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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. Katz
    February 2nd, 2005 at 08:39 | #1

    Yeah, the program was both cheeky and a bit predictable.

    The Americanocentric blinkers of the producers caused them to misunderstand the ultimate objective of News Corporation.

    “Outfoxed” tended to portray FoxNews’s Bushite bias as an end in itself rather than a means to a greater end: the first truly extraterritorial (extraterrestrial?) media organisation. With the advent of satellite televsion News Corporation is on the verge of being beyond the legislative reach of nation-states. The most potent limitation on their programing is popular taste.

    National politicians are thus the necessary idiots who are unwittingly assisting these large ambitions in return for help in their little ambitions.

    Al Jazeera is thus the microcosmic model for Murdoch’s vision for the world’s media future.

  2. fatfingers
    February 2nd, 2005 at 09:00 | #2

    The weirdest thing about Fox News are the small details, like calling suicide bombings “homicide bombings”. I wonder what they call bombings that kill the target but don’t kill the perpetrator.

    Another gem I caught while channel hopping was during the recent US presidential election, where a panelist was commenting on possible legal consequences of close or controversial votes.

    Panelist: “…after what happened in Florida in 2001 -”
    Host (interjecting): “Nothing happened in Florida. Nothing.”

    Orwellian denial at its best.

  3. Fyodor
    February 2nd, 2005 at 09:32 | #3

    I prefer CNNN for my dose of RWDB fair and balanced reporting. The Firth Factor is also waaay more right-wing than that pussy O’Reilly.

    Matter of fact, I’m feeling kinda fungry right now.

  4. Vee
    February 2nd, 2005 at 09:48 | #4

    I haven’t seen much of Fox either but knowing Outfoxed was done by former Fox workers and with MoveOn.org you have to be skeptical whether its propaganda itself or not.

    That said I’m inclined to believe the Jeremy Glick story from Jeremy’s side.

    And in the words of a famous Australian – shame, shame, shame!

    Oh and O’Reilly certainly is a death beast.

  5. February 2nd, 2005 at 09:59 | #5

    Once you become so partisan that you no longer have the capacity or inclination to attack “your own team” when it is warranted, the value of your opinion to non-partisan readers is greatly undermined. This sadly appears to be the case for numerous political commentators in this country (e.g. The Australian’s Janet Albrechtsen and Philip Adams – flip sides of a coin), and is arguably endemic within the Murdoch media.

  6. February 2nd, 2005 at 10:12 | #6

    It is said we get the government we deserve. Maybe this is also true of the media. I feel all decisions taken by the NEWS Empire are based on what’s best for them, not necessary what’s best for their audience. I wonder what FN would be like if the DEMs. win in 2008?

  7. February 2nd, 2005 at 10:23 | #7

    I don’t think we get the government or the media that we deserve.
    What we really deserve are more commentators who can at least try to call policies how they see them without being in hock to one side or the other. That doesn’t mean they are correct in their perceptions or their prescriptions but it might mean that they can listen to counter-arguments and do better next time.

  8. February 2nd, 2005 at 10:41 | #8


    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.

    o sound holier-than-thou but partisanship is dangerously at odds with intellectual pursuits. Partisanship means getting “married to a position”, whether ideological or institutional. This will sometimes constrain empirical observations and theoretical interpretations.
    Ones intellectual committments should be moral, not political. I reconcile this high sounding ethic with my grubby committment to the AUS nation state by imbuing citizenship with sanctity.

  9. Todd
    February 2nd, 2005 at 10:55 | #9

    My biggest problem with Fox news is its position on Foxtels digital line up. It sits up at 602 in the news section. I always thought it would be more appropriate down around 121 next to the comedy channel.

  10. February 2nd, 2005 at 10:59 | #10

    Rafe, I agree totally. What I find odd, is that Fox isnt necessarily a Republican propaganda outlet. Before it became popular there was the perceived notion, courtesy of Gingrich harping on an on about it, of the biased “Liberal Media”. Liberal in the US meaning the opposite of conservative. Murdoch filled that perceived hole in the market. With great success.

