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Banned in Brisbane

February 2nd, 2005

We in Brisvegas finally got to see Outfoxed on the ABC last night. It didn’t get a cinematic run because the Murdoch papers (a monopoly here) refused to run more than minimal advertising for it.

It was interesting. I haven’t seen enough of Fox to know whether it was a fair and balanced picture, but the traits depicted were exactly those of the RWDB bloggers who follow the same line as Fox on most issues[1]. Blatant partisanship is combined with a hypocritical pretence of devotion to the unvarnished truth. For “we report you decide”, insert “fact-checking their asses”.

There’s nothing wrong with partisanship, and I’m not shy about announcing my own position. But even partisans have an obligation to be truthful, while acknowledging that they are more likely to focus on facts that are consistent with their own world-view. From what I’ve seen, Fox fails this minimal test, while denying that what it presents is propaganda rather than news.

fn1. This isn’t true of all rightwing bloggers. Some engage in honest debate, and others make no pretence of objectivity. But Instapundit sets the pattern, and many others follow.

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  1. Fyodor
    February 4th, 2005 at 07:38 | #1

    Rafe,

    Is this what you’re reduced to? Zimbabwe as communist straw man? Please try harder. You may not have convinced some observers that you’ve already met Churchill’s definition of a fanatic, as pithily noted by Nabakov.

  2. Paul Norton
    February 4th, 2005 at 09:41 | #2

    A couple of comments on Zimbabwe. Firstly, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF was in fact pro-China in its international loyalties at the time of Zimbabwean independence in 1980. The pro-Soviet faction in Zimbabwean politics in the late 70s and early 80s was the Zimbabwe African People’s Union led by Joshua Nkomo. Rafe may know more than I do about where the respective factions were getting their arms from, but I do remember what the overt alignments were at the time.

    Secondly, as someone who deplores Mugabe’s regime and supports the Movement for Democratic Change, I nonetheless must remind people that Mugabe and ZANU-PF originally gained power through an overwhelming election victory in early 1980, held in accordance with a Commonwealth-brokered peace agreement. Nkomo and ZAPU finished a distant second, with nothing else on the radar.

    It may be unpalatable, but it is nonetheless a fact, that large majorities of the populations of certain countries have, at critical times in their history, supported parties and candidates that weren’t and aren’t every Western liberal’s cup of tea. Such was Zimbabwe in 1980; such would have been Vietnam in 1956 had elections gone ahead as agreed at Geneva in 1954; such (in all likelihood) is Iraq at the present time. If one thinks the probable Shi’ite theocratic victory has to be respected as the will of the Iraqi people, one has to take much the same view of Mugabe’s accession 25 years ago.

  3. Katz
    February 4th, 2005 at 09:42 | #3

    Erstwhile sensible Age columnist Pamela Bone has committed special pleading similar to that exhibited some of these posts.

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/Pamela-Bone/The-silence-of-the-feminists/2005/02/03/1107409981815.html#

    She takes western feminists to task for selective criticism of unattractive aspects of western culture (e.g., Christian Fundamentalist social attitudes) while remaining silent about worse infringements of human rights (especially Islamic practices against women).

    Bone claims not to understand these double standards, just as some poster above claim not to understand the partisanship of others.

    Well, this is for the Pamela Bones and the Rafes of this world.

    Understand that time is short. Some causes are a waste of breath. What purpose would it serve, for example, for Australian feminists to protest against female circumscision practices in Africa? Would anyone with any authority to stop it take the blindest bit of notice? Maybe, but probably not. Does that make Australian feminists complicit in the perpetuation of those practices? Certainly not.

    Life is busy and short. Australian feminists, and anyone else with a cause to promote, are better employed in conversation with people who listen and whose minds may be changed and in taking on tasks that are achievable.

    Bone’s rhetoric has an additional and more disturbing function. She concludes: “It does not take a lot of courage for people living in Western democracies to criticise aspects of their culture that need criticising (indeed, it sometimes takes more courage to defend the culture).” This sentence is heavy with the implication that western feminists or any other progressive movement has no right to challenge the status quo in their own societies until they have cured worse problems in other societies.

    In other words Bone is saying to western progressives, “Shut up and count your blessings.”

    This is an absurd, illogical and defeatist argument. Opponents of democratic reform in Britain in the nineteenth century, for example, could have said to the Chartists: “Stop your whinging, why don’t you protest against the Pope who claims to rule the Papal State with God’s authority?” Silly, isn’t it?

    The answer: Energy is limited. Life is short.

