‘PC’, ‘Woke’ Orwellian censorship – 1984, official lies, media lies, ‘socialism’ and modern ‘democracy’.

Many from the ‘Left’, progressives, Cultural Marxists and activists keep trying to stymie democracy with their shrill, often illogical, Orwellian and ideological views and variations of mind control. The following articles provide evidence.

Moral Nihilism in 2 Australian states

Moral Nihilism in 2 Australian states  By Henry Ergas, The Australian, 18 September 2020

Sophocles’ legendary tyrant was supremely political, imbued with the casual ­ruthlessness of those whose craft is power. This cynicism is also on display in Queensland and Victoria.

Almost 2500 years after it was first performed, Sophocles’s Antigone has seemed more relevant — ever since Queensland refused Sarah Caisip, a 26-year-old Canberra-based graduate nurse, permission to attend her father’s funeral.

Of course, unlike Antigone — who, in Sophocles’s tragedy, refuses to obey the order given by Creon, the recently crowned king of Thebes, to let the body of her brother, who died a traitor, rot in the open, where it will be consumed by vultures, wolves and rats — Caisip did not breach the prohibition, much less face horrendous punishment for doing so.

But no one expressed better than Sophocles the clash between the demands of the state on the one hand, and the human imperative to properly honour the death of those we love on the other.

Despite his apparent indifference to Antigone’s sense of duty, Creon, as Sophocles portrays him, was neither a tyrant nor a monster. Rather, at least initially, he simply believed in the need to respect the rules, because the failure to do so could lead to even more suffering than the pain they cause.

And since time immemorial, Thebes law, like that of the other Greek city-states, had condemned traitors to the humiliation and torment of being denied the funeral rites.

The fact that violating that law might pollute the polis, rekindling the devastating plague which destroyed the reign of Creon’s predecessor, Oedipus, only made the stakes all the greater.

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Yet faced with mounting pressure to relent — and to respect Antigone’s appeal to a moral law, even higher than the city’s, which, in the name of piety and fidelity, obliged her to ensure and attend the decent burial of her beloved brother — Creon showed himself to be supremely political, imbued with the cynicism and casual ­ruthlessness of those whose craft is power.

Fearing that making concessions under pressure would compromise his authority, and with it his grasp on the throne, he took refuge behind the rules, which, far from reducing cruelty, served only to redirect and formalise his ferocity.

When he ultimately told Antigone — in refusing to compromise — that “You may love the dead and die, I live for life”, the ­future he was protecting was really his own, not that of Thebes’s ­citizens. And while he could claim, with some validity, to have restored security and preserved the city’s health, the moral nihilism into which he descended could only survive amid the ruins and debris of Thebes’s spiritual fabric.

None of that means that Creon lacked popular support. On the contrary, in Jean Anouilh’s masterly retelling of Antigone — which the French playwright composed in the closing days of World War II — Creon, who seized the day, made the hard ­decisions and trounced his opponents, unceasingly manipulating those he referred to as the “brutes that I govern”.

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As things turned out, with the threat of pestilence still looming, the plebs were scarcely interested in ethical dilemmas, so long as their own concerns were met. Even more importantly, Creon’s tough stance entrenched and emboldened the city’s ubiquitous guards, who emerged from Anouilh’s retelling of the tragedy as its greatest, if not only, winners.

At the end of the day, it was the thugs and cronies who profited, while Antigone, whose spirit was doomed to wander forever without finding peace, met her fate.

There are, in the story of ­Antigone, truths that have given it almost unique resonance over the millennia, with a recent study identifying more than 100 significant adaptations and variations of Sophocles’s account in 20th century literature alone.

Almost all of those, Maria de Fatima Silva finds, are set in long-established dictatorships; but now the truths Sophocles’s story tells seem to be playing themselves out on our shores.

It is not simply the appalling heartlessness that was shown to Caisip — who could, for example, have been required to attend her father’s funeral wearing personal protective clothing — which is at issue here.

