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The Australian government announced it is scrapping a section of the Racial Discrimination Act which had been added by the Keating government in 1995; coincidentally, the one under which right-wing demagogue Andrew Bolt was successfully prosecuted for insinuating that fair-skinned Aborigines were liars and benefits cheats. In defending the government's about-face on this issue, the Attorney-General declared that "people have the right to be bigots". And while the government is, of course, firmly opposed to racism, the dog-whistle is that, as a nation, we're perfectly relaxed and comfortable with a spot of casual racism between mates, as long as it doesn't escalate into a public order offence or anything.
As if to top that, a day later, PM Tony Abbott announced that Australia will be bringing back imperial honours, with those honoured being given the title Sir or Dame (based on biological gender, of course; there will be no funny buggers in Abbott's Australia), overturning one of the Whitlam government's key symbolic achievements; back-handedly, the first recipient was the immediately outgoing, and staunchly republican, governor-general, Quentin Bryce, who is hardly in a position to decline. It's not clear who will be next in line for honours, though there probably won't be a Sir Rupert Murdoch, given that he renounced his citizenship. It may well be that the editorial conference of The Australian will look like the court of Camelot by the time of the next election.
So there we have it; an Australia where the sentiment "haters gonna hate" is actually enshrined in law, and the respect Australians were once obliged to show to those from different backgrounds can now go to their social superiors.
On one level, this looks like a planting of the LNP's unapologetically conservative flag, and a slamming of the Overton window hard to the right; on another level, it seems almost calculated to create a lot of smoke. Which makes me wonder: is this a prologue to more substantial conservative legislation (perhaps a ban on abortion, the privatisation of the ABC, tougher censorship laws or something), or a distraction from something that's decidedly not culture-war red-meat and would give the Silent Majority of (Occasionally Casually Racist But In A Mately And Acceptable Way) Suburban Battlers little to celebrate? Like, say, harsh industrial-relations laws to go with the symbolic feudalism in the imperial honours system?
An article looking at the state of the neo-Nazi extreme-right fringe in Australia today; in short, there are a number of small, fractious groups who identify with Nazism, tend towards violence as a mode of action and are often influenced by groups from abroad. These are distinct from, and not to be confused with, the somewhat less batshit far-right groups, with neither side wishing to be associated with the other:
Thankfully, while accounts of less serious forms of harassment typically go unreported, reports of assaults such as that committed against Minh Duong are rare, neo-Nazi violence having peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. Further, collaboration between openly neo-Nazi groups and white nationalist or neo-fascist political parties like Australia First is generally low-key, with neither camp wanting to be associated too closely with the other. Other far-right groups are split on the subject of whether "The Jew" or "The Muslim" poses the greatest threat to White Australia.While Australia's neo-Nazi skinheads may have little to do with its common-or-garden fascists and "racial nationalists", they have found acceptably zealous comrades abroad:
Australia First has declared itself in political solidarity with the neo-Nazi Greek organization Golden Dawn. In December 2013 in Sydney, it helped to organise a rally outside the Greek consulate in order to protest criminal charges against the organization. In Melbourne, Golden Dawn has recently opened an office, though its precise location remains a secret. While generally low-key and currently enjoying little support among the local Greek population, the group has had a presence at several Greek rallies. Local Greek antifascists understand it has also been engaged in fundraising, with the money raised being used to help finance Golden Dawn’s violent activities in Greece.
Recently, celebrity right-wing intellectual Niall Ferguson caused a stir when, during an investors' conference, he implied that economist John Maynard Keynes did not care about the future, on the grounds of being childless and gay. The comments seemed to have been an attempt to attribute Keynes' famous quote, “in the long run, we are all dead”, to an amoral nihilism that comes from neglecting one's duty to reproduce in favour of a decadent hedonism and aestheticism, and thus to tar Keynes' model of government borrowing and economic stimulus, popular amongst the left of the political spectrum but anathema to the neoliberal right, with the brush of this effete, degenerate nihilism:
Another reporter, Tom Kostigen of Financial Advisor, gave a longer account. Kostigen wrote that Ferguson had also made mention of the fact that Keynes had married a ballerina, despite his gay affairs. "Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of 'poetry' rather than procreated," Kostigen wrote. He added that the audience at the event went quiet when the remarks were uttered.Ferguson has apologised unreservedly for the remarks once they became public, calling them “stupid and tactless”; chances are that they've served their purpose as a dog whistle, and many of the sorts of people who see “Cultural Marxism” and decadent weakness all around them will agree wholeheartedly.
While Ferguson was rightly excoriated for the anti-gay tone of the remarks, there has been less comment on the other part of his statement, the assertion, still commonly held in many places, that childless people are selfish, amoral nihilists, who refuse to grow up and shoulder their responsibility:
There is, among many otherwise intelligent individuals, an assumption that those of us who make a positive choice to not reproduce are selfish, rootless and have no concern about future generations or the planet. But those who have their own children often forget about the world and just worry about their own ever shrinking one.
I have seen the most passionately committed feminist activists go gaga once they give birth. All the promises such as "I'll still come on that march/go to that conference/burn down that sex shop" disappear when they sprog. All those in my circle with offspring seem to become unhealthily obsessed with their own little world. Principles go out of the window ("I still hate the private education system/healthcare but I am not putting my politics before my children"), and socialising becomes impossible.Big families and the political Right have gone hand-in-hand for a while. Meanwhile, the white-supremacist British National Party, feeling the angry-white-people vote taken away by the less overtly fascistic UKIP, is encouraging its supporters to lie back and think of
"I know, by now you will be giggling over this suggestion. But think about it, nationalists need to buck the trend of 1.8 children per white household. We need to aim between 3 and 4 children each if not more," he writes. "And the bonus is that making babies is fun! So fellow nationalists, less TV and more fun! Let's do our bit for Britain and our race."
Matthew Collins, a former BNP member and now an anti-racism activist, said the post was an attempt by the party to get some attention after its poor election results. "It's tongue in cheek but there is a serious point. Griffin is always going on about being outbred and in the past he has said members need to put away their boots and go and meet women. The problem is that your typical BNP member is a social pariah who is more into pornography than starting a family," he saidA more frightening possibility would be if these people are successfully persuaded to do their duty, especially with the BNP's record on gender relations (they're not in favour of womens' rights; one of their MPs is on record as saying that women should be “struck like a gong”). I wonder in how many suburban culs-de-sac in BNP heartland, aspiring Josef Fritzls are now drawing up plans for soundproofing their basements and making notes on the movements and likely racial purity of fit-looking local shopgirls.
In Hungary, the nation's medical research council has asked public prosecutors to investigate a genetic-diagnostic company that certified that a member of parliament did not have Roma or Jewish heritage. The parliamentarian in question is a member of the far-right racial-nationalist Jobbik party.
Nagy Gén scanned 18 positions in the MP’s genome for variants that it says are characteristic of Roma and Jewish ethnic groups; its report concludes that Roma and Jewish ancestry can be ruled out. The certificate adds: “For an interpretation of the test result and for genetic consultation relating to the family-tree research, please contact us as soon as convenient.”
The certificate first appeared on a right-wing website, which described the intention behind the gene test as “noble”, although it questioned the science. After the news blog Petőfi utca republished the certificate on 14 May, the Hungarian Society of Human Genetics issued a statement condemning the test. István Raskó, director of the Institute of Genetics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Szeged, and the society’s vice-president, says that it is impossible to deduce origins from genetic variations at a few places in the genome. “This test is complete nonsense and the affair is very harmful to the profession of clinical genetics,” he says.
