Categories: Racism

31 Jan 2013, Comments (3)

Freedom of speech. Shut up!

Author: Helen

Tim Mathieson said something naff in an attempt to be all jokey about prostate examinations; When challenged on it, he realised what was wrong with it, and apologised, because he’s a grownup. If only there were more grownups in the commentariat.

No, criticising privileged white men who make unfunny jokes about women and other ethnic groups isn’t an attack on our freedom of speech. It’s the opposite. It’s the extension of freedom of speech to the former targets of these jokes, who are now talking back. Get used to it, Mark Baker (“Poor Tim, prostrated by a prostate gag that gets him the finger”) and Tony Wright (“First Bloke Back in Doghouse after poking fun at prostate”).

Who are the worst enemies of Freedom™? Those annoying feminists, of course! Baker paints the new confidence of women resisting sexism in politics and society as “confected’ and “phoney”. Like other members of the old media, he fails to understand the significance of Gillard’s “misogyny” speech and the chord it struck with the lived experience of so many women. This failure in the journosphere didn’t go unnoticed in new and social media elsewhere.

Baker and Wright fire familiar damp squibs from their bunkers, hoping to chase these annoying people off their lawn, like “straighteners” and “correctness” and “puritan”. We know these are code for “STFU”. So who’s on the side of free debate here?

While people with money and privilege have used the courts to stifle the speech of others for generations, Baker sees this unseemly deconstruction of blokey jokes as the thin end of the wedge which will lead to legislative “threats to media freedom and individual speech”. The present situation is the reverse: People are daring to talk back to and challenge the chorus of guffawing lads (his words), and they really don’t like it.

17 Sep 2012, Comments (8)

The Recent Unpleasantness

Author: Helen

…Not the zombie Apocalypse the Herald Sun and sundry dickheads are making out.

The smugness and gloating on facebook and other media has been truly cringeworthy. Again the implied narrative was: How terrible “they” are, and how wonderful “we” are. “They” don’t deserve to live in our society!

A spoofed image of the kid with the "beheading" sign at the Sydney Muslim protest - instead of the original message he has a sign saying "If anyone has any Cookies i would like some please"

Little boy at the protest with a sign more suited to his age and inclinations

Unfortunately, a little boy was placed front and centre in the hate-fest. (This picture is spoofed, of course, but the original is all over the internet now.) To paraphrase the stupid movie which sparked this thing – and to throw its hateful words back at it – he is innocent. There is no way he understands death and consequences at this age. His mum and dad, of course, are the complete nangers in this scenario.

Accounts of the demonstration by “reasonable people”, though, as exemplified by Waleed Aly in the Fairfax opinion pages, place this ratbag minority at front and centre, as if that wasn’t done daily by the tabloids and by popular social mythology. At the very end of his piece, he mentions – in passing – that not one, but several Muslim associations in Australia condemned the action. No matter. Aly’s piece sticks to the tabloid picture of Muslims: Miserable, disengaged, violent.

Aly says:

This is the behaviour of a drunkenly humiliated people: swinging wildly with the hope of landing a blow, any blow, somewhere, anywhere. There’s nothing strategic or calculated about this. It doesn’t matter that they are the film’s most effective publicists. It doesn’t matter that they protest using offensive slogans and signs, while protesting against people’s right to offend. It doesn’t matter that they object to insulting people on the basis of their religion, while declaring that Christians have no morals. This is baffling only until you realise these protesters are not truly protesting to make a point. The protest is the point.

It feels good. It feels powerful. This is why people yell pointlessly or punch walls when frustrated. It’s not instrumental. It doesn’t achieve anything directly. But it is catharsis. Outrage and aggression is an intoxicating prospect for the powerless.

And more in that vein. But isn’t it easy to counsel positivity and self-empowerment and not being outraged when you have a drivetime radio program and lecture at university? What about the responsibility of the trolls not to troll?

