In the news … January 2021

Morrison’s Australia Day message is unreconstructed bigotry

26 January 2021: Scott Morrison’s spin doctors fail utterly to backpedal the bigoted Trump-style dog-whistling the Coalition relied on for a wafer-thin election victory in 2019 in his Australia Day column for the Murdoch propaganda organ, The Herald Sun.

Even the platform for the latest marketing announcement from the prime minister for announcements tells us he remains insincere in repudiating the neo-fascism of populist demagoguery: why not aim at a wider, more inclusive platform, like the ABC, SBS, or at least a joint publication across all media platforms?  Now here’s an idea: why not on his own official web site?

Why choose the Murdoch propaganda platform, which demands payment for access?  Are we to understand that the prime minister’s messages to the nation are now solely accessible on a subscription basis?

As it stands, the choice of platform tells us that unless you’re from NSW, holding extremist right wing views, and willing or able to pay Herald Sun subscription fees to access his message at all, Morrison really doesn’t care for you too much.

What is there that unifies the nation about such a tone-deaf choice for a prime minister’s message to the nation?  Nothing!  It continues his divisive politics of contempt for First Australians, the nation’s poor and sick people, the elderly, homosexuals, migrants, women, younger people … just about anyone who isn’t a white, middle-aged man, leaning to obesity, and possessing all the intellectual clout of a dog turd at a backyard barbeque.

I can’t even be sure there is a Herald Sun editorial, with the only reference I can access freely coming from another Murdoch platform, news.com.au, which is not known for carrying stories always connected to reality or empirical facts.

“We have risen above our brutal beginnings,’’ he said. “We have overcome, survived and thrived. As Australians, our fates have always been bound together.

“We do this, because in Australia we believe in the unique value of each Australian as individuals, rather than seeing or indeed allowing ourselves to be defined solely through the identity prism of our age, race, gender, ethnicity or religion.”

When he says ‘we’, does that include all those Australians brutalized by his deliberate policies on aged care, refugees, domestic violence and child abuse, to say nothing of Peter Dutton’s private Gestapo?  When he says our fates have always been bound together, does that now mean he thinks the nation’s poor, and sick, and homosexual, and atheist, and black, and brown, and yellow, concerned about climate change, and not neo-fascist are suddenly ‘us’, after years of denying it?

When he talks the unique value of each Australian, does he mean dollars and cents, or has he changed his mind to embrace all the people that have always been at the sharp end of his bigoted, economically illiterate rhetoric?

When he rubbishes identity politics, does he include his own territory in the domain?  White, Anglo Saxon Protestant men?  Of course not.  In one sentence he shows us he remains an unreconstructed bigot, rejecting any national identity he doesn’t get to define and delimit.

Talking of the date itself, as the arrival of the First Fleet, he proposes: ‘There is no escaping or cancelling this fact. For better and worse, it was the moment where the journey to our modern nation began.’

But it’s an ahistorical point.  That date commemorates British colonial rule extending to Australia.  Nothing to do with our nationhood, which might be better marked as 3 December 1854, when locals rebelled against British colonial corruption at the Eureka Stockade.  What about 1 January 1901?  27 May 1967 (or the first day in that week, as reconciliation day)?

I suppose for a Hobbit from the Shire, only Sydney really matters, and preferably a Sydney excised from all but White Australia picture-book families modelled after his own.

“Today, on Australia Day we reflect on that journey, the price that has been paid for our freedom, the lessons of our history and the privilege of being able to call ourselves Australians,’’ he said.

“These stories do not compete with each other, they simply coexist. They weave together.”

‘We’ do nothing of the kind.  Most of ‘we’ struggle to survive in a gig economy that has stripped away living wages, holiday leave loading, sick leave, and other hard-fought entitlements.  ‘We’ take the holiday if we can, but likely as not, ‘we’ work for minimum wages to make ends meet, delivering food and drink to people like Scott Morrison’s ideal white Australians, riding bicycles at the risk of being run into deliberately by Morrison’s white, fascist, bogan yahoos.

Where is the ‘privilege’ of calling ourselves Australians in Morrison’s neo-fascist nation?  And how is it that immediately after rubbishing identity politics, he now says our identities don’t compete with each other, but ‘weave together’?  In an inaccessible editorial attempting to re-write reality to exclude all the people who don’t conform to his bigoted perspective?

Morrison has not changed his original political flavour at all.  He remains the same kind of closet fascist he always was, too timid now to admit he models himself on Donald Trump at his worst, and too cowardly to make a clean break from the more overt fascists and white supremacists in his party.

