Black and white and Reds all over: My last 2014 post about The Australian

It must be some sort of ignorant bliss to be a columnist or leader writer with The Australian and to live in the certain knowledge that Chris Mitchell’shair is always right about everything.

Not having to think abstractly or go outside the rectangular box of its pages to find something as subtle as flux, contradiction and 50 shades of grey must make for an easy life of absolutes without the worrying niggles of nuance and self-doubt.

Mitchell's hair

The superbly talented and all-round whisky-loving cartoonish genius, Mr Onthemoon drew this.

His way or the highway

In Mitchell’shairWorld, black is black, white is white; there’s wrong and right, “us” and “them” and 1960s Stalinists under every Balmain duvet (probably Fitzroy if you want a Melbourne reference).

The world can be read easily, from left to right by running your finger under every word and mouth-breathing them to yourself in a half-audible dribble.

In this world of absolute certainty every Muslim is a terrorist and anyone who disagrees is an appeaser, or worse. And the “or worse” is that the disagreeable person is a throwback to to the perverted Cold War stereotype of a Moscow-loving; Cuba-worshipping apologist for every crime of Stalin and the human rights abomination that is North Korea.

Bert Trumph, the world's last surviving Stalinist

Bert Trumph, the world’s last surviving Stalinist

That most people who would adhere to such an out-dated ideology are now dead, in a nursing home, or wandering the streets with lonely dementia does not matter.

What value is a mere fact of history when you want to make a point that both you and Dear Leader know is right and true?

The Australian is on a jihad of its own — a holy war to drive out of public life any idea that there is an alternative to the present arrangement of society. It is a propaganda campaign to rival any example that can be dragged up from the dustbin of history.

And there is no more convenient or efficient way to prosecute a war of ideas than to bathe your own dodgy arguments in the froth of outrage and to decry the rebuttals of your enemies as weak, disingenuous, deliberately misleading and potentially catastrophic.

The way to win in a long war of ideological position is not through logic and the provable strength of your argument; it is through repetition and attrition.

But, at The Australian, it’s more than this too. For Chris Mitchell’shair it seems that winning at all costs is both a personal virtue and a way for him to prove his loyalty to the old man.

Bert's alter-ego and Mitchell's boss, former 1950s Communist & reconstructed Stalinist, R. Murdoch

Bert’s alter-ego and Mitchell’s boss, former 1950s Communist & reconstructed Stalinist, R. Murdoch

An emerging trope that Mitchell’shair’s willing, hand-picked, foot soldiers will pound away on, under his tight control, is the linking of progressive political argument with the twisted and illogical extremism of perverted Islamism.

There is no need for factual, historical analysis or the inconvenience of evidence in this battle of ideas; there is only certainty, bold assertion and the recycling of tired, unproven cliches. This is what constitutes editorial “policy” in the Murdoch empire. Wrap hysteria and nonsense in alarmist prose; top it with a fear-mongering headline and just cut and paste it to the page.

Examples abound in recent opinion pieces and editorials linking jihad and socialism like the Siamese twins of the Apocalypse.

Draw your long bows, fire arrows into the air; don’t give a shit about where they land, just reload and shoot again, like this:

THIS year was for Australia, as for much of the world, an annus horribilis. The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by Russian-backed rebels and the Sydney siege by Islamist jihadist Man Haron Monis announced to our nation the return of an old foe: totalitarianism.

The use of a loaded and emotive term — “totalitariansim” — in this context appeals to the heart, not the brain and is a classic tool of propaganda.

By linking Islamism to totalitarianism, the writer, IPA stalwart Jennifer Oriel, avoids the need to explain or elucidate. As Orwell has pointed out in many places, but most specifically in his essay “Politics and the English language”, such simplistic links — whether accurate or not — shut down discussion in such a way that only absolutists and committed believers can be right.

In Orwell’s words this type of writing is a process of “gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug”.

[Aside: Did you know that, according to Dr Oreil, the “dawn of totalitarianism” was “1937”? Me neither, Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy in 1922, if that’s at all relevant.]

