The triumph of postmodernism

The Institute of Public Affairs has been an eager participant in History and Culture wars, vigorously assailing postmodernist notions of “multiple truths”. Plenty of people, including me, have made the obvious tu quoque pointing out that, in practise, truth for the IPA is whatever happens to be convenient at the time[1]. Now the embrace of postmodernism is official, or at least as official as it can be for such a slippery and ambiguous doctrine. In today’s Fin, IPA Fellow (and, I think, former Liberal apparatchik) John Roskam writes

One doesn’t necessarily have to believe in the post-modern idea that ‘there is no such thing as truth’, to appreciate the difficulty of establishing precisely what was said, or what was thought to have been said, three years ago

It sure helps, though.

I think what I like best in this passage is the ironic use of ‘necessarily’, a fine appeal to the postmodern sensibility. It adds eloquently to the ambiguity of Roskam’s position, with the hint that his adoption of postmodernism is the result of aesthetic choice rather than necessity. Roskam goes on to articulate the postmodern notion of “socially determined truth”, arguing that the election outcome will retrospectively make Howard’s position true in the only snese that matters.

To take him seriously, if we suppose that it’s impossible to determine the truth of clearly-defined events three years ago, with multiple witnesses, and plenty of additional evidence (for example, as regards the truthfulness or otherwise of one of the key witnesses), we might as well admit that no historical fact can ever be known.

As I’ve said previously, it would be much more sensible for the government and its defenders to come straight out and say “We lied, everyone knew it, and we still won. Get over it”.

fn1. For example, the IPA assails anti-science opponents of GM foods, but denounces the scientific establishment as a left-wing conspiracy when it comes up with the “wrong” answers on global warming and the Murray-Darling.

44 thoughts on “The triumph of postmodernism

  1. Very true. The other parallel is ‘moral relativism’, although this is a bogy of the right, like ‘postmodernism’, whenever past wrongdoings are raised their response is that moral standards were different then. Keith Windshuttle explicitly makes this argument in his recent book in defending the treatment of indigenous Australians. Howard should be asked if he would give evidence under oath to a Royal Commission, thus leaving him open to criminal charges for perjury. That being said I would not support such a Commission. Political penalties are the remedy here.

  2. JQ,
    it is irrelevant whether he was a former Liberal apparatchik or not.
    What is important are the arguments he puts forward.

  3. it is irrelevant whether jq called him a liberal party apparatchik, on account of the fact that he still challenged the apparatchik’s substantive argument.

  4. “Homer”,

    As you may or may not be aware, your proposition that only the text matters (and not the author’s identity or his/her subjective intention) is postmodernism’s starting point.

    An additional difficulty in maintaining postmodernist purity in Australian political discourse (as you seem to want to, although perhaps without realising it), is that textual “anonymity” is often simply not possible – people, even from across the political spectrum already know each other, and this pre-existing identity can’t, of course, be mentally erased.

    Indeed, I went to law school with John Roskam in the 80s, and from what I can remember, he was eager-to-please and intellectually shallow.

    On the other hand, I’m not quite sure what John Q means to gain by making passing mention of Roskam’s “Liberal apparatchik” status. With Google making it so easy to be specific in such cases (Chief of Staff to Dr David Kemp, the Federal Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs and senior adviser to Don Hayward, Victorian Education Minister in the first Kennett Government), why not just stick to biographical facts, rather than use looser phrases that are not only likely to be construed as ad hominem, but also are certain to be clichés?

  5. The New Right, in its political battles with the New Left, has picked up some of the NL’s nasty intellectual habits. There seems to be an ideological conservation law applying here, where the New Left’s political rackets and ideological rubbish has called forth tawdry political lies, and rubbishy philosophical justifications, from the New Right.
    Steve Sailer, whose criticisms of the New Right frequently paralell Pr Q’s, crticises the New Right Wall Street Journal for hosting post-modern Republican spin-doctors:

    The Foucault-ification of Republican ideologues continues apace. In French postmodern thought, there’s no such thing as “truth,” just power.
    Increasingly, that way of thinking is popular among the more frenzied defenders of the Iraq Attaq. Thus, the WSJ is outraged that the Niger Yellowcake hoax wasn’t “investigated” by a gung ho Republican fanatic who would have reported back exactly what the WSJ wanted to hear.
    Look, guys, the President has already admitted that Wilson was telling the truth — we got pranked by forged It’s time to pull yourselves out of your deconstructionist death spiral.