Rather, with Annastacia Palaszczuk exploiting the threat of contagion to prevent Scott Morrison, who is very popular in Queensland, entering the state during its election campaign, and Daniel Andrews doing whatever he can to avoid public accountability and shield his own guards from the scrutiny they need and deserve, we face a plague of petty Creons, drenched in the moral ­nihilism that distinguishes the breed.

There is, for sure, a chance that they will succeed; the gods, who in Greek tragedy could always be counted on to mete out harsh justice, having long left the scene, little stands between us and the ancients’ presumption, amply justified by every page of political history, that some agents of government will use all the scope they have to entrench their position — including by acting brutally and immorally — unless they are prevented from doing so.

With the crisis removing many of those constraints, our democracy appears to have slipped closer to the edge of the precipice than one might have thought possible. And while it may be that we will edge back once the crisis abates, it is surely critical to revisit the lessons liberalism’s greatest thinkers drew in reflecting on the Sophoclean drama.

Judith Shklar, the Harvard professor whose lectures on ­Antigone and political obligation were recently published post­humously, captured them brilliantly. The liberalism we inherited from the 19th century, she wrote, was a “liberalism of hope” — the hope, most of all, that one could create the basis for human flourishing.

But these dark times, which offer so much room for manipulation and deceit, demand a renewed emphasis on the “liberalism of fear” that instead of concentrating on how to bring about the greatest good, focuses on averting the greatest ills.

Rather than striving for the utopian perfectibility of mankind, the liberalism of fear seeks to limit the damage, so that we can feel free because the government does not, indeed cannot, terrorise us — be it by handcuffing pregnant women for organising innocent protests or by denying to grieving families the solace of farewelling the dead.

In Australia, we have always assumed that those freedoms were so deeply rooted in custom and culture as to be inextinguishable. Today we realise otherwise.

But we also realise there are no simple, much less foolproof, recipes that can balance the need for governments that are effective, even in crises, with the absolute imperatives of liberty.

That is the debate we must have in the months ahead. The alternative is yet more Creons, with all their ambition and venom, in an Australia that seems as remote from what we know and cherish as Antigone’s wandering and inconsolable ghost.

HENRY ERGAS

 

COLUMNIST

Henry Ergas AO is an economist who spent many years at the OECD in Paris before returning to Australia. He has taught at a number of universities, including Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the Universit… Read more

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Why The ‘Journalists’ Don’t Like Julian Assange

 

Why The ‘Journalists’ Don’t Like Julian Assange  From American Herald Tribune, 15 September 2020

The death of real journalism, a sad and sorry tale.  Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Thomas Paine would be turning in their graves.

Why is it that so many journalists have turned their backs on Julian Assange? Why do so many abuse him instead of defending him?  He is, after all, a world historic figure who will be remembered centuries from now in the same way we remember Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Thomas Paine.  Thanks to technology, Assange has been able to do far more than they could ever imagine in advancing the ‘right to know’ component of human rights.  He has broken more real news than all the journalists who sneer at him put together,  so resentment could be one explanation.   They say Assange is ‘not a journalist’ when what they mean is that he is not a journalist like them.

The keywords here are mediation and control. ‘What lies behind the headlines’ has another meaning beyond what is really going on in politics. ‘What lies behind the headlines’ is also what goes on in newsrooms before you read your morning paper or watch the evening news bulletin.

News is a product, like anything that comes off the factory floor.  The raw material comes in, is processed,  refined and polished before being placed on the sales shelf called ‘news.’   Millions of pieces of news flow into editorial rooms every day.  What you read or watch is only the tiniest fraction of this flood.

What you read or see is what someone is choosing for you,  what someone thinks is ‘news’ compared to all the other items that never see the light of day,  what someone thinks you should know as opposed to what you might like to know.

News in the mainstream is mediated from start to finish.  The reporter produces the raw product.  Whether it is a car crash or civil war, someone else will always see it differently but his or her particular version is the raw material submitted for processing.  Editors at the daily news conference decide if it deserves a place and where it should be placed, on page one, three or five,  at the top of the page or lower done,  under a one column or three column heading,  at the top of the nightly news bulletin or closer to the bottom.