    Unfortunately, it is statism in a phosphor tube. It is impossible to watch for any length of time because it mixes uncritical statism, partisanshp with uncritical sensationalism. Many of the paper rags have mimiced Fox’s style. The New York Post and Washington Times are good examples. The NYP has language on its front page like, “our steadfast president”. It doesnt really matter what your opinion of Bush, that is not cool from mainstream media. But it is an example of the mass media outlets competing for circulation and eyeballs with the echo-chamber conservatives who are obviously a profitable market.

  11. James Farrell
    February 2nd, 2005 at 11:03 | #11

    Things won’t improve when the cross media ownership rules are repealed later this year.

  12. Paul Norton
    February 2nd, 2005 at 11:08 | #12

    Taking up Guy’s point, I think a critical threshold is also reached when a commentator loses the capacity or inclination to frame arguments which are capable of either addressing the doubts and fears of the non-committed, or causing those of opposing views to reconsider their own position or acknowledge that the commentator might have a point in terms of their own value framework.

    Perhaps a way of encapsulating the difference is that when I read many contributions to this blog or to Catallaxy from a centre-right perspective, I feel like I’m being spoken to in an attempt to persuade me, but when I read articles by the likes of Janet Albrechtsen, Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, etc., I feel like I’m being either shouted at, or shouted about in order to incite others against me.

  13. Michael Burgess
    February 2nd, 2005 at 12:28 | #13

    Fox’s bias is undoubtedly by far the most blatant of a major media outlet. The hypocrisy of commentators who claim to be fair and balanced and won’t even let opponents finish one sentence without interrupting is sickening. However, to some degree the success of fox and other right wing opinion disseminators (think tanks, etc) is a product of the ease with which they are able to point to examples of blatant liberal bias. The BBC’s Arabic service (if not at times BBC World’s main English service and SBS) is often disgracefully pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli and, in the context of the Iraq war etc, all to predictably pro-European and anti-American.

    Another example of appalling liberal bias is Middle Eastern studies in the United States and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere. Apart from generally greatly playing down the extent and excesses of Islamic extremism in the US and elsewhere, it would be almost impossible for someone with a pro-Israeli slant to get employed in this area. Another long running example of bias in the liberal media and academia is of course the continuing tendency to greatly play down the evils of communism. All bias should be vigorously condemned and, in the case of Government funded institutions, those incapable of a more open-minded approach removed from their cushy jobs.

  14. tim g
    February 2nd, 2005 at 12:35 | #14

    I thought “Outfoxed” 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, derrr” response at least 30 years ago.

    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.

  15. James Farrell
    February 2nd, 2005 at 14:38 | #15

    Good to see you are still on message, Michael.

  16. Geoff Honnor
    February 2nd, 2005 at 15:14 | #16

    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.

  17. Adrian
    February 2nd, 2005 at 16:03 | #17




    Id like to see some real examples of when Fox has both sides of any debate covered on its programs. Andrew Bolt claims in todays Herald sun that it does get people from both sides of the debate and this makes it fair and balanced etc etera. Do they get people like Patrick Cockburn and Edward S Herman on to give their opinions? Do they have any genuine field reporters corresponding from the battlefields? Who’s their Robert Fisk?? Surely Bolt is on serious drugs.

  18. February 2nd, 2005 at 16:08 | #18

    “you no longer have the capacity or inclination to attack “your own teamâ€? when it is warranted, the value of your opinion to non-partisan readers is greatly undermined. This sadly appears to be the case for numerous political commentators in this country (e.g. The Australian’s Janet Albrechtsen and Philip Adams”

    Wait- Philip Adams? The guy who said just the other day that there is no difference between Beazley and Howard? The man who laid into Latham, and has laid into Labor generally, non-stop for years?

    He may be polemically lefty, but he certainly doesn’t stand by his “team” the whole time. In fact, as an op-ed writer in one of the broadsheets recently pointed out, it is a major problem for Labor that lefty commentators love nothing more than a bit of Labor bashing, while most leading right wing writers have been lockstep in supporting the Howard government and the war.

  19. February 2nd, 2005 at 16:21 | #19

    Taking up two points from Michael Burgess. First, it is not fair to compare the non-left think tanks with the propaganda of a media outlet. All the non-left think tanks that I now about are producing reports and commentary that are evidence-based (in the contemporary jargon) and for the most part reasonably argued, whether or not the arguments stand up.

