Well said, Bert

Dreadful choice we have in this year’s election, but perhaps some things really are more dreadful than others. This morning in the Sun-Herald is a letter from Bert Candy.

The decision by the executive of the Liberal Party to give Cory Bernardi the top position on their Senate ticket in the forthcoming federal election – despite his speech asserting that there could be a link between homosexuality and bestiality, as well as his association with an extreme right American organisation (”Smoking Gun”, January 27) – says a great deal about the political leanings of the Liberal power brokers.

A person with these questionable views can hardly represent a modern Australian electorate and, by endorsing him again, the Liberal Party is guilty by association. With pundits indicating a Liberal landslide, it appears that the extreme right have the numbers.

Bert Candy Lemon Tree Passage

Here is the man concerned:

He is clearly on the right of Genghis Khan. The recent story about him, to which Bert refers, appears online as Abbott’s man under fire over extreme right lobbying.

TONY Abbott’s handpicked former parliamentary secretary Cory Bernardi has apparently breached strict rules by failing to declare his ties to a right-wing, pro-tobacco group fighting gun controls.

The organisation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, was involved in a High Court challenge against the Gillard government last year and has financial ties with big tobacco.

The US-based council is working with the National Rifle Association to block President Barack Obama’s guns crackdown after the Newtown school massacre. An ALEC member since 2009, Senator Bernardi was dumped as Mr Abbott’s personal parliamentary secretary in September after he made a speech to Parliament that warned against legislating for gay marriage on the grounds it could open a legal path to bestiality and polygamy….

To get some idea of what kind of fruitcakes and downright subversives Bernadi sleeps with see ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection and Three States Pushing ALEC Bill to Require Teaching Climate Change Denial in Schools.

ALEC Celebrates Groundhog Day 2013

Groundhog Day is on Feb. 2 and fittingly, ALEC and its corporate patrons continue to sing the same tune, simultaneously promoting fracking, blockading a transition to renewable energy and pushing bills mandating teaching climate change denial on par with actual science.

"It’s the same old schtick every year, the guy comes out with a big old stick, raps on the door,"actor Bill Murray said in the classic film Groundhog Day. "They pull the little rat out, they talk to him, the rat talks back, then they tell us what’s gonna happen."

Replace "guy" with "corporate lobbyist" and "legislators" with "rats" and that’s ALEC in a nutshell, serving as a mere microcosm of the current American political system at-large.

And of Cory Bernadi’s idea of a mate and a good thing for Australia’s way of conducting business. And of where his brain really lives.

A person with these questionable views can hardly represent a modern Australian electorate and, by endorsing him again, the Liberal Party is guilty by association. With pundits indicating a Liberal landslide, it appears that the extreme right have the numbers.

No way, I say. Some things really can be worse than Julia.

And speaking of the Right, cop the things crawling out from under logs to greet the bouffanted boofhead from Holland.  And look closely at the group who invited him.  I see they have the obligatory Oz flag at the top and a quote from Mary Gilmore. I wonder if they realise she was a life-long Communist.  Mind you she is an under-rated poet who certainly deserves to be better known, as this poem (not on that site) shows:

Nationality

I have grown past hate and bitterness,
I see the world as one;
But though I can no longer hate,
My son is still my son.

All men at God’s round table sit,
and all men must be fed;
But this loaf in my hand,
This loaf is my son’s bread.

On that anti-Islam group’s site you will find Robert Spencer at al, pretty much as you would expect, but you also find this, which I reproduce exactly as it is:

Ayn Rand: The Collection.
Her book ‘Atlas Shruggs’ is considered by many in the International Counter-Jihad and Freedom Movement as foundational work for the relation between the free individual, the state and the collective society.

Surprise, surprise!

tea-party-vs-ows

They are all so sane and balanced, these people, are they not?

Meanwhile here are a couple of free eBooks from ANU that you could read as a way to ensure your own sanity.

Australia: Identity, Fear and Governance in the 21st Century, Edited by Juliet Pietsch and Haydn Aarons (November 2012).

The latter years of the first decade of the twenty-first century were characterised by an enormous amount of challenge and change to Australia and Australians. Australia’s part in these challenges and changes is borne of our domestic and global ties, our orientation towards ourselves and others, and an ever increasing awareness of the interdependency of our world. Challenges and changes such as terrorism, climate change, human rights, community breakdown, work and livelihood, and crime are not new but they take on new variations and impact on us in different ways in times such as these.

In this volume we consider these recent challenges and changes and how Australians themselves feel about them under three themes: identity, fear and governance. These themes suitably capture the concerns of Australians in times of such change. Identity is our sense of ourselves and how others see us. How is this affected by the increased presence of religious diversity, especially Islamic communities, and increased awareness of moral and political obligations towards Indigenous Australians? How is it affected by our curious but changing relationship with Asia? Fear is an emotional reaction to particular changes and challenges and produces particular responses from individuals, politicians, communities and nations alike; fear of crime, fear of terrorism and fear of change are all considered in this volume.

Multiculturalism and Integration — A Harmonious Relationship, Edited by the late Professor Michael Clyne and Dr James Jupp (July 2011).

Multiculturalism has been the official policy of all Australian governments (Commonwealth and State) since the 1970s. It has recently been criticised, both in Australia and elsewhere. Integration has been suggested as a better term and policy. Critics suggest it is a reversion to assimilation. However integration has not been rigorously defined and may simply be another form of multiculturalism, which the authors believe to have been vital in sustaining social harmony.

May help you counter the dogs’ breaths that are so noisome out there, and will no doubt get worse and skankier as the year goes on, God help us.

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There are things that matter and things I really don’t care two hoots about…

For example:

201210

Click that for the latest report from NOAA.

Read in today’s Sydney Morning Herald Where even the earth is melting.

THE world is on the cusp of a "tipping point" into dangerous climate change, according to new data gathered by scientists measuring methane leaking from the Arctic permafrost and a report presented to the United Nations on Tuesday.

"The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales," says the report, Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost. "Overall, these observations indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may already have started."

While countries the size of Australia tally up their greenhouse emissions in hundreds of millions of tonnes, the Arctic’s stores are measured in tens of billions…

Geologist Dr Iain Stewart in Earth: The Power of the Planet (2007– )

And so many other things today, reaching a grand climax in THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD!!!! Yes, it’s JULIA, THE VAMPIRE FROM SLATER AND GORDON! JULIA THE GETAWAY CAR DRIVER! JULIA OF BONNIE AND CLYDE FAME!  Or as I said, risking being labelled sexist perhaps, on Facebook last night and yesterday afternoon, especially having watched Julia Bishop’s confected outrage during her press conference:

This "Get Julia" session of Parliament is perhaps the lowest point Australian politics has reached in my lifetime — even counting the Dismissal, which at least was about very serious matters. Right now I couldn’t care less if Julia turns out to have been a vampire 20 years ago. I just want to see her government governing, albeit in many areas not very well — refugee policy for one– and the Opposition looking like a credible alternative and not a pack of slavering bitches — no gender implied…

Congrats Julie Bishop on yr press conference. Succeeded in firming up a vote for Labor with me. Well done! What a heap of ordure this now is…

Julie Bishop: why should I care? I really don’t any more. Try policy debate instead of this crap and let the government govern. I really do not care what Julia may or may not have done 20 years ago according to the gossip and hearsay you are retailing no matter that it’s in a stat dec, which you know as well as I proves nothing except that the declarer asserts he/she thinks whatever it is is true — maybe…

Pissed off because the overblown rhetoric pre carbon tax is now proven piffle? Is that it?