And what about the fact that the Western invason of Iraq and Afghanistan have killed hundreds of thousands – there were probably few people at the protest who hadn’t lost relatives. Many are displaced against their will. And they find themselves in a society where a sizeable section of the population continually abuses, others and baits them. This blog doesn’t condone the violence when it erupts but hell, I think I can dimly understand the sadness and anger.

And the usual suspects are moving in, gleefully, to capitalise on these events.

There are a hell of a lot of things people are forgetting here.

The Cronulla riots were largely absent from the discussion: the call to arms by white thugs and ne’er-do-wells in the name, not of religion, but their equivalent – a distorted version of nationalism – and the shock jock (the equivalent of the methhead movie maker) who incited them to attack. Also absent from the collective memory were the deranged killers thrown up by Western society.

There was no mention of the notorious WEF demonstrations where young, white demonstrators were similarly demonised for a very similar “riot”, which was, naturally, over-egged to the hilt by the popular press and right-wing commentators. Any mass demonstration where pushing and shoving take place will, in Australia, result in such demonisation, but despite the blanket condemnation of WEF protesters, this was not taken as a sign of the irrationality or inferiority of Australians generally. And despite the hyperventilation in the press, society didn’t collapse.

The condemnation of the Sydney demonstration by the Islamic Council of Victoria, Muslim Women’s Association, the Islamic Council of NSW and Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, and the setting up of a Facebook page and twitter hashtag – Muslims Against Violent Sydney Protests and #MAVSP. These have been reported, but they aren’t getting the attention they deserve, I think, among all the shouting about the impending imposition of sharia law. They should get more than a passing mention. After all, the Bolts and Blairs and other opinionistas set such store by people “refusing to condemn”. These people, and numerous internet commenters and tweeters, have not refused to condemn, but the fundamentalist woman with her sadly exploited little boy remain the go-to image for the demonstration.

One of the contents of the invisible backpack of White privilege is the ability to fuck up without people projecting your actions onto your entire group (See Breivik, Anders or Bryant, Martin.)

Above all, with “trolling” such a hot topic in the media last week, there seems to be very little recognition of one of the protagonists as a classic troll. I refer, of course, to the person who, under false pretences, shot and disseminated the film which caused all the trouble. Like Alan Jones’ Cronulla quote, it was a deliberate attempt to provoke.

Before you fire up the knee-jerk “freedom of speech” and “looking to be offended” response, have a read of this. Freedom and responsibility: they go together.

On Twitter, I compared this situation to yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded movie theater – something that actually is illegal in the US. A user I follow responded to me, “This isn’t just yelling fire, it’s loading the theatre with kindling & putting gas in the sprinkler line & toying with a Zippo.”

We can’t be responsible for how every individual reacts to our opinions or expressions. But some misconstrual or mild disagreement was not what happened here; what happened here was that a former meth-dealer, a militant racist, and an extremist from a different religion got together and created a hateful portrayal of another religion to debase 23% of the world’s population. Any claims that these people didn’t know exactly what they were doing and what the end result would be are patently false. The filmmaker who was ejected from Egypt after calling for the US to attack the country specifically promoted his film in Muslim countries. He dubbed it in Arabic and sent it to Egyptian television statements in the days before September 11th – a date which is always charged with tension for Muslims inside and outside the US.

(H/T Guerillamamamedicine).

What else was forgotten? Why, this. I think the methhead filmmaker, a Copt, forgot it too.

We can enjoy our superiority and have fun throwing things at an Aunt Sally other, but we shouldn’t be shocked and horrified if we help to bring into being the very thing we’re supposed to be so afraid of. I just hope that little boy has a good school counsellor, and some good friends who won’t give him a hard time as he grows old enough to know what has happened to him.

(TW for racist dogwhistling and insulting and offensive language)

Here’s a wonderful cartoon from Crikey’s First Dog on the Moon describing Andrew Bolt’s shock (SHOCK!) that his readers, told to go and “review” Anita Heiss’s new book on Amazon, indulged in angry trolling and race-baiting in his defence (as they saw it).