    Second, the continuing tendency to greatly play down the evils of communism. The term “conspicuous indignation” has been coined to sidestep this issue, as though it is silly to have any concern about communism, the activities of the communist party and those who were fellow travellers without actually signing up. The disastrous consequences of the Soviet empire and its influence worldwide will be with us for some time to come. We should appreciate the efforts of the Quadrant crowd and others who resisted communism as best they could in intellectual and cultural affairs. However is is remarkably difficult to obtain any clearcut recognition in leftwing circles that the Quadrant people were right, in big picture terms, and their opponents were wrong. Can anyone explain why this is the case?

  20. tim g
    February 2nd, 2005 at 16:24 | #20

    Andrew Bolt claims in todays Herald sun that it does get people from both sides of the debate and this makes it fair and balanced etc etera

    Fox shows like “Hannity & Colmes” do make a gesture in the direction of balance by having guests from both sides, but it’s usually a fraud; the “left-wing” guest is only there to provide the bumptious Sean Hannity with someone that he can berate, interrupt and cut short. Ditto Bill O’Reilly. There’s certainly no pretence of the PBS Newshour-style debating roundtable.

    Bolt is being massively disingenuous (quelle surprise).

  21. February 2nd, 2005 at 16:41 | #21

    Rafe, I agree it’s certainly what we should desire and demand. But, if we don’t [or are not prepared] do anything about it, we reap the reward! For Governments we have the ballot box. Maybe the challenge is to convince RM what’s good for us is also good for him. ‘Cause what’s good for him is his driver.

  22. Dave Ricardo
    February 2nd, 2005 at 16:41 | #22

    “Andrew Bolt claims in todays Herald sun that it does get people from both sides of the debate and this makes it fair and balanced etc etera”

    Let me get this in before Quiggin does: Mandy Rice Davies

  23. Paul Norton
    February 2nd, 2005 at 16:58 | #23

    Rafe writes: “However is is remarkably difficult to obtain any clearcut recognition in leftwing circles that the Quadrant people were right, in big picture terms, and their opponents were wrong. Can anyone explain why this is the case?”

    In 2003 I looked up back issues of Quadrant from 1988-89 to see what its contributors were saying at that time about Saddam Hussein’s atrocities against the Kurds. I found nothing on that issue, but I did find lots of admonitions about the untrustworthiness of Gorbachev and the falsity of his reform program, the dangers of allowing South Africa to be taken over by Nelson Mandela and the ANC, and the threat posed by Fretilin in East Timor and the essential wisdom of accepting the Indonesian take-over.

    Such stances and priorities were a logical outcome of an essentialist anti-communist which went beyond opposing Stalinist communism as an unjust social system, to opposing communists and their perceived allies wherever they were, no matter what their actual stance or role on particular issues, and making opposition to the communists the primary determinant of one’s own stance on issues.

  24. Harold Thornton
    February 2nd, 2005 at 17:13 | #24

    I thought the most incisive points made on Outfoxed were (1) its bias is a consumer rights issue, not a political one – the slogan ‘Fair & Balanced’ is clearly misleading and (2) the survey finding that the more you watch Fox News, the less about the world you know.

  25. Naomi
    February 2nd, 2005 at 19:58 | #25

    I thought it was a basic failing to present opinion about Fox without backing it up with any sort of statistics, beyond the single survey that showed that Fox viewers were more likely to think that WMDs had been found in Iraq, in comparison with another channel. That in itself is not a persuasive statistic, because there’s no back-up info on the demographics of either channel’s viewers.

    Media organisations run enormous monitoring programmes to detect bias, and those sorts of statistics should have been easy to include.

    I found the programme exceedingly worrying, particularly when we’re facing diminution of media interests quite soon here, but felt that it probably confirmed prejudice, rather than truly convinced.

    Did anyone notice that the biog sequence about Rupert had “1972: bought his first politician”? What the hey? Whitlam? So what does that say about his politics? How do you explain his backing of Hawke for so long?

    I know the man has an acute understanding of his capacity to influence popular opinion – he learned it waging war against the executioners in the Max Stuart case – but he’s a little bit more complex than that.

    And, much as I hate RWDB media, you do need to look at the range of opinions on offer. Fox does not control the entire media in the US, though they probably want to.

    (my wise friend says you shouldn’t read any columnists because anyone who has to say something every week has nothing to say. Suck on that Albrechtsen AND Adams. That excludes bloggers, and Alistair Cooke).