If you can be bothered, here is the latest little gem:

BRUCE Wilson, Julia Gillard’s former boyfriend, said he ”perhaps” asked an AWU employee to deposit $5000 in her bank account, but could not recall it. The PM said she could not remember receiving such a sum.

Mr Wilson, appearing on the ABC, was emphatic that no money from the union slush fund set up by him and fellow official Ralph Blewitt was spent on Ms Gillard’s house. He said that after there were technical problems getting the fund registered, he had asked Ms Gillard to help. ”It was a simple matter that needed to be done, she did it, end of story.”

Mr Wilson said he had not benefited financially from the fund but said Mr Blewitt had taken money out. He had been ”packaging it up and burying it in his backyard” – and some of it rotted away. Mr Wilson felt sorry that Ms Gillard ”has to go through all this because it’s just not warranted”.

MICHELLE GRATTAN

See also Lenore Taylor’s Bishop bluster loses wind in an obvious absence of evidence.

However, some real light on this and related matters does come from these three posts and their comment threads. The three bloggers together represent years of experience in the law, business, and the Australian Public Service and are all far more qualified than I am.

Finally, not a story of cosmic significance perhaps but a nice local one nonetheless — about Yours and Owls and my ex-student Stewart Holt (not “Stuart”) — Illawarra Mercury today.

Charges against the owners of Wollongong cafe-bar Yours and Owls have been dismissed following a graffiti incident at the venue earlier this year.

Two of the venue’s three owners – Balunn Jones and Ben Tillman – stood accused of malicious damage after a graffiti message appeared on the business’s Kembla Street facade in March.

Last month the charges were withdrawn and dismissed.

Mr Jones credited solicitor Stuart Holt – a regular customer who offered his services pro bono – with seeing through the case.

The venue is now hosting a new street art project on its inside walls, but Mr Jones said the trio planned to soon sell the business.

"Hopefully it goes to someone who’s got a similar point of view to us and it doesn’t just fade away. It would be nice if it happened."

Mr Jones said the trio was selling "for a variety of reasons", but did not elaborate.

The men – friends from the Illawarra’s northern suburbs – opened Yours and Owls in 2010.

Chicanery then, and still chicanery–and a national shame. Thanks, ALP! Absurd and morally repugnant!

I really have exercised my mind about this and have been in many respects less a puritan about it than some, but my gut revolts now – as I tweeted:

Excision of the Australian mainland for immigration purposes — an abomination before 2007 and an abomination now. Labor hits rock bottom. 1 day ago

Chicanery, that in a nutshell is what “excision” is – even if “legal” – a variation on pea and thimble to save the government’s sorry arse in the electorate, or so they hope. Yes, there is the business of stopping poor buggers from drowning on their way here, and I grant that just as I also even granted there could be something to be said for aspects at least of the so-called Malaysian solution, but not this way, not this way.

chicanery (countable and uncountable; plural chicaneries)

  1. Deception by use of trickery, quibbling, or subterfuge.
  2. (countable, law) A slick performance by a lawyer.

You saw Clarke and Dawe last night?

BRYAN DAWE: Chris Bowen, thanks for being with us tonight.
JOHN CLARKE: Well it’s a pleasure to be here, Bryan, although technically I’m not actually being with you. Could I make that …
BRYAN DAWE: Yeah, you’re with us in the parliamentary studios of course though.
JOHN CLARKE: I’m in the parliamentary studio, but I’m not with you in the …
BRYAN DAWE: No, no, I understand that.
JOHN CLARKE: You’re not here, Bryan, and I’m not there. The point is that we’re not together and I don’t know what you mean by us. Perhaps we can come to that later.
BRYAN DAWE: Well thank you for being with us wherever we are.
JOHN CLARKE: Well thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be where I am.
BRYAN DAWE: You’ve introduced legislation this week to excise Australia from Australia. That’s pretty impressive.
JOHN CLARKE: No, Bryan, that’s a bit simplistic. What we’ve done is …
BRYAN DAWE: Well that’s what you’ve done, Chris Bowen.
JOHN CLARKE: Bryan, the effect of the legislation will be to excise from Australia’s migratory zone, from its migration zone the continent of Australia…

2818401-729185-thimble-and-pea-isolated-on-white-background

Australian migration zone policy Howard/Ruddock and supercharged by  Gillard

As Waleed Aly says in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, “the Gillard government has left the satirists with nothing to say. It’s excising the whole damn country.” What part of dishonest and immoral doesn’t apply in 2012 that didn’t apply before 2007? And the word: shades of “rendition” and other classic bits of doublespeak.

Excision means "removal by cutting".

  • In surgery, the complete removal of an organ, tissue, bone or tumor from a body
  • A term used by the Australian government as part of its definition of the Australian migration zone

See, we’re famous, we’re unique. Aren’t you so proud?

Waleed Aly:

Let’s be honest. The aim here is to make staying in no man’s land the only option. We’re not providing any alternatives. We’re not hurriedly clearing the backlog of asylum seekers that haven’t been resettled since forever. We’re not, say, processing applications in the region within a year. The only message we’re sending is: don’t come. We’re not offering somewhere else to go. We’re offering nothing except delay and rejection. If that’s a better option, it’s mainly better for us. And that’s what really counts.

All this is obscured by the high moral rhetoric. ”We’re trying to save people’s lives here,” says Bowen. You see the effect. High stakes justify extreme measures, and how could the stakes be any higher than death? Now the moral script is flipped. To oppose this measure is to vote for the deaths of these tragic souls. It’s almost akin to murder. You’re a bleeding heart with blood on your hands.

But it’s a sleight of hand. If this is really all about saving people’s lives, if this is really about preventing people from drowning at sea, then send a fleet of cruise liners to Indonesia to pick up the people who have been stuck there for up to a decade. It’s much safer. Or if arrivals by plane are so superior, charter a bunch of Qantas flights to pick them up and bring them here for processing. That’s much safer, too. People smuggling will disappear instantly…

Kudos to John Dowd, a stalwart of the Liberal Party that once was.

AUSTRALIA has an obligation to show we respect and adhere to international human rights law.

The purpose of the Refugee Convention is to give protection to those who arrive in any manner. Refugee movement often involves illegal departure from the country of feared persecution and illegal entry to the country in which refuge is sought, and without documentation.

Excising Australia from Australia is not only absurd and morally repugnant, but represents a fundamental breach of Australia’s obligations and effectively marks Australia’s withdrawal from the convention. It may serve as a precedent for other countries and a signal that Australia can no longer be respected as an advocate for human rights. I call on MPs to oppose the bill now before parliament.

John Dowd, president, International Commission of Jurists, Sydney, NSW

Meanwhile Asylum seeker spins for Test prep! Of course he probably chose a more reliable and acceptable form of transport.

AS HE awaits word from Immigration Minister Chris Bowen about his claim for refugee protection, Pakistani asylum seeker Fawad Ahmed has emerged as a surprise figure in Australia’s preparation for the Test series against South Africa.

Ahmed has been plucked from Melbourne club cricket to help Australia’s batsmen prepare for the Proteas’ formidable bowling attack because of his resemblance to their leg-spinner Imran Tahir.

Ahmed impressed the Australians when he bowled to them in the MCG nets before last summer’s Boxing Day Test against India. In particular, he made a lasting impression on opening batsman Ed Cowan, who is a meticulous planner, and this week he sought out Ahmed on behalf of team management, which has arranged for him to fly to Brisbane as a net bowler before the first Test, which starts next Friday at the Gabba…

Misoneism?

Is that all it is? The hatred or distrust of new things or ideas?