    Sailer also criticises Bush’s post-modernist low-prioritisation of scientific advice:

    the official science advisor for the last three years has been John H. Marburger III, a Democrat. Since Bush is the most postmodern President ever, in that he doesn’t believe in truth, just political will, you can see from the science advisor’s party registration the high priority Bush places on the job.

    The US New Right seems to have gone much further in this direction than the Australian New Right. The Wall Street Journal has merged Class-Divisiveness with Multi-Cultism with its embrace of Open Borders to drive down the price of Labour. And, to complete the Holy Trinity, the US New Right can now boast its Pee-Cee credentials after witch-hunting Trent Lott’s offensively segregationist, but private and harmless, remarks about Strom Thurmond’s ancient history.
    We definitely need another George Orwell to cut through this Gordian ideological knot.

  6. Paul
    Homer was saying that the substance of the argument is what matters, rather than attributing subjective intentions to the writer and then reading things into the text that may not be there. This is a common-sensical position and nothing to do with the starting point of post-modernism. The problem with starting out with subjective intention is no one can really get into another person’s head (not yet anyway). All we can go on (most of the time) is what arguments they actually put forward. There are exceptions to this rule – for instance if Roskam was known to be a certified lunatic but that is obviously not the case. Anyway I agree Homer’s point is moot since JQ does address the substance.

    Jack do you really need to use every occasion to do your imitation Steve Sailer act and make reference to thius mythical ‘Pee-Cee’?

  7. Jason, if a person’s affiliations and interests are not important, why is there so much fuss about cash for comment and so on? (Maybe you in fact don’t think that commentators should declare interests, but if so it’s on the basis of your libertarian philosophy, which remains a minority position and can’t be represented as “common sense”.) It is not just honest, but useful for a commentator to disclose his interests and affiliations, and the useful bit is equally a rationale for others’ disclosing them. It saves time. And as you say, there’s no conflict between pointing out the affiliation and rebutting the substance of the argument.

  8. “The New Right, in its political battles with the New Left, has picked up some of the NL’s nasty intellectual habits.”

    This could be because so many New Right intellectuals in the English-speaking world began their adult life as New Left intellectuals. To parapgrase Orwell, they still have gramophone minds and are playing their old records backwards.

  9. As I’ve said previously, it would be much more sensible for the government and its defenders to come straight out and say “We lied, everyone knew it, and we still won. Get over it”.

    But that’s no guarantee you guys would, is it?

  10. Absolutely not, Stan ! We won’t to get over it as long as either Howard or Ruddock remains in public life.

    I just think it would be less demeaning for your side to ‘fess up now, rather than to carry on with such an obviously implausible case.

  11. Postmodernist ideologies have been especially damaging on the academic left. With the decline of Marxism, one hoped for a more rational discourse from supposedly socially committed academics – after all, it is not that difficult a task to argue that the rich should pay more taxes etc. Instead we get shallowness masquerading as clever argument.

    For example, I would have thought what is desperately needed at the present time is a strong recommitment to universal notions such as the notion of Universal Human Rights. Instead we have all these smart alecs in academia essentially rubbishing such notions as cultural and social constructs. One victim of this nonsense has been Middle Eastern studies (especially in the United States). Leading figures have been busy explaining why oppressive government like the Sudanese one is actually practising an indigenous form of democracy.

    If the postmodern form of reasoning is taken to its logical conclusion one can’t even criticise creationists given this looney worldview is just as valid as the scientific worldview. The hold of postmodernist and cultural relativist ideologies also explains why many academic feminists get more exited about relatively inoffensive jokes etc than they do about the way women are treated in many non-western countries. Although, I also suspect that postmodernism gives them an excuse not to get socially involved and just sit back and enjoy their cushy ivory tower lifestyles.

  12. Michael, people who work in ivory towers shouldn’t point to other ivory towers. Are your views the official position of the Australian Government Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources? (Hint: use another e-mail address, even if you are commenting during lunch time!)

  13. I,m just a humble worker and dont get this postmodernist stuff, what it comes down to for me is this, Howard lied and he kept lieing and one lie has built on another, he and his govt lie and keep lieing and thats the end of it

  14. Post Modernsism John, is a wank word. Like ad hominen and as Geoff Robinson points out Moral Relativism. You are right to let your eyes glaze over when you read it. I tend to mentally substitute wheelbarrow in their place when I strike these words, and find that the meaning is not lost.

    You are right also. Howard is a lying lier who tells lies.