Australian comedian-journalist John Safran (think of him as a gonzo Australian version of Jon Ronson, if you will) has started writing for VICE Magazine's web site, covering, as he does, readers' “racial, religious and ethical quandaries”. His first column investigates (apparently at the behest of a Greek-Australian correspondent wondering if he could get away with attending a neo-Nazi music festival) the complex dilemmas facing today's white supremacists when faced with the question of whom to hate:
During Australia’s 2005 Cronulla riots, shirtless boys circled not a brawl, but a debate. A Croatian had turned up to fight. He thought he was one of the whites. He’d come to punch up Lebs. But the "whites" thought, as a Croatian, he was a wog, which is pretty much the same as a Leb. The Croatian couldn’t believe it. He looked really hurt.
The tangle for pro-white Aussies is this. For the global white nationalist movement Greek culture is seen as the cradle of white civilization. It’s what the movement uses to argue its case. Look at that marble Parthenon built in 438 BC! Compare it to the shithole huts the Africans came up with! And what about the philosophers, the statues, the art? Doesn’t it say it all about the races? However in Australia, Greeks were the non-whites, the wogs, the thick eyebrow’d folks who floated over in boats after World War II.
Homegrown white nationalist group Australia First Party is run by Dr. James Saleam. He was thrown in jail for orchestrating a shotgun attack on an African National Congress representative in Australia. Jim is Greek. But it gets better. There are rumors Jim’s faking he’s Greek to cover up his true lineage—Lebanese.
The Bleeding Obvious: A sociological study from Australia has showed that people who fly national flags on their cars are more likely to harbour xenophobic attitudes, with both exclusionary views of who belongs in their society and hostility to those outside of the circle:
Professor Fozdar said 43 per cent of those with car flags said they believed the White Australia Policy had saved Australia from many problems experienced by other countries, while only 25 per cent without flags agreed.
A total of 55 per cent believed migrants should leave their old ways behind, compared with 30 per cent of those without flags.
"Very clear statistical differences in attitudes to diversity between those who fly car flags and those who don't, show that flag waving − while not inherently exclusionary – is linked in this instance to negative attitudes about those who do not fit the 'mainstream' stereotype'," she said.The study also revealed more young people flying flags than older people; perhaps a sign that a more liberal older generation who grew up in the wake of the cultural struggles of the Sixeventies and the Whitlam-era progressive consensus is being supplanted by the children of Howard, Hanson and Hillsong, whose views on what belongs in Australia are a lot narrower?
The study was done in Australia, surveying people flying the Australian flag on their cars in the run-up to Australia Day, though I imagine they'd find similar findings on people flying the flag in other circumstances (such as wearing it as a cape at Big Day Out), or in other countries (I imagine those flying the Cross of St. George in England are more likely to vote UKIP, have uttered the phrase "bloody Pakis" at some point in their lives, to have an aversion to eating "foreign muck", and complain about foreigners coming here and stealing our jobs and not working").
A musician on the Isle of Wight was arrested for racial harrassment after playing the 1970s hit Kung Fu Fighting in front of a Chinese mother and son. He denies deliberately playing the song at them, and says that he was already playing it before they entered and took offence. Does this mean that the Oriental Riff is now considered musical hate speech, the melodic equivalent of a racist epithet?
New research has shown that oxytocin, the neurochemical which promotes feelings of love and trust, also induces racism, or to be more precise, sharper discrimination against those ethnically or culturally different from oneself and one's group:
When asked to resolve a moral dilemma, such as choosing to save five lives from a runaway train by sacrificing one life, oxytocin-sniffing Dutch men more often saved fellow countrymen over Arabs and Germans than those who didn’t get a hormonal whiff.
“Earlier research of oxytocin paints a very rosy view of it. We thought it was odd a neurological system that survived evolution would make people indiscriminately loving toward others,” said social psychologist Carsten De Dreu of the University of Amsterdam, co-author of a Jan. 10 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Under oxytocin we saw an increase of in-group favoritism, which has the downside of discrimination against people who are not part of your group.”The questions this raises are interesting. In modern Western society at least, the idea of love is almost a secular religion; it is seen as an unequivocally positive phenomenon, whose only fault is that it is, alas, not everywhere, not washing over everyone and making everything alright. Anyone who dissents from this opinion must be some kind of pitiably twisted curmudgeon; entire subgenres of Hollywood romantic comedies have been made about such sourpusses seeing the light and gaining a new faith in the redeeming power of love, replete with montage sequences. But if the biological conditions underlying the phenomena of love also measurably amplify less positive tendencies, such as reducing empathy to those outside of one's in-group, could love follow religion into becoming something once seen as universally good that has been subjected to more radical reassessment? Perhaps, in future, we'll see the same rational scepticism that has been applied to the virtue of religious faith applied to the universal beneficience of love?
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In case you were wondering whether Mel Gibson is really the despicable turd he has been made out to be: it turns out that, at a party more than 15 years ago, he called Winona Ryder an "oven dodger" after learning that she is half-Jewish:
"I was with my friend, who's gay. [Gibson] made a really horrible gay joke. And somehow it came up that I was Jewish. He said something about 'oven dodgers', but I didn't get it. I'd never heard that before."
ABC Radio National's All In The Mind recently interviewed a US psychiatrist who claims that psychiatry was used as a weapon against the civil rights movement in the 1960s. According to Jonathan Metzl, author of The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became A Black Disease, the definition of schizophrenia was tweaked to apply to a lot of discontented African-Americans, with many activists being institutionalised in mental hospitals. (Until then, schizophrenia had been seen as a passive, disengaged condition mostly affecting white women; mental institutions were repurposed for containing the civil rights movement, many such patients were rediagnosed with depression and deinstitutionalised.)
All of a sudden in 1968 the second Diagnostic Manual comes out, the DSM 2, in the context of probably the most racially charged year in the history of the Civil Rights Movement—1968, where there are many riots, many protests. And also the DSM 2 importantly added language in the paranoid sub-type of schizophrenia, it added several important terms, it said the new criteria included aggression, hostility and projection. These hadn't been characteristics in DSM 1 and the manual explained, 'the patient manifests the characteristics of aggression and hostility and also attributes to others characteristics he cannot accept in himself.Even the advertisements at the time for sedative drugs used for treating patients echoed this racial paranoia:
I unearthed a series of advertisements for serious tranquilisers, Haldol, Stelazine, Thorazine that either represented African iconography, so African tribal masks, and would use incredibly charged racial language—so it would say this is the tool of primitive psychiatry and they would show these African masks—or images that quite literally showed, shockingly enough, angry black men protesting in the streets. And there's one image I reproduce in the beginning of the book, it's a Haldol advertisement that shows an angry black man in a burning urban scene who's shaking his fist. And the important point for both of these is that the iconography from these images literally appearing in the leading psychiatric journals was taking directly from the themes of the Civil Rights movement. The kind of Return to Africa Movement played out in these African scenes, and the idea of a clenched fist which was...This wasn't the first example of psychiatry being used in the service of racism in the US; in the 1850s, a surgeon named Samuel Cartwright put forward the theory that escaped slaves were suffering from illnesses he called drapetomania and dysesthesia aethiopis; his argument being that, as Negroes are psychologically unfit to cope with the pressures of freedom, escaping from one's rightful master was a sign of mental illness. This idea was, of course, very useful to those with a stake in maintaining the status quo, and flourished for some time for that reason.
Anyway, the shifting of the meaning of schizophrenia during the civil rights era was subsequently remedied partly by a deliberate programme to harmonise diagnoses with those used in Europe, though one might argue that the likelihood of the mentally ill to slip through the cracks to the prison system is part of the legacy of this phenomenon (according to Metzl, those diagnosed with schizophrenia in the US today are far more likely to end up in prison than in hospital; given that in America's neo-Calvinist penology, prisons are emphatically places of punishment first and rehabilitation a distant second, this is particularly disturbing).