…Obviously I am not suggesting my brave readers unleash an anonymous torrent of racist abuse and cruel one star reviews on Anita’s Amazon page, that would be all incitey and I’m not that sort of person.
…What?…No… Who are these MONSTERS? Is it I who have inadvertently released this dusky genie from its bottle? Surely not. I was simply mourning free speech in my little way…

Jeremy Sear at Pure Poison drives the point home: Andrew Bolt does not support “Amazon Bombing” critics’ books, and he wishes they would stop following the link he gave them!

Of course, no one except his loyal followers believed him for a minute. Bolt then switched to denying that the comments on Heiss’s Amazon page were racist in tone, at all:

(N)ot one comment I saw then was “openly racist”.

And, in response to a couple of AGE articles,

But how curious. You know my reputation for calling things by their blunt names. If I were a racist, wouldn’t I just say so?

Yes, because that’s totally how it works, isn’t it?

Hmm. I took some screencaps on Friday, and it’s technically true that no one gets up and yells “Hey, I’m a complete friggin’ racist!” As the First Dog would know, some dog whistles are so well known in Australia even a human can recognise them.

Racist limerick on Anita Heiss's Amazon page

Some people who claim to be blacks
Gorge on the teat of our tax.
Though lacking in melanin,
Don’t ever try tellin’ em;
You’ll be sued for stating the facts.

See? Completely not racist. Unless you’ve lived through the Hanson era of the internet (shudder), in which case the dogwhistling is loud and clear. I’ll give them doggy identities to distinguish them:

If the victim is black: not much, apparently.

The recent chin-stroking by various people regarding Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of a vigilante crank is shameful. I was reminded of Maia’s commentary on the victim-blaming attending the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case. (In an astonishing coincidence, both Martin and DSK’s victim, Nafissatou Diallo, were black.)

Here’s Maia:

Women with boyfriends in jail can be raped.
Women with multiple cell phones can be raped.
Women who need money can be raped.
Women who can’t read or write the language of the country they are in can be raped.
Sex workers can be raped.
Women who lie on their tax forms can be raped.
Women who’ve lied about rape in the past can be raped.
Women who launder money can be raped.
Women who have told that their actual oppression is not enough to get them asylum, and so have to learn a story that will can be raped.
Women who have many truths they cannot tell to authorities can be raped.

Let’s use Maia’s post as a template to follow the chin-stroking commenters’ logic to its logical conclusion:

Teenagers who wear hoodies can be killed.
Teenagers who fight back against creepy stalkers can be killed. (Zimmerman’s claim that Martin was on top of him and had bashed him are looking dubious.)
Teenagers who have been suspended from school can be killed.
Teenagers who have used marijuana can be killed. (Martin was found with an empty baggie which may have once contained marijuana. (Be very afraid, Melbourne elite grammar school children!)
Teenagers who walk through a gated community, “just looking at houses”, can be killed.

Disclaimer: Trayvon Martin is not necessarily “guilty” of any of the above – actions, anyway, which would earn a minor warning for a white boy from the upper middle class. These are from a smear campaign which has been mounted against Trayvon by right wing bloggers, allegedly helped along by leaks from the Sanford PD, under scrutiny for their non-handling of the case. More here (Via).

Renee Martin of Womanist Musings writes about the challenges faced by the mother of an African-American son. All parents worry that some accident or tragedy will befall their children. It’s obscene that some mothers have the bonus worry of wondering if or when their child will be randomly targeted by a killer or by law enforcement because of their skin colour. Here’s a wry commentary on a “safe” dress code for black teenagers.

We can’t sit back smugly and tell ourselves this just a US issue. This is very much an Australian issue, too.

21 Feb 2012, Comments (8)

Another poke at the steaming pile

Author: Helen

…Or steaming bile, as Jo Tamar accurately called it.

Yes, not content with reading Bettina Arndt’s latest so you don’t have to, I went back to the steaming pile of bile and poked it with a stick to examine some suspicious-looking critters I’d seen lurking in there. I have to say some of these spokescreatures were quite creepy and crawly. Others simply failed to impress me with their compelling evidence for her, ahem, thesis.