  15. All politicians lie (in their defence anyone who told the truth would never get elected). However, as lies goe, this is as bad as it gets. Now if a Kiwi can recently be sent to jail for lying on his CV, I think that honest John and Reith should face more than the usual censure for this issue. After all, next to the person in charge of exposing literary fraud the Prime minister Job is the most demand and important in Australia.

  16. Jason,

    My point, in obsessively harping on po-mo, pee-cee and multi-cultism, is a simple one. The great strides in civil rights for race and gender minorities were largely moved by the Old Left, from the mid-fortes on, and were established (often by conservative politicians) during the mid-sixties.
    But the sins of the sons were visited on the fathers good deeds. Over the period 1975-95 the New Leftist cultural revolutionaries (eg Theophanous) esconced themselves in New Class institutions. Then, utilising intellectually risible ideologies, they corrupted civic policies associated with integrating the new minorities into civil society. They also imposed defacto, and sometimes de jure, constraints on criticism of their rorts and follies ie Pee-Cee.
    The (so-called) silent majorities in these states suffered this nonsense for a fair while until Old Right political reactionaries (eg Hanson, Le Pen) arose to represent nativist sentiment.
    Thus a cultural revolution spawned a political reaction. The Vital Centre of liberal social reform was abandoned.
    It is fair and proper that Howard be criticised, and penalised, for deceiving Parliament in the matter of children overboard. But his lie caused little actual harm.
    The same cannot be said for the New Lefts cultural wrecking ball which has wreaked devastation on the minds of liberal arts students, lured minorites into a destructive cycle of welfare-dependency and abused a humane immigration policy for purposes of ethnic branch-stacking.
    It is therefore disingenuous for Howard-haters to relentlessly pursue Howard’s venal sins absent the historico-cultural context of their comrades mortal sins. I re-state my pont: when will defenders (ex- Pr Q?) of the New Left’s foolish cultural ideologies and failed social policies acknowledge their share of blame for this whole sorry tale?

  17. Postmodernism in most academic fields where it had some purchase reached a dead end some years ago (predictably) – and is even out of style in Cultural Studies and English departments which are fad-driven theoretically. In a very postmodern way, it seems to have a weird half-life in political discourse.

  18. Jack, if I interpreted Jason’s last paragraph correctly, he meant something more along the lines of ‘give it a break, Jack’, rather than ‘would you mind running that past us just once more, Jack,’.

  19. Jack Strocchi
    But his lie caused little actual harm.
    My memory of this little lie was that it allowed people, at my workplace, who where racists to feel that they could publically express their racism against their fellow workmates. As in we would be better if killing all you fucking arabs .

  20. Andy, you’re right. There was some nasty stuff happening at that time.

    I’m with John, the humble worker. Not only did Howard lie at the time (and I was one who gave him the benefit of the doubt, thinking that he just didn’t want to know) he has added more lies now, on the balance of probabilities. Now he has lied about how many conversations he had with Scrafton and what was discussed.

    This has added to a series of lies. Howard’s time has come.

    Roskam talks about post-modernism and then talks of ‘the electorate’ as a single entity, which will decide whether it is time for a change as a result, not recognising that millions of individuals construe reality their own way and vote for their own reasons.

    If he is being paid to teach politics at the University of Melbourne I would question whether they are getting value for their money.

  21. Actually, the IPA’s position may be many things, but postmodern it isn’t.

    Sure, postmodernism works against the attempt to establish an authoritative truth; but it doesn’t give comfort to those who seek to establish truth from authority, either.

    In pomo terms, Howard’s dominant narrative is coming under challenge – new readings are being established by a new context.

    Meaning resides in context, and Scrafton’s statement provides a new context.

    Etc etc.

  22. andy at August 18, 2004 11:23 PM asserts that, after Howard politically exploited the asylum-seeker crisis, the AUstralian community became a seething nest of racists:

    at my workplace…racists…feel that they could publically express their racism against their fellow workmates. As in we would be better if killing all you f*cking arabs

    This follows standard Cultural Left debating procedure. First violate civility norms by associating homicidal intent to critics of Howard-haters.
    Then use fact-free anecdotes, rather than mass statistics, to generalise about the course of political culture in Australia.
    andy, here are some hard facts for you to chew on. In NSW, the highest ethnic-ratioed state, the Equal Opportunity board tracks racial vilification complaints. In FY2000-01 it reported 52 Racial Vilification complaints (3% of the total). In FY2001-02, in the midst of the Tampa “race election”, racial vilification complaints balooned out to 55 – still 3% of the total. Whoa – Howards’s race war turns out to be a bit of a fizzer.
    Howard’s political “reaction” has progressed civic culture compared to Keating’s cultural “revolution”. The EO Board tracks Progress in Australian Human Rights over time. In FY1995-96, at the height of Keatings Cultural Leftism, the total number of minority discrimination complaints made to the Board peaked at 1939. This total dropped to 1625 in FY2001-01 under race-baiting Howard’s malignant influence.
    A piece of constructive advice to andy: keep Howard-Hating, ignore inconvenient facts about Howards promotion of civil society at home and abroad and play down the problems caused by “cultural commissars” and the Left will spend forever in Opposition.