  4. Michael Burgess
    February 4th, 2005 at 11:55 | #4

    atz,
    I have rarely read such nonsense in my life in justifying double standards. Well if Western feminists are correct in being as obsessed with their own societies as you suggest – what about internationalism-there is plenty of opportunity to take on Muslim oppression of female western Muslims or to stand up for western Muslim women who have been threatened with death for highlighting the plight of Muslim women. Feminist and left/liberal hypocrisy on this issue is disgusting and there is simply no excuse for it.

  5. Michael Burgess
    February 4th, 2005 at 12:05 | #5

    Katz, Your an even greater (postmodernist) fool than I first thought – I have now read Bone’s article, a good deal of it deals with two Canadian provinces plans to bring in Sharia law for some family matters -now I would have thought western feminists should (even within your narrow blinkered view of what they should concern themselves with) be outraged at this.

  6. Katz
    February 4th, 2005 at 12:12 | #6

    Courageous defence of the culture MB

  7. February 4th, 2005 at 13:00 | #7

    Thanks to Paul Norton who has answered a question that I wanted to ask about the sequence of events and the dispositon of forces in Zimbabwe through the do-colonisation process. Nobody has enough time to do all the research that is required to have a sound opinion on every single topic of interest.
    Paul’s account reinforces the view that there are more important things than the vote to determine what makes for peace, freedom and prosperity. After all, how many people in Australia think that their vote makes a difference?
    That is why I am delighted to see the election in Iraq while in the same breath saying that the hard work remains to be done, to develop the institutions and traditions, like free trade under the rule of law, that actually deliver the goods.

  8. February 4th, 2005 at 19:48 | #8

    The Bone article stopped me in my tracks as well. In fact the “great deal” of material about Alberta in this consists of one para, in a generally strange rag bag of comments about toe shortening, footbinding, the alleged defence of female genital mutilation by “some feminists, (including Germaine Greer), genital excisions in Dijbouti etc etc..

    The substantive allegations against feminism are
    - a great silence on human rights abuses carried out under Islam
    - an overdeveloped sense of tolerance or cultural relativism
    - anti Americanism because they are said to point pejoratively to Christian fundamentalism
    - politely ignoring abuses because “it’s their culture�
    - failing to denounce the recent reaffirmation of the Rushdie fatwah
    - silence on the murder of Hadi Salih, the international officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions
    - being soft on fascism, or at least Islamofascism.

    In the last while, I have apparently received a surfeit of quality in the essayist department. I have come to expect cross referencing, sources and facts from our unpaid motley gang on the internet. Ms Bone, paid member of the mainstream media, has not presented a single fact, quote, cross reference or name (except Germs, who – gosh, golly – is not a typical feminist).

    Let’s just stop at Alberta. I would have thought it a very good thing that most opposition to this proposal is coming from Muslim women, who speak from their own experience and are obviously free enough and proud enough to stand up and be counted. I would not necessarily think that they actually want the public support of Canadian feminists. After all, they are very easy to smear, as Pamela has just done, and can be used against a campaign.

    “It does not take a lot of courage for people living in Western democracies to criticise aspects of their culture that need criticising (indeed, it sometimes takes more courage to defend the culture).� This truly bemuses me. Which big issue does not require courage? Gay rights perhaps? Equal pay, so easily granted with such affection. The vote? Abortions?

    And which aspects of our culture would it take courage to defend? Oh, those church burning lefties are a terror. And the mocking of Holden owners. The anti barbecue vigilantes. The crucifixion of suburbanites on their own Hills hoists. And the raw, raw courage required to actually barrack for a footy team.

    I truly don’t know what came over her.

  9. Andrew
    February 5th, 2005 at 09:11 | #9

    David

    You forgot to mention the continuing courageous defiance of the Thought Police.

    As in “This will get me in trouble with the Thought Police but women really don’t deserve to be in positions of power because they are meant by nature to be the nurturers of the next generation…”

    And so on.

  10. February 5th, 2005 at 18:43 | #10

    Paul norton is spot on with his comments on Nkomo.
    I always remember national lampoon’s letters pages including this gem about 1974.

    Dear sir,
    all we want from the white rhodesians is simple justice and human dignity and some of their children to eat.
    josua nkomo,
    downtown africa.
    As for rofe and his ignorance of vietnamese history,he should read both kolko’s vietnam-anatomy of a war and karnow’s vietnam a history.
    From these he would find that the US made a gigantic blunder in the late forties that cost 50,000 american and three million asian lives.
    We were able to be pragmatic about tito but not with uncle ho-why was it so, rofe?

  11. February 5th, 2005 at 22:49 | #11

    Marklatham, from the pragmatic and idealistic point of view, the post-1945 error was hastening the windback of maritime empires and changing its course towards a hypothetical Wilsonian world on the assumption that there were existing polities just waiting to emerge (at that time, that is).

  12. February 6th, 2005 at 03:02 | #12

    Rafe,

    Zimbabwe is not commonly accepted as a Communist country, despite the Communist connections of the ruling party. (Just like South Africa is not considered a Communist country, despite the Communist ancedents of the ANC.) I consider Mubage evil enough not to need labels to put on him.

    It also sounds like you are fighting yesterdays’ intellectual wars about Communism (which, BTW, were won by the anti-Communist side). Good job fighting the good fight from the periodicals and the journals. However, I suspect the battle was won in Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the Berlin airlift. By the time I grew up, “Communism is bad” was like saying “water is wet”: true but banal.

    So I don’t really care what bedtime stories Beatrice Webb wrote about Stalin, or how many medals the KGB gave to Dr. Clark. It’s before my time. Hell, it’s before my parents’ time.

    Personally, a real social scientist like yourself should get out from behind the books and into the field. If you care so much about Communism, you might as well see it for yourself. There are 5 (or 6 if you include Zimbabwe) of these states left. Better catch them before they disappear for good.

    So when are you booking that plane ticket?

  13. Glenn Condell
    February 8th, 2005 at 18:05 | #13

    ‘I thought “Outfoxedâ€? was a bit of a waste of space, really; to lament the fact that a media outlet owned by Rupert Murdoch displays a right-wing bias, and conflates reportage with opinion, would have illicited a “well, derrrâ€? response at least 30 years ago.’

    There’s no statute of limitations is there? I mean, Mugabe’s still killing opponents, just as he was years ago and it might be fairly predictable by now, but it’s still wrong isn’t it? You might say ‘well Fox doesn’t kill people’ but I think it has Iraqi blood up to it’s bull neck personally, with Iranians scheduled for dessert. For mine, Roger Ailes has more of the red stuff on his hands than any US private you like.

    Also, the documentary made no attempt at balance, which is somewhat ironic given its subject matter, and the result was a rather dull succession of talking heads trying out syntactic variations of the exact same opinion. Much like Fox News itself.

    ‘it was certainly interesting but left me with the distinct impression that the critique of Fox was being conducted with the same paucity of nuance and over-abundance of partisan rhetoric as Fox itself is party to.’

    Watched much Fox have you Geoff? A ridiculous statement. That network doesn’t just ‘take the opposing view’ – it systematically lies and omits for the Republican Party and those lies and omissions have consequences. The doco miht have it’s flaws, but to compare it to what it studies is, well, nuance free.

    ‘Who’s their Robert Fisk?? Surely Bolt is on serious drugs.’

    Well, he’s one of them. Media Matters has done surveys of guests on cable and free to air – they’re all bad, with the ratio of Repugs to Dems in the order of 3/1, but Fox is the worst. Or the best if you favour a one party state.

    ‘Wait- Philip Adams?’

    Poor old Phil – my beef with him is his overcooked prose, but he seems to cop this sort of equivalence deal whenever someone needs a lefty to counter the mention of some wingnut like Bolt. But have his sins (gleefully) helped to kill thousands of people? Can anyone find examples of outright lies? Using someone as relatively harmless as him as your bogey just demonstrates how little the left, compared to their opponents, have to apologise for in recent years.

    ‘the survey finding that the more you watch Fox News, the less about the world you know.’

    Well, derr.

    Katz, thanks for the Bone… but for me it’s more than just the ‘so much to criticise, so little time’ excuse for not being sufficiently rabid in my denunciations of Islam or Saddam or al Quaeda is to say (1) show me your documented history of such commendably brave polemic, with particular reference to the 80s in Saddam’s case and (2) surely it’s a better idea to expend breath, keystrokes, bandwidth etc on trying to change things in a polity in which you actually have a say… rather than bleat helplessly about how nasty people (who will never know of your pique) can be? I find it immature, ill-bred and simply pointless to lay into the failings of a sect or a group of people everyone hates anyway at the expense of looking first at your own back yard and your own side of the equation; the side you can do something about (or pretend you can anyway)

    ‘I have come to expect cross referencing, sources and facts from our unpaid motley gang on the internet. Ms Bone, paid member of the mainstream media, has not presented a single fact, quote, cross reference or name’

    Facts, who needs ‘em.

  14. Glenn Condell
    February 8th, 2005 at 18:11 | #14

    Jeez, typing too fast. Meant to omit that second para from tim (omissions, lies!) and my bloody overwrite function got rid of ‘My response’ after ‘al-Queada’ in the para for Katz.

  15. February 9th, 2005 at 15:28 | #15

    “Facts, who needs ‘em.”?

    Don’t you remember the wise words of Homer Simpson: “Facts! You can prove anything with facts!”

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