg; from foreign invasion as in Vietnam. So it was not necesarily true that the left is morally bankrupt. To spell this charge out Wogblog needs to show how the principle self-determination of the Iraqi people necessarily leads to morally idiocy. I have scanned Wogblog but I have not seen such an argument about self-determining freedom.

This response was dismissed by a Wogblog as going off in another direction to cover up the moral bankruptcy. In the language of Wogblog the strategy is one of "defending an indefensible statement by one of your own - a leftie - muddy the waters (of the charge that you are defending the indefensible) by introducing an unattainable motherhood-type desire. This gymnastic debating style should win you enough time to turn and run."

Is this the case? Is the charge true? Has anthropology been embraced at the expense of ethics? Has Wogblog put an ethnic Italian finger on something? Is it a case of covering your tracks whilst turning and running?

So let us stay with the tacit cultural relativism charge for a moment by addressing it directly, rather than running away from it.

The ethics of Public Opinion are based on a conception of the good life as a flourishing human life. So it would say that it is better to be dead than alive; it is better to healthy than ill; it is better to have food than be hungry; it is better to be free than a slave; it is better to have access to clean drinking than salinised, polluted water. There are some conditions and goods that enable a flourishing human life and there are some conditions and goods that stunt such a life. The former is better than the latter.

That is a cross cultural claim; a universal claim. It presupposes that we humans are the sort of creatures with certain interests/needs which have to be met to enable, and ensure, our healthy functioning.When it is put it in philosophical terms---within the western philosophical tradition that the academic left has supposedly dumped into the garbage can of history---it is a conception of a flourishing life based on good old Aristotlean essentialism that also recognizes cultural difference. What is important to one culture for a flourishing life (eg.,religion) may not be important to another.

So much for the 'anything goes' charge, or for embracing the Counter- Enlightenment of the reactionary right. To put it in Hegelian terms, the abstract univeralism of the Enlightenment has been replaced by a concrete universal.

What we have here with Wogblog is an unwillingness to engage with content of an argument. This claim is reinforced by two considerations. First, Wogblog claimed that Public Opinion was opposed to the Anglo-American intervention because of the negative long-term consequences in the Middle East. Thus:

"Gary is against the coalition because he is afraid the outcome of their efforts will not be some perfect self-determined democracy and honeydripped chocolate fantasy life for Iraqis after the military action formally comes to a close. Or something."

Well, it is more of the 'something.' Wogblog did not address Public Opinion's stated reasons that going to war with Iraq was not in Australia's interest; or that the case for Australian military intervention had not been made by the Howard government; or that UN approval was necessary for military intervention.

Secondly, Wogblog ended with the claim that Public Opinion as a defender of the Australian Left did not care about migrant ethnic communities. All of the mothehood stuff is:

"...cloaked in a great concern for Iraqi people. But this is a person who does not give a shit about actual change for wogs."

This cloaking claim was made in reference to hoping to avoid a Grozny with battle for Baghdad and self-determination of the Iraqi people. Not caring a shit about actual change for wogs is made by Wogblog even though the Australian left has advocated and defended multiculturalism, defended the exploitation of migrants because their working class location in industrial capitalism; defended them from the institutionalied white racism of Anglo-Australians; defended the group rights to their own minority migrant culture and granting recognition to their different communal ways of life in a multicultural Australia.

Wogblog goes on at great length about racist Anglo-Americans, or "really stupid nasty skippies, calling all Italians 'wogs' and meaning 'filthy, garlic munching wierdos with wierdo music' etc etc. Or not giving them jobs. Not crediting their education undertaken in Italy." But no mention of the left fighting the stupid nasty skippies.

Hence, there is no engagement with arguments advanced in public discourse. Rather, it is an attempt to discredit, and so Wogblog is doing a similar job to a Miranda Devine and Piers Ackerman--it is a conservative smearing of critical public intellectuals. A critical intellectual public discourse is one of the cornestones of a liberal society that should be preserved if Australia is going to be able to justify its claim that it is a civilised country fighting totalitarian regimes like Iraq and fundamentalist Islamic groups to bring democracy to the Middle East.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at April 6, 2003 12:27 PM | TrackBack

WobBlog's inconsistencies are just more evidence that Marx, even in broad generalised terms, on false consciousness is not good enough,

Wogblog is an example that consciousness is a weird mix of genes, gene reading, development, gestation, upbringing which cannot be explained by economic conditons alone

until we appreciate the energies that allow people to believe what they WILL (all puns intended you intellectuals you) we will not be able to blame Murdoch alone (the only capitalist i can see even with all those preferences shares he sells around the place)

[i do admit that wobblog is more likely to get devine's job than i am phillip adams'... all column writers are overblown bloggers...]

Posted by: meika von samorzewski on April 8, 2003 12:13 PM

So wogblog is postmodern to its bootstraps eh.

But what is gene reading?

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson on April 8, 2003 09:17 PM

gene reading?

genetic material lives and is reproduced in an ongoing dance of interpretation and re-inscription

for example beside the genetic blueprint one inherits, one also acquires (with mitochondira) cell "protoplasm" which "reads" the genes in a particular way (ie lotsa snail inherit handedness in their spirals from their mothers cells cytoplasm, not DNA)

genetics is important becasue we have just begun to understand it, important in that "booster" phase sense

what we also stand at the edge of is proteonomics and glyconomics (proteins and sugars in the cells, i hope i spelt em right) which are much more numerous in possibilities that the genetic codes themsleves, even if they are only selected indirectly,

(very complicated, maybe that hermeneutics will come in handy in the tech "real world")

while the egg and sperm are trimmed down versions of mature cells ( and undifferentiated) they still contain "information" that is passed on from generation to generation

i once tried writing an SF novel on the gene reading idea and even had a character called Mark Rede (love that adam red association in particular) but i do not seem to really be a novellist

at least not yet

Posted by: meika on April 10, 2003 03:18 PM

hang dang it i think i just got the plot idea for the novel!

Posted by: meika on April 10, 2003 03:20 PM

What are we discussing when we talk about "Counter-Enlightenment"? Some forms of Religious Fundamentalism but also the Hippie anti-Global movement can be seen as counterenlightenment movements, if one looks at the conception of, and at the values of those who influence and are influenced within, these groups.
It is erroneous to look at public opinion as a tool to take measure of the counter-enlightenment because the idea of public opinion comes from the enlightenment, Voltaire specifically.
I think that one should be careful in using the term "Counter-Enlightenment", particularly the way that you have used it in describing the reactionary right; You should not equate the term with "conscientious ignorance", which is certainly a much better way to look at the policies of the ultra-conservatives. And those in charge of the American government are squarely in favor of the enlightenment. For haven't both the enlightenment and its proponents, as well as the conservative ruling group of America, cast a blind eye on the negative, anti-organic, and ultimately earth destroying consequences of their practices.

Posted by: Art on September 24, 2003 05:48 AM


Posted by: on September 24, 2003 05:49 AM


I was arguing that the charge made by Wogblog accused the lefty public opinion weblog of being part of the Counter Enlightenment because it had dumped univeralism and eabraced relativism.

This is a standard charge made in Australia against the (postmodern) academic left by conservatives.

I do agree that the Bush administration speaks in the name of the liberal Enlightenment.

Where does Wogblog speak from? Ethnic suburban common commonsense is my guess.

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson on September 24, 2003 08:42 AM
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