  23. Pr Q, in a Catallaxy file comment, makes a lame attempt to restore some intellectual credibility to his Howard-hating by stating that the resurgence of a racist politic in Australia was:

    more a matter of racist/prejudiced attitudes being reflected in electoral and policy outcomes

    This weaker version of Howard-hating is still at odds with the known facts about recent Australian history. Howard has actually reduced the strength of racist political organisations and has increased the racial diversity value of key policies.
    Howard negated the “electoral outcomes” for, self-styled Caucasian nativist, Pauline Hanson. He had her expelled from the mainstream Liberals, brought her feral political base back into the Coaition fold and used legal action to break her party machine.
    Howard did this political service to the nation without resorting any significant increase in racist key “policy outcomes”. He has expanded the immigration program and increased the NESB quota. The humanitarian intake has also been restored to historic norms.
    Most importantly, Howard has knocked the New Left BS out of the ALP. Howard’s victory in the Culture War has forcd Latham to renounce the tribal-divisive and Balkanising multicultural ideology. This brings the ALP back to a class-warfare, rather than ethnic-warfare, party which will improve racial harmony and social equity over the long term.
    And has anyone mentioned Howards liberation of the non-white E Timorese? The Cultural Left, whilst on its 1991-6 power trip, did little to help the them. All that Jakarta lobbying stuff was too lucrative. It took “racist, militarist, sexist, monarchist” Howard to build up the ADF so that it could save the E Timorese in the nick of time from genocide.
    Johhny Rotten Howard also helped to liberate the Afhgans from the sectarian tyranny of the Taliban. Oh his wondrous evils never cease to amaze me…

  24. Jack Strocchi,

    You’re attributing high principles to Howard that he doesn’t possess.

    The Liberal-National coalition cannibalised One Nation by moving their rhetoric to the redneck right. Just enough to convince the cultural unsophisticates that he was protecting white Australia, without – as you say – making significant changes to pre-existing immigration policies. It was shameless superficial opportunism, not an act of political philanthropy.

    This “Culture War” you keep talking about doesn’t exist. I don’t see any material change in ALP (or Liberal, for that matter) policy on immigration or multi-culturalism. Again, it’s form over substance.

    On East Timor, as I recall, the East Timorese gave themselves independence in their referendum, and the Indonesian government permitted our troops to enter the country under a UN mandate. Don’t kid yourself into thinking Australia was playing the hero in that situation. The ALP was absolutely supportive of Australian intervention, so it’s disingenuous to claim it as any great achievement for Howard. If his government had been more on the ball we would have been prepared for the violence that followed the referendum. I guess he was ignoring the “intelligence” back then, too.

    You’ve trotted out the standard Liberal party line that the ALP was too close to Indonesia’s regime to oppose it:

    “The Cultural Left, whilst on its 1991-6 power trip, did little to help the them. All that Jakarta lobbying stuff was too lucrative.”

    But Indonesia’s failure to crush the East Timorese had more to do with the breakdown of Suharto’s authority in the wake of the 1997 Asian crisis, not any balls on Howard’s part.

    Moreover, the ADF was (and still is) in a sorry state for what it was asked to do. The fault THERE lies with both parties.

    Oh yes, Johnny also saved the Afghans from the Taliban. Bulldust. Sure, our minuscule forces did creditable service, but were effectively tagging along for the ride. Again, all form, no substance. John Howard’s foreign policy is just an accumulation of souffle.

  25. I am at a loss to see how Andy’s report of a racist statement becomes Jack’s “associating homicidal intent to critics of Howard-haters”. And while his factual assertion of an incident at work is hard to link directly to Howard’s lie as a matter of proof, the mass statistics are pretty frail reeds as well.

    The overall NSW complaints figures are a bit all over the place. They climb steadily, for instance, between 1998/99 and 2000/2001. In the years that Jack cites, if we add the general race category to racial vilification – surely legitimate since this adds the act to the word – we end up with an increase from 288 to 315 which means we can’t use the figures to suggest there is no change in public attitudes during this crucial time for the Howard government.

