14 Feb 2011

Home Truths About Rudd

By Jake Lynch
A commonsense approach to political analysis can obscure the bigger sectional interests at play, argues Jake Lynch, in this follow up to his story on the Israel lobby and Rudd's downfall
I evidently touched a nerve with my article on the reversal of Australia's modest efforts to signal a more even-handed approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict under the Labor government after 2007. Kevin Rudd had, I wrote, tried to open up a little daylight between Canberra and Washington, with a series of diplomatic gestures — to the consternation of some of the party's influential friends. 

The prime mover in Rudd's defenestration, Mark Arbib, the NSW Senator and the Right's numbers man, was later unmasked as a US intelligence asset. In conversations with his handlers at the American embassy — revealed by Wikileaks — he lauded the credentials of Julia Gillard to take over. Once Gillard replaced Rudd, Australia reverted to its previous position in the hard core of seven countries prepared to back Israel in votes at the UN.

The pattern of slavish obeisance by Canberra to the Washington line is a familiar one, of course, and according to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, it is being carried on behind the scenes in dealings over him and his website. Julia Gillard initially pronounced Wikileaks' publication of diplomatic cables "an illegal act"; only to backtrack hastily as outrage among the legal profession and the public at large was crystallised by Opposition Legal Affairs spokesman George Brandis QC when he told Sky News, "As far as I can see, he (Assange) hasn't broken any Australian law. Nor does it appear he has broken any American laws".

In spite of the government's protestations since that it maintains a neutral position, Assange told Dateline's Mark Davis that Gillard and Attorney-General Robert McClelland are only "pretending to be hands-off", because of the strong support for WikiLeaks expressed by the Australian public. "There is assistance to the US [in efforts to indict Assange and to extradite him] — and that needs to come out", he added.

But to some commentators, such conspiratorial views of the political process do not ring true.

Shortly after my article appeared on New Matilda, I received a message from a hotmail address for one Walter Slurry, author of Not The Costello Memoirs and occasional satirical correspondent for Crikey. Apologising for hiding behind a nom de plume, the writer described himself as "a Labor 'insider', one of the faceless men who helped topple Kevin Rudd".

He proceeded to sketch a devastating and familiar portrait of the esteem in which Rudd was held by his parliamentary colleagues at the time of his ouster couched in terms too strong for a family website.

Rudd was a "devious little [see-you-next-Tuesday]", my correspondent wrote. "We hated him. He's not a true believer. He's as Labor as Turnbull is a large 'L' Liberal. We would have lost the election with Rudd at the helm. He'd buggered up our agenda. We dumped him the moment the numbers swung our way". There was, in other words, no need for "conspiracy theories" to explain his fall. Slurry might very well dismiss Assange's forebodings in similarly robust terms: we wait to find out.

Who ever Slurry is — he is a satirist but even if he has no real-life connection to the ALP or to the political class — his characterisation of Rudd's downfall meshes with popular conception, and with many of the comments posted on my original story: that the vapidities and reflexive deference to powerful interests that appear to constitute federal Labor's agenda under Gillard are attributable to a want of character or imagination in the party room.

This common perception reminds me, however, of one of HL Mencken's aphorisms: "To every complex problem there is a simple solution. And it is wrong". Professional political operators may have as little inclination to conceptualise the conduct and content of their endeavours as most journalists do. What appear to be "a few home truths" about conspiracies might lead a ministerial adviser to regard everyday pressures and constraints as simply the way it is — or a reporter to believe they are "just reporting the facts".

Academics are inclined — for better or worse — to enquire more deeply, in our quest to understand, or even explain the climate of expectations and frames of reference within which individuals, their words, deeds and policies are appraised.

It's a motif that runs through the most influential social science research of recent decades. Philip Zimbardo showed, in the infamous Stanford Prisoner Experiment, how apparently mild-mannered students could be transformed overnight into sadistic guards. His conclusion? We are all too inclined to attribute our responses to our disposition — the way we are — when we should attach much more importance, in understanding why people behave as they do, to the exigencies of the situation in which they find themselves. That is, we are well advised to look beyond the home truths.

French philosopher Michel Foucault mused that power is a name we give to "the complex strategic situation in society". There is such a thing as "the local cynicism of power" — it takes a Mark Arbib to plunge the knife into a Kevin Rudd. However, we should not look, Foucault said, for "the headquarters that presides over its rationality". Agency — things people do to bring about change, like sacking a prime minister — is not individual but decentred and dispersed. Plots become identifiable only when they crystallise a shift that is already underway more generally.

Perhaps it was when Rudd put himself offside with powerful networks, like the pro-Israel lobby and the mining industry — while simultaneously alienating portions of his support over asylum and climate change — that ALP insiders felt the flow of opinion turning decisively against him. He led the Opposition by projecting the public persona of a reassuring bank manager; but of course, shortly after he took office, bank managers became considerably less reassuring figures, with revelations of their recklessness that led to the GFC. Perhaps his underlings "just" got sick of him. Perhaps the diplomatic dividend, for Israel, of his replacement by his deputy, is entirely coincidental.

But the "home truths" view of political process has lost credibility in the age of Wikileaks. Hillary Clinton really was — we now know — seeking to manipulate deliberations at the UN by getting US diplomats to spy on their colleagues. The Pentagon — an earlier leak revealed — really was drawing up propaganda strategies to enable governments to bamboozle public opinion while keeping troops in Afghanistan. Wheels turn within wheels, and sectional interests grind away in the dark.

Assange's Dateline interview presages further disclosures — with a warning that more material implicating the Australian Government is on its way and that it involves a number of large companies and international politics. The shadows are receding fast.


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David Grayling
Posted Monday, February 14, 2011 - 12:29

Jake, the best thing about your article is that it is free from comment moderation.

The worst thing about it is its total lack of clarity, its meandering style, its overly long sentences.

What were you trying to say and who were you trying to say it to?


Posted Monday, February 14, 2011 - 17:37

I'm surprised that there is not more comment, scrutiny and discussion in the media and society in general regarding the 'closeness' of Mr Abib to the American embassy. He is effectively an american spy whilst at the same time an elected office holder. There are many countries where such a conflict of interests if exposed would have a swift and dire outcome. But the silence from the Australian press (and the coalition) is deafening. How come? Perhaps large chunks of the mainstream commentariat (and the coalition) are also beholden to the US Embassy.

David Grayling
Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 11:58

Gordicans, just as Americans are indoctrinated to think that their country is the greatest nation in the history of the world and they are the world's greatest people, so Australians are brainwashed by the media to think the same.

Most Australians, including politicians, have no idea of how dangerous America is or that it is trying to seize control of the world (for its own benefit, of course)!

Australians, in the main, have moved their worship of Britain to worship of America. Poor choice indeed.

When are we going to become independent and think for ourselves?


Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 13:28

David is correct, Jake, your intentions are unclear. I think you're telling us that conspiracy theories are often correct... Nice to have my fears confirmed. Gordicans, there is no media scrutiny of anything important to the economic welfare of our large corporations, because they own the media as well as the government. The internet is a godsend to those in power, it's a perfect demonstration of united we stand, divided we fall. When we all read the same independent editorials that dared to investigate, we knew everyone else was outraged..., but when a million different blogs with ten readers each expose the faults, there's no possibility of a general consensus.
We're sliding rapidly down the slippery slope towards total theocracy, anyway, so we'd better get used to doing what we're told unquestioningly, or take the consequences.

Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 15:03

I think the problem here is that the only coherent part of Lynch's last article was the anti-Semitism.

Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 16:05

Dear Jake,
Thanks for your pieces but I'm unsure of the point you're trying to make.
You seem to be suggesting that the conspiracy theories about Rudd's downfall pushed in the media are incorrect, but then (if I've got it right and I'm not at all sure I have) you seem to suggest that some ill-defined Zionist conspiracy may have been in some way responsible for his downfall.
It seems funny that no-one else - not even those heavily involved in ALP politics - has felt able to come to your conclusions about the Rudd's downfall.

Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 17:06

Excellent piece.

Apart from libel laws (by the rich for the rich), mainstream media censorship successfully obfuscates attempts at getting to the extent of Labor being in bed with the racist Zionists and the Zionist-beholden Americans.

Thus today eminent Australian political scientist and gay rights advocate Professor Dennis Altman (La Trobe) wrote an article in The Age On-line National Times section about Labor's foreign policy entitled "Wider world barely exists in PM's foreign policy vacuum" (see: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/wider-world-barely-exists-in-p... ).

Dennis Altman made a key observation: "In last week's Four Corners interview, the two countries she [Gillard] spoke of were Israel and the United States. It is unfortunate that she was not pressed further to explain why she is so staunch a defender of the current Israeli government, nor how she would deal with potential tension between the US and China."

I am regularly censored when I make comments (under my name, Dr Gideon Polya) on articles in The Age and almost invariably so if Israel, Palestine or Zionism are mentioned. After 4 hours since submission I guess my successive comments on Dennis Altman's article today and mentioning the 2010 pro-Zionist-led Coup have likewise been censored as containing things that the pro-Zionist The Age does not want its readers to know.

However I evade censorship by The Age by publishing my comments with a link to the article on the US-based Newsvine (thus for this instance see: http://gpolya.newsvine.com/_news/2011/02/14/6054234-oz-prof-altman-on-gi... ) and have created a documenting website called "Mainstream media censorship": https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/home .

My second comment on the Altman article to The Age today (unpublished so far) stated: "The reason that PM Gillard won't "articulate a vision of Australian commitment to a more just world" is likely to be the same as why my earlier carefully researched, referenced and credentialled comments on this article under my own name were evidently rejected (as are so many) as unfit for people to read - to whit, unacceptable domination of media and political life in Australia since the US-backed 1975 Coup (and reinforced by the 2010 pro-Zionist-led Coup) by the Zionist-dominated US and the Australian Zionist Lobby.

Anti-Semitism comes in 2 equally repugnant forms, anti-Arab anti-Semitism (e.g. the active and passive killing of 7 million Muslims so far in the Zionist-backed, Australian Labor-complicit US War on Terror; Google Muslim Holocaust, Muslim Genocide) and anti-Jewish anti-Semitism (e.g. the Labor defamation and endangerment of decent anti-racist Jews through support for the genocidal racist Zionists running the nuclear terrorist state of Apartheid Israel, to the exclusion of outstanding, anti-racist Jewish scholars from Arendt to Zinn).

For the views of numerous, outstanding anti-racist Jews that the simultaneously anti-Arab anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish anti-Semitic Apartheid Labor Party resolutely ignores see "Jews Against Racist Zionism"" (the link: https://sites.google.com/site/jewsagainstracistzionism/ )

Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.

Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 22:36

I’m not sure what the fuss is about Arbib. He wasn’t an instigator of the coup against Rudd. The first reports of the coup show that the coup was hatched in Victoria and Michael Danby was an instigator ( http://www.theage.com.au/national/gillard-becomes-australias-first-femal... )
Just prior to the coup, Danby was angry with Rudd for expelling the Mossad chief from Australia. He showed this both publically ( http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/expelling-israeli-diplomat-... ) and privately in the Lodge, accompanied by Israel Lobby leaders ( http://www.jewishnews.net.au/news/2010/06/10/rudd-reaches-out-to-leaders... ).
Arbib was not the only clandestine US informant uncovered by Wikileaks. Michael Danby and Bob McMullen were the other two ( http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/yank-in-the-ranks-20101... ).

Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 23:02


It is such a relief to read your opinions. I am so tired of the tabloid 'reasons/exuses' for Rudd's downfall.
I do no believe that the 'people' were disgruntled with his style of leadership at all. After 11 1/2 years of Howard it was such a relief to have a real 'leader' who was pulling Australia, kicking and screaming, back onto the path of compassion and reasonableness.

Thank you for your explanations and ideas that provoke a new way of thinking of the brokers of politics.

I am so so disappointed by the blurb that declared; 'We could not have won under Rudd', when we saw the result of the 'take over' faction.

I want leadership, vision and compassion.
I want truth.

I am languishing.

Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 09:33

As soon as I heard Rudd's plan to increase the Aussie population to 40Mill by next week, I knew he had to go. Housing. Infrastructure. WATER...

Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 12:08

The article seems to be a bit all over the place, but if we are talking Rudd.

My view has always been, he is a diplomat, and I leave it at that.

However, he was at the time the obvious choice to get rid of Howard.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. aussiegreg
Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 14:56

If it's a choice between a conspiracy and a cock-up, favour the . . .

Not that the coup against Rudd was a cock-up -- it saved Labor from defeat, and not because it got them a few extra dollars from the Jewish lobby.

I am not a Labor insider but I know a few who are, one of whom told me early last year about private polling the party had done in his and Rudd's state, Queensland. I've known him since our Uni days in the 70s, and watched him rise to be a Queensland Labor minister, and he has always been as reflexively anti-American and anti-Israeli as anyone at New Matilda, so I'm pretty sure his opinion-polling story is not a Mossad disinformation ploy!

He reckoned that polling suggested Queensland Labor was looking at a massacre to rival 1975 if Rudd led them to the election. Apparently Queenslanders felt betrayed by Rudd -- no, worse than that, they felt sucked in.

When Rudd turned out not to be a social conservative or a fiscal conservative and then he turned on the industry which held the promise of lifting Queensland from bottom of the income table to the top, bragging about taking the wealth of Queensland (and WA) to spend on the despised southerners, it wasn't just about broken promises, it was about a broken heart.

And if you doubt Queensland voters still felt that way, even after a South Australian turned Victorian knocked him off, look at his personal vote in his ultra-safe Labor seat, down 9% in the election, triple the national swing against Labor and double the Queensland swing. Imagine what the swing would have been without the sympathy vote!

This user is a New Matilda supporter. aussiegreg
Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 15:01

Oh, and as someone whose past posts on the issue of Israel have been moderated off NM, I too note the hypocrisy of your editorial stance on freedom of speech. Who was it who said freedom of speech only matters if you accord it to those you think are wrong?

Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 22:16

As Professor Lynch suggests, in the age of Wikileaks it is obvious that conspiracies are not just theory but widely practiced by our Western governments. We are fortunate in Australia, that the foreign affairs journalist for The Australian, Greg Sheridan, finds it hard to keep secrets.

Just before the coup (29/5), he said, ‘The Earth moved between Israel and Australia this week, with Kevin Rudd's government expelling an Israeli diplomat [i.e.Mossad chief] over the Dubai passports affair, and it may be that the Earth moved in Australian politics as well’ and ‘This badly misjudged action [expulsion of the Mossad chief] will have a political cost’ ( http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/expelling-israeli-diplomat-... and (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/badly-misjudged-action-will... ).

Just after the coup (1/7), Sheridan said that [The expulsion of the Mossad chief]‘may be the single foreign policy issue that did Rudd the most harm in domestic political terms’ ( http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/continuity-but-questions-re... ).

Apparently, he reckons some ‘Aussies’ were seriously upset with the expulsion of Israel’s Mossad chief. Enough to defenestrate Rudd. Are any Aussies owning up to being upset by Rudd when he expelled a Canberra-based Israeli spy chief that condones and perhaps assists in the thief of Australian passports?

Posted Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 13:54

As Groucho Marx should have said 'Military intelligence is an oxymoron" .
And it will be the sloppy determining of "classified information' by authorities that will provide the legal loophole for Assange to slip through.
Gillard was rash and naive (as she was with her announcement of East Timor as a refugee camp) to say Assange was 'breaking the law'.
However, she was new to the job and under-prepared for the responsibility of decision-making at that level, possibly due to following Rudd's example of under utilising advisors.
However, back to the matter of truth, or 'home truths'.
Freedom of information and freedom of speech are not absolute and have always had limitations placed upon them.
So now on top of this quagmire of legal interpretation about who can see what information, there is now the added complication of the deconstructionism of all of these legal implications and repercussions created by the internet.
And so finally the truth is Kevin Rudd is doing a fine job in Foreign Affairs.
It's not like he completely lost his job, he was only demoted one rung.