The editor has the final say.  He or she is the link between the board and the advertisers and has to deal with the pressure that might come from their direction when the story is a sensitive one.  Thus,  depending on the relationship between editor and the board/proprietor, an important story might not be published at all or might be shriveled to the point where it no longer seems important.

The decision made, an editor gets to work,  cutting,  reshaping, honing and polishing the story, maybe moving paragraphs around if he or she thinks they are not in the right order, until the product is ready to attract the attention of the reader/viewer, much as the male jackdaw lines the nest with silver paper to attract the attention of the female. There can be differences of opinion between the reporter and the editor along the way but in essence they are egotistical, not over truth or untruth or the public’s right to know, but over how the story should be written and presented.

There is no unmediated news in the mainstream media.  It is the news as decided by reporters and editors,  from the choice of story to report in the first place to the end of the production line. There could be thousands of other news items you the reader or viewer might think are worthier of space and time that never see the light of day.

What is happening around the world, therefore, is only what is reported as happening,  before being processed to meet editorial requirements.  If it is not reported it might as well not have happened,  beyond the impact within the immediate circle of where it did happen. Thus the media can make something happen or unhappen, according to the choices made in editorial rooms.

Control relates to control as exerted vertically,  from the board or proprietor down to the editor and then to the very bottom of the editorial chain.  Apart from the car crash, the rape or the robbery, there is a line that has to be protected when it comes to important political stories or stories that affect advertisers and the particular media outlet’s commercial interests.  There is always some flexibility,  depending on how tightly controlled the editorial line is from the top,  but the general political/social profile of the organization always has to be protected.

If ‘news’ is to be defined as something we don’t know,  we could spend our entire lives reading books (and might be better off for it).  Much of the ‘news’ that is printed falls into the same category of what we don’t know but whether we really need or want to know it is another question.

The endless goings-on of the Kardashian family might be a good example.   The definition of news has swung in the direction of ‘celebrity gossip’ and the celebrities have responded by providing editors with all the ‘news’ they might want to print,  but ‘news’ that many of ‘us’ (readers and viewers) would regard as trash. Of course, for the media to remain viable, the product has to sell and amidst all the Kardashian bottoms, that is the bottom line.

So mediation and control are two reasons the journalists abuse Assange.  Given the massive volume of material Wikipedia receives, he or his team have to exert some control and make decisions about how much they can upload within their technical capacity but what they do post is unmediated.  There are no cuts, no editing no polishing: the news comes to you in its raw state and you the reader can decide what to make of it, instead of someone telling you what to make of it.

Another reason for disliking Assange is jealousy.  He has scooped all of these journalists who abuse him thousand times over,  by releasing sensational material that exposes the dirty secrets they would love to get their hands on.

In recent history only one reporter,  Seymour Hersh, without the technical ability to penetrate government vaults that Wikipedia’s sources have and relying entirely on his human sources,  has come anywhere close to what Assange has achieved.  Hersh is the greatest reporter of this age, or just about any age, a model of courage and the determination to dig for the truth, whatever the obstacles.

His fate is instructive. He broke the My Lai massacre in 1968, he exposed the Abu Ghraib prison torture in 2004  and he broke many other stories in between,  yet when he crossed the government-media line on Syria by exposing the falsity of the claim that the Syrian government was responsible for an alleged chemical weapons attack close to Damascus in 2013 his usual outlet, the New Yorker,  refused to publish. The story was handed to the Washington Post, which also turned it down.   The arguments that it did not meet their standards don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

Eventually, the  London Review of Books took the story on but when Hersh followed up with an account questioning the trans-Atlantic government and media line on the alleged role of the Syrian government in the alleged chemical weapons attack at Khan Sheikhun in April, 2017, the LRB declined to publish even though it had paid for the story.

Subsequently,  Hersh had to publish in Germany (‘Khan Sheikhun Trump’s Red Line,’ Welt am Sonntag, June 25, 2017) and he now has no place anywhere in the mainstream print media of his own country.

