Saturday, October 1, 2011

A dirty word around here

I don't make a habit of yelling obscenities at my father down the phone, but when the conversation throws up (and I use the expression advisedly) the name of a certain tabloid hack, I cannot contain myself. After my father has demonstrated that he's fallen hook, line and sinker for the 'free speech' canard, and that he's one of the readers whom said hack has squarely in his sights when he (the hack, not my father) sets out to bring out the worst in human nature, in all its greed, spite, envy, small-mindedness and mean-spiritedness, and my dad is not habitually any of those things as a rule, I say to him, Father, I say, let me ask you something.

Suppose, just suppose, that instead of being an evenly distributed mixture of both your parents, you had turned out the absolute dead spit of your father, with no visible sign that you were your Scottish mother's son.

Let us then suppose that for some reason you had been taken away from your father, or he from you, in early infancy, and, despite your lack of any family resemblance to her, you had nonetheless been brought up exclusively by your mother, in Edinburgh or Stirling or Glasgow, being taught her values and supported by her family.

Let us further suppose that then, one day, a grant or scholarship or job became available that was earmarked exclusively for persons identifying as Scots. And let us suppose that you applied for, and were successful in obtaining, said grant or scholarship or job.

What would you say, and how would you feel, if some non-Scottish tabloid hack then wrote a breathtakingly unpleasant, crudely sarcastic, factually inaccurate and demonstrably defamatory article identifying you by name and sneering at you for being a false pretender to eligibility for this prize, arguing that you do not look Scottish (for he just knows what a Scot is supposed to look like) and therefore cannot possibly be your mother's son, and therefore -- 'therefore' -- not a Scot?

Frankly I thought this was a pretty classy argument, and I was hoping it would stop my father in his tracks. Unfortunately, for him as for so many other people and to quote the great Fran Leibowitz, the opposite of 'talking' is not 'listening'. The opposite of 'talking' is 'waiting'.


Anonymous said...

'sets out to bring out the worst in human nature, in all its greed, spite, envy, small-mindedness and mean-spiritedness'
Yes I read this all the time on sites like LP but when I read said habloid tack's site it doesn't seem that way to me. I'm with your da. If its spite, envy, small-mindedness and mean-spiritedness you want what about Julian Burnside's paedos in speedos tweet?


skepticlawyer said...

Perhaps your dad may be interested in Legal Eagle's casenote and my considered view that at least some of the plaintiffs would have succeeded in a defamation action. Those provisions (not, for the avoidance of any doubt, the whole of the RDA) are bad law, but that does not exonerate the columnist in question.

My piece is here:

Nici said...

I kicked my father out of the house after 9/11 (on my sons' birthdays) when he said Afganistan should be bombed with nuclear weapons.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Clem, Julian Burnside has explained, and this has been widely made public, that he is new to Twitter (which I know for a fact, since so am I but I began to follow him as soon as he arrived there) and though he was talking to just one person. If you use any social media yourself then you'll know what a very common mistake this is. Have you not ever said something like that or worse in a private conversation? As distinct from a widely read (alas) newspaper column?

Besides, WTF has Julian Burnside got to do with anything, apart from the usual right-wing gambit of Oh But The Left Is Worse? Even if the left were worse, Julian Burnside has less than nothing to do with what I'm talking about here, so maybe you'd like to not derail the thread?

SL -- yep, I read that with great interest. My dad, unfortunately, isn't the sort of person who can be persuaded by reasoned argument of any sort.

And yet on the other hand, Nici, one of the reasons I am so fond of him is precisely that he isn't tribal in his political opinions, is completely appalled by Afghanistan, and thinks that we should all get out of there at once.

Anonymous said...