Another sentence fragment in Oreil’s diatribe is also redolent of the “sheer humbug” Orwell so detested:

Islamic State…justifies its genocidal barbarity using propaganda concocted by the 1960s Communist left.

There is no room for nuance in such an argument; nor is there any need for historical accuracy. When you Google the phrase “1960s Communist propaganda”, this is the sort of material that is thrown up.

Examples of "1960s Communist propaganda" so despised by Dr Oriel

Examples of “1960s Communist propaganda” so despised by Dr Oriel

I kid you not, I did not include the qualifier “anti” in my search term. To find out more, or to see some of these examples in more detail, visit Designer Daily.

[Aside: Did you know that Stalin actually died in 1953 and that his successor Nikita Krushchev denounced many of his policies. Also in the late 1950s and 1960s many so-called “Communist” states in the Eastern bloc underwent second-wave democratic revolutions? Don’t worry, such facts are inconvenient, so we’ll just ignore them.]

Of course, what Dr Oreil had in mind was this type of agitation for global revolution, which occurred in the 1920s and was well and truly off the Soviet agenda by the 1960s:

“Comrade Lenin Cleanses the Earth of Filth” by Viktor Deni

“Comrade Lenin Cleanses the Earth of Filth” by Viktor Deni

The idea that the crazed religious fundamentalists of Da’esh would share the goals of global proletarian revolution associated with the Bolsheviks is palpably stupid, but…there you go. This is more the type of material that Dr Oreil had in mind, but again, none of it is from the 1960s.

those pesky 1960s Communists, they were clever enough to plant the idea of Obama well before he actually happened!

Those pesky 1960s Communists, they were clever enough to plant the idea of Obama well before he actually happened!

In Mitchell’shairWorld the Cold War did not end in 1989 and now it is linked to a totally justified Hot War; the enemy is Islamism, not Communism; with one exception. It is a war against progressives, the Left and anyone inside the West who is an appeaser or who does not denounce Islam as a violent religion bent on world domination.

Coming from the world’s dominators this is sickly funny in a totally sick way.

But, in Mitchell’shairWorld this Hot War is  not one that Western powers have to take any responsibility for.

The most insane line from “Reds stand up for comrades in Islam” has to be this one which links the Islamic State lunacy with the struggle for international socialism:

In socialist and Islamist propaganda, the West is portrayed as an imperialist colonial leviathan that stands between eternally oppressed minorities and the second coming of international socialism.

This is just ridiculous. The idea that secular socialists and Islamic fundamentalism have any ideology in common is bollox. It is a perversion beyond the perverse that is hard to beat for its quota of “sheer humbug”. However, it’s a close call. Three other ideas central to Dr Oriel’s argument compete for winner in the banality of stupid stakes and also qualify as “sheer humbug”. First there’s this one:

[T]he jihadist who terrorised our nation, Monis, could be found on Wikipedia’s list of peace activists, cited as an “Australian Muslim cleric, anti-war activist”. The list includes socialist Noam Chomsky, pedophilia advocate Allen Ginsberg and anarchist Emma Goldman.

Seriously? A list on Wikipedia? This is evidence? For what? Anyway, when I went to look at the list, Monis’ name was not there. It could have been, I don’t know; that’s a question for Dr Oriel.

[Aside: Please don’t call Professor Chomsky a socialist to his face, he would be most insulted, if he has a label it would be anarchist. Both Ginsberg and Goldman have been dead for sometime.

For the record Ginsberg is recognised as one of the most important poets of the 20th century and he was gay (not a pedophilia advocate) and Goldman has been recognised as “woman of valor” by the Jewish Women’s Association]

My second nomination for most stupid/banal sentence in the Oriel piece is also an historical abomination, and it qualifies as humbug of the sheerest kind:

[T]he story of sectarian civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims and Islamist crusades against the West is several centuries old. Islamic State is the latest iteration of ancient imperialist, genocidal jihadism repackaged as a modern youth revolution.

Yes, it’s partially true — and that is surely the beauty of propaganda — take something plausible and beat it into submission until it can then be re-purposed to suit the political line you are pushing. This sentence deliberately conflates two separate issues in order to make its political point.