Meanwhile, back in Europe, a converse relationship between mental illness and radical politics was posited from the other side; West Germany's Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv, a radical Marxist group comprised of mental patients and the odd psychiatrist, argued that mental illness was a cultural construct, a reaction to the iniquities of capitalism.
Australian far-right politician Pauline Hanson, who founded the rabidly anti-immigrant One Nation party and later ran separately on right-wing populist tickets, has announced that she is leaving Australia and plans to emigrate to the UK. She cited as her reason disappointment with the way Australia has changed.
Had she invented a time machine and gone back to the UK circa 1950, she might have a point, but these days, the UK is not so much the cradle of the white British race as another cosmopolitan melting pot, only with better curry and worse coffee. I wonder whether she'll end up joining the BNP.
Now if Pauline Hanson wanted to move to a place populated entirely by people of pure White British stock, there is one candidate: it's named Tristan da Cunha, located in the south Atlantic, accessible only by two ships a year, and its population is comprised of the descendants of British settlers. Everybody's white and either Catholic or Anglican and you can't get a decent pad thai noodles for love or money. It doesn't get much better than this, Pauline.
Weren't the 1950s awesome? Exhibit (a): an American high-school marriage-education textbook (from 1962, though culturally part of the conservative 1950s, before the Communists successfully fluoridated the water supply and brought about what is commonly known as The Nineteen-Sixties):
Exhibit (b): a letter written in 1956 to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover by the editor of a Catholic newspaper, concerning the moral threat posed to America's youth by a young singer named Elvis Presley:
But eyewitnesses have told me that Presley's actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth. One eye-witness described his actions as “sexual self-gratification on the stage," — another as “a striptease with clothes on." Although police and auxiliaries were there, the show went on. Perhaps the hardened police did not get the import of his motions and gestures, like those of masturbation or riding a microphone.
I do not report idly to the FBI. My last official report to an FBI agent in New York before I entered the U.S. Army resulted in arrest of a saboteur (who committed suicide before his trial). I believe the Presley matter is as serious to U.S. security. I am convinced that juvenile crimes of lust and perversion will follow his show here in La Crosse.
Police in the UK are hunting a cranky old person who has been sending racially abusive letters, accompanied by clippings from the Daily Mail:
The letters, some sexually explicit in content, have been sent to schools, hospitals, mosques, universities, doctors' surgeries and private individuals, leaving some recipients "extremely distressed".
Similarities between the letters made it likely they had come from the same author. "The cursive script used in some of the letters indicates that it may be the writing of an older person. Repeat phrases used also indicate this, especially reference to 'working for 50 years' and regular reference to pensions."
Commonly used phrases in the text include "English parliament", "Exit Europe", "repatriation" and "BBC shutdown". Clippings from the Daily Mail have been included in many envelopes, which often also include cartoon drawings.The hunt has been codenamed Operation Heron; it's not clear whether this is a Brass Eye reference.
The Independent's Johann Hari has a lot of things to say about the late Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (better known as the "Queen Mother"), none of them complimentary:
By the time she died, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was treating the British Treasury – our tax money – as her personal piggy bank, with her bills running way beyond the millions she was allotted every year. Even the ultra-Tory Chancellor Norman Lamont complained that "she far exceeds her Civil List and the Treasury gets very het up about it". She used the money to pay for 83 full-time staff, including four footmen, two pages, three chauffeurs (what do they do, split her into three parts for transportation?), a private secretary, an orderly, a housekeeper, five housemaids... the list goes on and on. She even insisted that it was a legitimate use of public funds to maintain a full-time "Ascot office", whose job was to do nothing but keep a register of members of the Royal Enclosure and send them entry vouchers.And soaking the British taxpayer for her luxurious lifestyle isn't the worst of the dear old Queen Mum's shortcomings, not by a long shot. She was, according to Hari, a despicable bigot on many levels, from her obsession with "bloodlines" as an indicator of worthiness (which, to be granted, could be expected of an aristocrat of her time) to her fondness for the political far right (she, Hari claims, supported the appeasement of the Nazis because of her dislike for Jews, and the brutal white-supremacist government of Rhodesia, because she was "not fond of black folk"), and her well-documented contempt for the lower orders of society (in this case, lower being anything beneath the high aristocracy). Which doesn't stop the revisionist whitewash of her image, casting her as a symbol of Britain's grandeur and national pride.
The defenders of Elizabeth were left claiming that her drunken inactivity was itself an achievement. WF Deedes, the late Daily Telegraph columnist and editor, claimed: "In an increasingly earnest world, she teaches us all how to have fun, that life should not be all about learning, earning and resting. In a world where we have all become workaholics, there she is... grinning at racehorses. Bless her heart." He was in favour of the dole after all, provided it was worth £3m and went to one single aristocrat.
William Shawcross has won the favour of his fellow monarchists by taking this curdled life and presenting it as the best of British. It's the single most unpatriotic claim I've ever heard. If you don't think Britain can do better – far better – than this nasty leech and her stunted family, then you don't deserve to live in this Sceptred Isle.
VICE Magazine's latest piece of
exploitation journalism: Babes of the BNP, in which they get a number of young female supporters of the far-right party, each of them as thick as two short planks, to disrobe for the camera and answer a few gentle interview questions:
When people say the BNP is a fascist party, what do you think?
Fascist – I don’t understand that word.
Think of Nazi Germany, or 1930s Italy.
I can’t even remember when that happened really, but I’m against them anyway.
You’re against who?
The Germans. I know that sounds evil… I was brought up that way.
Are most of your friends BNP?
Some of them are. I kind of got into it through my friend Danny. He’s really racist. Everyone calls him “Nazi Danny”. He started telling me about them, and it made a lot of sense.
In terms of the BNP’s repatriation policy on immigration, if you had to choose, who would you repatriate first – Dizzee Rascal or Tinchy Stryder?
Dizzee Rascal. I know this is gonna sound horrible, because he’s the one who’s the most, like… because, my problem is that when immigrants come over to this country, they try and bring in their own churches and languages. And I think he expresses himself more as like an African or whatever he is, whereas Tinchy Stryder is more American. That’s the difference.
Peter Andre – hero or villain?
Jeremy Clarkson – hero or villain?
Enoch Powell – hero or villain?
Nelson Mandela – hero or villain?
But would it be possible to maybe come to a compromise with a noble race like the Chinese? Perhaps keep them on as a sort of servant class?
Yeah. I wouldn’t mind them if they actually worked and didn’t take all of our jobs, basically.
The Independent looks at the Tories' new allies in Brussels, or, in particular, the other prospective members of the new right-wing group they're setting up because the standard centre-right is not strident enough:
It is expected to include the Belgian Lijst Dedecker party, some of whose politicians are former members of the far-right Vlaams Belang part, whose candidates backed a statement saying: "We urgently need global chemotherapy against Islam to save civilisation", and used campaigning material featuring an ape with the words "I have not forgotten my roots ... have you?"
The Tories are also in talks with the Dutch Christian Union, which includes the SGP, a Calvinist party which believes the Bible means that women should not stand for parliament but have a "nurturing role" at home. Mr Cameron's party is also wooing the Latvian Fatherland and Freedom party, several of whose MPs marched in Riga with veterans of the Latvian SS in March.
The 25 Tories will be the biggest national team in the new group. Its other prominent members will be the Polish Law and Justice Party, which has 15 MEPs, and the Czech Civic Democrats, which has nine. The Polish party, headed by the controversial Kaczynski twins, is anti-gay, and banned gay-rights processions. In talks on EU voting power, it demanded that Poland's losses at the hands of Hitler be added to its current population so it would have more clout.Noted by their absence are the other right-wing British parties, i.e., the UKIP (which is essentially the voice of Daily Mail-reading Britain) and the BNP (who are disadvantaged by being fascists with a high profile in Britain, unlike the Latvian Freedom and Fatherland party). The Tories are also trying to block the Italian Northern League from joining, though are in a quandary: they need MEPs from at least 7 EU states for the group to officially exist, and there are too few parties which aren't either happy in a mainstream group or on the wrong side of politics; so the Tories are walking a tightrope, having to pick parties with right-wing populist appeal who aren't obviously unpalatable. Which, in the age of the internet, may be harder to get away with.