Another reason for journalists disliking Assange is that in one way or another,  they are not free to write what they want.  They belong to institutions, ‘belonging’ defined as owned by them. They depend on them for their salaries and their careers.  Basically they are correct when they say ‘No-one tells me what to write.’  No one has to tell them because they already know what to write if they want to keep their jobs,  wherever they happen to work.

Self-censorship is central to the practice of journalism in the mainstream.  No-one with an eye on their best interests is going to write something they know editors will throw in their face, not because it is badly written but because it goes against the editorial line.  They might be lucky enough to agree with the editorial line anyway but if they don’t they have to adjust, or look for a future in journalism elsewhere.

Thus, journalists have power,  the power and the money of the institution behind them.  Assange has no institution behind him.  Indeed, the institutions are all against him. A media which used him up has abandoned him.  The government of his own country, Australia, has not lifted a finger in his defense.

What Assange does have behind him is the power of the truth-telling that should be the core of journalism,  not the truth-tailoring and the acceptance of downright lies that characterizes much of mainstream journalism today.   So of course the journalists don’t like him, or should we say ‘journalists’, because who is doing the real work of journalism today,  they or Julian Assange?

Links to more articles follow the five below

How to derange democracy 101

How to derange democracy 101  Editorial, The Australian, 15 September 2020

Editor’s note: This excellent editorial should be read in conjunction with the following article Social Justice ‘officers’ rise from campus to control us.

Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks is not a title likely to impress anyone with real-world worries and responsibilities. Yet this hoax paper was accepted by a peer-reviewed journal because it’s not noticeably more absurd than much of the “social justice” research taken seriously in higher education. Now, two of the scholars involved in that instructive hoax have published a sober analysis of the various studies in race and gender that make claim to being “critical” but in fact are uncritical activism. This new book, Cynical Theories, by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, has featured in our pages with an extract, commentary by Paul Kelly and an author interview by Rosemary Neill.

Concern about profound intellectual corruption in the social sciences and humanities has been dismissed by progressives for years as a culture war with little purchase on reality. But many thoughtful commentators are turning to Cynical Theories as a timely explanation of the bad ideas responsible for some of the polarisation and conflict deranging the supposedly advanced democracies, most graphically in US cities such as Portland, Oregon, and institutions including The New York Times. Critical race theory is a large part of the reason decent people and good intentions have been too easily sidelined as Black Lives Matter protests morph into violence and anarchy.

Critical theory emerged from the postwar failure of the left’s economic program as it reinvented itself in the battlegrounds of culture and identity. Power and group membership are realities, of course, but the new progressive dogma reduces human society to a crude, unending struggle for dominance between designated oppressor categories (white blokes, take a bow) and victims who monopolise a new currency of virtue. The chaotic dynamism of interpersonal relations is dumbed down into tribal identities. Fact, truth and knowledge are not allowed any overarching validity but are seen as yet another contest for power dictated by hierarchies of oppression. Taken to an extreme, this paralyses debate because there is no common language of fact for varying opinions to interpret. This stance frustrates the political compromise that lies at the heart of a healthy democracy. The task of mutual understanding and building bridges between parties in dispute becomes fraught. Conflict sharpens and, in the worst case, intimidation and force rule the day. A society such as this cannot solve its problems, and spirals downward.

In Australia we are a long way from that dystopia, and America’s racial divide poses problems of a different order, but the very rapid decline in law, order and civility witnessed this year in the great republic of the US is a warning we cannot ignore. Critical race theory is especially counter-productive for any multicultural nation. As Pluckrose and Lindsay write: “We are told (by activist scholars) that racism is embedded in culture and that we cannot escape it. We hear that white people are inherently racist.” Racism exists and whites are not free of it, but the task of social harmony requires us to bring together people of goodwill, whatever their skin colour or politics, and to find common ground for respect and co-operation. Critical race theory does the opposite: it deepens the divide and offers toxic slogans instead of practical changes and new opportunities.

“Social justice” sounds unambiguously good and that is why its banner has been uncritically passed from the universities to government agencies, cultural institutions, sections of the media and major corporations. But social justice activism of the critical theory kind is misleading: it masquerades as a solution to problems that in truth it can only worsen. It comes packaged in misleading language and attractive catchphrases; its incoherent assumptions and dogmas are hidden. This is why Cynical Theories is important: it is the idiot’s guide to woke ideology. Kelly says the book “should be read by every institutional leader and executive so they understand the ideological goals that lie beneath the policies they are implementing”. He is dead right.

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Social Justice ‘officers’ rise from campus to control us

 

Social Justice ‘officers’ rise from campus to control us  By Helen Pluckrose and Janes Lindsay, The Australian, 12 September 2020

There is a problem that begins in our universities, and it comes down to Social Justice, which we capitalise to refer to the dogmatic political ideology that has usurped the respectable universalist goal of social justice. The most immediate aspect of the problem is that Social Justice scholarship gets passed down to students, who then go out into the world. This effect is strongest within Social Justice fields, which teach students to be sceptical of science, reason and evidence; to regard knowledge as tied to identity; to read oppressive power dynamics into every interaction; to politicise every facet of life; and to apply ethical principles unevenly, in accordance with identity. But Social Justice also materialises as a prevailing campus culture. Most universities in the US now have “diversity” requirements: these ideas are taught to everyone, as part of the general curriculum. It is common to underestimate this problem.

We often encounter the assumption that, once they graduate, students will have to learn marketable skills and that this will resolve the problem: once they get into the “real world”, they will have to leave behind these ideological positions in order to find employment. But what if they simply take their beliefs into the professional world and remake that world to suit them? Unfortunately, this is exactly what’s happening. The real world is changing to absorb the skills of such students, and a Social Justice industry already worth billions of dollars is forming, all dedicated to training our companies and institutions to enact and police The Truth according to Social Justice.

A new job entitled (some variation of) “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer” has emerged. It is designed to change the organisational culture to accord with the ideology of Social Justice. These officers are the architects and enforcers of soft revolutions; inquisitors, seeking incidents of bias and imbalance. These also are not fringe jobs. They are, unsurprisingly, particularly concentrated within higher education, where, according to some reports in the US, diversity officers are rapidly increasing in number, and earn three times as much as the average American and more than the academic faculty. Diversity, equity and inclusion officers are not limited to the academy, however; they also crop up in administration and human resources departments, including in city governments.

According to a major job search website in Britain, equality and diversity jobs are especially common in the Equality and Human Rights Commission, professional associations, the Law Society, schools and universities, the police, large private sector companies, local authorities, trade unions and the civil service. They have become the norm, not the exception, for many institutions and corporations of sufficient size. These officers therefore now wield significant institutional, social, and cultural power. Within the universities, the problem is not confined to specific classes. “Bias response teams” are now thought to exist at more than 200 US colleges, and they serve the entire campus by, as their name suggests, responding to reports of identity-based bias. Although some are quick to point out they do not have the power to directly inflict punishment for or control over speech, and can only provide “education and persuasion”, this is alarming, if not Orwellian, depending on what is considered bias and what education and training are provided to correct it.

This is especially true since they can indirectly lead to sanctioning or firing by submitting bias reports to administrators with recommendations for action. But what constitutes “bias” in these cases? Since the slights students have complained of include support for President Donald Trump, “phallic snow objects” and expressions of antiracism such as “I don’t see colour”, and bias is operationally defined as a “state of mind”, it appears sensitivity detectors might be set rather high.

Although students who have been reported retain the right not to submit themselves for education, it is probable that many will not want to risk the accompanying opprobrium and will simply self-censor any problematic ideas. This is not conducive to the healthy debate and viewpoint diversity essential to knowledge production in universities. It’s also divisive for campus communities and the workplaces graduates will be fit into, which all may become more dysfunctional as a result. There have also been more overt attempts to silence certain views on campus. “No-platforming” policies for particular legal or political groups and certain public figures have become common, though they often fly under the radar. Certain views — academic views shared by professionals — are considered too dangerous or even “violent” to be allowed a platform. Unlike deplatforming drives — in which someone invited to speak has that invitation rescinded — policies that disallow certain views in the first place attract little attention.