Your Scottish analogy is hardly apposite. Some of Bolt's targets had one eighth Aboriginal blood. My daughter works as a muso and singer. A few years ago she had a role in a musical. The company applied for funding and was knocked back. There was much subsequent semi-serious discussion about finding a young Aboriginal singer to join the cast and reapplying because that way funding was assured. Bolt has a right to question the way funds are allocated to groups who have a fairly tenuous connection to Aboriginality and who are unlikely to suffer discrimination without being called small-minded or mean-spirited. It's a gravy train for white-skinned Aborigines. The academic careers of the people in question make that quite clear.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot to append my name to that last post. I know how much you dislike anonymous comments.


Lucy Sussex said...

Defo is defo, and if Bolt wasn't such a prima donna that he can't apparently be subbied or legalled, then large amounts of money need not have been spent on lawyers. If you can't get your facts straight, then you shouldn't be pontificating in print.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Clem, this is my personal blog, not a government-funded public forum, so I'd be glad if you'd not use it to peddle Bolt's repulsive views.

Mitzi G Burger said...

If there's an alleged gravy train, then ride it to town and dole out more: it's only a benevolent paste stirred from the run-off. Lord knows everyone else got their hands on the meat first.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

And furthermore, Clem, if you and the bolta and other fearless warriors for truth are so gosh-darned fired up about other people getting a bit of guvmint money you think they shouldn't be getting, why then are you not all up in arms about big companies gouging obscene profits with one hand and hoovering up tax breaks with the other?

Anonymous said...

So that's your response ? Bolt's real offence is that he is a white middle aged male who raises awkward questions government incompetence and the misuse of money. In the end this law will be repealed because of his case. Your own passion and loyalty to your 'side' seems to hinder your seeing what a bad law it is.


Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

'So that's my reply' to what, exactly? What have you said that requires a reply? Who said anything about a bad, or otherwise, law? I don't give a rat's whether it's a bad law or not; irrespective of the legals, what Bolt did, and habitually does, was and is morally repugnant: whipping up outrage in the likes of you because someone might be getting something you're not, a position best described as 'Mummy, he took my ice-cream!' If you must carry on with this, could you at least try to stick to the point?

Bolt's real offences are (a) writing lies, because he was too lazy to fact-check, and (b) having no understanding of his position of privilege as a paid mouthpiece for the company that brought you the News of the World and all its works, and as, indeed, a white (privilege) male (privilege). If you can't get your head around the concept of the level and non-level playing fields then that is your misfortune, but it is not my fault.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

And that's enough now; I have less than no interest in my little online space being taken up with pro-Bolt bullshit. And spare me his 'free speech' argument, please; if you want free speech, write your own blog.

paul walter said...

Was it judge Bromberg, who so ever so delicately flayed Bolt alive in his summary?
Devastating stuff and a justifiable summary of a despicable individual and his handiwork.
Skepticlawyer is one who possibly identifies with Bolt's politics more than some, but her end comment is the more devastating, for that- she appears to have spotted that its not the politics, its the dishonesty!

Helen said...

I love the way Clem gives an example of *white* people trying to game the system, to "prove" that indigenous people game the system.

Bolt was wrong (or lying) WRT almost all of the people referred to in the case. That was why they found against him, not some commie socialist greenie plot to destroy free speech.

Christine said...

Who really should decide in the end? Seems that Bolt is doing the same as white people in power some generations back and deciding who should be 'Aboriginal' based merely upon skin colour. A spot of history. So many kids who 'looked white' were deemed to be 'Aboriginal' by the NSW Aborigines Protection Board were sent to special schools for Aboriginal children. In 1916 the Department of Education published a special syllabus for these schools. Grade three level was the maximum possible. Aboriginal children were barred from mainstream schools - except in Singleton NSW until 1918 because the missionaries there defied the Board until then. The eugenic theories extant at that time were intrinsic to this measure.

Fine said...

I also love (in a snarky way) Clem's theatre company example. I often hear that "we would have got funding if we were one-legged, whale-loving, black lesbians". Except that no evidence is ever produced to support the claim. It's just whinging after the event.

I'm saying this as someone who often been knocked back from various forms of government funding. There are various reasons this happens. But maybe, just maybe, it's because you weren't good enough this time.

Frances said...