For what it’s worth, I am a white, middle aged man myself, some years Morrison’s senior.  And I am appalled to think that somehow that might make me part of the ‘us’ and ‘we’ he talks about.  I’d rather stand with all the ‘others’ for whom he feels nothing but contempt, fear, and hatred.

Court award diminishes politicized honours system

25 January 2021: What has Margaret Court done since retiring from tennis in 1977?  She joined the pentecostalist cult, which functions as a money-making scam, and advocates personal revelation, meaning any member can decide any opinion, no matter how bizarre, is a divinely revealed truth.

Court has used the cover of the cult to propagandize bigotry and hate speech, promoting homophobia, and reactionary social policy positions.

Giving her a high honour is an explicit state endorsement for divisive cultism, bigotry, and right wing extremism.

There can be little doubt, no matter how much Scott Morrison denies it, that his fat, dirty fingers are in this, waging his pathetic cultural war by attempting to stack institutions, the public service, and now the honours system with right wing extremists and cultists allied to his own brand of superstition.

I am disappointed so few people have protested the Court award by returning their own, explaining how the honours have been cheapened and devalued by rewarding intolerance, bigotry, and divisiveness.

Farewell, Neil Sheehan

23 January 2021: In all the turmoil engulfing the USA, I missed the passing of distinguished veteran journalist Neil Sheehan on 7 January, aged 84, from complications of Parkinson’s Disease.

Neil Sheehan (1936-2021), shown in 1963, when he began reporting for UPI in Saigon.

Sheehan, son to poor Irish immigrants, played a critical rôle reportage of the Vietnam War departing from the official White House line, and is most famous for receiving and reporting on the ‘Pentagon Papers’, leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, in 1971.

The Pentagon Papers were an illegal copy of the secret ‘Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force’, detailing the history of US political and military intervention in Vietnam between 1945 and 1967, and exposing the many lies told the public about that intervention.

It seems an odd synchronicity that Sheehan should die at precisely a time when the absence of journalists with his dedication to uncovering government lies had led to the attempted coup in Washington, driven by a lack of critical analysis of Trump’s alliance with neo-fascist and other right wing extremists, leaving him empowered to encourage a coup in a display of narcissism-driven corruption and criminal malfeasance that far outstrips Richard Nixon, who reaped a whirlwind partly driven by Sheehan’s journalism.

Obituaries and tributes to Sheehan can be found at The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and Vietnam Veterans of America website.

Questions about neo-fascism that remain unanswered

23 January 2021: Yes, there has been some backlash for Scott Morrison for refusing to denounce Trumpist neo-fascism and its influence on his Coalition MPs.

To borrow the word used by some news media employees, describing Morrison’s belated repudiation of the attempted coup in Washington, media examination of the rise of the extreme right has been ‘tepid’.  At best.  ‘Blind’ is probably more accurate.

The analysis and critique of populist neo-fascism hasn’t gone nearly far enough in our ‘news’ platforms.

  • Why have our nominal journalists abandoned asking questions about disinformation and conspiracy theories being promoted by members of the Coalition government?  Shouldn’t we at least be informed about who is being targeted by such twaddle, and who supports it outside Parliament?
  • Why has Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp gone unremarked after its unstinting support for Trump and his encouragement of white supremacist, right wing extremists-in the USA, Britain, and Australia?  Is News Corp really a news organization at all, these days?
  • Why have social media giants Facebook and Twitter not faced more intense questioning about their undoubted rôles in promoting and disseminating neo-fascist rhetorics?  Is it really enough to fan a fire, and only cut off the petrol fuelling it after it burns out of control?

While these questions aren’t being asked and answered, no one working in news media can lay claim to being members of the Fourth Estate.

Media workers are, instead, becoming increasingly like Scotty from marketing himself: ‘we dealt with that’.  Nonsense.  You all cowered from discovering truth and telling it to power.  And that makes you all complicit in the continuing rise of right wing extremism.

Has Albanese grown a pair?

20 January 2021: Opposition leader Anthony Albanese accuses Scott Morrison of being afraid of the right wing extremists that make up Donald Trump’s core constituency, but which he nevertheless cultivates in Australia.

This is as close as anyone in the ALP has come to calling out the dominant neo-fascist faction in the Liberal Party, and quite unlike the Albanese who has appeared timid and toothless since assuming the ALP leadership.

Albanese’s comments come from a speech he leaked to road-test it ahead of addressing the University of Western Australia’s USAsia Centre international relations think tank later today.

The Guardian reports Albanese will criticize Morrison for a less than fulsome denunciation of Donald Trump’s encouragement of a failed coup earlier this month, and for supporting conspiracy theorists Craig Kelly and George Christensen.