READ MORE:‘You can’t cancel me’|Drain the uni swamp with penalties|Leak paints faux bleeding hearts into a corner

In Britain, more than 50 per cent of universities restrict speech, especially certain views of religion and trans identity. This problem is expansive. One consequence is that once taken on, Social Justice scholarship and ethics completely displace reliable and rigorous scholarship into issues of social justice by condemning all other approaches as complicit with systemic bigotry and thus unthinkable — or, in practice, unpublishable and punishable.

While some scholarship on gender, race and sexuality is empirical and rigorous, and could help redress imbalances in society, it is undermined by that which is not. This creates a crisis of confidence around some of the most important topics of our current political moment. Some scholars mischaracterise criticisms of shoddy and unethical scholarship as motivated by a hatred of minority groups or women. This is astonishing. Try to imagine a parallel in other fields. Would it seem reasonable to argue that people who object to unevidenced and unethical scholarship in medicine just hate sick people and don’t care about their suffering? Do people say, “Yes, some bad papers get added to the body of medical knowledge but there are good ones too!”, rather than trying to weed out the bad papers so people don’t receive dangerous or ineffective treatments? No, because we recognise safe and effective medicine is essential to human thriving. But so is rigorous scholarship on social (justice) issues. Scholars within that field should know this better than anyone. In no serious discipline do we so plainly see a drive to be morally right (or righteous) instead of factually and theoretically correct. This drive is, perhaps, the most obvious feature of Social Justice scholarship.

Cynical Theories by Helen Pluckrose

These problems have also affected disciplines other than identity studies, especially in the humanities and arts. Literature, philosophy and history have long accepted and, at times, even required the inclusion of Theory within their courses. Postcolonial Theory and feminist analysis — both materialist and postmodern — are particularly common. Other forms of analysis simply aren’t allowed, at best; treated as intolerably biased, offensive, or violent, at worst. Even science, technology, engineering and math-ematics subjects have been affected. Since 2010, there have been an increasing number of proposals from within engineering, arguing for the use of Social Justice concepts in that profession. One 2015 paper proposes that an engineer should “demonstrate competence in the provision of sociotechnological services that are sensitive to dynamics of difference, power and privilege among people and cultural groups”. Meanwhile, arguments have been made that mathematics is intrinsically sexist and racist because of its focus on objectivity and proof and because of disparate outcomes in mathematics education across racial groups.

One 2018 paper asserts: “Drawing upon Indigenous worldviews to reconceptualise what mathematics is and how it is practised, I argue for a movement against objects, truths and knowledge towards a way of being in the world that is guided by first principles — mathematx. This shift from thinking of mathematics as a noun to mathematx as a verb holds potential for honouring our connections with each other as human and other-than-human persons, for balancing problem solving with joy, and maintaining critical bifocality at the local and global level.” It is unclear how this could improve mathematics, but the political agenda here is obvious — and alarming.

Unlike Vegas, what happens in the university doesn’t stay in the university. Universities are cultural centres, research institutes and halls of education. University culture leaks out into the broader culture almost by osmosis. Many people gravitate to the university’s events, productions and outreach programs, and are thereby influenced by its culture. Universities are among the best and, ideally, the least biased centres of knowledge production — just compare other research centres connected to corporations or politically motivated think tanks. As a society, we turn to universities to help identify which statements, ideas and values we can trust. Universities then transmit both information and intellectual culture to students. In this way, these institutions produce the educational and cultural elite, who will later go into the professions, head industries, establish charities, produce media and shape public policy. Done right, universities are invaluable. Done wrong, they are a means of harmful cultural indoctrination without equal.

This is an edited extract from Cynical Theories by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay published by Swift Press. Out Tuesday.

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