Australia’s Prime Minister did not define “misogyny” wrong in a blistering attack on a male rival, the dictionary did.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s fiery speech last week in which she branded conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott a misogynist for a string of allegedly sexist comments he had made in recent years has been lauded by feminists around the world.

However, Ms. Gillard’s critics have accused her of hyperbole, pointing to dictionary definitions of misogyny as hatred of women.

Sue Butler, Editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, regarded as the definitive authority on Australian meanings of words, said on Wednesday the political furore revealed to her fellow Editors that their dictionary’s definition was decades out of date.

The dictionary would broaden its definition from a hatred of women to include entrenched prejudice against women, she said.

“Since the 1980s, ‘misogyny’ has come to be used as a synonym for sexism, a synonym with bite, but nevertheless with the meaning of ‘entrenched prejudice against women’ rather than ‘pathological hatred’”, she said.

Ms. Gillard’s speech in Parliament last week came after Mr. Abbott attempted to move a motion to oust the House of Representatives Speaker Peter Slipper over crude and sexist terms Mr. Slipper made in text messages that came to light in a court case.

“If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives; he needs a mirror,” Ms. Gillard told Parliament. “Misogyny, sexism every day from this leader of this opposition.”

She complained Mr. Abbott had questioned in a media interview whether it was a bad thing that men had more power than women in Australian society and had described abortion as “the easy way out”.

Ms. Gillard said she was offended when Mr. Abbott once told her in Parliament — “If the Prime Minister wants to, politically speaking, make an honest woman of herself …”

The term “making an honest woman” in Australia traditionally refers to a man marrying a woman with whom he has had a sexual relationship. Ms. Butler said while the Oxford English Dictionary had expanded its definition of the word from a psychological term to include its contemporary meaning a decade ago, it took the debate over Ms. Gillard’s speech to prompt Macquarie to review its definition.

She said the decision had drawn complaints.

Among the critics is Senator Fiona Nash, a member of Mr. Abbott’s coalition, who accused Macquarie of making the change to suit Ms. Gillard’s centre-left Labour Party.

Ms. Gillard and Mr. Abbott declined to comment on the change.

That is from The Hindu, reflecting both the amazing international interest in Julia Gillard’s now famous speech, and the fact of course that Ms Gillard has been lately visiting India.

Julia Gillard Prime Minister Julia Gillard 9I3q2VcdPwfl

First, you will have noted that I was conservative in my attitude to the word misogyny last time I mentioned it, endorsing Annabel Crabb’s opinion that misogyny was a “big call” as an accurate descriptor for Tony Abbott. She cited the Oxford Dictionary. However, the illustrative citation on the Oxford Dictionary web site is “she felt she was struggling against thinly disguised misogyny” – which perhaps reflects, if you think about it, more the sense in which Julia Gillard and others have used the word.

david-malki-in-which-there-is-taunting

Whatever you may think of the Macquarie Dictionary modifying its definition of misogyny, the assertion that it is “making the change to suit Ms. Gillard’s centre-left Labour Party” is nonsense. On reflection, whether you like it or not, it is clear that a combination of contemporary usage and academic specialist usage has extended (or weakened?) the meaning of the word, and that this predates what happened a few days ago in the Australian parliament. Some idea of this shifting of meaning may be gleaned from Wikipedia and from About.com.

Definition: Misogyny means the hatred of women. The word comes from the Greek misein, to hate and gyne, woman. Misogyny is often used to describe contempt for women as a whole, rather than hatred of specific women.

In feminist theory, misogyny often describes an attitude that is perceived to be negative and demeaning toward women as a group. While it is rare to find someone who actually despises all women just because they are female, feminists more commonly observe prejudice against women or an assumption that women are less deserving than men. This usually leads to actions that harm women. People, usually men, who display hateful behaviors that oppress women are said to be misogynists.

Feminists and other scholars have often discussed misogyny in religion. They have examined the misogyny behind historical incidents such as the Salem witch trials and social traditions such as polygyny.

It is entirely appropriate for the Macquarie – or any dictionary – to take account of the development of the word as shown in the paragraph I have highlighted.

People can be very naive about dictionaries, but also very passionate or protective. See Descriptivism vs. prescriptivism: War is over (if you want it) from Stan Cary’s Sentence First. See also Joan Acocella in The New Yorker.

For a long time, many English speakers have felt that the language was going to the dogs. All around them, people were talking about “parameters” and “life styles,” saying “disinterested” when they meant “uninterested,” “fulsome” when they meant “full.” To the pained listeners, it seemed that they were no longer part of this language group. To others, the complainers were fogies and snobs. The usages they objected to were cause not for grief but for celebration. They were pulsings of our linguistic lifeblood, proof that English was large, contained multitudes.

The second group was right about the multitudes. English is a melding of the languages of the many different peoples who have lived in Britain; it has also changed through commerce and conquest. English has always been a ragbag, and that encouraged further permissiveness. In the past half century or so, however, this situation has produced a serious quarrel, political as well as linguistic, with two combatant parties: the prescriptivists, who were bent on instructing us in how to write and speak; and the descriptivists, who felt that all we could legitimately do in discussing language was to say what the current practice was. This dispute is the subject of “The Language Wars: A History of Proper English” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), by the English journalist Henry Hitchings, a convinced descriptivist…

Writing about such matters has been a staple of letters to the editor for as long as I can remember, and I guess that’s not entirely a bad thing – but oh my, what a lot of nonsense has been generated! For some common sense see linguist David Crystal’s “Thinking about Dictionaries” (PDF).  See also his blog, for example On complaining about the tide coming in (2006):

A journalist from the Observer, writing a ’fun piece’ for the Christmas edition, phones today to ask my views about the way some English words have become ‘loaded’. She had apparently read a piece in the current issue of the journal of the Queen’s English Society in which someone is complaining about the way certain words have changed their strength of meaning – likemassive being reduced in power to mean ‘huge’ (as in ‘a massive heart attack’) or incredible used so as to mean ‘very fine’ (as in ‘an incredible restaurant’)…

The writer is against people loading words ‘with powers beyond their meaning in the dictionary’. If that was a valid principle – you must only use words with the meaning recorded in the dictionary – English vocabulary would hardly have developed at all, and we would have cut ourselves off from the kind of expressive richness we see in, say, Shakespeare, who was one of the best meaning-extenders the world has ever seen. It is also a misconception of how dictionaries come to be written: lexicographers record meanings as they change, and if there is a widely used meaning currently missing from a dictionary’s pages then it is a weakness of the dictionary rather than of the language.

But the writer was wrong, in any case. Factually wrong. The senses of massive, incredible, and so on are in the dictionary, and have been for some time. But ignorance of the facts of English usage has never stopped people complaining about it…

Words change their meaning. To adapt a phrase rapidly becoming a catch-phrase at the moment (courtesy of the Bishop of Southwark): that’s what they do. They are there to help us talk about our world, and as our world changes, or our ways of looking at the world change, so do the words. It is important to be aware that the changes are taking place, of course, so that we are alert to possible ambiguities and misinformation. We need to know that generally is one of those words which writers often use in a misleading way. That is one of the driving forces behind lexicology, and why it is so important: it helps us manage vocabulary change. But to complain about words changing their meaning is as pointless as complaining about the movement of the tides.