The first is the idea that there has been a bloody conflict between Shia and Sunni Islam for centuries. This is not true, until as recently as the late 20th century the two sects lived side by side in relative peace. They prayed in the same mosques and inter-married freely; much like Protestants and Catholics do in many parts of the world.

The fighting between them — like sectarian violence in northern Ireland — is the result of the modern system of nation-states (in Ireland, the conscious decision of the British to split the country for its own ends). Modern rivalry between Shia and Sunni is fueled by the conflict over influence in the Middle East between (Shia) Iran and (Sunni) Saudi Arabia, which is itself a by-product of US imperialism in the region and America’s support for Israel as its military proxy.

Don’t take my word for this, look it up for yourself and take note of what serious scholars of Islam and Middle Eastern politics have to say on the matter.

The second is that somehow jihad represents a global “modern youth revolution”, this is just fabulist crap. Some young people may be revolting, but they are not (en masse) rebelling; unless flashy, unsustainable consumption is somehow revolutionary.

Then there’s this one:

[Loretta] Napoleoni, a member of the Spanish Socialist Party think tank Ideas Foundation for Progress, repeats the fallacy that Western intervention in the Middle East has caused Islamic State’s ascendancy.

[Aside, this is actually a very misleading statement. Napoleoni is Italian, she is on the scientific committee of the Ideas Foundation for Progress. She lives in the USA and has written at least eight books, five of them on the terror economy. She has been deliberately slighted and defamed here by Dr Oriel in order to squeeze out a propaganda point. Professor Napoleoni is not a raving Leftist as this misleading description might suggest.

This is a more accurate biography:

Loretta Napoleoni is the bestselling author of MaonomicsRogue EconomicsTerror Incorporated and Insurgent Iraq. She is an expert on terrorist financing and money laundering, and advises several governments and international organizations on counter-terrorism and money laundering. As Chairman of the countering terrorism financing group for the Club de Madrid, Napoleoni brought heads of state from around the world together to create a new strategy for combating the financing of terror networks.]

This is not the biography of an apologist for Islamic extremism. It always pays to check when Mitchell’shair’s mafia make allegations and assertions in the service of propaganda.

Again, is this a serious academic writing here? The causal relationship between “Western intervention in the Middle East” and “Islamic State’s ascendancy” is not a “fallacy”. It is a matter of historical fact.

This is not just a position adopted by the global Left either. The conservative American think-tank, the Cato Institute has argued this line since at least the late 1990s:

According to the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board, a strong correlation exists between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States…Historical data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States.

In August 2014, prospective US Presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton explicitly linked the rise of Da’esh to American policy towards the Syrian revolution:

“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.

Does anyone (Dr Oriel included) seriously think that IS would be around today had it not been for the US-led invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003)? That we are still bogged down in these conflicts more than a decade later cannot be swept under the carpet as a “fallacy”.

There is a specific form of denialism at work here, one clearly identified by Bernard Keane in the recent book (co-authored with Helen Razer) A short history of stupid.

A Short history of stupid

Read this book.

Keane defines denialism as “a refusal to change one’s viewpoint even in the face of indisputable data” (p.28); but in the Australian‘s case, there is another form of magical thinking going on too that is related to denial of the evidence, but that takes it one further step towards extremism; Keane calls it “motivated reasoning”.

It is the refusal of “evidence and logic” and the “tension between reason and sentiment” (p.39) that has plagued Western liberalism and it is the central contradiction between reason and ideology.

Motivated reasoning is at the heart of The Australian‘s editorial thinking under Chris Mitchell’shair. It is the raison d’être for the repetition and denialism that permeates its loss-making pages.

For example, it is the stock-in-trade of the willfully and serially stupid Gerard Henderson; although in his dotage he sometimes confuses the Libertarian right with the progressive Left.

It is also evident in the (almost daily) editorial Left-bashing that the indulgent leader writers at The Australian wallow in at Mitchell’shair’s behest. The tragic deaths of innocents — such as in the Martin Place siege — can and will be bent to the cause because that is all that matters:

MOST Australians have the common sense to understand this week’s deadly attack in the heart of Sydney for what it was — an act of terror. It was unpredictable, brutal and well targeted. Sadly, the deaths of two innocent people have not cleared the moral and political confusion of many of Australia’s liberal-Left elite.