Most of the people quoted in the first few paragraphs are the latter type – mostly harmless but annoying retailers of Arndt’s straw-woman theories – but Catherine Deveny has already done a good job on them. I’d like to pick up where Deveny left off. First, though, I’d like to mention one of Agony’s “real life stories”, the scuttlebutt about somebody’s workplace. If this anecdote isn’t invented, it’s a notable example of unprofessional conduct – on the part of the storyteller, that is.

A mid-40s woman tells me about a naive 22-year-old work colleague who recently had a breast enlargement.
”She is a tiny thing, quite pretty but socially inept and ready to settle for anything that comes along….”

Could anything be so unprofessional? This is Arndt’s scholarly evidence, her peer-reviewed source. This nasty piece of gossip has no value at all except to flag to the CEO of that company that they need to counsel their staff about acceptable workplace behaviour. Personal boundary violations and verbal bullying, I mean, not bra cup size. This isn’t evidence, it’s abuse.

After a “men’s advocate” from Perth, about whom the internet has nothing much to say, we’re treated to the thoughts of a thing called Giovanni Dannato writing on the group blog In Mala Fide. He’s the “assault on men” dude. I’m not linking to this blog, and if you decide to google it, here’s a prior warning for racism, antisemitism, white supremacist ideology and of course, bottomless misogyny sung from the whole sorry MRA/MGTOW/paleocon songbook. Some article headings: “How to stop masturbating”, “Modern Rape laws protect Harems”, “To be anti-Jewish is not to be racist”. The tagline: “The blog that shouted love at the heart of the world.” They’re joking, obviously. This is where I start saying HEY, SERIOUSLY, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING BETTINA.

How did Arndt come to include a quotation from this guy, on this blog? What wiki-walk or recommendation drew her to it? Is it a regular read? There’s a link to a neo-nazi bookshop, purveyors of young Eastern European women (or pictures of, anyway), and as well as the misogyny there are numerous references to “Race and IQ”, whites-as-a-disposessed-minority, and approving references to Steve Sailer, Roissy, John Derbyshire and many other slimy creatures who I recognise as belonging to the far right-o-sphere.

In case you think this is an aberration and that Arndt is just a naive and undiscerning web surfer, next up is F. Roger Devlin, who she describes as “a political philosopher who writes challenging material on gender issues for The Occidental Quarterly”. If your finely-tuned bullshit meter is hearing “challenging” as a word from the same playbook as “refreshingly un-PC!” and “heresy”, you’d be right.

This challenging material is… Oh, dear god. (Peers through fingers). No link for the Occidental Quarterly, either. TOQ is the mouthpiece of the Charles Martel Society, which Sourcewatch links to William Regnery (a US “White Nationalist”) and other white supremacist individuals and organisations such as Stormfront. Yes, that Stormfront. This stuff isn’t conservative. It’s white supremacist and male supremacist wingnuttery, to the extreme. Devlin also writes for VDARE, another anti-immigration, white supremacist website. He’s the author of such wholesome titles as “Sexual liberation and Racial Suicide”.

My recommendation: Back away, slowly. Disinfect computer after reading.

*Dishonourable mention: The Dad from Family Guy. You do, er, realise he’s a fictitious character, don’t you, Bettina? And

*Hugo Schwyzer. No comment.

Poking into the steaming heap of an Arndt article is not only unspeakably depressing, it shows the very, very dubious provenance of her antifeminist thinkpieces. Bettina Arndt comes across as the voice of reason, the dimple-cheeked smiling disarmer of male interviewers and defender against “extreme feminists”. In fact, I think she is somewhat extreme herself.

29 May 2010, Comments (6)

Nasty email forwards

Author: Helen

How do you know when it’s getting closer to election time in Australia? By the incidences of unbelievable asshattery, douchebaggery and sheer fuckery which start popping up.

Yesterday one of my co-workers at the Ronnie James Dio Memorial Dogs home (and cattery) got an email with a variation (it’s mutating all the time) of this. (Scroll down for the May 2010 example.)


Using google-fu, it took about three seconds to find out the history of this…piece of work.

What about the piece of work who made it and circulated it? What kind of person does this? Whoever you are, you are the very doyen of Douchebaggery. And you, the person who forwarded the thing. Yes, you. I hope you are thoroughly ashamed of yourself and not just for being pranked by some nasty email hoaxer with an agenda.

At least we know it’s getting closer to Election time. Stand by for more horrid examples of what backroom droids can cook up in their petri dishes.

8 May 2010, Comments (8)

Who would Jesus Bone?

Author: Helen

By sheer coincidence, just before Catherine Deveny was sacked from her AGE gig for tasteless twitters about iconic Orstralians, I clicked onto a masterpiece by Lawrence Money in a spirit of WTF-is-he-saying now. Deveny’s twitters were, to put it mildly, a bit ordinary, but look at what Fairfax publishes on its “blog” section: Could Pauline Hanson be right?. (Previously: “Three Cheers for Pauline Hanson!“)

Money has been around forever on the “social” pages, drip, drip, dripping a kind of slow poison against anyone he sees as being leftyscum, but evidently in Modern Times his previously thinly concealed xenophobia, sexism and homophobia has kicked up a notch. Here’s another one: Enoch Speaks from the Grave!. That is, Enoch “Rivers of Blood” Powell. But obviously Money’s on first name terms.
A graphic representation of a Charlie Chaplinesque face with bowler hat and a rather Hitlerish moustache.

I’m starting to see that little guy’s moustache in quite a different way.

I don’t know that if I were in Fairfax management’s shoes – a strange place to be, I agree – I would necessarily find Deveny the worst trollumnist on the payroll. A writer who, in her own time, although in a public forum (her “passing notes in class” defence was unbelievably silly), made a couple of rather horrible bad taste jokes about a two very successful people; versus someone who, in the Fairfax online space, contributes to the ongoing drip, drip, drip of polemic against asylum seekers and people of other races and religions?

If I were Rove or Bindi, I’d be hurt by the Deveny tweets. They would be like a little savage kick to the gut, those jokes. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. (And of course they are not me, and possibly they weren’t offended at all…)

But more importantly, Rove and Tasma and Bindi aren’t threatened. “Offended” doesn’t cover how an immigrant or asylum seeker might feel, perhaps traumatised already by war and suffering and then subjected to “opinion” articles like this. Many of them, of course, won’t see the article, but they’ll certainly be aware of the zeitgeist which it feeds. “Offended” doesn’t cover physical personal injury at the hands of people who are given courage and targets identified by this stuff. People have died and they are still dying, some just around the corner from me, so perhaps this is a little close to home… literally.

And Money keeps drip-drip-dripping out his poison in the pages, social and online, of the AGE. I don’t know that I’d bone either of them. But I know which one “offends” me more.

You know when a government come up with something that just really stinks of “cooked up by a PR company”? To give him credit, our State Premier John Brumby took on board that the recent attacks on Indian students and workers in Melbourne really did have a racist component and didn’t try to take the “Racist? Who? Us? How dare you!” route. But. Come on. Wasn’t there anyone in the State PR machine to say “hang on a minute guys, I think this might cause widespread uncontrollable laughter, eyerolling and blowing of mighty raspberries from the people we are trying to impress with our Sincerity™?

A FORMER AFL footballer is the nation’s first “respect” minister after being appointed by the Victorian government to tackle the growing racism and alcohol fuelled violence problems in the state.
Premier John Brumby announced Justin Madden would be the minister for the “respect agenda” as part of his election year cabinet reshuffle following the shock resignation of embattled Transport Minister Lynne Kosky this week.