Albanese appears to be on solid ground when he proposes Morrison went too far in cultivating a relationship with Trump by sharing a stage at a Trump rally, but refusing to meet with senior Democrats.  Most damning is the reminder that Morrison said at the time he shared ‘a lot of the same views’ with Trump.

Is this evidence of a more aggressive Albanese, positioning the ALP as a responsible choice in contrast to a Coalition beholden to right wing extremism?  Albanese would have to maintain and enlarge on that perspective in the coming months for it to be electorally convincing.

Random imbecility, or election strategy?

15 January 2021: You can take two views about the rhetoric coming from Coalition foot soldiers in Canberra: they truly are an undisciplined bunch of neo-fascist imbeciles, or Scott Morrison is deliberately playing the Trump strategy of betting the next election on bigoted dog whistling.

If it’s the latter, Morrison is planning an election this year. Gambling that an appeal to mean-spirited selfishness and right-wing extremism still has currency despite the damning indictment of the Trump strategy that came with the failed coup in Washington.

The rhetorics I refer to are intemperate remarks by people like George Christensen, Craig Kelly, and Michael McCormack.  All three men could be seen as none too bright, and given to foot-in-mouth disease. Or as scripted actors in road-testing the appeal of bigotry and ignorance in a coming Morrison election narrative.

Before taking a holiday this week, Morrison refused to condemn Donald Trump for inciting an attempted coup d’état.  Gratitude for that silly medal Trump gave him?  Or endorsement of Trump’s entire game plan?

Morrison has treated the prime ministership like an extended series of perks, such as paid holidays every time a serious issue requiring leadership arises, making it a strangely fortunate coincidence he doesn’t have to field calls to censure his team for talking like the Republican neo-fascists who just disgraced themselves for supporting violent insurrection.

Instead, he gets to sit back and watch whether he can weaponize the rhetorics of right-wing extremism once more for another election victory.  Road-testing marketing slogans, so to speak.  That’s what Morrison does.

In 2009, Rupert Murdoch propagandist Henry Ergas developed some truly outstanding language to put the fire to Kevin Rudd’s feet:

What do we owe a prime minister? At the very least, to take what he says seriously. Kevin Rudd’s recent essay on the global financial crisis does not make that easy.

We owe Morrison careful attention now, even if his ‘essay’ is a shambolic string of public bleatings from political non-entities warming Coalition seats in the House for better MPs to come.

How very convenient that Morrison isn’t around to personally field questions about the neo-fascist ramblings of his team.

Of greater concern than the Coalition’s lurch to the extremist right is the memory of how that worked for Morrison in 2019, against all expectations.  And the fear that it will work at least one more time, in a year in which no one can say that we haven’t seen how that ends up.

In 2019 we showed who we were: willing to travel down the fascist road if it meant personal comfort and profit.  Of course, that was before the devastating fires, and coronavirus.  Events already forgotten?  Hardly.   Will we now show ourselves, as a nation, willing to go all in with the extremists for more of the same promises?  At the cost of our souls, and our democracy? To paraphrase Jean Paul Sartre: ‘Tomorrow, some people may decide to establish fascism, and others may be so cowardly or slack as to let them do so. If so, fascism will then be the truth of us, as we have decided it to be.’

Morrison gang endorses coup attempts

11 January 2021: Leaving aside, for the moment, the imbecility of defenses for Donald Trump and his American neo-Nazi supporters from MPs like George Christensen and Craig Kelly, in Scott Morrison’s refusal to condemn Donald Trump’s attempted coup in the USA, and acting prime minister Michael McCormack’s astonishing demand that social media giants should continue to support violent insurrection, we have as clear a statement as there can be that the Coalition regards coups d’état as legitimate political practice.

Worse, the very same journalists who analyzed events in Washington, to conclude we should all have seen this coming, and legitimate authorities should have acted sooner to prevent the degradation of democracy, now fail to voice stronger concerns about Coalition totalitarianism.

How long will it take for us, Aussies, to act to restrain the extreme right of the Coalition, which is only a thinly disguised version of Trumpian neo-Nazis.

Will we allow ourselves to be led to the brink of totalitarianism, and foolishness like Johnson’s Brexit and coronavirus disasters?  Can we really relay on the good sense of our state premiers to restrain the monsters in the Liberal and National parties?

On Friday afternoon, when I ventured to my local shops in Brisbane, I saw panic buying by people who learnt nothing from the initial coronavirus lockdown.  Just selfishness and disregard for any idea of social isolation, or wearing masks, because these were not yet required by law.

If those very same people, unable or unwilling to exercise sound judgement, are to be relied on to make political choices, our democracy is already doomed.

Facebook faces €3.8m for stealing technology

7 January 2021: In a dramatic slap-down for social media giant Facebook, it lost an appeal against a 2016 ruling by an Italian court that it had reverse engineered the Italian Faround app, which could use data from Facebook user profiles to create an interactive shopping map.

Within months of Faround’s release in 2012, Facebook launched its own Nearby Places app, which the court held to be identical in function, and a ‘parasitic appropriation of investments by others’.  Facebook was fined €350,000 ($USD430,000).

Facebook appealed the verdict, but didn’t get a sympathetic hearing.  A Milan court upheld the original verdict, and increased the fine to €3.83 million ($USD4.72 million).

The case highlights the power of US technology giants to pirate or boycott competitor software, effectively bankrupting some, and side-lining others.

European courts have so far been far less lenient with US corporations in the technology sector than those in the USA, though an antitrust case against Facebook by US sates could lead to significant consequences for other tech giants.

Trump destroys Republican senate stranglehold

7 January 2021: As I had anticipated, Donald Trump’s vainglorious rally in Georgia helped to boost Democrat determination to win the two run-off elections, held to ratify incumbent Republican nominee Kelly Loeffler, and to fill a vacancy as sitting Republican senator David Perdue’s term expired.

Loeffler was nominated by Georgia’s governor to replace retiring Republican senator Johnny Isakson, campaigning strongly on a pro-Trump platform.  She was defeated by pastor Raphael Warnock, who becomes the first African American senator from Georgia, and the first from any former Confederate state.

As I write, Congress is ratifying Joe Biden’s election while Trump supporters attempt to cause as much disruption as possible in Washington.

No one but Democrat challenger to Perdue, Jon Ossoff himself, has called his victory yet, though he leads Perdue by 17,500 votes.  A much narrower margin than Warnock’s.  Nevertheless, remaining votes to be counted are said to come from urban centres, where the Democrats outpolled Republicans.

If Ossoff is declared the winner, the Senate will be deadlocked at 50 seats each for Democrats and Republicans, but with incoming Vice President Kamala Harris empowered to cast a deciding vote, the Democrats will have wrested control of the senate from the Republicans, effectively ending any chance Mitch McConnell, the erstwhile Republican senate majority leader, might have had to stifle President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.

It would be the narrowest of majorities, but absolutely critical to efforts to contain the coronavirus disaster in the USA, and to restore democracy after the vandalism inflicted on it by Trump Republicans, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis.

Because Ossoff’s lead is narrow, there may be a recount and delays of several days before a result can be declared with confidence.

Anti-Semitism in the Coalition?  Surprise, surprise.

2 January 2021: Is the Coalition anti-semitic via the bigotries it supports through its powerful extreme right wing?

‘Surely not’, reasonable people may say, pointing to the obviously Jewish credentials of Liberal MPs like Josh Frydenberg, David Sharma, and others.  But female Coalition MPs haven’t stopped the Liberals from being unapologetically sexist (just think of the reaction to recent revelations about the behaviours of Tudge and Porter), nor have Chinese MPs meant the Coalition isn’t racist (note Abetz’s closet-fascist Senate star chamber antics on denouncing China).

So, what’s the latest beef?  George Christensen apparently posted an anti-Semitic meme to his Facebook account, featuring an image of holocaust survivor and billionaire philanthropist George Soros, with Christensen implying Soros is part of a global ‘elite’ trying to push the ‘reset’ button.  Whatever that is.

The Facebook post was linked, in a tortuously circuitous route to the ideologically loathsome pursuit of identity politics, by John Curtin Research Centre executive director Nick Dyrenfurth.  His editorial on Christensen was carried by Nine Entertainment newspapers.  The John Curtin Research Centre is linked to the ALP, albeit as what some say is a right wing influence.

The Christensen post is indeed of a piece with the Nazi vilification of Jews as somehow orchestrating a global financial conspiracy.  A conspiracy claim that has outlived Nazi Germany as a mainstay of right wing extremism, including especially Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups around the world.  Extremist groups Donald Trump refused to denounce.  A president Scott Morrison refused to denounce as the mainstay of white supremacist thuggery in the USA.

I suppose it’s possible that the ‘Member for Manila’ really doesn’t have the intellect to recognize the anti-Semitism in his Facebook meme.  He is not conspicuously well-educated, informed, or intellectually-inclined.

His claims that he is no anti-Semite because his grandmother was ¼ Jewish underscore that absence of intellect.  It’s like claiming that because you’re a woman you can’t be sexist, or because you are not Caucasian, you can’t be racist.

Christensen aside, the Coalition, meaning the Liberal Party given the rump size of the Nationals, can hardly distance itself from its bigoted reputation when it so obviously gives refuge to vocal sexists, racists, homophobes, and every kind of bigotry there is, with a PM who cannot, or will not, control right wing extremists in his party.

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