It is also evident that consistency is not an issue for Mitchell’shair and his warrior-writers. They must think we do not remember what they wrote in yesterday’s chip-wrappings, or that we do not process their rubbish from day to day. We do not, Mr Mitchell’shair, all willingly lose our minds down the memory hole like your Kool-aid infused staff and contributors seem to do.

While Dr Oriel was keen to downplay the links between Western intervention and the rise of Islamic State on 27 December, the leader writer for 19 December, only a week earlier, was taking the opposite view and blaming “the Left” for denying such a link.

Forgive me for the “cut & paste” technique, but you have to grasp this paragraph in its muddled totality to get the full effect:

Not to be outdone in woolly thinking, Crikey’s Bernard Keane tweeted: “The fury of the Right that their terror toy has been taken away from them by #illridewithyou is palpable, isn’t it?’’ What rot. On Twitter, Deakin University academic Scott Burchill condemned associate editor Chris Kenny for writing two columns about the Sydney siege and the threat of Islamist extremism without mentioning Australia’s bombing campaign in Iraq. Dr Burchill’s claim there is “nothing more Australian” than intervening in the civil wars of other countries by dropping bombs on one side’’, however, linked the siege to our role in fighting Islamic State terrorists, a connection many on the Left are eager to play down.

WTF? Look at the line that begins is “nothing more…, where does this quote from Burchill (if that’s what it is) actually end? The quote marks are all over the shop.

If you can disentangle a kernel of useful argument from this convoluted drivel please leave a comment below because to me it is almost incomprehensible. The only take-out I get from this is that somehow “many on the Left” are now not prepared to argue that there is a link between Australian foreign policy and terrorism. (Remember what we were discussing a few short paragraphs ago?)

This is another contender for “woolly thinking” hidden in “sheer humbug”. As Orwell might write about such a paragraph:

If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don’t have to hunt about for words; you also don’t have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences, since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious.

Even The Australian‘s usually gung-ho and thick-skinned skulled leader writers were stung by criticism of the paper’s 19 December editorial and the confusing jumble of nonsense it delivered. The following day a clarification was necessary, so a second editorial was hurriedly knocked up from left-over cliches and insults:

Most Australians are sensible and pragmatic enough to recognise that the terrorist menace must be faced head-on, at local, state and international level. Fortunately, their grasp of reality is better than that of Mike Carlton. The disgraced ex-Fairfax columnist showed he needed basic comprehension lessons when he tweeted, erroneously, that our editorial yesterday “blamed the ABC, Fairfax, Bernard Keane and Mark Latham’’ for the siege. Carlton was evidently unable to grasp the simple point that even illogical members of the Left cannot have it both ways. It is nonsense to argue, as some have tried, that our military role in the Middle East has made us more vulnerable to attacks, then pretend in the next breath that the Sydney siege was not a terror attack by an Islamist waging jihad.

Of course, for the simple folk at the Australian, in their black and white world, the problem is that the West has become too tolerant of these badly-dressed and covered-up Islamists in our midst. It is, wrote Janet Albrechtsen, a “death wish”.

Tony Abbott is right to call Islamic State a death cult, but the question must be asked: is the West’s tolerance of the intolerant a death wish? And when many on the Left blindly refuse to identify terrorism, isn’t that furthering the death wish?

Unfortunately (or not) dear reader, I cannot link you to Ms Albrechtsen’s pearly wisdom because it is behind a paywall. But you get the point. Something (not quite sure what it is) known as “the Left” won’t call a terrorist shovel a “spade”. And after all, as we were recently reminded, a “spade” is what it rightfully is!

That's not a spade. This is a fucking spade!

That’s not a spade.
This is a fucking spade!

I have not seen nor heard of that supercilious and dithering “Left”, even though I have inhabited a hardcore left wing political space for more than forty years now. I have no trouble calling terrorism what it is and I have no problem in denouncing Islamic State. But unlike Mitchell’shair’s minions I have a mind of my own; I see the world as it is.