Finally, in the course of looking around I saw for the first time the wonderful OUP blog site, specifically entries tagged “dictionaries”. Lovely stuff. For example:

It cannot but come as a surprise that against the background of countless important words whose origin has never been discovered some totally insignificant verbs and nouns have been traced successfully and convincingly to the very beginning of Indo-European. Fart (“not in delicate use”) looks like a product of our time, but it has existed since time immemorial. Even the nuances have not been lost: one thing is to break wind loudly (farting); quite a different thing is to do it quietly (the now obscure “fisting”). (This fist has nothing to do with fist “clenched fingers” and consequently isn’t related to fisting, a sexual activity requiring, as we are warned, great caution and a lot of tender experience. This reminds me of the instruction Sergei Prokofiev gave to his First Piano Concerto: “Col pugno,” that is ‘with a fist’.)

Both words for the emission of wind (fart and fist) were current in the Old Germanic languages. Frata and físa (the accent over the vowel designates its length, not stress) turned up even in Old Icelandic mythological poems. According to a popular tale, the great god Thor was duped by a giant and spent a night in a mitten, which he took for a house. He was so frightened, as his adversary put it, that he dared neither sneeze nor “fist.” In another poem, the goddess Freyja, notorious for her amatory escapades, was found in bed with her brother and farted (apparently shocked by the discovery)….

Those interested in the subject and not only in words may want to read the book by Valerie Allen On Farting: Language and Laughter in the Middle Ages (Palgrave 2007), but should skip the short section on etymology with its erroneous conclusion. Here I will comment on several etymologies about which I have often been asked. Latin perditio(from its oblique case, via Old French, English has perdition) is not allied to the words discussed above. Perdition goes back to the past participle of the verb perdere “destroy; (hence) lose.” It has the prefix per-, and the root –der-, so thatr and d do are separated by a morphemic boundary. But if Latin perdix had the ancient root with r, preserved in Old French perdriz, then its English continuation partridge belongs here. According to the usual explanation, a partridge makes a sharp whirring sound when flushed (and thus behaves not unlike a petard – not an overly convincing etymology).

Engl. petition and petulant, from Old French, have the root of Latin petere “seeks; attack. Pet “peeve” should probably be dissociated from collywobbles and the rest, but for Engl. wolf’s fist ~ wolves’ fist and German Bofist ~ Bovist(originally vohenvist “fox’s fist”) “puffball” reproduce Greek lykóperdon “wolf’s fart” and allegedly like partridge, owe their origin to the sound they make when pressed). Few people will remember that in the days of Nikita Khrushchev the only woman in the Soviet Politburo was Ekaterina Furtseva, the minister of culture. That family name made every mention of her in German media a rude joke, for the Germans of course spelled Furzeva or Furtzeva. However, it was derived from the proper name Firs, not from the German verb…

Also doing the rounds

Jim Belshaw posted something related this morning. He also alluded to the panic attacks in the Murdoch press about a pilot anti-homophobia program in NSW. Here is the announcement of that program from January 2011:

A pilot program designed to tackle homophobia in schools will start this year in 12 public schools across Sydney, the Hunter and the Central Coast.

The $250,000 Proud Schools program aims to build a culture of understanding and respect in NSW public schools through the professional development of school staff, student and parent  workshops and the development of  resources to assist schools build their capacity to support same-sex and gender questioning young people.

Recent national research highlights the impact of homophobic attitudes on young people, including the fact that about two in three same-sex and gender questioning young people reported they had been verbally abused, and that one in five had been physically abused.

The research, conducted by La Trobe University, also showed that the majority of those young people were abused at school and that once the abuse had taken place they no longer felt school was a safe place for them.

Young people who had been abused were also found to be three time more likely to think about harming themselves.

Education minister Verity Firth said bullying or abuse in public schools was not tolerated for any reason.

"That’s why the Proud Schools program aims to replace ignorance with understanding, intolerance with acceptance, and shame with pride," Ms Firth said.

"Proud Schools recognises that for this change to take place whole school communities will need to work together, with parents and teachers playing a key role in identifying and addressing homophobic attitudes."

More from SBS Insight:

The pilot program began this year involves around 12 public high schools across Sydney, the Hunter and the Central Coast.
The aim of the program is to build on the culture of understanding and respect in NSW schools and includes:

Professional development:
In NSW we have sophisticated training materials to help promote awareness among school staff of racial and sexual discrimination, but there are limited training opportunities to help teachers improve their awareness and understanding of discrimination and abuse of same-sex attracted or gender questioning students. Professional learning will be developed that will include key modules for school leaders and school staff.

Supporting resources
Work is being conducted to inform the development of the program and to identify the kinds of resources and support materials available to support staff and students participating in the program. It is important that we identify early in the program how best to assist schools build their capacity to support same-sex attracted and gender questioning young people.

Student workshops
Consultation sessions will be conducted with NSW students to find out what they think needs to be done to help address homophobia in schools.

Parent Workshops
Experience has shown that when school communities work together real improvements in promoting understanding and reducing discrimination can be made. In every pilot school a parent information workshop will be held to explain the aim and goals of the pilotprogram and to seek their input about how the pilot program can be tailored to suit the needs of their local community.

Steering group
A steering group comprising government and non-government agencies has been established to monitor the pilot program. At the end of the pilot it is anticipated that the steering group will provide a series of recommendations that will inform the development of a final Proud Schools program that can be rolled out across the State.

This is pretty much what I and my colleagues were  trying to do during the past decade or so. See my GLBT Resources Page.

The theme of this page may offend some, but my position is that such offence is less than the needless suffering, failure of self-esteem, depression, and even sometimes suicide, that dishonesty about this subject can lead to.

Nor am I advocating a “lifestyle”: to quote from an article mentioned below:

There is a big taboo about converting straight people to homosexuality. (Personally I think the chances of that actually happening are as good as your chances of getting kicked to death by a duck.)

This page is dedicated to understanding at least and acceptance at best.

To quote Jim’s post:

If all this wasn’t enough, I happened to read this story in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph: Being straight no longer normal, students taught. I am not normally a Telegraph reader, but the paper was there while I was waiting. This introduced me to a whole new term that I had yet to hear, heterosexism.

The story was about a pilot program in NSW schools. This appeared to define heterosexism, and I quote from the story,  

….the practice of "positioning heterosexuality as the norm for human relationship," according to the Proud Schools Consultation Report.

"It involves ignoring, making invisible or discriminating against non-heterosexual people, their relationships and their interests. Heterosexism feeds homophobia."

The program should "focus on the dominance of heterosexism rather than on homophobia," according to the minutes from the Proud Schools steering committee on March 22, 2011.

Now given the Telegraph’s usual market positioning, I would be far from certain about the accuracy of the reporting. Even so, heterosexism? It’s really all becoming far too confusing!

Jim spots the problem, as he often does, and I’m afraid I can’t really be bothered following the story too seriously or even reading the crap the Tele (and Miranda Devine) are flinging around. I find that as reported it is at best a total parody of what may really have happened – if anything! (How someone as sane as Maralyn Parker can work in that environment amazes me, but I am glad her balanced views on schools and schooling are there as well.)

Rather than raise my own blood pressure I will let you read what Same Same has had to say.

Toxic newspaper columnist Miranda Devine’s outlandish concern over a new program designed to stamp out homophobic bullying in schools has created a nonsensical front page story today.

The Proud Schools program, being trialed in twelve high schools across New South Wales, simply aims to spread the message that diversity is OK and encourages conversations around homophobia and the use of anti-gay slurs – even the widespread use of terms like ‘that’s so gay’ to mean something best avoided.

“You have the right to be proud of who you are and you have the right to be safe at school,” says the program, which was based on a similar one trialed in Victoria and gained cross-party support in NSW.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph today, Devine points to concerns from several Liberal MPs who believe the program goes too far when it calls for heterosexuality to no longer be portrayed as the only ‘norm’ for relationships.