    The truth is of course that there are many factors involved, as always when we assess a public response to a government program. It is entirely possible that the environment felt so grimly hostile that complainants just gave up. But the figures don’t tell us.

  26. On August 19, 2004 04:29 PM Fyodor implies that I impute “high principles…political philanthropy” to Howard for his destruction of Hansonism and liberation of E Timor.
    I do not state that Howard is a philanthropist, merely that making him out as the anti-Christ is disingenous. I am not impressed by the hypocrisy of the Cultural Left, and madness of the Howard-haters, for ignoring the obvious good consequences of his political moves and policy implements. Who cares what his intentions are? I am not his therapist.
    I concede that Howards rhetorical politiking was (implicitly) racist, but he was just foolin’ the rednecks. As Fyodor concedes, Howards alien intake policies are not racist.
    Both the Coalition and the Labor movement have had serious problems with political organisation and ideology. The Coalition has had Nativists Right, the Laborites have had an Multiculturalist Left. Howard deserves some credit for knocking out the twin evils of Hansonism and Theophanous-ism.
    The “Culture War” that I “keep talking about” is sputtering out because Howards blow-torch has forced Latham/Beazley to renounce multi-culturalism and endorse tighter border-protection. Those are big changes in policy.
    Fyodor is clueless about the power politics of the Timor liberation. The US, not the Timorese or Australia, liberated E Timor. The trick was done by
    Rubin’s financialism

    US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin’s decision to pull the plug on the Indonesians [because]…it was better to see political change in Indonesia. So when the Asian crisis hit, they designed the IMF’s terms in such a way as to force him out.

    Marine militarism

    The Australian military couldn’t have pulled off the 1999 peacekeeping mission in East Timor without the United States, according to a recent report by an Australian military think tank.

    Howard managed the tricky regional diplomacy with the Indons, administered the transition and took on the security debt to the US political establishment. Tamanany Hall politicians call this “the favour bank”. Our account was settled with Howard’s contribution to Iraq-attack.

    Over the past few years the West and our region have seen an unprecedented series of security crises. Howard is (tactically) a lying politician and (strategically) a civic-minded statesman. This is the kind of guy you need in a crisis. I dont think that Bomber & Biggles were up to the task.

  27. Jack,

    I didn’t say Howard was the anti-Christ, just that I thought the following statements you made represent grossly exaggerated praise for a political opportunist:

    “Howard has actually reduced the strength of racist political organisations and has increased the racial diversity value of key policies.”


    “Howard negated the ‘electoral outcomes’ for, self-styled Caucasian nativist, Pauline Hanson. He had her expelled from the mainstream Liberals, brought her feral political base back into the Coaition fold and used legal action to break her party machine. Howard did this political service to the nation without resorting any significant increase in racist key ‘policy outcomes’.”

    Your phrase “political service to the nation” sounds like philanthropy to me. However, as you might have noticed, the statements that really stuck in my craw were the following:

    “And has anyone mentioned Howard’s liberation of the non-white E Timorese?”


    “Johhny Rotten Howard also helped to liberate the Afhgans from the sectarian tyranny of the Taliban.”

    Even your response concedes that Australia was not the prime mover in East Timor or Afghanistan, so why does Howard deserve any credit for it? He may not be the anti-Christ, but he’s done precious little of any substance to justify your praise.

    Again with the Culture War. Could you please tell me where it is that Beazley/Latham have rejected multiculturalism? For that matter, can you please demonstrate where and when Howard rolled back the evil forces of the multi-cultis? As has been stated before on this blog, mandatory detention is also part of ALP policy, and was so before Howard. This whole issue is a straw man of your own fabrication.

    And please don’t call me clueless on East Timor. Your “reference” point is the World Socialist Web Site, which isn’t on my top 100 of credible authorities. I stated that the liberation of East Timor was only possible because of the collapse of the Suharto regime in the aftermath of the Asian crisis. You have not shown otherwise. In fact, your reference to Rubin’s “financialism”[?], by which I assume you mean US and IMF economic pressure on Indonesia, only reinforces my argument.

    The one statement you made which I agree with 100% is that Howard is a lying politician. It’s taken you a while, but you’ve finally agreed with the majority on this blog.

    History will say the same about Howard: he is a lying politician – no more, no less. He is no statesman.

  28. Arguing with Howard-haters is a one-sided affair, they keep swinging wildly and land one punch (Howard Lied!) whilst copping a whirl-wind of jabs.
    Fyodor is a good example. On August 20, 2004 09:31 AM he claims that I made statements of

    grossly exaggerated praise for a political opportunist: “Howard has actually reduced the strength of racist political organisations and has increased the racial diversity value of key policies.”

    No. The statements I made represent empirically verifiable facts. Go check the record. Nativist political organisations (Hanson) down, Ethnic (skilled NESB) immigration up. Both Howards doing.
    Fyodor’s then reports that the statements I made that “really stuck in my craw” were those that give Howard credit for prevailing in many civic and security conflicts. I am sorry if I made you splutter with rage, but I report the facts.
    Regarding the liberation of E Timor, Rubins financialism, and “the collapse of the Suharto regime” were necessary, but not sufficient, for overall success.
    John “Stalin” Howard’s organisatio of US and AUS military muscle did the hard yards at the sharp end. Howard, when he came to office in 1996, “made sure that defence spending was quarantined”. Cohen was leery about little wars after Kosovo, but Howard managed to prevail on Sandy Berger to spare us a Marine Carrier. Brian Toohey produced a gripping series of articles outlining Howard’s victorious arm-wrestle with the US diplomatic establishment.
    Regarding the liberation of Afghanistan, Australia did not defeat the Taliban. Many on the pacifist Left expressed fear about involvement in Afghanistan and its dreaded winters. Not Howard who revived ANZUS and went in full bottle sending in the SAS who won some battle honours.
    Regarding Howards’s effect on the ALP, the ethnic branch-stackers are in retreat, Latham has ditched multiculturalism and strict border-protection has been endorsed.
    Regarding the “Culture Wars” in general, the minimal Republicans are looking quite…minimal, the quasi-seperatist ATSIC has been disbanded and 911 has mainstream Australian no longer takes seriously the po-mo, pee-cee, multi-culti fantasies of the Left.
    I am sorry Howard played the race card and I wish he had not lied about children overboard. But the Cultural Left needed a good hiding in order before it set its house back in order.

  29. Jack,

    Your support for Howard seems to be matched only by your wilful ignorance of the facts, and total acceptance of Lil’ Johnny’s propaganda.

    I never questioned the demise of One Nation or the increase in NESB immigrants. However, the first is not obviously the achievement of Howard, as the party’s demise has as much to do with their numbskull incompetence as Howard’s shift in the Liberal party’s rhetoric to the redneck right. Moreover, he was doing himself a favour by recapturing the loony right back to their natural home, the National Party. As I said previously, more opportunist than statesman.

    NESB immigration? I gather this was also high under the ALP, and doesn’t your contention that he increased it jar with your assertion that he forced the ALP to back away from multiculturalism? You’re muddling your arguments: Howard can’t be both a defender of social conservatism and a multiculti.

    East Timor was a job well done by the ADF, but not thanks to the Howard (or previous Labor) government. You state that Howard quarantined defence spending. Would you care to point out the material improvements that Howard provided to the ADF’s defence capability prior to East Timor? Donut. Your hero likes to talk tough, but refuses to spend the resources to give our soldiers the equipment they need to do the work he sets for them.

    Likewise, please detail the sum total of our contribution to Afghanistan, just so we can get an idea of how much Howard put on the line for ANZUS. SAS-lite was our contribution. They did a good job, but in the totality of the campaign it was flag-waving. Likewise Iraq. You seem to have this perception of Howard as a globe-trotting hard-man, when the reality is that he’s the gutless whinger standing behind the school bully. I’m ashamed that our professional and honourable armed forces have had to serve under such an ignoble specimen.

    Lastly, your source on Latham’s attitude to multiculturalism bears closer reading, particularly by you. Here are some quotes:

    “Although Mr Latham did not specify what programs or policies set up to reflect multiculturalism should be changed or abolished, he did stress the importance of understanding English.” So what’s changed, apart from rhetoric?

    You also didn’t point out that,

    “One of the early decisions Mr Howard made on becoming prime minister in 1996 was to shift the Office of Multicultural Affairs from the Prime Minister’s Department to Immigration in a move many saw as downgrading its clout in the public service.

    But later Mr Howard recognised the importance of multiculturalism and appointed a separate minister to promote it.”

    So that clinches it. Howard has obviously lost the “Culture War” because he’s gone soft on multiculturalism.

    Finally, your last statement typifies the reaction of the die-hard Howard defenders. It was alright for Howard to lie to the nation during the election because he had to beat the “Cultural Left”. End justifies the means, eh? I don’t think so, Jack.

  30. Fyodor,

    In arguing with the Howard-haters one enters a topsy-turvy, Alice-in-Wonderland world where black-is-white and up-is-down. They say that they are all for various progressive ideals. Yet they support cheap sloganeering, wink at reactionary political rackets and traduce the political leader who engineers substantive progress.
    It is Fyodor who is “wilfully distorting the facts”. I have not “totally accepted L’il Johhny’s propaganda”. Far from it, I have acknowledged, from the beginning, Howards lies about children overboard and WMDs. In return, I expected Howard to:
    straighten out a bi-partisan non-racist alien intake program when it was getting out of control and under threat from criminals and ideological extremists
    strengthen the US alliance when our nation faced a higher security threat from nuclear proliferators and terrorist propagators.
    Howard has stuck by the deal.
    He has destroyed One Nation’s political organisation and sidestepped its anti-Asian policy agenda. He put Hanson in gaol, fer crissake!!!
    He has raised the NESB ratio in immigration. Sheehan points out what a grotesque inversion of factual reality to call Howard a racist:

    As for the alleged demonisation of Muslims, Australia under Howard is a place where the number of Muslims living in this country has surged by 50 per cent, from 200,000 according to the 1996 census to an estimated 300,000 today. Not exactly shutting the gates.

    He has strengthened the US alliance with the Iraq-attack payback for the E Timor bail-out. Horta praised Howard to the skies, fer crissake!!!
    He has championed Practical Reconciliation, resources not more symbols, are what will help Aborigines get better:

    Since 1996, spending on indigenous affairs has increased by 30 per cent in real terms as people of goodwill, and the federal and state governments, grapple to find the best policies to advance the lives of Australia’s indigenous people.

    He has trounced the pee-ceeing, branch-stacking and ethnic-lobbying Theophanoid Left. They are no longer openly trying to turn the ALP into an ethnic-, rather than class-based, party.
    It is the Howard-haters who are in continual denial of these real substantial achievements, which trump the ideologic-symbolic posturing of the Cultural Left.
    But, for the Howard-haters, the joys of ideological posturing outweigh the benefits of progressive policy reform.

  31. Don’t get strocchi with me, Jack. I’m pleased for your sake that Howard has met your expectations, but don’t make the mistake of praising him as the man who:

    1) “…reduced the strength of racist political organisations and has increased the racial diversity value of key policies.”

    2) “…forced Latham to renounce the tribal-divisive and Balkanising multicultural ideology.”

    3) liberated the “…non-white E Timorese…”

    4) built “…up the ADF so that it could save the E Timorese in the nick of time from genocide.”

    5) “helped to liberate the Afhgans from the sectarian tyranny of the Taliban.”

    If you believe that claptrap you’ll believe anything “Honest John” tells you.

    As a liberal voter myself, however, I have to say I’m profoundly disappointed with my choice last time. I’m voting ALP next election. The rot has to stop.

  32. All the claims that I made, with some rhetorical bravado, on behalf of Howard are factually true. These statements are, as George Orwell put it, “unpleasant truths” which the Cultural Left/Howard-haters, do not “have the power to face”.
    I am sorry for the genuine refugees who were stuffed around by the Pacific Solution. They were mostly fleeing a bad place and I am glad that they found a better one.
    MHO-FWIW is that Aust needs a large skilled NESB immigration propgram and should take in more refugees fleeing from fascist and fundamentalist tyranny (as Howard has done since 2002). I think that asylum-seekers should be bonded to the community, rather than incarcerated into penalty.
    But some policy was needed to put a stop to the criminal and dead-risky trade in people smuggling. And some political stroke was required to stop the polarisation of Australias political culture between Hansonite Nativists and Theophanoid Multiculturalists.
    Howard provided both and the nation is the better for it.

  33. I made this observation on another thread before I came to this one, where it is more relevant, so here goes again: A noteworthy aspect of the conservative commentary on this debate is the propensity to describe critics of Howard as ‘Howard-haters’. This trivialises the substantive arguments against Howard’s position, implying opponents are motivated purely by emotion and have no rational basis for their criticisms. It is a sly rhetorical manoeuvre.