In fact, unlike the so-called journalists and the columnists who churn out the Australian‘s increasingly alarmist, misleading and unreadable sludge, I share Orwell’s impulses, so eloquently set forth in “Why I write” (1946).

Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

Will the real totalitarians please take a bow

“Totalitarian”, what an evocative and scary word. What a world of misery and pain it conjures up for those who would be its victims. For the beneficiaries of course it’s a different matter all together. The riches of office and the spoils of war are there for the arrogant plucking.

But what is totalitarianism? The dictionary definition is a good place to start:

totalitarian - definitionWell Dr Oriel, it seems your assertion that the “dawn of totalitarianism” was 1937 is historically inaccurate. It is something that was easy to check and I would have thought your reliance on Wikipedia would have been enough to help you establish the facts and set the record straight. But you didn’t bother, why not?

Historical inaccuracies aside, this definition of of totalitarianism seems to fit the culture at The Australian.

It is not an editorial democracy; no collective runs the newsroom or the op-ed pages.

A more apt comparison would be to another of Orwell’s classic works, Animal Farm.

Chris Mitchell’shair is the Stalinesque Napoleon, with the role of  Squealer shared among his most loyal disciples.

In fact, for me Squealer can only be the Australian‘s associate editor and rumored editorialist Chris Kenny.

Chris Kenny's devotion will surely be rewarded in Sugarcandy Mountin

Chris Kenny’s devotion will surely be rewarded in Sugarcandy Mountain

Kenny deserves accolades for the sheer volume of his work, if not the clarity of his thinking. He deserves the medal “Animal Hero, Second Class” without delay.

I can conjure up in my mind delightful images of him skipping from trotter to trotter, tail happily waving in the air as he nimbly lies to the other animals and reinterprets the wishes of Chris Mitchell’shair Napoleon to the assembled farmyard beasts.

Like the editorial principles at The Australian, in Animal Farm the seven commandments of “the Rebellion” are over-written at Napoleon‘s behest. They are added to the side of the barn under cover of darkness and then Squealer explains the re-purposed principles afresh the next day.

All contradictions and previous positions are erased and denied existence. It is the News Corp bunker that most resembles the farm when under control of the counter-revolutionary pigs; but any physical resemblance between Mitchell’shair and Napoleon is purely coincidental.

Some are more equal than others

Some are more equal than others

This is my last post for 2014, Happy New Year.

As is customary, at the end of a long post, EM provides a little light relief and a musical interlude for the reader dogged enough to stick it out.

This is a real treat. Let me introduce you to “Beasts of England”, the song of liberation from Animal Farm.

Sing along:

Beasts of England

Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland
Beasts of every land and clime
Hearken to my joyful tidings
Of the golden future time

Soon or late the day is coming
Tyrant Man shall be o’erthrown

And the fruitful fields of England
Shall be trod by beasts alone

Rings shall vanish from our noses
And the harness from our back
Bit and spur shall rust forever
Cruel whips no more shall crack

Riches more than mind can picture
Wheat and barley, oats and hay
Clover, beans, and mangel-wurzels
Shall be ours upon that day

Bright will shine the fields of England
Purer shall its waters be
Sweeter yet shall blow its breezes
On the day that sets us free

For that day we all must labour
Though we die before it break
Cows and horses, geese and turkeys
All must toil for freedom’s sake

Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland
Beasts of every land and clime
Hearken well and spread my tidings
Of the golden future time


3 Responses to Black and white and Reds all over: My last 2014 post about The Australian

  1. Mark Hyde says:

    Love your piece…..just for the sake of historical pedantry, the first immediate successor to truly denounce Stalin was Krushchev in his so called ‘Secret speech’…..well before the 60s as well.

    And Brezhnev’s rise to power was at the expense of Krushchev’s removal too.

    Just discovered your blog. New avid reader.

    [EM, cheers Mark, you are right, a silly mistake, since corrected.]

  2. TNA says:

    Go on, write a blog post about Über, pleeeeeease.
    [EM replies: after you]

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