I mean… Madden! Not only does he come from the background of Australian Rules football – a milieu which is trying with limited success to shake off its reputation for a lack of respect when it comes to women and people of other races and cultures. He’s also the minister least likely to be associated with the word “respect” by the long suffering inhabitants of Victoria. He has a long history of showing respect to developers and money, and none to architecturally significant buildings, grasslands, coastal communities or the planning rules set up to make our city livable. This leaked email about setting up a false public consultation process for a development has shown just how much respect Madden and the Vic Government have for the people of his State and the iconic buildings and places which they love.

Really, I’m not under any illusion that the Victorian government has our best interests at heart – let alone those of international students – but you’d think with all the money from developers pouring into the party coffers, they’d be able to come up with a more sophisticated PR response to the problem.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Find out what it means, before you create a ministry of it.
Crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo, with bonus Bernice

There is absolutely no reason why Grace Gichuhi and Teresia Ndikaru Muturi shouldn’t be offered asylum in Australia under the provisions of existing international treaties: ”race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion”.

So, Immigration spokespeople and Senator Evans and Refugee tribunal, you think being a female member of a social subgroup which practices forced genital mutilation on women doesn’t constitute being a member of a particular social group?

There’s legislation set to go through Parliament to offer “complementary protection” to cover such cases, if their supporters can keep them here until then. Senator Evans, though, also has a measure of discretionary power and could have approved their application already. For reasons which I can only guess at, in this case, “can’t” means “won’t”.


(Contact Senator Chris Evans)

There has been an increase in attacks on Indian students and workers in Melbourne’s inner west. Clearly, it was time for the police and other community leaders to take notice and do something about these race-related crimes. Did they they put a spotlight on the people who were doing the robbing and bashing? Did they talk about their intention to bring the perps to justice and enhance the safety of public spaces generally, and work with the Vic government to help change the attitudes of Bogan Youth? Hardly. The response of the Victoria Police was to recommend that young indians should stop talking so loudly in their own language and should not be louchely and recklessly carrying things like iPods and laptops on their daily commute. In short, pull your head in and stop flaunting your great wealth before our simple peasant folk, in case you get yourself bashed. And robbed.

Inspector Scott Mahony complained that the police had been blamed unfairly in the story, because “members of the indian community” had complained at a public meeting that their countrymen were noisy and obnoxious. Right, that lets the Victoria Police off the hook completely, because if someone’s fellow-countryman says something denigratory towards them, of course you take the totally unbiased opinion of this codger and publicly run with it!

This reminded me of Lauredhel’s article about other victims of crime and how the use of the passive voice, and constant advice to the crime victims both actual and potential to take defensive action themselves to not get themselves raped, or get themselves robbed, makes the perpetrator invisible and takes all the light and heat off the people doing the crime.

It’s not the first time this has happened. A Sudanese boy, Liep Gony, was bashed to death by two white thugs in October 2007, and the police blamed the incident on the Sudanese community who, they thought, had failed to assimilate properly.

I use a train and a bus daily on the routes to, from and around inner Western Melbourne and I can tell you from long experience that a lot of students are deafening. Not Indian students – students. Anyone who says that’s an Indian thing really hasn’t been out lately. It’s a function of being young and silly. (Some) students travel in packs, yell to each other, and generally seek attention. They’re immature and sometimes quite irritating. Duh – they’re young! This in no way excuses crimes against them, I would have thought. The idea that Indian students are somehow “flaunting” their iPods and laptops, also, is simply racist. I see thousands of caucasians and others using their laptops and ipods, and schoolkids carrying valuable musical instruments, every day. It’s good defensive practice to keep smaller items packed away, but to say that one ethnic group may have their laptops on show and the others are “flaunting” them simply betrays an underlying idea that one group is entitled to have these things and the others are behaving in a manner not befitting their station.

The Victorian government should examine ways of improving community attitudes on the one hand (well, not making them worse’d be a start), and the appalling lack of any personal safety on the “public transport system” at night, instead of blaming the victims of the crimes. And they should start to get a bead on the invisible perpetrators.

Sushi Das has more well-crafted scorn.