Wikileaks has posted what appears to be the British National Party's "Language & Concepts Discipline Manual, a set of guidelines for party activists to ensure that they don't appear, you know, racist or anything. A few choice excerpts:
Rule #1: The BNP is not a ‘racist’ or ‘racial’ or ‘racialist’ or ‘race-conscious’ or ‘white’ or ‘whitepeople’s’ party. It should never be referred to as such by BNP activists, and anyone else who does so must be politely but firmly corrected. The precisely correct description of what we are, in the standard terminology of international comparative politics, is an ‘ethno-nationalist’ party. That is, we espouse, like many political parties all over the world, the interests of the particular ethnic groups to which we belong. There is nothing fascistic or unusual about this, and we don’t have to apologise for it. If we must describe our attitude towards race, it is ‘racial realism,’ as no-one can admit being against realism.
Rule #15. BNP activists and writers should never refer to ‘black Britons’ or ‘Asian Britons’ etc, for the simple reason that such persons do not exist. These people are ‘black residents’ of the UK etc, and are no more British than an Englishman living in Hong Kong is Chinese. Collectively, foreign residents of other races should be referred to as ‘racial foreigners’, a non-pejorative term that makes clear the distinction needing to be drawn. The key in such matters is above all to maintain necessary distinctions while avoiding provocation and insult.
Rule #17. Britain does not have ‘immigrants,’ a term proper for use in settler societies like Canada, Argentina, and the USA. It has ‘guest workers,’ ‘foreign workers,’ or ‘descendants of foreign workers.’ They are, depending on who they are, ‘racial foreigners,’ ‘religious foreigners’ or ‘persons of foreign religion,’ or ‘ethnic foreigners.’ The last term is meant to apply to persons racially similar to Britons, but ethnically dissimilar, like Dutchmen.Meanwhile, Charlie Brooker tears into the BNP's ugly campaign materials:
The other day, the BNP had a political broadcast on the box. I wasn't in my beloved homeland at the time, but I heard about it, via internet chuckles of derision. Fellow geeky types tweeting about the poor production values. I looked it up on YouTube. Sure enough, it was badly made. No surprise there. Extremist material of any kind always looks gaudy and cheap, like a bad pizza menu. Not because they can't afford decent computers - these days you can knock up a professional CD cover on a pay-as-you-go mobile - but because anyone who's good at graphic design is likely to be a thoughtful, inquisitive sort by nature. And thoughtful, inquisitive sorts tend to think fascism is a bit shit, to be honest. If the BNP really were the greatest British party, they'd have the greatest British designer working for them - Jonathan Ive, perhaps, the man who designed the iPod. But they don't. They've got someone who tries to stab your eyes out with primary colours.
The UK's National Children's Bureau has issued new guidelines to nursery teachers, saying that expressing a dislike for spicy or foreign food should be considered racist behaviour, and corrected.
The guide goes on to warn that children might also "react negatively to a culinary tradition other than their own by saying 'yuk'".
Staff are told: "No racist incident should be ignored. When there is a clear racist incident, it is necessary to be specific in condemning the action."
Warning that failing to pick children up on their racist attitudes could instil prejudice, the NCB adds that if children "reveal negative attitudes, the lack of censure may indicate to the child that there is nothing unacceptable about such attitudes".I wonder whether disliking spicy food is absolutely unacceptable, or whether it is acceptable if one has a doctor's note saying that one has a sensitive stomach. And, indeed, whether the authors of the guidelines have been influenced by Sasha Frere-Jones' assertion that expressing a dislike of hip-hop music is racist.
There is controversy after London mayor Boris "watermelon smiles" Johnson made the Rise music festival drop its anti-racism message, in favour of a less contentious statement about "culture" and "community". It's not clear what happened there. Was he repaying a debt to the pro-racism lobby? Shoring up his support among Daily Mail readers? Or was this a case of his anti-leftist cold-warrior instincts deciding that "anti-racism" is a codeword for "Marxist socialism" or somesuch? (The latter could hold water, with Johnson banning the Cuba Solidarity Campaign's stage from the festival, though one could argue that such an event could be propaganda for what is a totalitarian regime, albeit one with splendidly good PR.)
Keeping his promise, Australian PM Kevin Rudd officially apologises to Aborigines on behalf of the Australian nation; the apology was delivered at a special parliamentary session, which was (for the first time) opened with an Aboriginal ceremony, rather than the traditional English one usually used. Former PM John Howard, the hard-right nationalist who steadfastly refused to apologise and sent the rottweilers in to hunt down anyone promulgating a "politically correct black-armband view of history", was nowhere to be seen, though the current opposition leader, Brendan Nelson, joined in the apology, though reportedly caused outrage when adding in his speech that the present generation is not guilty. (That can't be good for his career, alienating both sides and all.)
Australia's Aborigines are split on the apology; by reports, most welcome it as a positive sign, though some say that an apology without reparations is not good enough, as talk is cheap; in the words of one, "the blackfella gets the words, the whitefella keeps the money".
As overt expressions of racism become unacceptable, good ol' boys in the US South have adapted by referring to black people as "Canadians":
Last August, a blogger in Cincinnati going by the name CincyBlurg reported that a black friend from the southeastern U.S. had recently discovered that she was being called a Canadian. "She told me a story of when she was working in a shop in the South and she overheard some of her customers complaining that they were always waited on by a Canadian at that place. She didn't understand what they were talking about and assumed they must be talking about someone else," the blogger wrote.
A University of Kansas linguist said that a waitress friend reported that "fellow workers used to use a name for inner-city families that were known to not leave a tip: Canadians. ‘Hey, we have a table of Canadians.... They're all yours.' "
Stefan Dollinger, a postdoctoral fellow in linguistics at University of British Columbia and director of the university's Canadian English lab, speculated that the slur reflects a sense of Canadians as the other. "This ‘code' word, is the replacement of a no-longer tolerated label for one outsider group, with, from the U.S. view, another outsider group: Canadians. It could have been terms for Mexicans, Latinos etc. but this would have been too obvious," he said. "What's left? Right, the guys to the north."The comments to the Boing Boing post which mentioned this are enlightening as well:
I work with an American who recently emigrated to Canada from one of the "suh-then" states. He tells me our early stance against the "war" on Iraq left a bad taste toward Canada in the rural south. Raw hate and "we should invade those b*stards and kick them out on an ice flow" rage was quite common in his semi-rural area. Using "Canadian" in this fashion would be a logical progression. They're not being ironic at all.
My friend has parents that used to use the word frequently until she married an actual Canadian. When she told them that he was Canadian they went totally ape-shit. She informed them that they were not invited to the wedding. When they found out he wasn't black (oh the relief... you should've seen it), they apologized. They're still bigots, but possibly one degree less so now.
I live in Pennsylvania, where I've heard a similar practice; many of my father's friends use the term "Democrat" instead of "Canadian" for the exact same purpose. Most of these guys are old, white Republicans, and many of them are also Freemasons.
Actually, the term "Canadian" in reference to black people has been around and in prevalent use for years, like seven or eight of them. It can't have taken that long for the mainstream to have figured that out. The new term is "German" because it was feared that black folks were catching on to the "Canadian" thing a couple of years ago.It is not clear whether "Canadian" started off as restaurant slang for "cheapskate" (presumably due to Canada not having a tipping culture as in the US due to higher minimum wages?) or was a racist euphemism all along.