“It’s not up to academics to dictate attitudes to society via indoctrination of captive children in classrooms, and it’s irresponsible of politicians to allow them to do so,” Devine opined.

She also sought a comment from notoriously anti-gay NSW Upper house MP Fred Nile, who can never resist putting the boot in. “I’m totally opposed to the brainwashing of high school students, especially when they are going through puberty,” he said, labeling the program “propaganda.”

Devine has a history of wading in unhelpfully on LGBT issues – which culminated in her most embarrassingly irrational opinion piece of last year, where she wrote that Finance Minister Penny Wong’s new baby with her female partner was symbolic of a ‘fatherless society’ which results in situations like the London riots.

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann is among those who’ve been quick to blast Devine’s views this morning. “Her attempt to stir fear about the Proud Schools program will fall flat because the fact is, people have grown up on this issue – it’s time she did as well,” she says.

“The rest of us have moved on from the days when people thought being gay was somehow abnormal. It’s ‘60s era thinking and Ms Devine should catch up.

“Unfortunately homophobia in schools is still a big issue, with homophobic abuse and bullying causing significant distress and harm to young people. That’s why programs like Proud Schools exist in the first place – to make sure young people understand that same-sex attraction is perfectly normal.”

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has today also defended the Proud Schools pilot program, which he says is helping to assist schools to provide a safe and supportive environment for all students.

Recent national research highlights the impact of homophobic attitudes on young people, including the fact that about two in three same-sex and gender questioning youth reported they had been verbally abused, and that one in five had been physically abused.

Update

I made a messy comment on Jim Belshaw’s post:

My point about The Macquarie and "misogyny" would really be that nothing very extraordinary has happened. The recent kerfuffle alerted Sue Butler and colleagues that something was happening with the word and, on reflection, had been for some time. They responded as modern lexicographers normally do. They were not trying to please anyone.

I then referred to Rewriting the OED as an example of lexicography today –  which is where the comment began to look messy. So:

Today’s OED offices in Oxford and New York are a hive of lexicographical activity. Over seventy editors work on updating the text of the dictionary for its Third Edition (2000-). Every three months the entire OED database is republished online, with new words added for the first time and older entries revised according the exacting standards of modern historical lexicography.

The Oxford English Dictionary is changing. In the first comprehensive revision undertaken since the original volumes were published between 1884 and 1928, every word in the Dictionary is being reviewed to improve the accuracy of definitions, derivations, pronunciations, and the historical quotations.

Every word in the Dictionary is being reviewed…

Once the huge task of updating the existing work is finished, the editors will continue to add new information to the Dictionary database as they receive it, instead of storing it away for the next print revision. Readers will be able to access an online version of the Dictionary, giving them the latest information on every word in the Dictionary as soon as it is inserted in the database. These technological advances, plus the enormous number of content revisions, ensure that the Oxford English Dictionary will be an even more authoritative record of the English language in the twenty-first century…

Today’s historical dictionaries are not monumental, static volumes, but dynamic texts which incorporate up-to-date information and respond rapidly to new information about the language as it comes to light. So how is the Third Edition of the OED being compiled? These are the principal steps in the editorial process:

  • collection and sorting of quotations for individual entries
  • editing of entries (by specialist new-words, scientific, and generalist editors), including the provision of British English and American English pronunciations (and others where necessary)
  • commissioning research on and specialist review of edited entries
  • preparation of etymologies (by the OED‘s Etymology group)
  • verification of bibliographical information for quotations to be published
  • final review by the Chief and Deputy Chief Editor
  • and, only then, publication

I doubt whether in the Macquarie the “new” definition of misogyny will “replace” the current usual definition; rather it will supplement it, perhaps with an added usage note. The dictionary is a record of the language and also, properly used, a guide for speakers and writers, but it is not, despite what so many think, THE holy writ on what words might actually mean in use.

That aside, I really am rather fond of The American Heritage Dictionary myself, you know.

Miss Odgerny and other contemporary figures

Annabel Crabb is spot on today.

If we learnt anything at all about misogyny in this grubby old week, it’s that as a nation, our ability to spell the word is in precisely inverse proportion to our eagerness to fling it about online.

If we wipe the week down for a minute and examine where it all started, we find a text message from the former speaker, Peter Slipper, in which he likens an intimate female body part to a brined mussel.

It’s easy to see why this sort of observation, once published, might be inconsistent with the continued exertion of distinguished and unimpeachable authority over the federal House of Representatives.

And the text certainly established Mr Slipper’s status permanently, in the minds of anyone who might have been wondering, as ”bivalve-curious”.

But … misogyny? That’s a big call.

The Oxford definition of the word is ”hatred of women”.

Is it misogyny when Tony Abbott refers to the ”housewives of Australia … doing their ironing”?

Is it misogyny when some buffoon at a union dinner makes a cheap and speculative (and defamatory, which by the way is why you haven’t read it, and not very funny either) joke about the Opposition Leader and his female chief of staff?…

Sexism is everywhere in politics – you just have to count the examples that have cropped up this week once everyone suddenly started to care about it.

Mr Abbott’s response to the speech, understandably, was very different; he couldn’t believe he’d been called a misogynist, and that – in my personal opinion – is fair enough.

Mr Abbott has been guilty of sexism, and at times extreme dopiness, with respect to women. But a deep and unswerving hatred of women, ”every day, and in every way”? It’s not a case I’d prosecute.

Thursday, the day on which Christopher Pyne was arguing to the Speaker that the word ”bloke” was sexist and unparliamentary, and everybody else was going through the roll-call of the guilty, otherwise known as the guest-list for the CFMEU dinner, was the first International Day of the Girl.

One in three girls around the world do not get an education, the charity Plan International reports. One in seven is married before the age of 15. One in four is sexually abused by the time she’s 18. On Tuesday, as Australia’s gender debate revved up, 14-year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban; punishment for her insistence that she has the right to be educated.

The definitional squabble over the term ”misogyny”, in other words, is rather a clear-cut affair, in certain less blessed parts of the globe…

One of the most sensible things I have read so far.

You want to see misogyny? Look no further than the Taliban. Comparatively you won’t find much of it in any Australian parliament, though sexism and dopiness are not so hard to find.

Then there is a tradition, quite venerable really, as any fan of the 17th century poet and libertine the Earl of Rochester knows:

Love a Woman! y’are an Ass,
‘Tis a most insipid Passion,
To Chuse out for Happiness
The idlest part of God’s Creation.

Let the Porter and the Groom,
Things design’d for Dirty Slaves,
Drudge in Fair Aurelia‘s Womb,
To get Supplies for Age and Graves.

Farewel Woman, I intend
Henceforth ev’ry Night to sit
With my Lewd Well-natur’d Friend,
Drinking, to engender Wit.

Then give me Health, Wealth, Mirth, and Wine,
And if busie Love intrenches,
There’s a sweet soft Page of mine,
Do’s the Trick worth Forty Wenches.

Now that could be called misogyny, even if it is not entirely clear how serious Rochester is…

Leaving that and the Punch and Judy show of 2012 politics aside, I go back a bit – but not before commending a couple of other articles.

Charles Waterstreet in today’s Sun-HeraldGillard brought down the House.

…Abbott likes women around him, so do I. They are smarter. Like Ramjan, they are more generous, kinder and emotionally honest. Ramjan built houses of bricks in her career, Abbott a house of sticks.

In law, good character means, among other things, that what such a person says about a matter is more likely to be believed. If Ramjan says she was intimidated, surrounded by fists, then I believe her. If Abbott could not recall it, then I would have believed that, too. When he changed his mind and said it did not happen, I believe Barbara.

