Home > Oz Politics > The culture war: time to mop up

The culture war: time to mop up

December 17th, 2007

Both before and since the election, commentators of the centre-left, including me, have pronounced the end of the culture wars that have dominated a large stream of Australian political commentary for the past fifteen years or so (for a further sample, here’s Polemica and LP). These pronouncements have not been well received. Rather, in the manner of this (according to family legend) distant relation of mine, those on the losing side have taken the view that news of their defeat is a deceitful ruse de guerre.

In a tactical sense, this is all to the good. With no share of political power anywhere in the country, the culture warriors can’t do any actual harm, except to the conservative side of politics. So, there’s an argument that they should be encouraged, rather than persuaded to give up the struggle. But it doesn’t seem like a good idea to encourage vitriolic debate about side issues, while letting the big questions be settled by default. In relation to climate change, for example, as long as the delusionist and do-nothingist culture warriors dominate one side of the debate, serious discussion about questions like how best to combine adaption and mitigation will be drowned out.

So, it seems like a good idea to survey the culture war and consider what can be done about it.

There are really two fronts in the culture wars. The first is the global battle of US Republicans, supported by an international ‘coalition of the willing’, against just about everyone else in the world, on just about every topic. The battle starts with the premise that the values and beliefs of the US ‘heartland’ are superior to all others, and should be imposed upon everyone else. The big battlefronts recently have included climate change, the Iraq war, gay marriage, pro-rich (but not particularly pro-market) economic policies, and creationism (aka intelligent design).

For anyone outside the US, this involves the kind of transplanted nationalism analysed by George Orwell in his Notes on Nationalism. In particular, it involves hostility to large elements of Australian culture (all of those wrapped up in the notion of the ‘fair go’, for example). Adherents of this foreign ideology frequently disguise their alienation from themselves with reference to the spurious notion of the ‘Anglosphere’.

From the end of the Cold War to 9/11 and the early days of the Bush Administration, the Republican culture warriors were convinced that they held the Mandate of Heaven. (For the ideological shock-troops, largely ex-Trotskyists, this was a simple shift from one form of dogmatic historicism to another). But, ever since the wheels came off the Iraq venture, they’ve been losing ground on one front after another. On climate change and a whole range of scientific issues, they’ve fought reality and lost. The alliance of fundamentalist Christianity and pro-Mammon economic policy is fracturing. And the spectacular incompetence of the Bush Administration has undermined faith across the board.

The second front is domestic and reflects the hangovers from disputes that took place late last century. The biggest source of fuel was Paul Keating’s brief and opportunistic embrace of a range of ‘progressive’ causes between 1993 and 1996, which only succeeded in attaching his immense personal unpopularity, derived from the ‘recession we had to have’, to these causes, including proposals for a republic and for reconciliation with indigenous Australians.

For the real hardcore, this is wrapped up with a range of resentments going back decades. In its final term, the Howard Cabinet put a lot of energy into ‘voluntary student unionism’, which essentially amounted to settling scores its members had racked up as student politicians in the 1970s. Then there’s the immense resentment against Phillip Adams, someone who’s parlayed a brief stint as a politically influential commentator a few decades ago, into a successful self-created legend, unmatched by any of the vitriol-throwers on the other side (PP McGuinness and Piers Akerman are obvious example). His entire contribution for many years has consisted of a mildly self-indulgent column in the back pages of the Oz, and a late-night radio chat show (quite a good one, but not exactly a bully pulpit) on a network with about 1 per cent market share, yet hostile references to “luvvies” abound among rightwing culture warriors.

The time-warp in which these guys are operating is even more evident in the persistence of terms like “latte leftist” and “chardonnay socialist”, referring, as if they were some sort of elite indulgence, to drinks that are now the subject of Kath & Kim skits. Looking at the current political scene, it’s virtually impossible to find anyone on the Labor side with any resemblance to these caricatures (hence the eagerness with which the warriors have gone after Peter Garrett who is at least a rock star).

As regards the policies themselves, the idea that Australians are brimming with conservative fervour, or any kind of fervour, on these topics is silly in most cases. Most people are vaguely in favour of a republic, but aren’t in any hurry. As regards legal recognition of gay relationships, only a handful of people are aware of the fine distinctions between civil unions and registered relationships, and even fewer care. On refugees, now that the Pacific solution is finally at an end, most people (and especially those panicked into voting for Howard over Tampa) would prefer to forget the entire sorry episode.

There are only three culture war issues where there is any real community concern. On two of them, climate change and the Iraq war, the culture warriors have been comprehensively discredited. The third is the problems of indigenous communities, to which no-one has a satisfactory answer, but which are clearly not helped by the kind of vitriolic pointscoring that characterises culture war rhetoric, on this as on all other issues.

All this doesn’t get us far as regards a settlement. But the best course is probably the one the Rudd government is taking. Get the big symbolic issues that have to be addressed (Kyoto, the Nauru camps, an apology to indigenous Australians) settled once and for all, and as soon as possible. Then try and move forward with substantive policies that will achieve better outcomes. This is pretty much the opposite of the approach taken by John Howard, for whom a resolute refusal to make symbolic gestures came to symbolise the fact that his supposed commitment to practical action was, in most cases, spurious.

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  1. Hal9000
    December 17th, 2007 at 21:30 | #1

    Dammit, Prof Q – I suspect I’m falling for an obvious trap by quibbling thus, but RN’s overall ratings in our home town of Brisbane are 2.7%, and in the session when Adams’s show is broadcast (7pm to Midnight – LNL 10-11pm) it reaches the dizzying heights of 4.5%, on a par with commercial AM stations. So roughly 1 in 20 Brisbanites with the radio on at that time is listening to RN. Given that most RN programming is talk rather than music, it seems likely that this 1 in 20 is actually listening to the content rather than having it provide auditory wallpaper as background noise. So it’s arguable that Adams’s share of radio consumers actually listening to the progamming may be substantial.

    That said, as anyone actually listening to Adams’s show could attest, all shades of opinion get an airing and all guests are treated at least with a genial civility conspicuously absent from much else that passes for interview-based radio on both public and commercial networks.

    His regular commentators include the likes of Christian Kerr and Paul Bongiorno from the Canberra press gallery and his guests (40 minutes of each night’s 50 minute show) tend to be recently published authors but include partisans of just about every conceivable position in contemporary intellectual discourse.

    I agree his columns are seldom worth reading, but his little radio show is a gem. Long may it continue.

    On the general issue of culture wars, I’m hoping the Bolts, Hendersons, Flints, Akermans and Albrechtsens keep on keeping on. The most amusing element is that they don’t seem to realise the reading public has noticed their imperial nakedness, and their continued parading serves to emphasise their intellectual nakedness. Although I do retract this regarding Henderson, who as a commenter on another Blog noted, is like an intellectual version of J K Rowling’s Dementors: a being who sucks all the joy and life out of any discussion.

  2. Hal9000
    December 17th, 2007 at 21:33 | #2

    Oops. Second ‘nakedness’ should have read ‘humiliation’. Just what I’m doing to myself, really, by self-importantly posting this Jackanory-style.

  3. December 17th, 2007 at 21:51 | #3

    Well that sums it up pretty well. It’s time to shoot the Alsations and arrange for the bodies to be properly burned. I do like Adams on the radio though. RN as a whole has really come to life with podcasting – Now that you no longer have to choose between the football and philosophy.

  4. alan
    December 17th, 2007 at 22:17 | #4

    The culture wars remind me of Kuhn’s ideas about the advance of science. Those with a vested interest in the old way of thinking never change their minds, but eventually they all die, leaving the new way uncontested. The debates about global warming (no, it’s not climate change, it’s global warming) are a good example.

