With Friends Like These


I realise that if New Matilda were a country, it probably wouldn’t be ruled by a conservative government. But I am sure it must have some conservative readers, and in my case, at least one conservative writer.

Conservatism isn’t very popular in certain quarters. Listening to the way some conservative leaders carry on, it isn’t hard to guess why.

I am writing this piece after spending around 2.5 hours with 250 people at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, filming a 60 Minutes show on the Cronulla riots. I heard NSW Opposition Leader and Liberal State MP Peter Debnam repeatedly call for the jailing of ‘500 young Middle Eastern thugs’ who have allegedly been terrorising Sydney for over 10 years.

These kids must have been driving around Sydney in hotted-up cars and harassing people since they were in kindy!

Comments like Debnam’s make me wonder whether one needs to fail an IQ test to lead a conservative party these days. But then, so many of today’s conservatives are about as conservative as Josef Stalin. They play games with racial and religious tensions, their words parroting the worst rhetorical excesses of tin-pot dictators from the Middle East and Africa. And their media cheer squad of spin doctors and commentators aren’t much better.

The Islamic Republic of Victoria?

Dr Janet Albrechtsen is regarded as a media pin-up girl for the conservative side Australia’s very own Ann Coulter. Some might recall Coulter writing in the immediate aftermath of September 11 the following words of wisdom and good sense on the US-based pseudo-conservative website, ‘Townhall’ (link here):

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.

Thanks to Paul Batey

Albrechtsen, thankfully, never descends to this level. However, in a recent column for that American newspaper called The Australian, she airs her concerns that, ‘Victoria’s religious vilification laws are working in ways that make the place look like an Islamic State-in-waiting.’

This comment appeared in an Albrechtsen article after she spent some 15 paragraphs claiming that all Muslims across the Islamic world were getting completely violent and hysterical over the Danish cartoons.

Victoria’s religious vilification laws must have been fairly radical legislation. Let me guess: was it called the Ayatollah Khomeini Appreciation Act 2006? Or has Steve Bracks decided to change his title from Premier to Caliph? (See, One Nation had a point: those dimwits south of the Murray should never have allowed a Leb to become Premier!)

In the same article, Albrechtsen made some legitimate points about the hypocrisy of Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoons. I have made similar criticisms and comments and had them published elsewhere (link here), including in the Dominion Post (the NZ newspaper that recently published all 12 offending cartoons).

The difference between my criticisms and Albrechtsen’s is that I don’t regard all Muslim cultures as being absolutely inconsistent with Western values.

Miranda links Osama bin Reagan to Cronulla

Albrechtsen may have her prejudices. Heck, we all do. But at least she writes with vigour, passion and some intelligence.

Miranda Devine, on the other hand, rarely if ever displays much sophistication in her pieces. Her recent column analysing the international storm over the 12 cartoons is an example of this.

In one 900 word article, Devine somehow manages to find a way of linking the following: (link here)

Osama bin Reagan;
The September 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington;
An alleged unofficial policy to go soft on thugs responsible for post-Cronulla reprisal attacks;
The murder of a Dutch filmmaker;
A survey by a Victorian teachers’ union;
Driver’s licence photos;
Government initiatives to train home-grown imams.

And what do all these disparate and unrelated things have in common? Does Devine have a clue? Probably not. And who is the sole ‘authority’ cited by Devine in support of her thesis? None other than US hate-monger extraordinaire Daniel Pipes.

Playing the Pipes of War

For those wanting to see American Talibanism in action, I urge you to visit Daniel Pipes’s website (link here). Pipes has visited Australia on a number of occasions, usually at the invitation of the Centre for Independent Studies or some other conservative think tank.

On one occasion, Pipes suggested that ‘radical Islamists’ should be hunted down and eliminated. He estimated they constituted 10-15 per cent of the world’s Muslim population. Considering there are around 1.2 billion Muslims on this planet, this means Pipes wants to see at least 120 million Muslims massacred. Nice chap, isn’t he?

Pipes also suggests that the best way for nations to respond to the kidnapping of their citizens in Iraq is to lynch Muslim minorities (link here). His article was reproduced in the Melbourne Age on 15 September 2004 (link here)

In the context of the Danish cartoons, Pipes is once again peddling his conspiracy theories about how all those nasty Muslims are trying to take over Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand, the Moon, Saturn, etc.

With enemies like that

Seriously, I could go on and on about Albrechtsen and Devine and their sad excuse for conservative analysis. But ultimately I have to agree that they do have a point. The response of some Muslims in Damascus, Beirut and elsewhere has been completely over-the-top. Where these two commentators go wrong is they take that small minority of dimwits and attribute their stupid behaviour and antics to an entire faith community.

(Albrechtsen and Devine also are completely ill-equipped to talk about freedom of speech when they themselves have supported draconian sedition laws but that’s a separate point that can be discussed on another occasion.)

Writers like Albrechtsen and Devine seem to have a pathological hatred of Islam (I can only say ‘seem to have’ because I honestly don’t know what they really think). But some Muslims claiming to love Islam share a large responsibility in generating that hatred.

In Iran, a newspaper is having a Holocaust cartoon competition. That’s just so funny, isn’t it? I’m in stitches. Neo-cons produce cartoons and we retaliate against the memory of six million who died unjustly. Gee thanks, guys.

Muslims who go around burning embassies in the name of Islam are as evil and destructive as people who get drunk and stoned and go around singing the national anthem and waving our flag while assaulting anyone deemed ‘Middle Eastern.’

If you feel hurt about something, the worst thing you can do is lash out at innocent people. Because when you do, people who can make a difference start to ignore your grievances. They focus instead on the ugliness of what you did.

Muslim protestors need to understand that if they react and respond to every provocation out there, they will be screaming and shouting until the halal cows come home to be slaughtered. They have to remember (if you pardon me mixing metaphors) that they have bigger fish to fry.

The Albrechtsens and Devines of this world are actually doing Muslims a favour. Instead of spending more time hacking into them, I might consider inviting them out to lunch. Then we can talk as human beings and not as opponents in some intra-conservative war.

Sometimes those you perceive as your enemy do you more favours than sycophantic best mates. With enemies like that, who needs dumb friends?

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.