The Prime Minister nailed Abbott to the wall this week. We have all done stupid things. Men of character apologise and move on. They don’t hide from the fog of the past and suddenly remember. I have been accused of living in a glass house of misogyny and sexism myself. When I appeared with Penny Wong on Q&A, I whispered to her that we had something in common. She turned to me quickly – ”We both love beautiful women”. She laughed, I think.

Abbott could not laugh when Gillard stripped him of all his emperor penguin’s clothes in the chamber. One thing he could do is get dressed, get on his bicycle and cycle down to Barbara Ramjan’s house and apologise.

Michelle Grattan: Misogyny war has no winner.

Now to go back, as promised, and to THE SHIRE!!!  Yes, I watched Puberty Blues last night – the 1981 movie, not the recent much praised Channel 10 miniseries.

puberty

puberty2

Now those are more the Cronulla I remember, as distinct from the over-developed version I saw when I revisited this time last year. Even so, my time teaching at Cronulla predates the period Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey wrote about by a good decade or more. By the 1970s I was in Wollongong rather than Cronulla, and the drug issues that form part of the story in Puberty Blues I associate with Wollongong, therefore, rather than Cronulla. (The ethnic mix in that second North Cronulla still above is interesting too for 1981.)

Sadly, I don’t think the 1981 movie is all that good. Having 20-somethings (it seems) playing the school-aged surfie guys didn’t work for me, and the parodic elements in the story clashed with the serious rather too much. But I really don’t think the book is all that great either.

Nonetheless I enjoyed the nostalgia trip, even if it was to a place that wasn’t really quite like that at the time. But see Kate Hunter, Puberty Blues: boys were really like that in the 70s.

It’s so sad the boys in Puberty Blues do little to make life better – more fun, more interesting, more memorable for the girls.

Whenever a panel van pulls up, or a wave packed with surfers rolls in, the girls’ relationship shifts. The mood gets darker, loaded … dangerous. I wanted to yell at the boys, ‘Rack off, you dickheads, those girls were having a perfectly nice time until you showed up.’

Maybe that’s just me. Could be because now I’m a mother of daughters. I’m not a girl anymore. Thank God.

Lying politicians? Oh noes!!!!!

You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss, a lie is just a lie! The fundamental things apply as time goes by!… Um… Winking smile

awb_2006-evidence

gee.10proud2

Both from the good old days via Bilegrip.

shamelessstupid

And now of course we have, to take a mild case:

JuliarGillard

And from the linked page on that one:

The worst by a country mile Prime Minister that Australia has ever endured our incumbent Juliar Gillard and the second worst in Australia’s history ex PM and ex Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd are engaged in an ego trip as to who should be the present Prime Minister of Australia.

Meanwhile Australia slips deeper into Labor’s massive debt program, the WW Fund, the IPCC, and the UN’s unelected authority are all intent on imposing on Australia their conditions on how we should deal with our Countries problems from the fake Climate Change agenda to our illegal immigrant problem. Meanwhile  the defacto PM Bob Brown has instructed us  all in a speech that there is no better time than the present  for Australia to become the first Nation to give up our  freedom and Sovereignty  and to put ourselves  under the control of the United Nations World Government dreamtime agenda…

And so on.

Yesterday Julia Gillard, dubbed Juliar by Alan Jones and friends, hit back with, to quote Loon Pond, The smack-down heard around the world … Sure made for lively television, but unfortunately I rather agree with Peter Hartcher.

She chose to defend her numbers. She chose power over principle. It was the wrong choice. It was an unprincipled decision and turned out not to be pragmatic either. The Prime Minister gained nothing and lost a great deal…

As I noted on Facebook last night: “Yes, Julia. I shared your anger. But that sleaze you borrowed from Tony Abbott as Speaker had to go.”

Now a bit more borrowing, beginning with an excellent post that could serve as a prelude to all the rest and is worth coming back to: Asking the impossible: online civility and identity politics.

… Occasionally when something happens in my friend’s life to make him aware of the Labor government’s carbon price, which is to change into a carbon market in the not-too-distant future – given that the Coalition does not gain office and abort the legislation in turn – my friend undergoes an odd personality shift and then out pop those crude words, ‘Ju-liar’. We saw them on one memorable occasion during a protest outside Parliament, and it’s been hard for people to forget them. Another painted sign that the protesters held up for the media on the day carried the words, ‘Ditch the witch’. Opposition leader Tony Abbott attended the rally, mingling with the crowd and sharing his views on the government’s intentions (this was before the legislation had passed through Parliament).

I tried to discuss the reasons for Julia Gillard’s about-face on the carbon tax in a comment I left for my friend. It didn’t turn out well. His other friends on social media chimed in with their views and the scene rapidly took on an unpleasant tone. It’s pretty easy to understand, of course, the rancour. I mean, there was a popular ballot in 2010 and the result of the plebiscite was a hung Parliament. Because of the way Australians voted the balance of power is held by the Greens along with a number of independent MPs. Abbott has criticised the resulting Parliament and he has been joined by certain elements of the nation’s media, notably News Ltd vehicles such as The Australian. But the ballot was quite legitimate, and reflected the wishes of the electorate on the appointed day. Noone can therefore blame Gillard for acceding to a priority of the Greens. Gillard has managed to keep the Parliament functioning effectively by working with her partners, even if she did not choose them, with the result that there have been a large number of new laws passed despite the objections of the Opposition. But it was of little use my explaining the new reality that took hold in 2010 following the popular ballot. My friend gave it as his opinion that, as leader of the Labor Party, Gillard was obliged to hold firm to her earlier public pronouncement, from before the election, that she would not introduce a carbon tax. In his view, that single public utterance is more important, in the balance of things, than the political reality that confronted Gillard following the election. No compromise. Which is a lot like the position taken by Abbott in his role as Opposition leader…

With that in mind, is Julia Gillard such a big nasty liar? I think not, unless you really have been sucked in by people like Alan Jones – climate change clown.

What is surprising about these insensitive remarks is not that Jones made them, but the importance attached to the remarks. It is truly bizarre that Alan Jones wields such influence and importance in NSW considering his track record of getting simple facts wrong. 

On climate change, Jones is full of hyperbole who feels little compulsion to cross-reference his statements against the bulk of research published in scientific journals. He stated to an anti-carbon tax gathering outside Victorian Parliament that, “the notion of global warming is a hoax” and “witchcraft”.

In 2011, Jones claimed "human beings produce 0.001 per cent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere" and therefore human induced global warming was a beat-up. Spurred by complaints, the Australian Communications and Media Authority followed up on whether these claims were supported by any evidence. According to ACMA, the licensee of 2GB, “conceded that it was a claim researched by Mr Jones himself and they weren’t able to adduce any evidence supporting that claim."…

carbonn tax rally

As Julia Gillard said yesterday:

I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition stood next to a sign that described me as a man’s bitch. I was offended by those things. Misogyny, sexism, every day from this Leader of the Opposition. Every day in every way, across the time the Leader of the Opposition has sat in that chair and I’ve sat in this chair, that is all we have heard from him…

Well, even I might unpick that and quarrel with some, but the image above was a bad look at the time and very much still is. Also, was she really a liar? I say no, or no more than many another politician. See I believe you Juliar by Dominic Knight.