    Ratty spent most of his life trying to win his battles of the 50s, Abbott and Costello theirs of the 70s. In another 30 years, they will seem as quaint as debates about whether the colonies should federate. In another 30 years, there will be angry and resentful middle aged men saying that Landcruisers and speedboats are essential to democracy and civilisation.

  5. swio
    December 17th, 2007 at 23:17 | #5

    The vitriol directed at Philip Adams is clearly envy. He gets to interview just about every important and seriously influential person on the world stage at some point or other. And don’t underestimate Late Night Live’s audience. It may be small, but its surely extremely high demographic and very influential. If LNL had ads they would be for Mercedes and Rolex’s.

    Compare this with what Akerman and McGuinnes have been reduced to doing for a living. They write simple and practially disposable drivel for tabloid newspapers. The movers and shakers in the world are not hanging out for the latest writings of these two. Sadly, they are intelligent enough to know it.

    On top of all this podcasting is allowing LNL’s audience to grow practically exponentially and reach anyone in the world with a broadband connection. Imagine how PP must feel knowing that there are now almost certainly influential people in Washington, Britain and Europe who now regularly listen to Philip Adams.

  6. Jill Rush
    December 17th, 2007 at 23:31 | #6

    The culture wars have a fourth element – the denigration of women in general except if they are on the conservative side of politics and are therefore special.

    The special treatment of single parents by the Liberals under the welfare to work policy targeted women. To determine that a woman who has just separated from her partner (often abusive) must look for work despite the needs for housing, new schools, emotional disturbance of the children, harassment by the ex etc was evidence enough of the failure to treat women with respect for the work that they do or their role in nurturing the next generation.

    Janet Albrechtson is a particular warrior who is likely to demand why feminists are silent on this or that as if feminists have powers unknown to others.

    Women have made a lot of gains in the last few years. They can now access child care and work. For many that has meant a huge load. However the culture warriors under the heading “best man for the job” have blamed women for not achieving higher, better, faster.

    As Prof Q points out so well there is a blinkered view of the world where conformity to the conservative viewpoint is required to be respected by the cultural warriors. Anyone outside this mould is to be hounded, berated and ridiculed whether they question what is happening in Iraq, inaction on climate change, whether an army is the best way to tackle child abuse or whether women are held back from progress by the operation of a boys’ club.

    The increasingly shrill cries of the cultural warriors shows how anxious they are about their relevance now that John Howard no longer rules. The conclusion to the above item sums it up – if there is no symbolism then the practical is either misrepresented or non existent.

  7. wmmbb
    December 17th, 2007 at 23:40 | #7

    I am somewhat of a cultural proponent myself, believing that cultural change, as it pertains to violence and war, would be a very good thing indeed, and there may be implications as to how climate change is addressed. Still for those of us, perhaps very few, who believe a new cultural paradigm would allow reality to be perceived and realized by being reframed, much can be learnt in a negative sense from the cultural warriors of the dying world.

  8. Ian Gould
    December 18th, 2007 at 01:01 | #8

    “With no share of political power anywhere in the country, the culture warriors can’t do any actual harm,…”

    You obviously haven’t used the BCC buses lately John.

    Roll on the Lord Mayoral elections.

  9. silkworm
    December 18th, 2007 at 01:11 | #9

    The Iemma NSW Labor Govt will continue to fight the culture wars by funding World Youth Day next year. This event is being used by the Catholic Church in Australia as a means of recruiting people into their faith.

  10. December 18th, 2007 at 01:25 | #10

    Great post JQ.

  11. rog
    December 18th, 2007 at 05:20 | #11

    I am not so sure that the bulk of the population could give a stuff about “culture wars”; results of the Australian Social Attitudes report indicate that Australians are not becoming conservative and that their views were not particularly influenced by the Howard years, that they are generally “economic pragmatists” rather than “neo liberals”

  12. Katz
    December 18th, 2007 at 06:00 | #12

    There is at least one element of the Culture Wars that JQ did not mention. That is the rise of evangelistic Christian sects in Australia. This form of populist protestantism has never been a feature of Australian cultural life in the past, even though, God knows, Australia has had its share of sectarianism.

    These evangelical folks are counter-cultural in relation to several of the great social reforms arising from the Whitlam years. And many of their enthusiasms do not emerge organically from the Australian experience. On the contrary they are the conduit through which American pre-occupations, such as anti-evolution, and fixations on the personal morality of political figures, have entered the Australian debate.

    It’s wrong to say that these folks are welded onto the conservatives. However, it would be over-optimistic to say that their marginal vote is up for grabs.

    Interestingly, for conservative politics, populist protestants are very much a two-edged sword. Religious extremists are numerous and determined enough to have taken control of large parts of the NSW branch of the Liberal Party. Yet, on the other hand, their influence renders conservative politics very suspect in the eyes of marginal voters. Iemma can thank this factor for his remaining Premier of NSW, because if ever a Labor government deserved to fall, it was NSW’s.

    So, for good or for ill, the religious factor is back in Australian politics for the first time since the demise of the DLP.

    And on that matter, I’d take issue with Rog. There are some aspects of the Culture Wars about which many Australians care. The political scene in NSW is a powerful case in point.

  13. December 18th, 2007 at 06:33 | #13

    the culture wars are here to stay, in some form. they are an expression of human psychology, the working-out of social relations through media and economic struggle.

    much of this struggle would be better resolved if political means were in the hands of the electorate. [visit 'direct democracy' at google]

    however, a lot can be achieved with faux ‘democracy’ if polling of social issues is organized by academe and widely publicized. social scientists* could do a valuable public service by making australia aware of majority opinion on contentious issues. some of this goes on now, but tends to be skewed by commercial or party political interests.

    academics, of course, are clear-eyed searchers for, and reporters of, the truth.

    *not real science of course, like astrophysics.

  14. December 18th, 2007 at 08:04 | #14

    For online activsts, the most maddening aspect of these Culture Wars has surely been the sheer futility of trying to use logic and reason to counter a mindset which values neither. Ultimately, it has not been arguments from “our” side which have won these wars, but the steady process of unrelenting fact destroying unbending fantasy. One thinks continually of that US neocon quote about “creating our own realities” and the cursed arrogance of such a mindset, coupled with the astonishing levels of power these ideologues in Washington achieved. A million Iraqis dead, a devastated nation in chaos, half a century of international laws and treaties bleeding on the ropes, US global prestige flushed down the S-bend, and yet one still shudders to think how much worse it could have been.

    Having said that, I am not sure the USA’s culture wars are as conclusively finished as the domestic version. The Bush cabal’s power came from a disparate coalition of self-interested parties including the Christian right, Big Oil, the pro-Zionist lobby, the MSM, etc. With Bush and his neocon friends now fading into the toxic Texan sunset, many of these groups are flailing about in the search for a new leader and a new direction. The people who supported Bush are not the kind to admit mistakes and change their ways. We can only hope that their grasp on power is coming to a long-overdue end.

  15. Ikonoclast
    December 18th, 2007 at 08:20 | #15

    One aspect of the culture war still going on is the continuing advance of corporate capitalism. They are more powerful than ever and the profit share of the economy is larger.

    Endless (physical) growth capitalism is not going to work much longer. How do we get to a steady state capitalism on the physical front? Qualitative growth could still occur of course.

  16. December 18th, 2007 at 08:31 | #16

    I’m not sure that people fall into such neat tribes that ideas can be divided into camps and the metapor of war meaningfully applied (in any case it is an over used metaphor). Doesn’t every generation and time throw up a series of great debates about what is real and what things mean? The fact that some ideas can be buried and put out of sight from the mainstream for a generation or two does not mean that some war has been won or done. It just means that times change.