  26. February 2nd, 2005 at 20:36 | #26

    Paul, it is a great idea to do a content analysis of Quadrant, though the people who I think deserve the most credit are those involved with the magazine from the very beginning in 1955. Unfortunately I only have three issues from 88-89 on my shelves: one is devoted entirely to the universities; one contains my second thoughts on Vietnam and a piece on the betrayal of South Vietnam by Kissinger and Nixon; one has an article on refugees from West Irian to Papua NG highlighting the duplicity of the Indonesians and the US in dealing with the problem.
    Because Quadrant does not really have a party line and has always been a broad church it is possible to find just about every shade of opinion represented. That is the most remarkable thing about the early years, after being told it was a rabid raving right wing rag it was a shock to find how mild it was, ranging over the full range of social and political issues. In addition to poetry, fiction and book reviews there were pieces on the plight of the Aborigines and criticism of the White Australia policy.
    It would be most helpful for more people to check out the contents of Quadrant from the beginning, some weary old myths might be dispelled. It would really help to have the early numbers on line.

  27. James Farrell
    February 2nd, 2005 at 20:59 | #27

    You really are shameless, Rafe. You’ve been seething for God knows how long and in how many forums about how eveyone ignores Quadrant’s glorious record as a voice against repression. Then Paul, who probably has no more interest in Quadrant than in Taxidermist’s Monthly, but is no doubt as sick as everone else of your obsession about this, pulls up his sleeves, does a bit of research and deftly deflates your whole balloon of indignation. And now you’re carrying on as if this is just an amiable conversation between two old Quadrant buffs, musing about what a fascinating and colourful old rag it was days gone by, and shaking your heads in dismayed agreement about the misconceptions of the younger generations.

  28. Joseph Clark
    February 2nd, 2005 at 21:07 | #28

    Fox news is no worse than the 7:30 report in terms of partisanship, and much better in terms of admitting to it.

  29. gassit
    February 2nd, 2005 at 22:12 | #29

    Fox news is no worse than the 7:30 report in terms of partisanship, and much better in terms of admitting to it.

    I am yet to see Kerry tell anyone to shut up (as entertaining as that would be).

  30. February 2nd, 2005 at 22:19 | #30

    Irony. Overpowering.

  31. Andrew
    February 2nd, 2005 at 22:48 | #31

    Reading the oped columnists is like listening to a tape of Lord Haw-Haw.

    The droning abuse, repeated so often, so faithfully that it’s a source of glee to see how long a new abusive term from the US to make it into their first paragraph (3-4 months usually).

    And the extravagant boasting about how the right has “won” only makes me think “if it’s such a comprehensive victory, why do you have to keep assuring us that the enemy is defeated?”

    And the po-faced predictions about how Labor will lose the 2007 and 2010 elections — if they are that bloody farseeing, why don’t they predict something useful, like the next five Melbourne Cup Winners?

  32. February 2nd, 2005 at 23:12 | #32

    Good evening James! How are you going with your short essay on Popper and Hayek?

    The conversation is amiable on my side although I appreciate that it may be boring some people. Perhaps I should take one of the components of my research program off line to minimise offence.

  33. February 3rd, 2005 at 00:23 | #33

    The purpose of Outfoxed was to out the FOX Network for what it really is, therefore it did not need to be objective. It was a case against it rather than a discussion of its merit. Everything it presented was the truth, be it leaked memos or actual footage, that cannot really be denied. Basically it was examples of what FOX has done and how it works all at once and in-your-face, rather than the little trickle FOX viewers dont pick up on.

  34. Fyodor
    February 3rd, 2005 at 07:05 | #34

    Rafe,

    On the subject of Quadrant as Protector from Communism, you don’t come across as amiable. Hectoring and obsessive were the adjectives I would have used. Merely boring would be tolerable.

    I for one would prefer it if you stuck to other subjects where you are not as partisan.

  35. Nabakov
    February 3rd, 2005 at 09:36 | #35

    Thanks to an op-ed piece in Murdoch’s Herald-Sun today, I came across a good line by Winston Churchill that you might also appreciate Rafe.

    “A fanatic is someone who won’t change his mind and can’t change the subject.”

    PS: Sorry about Communism, Rafe. It won’t happen again.

  36. Homer Paxton
    February 3rd, 2005 at 10:26 | #36

    The only person who had Keating looking silly in an interview was Kezza on Lateline.

    give me some evidence of political bias!

  37. Adrian
    February 3rd, 2005 at 12:14 | #37

    i find it remarkable how Gerard Henderson can equate Ho Chi Minh with Stalin and Hitler, but thats by the by. I thought Outfoxed showed quite well how Rupert Murdoch is a great supporter of modern Chinese communism. Maybe he needs a lesson in its “inherent monstrosity” eh? All that stuff about the Tianamen square masacre should shame right wing windbags who constantly say that those of the left do the most to give comunists succour. And Andrew Bolt needs a new term of abuse for John Pilger. His barb of “moral pygmy” has been repeated a few times now and Im beginning to think he is adopting a “cut and paste” style of commentary.

  38. Paul Norton
    February 3rd, 2005 at 13:08 | #38

    Adrian, allow me to put on my party hat for a moment. With the departure of Brian Harridene from the Senate, Bob Brown is now the Australian Parliament’s undisputed fiercest critic of the Chinese Stalinist government over its anti-democratic practices, including its occupation of Tibet and its persecution of Falun Gong. Not that I expect Andrew Bolt to draw his readers’ attention to that anytime soon.

  39. Razor
    February 3rd, 2005 at 13:10 | #39

    “Fox’s bias is undoubtedly by far the most blatant of a major media outlet.”

    – You obviously think that the ABC,BBC, CBC and SBS aren’t major media outlets, and you haven’t read the Guardian.

  40. February 3rd, 2005 at 14:54 | #40

    Ho Chi Minh wasn’t the nicest guy either – quite a lot of “landlords” (real and alleged) ended up dead in his collectivisation program in the 50s. On the other hand, he did kick out the French, who had no business being there in the first place. My guess is that he will be will be remembered for the later for a long, long time. Most communist parties cannot make such a claim – quite the reverse. In eastern Europe, they’re the ones who exchanged a Nazi occupation for a Soviet occupation.

  41. February 3rd, 2005 at 15:52 | #41

    Well… the French had no more business being in the area than anybody else. Don’t forget that they did incidental and unintended good (not net), over and above going in on the back of addressing real local needs.

    The former included stopping Thai encroachment on Laos and Cambodia. The latter included organising the locals against Chinese river pirates. Of course, the French did treat it like the fable of the alliance of the man and the horse against the wolf, but nevertheless they did have some business in the area, though not enough to justify even peaceful penetration let alone colonialism (the British cases were usually marginally net benefits, but that’s another story).

  42. February 3rd, 2005 at 16:04 | #42

    Question, was there a net gain in peace, freedom and prosperity as a result of uncle Ho’s activities. I suspect the answer is no. Certainly there were a lot fewer Vietnamese as a result of his contempt for the life of his soldiers. I understand that he announced that he would beat the US because he was prepared to sacrifice as many lives as it took, but the Americans would not. What a hero!

  43. February 3rd, 2005 at 18:09 | #43

    P.M.: I didn’t know that, but then there’s a lot of things I don’t know about the country. It not that easy to get a decent (i.e., “unbiased”) English-language history of VN in this place.

    Rafe: waste of manpower would be one charge that could be thrown against the Commies. On the other hand, it didn’t slow down the population too much. According to this link, the population jumped from 27 million to about 48 million in 1975. Now it’s 82 million. The country had it’s own little baby boom after the wars. From personal experience, it’s quite easy to meet people in their 20s, but people in their 30s are a LOT less noticeable.

  44. February 3rd, 2005 at 18:14 | #44

    I should add that the government really wants to stop the population growth before it hits the magic 100 million mark. It’s got a “one or two” policy. I wish them luck, as the country is quite crowded at the moment.

  45. February 3rd, 2005 at 19:32 | #45

    Fyodor and Mr Mugabe have brought me back to remind people who had not noticed the disastrous impact of the Soviet Empire around the world. Is it “hectoring and obsessive” to care about the fate of the people of Zimbabwe after the takeover by Mugabe and his terrorists, armed and trained by the USSR, with moral support by well-meaning progressive folk in the west?

    This is the news off the Yahoo notice board this afernoon.