Irony of the day: James Watson, the disgraced Nobel laureate who recently claimed that people of African descent are less intelligent than those of European descent, is found to have genes indicating recent African ancestry. More specifically, 16% of Watson's genome is likely to have come from a black ancestor of African descent, whereas with the average European, that figure is 1%:
"This level is what you would expect in someone who had a great-grandparent who was African," said Kari Stefansson of deCODE Genetics, whose company carried out the analysis. "It was very surprising to get this result for Jim."
I have so far mostly refrained from commenting on the Australian election campaign. In short, it has looked like the Opposition would win by a landslide—much as it has in the previous two elections, in which they got caned. However, now it's looking like the real thing; the much vaunted "Narrowing" of the polls has failed to materialise (the opinion polls, both public and private, have hovered within a margin of error of the 55-45 mark for some months). Even the ABC is biting the hands of its despised master, seemingly confident that the punishment will not be forthcoming.
The Tories, it goes without saying, are panicking. All the rocks they've thrown at the Rudd juggernaut have failed to derail it. It seems that they have been unable to manufacture a "children overboard" or pull any rabbits out of a hat. So now they are resorting to desperate tactics, such as printing pamphlets from a fake, if ominous-sounding, "Islamic Australia Federation" urging people to vote Labor, because of "its support for Muslim causes", such as, say, the Bali bombings:
"We gratefully acknowledge Labor's support to forgive our Muslim brothers who have been unjustly sentenced to death for the Bali bombings," the pamphlet says.
"Labor is the only political party to support the entry to this country of our Grand Mufti Reverend Sheik al-Hilaly and we thank Honourable Paul Keating for overturning the objections of ASIO to allow our Grand Mufti to enter this country."Did you see what they did there? It's not even a dog whistle. They could have hardly been more gormless if they threw in a mention to Labor's multiculturally-correct support for the practices of gang rape and honour killing or somesuch.
The trail for the pamphlets appears to lead straight back to various Liberal Party volunteers, who have been sacked. If anything, it's a sign of their desperation that they couldn't wait to get one of their once-removed black-bag outfits like the Exclusive Brethren to do it.
On the other hand, the election is not over. There is still the possibility that Howard will get back in (or that the Tories will get back in while he'll lose his seat). Granted, it's a lot less of a possibility than before, though if anyone can pull off a dirty victory from behind, it's Howard, the Voldemort of Australian politics. I won't be celebrating his demise until I read his concession speech.
In what could be a blow to the cause of international xenophobes' solidarity, the far-right bloc in the EU parliament looks set to collapse after five Romanian nationalist MPs threatened to quit over remarks by Italian member Alessandra Mussolini. Ms. Mussolini (the grand-daughter of the Fascist leader) described the Romanian people as "habitual law-breakers", and perhaps more damagingly, claimed to see little difference between them and the Roma (Gypsies), a group which the Romanian nationalist group despise. Oops!
St. Et's Bob Stanley writes in The Times about music critic Sasha Frere-Jones (the one who denounced Stephin Merritt as a racist for not putting any black artists on a playlist he picked for the New York Times) and his one-man crusade against the white-supremacist tendency in indie music:
In a feature published last month entitled A Paler Shade of White, Frere-Jones recalled an Arcade Fire show, which he said was enjoyable, but not exactly funky. “Why did so many white rock bands retreat from the ecstatic singing and intense, voice-like guitar tones of the blues, the heavy African downbeat . . . that characterised black music of the mid-20th century?” he asked.
The question seems anachronistic, and oddly myopic, and, like an inverted Alf Garnett, he has unsurprisingly caused instant offence. Playboy wrote: “Frere-Jones has demonstrated himself every bit the racist for buying into this pathetically regressive set of ideas.” The more gracious Arcade Fire sent the writer an MP3 of chunks of their music to prove that they “steal quite blatantly from black people”.
Frere-Jones’s New Yorker article harks back with fondness to the blues-wailing Seventies rock of Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk Railroad, with Mick Jagger lauded as “an original” and “a product of miscegenation” with apparently no equivalent today. He believes that the intermingled blood began to separate in the Nineties, an argument that would put him at loggerheads with almost any British writer.
“It’s complicated even there,” Tyondai Braxton [of Battles] says. “White America, white Europe, has had no problem assimilating. This is great, but it can be dangerous. You have to remember that this is still a sensitive issue. We are talking about one of the most displaced cultures in the world, trying to create its own foundation. It created blues, funk, hip-hop, and, with hip-hop especially, it’s saying: ‘You can’t copy this ghetto life, this is real truth.’ It’s a flag. Right now I think black culture is going through a preservational state.”
A family in the Northern English city of Newcastle claim that they have been forced to move home twice afrer being violently persecuted for their red hair. WTF? That's insane.
British menswear chain Burton has egg on its face after it emerged that the decorative Cyrillic text on a T-shirt it was selling was actually an extreme-right anti-immigrant slogan, translating as "We will cleanse Russia of all non-Russians":
The shirt's overall design is an odd jumble of ersatz French logo and Russian iconography, but there is no mistaking the nature of the sentiment, which uses the old word for Russia, "Rus" as a way of distinguishing between ethnic Russians and those with Russian citizenship. "I've spoken to a Russian friend," says Mr Shuttleworth, "and she said you would be arrested if you wore it in Russia."
The phrase is typical of those painted on foreigners' homes by Russian neo-nazis.Burton has blamed one of its suppliers for the gaffe, saying it was told that the slogan read merely "be proud of Russia".
An African-American woman in Toronto who recently bought a sofa was shocked to find that it was labelled with racial epithets. Packaging on the chocolate-coloured sofa described it as "Color:Nigger-brown".
"She's very curious and she started reading the labels," Moore explained. "She said, `Mommy, what is nig ... ger brown?' I went over and just couldn't believe my eyes."The retailer blamed the incident on the manufacturer in Guangzhou, China.
This is not the only incident of English-language labels on imported products having been written seemingly with ignorance of taboo words. One I heard about involved the assembly instructions for a piece of furniture. Next to a diagram of a screw being driven into a hole was the one-word instruction, "Fuck".
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Last night, I visited the local video library a rather good one in Stoke Newington Church St., which has a lot of art-house/foreign films) and rented a copy of C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America.
This is a mockumentary, presenting an alternate history in which the slave-holding South, rather than the abolitionist North, won the American Civil War, and formed what we know as America. It presents this history from the Civil War (in which the South managed to get British and French support for its cause, in the interest of "private property rights"), through the reconstruction (in which the values of the slave-holders are imposed on the North, successfully, and all non-whites become slaves), wars of conquest across South America (forming a "tropical empire", of the sort envisioned by Confederate leaders, governed under a policy of racial "apartness"), through to the present day CSA. The documentary is framed as an imported British documentary being presented on a CSA TV channel; it is preceded by a disclaimer as to its "controversial nature" and interspersed with ads, which shed some light on life in an early-21st-century Confederate America; these include advertisements for cable-TV slave-shopping programmes and electronic tracking bracelets, Cops-style TV programmes about federal agents hunting down runaway slaves, and public-service announcements urging citizens to beware of the disease of homosexuality and report suspected racially-impure people passing as white to the government.