    In any case ideas themselves (or at least the labels they are attached to) change and then survive by doing so. Multiculturalism will no doubt survive but the meaning of multiculturalism is morphing. Suddenly it looks a lot more like assimilation. Although the meaning of assimilation has also been moving.

    Nobody has a monopoly on culture and nobody should. Nobody should be declaring any victory in a war over culture. Culture can’t be bottled and won’t be.

  17. wilful
    December 18th, 2007 at 09:07 | #17

    One bit of the kulcha wars not mentioned until Terje was multiculturalism, immigration and muslims. The Liberal leafletting scandal may have taught some of them a solid lesson.

    It bemuses me how some of the older men commentating from the right are so clearly out of touch, really still trying to fight the battles from their salad days, using terms and issues that few people under 40 would understand, and none care about. It’s a bit like my dear old mother making comments about catholics.

  18. jquiggin
    December 18th, 2007 at 09:50 | #18

    Katz, I think you overstate the novelty of evangelical Protestantism in Oz politics. Fred Nile got into NSW Parliament in 1981, and is still there. Christian conservatives also got into the ACT Assembly for a while, and I’m sure there are other examples. My guess is that there is about 5 per cent of the vote to be had from this group, given a good campaign and an appealing candidate, and that this proportion hasn’t changed much in recent decades.

    Also, as you note, the right doesn’t have an automatic lock here. Nick Xenophon, for example, draws to on this support base in part.

  19. Katz
    December 18th, 2007 at 10:07 | #19

    Perhaps political protestant evangelism isn’t novel in NSW, JQ.

    But here in Victoria it’s unheard of, at least at the state and federal level, until the accidental rise of Senator Fielding and Family First.

    I would guess that Victoria is more typical in this regard than NSW.

  20. December 18th, 2007 at 10:18 | #20

    Maybe the protestant evangelicals shouldn’t be too lightly dismissed. After all, it was a veritable act of God that got Steve Fielding elected from the hodgepodge of preference flows.

    Also, I’d be doubtful that the ‘guaranteed’ vote from protestant evangelicals is at five percent. The last election results I saw put Family First at around 2% of the primary vote, and the Christian Democratic Party at under 1%. I think the evangelicals are able to make more noise that a lot of other Christians, but I don’t think they’re necessarily getting all that many votes.

  21. Katz
    December 18th, 2007 at 10:25 | #21

    But don’t forget, Alpaca, in NSW the Liberal Party is the major protestant evangelical party.

  22. Peter Pan
    December 18th, 2007 at 11:59 | #22

    From jquiggin:
    “The big battlefronts recently have included climate change, the Iraq war, gay marriage and creationism (aka intelligent design).”

    I’d like to add the “Supply-Side� vodo economics to the list. It that finally seems to be under serious attack in the US ot A. Big tax cuts to the wealthy was a part of the Liberals economic policy for a few years now and the basis for such tax policies is now in the process for bring discredited. I notice a Review in last Friday’s Fin review of Jonathan Chait’s “The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by CrackpotEconomics�. I think the title say it all.

  23. MH
    December 18th, 2007 at 12:08 | #23

    I am not sure that the so-called culture warriors were actually warriors but merely puffed up courtiers full of spite and malace. That spite and malace fed handsomely upon and fed the latent but virulent hostility endemic to those of various warped forms of religosity, any form of fundementalism (or ism). The puffed up francopuffery of post-modernism in its shallow and ill-disciplined meanderings merely fed the more virulent strains. We all suspended much needed critical faculties and rigorous questioning on the basis of it was all good, its all been solved, the golden age is here. All forms of whacko creeds or cults have flourished and nourished; environmental denialism, exonphobia,racism,retrospective gender isolationists, creationism, the dismantling of internal cooperation, war on Islam, war on drugs, war on just about everything when you think about it.

    What were the culture wars about? the end of environmental controls, inclusiveness, community, rational science, feminism, international cooperation, any other religion but Judeo-Christianity, personal privacy and any other temperate, inclusive, democratic and logical human endeavour. Jefferson and others great fears for the outcome of the American Republic have been realised. The republic is no more its grand institutions vandalised by vested interests and a belief in the right to the untrammeled tyranny of the executive.

    Fukayama was wrong it was not the end of history history was merely suspended in a time warp. Same for economics, the great economic problems were never solved but merely delayed. Now we have well and truly passed the boundaries of the production possibility curve (our planet and its systems)the more sobering aspects of the cultural damage we all have endured confront us. All the great questions are back like the four horseman of the apocolypse. The great cultural challenge is now as we face the sixth extinction will we actually solve them?

    As Phillip would say, ’til next time dear gladyies’!

  24. Dylwah
    December 18th, 2007 at 12:13 | #24

    G’day Prof Q.

    I reckon the kulta warriers got a bit carried away with themselves and bit off more than they could chew when they lined up against global warming science in the manner that they did. it was all a bit too reminiscent of the US utiopian project to mold the people rather than govern/administer with what you had.

    the us govt has taken a similar line with AGW as it did with HIV. the oz approach to HIV is about as good as it gets in the marriage of science, medicine and govt. had such an approach been adopted at a similar stage in the climate debate we would definatly be in a better position now. Unfortunatly the us is still deaf and blind to the damage that their approach is causing and if this continues then the creeks will be full, but dry, at least we won’t need paddles.


  25. Bring Back CL’s blog
    December 18th, 2007 at 12:33 | #25


    you are confused.
    The problems in the NSW liberal party emante from Catholics not ‘evangelicals’

    funny it is the ‘evangelcials’ that formed the British Labor party and were part of those forming the ALP.

  26. John Greenfield
    December 18th, 2007 at 13:14 | #26

    Jill Rush

    The culture wars have a fourth element – the denigration of women in general except if they are on the conservative side of politics and are therefore special.

    What preposterous disingenuous tosh! Do you ever read the filth maniacally production-line produced bile against successful independent influential conservtaive media women over at Larvatus Prodeo, and right throughout The Luvviesphere by self-described “feminists?” Did you ever watch Monica Attard on MW? Ever read those dozey bints who “write” for The Age?


  27. December 18th, 2007 at 13:20 | #27

    Huh? So it’s forbidden to criticise Janet Albrechtsen because she’s a woman or something? JG really exemplifies the culture wars writ small… stripped of the verbiage necessary to achieve the piecerate pay for an MSM column, you can see the illogic even more starkly.

  28. December 18th, 2007 at 13:26 | #28

    Homer, just because David Clarke is in Opus Dei doesn’t mean that all the “problems” in the NSW Libs “emanate” from Catholics, whatever that means. Alex Hawke, for instance, is a Protestant, and I think you’ll find there are religious crazies from all necks of the woods involved.

  29. Katz
    December 18th, 2007 at 13:55 | #29


    Far be it from me to adjudicate over the relative influence of diffeent branches of religious zealotry over the NSW Branch of the Liberal Party.

    I’ll allow the sometimes warring, sometimes confederate, Opus Dei and the Snake Handlers in the NSW Branch of the Liberal Party to fight out between themselves their claims to have been the more prominent in driving John Brogden to a suicide attempt.

    But let merely merely observe that there seems to be more than enough “credit” to share around, even among those who make absolute and warring claims on the possession of God’s Truth.

  30. Bring Back CL’s blog
    December 18th, 2007 at 14:15 | #30

    with the greatest respect it is the catholic push for want of an expression that is the major player here.
    alleged protestants are merely bit players for the most.