… the current Eyjafjallajokull-level fury does seem something of an overreaction when anyone with even a passing familiarity with Australian politicians knows that their election promises are as flexible as News International’s code of conduct. Gillard is not some Ricky Gervais figure who invented the idea of lying in a mediocre movie. John Howard developed the risible concept of the non-core promise after his first election victory, and Tony Abbott tried to argue on the 7.30 Report last year that only his written commitments should be treated as binding – a standard which, as it happens, would excuse Gillard entirely. When ignoring election promises has been a proud bipartisan tradition, neither side of politics has any right to feign umbrage…

And is she the worst Prime Minister ever?  Well she is not the best, but neither is she the worst. As I wrote a few days back:

I just watched the Community Cabinet Q and A from Launceston, Tasmania, on ABC News 24 and am hoping a transcript comes in due course as it was a reminder that Julia Gillard can be far more impressive than we give her credit for in the present climate. It also was a reminder that aside from all the bullshit of the news cycle things really are being worked on. And at around 7.35 was a statement from the floor of the most amazing decency on the recent Alan Jones circus. 100 plus points to the man who made that remark. Hope, as I say, to get chapter and verse by tomorrow. It and he were just beautiful.

See also Judging Australia’s worst prime minister by Norman Abjorensen.

Gillard’s prime ministership has to be seen in the context of minority government, a situation that none of her immediate predecessors faced. Any knee-jerk judgment of Gillard needs to take this into account if only for the fact that the dynamics of minority government require a precarious juggling act to keep them working. Because she lacks a majority in the House of Representatives, she needs to be more pragmatic and make more compromises than would otherwise be the case. Other leaders have merely had to negotiate with a hostile senate, which pales in comparison (And it will be interesting to see how Tony Abbott as prime minister will deal with the Greens who will inevitably hold the balance of power in the upper house).

Our leaders are not perfect. A check list of flaws would look something like this… McMahon: distrusted, lacked gravitas; Whitlam: questionable judgment; Fraser: imperious and overbearing; Hawke: vain; Keating: unable to sell his ideas; Howard: pandering; and Rudd: timid.

It is too early to make even a preliminary judgment on Gillard, but I would argue that the peculiar circumstances make the comparison a difficult one.

Donald Horne argued half a century ago that Australia was "a lucky country run by second-rate people who share its luck". It is hard to disagree.

And then try these two on for size.

First Jim Belshaw, who can’t be accused of carrying a torch for the Labor side of politics – or any side, for that matter: Will PM Gillard win the next election? And possibly why.

Second Why Julia Gillard will win the 2013 election from The Political Sword.

One could go on, but person against person, the comparison between Government ministers and their shadow counterparts shows up the stark difference between competence and industry on the Government side, and indolence and incompetence among most of the shadows.

A well-informed electorate will have no difficulty choosing between the Government and its alternative. The task for the PM and her Government is to make this contrast starkly apparent in the face of a largely hostile media, to restore a strong connection with the people, and reestablish trust.

In my view, when it comes to the crunch, when it comes to the choice between the Government’s achievements on the one hand, and the vague, unbelievable promises and shonky costings of an incompetent alternative government, the choice will be easy. The ‘liar’ image that has afflicted Julia Gillard will pale into insignificance as the public becomes aware of the monstrous lies perpetrated almost daily by the alternative, Tony Abbott. Even the most sycophantic sector of the media will be unable to disguise his disingenuousness and the hollowness of what he has to offer. The exposure of Abbott is already happening.

That was written in April, Jim’s at the beginning of this month. Recent events have made governing harder for the government, but Julia Gillard showing some steel, on the other hand, even with my doubts about the whole thing, must have done her some good. See Julia ‘badass’ Gillard.

The most enthusiastic praise came from US women’s site Jezebel, which described Ms Gillard as "one badass mother—-er".

"In an impassioned 15-minute smackdown in front of the House of Representatives, the country’s first female leader gave a scathing speech calling out opposition leader Tony Abbott’s extremely misogynistic comments, actions, views on abortion and single women, all while pointing in his face."….

Update: A must read

Legal Eagle Alan Jones, feminism and Australian politics really is a must read on this and the Alan Jones issue. Katy is a lawyer and an academic at the University of Melbourne.

I started drafting this post days ago, but I have been resisting writing on the Jones issue. Part of my reason for not continuing with the post was that I don’t think much of Jones, and I felt that to talk about him is to is to give him credence. To be honest, as a Melbourner, I never really knew much about Jones until the Cronulla riots. And what I heard then didn’t impress me. It’s not that Jones is right-wing. I have friends who are right-wing and friends who are left-wing, and obviously enough, I blog with persons of a variety of political stripes. I don’t mind whether or not a person disagrees with me politically as long as they treat me civilly and with respect. What I dislike about Jones is this: he is an uncivil demagogue who plays on the fears of ordinary people. So I do not feel particularly sympathetic towards him. Jones should be able to accept the same hand that he deals others on a frequent basis. His complaint that he is being bullied seems more than a little hypocritical given that his radio schtick involves unpleasant and bullying comments about others….

The immediate plot has thickened even further yesterday when the Opposition sought to oust the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Slipper from his position. Slipper is a former LNP Member of Parliament who accepted the minority Labor government’s offer to sit as Speaker so that the Labor Party’s position was less precarious. Slipper is now being sued by a former staffer for sexual harassment, and, as part of that trial, a variety of lewd text messages allegedly sent from Slipper to Ashby concerning women’s genitalia and other matters were tendered in court yesterday…

Two more updates

Jim Belshaw cautions – as I would – against excess in using terms like “misogyny”.  He cites several articles I have also reflected on, but I really don’t want to post on this topic again! I am amused by this:

It’s been interesting looking at the responses to this whole affair. My daughter, for example, does not share her father’s view:  

Agrippina ‏@ClareAgrippina: @JimBelshaw Can’t say I agree dad, I really think it was long overdue for someone to call Abbott out on his hypocrisy when it comes to women.

Aren’t we a modern family, tweeting to each other?!

Marcellous expresses close to my own gut reaction to Peter Slipper in his post Weird shit. Perhaps the fact I am now into The Cities of The Plain volume of Marcel Proust has something to do with my reaction…. Marcel is absolutely right also on an unbelievably stupid piece by Paul Sheehan on Gillard’s speech.

Are your p*bes as radiant, shiny and glorious as mine?

W*ll! Fancy *sking the Pr*me M*nister something like that? The things you can do when you are on F*cebook! Just ask A**m Subwoofer H******, apparently, who inserted that into a Facebook interview done yesterday by Julia Gillard. I have done the redactions lest anyone be o**ended. "McPiss off you red-headed bloody McClown" was another gem of subprime public intelligence — at least until Julia’s minders, who were monitoring what seems to have been a bit of an unfortunate venture into Web 2,  managed to hit the delete button.

A spokesman for the government said: "This is the first federal question-and-answer session by a major political figure in Australia – it is the first of its kind. There was a huge response in terms of questions; there’s been a lot more that have been tabled for future use. There is a tiny minority of offensive comments and they are moderated after being published."

Certainly this and other recent events concerning someone called Jones have been raising all manner of interesting questions about the nature and place of the “new media” vis-a-vis democratic process, free speech, and so on and so forth, issues raised by then screwed over on Qanda last night – one of the most pathetic Qandas in recent memory, with the exception of a wonderful few moments from Nilaja Sun in response to this:

Jessie Huynh asked: Nilaja Sun: What challenges did you face to change your career path from being a teacher to a solo writer and performer? Was the transition from teaching a group and feeding off the students to enhance your abilities in the classroom, to having a barrier between you and your audience, difficult to adapt to?

Malcolm Turnbull has weighed in with characteristic flair:

I should note in this context another misguided Labor proposal to rein in the media – to provide that media acquisitions, currently subject to clear black letter trade practices and cross media ownership rules, to become subject to a public interest test. This is a concept so ambiguous it is readily open to interpretation in a very partisan political way.