What does the C.S.A. circa 2004 look like? Well, people with any non-white blood are, by law, slaves, Christianity is the state religion (generously, and narrowly, allowing Catholicism to be considered Christian), women are not allowed to vote, Jews are confined to Long Island, and there is a cold war with "Red Canada", which harbours abolitionist "terrorists" and is the home of rock'n'roll and "race music". (Canada is not alone; virtually everyone but South Africa has imposed sanctions on the C.S.A.) Those are the obvious and spectacular differences; on a more subtle level, the C.S.A. is a much more conformistic and authoritarian culture. The mindset which allows ordinary people, who see themselves as good and decent, to tolerate and participate in slavery is one in which society is organised along strong chains of authority and hierarchy, which are seen as part of the order of nature. (One example of this is in an ad early in the film, for an insurance company, which mentions that the father is "master of the house".) With acceptance of arbitrary authority comes the acceptance of beliefs on the basis of faith in authority, and unsurprisingly, the values of the religious right are dominant in the C.S.A. (in one scene, there is a shot of the front page of "CSA Today", which includes a story about scientists disproving evolution). Not surprisingly, this mindset and the focus on "purity" creates a stagnant, homogeneous culture, one seeming in some ways quaintly archaic (one example is music and entertainment programming on its television stations, where, of course, all black influences are banned). Quoting from a friend, it is Pleasantville meets Triumph Of The Will.
C.S.A. has its lighter moments as well; artistic licence is employed to ensure that the history doesn't diverge too wildly from the world we know, but instead parallels it, mirroring and counterpointing. For example, the C.S.A. enters World War 2 after launching a surprise attack on a Japanese naval base; John F. Kennedy is assassinated, right on cue, for having suspected abolitionist sympathies, and the Clinton sex scandal is echoed, quote for quote, in the investigation into a politician's racial make-up.
All in all, C.S.A. was quite an interesting and thought-provoking film, and is worth a look.
A group of British expatriates in Australia, fed up with being stereotyped as hygienically-challenged chronic complainers, is pushing to have pejorative comments about "poms" classified as racial discrimination. British People Against Racial Discrimination (BPARD) has launched a legal action to ban a television advertisement featuring "an overweight, pale, balding man in a Union Jack T-shirt cringing in fear at the offer of a cold beer".
BPARD, which is run by a committee of 14 and claims to have branches in Perth and Melbourne, said yesterday through its spokesman, David Thomason: "The Oxford Dictionary classes Pom as being derogatory, just like wog, wop, dink, dago, coon and abo."Apparently they don't stand much chance of being taken seriously.
(Btw, are Poms just the English, or would Scots and Welsh be classified as Poms?)
Slate's John Cook looks at the issue of whether disliking hip-hop makes one a racist, and specifically, whether allegations of racism against Stephin Merritt, who has made statements about his dislike of hip-hop, are justified:
[N]o less an influential music critic than The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones has used that word —"cracker"—to describe him. Frere-Jones has also called him "Stephin 'Southern Strategy' Merritt," presumably in reference to Richard Nixon's race-baiting attempt to crush the Democratic Party. These are heady words, part of a two-year online campaign of sorts by Frere-Jones (also a former Slate music critic) and the Chicago Reader music contributor Jessica Hopper to brand Merritt a racist. The charge: He doesn't like hip-hop, and on those occasions when he's publicly discussed his personal music tastes, he has criticized black artists.The Slate article concludes that the charges are, if you'll excuse the pun, without merit:
If black artists are underrepresented in my CD collection relative to the frequency with which black people are found in the general population, does that make me a racist? To even begin to believe that it does, you have to first maintain that racial preferences somehow logically relate to music preferences; that racists avoid music made by black people, and that people who aren't racist don't pay attention to the race of the artist when evaluating music. Both propositions are ludicrous. Anybody who has been to a frat party knows that people can simultaneously a) entertain racist attitudes and b) enjoy listening to hip-hop music created by black people. (In fact, Merritt's argument is that the latter tends to reinforce the former.)
The closest thing to a coherent argument that can be gleaned from what Frere-Jones and Hopper are saying is that a genuine respect for our common dignity and humanity requires that we enjoy listening to hip-hop, and that we bend our intuitive aesthetic judgments about music to a political will—like eating our vegetables and avoiding dessert. "Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah" may be catchy and delightfully mindless, but an understanding of its context requires you to reject its charms. And Beyoncé may be trite and boring, but your subtle racist ideology provokes that reaction, so you must find a way to appreciate her music.
And if you can't? Try harder, cracker.Of course, it depends whether on one's definition of "racist". If one defines racism as any deviation (outside a margin of sampling error) from the ratios in which racial/ethnic/cultural groups are represented in the cultural marketplace, then disproportionately liking "white" or "black" music would be racist; as would, for example, being more attracted to members of one ethnic group than another. However, such a definition of racism would damn almost the entire human race, and do little towards defining more meaningful definitions. And then there's the question (which Merritt himself raised) of whether some present hip-hop, which presents stereotypical images of black criminality for the consumption of predominantly suburban white teenagers, is problematic. Which suggests that this issue is not entirely cut and dried.
(Note the quotes around "black" and "white" music. The definition is a slippery one. Is expensively produced, extensively market-researched R&B, which would not exist in its present form without major-record-label investment and a huge market not limited to any one ethnic group, authentic "black" music? What if you replace R. Kelly with Justin Timberlake? Is Jennifer Lopez (who once considered herself entitled to use the N-word in lyrics) an honorary black person for the purposes of musical consumption? Is rock'n'roll (which is based on the blues) "white" music. And then there's Elvis Presley, Al Jolson and so on. In some ways, what gets classified as "black" music is that whose sound hasn't yet melted into the lexicon of the mainstream. The Spice Girls' first single, "Wannabe" (which, at the time, sounded closer to Salt'n'Pepa than the white manufactured all-girl pop groups from PWL and their ilk), could be said to sound more "black" than much of Prince's 1980s output (which, today, sounds more "1980s" than anything racially or ethnically specific.) And rock'n'roll, once seen as dangerously swarthy by pillars of (white) communities everywhere, is now the very definition of "whitebread", almost as much so as country music.
And in this discussion thread, Steve Albini weighs in on the issue:
Having had a distaste for hip hop since its earliest days, I have run afoul of this mentality for twenty-odd years. If you are involved in contemporary music, it is presumed that you appreciate hip-hop, or are at least deferential toward it as an arm of black culture.
I have equivalent genre distaste for almost all heavy metal (hip hop's culture-mirror equivalent), pastiche production pop music like Brintey Spears, Beyonce, Avril Lavigne et al, the REM-U2-Radiohead axis of millionaire dabbling, trash auteurs like Outkast, Beck and the Beastie Boys, teenager fake punk, and melismatic divas like Celine Dion. This is less in service of elitism than in making it possible for me to walk directly to the part of the record store where the good records are. I know what kinds of music speak to me the least, so I don't spend my energy combing through them looking for exceptions.
Picking on a tiny Southern queer for his music tastes and calling him a "cracker" is about as stupid as criticism can get.
Reportage of Hurricane Katrina cast a disturbing light on race relations in Louisiana: in news reports, black people "loot", while white people "find".
A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005.
Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store...An alternative explanation could be that the reports, though, came from two different press agencies (AP and AFP, respectively), and could reflect one having more explicitly nonjudgmental style policies than the other, as opposed to racism, subconscious or otherwise. One wonders whether, if they picked up any random reports of black and white people salvaging food, they would show such a racial bias of judgment, or whether these two reports were juxtaposed by coincidence or deliberate selection.
Among the hipsters of Williamsburg, New York, the next step after freely using the N-word in the knowledge that one's postmodern ironic detachment automatically gives one the level of enlightenment to get out of any accusations of racism is having parties parodying the illest crunk thugged-out sex-nasty excesses of black culture in a safe (i.e., all-white, all-hipster) environment:
What that means, precisely, is debatable, but it has something to do with young white hipsters believing they can shed white privilege by parodying the black hip-hop life. In this way, they hope to escape their uptight conditioning and get in touch with the looser soul within them.