  31. December 18th, 2007 at 14:33 | #31

    From my new blog home:

    There was an old woman named Janet
    Who lived on a different planet.
    She wrote total crap
    Which deserved a good slap
    But Rupert invariably ran it.

    I posted a very similar limerick at Janet’s latest blog (what, no column, Janet?) but it was rejected by the Murdoch Newsbot. Funny that.

    Surely it’s time that Murdoch himself paid the price for three decades or more of failed rightwing cheer-mongering?

  32. Katz
    December 18th, 2007 at 14:35 | #32

    Yes, and I notice that Opus Dei and Hillsong were both very active in the branch-stacking triumph of Alex Hawke over Alan Cadman in Mitchell.

  33. John Greenfield
    December 18th, 2007 at 14:43 | #33


    I just cannot believe you people actually read Janet Albrechtsen so obsessively and are so moved by her!

  34. rog
    December 18th, 2007 at 14:53 | #34

    I dont think that branch stacking is a “culture war” more a factional war. But to say its religion doesnt stack up, pollies like Bruce Baird were hardly extremist or even hard right yet used to attend prayer meetings in govt. So being religious is not a legitimate descriptor of a “culture warrior”

  35. Katz
    December 18th, 2007 at 15:00 | #35


    Attempting to turn the Liberal Party into a narrowly based morals party is the central front of the Culture Wars.

    Make no mistake. Alan Cadman and Phillip Ruddock, among many prominent Liberals, know what is at stake in this struggle for the soul, coffers, and contributions list of the NSW Branch of the Liberal Party.

    If ever these dudes won office in NSW, watch out!

  36. John Greenfield
    December 18th, 2007 at 15:59 | #36


    How many MORE attempts are you going to have at “getting” the Culture Wars? Dude, you stick to the economics, and leave the Culture Wars to others who are bit more clued in. ;)

  37. Ian Gould
    December 18th, 2007 at 16:30 | #37

    “Attempting to turn the Liberal Party into a narrowly based morals party is the central front of the Culture Wars”

    The funny thing here is, of course, that back when Bob Menzies founded the Liberal Party they generally were more liberal than their Labor contemporaries on a range of issues including the status of women and immigration from continental Europe. (This isn’t so much a compliment to the Liberals as an indictment of old-time Labour.)

  38. Joseph Clark
    December 18th, 2007 at 16:45 | #38

    I’m still unclear on what the culture wars actually are. From what I can gather they are a war between things JQ likes and things he doesn’t like. Am I close?

  39. MikeM
    December 18th, 2007 at 17:27 | #39

    Interesting column by Krugman at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/17/opinion/17krugman.html?ex=1355634000&en=07ae538b78887b68&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink, “Big Table Fantasies” in which he criticises Barack Obama’s belief that much caqn be achieved to improve his nation by gathering the players round a big table and talking issues through. He writes:

    “At the opposite extreme, John Edwards blames the power of the wealthy and corporate interests for our problems, and says, in effect, that America needs another F.D.R. — a polarizing figure, the object of much hatred from the right, who nonetheless succeeded in making big changes.”

    Rudd is seems to be more Obama-like than Edwards-like. Admittedly the political battlefield in the two nations is very different but will the time come when Rudd needs to do some polarising and endure some hatred?

  40. jquiggin
    December 18th, 2007 at 18:26 | #40

    Joseph, you’re not within cooee of spitting distance, but a few minutes with Google (try “culture wars” + Switzer) should set you straight.

    JG, you’re part of the subject matter here, not one of the experts.

  41. John Greenfield
    December 18th, 2007 at 19:15 | #41


    With all due respect, it is quite clear when compared to your obsessive, but so off-course, rantings about the “Culture Wars” I am indeed an expert.

  42. melanie
    December 18th, 2007 at 19:51 | #42

    There was recently an article in the Chicago Tribune about a dinosaur skeleton, allegedly some kind of prehistoric moo cow, dug up in Niger. The American part of the scientific team that dug it up had donated it to the National Geographic Museum. The several pages of comments on this article were entirely engaged with the issue of creationism versus evolution. I thought I’d chuck in a comment about modern-day American imperialists plundering the heritage of Niger. I kind of expected get at least one bite, but I didn’t. They rolled right on with their creationism point scoring. It’s a War all right and they won’t be distracted by irrelevant stuff about the rest of the world.

    I’m still wondering why the dinosaur isn’t in a museum in Niamey. It seems quite an important issue.

  43. observa
    December 18th, 2007 at 20:00 | #43

    I see the odd heretic is still popping his head above the parapet http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22938759-5013480,00.html

  44. Nabakov
    December 18th, 2007 at 20:37 | #44

    It’s true JQ,

    when it comes to obsessive, but so off-course, rantings about the “Culture Wars� John Greenfield is indeed an expert.

  45. chrisl
    December 18th, 2007 at 20:41 | #45

    Observa ; That article sums up the situation pretty well especially the last paragraph
    “Concern about unsettling climatic events is natural, but we are not the problem. Better to abandon ill-founded panic, to keep building a strong economy and thus the adaptive capacity to deal with whatever catastrophes unaided nature may have in store for us. ”
    Is it better to try and minimise hurricanes through running down the economy or to build better houses?
    Mitigation vs Adaption

  46. jquiggin
    December 18th, 2007 at 20:51 | #46

    Chrisl and Observa Dear, oh dear

  47. gandhi
    December 18th, 2007 at 21:03 | #47

    Can this really be the #1 opinion article at Teh Oz right now?

    A war waged ostensibly or in theory to promote democracy in the Middle East gravely damaged democracy where it already existed…

    Is this abject surrender from the Murdoch Mobsters? Can Janet Albrechtsen’s resignation be far behind?

  48. melanie
    December 18th, 2007 at 21:24 | #48

    Probably Albrechtsen, like Murdoch, will simply adjust her tune a little.

  49. observa
    December 18th, 2007 at 23:06 | #49

    All I said was-’I see the odd heretic is still popping his head above the parapet’
    and the Prophets of Doom be praised, I have no association with the infidel CIS whatsoever.

  50. P
    December 18th, 2007 at 23:53 | #50

    See “Culture wars are good for society” by John Roskam, in The Age December 19, 2007 http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/culture-wars-are-good-for-society/2007/12/18/1197740268986.html

  51. December 19th, 2007 at 06:58 | #51

    Thanks for that link P. What tosh! John Roskam says leftwing intellectuals dominate universities and rightwingers have to work twice as hard to hold down a uni job! Fact is, rightwingers get offered lucrative jobs at thinktanks, Murdoch papers, etc. Whereas leftwing views are not of much business value, are they?

    And this pathetic bleat sounds a whole lot like a recent Albrechtsen column:

    “If dissent is one of the hallmarks of an active intellectual life in this country there should be calls for more disagreement, not less. So far this hasn’t happened. In fact, the opposite has occurred. What are people afraid of?”

    After trying to stifle dissent for 11 years (and succeeding all too well in many cases), these troglodytes now pretend to champion honest debate? Well, bring it on, if you have any FACTS to substantiate your dross. Just shovelling it over the parapet is not going to be enough any more!

  52. Andrew
    December 19th, 2007 at 09:53 | #52

    Isn’t ‘culture war’ just a label for the continuous debate between right and left wing views? Frankly – it’s a pretty silly label, but just a label nonetheless.

    This debate has always been around and always will be. So why would anyone think that the ‘culture war’ is over.

    Thankfully we live in a country where diversity of opinions and views is encouraged and we have a media that is capable of publishing these views without fear or favour. That’s more than can be said for most countries. No-one is silencing dissent – that was one of the sillier claims from the left during the Howard years, and one of the sillier claims from the right now that Rudd’s at the helm.

    Jill @ #7 – I know women face bigger hurdles than men in a lot of ways, particularly in the workforce. But surely you’ve got to admit that women enjoy much better opportunities in this country (and similar western democracies) than in most other cultures? Are we really so un-enlightened?

  53. December 19th, 2007 at 11:39 | #53

    I intensly dislike the term ‘culture war’ as it already places the whole thing as a violent battle where one side will win over the other and then no further action will be taken as the conquerer will have the final say.

    What about ol’ fashioned debate?

    For me the culture wars are damaging because they damage ‘innoocent bystanders’. Talking about the balance of an exhibition in the National Museum is one thing, but abandoning the concept of a pluralist Australia as a ‘lovvie’ concern that goes against the ‘real Australians battler’ is something else. This sort of mindset has damaged Australia for the past eleven years and we don’t want a repeat of that.

    Same on the other side. Anyone who questions the idea of multiculturalism or same sex unions should not be told to shut up as a racist or as a homphobe.

    Let’s stop this silly concept of winner takes all ‘war’ and start a rational debate.

  54. John Greenfield
    December 19th, 2007 at 11:43 | #54


    On this particular topic, our host – JQ – conflates “Culture War” and “politics.” ;)

  55. John Greenfield
    December 19th, 2007 at 11:44 | #55


    It’s “Luvvie,” luvvie.

  56. gerard
    December 19th, 2007 at 17:08 | #56

    Oh please JG. Spare us the frickin ‘luvvies’.

  57. gerard
    December 19th, 2007 at 17:08 | #57

    The way I look at it is that the culture wars are a collection of political campaigns waged by reactionary forces against the humanist trends that have greatly civilized Western society over the past several decades.

    In fact you could go even further back. One could say that the culture wars are as old as the Enlightenment itself. Conservative forces openly hostile to Reason have been waging a defensive campaign against liberal humanism for hundreds of years. The abolition of slavery, freedom of religious belief and scientific enquiry, equality before the law, universal education, labor rights and women’s suffrage were all, in their time, violently opposed by the established powers and required generations of dedicated struggle to achieve. But all, in time, were achieved, and came to be so comprehensively accepted by society as to be taken for granted, much to the improvement of human civilization. Insofar as there is such as thing as “the Left”, these great humanist achievements are its essence.

    The period of most intense reaction against this change came during the economic and political turbulence of the inter-war period. Fascists waged a culture war against liberal humanism, placing obedience and patriotism in place of freedom and equality. Incipient fascist movements in many countries were adopted by business interests to crush the rising threat of organized labor. In Germany the fascist movement transformed a nation at the scientific, artistic and intellectual pinnacle of Western civilization into a savage barbarity unprecedented in human history. The defeat of fascism in the 1940s was a decisive blow to the Reactionaries from which they have never quite recovered; fascist regimes came to embody everything that a civilized nation should aspire against. Western culture returned to its trajectory toward the expansion of freedom and justice. Part of this involved the economic transformation (as described by Veblen) from the unstable market economy of the early twentieth century to the mixed social-democratic economy, exemplified by Roosevelt’s New Deal, a collection of reforms which the Right has loathed, despised and fought for 70 years.

    Since the Second World War, the positive cultural change that began with the Enlightenment accelerated worldwide, both within and outside the West, faster than at any other time in human history. Culturally as well as economically and technologically, modern societies have transformed themselves within each successive generation. The post-war decades saw the emergence of unprecedented mass movements in the United States and across the West. There were movements against institutionalized discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability or sexual orientation, mass Peace campaigns which for the first time challenged the right of Western governments to make war on the rest of the world, social justice campaigns against the concentration of economic power, environmental campaigns against the destructive effects of industrialization, campaigns against cruelty to animals and myriad others.

    These campaigns, especially during the 1960s and 1970s, had a radical effect on Western culture. Open displays of bigotry and chauvinism began to face public disapproval for the first time. Traditional conceptualizations of history and society were challenged within the media and academe. State violence became increasingly less accepted, respect for established power was diminished, dissenting opinions became mainstream. In most parts of the West, organized religion fell into sharp decline. For those with ingrained conservative beliefs, these challenges were profoundly uncomfortable. The movements were attributed to communist conspiracy, but the absurdity and desperation of this accusation only served to legitimize them. Western culture everywhere was throwing off the shackles of irrational tradition and embracing change.

    There was, however, one part of the West where these trends met a resistance more fierce than anywhere else – the old Confederacy of the United States. This cultural region is off the scales when compared with the rest of the West in terms of religiosity and racism, and notable for the weakness of its organized labor movements and rejection of intellectualism (these factors are all interrelated). For hundreds of years, the operative political consideration in this culture had been maintaining the superiority of whites over blacks, creating an ingrained wellspring of violent bigotry that has proven exceedingly difficult to eradicate. The Civil Rights movement transformed the political orientation of the South, reversing the geographical alignment of the two parties, as white southerners (including segregationist Democrats) abandoned the Democratic party, while the Republicans embraced institutionalized racism under the sobriquet of ‘States Rights’. Goldwater lost the Presidency, but his defeat of Rockefeller in the primaries represented the emergence of the modern Conservative movement, and the decline of the Republican Party’s moderate Eastern Establishment. Four years later Nixon rode into office on the back of the ‘Southern Strategy’, as outlined by his strategist Kevin Phillips:

    From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.

    In fact the Nixon years did not stem the tide of radical change, which only accelerated as student movements blossomed, women won reproductive freedom, and the genocidal Vietnam War was finally brought to an end. The countercultural movement envisioned a new culture based on peace, love and happiness, anathema to a Rightwing establishment centered on war, hate and repression. By the time Nixon resigned in disgrace, American culture was polarized between ascendant liberalism and a diminished conservatism. What made it even more dislocating was the fact that the post-war social-democratic economic consensus was breaking down along with the Bretton-Woods world economic regime. Developed economies were undergoing high unemployment and inflation, followed by extensive policy reform, much of it disadvantageous to the working class (or “lower-middle class” in contemporary parlance).

    The conservative intelligentsia used the opportunity presented by the stagflationary malaise and to undermine the social-democratic consensus, waging war against the Keynesian economics inside academia and, more successfully, within the media. The labor movement was in long term decline, and the Democratic Party in Jimmy Carter’s time took on these new economic policies, no longer distinguishing itself from the Republicans primarily in terms of class and economic policy, but rather along cultural lines, drawing support from a coalition of women, minorities and social liberals. In the South, the Democrat’s traditional working-class support base was, meanwhile, undergoing one of the several ‘Great Awakenings’ that have occurred over American history, embracing Christian fundamentalism as an answer to a rapidly changing world. This Christian fundamentalist movement was, like religious fundamentalisms everywhere, fueled by ignorance and bigotry, anti-liberal and anti-Reason, vehemently opposed to the teaching of science and to sexual and reproductive freedom. Its central political objective was the re-criminalization of abortion. Economic and social justice, which had traditionally played a role in many Christian movements, was absolutely not a part of this new Awakening, allied as it was to Reagan’s assault on every aspect of social welfare.

    White Christian ‘working class’ Southerners were the targets of Reagan’s revival of the Southern strategy. Now that racism had become so unacceptable, it had to be coded. Reagan launched his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the notorious murder of three civil rights workers in 1964, with the refrain “I believe in States Rights!� As Lee Atwater explained:

    You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.
    And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”.

    Instead of directly attacking the gains won by women and minorities, the Right attacked the fact that they could not do so without being criticized for it: this was dreaded ‘Political Correctness’. Political Correctness was characterized as a repressive social program engineered by ‘pointy-headed elites’, ‘intellectuals’ and ‘liberals’ (uniquely in the West, the word ‘liberal’ became an insult in the US), against God-fearing folk, honest straight white men and their loyally submissive wives. Along with ‘Feminazis’, ‘Pot-smoking hippies’, ‘Environmental Extremists’ and the dreaded, plague-ridden ‘Sodomites’, these forces represented the Internal Enemy (the external enemy being of course the Evil Empire (USSR) and the International Terrorism that it directed). The Right also waged a campaign against the ‘Liberal Media’, purely a figment of their own imaginations given that the media ownership during this period was becoming ever more concentrated between a handful of Corporations. Outside the mainstream media the Right developed its own alternative media network (The Washington Times was established by the Reverend Moon), Christian television and talk-back radio.

    The success of the Religious Right came from its grassroots organization. Local churches supplied GOP local branches with mailing lists. Rightwing activists built a national base, beginning with school boards and local councils. Meanwhile the Corporate elite were waging war against taxes, welfare and labor unions, and saw the ‘Culture War’ as an opportunity to distract political attention to those cultural issues that were irrelevant to their agenda. The Right’s economic policies were damaging to the very people who made up the Republican base, but as elites have often found throughout history, the best way to keep the working class in its place is to drug them with religion and divide them with bigotry. The public is less likely to campaign for universal health insurance, improved working conditions or environmental regulations if they are obsessed with God, guns and gays (and of course abortion). There are obvious parallels between the rise of this movement and the earlier rise of fascism. Both emerged out of difficult economic conditions. Both were abetted by powerful business interests. Both involved the whipping up of fear and hate against Internal and External enemies. Both characterized their opponents as traitors and communists. Both looked to restore traditional authorities against an age they saw as mired in moral corruption. Both were openly hostile to the forces of Reason, making futile any attempts to argue with them on the basis of facts and logic.

    Reagan was a hero to these evangelical Christians, but they were much less enthused by his more moderate successor George Bush Sr., who clearly believed (like most of the Rightwing elite) they were merely useful idiots – he referred to them as the “extra chromosome crowd� for which he had to apologize. In 1992 Pat Buchanan ran against him in the Republican primaries, and made the speech that brought the term into common parlance:

    “There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”

    But Clinton won the election and for the next 8 years became an object of hysterical hate by the Right. Their hate of Clinton was exceeded only by their utter loathing of his ‘Feminazi’ wife, who as an independently successful career woman represented everything they thought a woman shouldn’t be. During the 1990s the ‘Moral Majority’ enjoyed a heyday of activism. Abortion was the main target, whether by civil disobedience (Operation Rescue) or terrorism, but their hate was also directed against the increasing social acceptance of homosexuality and the teaching of evolution in schools, the campaign in which they most proudly demonstrated their absolute ignorance and complete rejection of science and Reason (now seen in their attitude toward global warming). Demagogues like Rush Limbaugh dominated the airwaves with hate-filled partisan bile, later accompanied on cable TV by Murdoch’s Fox News, which as anyone who has even watched five minutes of it knows is simply a GOP organ for the 24-hour production of fascist vomit.

    In 1994 Newt Gingrich led the GOP to a Congressional majority, which apart from intensifying Reagan’s Class Warfare policies led an unprecedented political campaign against the White House on the basis of Clinton’s extramarital affairs. This was as hypocritical a campaign as had ever been waged, considering the marital history of most of the Republicans involved, but the public attention given to the details of Clinton’s sex life reassured the Right of its moral superiority. Whether to impeach Clinton for oral sex became the newest battle in the Culture Wars, but one comprehensively lost; the Presidents approval ratings remained sky-high and the GOP suffered at the polls. But the movement remained organized and vigorous, excited about the turn of the millennium and the coming Rapture. It had achieved much, there were now millions of Americans who practically equated liberalism with Satanism and were ready to follow the Republican Party without question. In 2000, one of their own was elected President by the Supreme Court. The groundwork had been laid for an essentially fascist movement that would only require one short, sharp shock to realize its ambitions and plunge the United States into its own national abyss. That shock was September 11th.

    Right-wingers in other Western countries can only look on at the success of American Right and its ‘Culture Wars’ with envy. Absent the States’ massive population of Christian fundamentalists and long history of pervasive violent racial bigotry, Rightwingers in other Western countries such as Australia have been unable to replicate the success of the American Right, despite their best efforts. In Australia there has been an attempt at ‘Culture War’ waged by reactionaries and the Murdoch press (which unfortunately enjoys a near monopoly in the Australian print media). Howard’s campaign against ‘Political Correctness’, led by the Rightwing warriors of talkback radio (Jones, Laws, Zemanek) was an element in his victory over Keating, whose embrace of certain socially liberal concerns such as Reconciliation and Multiculturalism had tainted them with his own personal unpopularity.

    During the Howard years there was a halt to the culturally liberal trends of the preceding decades, although the forces of Reaction never approached anything like what they achieved in the US (indeed if Howard was put next to a cross-section of Southern Republicans he could practically be considered a Leftist). Some nasty reactionaries such as Windschuttle did launch a rhetorical ‘War’ (utterly ignored by the public at large) against the fact that their idiocy received short shrift inside academic departments, and their efforts were backed up by a phalanx of Murdoch columnists, part of a deliberate strategy by the Right to emulate what had happened in America. But Australia was not America, and there was precious little electoral mileage to be gained from beating up on gays, teaching Bible in biology class or denying women control over their bodies. There will never, for example, be an Australian Terri Schiavo.

    The zenith of Australia’s version of the ‘Culture War’ was probably in the wake of the 2001 election, when Murdoch’s ideologues smugly ridiculed any and all who took issue with the Tampa incident as ‘elites’, a transparent imitation of an American political tactic. Over the following years, ridiculous and pathetic accusations of ‘elitism’ (and an increasingly clichéd collection of beverage-related insults) were leveled at people opposed to Howard and Bush, but the objects of their ridicule were, over time, so comprehensively vindicated on a range of issues (as Professor Quiggin has described) that this band of cultural warriors became a farcical irrelevance. The rise of the blogosphere challenged their monopoly on commentary and held them accountable for the exceedingly low quality of the trash they write, something that they found bewildering and unfair. They still had credibility within their own Liberal Party echo-chamber, but when their hero was so mercilessly slain by Kevin 07 and Maxine of the ‘latte-Left’ ABC they fell into a dispirited funk.

    Some will try and re-invent themselves for the post-Howard era, others will continue yodeling their anti-Reason partisan nonsense as long as Murdoch will employ them. Some sad souls still waste their time attempting to fight the culture wars on leftwing blogs, although like John Greenfield most of them tend to arrive at the battlefield unarmed.

  58. jquiggin
    December 19th, 2007 at 17:11 | #58

    Andrew, the general disagreements between the left and right relate to such questions as the desirability of income redistribution and the appropriate role of the state. They are largely orthogonal to the “culture wars”, and, unlike the latter, seem likely to continue, though there has been a fair degree of convergence in views in the last decade or so.

  59. jquiggin
    December 19th, 2007 at 17:12 | #59

    Gerard, I’ll let it go this time, but in general please save long pieces like this for Weekend Reflections.

  60. Jill Rush
    December 19th, 2007 at 21:31 | #61

    The point I was making was not about opportunities but the Culture war against women.

    John Quiggin found an example above of a fellow who is happy to run a culture war – the use of the term “you people” as if everyone who blogs here is indistinguishable from others.

    John Greenfield I haven’t read the blogs youmention – which are far from mainstream. It isn’t hard to find men who are threatened by women who strike an independent path. It was a factor in the harsh criticisms of Julia Gillard prior to the last election. My example of the impact of the Welfare to Work rules is a concrete example of a culture war battle because it punishes women who didn’t maintain a marriage. It also was a direct result of the feminist demand for the right to work for mothers which changed to become a compulsion to work for mothers careless enough to lose their partners.

    The kind of attitude of disrespect and contempt shown by John Greenfield for women who hold views different to him is worrying. It is worrying because that particular section of the culture wars has real battles, real victims, real and deadly violence towards women who are battered for their failure to conform to the male culture which dominates their lives.

    The culture wars by pass most people but the warriors are anxious to join battle anywhere which often makes them obnoxious people as they try to impose their beliefs and value systems on others whilst ignoring contrary evidence.

  61. Katz
    December 19th, 2007 at 22:01 | #62

    I intensly dislike the term ‘culture war’ as it already places the whole thing as a violent battle where one side will win over the other and then no further action will be taken as the conquerer will have the final say.

    What about ol’ fashioned debate?

    Of course these terms are extremely fluid.

    And the culture wars do feature “debates”.

    However, it ought to be remembered that the term “culture wars” grew up in the context of US politics.

    The concept first hit the ground when the concept was aired by Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Republican presidential convention.

    Buchanan declared “war” on liberalism. He framed the “war” as being less about changing people’s minds and more about mobilising the forces of people who already knew what was “good” and what was “evil”. It was a call for these peole to reclaim America, which was rightfully theirs, but which had been stolen by liberals.

    The term wa a call to action not a call to thought.

    Debate was therefore a means to a political end, and not an end in itself. Slogans were more valued than ideas.

    And I suppose that is worthwhile to remember when a RWDB turns up pretending that she wants to debate an issue.

  62. jquiggin
    December 19th, 2007 at 22:10 | #63

    Hi Jen.

    You’ll be pleased to know that your description of me as “Australia’s highest paid blogger” (a pretty big compliment coming from a bastion of enterprise like the IPA, I must say) has been picked up here by Mina. Unfortunately, she’s under the impression that I’ve made my pile from blogging, but I don’t have the heart to set her straight on this point.

    I’ve been meaning to take your endorsement to the poolroom, and this settles it.

  63. John Greenfield
    December 20th, 2007 at 09:05 | #64


    Ah, actually in Australia, it was the US-obesssed and derivative Luvvies who introduced both the phrase “Culture Wars” and its attendant battles. Your good-self being part of its canon-fodder.

    JQ’s blog constitutes part of the cavalry.

  64. jquiggin
    December 20th, 2007 at 10:58 | #65

    Rather than fighting about who started the culture wars, let’s agree to stop them!

  65. Katz
    December 20th, 2007 at 11:53 | #66

    The debates will go on.

    The Culture Wars are over.

    We won.

    Greenfield, do you have any evidence for the left being the aggressors in Australia? I’m not doubting you beyond the normal bounds of scepticism. I was just wondering.

  66. December 20th, 2007 at 12:04 | #67

    I guess the problem with taking a “war” stance on anything (drugs, terror, Kulcha, etc) is that all kinds of questionable morality can suddenly be legitimised for the sake of your own side’s ultimate victory.

    Furthermore, one is usually constrained (even voluntarily) to adopt a borg-like approach to “the enemy”. And when that “enemy” has not been properly defined (as was the case with drugs, terror, Kulcha, etc) the borg mentality can easily spread into all sorts of areas where it doesn’t belong.

    Picture Kevin Andrews (*) telling his kids to polish their nice black leather shoes before they go off to Sunday School. In his mind, failure to polish your shoes = the terrorists/immigrants/etc have won. Little wonder his kids grow up thinking he is not just a bastard, but also an idiot. Thus the “war” is already lost. Sic transit gloria mundi.

    Far better to take a rational, fact-based and emotion-free approach to each issue as it comes up, IMHO. Or, to put it more simply:


    (* fictionalised example follows)

  67. Paul Walter
    December 21st, 2007 at 03:04 | #68

    That was neat the way Bahnisch was there already, so to speak, to swat Greenfield, who had just sneaked across from LP to tattle tales out of school about teh left.
    ( Must be Christmas! )
    Jill Rush’s post was relevent and well-produced, as usual. As to Jill’s JG comment, this writer ponders at whether she has had previous experience of JG, given the surprise in her outrage at his crassness.
    Should get out a bit more often, so far as blogging is concerned, if so. Of all the forbidden delights not to be missed of the closed shop of indy blogging locally, the sheer delight and joy of JG in full flight is the one event not to be missed, if/once you’ve got used to him..

  68. Paul Walter
    December 21st, 2007 at 03:29 | #69

    Re Gerard’s post.
    Let’s never forget how close they got, with their modern dose of Mc Carthyism. If they hadn’t stuffed up so comprehensively through complacency after 2004, the remarkable outcome of this year would still be just a daydream.
    Still, most people here recognise that this incompetence was inevitable, emanating as it did from a dialectic with the deteriorating mentality it produced and produced it and the outward manifestation of transparent arrogance emanated as a redolent stench giving it away, even to those who sought to ignore it..
    In short; “arrogant in their ignorance; ignorant in their arrogance”

  69. Paul Walter
    December 21st, 2007 at 03:51 | #70

    Finally andrew and guido; #54,#55.
    Andrew is right to suggest that the dialectic continues and the well-being of civilisation relies on it.
    For all that, the survival of society is still not a given . And Guido rightly concludes that these “Culture Wars” have unintended real world victims, usually least of all the protagonists.
    Xmas, all

  70. Spiros
    December 21st, 2007 at 15:00 | #71

    John Greenfield’s obsession with “luvvies” is becoming tiresome, and his analysis has no value either.

    When Maxine McKew got hired by Kevin Rudd as an adviser, which was not long before she go pre-selected for her tilt at Bennelong, Greenfield was adamant that this sop to the luvvies, by hiring one of their own, proved how out of touch Rudd was, etc.

    This can confirmed by a trawl through the Larvatus archives.

    As subsequent events have shown, Greenfield couldn’t have been more wrong. The electors of Bennelong, who happily elected Howard for 33 years, happily turned to Maxine.

    Real people don’t think about “luvvies”. It is a caricature invented by cultural warrior hacks for their own self-indulgent gratification.

  71. John Greenfield
    December 21st, 2007 at 18:30 | #72


    As subsequent events have shown, Greenfield couldn’t have been more wrong.

    Interesting – if very idiosyncratic – interpretation. Any evidence? Others do not agree with you one bit.


  72. jquiggin
    December 21st, 2007 at 20:27 | #73

    Jack Robertson – now there’s a name that takes me back to the glory days of blogging. Amazingly, his site is still up.

  73. melanie
    December 21st, 2007 at 20:55 | #74

    Hmm. In my blogospherical ignorance I had assumed Greenfield was a troll. Does he ever put an argument, as opposed to name calling?

  74. John Greenfield
    December 21st, 2007 at 21:52 | #75


    Oh love, you surely jest. Have a hunt around. I’ve given you enough arguments to make your pretty little head spin on this site. Pick one. Any one. Give it your best shot, coz just quietly, I haven’t seen you kick any goals.

    Oh, and pssssttt…jealous and bitter swipes at women more educated, independent, significant, and successful than yourself – such as Janet Albrechtsen – might be applauded in the Gender Studies common room, but in the real world they are simply bitter miiiaaaows at those more successful than yourself.

    Face it hun, your brain is stuck in the boiler-suited hivemenind of the 1970s. Time to move on.

  75. SJ
    December 21st, 2007 at 22:18 | #76

    melanie Says:

    Does he ever put an argument, as opposed to name calling?

    Quite apparently not.

  76. melanie
    December 21st, 2007 at 22:50 | #77

    JG, well done! ‘your pretty little head’, ‘jealous and bitter swipes’, ‘women more educated, independent, significant, and successful than yourself’, ‘the Gender Studies common room’, ‘Face it hun’… wtf.

    I haven’t the faintest idea who you are, if anybody, but one thing you don’t do is argue the point.

  77. Ian Gould
    December 22nd, 2007 at 00:12 | #78

    So if the war’s over and our side won can we bayonet a few prisoners?

  78. John Greenfield
    December 22nd, 2007 at 08:26 | #79


    I will repeat, I have argued many points on this blog. But perhaps you have a different conception of “argument” than the rest of us?

    I thought I’d chuck in a comment about modern-day American imperialists plundering the heritage of Niger. I kind of expected get at least one bite, but I didn’t.

    Or this sophisticated one.

    Probably Albrechtsen, like Murdoch, will simply adjust her tune a little.

    Perhaps this one, which would awe Freud, Jung, and all right-minded opponents of ‘name calling.’

    Hmm. In my blogospherical ignorance I had assumed Greenfield was a troll. Does he ever put an argument, as opposed to name calling?

    Could you do me a favour and explain what you mean by “troll?” It is a word I see used overwhelmingly by Leftist bloggers, whenever somebody has the temerity to post on a blog a position that challenges the leftist hivemind. And they are overwhelmingly women.

    Please Explain.

  79. John Greenfield
    December 22nd, 2007 at 08:59 | #80


    Rather than fighting about who started the culture wars, let’s agree to stop them!

    Looks like you could your wish, sooner rather than later. Time Magazine has just sacked culture warriors extraordinaires Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol. Perhaps Janet and the gang are not far behind?


    On Jack Robertson. Who is he? I haven’t been around blogland long enough, but he seems to be quite a blogging demi-god. I’ll say one thing for him; he’s a bloody fiesty little thing once he gets going! :)

  80. John Bignucolo
    December 22nd, 2007 at 10:11 | #81

    Looks like you could your wish, sooner rather than later. Time Magazine has just sacked culture warriors extraordinaires Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol. Perhaps Janet and the gang are not far behind?

    Not so much. More a changing of the guard than a change in direction. From the same article:

    And according to two sources familiar with the discussions, Time is in negotiations with National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru to sign him to a contributor contract. Mr. Ponnuru, who in 2006 published The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life, has written twice for the magazine over the past month.

    Ramesh Ponnuru makes Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol appear soft, erudite and reasoned in comparison.

    I’d say Janet, Andrew. Piers, Glen, Dennis and the rest of Howard’s Heathers have nothing to worry about.

  81. melanie
    December 22nd, 2007 at 11:40 | #82

    JG, Could you do me a favour and explain what you mean by “troll?� It is a word I see used overwhelmingly by Leftist bloggers, whenever somebody has the temerity to post on a blog a position that challenges the leftist hivemind. And they are overwhelmingly women.

    I learned the term from John Quiggin who perhaps belongs to what you call the ‘leftist hivemind’, but as far as I know is not a woman. Wikipedia describes a troll thus: “An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who intentionally posts controversial messages in an on-line community such as an on-line discussion forum with the intention of baiting other users into an argumentative response.”

    Perhaps the ‘hivemind’ problem arises from the way in which some people refer to shared knowledge. My reference in the dinosaur case, for example, was to the well known arguments between e.g. Italy and the US or Greece and the UK over former imperial plundering of heritage items that have ended up in major western museums. Australian Aborigines have had similar disputes with UK museums. Nothing ad hominem about it at all. No reference to ‘luvvies’, ‘hivemind’, ‘pretty little head’ etc.

    In place of Albrechtson, I could’ve mentioned just about any journalist. A problem for journalists is that they don’t have much freedom of expression and if Murdoch or any of the other bosses wants a change of line, he will get it. Moreover, erudition is not generally a qualification for the job. My only reason for mentioning JA was that some people here seem to be particularly fussed by her.

  82. John Greenfield
    December 22nd, 2007 at 18:06 | #83


    OK. I think we’ve both had an equal right of reply at being snarky to each other, and got stuff off our chests. Can we declare it a draw, start a clean slate? Friends? :)

  83. Paul Walter
    December 22nd, 2007 at 22:31 | #84

    Back in my day, a troll was a woman of dubious appearance, intellect, morals, personal habits and tastes as to pastimes and standard of company kept, who frequented pubs,redlight districts and similar places of ill-repute.
    Unless it was an anti social hairy isolate of ( once again ), poor personal habits, found in recessed geological formations of alpine regions, although understand this is more a Scandinvian definition.

  84. Jill Rush
    December 24th, 2007 at 00:33 | #85

    A troll it appears; as I have just taken the links to the other sites which show that the general put downs of women is a real feature of JG the cultural warrior, ready to take on any woman who dares hold an opinion different to Janet Albrechtson…

    Trolls were originally as described in the Three Billy Goats Gruff – outsmarted in the end because of greed and stupidity.

  85. Paul Walter
    December 24th, 2007 at 12:36 | #86

    ‘onya, Jill!

  86. John Greenfield
    December 27th, 2007 at 17:12 | #87

    Jill Rush

    I am not sure what you are criticising me for. Is it for criticising “women,” which is impermissible? I can assure you (as will other bloggers) that I engage with both men and women without fear or favour.

    One problem I do find with a particular type of feminist, particularly those “of a certain age” is that they not only conflate “women” and “feminists” – and thus presume they speak for ‘women’ when in fact they are only speaking as an example of their particular feminist hivemind – but they also demand free speech for themselves, yet freedom FROM speech of others.

    My dear, I shall continue not to acceed to either demand, and whenever I encounter a dopey bint, will continue to inform her of her dopiness.

    It is my way of ‘giving back’ you see. Consider it a form of ‘community service.’

    Anyways, I hope you had a lovely Xmas and happy new year.

  87. Jill Rush
    December 27th, 2007 at 20:13 | #88

    Brilliant JG – a perfect exposition of how the cultural wars have been conducted in your post at no. 89.

    First, confusion is expressed, suggesting that the individual or group being derided has no logic in any statement.

    Then a straw man is introduced. Ie I find probems with a certain kind of feminist who won’t allow me freedom of speech. Then hit the straw man with a bit of personal abuse whilst leaving the arguments alone. The answer is then based on assumptions and negative connotations eg “particular type of feminist” “of a certain age” this means that any woman who is a feminist is suspect and any woman will be the wrong age; if young not experienced enough if older then past it.

    Introduce a patronising tone (“My dear”) to indicate superiority. Have a level of internal contradiction eg “I engage with men and women without fear or favour”, contrasted with “whenever I encounter a dopey bint, will continue to inform her of her dopiness”.

    The conclusion is a false concern after the negativity of the previous statements – a little like those who say “No offence” just before being really offensive.

    Certainly it is a way of giving back – in spades which is what the cultural war has been all about.

  88. December 27th, 2007 at 20:31 | #89

    I have found it a convenient rhetorical trick to preface a rebuttal to a woman I know, and who knows me, with “my dear good woman”. It buys me time to gather my thoughts while slowing her down, even though she knows full well what I am doing and why – not male chauvinism at all, merely not playing fair. But there is no place for it here without the personal connection and no real time interaction.

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