The judge said," is important that nothing in the orders I make should suggest that it is unlawful for a publication to deal with racial identification, including by challenging the genuineness of the identification of a group of people."
Where's the loss of freedom of speech?

Frances said...

At the same time/in the same vein, Kerryn:
When I first went overseas in 1970, I was horrified to see that all the Save the Children, Oxfam etc ads featured emaciated Aboriginal children, rather than the emaciated Africans we in Australia were used to seeing.
Since then, their plight: that of traditional and tribal Aboriginal people, doesn't seem to have improved at all. It is a national and international disgrace for which we are often justifiably reviled and shamed.
And, I think, it is a frustration for many who want, and have wanted justice and equity for Aboriginal people, and have happily paid taxes for such, to see that, in fact, despite the billions of tax spent year after year, little or nothing has changed for those deprived communities since 1970.
As it hasn't.
Many/most people actually care quite a lot about this.
But, for quite a few decades we have been giving Abscol to X, whose father is mayor of the most expensive section of Sydney. Or to fostering the endeavours of Y, whose grandfather is a well-heeled local and loving grazier and whose father is a property developer. Etc., etc, etc.
How will that help the tribals? I suggest that each has a greater interest in success in the western world than improving conditions in N.T.

What is your opinion as to how we help tribal aborigines, and remove this national shame, Kerryn?

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

I'm not an expert in any of the fields that would need to be mobilised, so there's just too much I don't know, or too many dots I haven't been able to connect. For example: a lawyer friend pointed out to me a few years ago that one reason Aboriginal children (she was talking about the APY Lands in SA) don't like or attend school as much as they otherwise might is that deafness (as a result of chronic ear infections) is very high and therefore many children simply can't hear what's being said. Which would suggest that we need to take care of the health in order to get optimal results from the education.

Another friend who's worked extensively with Aboriginal people says that particularly in the remote communities there's a strong, culturally based disinclination for an individual to put himself or herself forward in any way, so kids don't like to speak up in class. Which would suggest a great deal more attention from the people implementing the various programs to Aboriginal culture and values.

Which brings to mind a third thing: I think it ought to be a part of the curriculum in Australian schools to try to foster a greater understanding of how said culture and values are different, and not necessarily inferior, to those of white Australia. Some of these differences run very deep, like the Aboriginal notion of 'country' and the vital importance of that. That's something that takes a lot of getting your head around. I have a powerful (and what most urban folks would regard as an irrational) attachment to the farming district I grew up in, which my family had been farming since 1855, but I know that's light years away from the profound Aboriginal concept of country and attachment.

I dunno. A third friend, who has worked in remote communities, says it's taken over 200 years to make this mess and it'll take at least several generations to fix.

But I tell you what: doing a Bolta and publicly trashing so-called "white" people who identify as Aboriginal and who have had some conventional success in life is not the answer. Just for a start, it doesn't have to be either/or. And he and people like him are what we in the blogosphere call concern trolls: they only care about the rights of women or of Aboriginal people or of asylum seekers or whoever when there's some political point-scoring to be done against what they think of as The Left.

Mindy said...


The stories of kids accessing Govt funding for their studies when their parents were wealthy were legion when I was at school and it seems they still are. When I was at school all the kids had parents who had a really good accountant and they were all white (afaik). So the skin colour has changed a bit but the story remains the same.

However, those Aboriginal kids will still be discriminated against because they are Aboriginal, regardless of whether they need to access AbScol. We like to think we are a post racial society, but we are kidding ourselves.

Emily said...

What has struck me most forcibly about the whole Bolt outpourings re the particular people involved here, is his implicit outrage that they did not choose to be deemed "white", which in my mind very clearly indicates a belief on Bolt's part that white is superior - the element behind many racist attacks.
Of psychological interest is the co-option and re-interpretation of words often used in right/left debate, eg. "the hate media" (News Ltd) is now calling itself "the love media" (aka. the luvvies?).

spiceandmore said...

Richard Flanagan summed it up the best - the self pity of Andrew Bolt is visible from the moon!