Of course, it's arguable whether it's not just privileged white kids poking fun at (a parody of) black culture for a laugh, reaffirming that they're above it because they can don it as a costume and then take it off, and then going back to their privileged white lives, smug in the awareness of their superiority; much like hipster appropriations of working-class culture (trucker caps and redneck paraphernalia), only with an added racial dimension. The counter-argument would be along the lines of the hipsters in question being sufficiently enlightened, by virtue of their postmodern upbringing, to be exempt from accusations of racism, which is a rather debatable proposition.
A few months ago, 29-year-old Sharda Sekaran was hitting dance spots with friends when she stumbled into a Kill Whitie party. "There was a bunch of white people acting like a raunchy hip-hop video," she said. "I don't get why that wouldn't be a characterization of black people for the entertainment of themselves."
Casady was raised in Santa Barbara, Calif., but quickly notes her worldliness by listing the cities where she has lived along the trail to Brooklyn. A regular Kill Whitie partygoer, she tried the conventional (that is, non-hipster) hip-hop clubs but found the men "really hard-core." In this vastly whiter scene, Casady said that "it's a safe environment to be freaky."
His street fliers come emblazoned with the words "Kill Whitie" across a woman's backside. Another flier offers free admission to anyone with a bucket of fried chicken.It's not just New York's hipsters either; I seem to recall hearing that some of the Melbourne Shake Some Action coolsies were getting really into the booty-bass thing a year or so ago.
It has been confirmed that the tube bombings were carried out by British-born suicide bombers. This is something pretty much everyone was hoping not to hear: for one, it is next to impossible to defend against suicide bombers (the admonitions to look out for unaccompanied bags are, of course, useless; meanwhile, some claim that the body-scanning machines to be installed on the Tube at massive expense will only provide suicide bombers with long queues to blow themselves up near). In Israel, they have metal detectors and explosive detectors everywhere (you can't enter a reasonable-sized public space without being scanned), and that doesn't seem to have stemmed the tide of carnage. And guess what: we're all Israelis now.
The fact that the bombers were British-born, showed no sign of association with Islamist extremists, and were known, among other things, to good-naturedly play cricket at a local club in Leeds is even more chilling. It can't be good for relations between Britain's Islamic communities and the rest of the country; already, those neo-Nazi hatemongers, the British National Party, have been making hay from the tragedy.
Tory-affiliated British magazine The Spectator has a rather arch write-up of the Schapelle Corby spectacle and reaction to it in Australia: (registration required)
It's the ultimate reality TV show. Corby, who seems to be the only bule (foreigner) in Bali who doesn't sweat, has adapted well to her starring role. In jail she has slimmed down from a plumpish and brassy suburban shrill to a demure girl-next-door. Last week she added an elegant and much-fingered necklace crucifix to her outfit. The news execs love it, but their concern for Corby contrasts with their apparent indifference to the plight of the dozen or so other Australians -- Asian Australians -- held elsewhere in the region and either charged with or convicted of drug-smuggling.
Australians fancy they see something of the Gallipoli spirit in Corby. She has been cast as a humble "Aussie battler" abandoned by her government and struggling in vain to overcome an insurmountable foreign adversary. The enemy is not "Johnny Turk" this time but the "brutal" Indonesian legal system which has the nerve to conduct its affairs in Bahasa Indonesia, not Australian English. As Corby fans see it, the bases were clearly all loaded against their girl, the sinister outcome predetermined in Indonesia's murky shadows.
Though could one think of a better folk hero for a nation which prides itself on its larrikinism, whose unofficial national anthem is a song about a sheep thief, and where an armed robber has been transformed into everything from Robin Hood to the spiritual father of the Australian Labor Party and/or the Republican movement? Especially in the age of reality-TV, where photogenic looks and image management count for a lot.
At the end, the article ties in the spectacle to the latte-sipping-cosmopolitan-elite-vs.-silent-majority-of-suburban-battlers culture-war dialectic:
The demographer Bernard Salt says the Corby matter explodes what has always been the myth of Australian egalitarianism. Salt has previously noted, controversially, that Australia, like most countries, has an educated minority, a cultural and cosmopolitan elite that directs its politics, its economy, its popular culture, with the majority functionong as essentially its market. He says that Australia's cosmopolitans account for at most one million of the nation's 20 million people.
But the elite aren't calling the shots on this one. There has been talk of a "redneck coup". And the circus shows no signs of packing up. A new lawyer has just been appointed to handle Our Schapelle's appeal. I met him last week, and he did not disappoint me. His name is Paris Hutapea, and he carries two sidearms (a Beretta and a Walther), sports shiny blue suits and an impressive mullet, and drives to work in a Humvee. His fingers drip with opal and diamond rings. He and big sister Mercedes should hit it off.
Meanwhile, Bruce Schneier writes about the anthrax scare at the Indonesian embassy, revealing that, since 9/11. there has been a white-powder scare in Australia on average every four days (most of which have been kept out of the news by the Australian press's (voluntary) D-notice regime).
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Photogenic Australian drug smuggler convicted in Indonesia, sentenced to 20 years. This is a somewhat more lenient sentence than many were expecting; initially she was facing the death penalty, though presumably the economic pressure of a potential Australian boycott of Bali prevailed. If she wasn't a photogenic young woman with the tabloid media on her side, she'd probably be facing a firing squad (much as nine other less fortunate Australians are set to do).
Meanwhile, the government is quick to make political hay with a populist gesture of donating two QCs to work on her appeal, paid for by your taxes, and working on a prisoner-transfer agreement to save her the indignity of a barbaric Indonesian jail (expect the Schapelle Corby Act 2005 to show up in Hansard soon); you'd think there was an election coming up or something. An much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensues online:
"I am devestated with the verdict of the Indonesian Courts for Schapelle Corby. When the verdict was given, I fell into a bit of a heap, but Schapelles strength made me gain my composure pretty quickly.
"strength"? Looks like Australia has now found its Princess Di. Look for discount mobile-phone baron Ron Bakir, who owns the trademark on "Schapelle Corby", to make a mint in the commemorative-mug trade.
Some sought to tie Australia's tsunami aid to the issue. Bryan Griffin wrote: "I am sure that all people, not just Australians will also feel sick. "Maybe some of the donations made by us for the disaster should be returned to pay her fine. It's like a double wammy for Indonesia and their finances.Note the subtexts there: the life of an Australian convicted of drug trafficking is worth more than those of Indonesians affected by the tsunami. And the fact that she was convicted of drug trafficking is irrelevant, because we all know that Indonesian courts are corrupt. The fact that the "evidence" for the defence consisted of prison hearsay that no Australian court would have accepted seems to have gotten conveniently lost along the way.
And, of course, the Australian media's content-free, sensationalist beat-up hasn't helped things.
I wonder whether Indonesian restaurants across Australia are hanging up prominent "Schapelle is Innocent" signs (which, I imagine, the Herald-Sun will provide) in their windows to avoid being summarily boycotted or worse, much as Afghan restaurants proclaimed their opposition to terrorism after 9/11.
Things I did not know until today:
There used to be a group called the Society for the Prevention of Calling Sleeping Car Porters George. Furthermore, this group was not (as the name suggests) a silly joke, but a serious anti-racism organisation, counting among its number the likes of King George V. and "Babe" Ruth.
I read it on Wikipedia, so it must be true.
Panzerfaust Records, one of the largest record companies in the neo-Nazi "white power" music scene, appears to have gone out of business after one of the owners accused the other of being half-Hispanic:
As a result, and Pierpont's refusal to take a DNA test, Calvert wrote last month that he would quit the company and so would its webmaster. The center reports that influential hate groups Hammerskin Nation and Volksfront also denounced Pierpont.
The Free Your Mind site said that any business done with Pierpont should be considered "an act of treason."
Controversy has erupted after a Christian school in North Carolina introduced into its classes a booklet defending slavery in the South. The booklet, titled Southern Slavery, As It Was, attempts to provide a Biblical justification for the institution of slavery, asserting that the Confederate South was the last true Christian civilisation, and claims that the life of slaves was one of plenty and simple pleasures, with nearly every slave enjoying a higher standard of living than the poor whites:
"Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence." (page 24)
"There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world." (page 24)
The school insists that the booklet merely provides a balanced view of the institution of slavery; critics argue that it goes beyond that, and provides a theological justification for the neo-Confederate movement. (via bOING bOING)
An airliner headed from London to Washington was recently diverted to Bangor, Maine, so that former folk singer Yusuf Islam could be removed and deported. Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens and currently an outspoken moderate Muslim, is apparently on the US Department of Homeland Security's blacklist of potential terrorists. Laziness and bigotry, or do the DHS know something we don't about Yusuf Islam?
While on the subject of blacklists, millions of Americans (predominantly blacks and those from lower socioeconomic strata) are still being barred or discouraged from voting. This ranges from laws in ex-Confederate states preventing those with criminal convictions from ever voting to official letters intimidating those likely to have outstanding bills with the threat of arrest.
I went to a Film Festival screening today, seeing Skinhead Attitude, a documentary about the history of the skinhead movement. It outlined the origins of skinhead in the UK ska scene, the spread of it among sharp young working-class people who were in it for the music, the hijacking of the skinhead thing by the neo-Nazis (starting with Skrewdriver and going on to UK terrorist group Combat 18 and some rather scary American Nazis who probably have never heard of ska in their suburban compounds in Texas), the corresponding rise of the anti-racist skinhead movement (SHARP and such), and the increasing marginalisation from both sides of the "authentic" skinheads who are just in it for the music and the culture. The documentary, in French and English (with alternating subtitles), consisted of interviews with various people (old-school skinheads, band members, and some racists and anti-racists as well), footage of gigs, gatherings, incidents and of locations (a riot at a concert in Krakow, the killing of two anti-racists by neo-Nazis in Nevada, London from a train window, and so on). I found it rather interesting.
Before this, there was a short film; a photoessay on the French 1970s rocker/biker/neo-Nazi subcultures, with a narration over the top by the photographer, a young Jewish man who was a rocker and ended up hanging around with neo-Nazis and taking photos.
A look behind the scene of Aryanfest, a neo-Nazi/white-supremacist love-in held recently in Arizona, and attended by 300 people, from skinheads to family groups, from the former Saddam Hussein supporter who wants to nuke Washington to the mixed-up Mexican neo-Nazi who got unceremoniously kicked out:
The atmosphere inside Aryanfest was that of a Renaissance Fair gone over to the dark side, with "Heils" in place of "Huzzahs." Costumed attendees wore Iron Cross medallions and black bomber jackets emblazoned with swastika patches instead of studded leather armor and princess dresses. A Nazi memorabilia dealer hawked SS patches and framed photographs of Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Rudolph Hess in the parking lot. Next to the stage was a picnic pagoda, serving as the Aryanfest day-care center, where little white children in skinhead clothes colored in white power coloring books. Directly next door to the pagoda was a tattoo booth, where the incessant high-pitched buzz of a tattoo gun sounded from behind a blue tarp curtain. Beside the Panzerfaust merchandise stand was the Women for Aryan Unity booth, which sold child-rearing guides and White Nationalist Baby magazines, including one containing a simplified biography of Hitler suitable for bedtime stories: "He was a lifelong lover of animals and children . . . He is invincible and victory shall one day be his."
The police were happy that white-separatist group Volksfront's prediction of 1,000 people attending did not come true. But Browning said with a wry smile, "That's still a good-sized crowd. Come on, 300-plus racists in one place without a fight?"
In related news, a 36-year-old Oregon woman was arrested after having painted swastikas on an abandoned gas station. Her rationale: "I just wanted to show my heritage". She was also found in possession of methamphetamines. (via rotten.com)
It looks like there have been some interesting films at this year's Sundance:
The provocative CSA: The Confederate States of America is an odd hybrid, a sci-fi mockumentary that poses as a BBC (renamed BBS) production from an alternate universe. Film-maker Kevin Willmott takes a simple, daring conceit and pushes it to the max.
The idea? The north lost the civil war, the south won - simple. Framed as television programming, with fictional commercials and newscasts alternating with the BBS history programme, CSA sucker-punches its audiences with poisonous hilarity. Take the shot of the first astronaut on the moon, for instance, planting the Confederate flag. Or the story of Abraham Lincoln trying to escape to Canada with the help of Harriet Tubman, founder of the underground railroad. Besides Willmott's brilliant history lessons, his film's pleasures also derive from the spot-on parodies of documentary form and television marketing. Slave-shopping network, anyone?
The Free Pauline Hanson campaign rolls on with vigils outside her prison, and her son releasing a song proclaiming her innocence. It makes one wonder what's next: a commemorative plate edition perhaps?
A Guardian piece denouncing the Lord of the Rings as racist; in particular, taking issue with the way that the entire orc race is condemned, and the problematic characterisation of good and evil ethnicities and races:
To cap it all, the races that Tolkien has put on the side of evil are then given a rag-bag of non-white characteristics that could have been copied straight from a BNP leaflet. Dark, slant-eyed, swarthy, broad-faced - it's amazing he doesn't go the whole hog and give them a natural sense of rhythm.
Over-the-top political correctness, or does he have a point? Is LotR any more "racist" than mainstream consensus was 50 years ago? If not, should old literature be sanitised or censored to kill the poisonous ideas lurking within it? (Perhaps it should be treated like Mein Kampf, and released only with scholarly annotations deconstructing it?) Discuss.
Seemingly going for the Pauline Hanson demographic, disposable Australian celebrity Dannii Minogue (she's the less talented one, apparently) recently was quoted ranting about Asian immigration and liberal policies in a British men's magazine. "Even some of the street signs are in Asian!", she is quoted as having opined, before coming down on Blair for being soft on crime, blaming crime on foreigners, and stating that French right-winger Jean-Marie Le Pen "struck a chord with people".
"She may have somewhat controversial political views but at least she has the defence of being Australian," he said.
There you have it; Australia is now seen as the new South Africa, that rough redneck cowboy state somewhere in the godforsaken Southern Hemisphere, where bigotry and narrow-mindedness are par for the course. If you're an Australian, people pretty much expect you to be racist, reactionary and xenophobic (and probably to scratch your arse in public and spit on the floor as well). Remember that next time you're in Europe, and give thanks to Pauline and Johnny.
People love a bigot (an ongoing saga): France's far-right demagogue Jean-Marie Le Pen has survived the first round of the Presidential election, beating the Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, once considered a favourite. While it is very unlikely that Le Pen will become President, this result has sent shockwaves through France and triggered spontaneous protests.
Recently declassified top-secret files have revealed that renowned Australian microbiologist and Nobel laureate Sir Macfarlane Burnet urged the Australian government to develop biological weapons to depopulate Asia, in case the swarthy nogooders decide to invade us.
The minutes of a meeting at Melbourne's Victoria Barracks in 1948 noted that Sir Macfarlane "was of the opinion that if Australia undertakes work in this field it should be on the tropical offensive side rather than the defensive. There was very little known about biological attack on tropical crops."
Nobel laureate James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, recently gave a talk at Berkeley, about the protein pom-C. In the talk, he made claims of biochemical connections between skin pigmentation, sexual activity, thinness and ambition, with more than the usual candour:
Witnesses were flabbergasted when the 72-year-old discoverer of the double helix suggested there was a biochemical link between exposure to sunlight and sexual urges. ``That's why you have Latin lovers,'' Watson said. ``You've never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient.''
The outcry of racism and sexism was immediate and resounding. The question is how much of that is because of Watson's abrasive style, and how much is the usual Marxist knee-jerk reaction against any concept of a biological basis for human nature?
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