Another point of objection I raised was that it was naïve to imagine that a statutory regulator would make newspapers more benign. After all the Sydney radio shock jocks including Mr Jones, are regulated by ACMA and are regularly investigated and occasionally upbraided for one outrage after another without any noticeable improvement in their discourse.

Even if Mr Jones had made his remarks about the Prime Minister’s late father on air, I doubt if ACMA would have found a breach of the code. Mr Jones has frequently urged the Prime Minister be thrown out to sea in a chaff bag and no breach of the code was found.

But in this case the effective response to Mr Jones was not regulation, or less media freedom, but rather the use by thousands of people of the enhanced freedom afforded them by the social media.

Mr Jones has complained that he has been the victim of social media bullying saying that “ if it happened anywhere else in society, this kind of bullying or harassment or intimidation or threatening conduct, the police would be called in.”

But it is difficult not to believe that he is getting a dose of his own medicine. After all Mr Jones has waged more than a few onslaughts against individuals and businesses and encouraged more than a few email campaigns of his own.

As George Megalogenis observed on twitter today – “We all agree, don’t regulate the media. But why do you want to regulate the masses?”[8]

Mr Jones believes his association with certain products will encourage people to buy them. But if other people take the view that an association with Mr Jones will lead them not to buy those products, why are they not able to tell the advertiser of their view and encourage others to do the same?

Is people power the antidote to media bullies?

SMS and instant messages were powerful enough in years past, but the reach and functionality of the smartphone connected to social media networks has enabled opposition political movements even in the most repressive societies to mobilize and challenge and in some cases, ultimately, overthrow the Government.

The impact of these technologies have been particularly profound in China where despite extensive Internet censorship the Government is now no longer in complete control of the means of self expression. Citizens unhappy with local officials can, and frequently do, take their case online. A decade ago they would have had little chance of their concerns being published in a local newspaper.

As Geoff Raby reminded us last week, there would have been no prospect of the excruciatingly embarrassing Bo Xi Lai saga and related leadership struggles being so widely reported and debated within China in a pre-smartphone era.

So have we reached a nirvana for freedom of speech – with everyone a publisher via their smartphone, a platform so compelling that even the greatest newspaper mogul of all time, Rupert Murdoch, has become a tweep!…

(I also enjoyed, as a sometime Classicist, Malcolm Turnbull’s talk to the Classical Association of NSW, though it makes me feel even more like some mouldering old relic to reflect that when Malcolm was studying Latin and Greek at Sydney Grammar I was already teaching at Cronulla High!)

But at least Malcolm Turnbull seems to know how Twitter, Facebook etc work. On Qanda last night Christopher Pyne, who I suspect also knows, came up with a wildly improbable scenario that the nasty comments in Julia’s interview were somehow part of a plot to distract us all from thinking about the (largely nonexistent) effects of the carbon tax on our economy. 

TONY JONES: Okay. All right. I’m going to hear from the rest of the panel. Christopher Pyne, you jumped in there.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, just on the blog…
TONY JONES: Are you suggesting that the staff had some role in this?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I don’t know, Tony, but I do think it is peculiar that since her staff are moderating the Facebook discussion, they allowed trolls to breakthrough…
KATE ELLIS: Does anybody here know how Facebook actually works?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Yeah, we do but…
KATE ELLIS: Like people post on a wall and you delete it if you don’t agree with it. People post first and then you delete it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, why didn’t her staff moderate those remarks off instantaneously. Why did they live them on there and them make a big political story out of it?
KATE ELLIS: Well, they did. Once they were put up, they were removed.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I just think it’s passing strange that if her staff were moderating this apparent first in national politics, that they allowed these very unpleasant statements to be put up on the Facebook rather than, as soon as they appeared, removing them instantaneously, which didn’t happen. So I think that’s peculiar…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Can I just say that some of the things you’ve said are complete assertions that have been utterly denied by Tony Abbott and you stated them as facts. That’s the first thing. Secondly, the Tony Abbott I know is a person who has absolute regard for strong women and surrounds himself with them. His wife, Margie, his chief of staff Peta Credlin. He loves and respects his three daughters and his two sisters. To suggest that Tony Abbott is a misogynist is part of a smear campaign designed to stop him becoming Prime Minister and let me say this: it is a distraction from the issues like cost of living pressures, job insecurity, the economy, and Labor wants us to have that distraction. They want the Australian public to talk about everything other than the economy, job insecurity, cost of living and the carbon tax and unfortunately that question falls for that Labor Party campaign. To Margie Abbott came out on Friday, because she was thoroughly sick of people telling bald faced lies about her husband. Tanya Plibersek, Nicola Roxon, unfortunately Kate Ellis, others have been responsible for this, what’s been dubbed the handbag hit squad. It is an outrage what people have said about Tony Abbott and it is as offensive to suggest he hates his wife, his three daughters and his two sisters…
GEORGINA FREEMAN: I didn’t say he hates his wife.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: …as the things Alan Jones said about Julia Gillard’s father…

Piers Akerman was decidely strange, as Matthew da Silva notes today.

But such debates are part of the culture wars in Australia, as we saw later the same day when Piers Akerman appeared on the ABC’s Q and A. The same kind of issues popped up, and the same fundamental lack of understanding about how social media works. We had Akerman sagely pointing a trembling finger at "The Twitter", and comparing a Facebook page (which he knows nothing about) to a blog (he once moderated one in a professional capacity). And there was the same propensity for the blokes – Akerman, the Liberals’ Christopher Pyne, and ex-Labor MP Lindsay Tanner – to talk over the top of the women. Host Tony Jones was forced to step in on a number of occasions in order to ensure Labor MP Kate Ellis had enough air to reasonably present her opinion on the panel…

Matthew’s main topic in that post is this interview on 2GB:

It’s a long interview and worth listening to. A number of topics were covered, including Alan Jones’ propensity to inciting violence, and his track record in this vein during the lead-up to the December 2005 Cronulla riots. Smith tried valiantly to play down Jones’ role in that affair but this sort of nimble footwork by a 2GB shock jock would merely have further angered those who participated in the social media campaign against Alan Jones. Like the 45-minute "apology" Jones gave after being caught out saying John Gillard "died of shame", Smith’s performance yesterday with regard to the Cronulla riots merely indicates that 2GB radio announcers do not believe that Jones did anything wrong all those years ago. It is difficult to see how progress can be made on the count of public civility if 2GB still harbours resentment over something that was officially sanctioned, and for which Jones received a public rebuke from the media authority. How can the two sides agree on the nature of appropriate conduct in the media if there is disagreement on such basic things?

There is so much around the traps on all this now as the issues raised are rather greater than the bloody Parrot. You can go from Gerard Henderson on the one hand – why do I keep thinking the word “anal”? – to Jenna Price on the other.  Or Michelle Grattan:

…there is a fine line — between firms responding to public opinion, and being intimidated by a campaign targeted at them, especially when it bombards them individually. A number of those remaining — before Macquarie Radio stopped all advertising on the program — were small enterprises. Their vulnerability to damage from a tough campaign is proportionately greater than that of larger companies.

By giving ordinary people a voice, social media is empowering voters and consumers. This is obviously a good thing, whether it is to enables them to have more political say or get better service from companies.

But the medium also has potential to bring out the worst as well as the best.

While Jones’ enemies, especially on the left, are glad to see him get his comeuppance, they should also remember that in other circumstances some of his nastier allies on the right could also mobilise support to hunt their targets…

Yesterday, even though I had not signed any petitions about Jones as I explained before, I did "like" Destroy the Joint because I did "like" what I saw there.

the grand prince of bogans .....

And now, just for fun: