The culture war: time to mop up

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.

92 thoughts on “The culture war: time to mop up

  1. 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!

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. Andrew

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  8. Andrew,
    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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Katz

    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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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)

  14. 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..

  15. 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”

  16. 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

  17. 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.

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

  19. melanie

    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.

  20. 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.

  21. melanie

    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.

  22. JQ

    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! 🙂

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. melanie

    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? 🙂

  26. 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.

  27. Melanie,
    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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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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