    START A delegation of South African unionists on a fact-finding mission has been deported from Zimbabwe, a day after the Government called elections it promises will be free and fair.
    The Council of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) delegation was going to Zimbabwe to assess whether the country is ready for free and fair elections on March 31, but it did not get far.
    Delegates were stopped at Harare Airport, charged with breaching the Immigration Act, and put on the next plane back to South Africa.
    It is a repeat of events last year, when a delegation on a similar mission was also turned back.
    Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has accused COSATU of running a political agenda.
    Authorities say the union also had not followed correct protocol for the visit. END OF NEWS

    Someone, maybe here or on Troppo, called me on the treason of the communists. Try the waterfront strikes during the early part of WW2 when the communist led wharfies expressed their solidarity with Stalin and Hitler by disruping the supplies to our troops in East Timor. I have an idea that Stuart Macintyre glossed over that in his book on the Australian party. And later on the miners strikes, again disrupting the war effort. Lest we forget.

  46. February 3rd, 2005 at 20:18 | #46

    Rafe, I know you care about the fate of those under Communism. So why not get a personal feel of the land by visiting a few in your holiday? I’m being serious. Just contact a travel agency and go. North Korea may be a bit of an ask, and Cuba’s a bit far away, but there are three others in the East Pacific Region alone. I even had by olds around here. Honestly, after living here for two years, I have few stories of “knocks in the nights” to share. (They do happen, but that’s because the police want extra petty cash, and go away after a while if you don’t cough up.) It’s the boredom that gets to you.

  47. February 3rd, 2005 at 20:19 | #47

    By “few” and “others”, I meant “countries”, not people. Although if you’re ever in town, drop me a line.

  48. Nabakov
    February 3rd, 2005 at 20:54 | #48

    Rafe, I’d echo DaO Saigon’s comment. Go and see. I’ve been to Vietnam twice now and it doesn’t strike me as very communist or socialist at all – just very Vietnamese, full of tough, smart, pragmatic people working bloody hard so they can afford a nice wedding reception at The Continental and a Honda dealership.

    I’m sure Hanoi keeps issuing directives and five year new economic plans, but everyone’s too busy getting on with their lives to pay any attention to them.

  49. February 3rd, 2005 at 22:43 | #49

    D&O Saigon, you get the sort of info I cited easier if you start from the other end, from French colonial history. For instance, I’ve got a book on their penetration of Madagascar that cites the techniques used in Indochina in its introduction. Also, I’ve seen photographs of the diplomats from these countries that were sent to the Second Empire; of all of them, only Siam (now Thailand) didn’t get conquered by France a generation or so later – and that omission relates to the interplay of European spheres of influence.

    It’s amazing how much condemnation Britain gets from revisionists who leave out the alternatives, who don’t realise that, e.g., British India was a reaction to French imperialism, not a selfish imperialism in its own right. The alternatives to Britain were always worse, by today’s values; which is not surprising, since so many of those values derived from British ones (just as it would not be surprising if we would all have applauded the holocaust, if only Hitler had won – our values would be derived from Nazism).

  50. February 4th, 2005 at 06:54 | #50

    Check out Zimbabwe fellas! That is a place where the revolution happened in your lifetime.
    Also check out the books that the Webbs and Manning Clark wrote about Russia.

  51. Fyodor
    February 4th, 2005 at 07:38 | #51

    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.

  52. Paul Norton
    February 4th, 2005 at 09:41 | #52

    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.

  53. Katz
    February 4th, 2005 at 09:42 | #53

    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.

  54. Michael Burgess
    February 4th, 2005 at 11:55 | #54

    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.

  55. Michael Burgess
    February 4th, 2005 at 12:05 | #55

    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.

  56. Katz
    February 4th, 2005 at 12:12 | #56

    Courageous defence of the culture MB

  57. February 4th, 2005 at 13:00 | #57

    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.

  58. February 4th, 2005 at 19:48 | #58

    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.

  59. Andrew
    February 5th, 2005 at 09:11 | #59

    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.

  60. February 5th, 2005 at 18:43 | #60

    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?

  61. February 5th, 2005 at 22:49 | #61

    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).

  62. February 6th, 2005 at 03:02 | #62

    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?

  63. Glenn Condell
    February 8th, 2005 at 18:05 | #63

    ‘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.

  64. Glenn Condell
    February 8th, 2005 at 18:11 | #64

    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.

  65. February 9th, 2005 at 15:28 | #65

    “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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