  34. No roberto, Howard-hatred is a real political phenomenon. There is even a book which focuses on the specific evils of Bad King John: Not Happy, John.
    There must be some psychological aversion to Howards personality which explains the anti-Howard Push’s vehemence. It certainly has little basis in the significant consequential facts of our polity.
    Mainstream non-Howard-haters, the majority of Australians, support the spirit of the original integrationist settlement policy, well summarised here:

    The revised Migration Act of 1958 introduced a simpler system of entry permits and abolished the controversial dictation test..and avoided references to questions of race. Indeed, it was in this context that the Minister for Immigration, Sir Alexander Downer, [!] stated that ‘distinguished and highly qualified Asians’ might immigrate.
    After a review of the non-European policy in March 1966, Immigration Minister Hubert Opperman announced applications for migration would be accepted from…people
    [of all races] on the basis of their suitability as settlers, their ability to integrate readily and their possession of qualifications positively useful to Australia.

    But this a-racial policy was not good enough for the Left, which switched from a program of
    Old Left economic revolution in the thirties to one of New Left cultural infiltration in the seventies. The ethnic branch-stackers, immigrant family re-union rorters and refugee class-actors on the Theophanopid Left broke the taboo on “playing the race-card” in politics.
    Non-Howard haters argue that Howard has been xenophobic in political style (see Tampa etc) but is ethno-integrative in policy substance. (see Muslim immigration, Chinese trade, Asian students etc
    The Howard-hating Cultural Left prefer to have a multicultural settlement system that is xenophilic in political style (see umpteen Mulitcultural motherhood BLAH X 3) but is ethno-divisive in policy substance. (see Sheehan’s book, Birrell’s sociology, Priest’s detective story).
    If a political agent is serious about promoting a diverse ethnic-harmonious society, instead of just indulging in moral posturing to the luvvie grandstand, then he ought to see Howard’s machiavellian method in its true socio-historical perspective.

  35. All of this is nonsense, as far as I’m concerned. I hate Howard because the Pacific Solution and all that goes with it were cruel, brutal and shameful. I don’t have any particular objection to Howard’s personality, such as it is, and I hate others (such as Ruddock and Reith) even more, since they were more directly responsible.

    I don’t have any particularly strong views on multiculturalism. I just don’t like seeing kids locked up behind razor wire in my own country, and I don’t like seeing our elected representatives explain that it’s all their own (or their parents’) fault.

    As for your Machiavellian theory, I see no evidence that Howard has any particular view on migration policy – he just does what suits at the time, with a bias towards playing to prejudice.

  36. John says:
    “I hate Howard because the Pacific Solution and all that goes with it were cruel, brutal and shameful.”
    The “Pacific Solution” is just a colloquialism for offshore processing by the UN (but paid for by Australia)
    What exactly is the part to be “hated”?
    That the processing is done by the UN maybe!

  37. My point about those who condemn ‘Howard haters’ is not whether or not there are such people. It is that this term is often used as a term to denigrate and diminish one’s opponents without addressing the substance of the argument. It is frequently an ad hominem non sequitur.
    I must say JQ doesn’t help my point — I support his substantive arguments on this — by so readily admitting to being a hater! Myself, I don’t hate Howard, I disagree with him.

  38. “All the claims that I made, with some rhetorical bravado, on behalf of Howard are factually true.”, says Jack Strocchi.

    He claims “Howard put Hanson in jail”. Hanson was jailed by a Queensland Supreme Court judge after being found guilty of breaching state law. Tony Abbott was said to have had a hand in it, in the earlier stages, when a former One Nationista accessed some slush fund for a civil case. Howard vehemently denied having anything to do with it, and possibly crossed a line when he commented on her sentence as being too harsh.

  39. Roberto, I’m in thorough agreement with you. No doubt Howard supporters allege that they are democrats. It’s very difficult to see how any sort of democratic public sphere can exist if any criticism – particularly criticism backed by argument – can be dismissed in this way. And I’m also very suspicious of the notion of “mainstream Australians” as some sort of homogenous group who silently wave the flag for Howard. It really is reminiscent of Nixon’s “silent majority”.

  40. Selective, corrective memory.
    In times past John’s capacity for total recall wasn’t as flash as apparently it is now.LAURIE OAKES: But you said they had not made complaints until very recently. It turns out that Hicks had complained to ASIO more than a year ago that he’d been beat…

  41. Selective, corrective memory.
    In times past John’s capacity for total recall wasn’t as flash as apparently it is now.LAURIE OAKES: But you said they had not made complaints until very recently. It turns out that Hicks had complained to ASIO more than a year ago that he’d been beat…

  42. Howard has cashed his last cheque
    As anticipated on the morning this story broke, the Australian government is now being consumed by a full-blown crisis. With apologies to Hunter S Thompson, I think it’s clear that John Howard has cashed his last cheque with the Australian…

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