Quick Post: Pauline Hanson and the Burqa Ban

There is no good argument to ban the burqa.  It’s a racist proposal, pure and simple.  There is a smokescreen that racists use to hide their racism: they argue that we need to be able to see faces because it helps with security.  This is not a reasonable argument, and it flows from an intuition that anonymity is a threat and that everybody should present themselves for scrutiny at all times.

Senator Jacqui Lambie has introduced a Bill to the Senate to ban the burqa.  Senator Pauline Hanson has proposed some amendments.  It is helpful to understand what is being proposed and debated by our Parliamentarians.

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They crawled out of the woodwork and they whispered into your brain… Eulogies for barbarians

When Hector faces Achilles, he knows he is about to die.  He gives a little speech and prays that he will not die ingloriously, with his great deeds living on after him.  Achilles wins the fight, aided by supernatural forces.  As the life is rushing out of him, Hector makes a request of Achilles:

Then Hector said, as the life ebbed out of him, “I pray you by your life and knees, and by your parents, let not dogs devour me at the ships of the Achaeans, but accept the rich treasure of gold and bronze which my father and mother will offer you, and send my body home, that the Trojans and their wives may give me my dues of fire when I am dead.”

Achilles glared at him and answered, “Dog, talk not to me neither of knees nor parents; would that I could be as sure of being able to cut your flesh into pieces and eat it raw, for the ill have done me, as I am that nothing shall save you from the dogs- it shall not be, though they bring ten or twenty-fold ransom and weigh it out for me on the spot, with promise of yet more hereafter. Though Priam son of Dardanus should bid them offer me your weight in gold, even so your mother shall never lay you out and make lament over the son she bore, but dogs and vultures shall eat you utterly up.”

Hector with his dying breath then said, “I know you what you are, and was sure that I should not move you, for your heart is hard as iron; look to it that I bring not heaven’s anger upon you on the day when Paris and Phoebus Apollo, valiant though you be, shall slay you at the Scaean gates.”

Achilles doesn’t honour Hector’s request.  Instead, he drags Hector’s body around tied to his chariot and does doughnuts on the plains outside try.  The whole event plays to the idea that Achilles is the mythical monster of this human drama.  There are no Nemean lions, or minotaurs, or fearsome dragons… just Achilles who is both superior and inferior to the other humans on the battle field.

The question of how we treat the dead recurs throughout literature: what do we owe the dead?  When a person’s contribution to the world has been overwhelmingly negative, should we celebrate the few times he did something that wasn’t negative?  How should we mourn Bill Leak?

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All those rumors, they have big teeth… Quick updates and rambles

I remember being weirdly religious when I was a child, but not specifically religious.  I knew for an utter certainty that there was a God and we should pray to Him, but this rock solid conviction that I believed as a child was born of nothing in particular.  My family life wasn’t religious.  My mother was some kind of eclectic hybrid of ‘spiritualities’; my father fell asleep during mass and would wake on cue to stand, mumble the recitations, and then fall back to sleep. When my parents separated, I remember there being a very beautiful picture of St Francis of Assisi in my mother’s cupboard that belonged to my father… but my father didn’t seem to want it, and mum never seemed bothered to just throw it out.  I know now that it was St Francis; at the time, I had no idea.  It was just a very beautiful piece of religious art that stirred within me all those things that good art should stir: awe, marvel, and interest.

When I was very young, my mother would encourage me and my younger brothers to pray each night before bed.  I would later wonder why she would do this; I was an extremely difficult child and wouldn’t explain why I was angry and frustrated.  The ritual of prayer was hijacked to get me to sit down and list all the things I was anxious about.

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The Economic Consequences of the Speech

There’s not a lot to be gained by engaging in any sort of analysis of Milo Yiannopoulos’ behaviour.  He’s an attention seeker and we keep, for whatever reason, giving him attention.

I want to focus on one aspect of the Milo saga: the part where a publisher withdrew a book deal with him due to comments he’d made in support of statutory rape.  I want to focus here because it raises questions about censorship and about freedom of expression and because, for whatever reason, we struggle with these concepts as a society.  The problem, as ever, is that quite a lot of the tricky bits of liberalism haven’t been resolved, yet all the loudest people on social media think that they have.

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It’s much too late to get away or turn on the light… @JacquiLambie’s anti-burqa bill is an attack on privacy

Amidst the entirely unworthy debates of whether one wealthy white guy is allowed to tell another wealthy white guy that he’s a ‘social climber’ or not, you might have missed that Senator Jacqui Lambie has introduced an ‘anti-burqa bill’ into the Senate.  I think that there are fundamental legal problems with it (but they’re boring and technical) and it probably won’t get beyond second reading.  But even if there aren’t technical problems, I still think — as a conservative — that there are problems with the Bill that we should debate.  The key problem, from my perspective, is the extent to which people should be able to preserve their anonymity and defend their privacy.  This Bill is an unrestrained attack on your ability to regulate the extent to which other people can monitor you and coerce your behaviour.

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All the rules and ideas we fill our heads with… Teaching law or training lawyers?

In 1939, Robert Menzies gave the commencement speech at Canberra University College (which would later become the ANU Faculties).  The speech ought to be read by every undergraduate in the country; I had to get a copy brought up from the archives where all the little-read books rest in half sleep, half death.

He delivered the speech in April 1939, shortly after becoming Prime Minister and six months prior to entering Australia into the Second World War.  Menzies worries that the ‘barbaric philosophies of blood and iron are resurgent’ and that democracy is ‘on the defensive’, and he sees in universities part of the answer.

It is difficult, armed with hindsight, not to be cynical.  For all the universities in the Anglophone world, and for all of the leaders with degrees from those universities, there was a lot of sympathy with Nazism among the educated elite.  Their university studies did very little to disabuse them of their worst prejudices.  The same occurs today: how many students really change their minds about The Big Things during their studies?

Menzies gives seven defences of ‘pure’ academic learning.  One of those defences regards practical training and, in particular, the practical training of lawyers — a topic about which I spend a lot of time thinking.

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For your future’s sake, I’m the candidate… Journalism in review

The first edition of British Journalism Review was released in 1989.  Its editorial, ‘Why are we here?’ was a scathing account of the state of journalism in the UK.  Perhaps the most surprising thing about it is that it could easily have been written yesterday:

Anyone who thinks seriously about the state of the media in 1989 must notice a great discrepancy between general statements and the actual world to which they are supposed to apply. Freedom of the press is uttered as a cliche, and perhaps honoured as an aspiration, but does not appear to be a condition which the nation as a whole fights tigerishly to defend. Journalists and editors, in any medium, are rarely if ever respected as heroes of the people. Newspapers and television companies feel themselves to be getting less not more free. The famous axiom continues to be intoned, but the activity it describes is dominated by interlocking crises: a crisis of standards, a crisis of credibility, a crisis of freedom itself.


Whatever one’s definition, the business is now subject to a contagious outbreak of squalid, banal, lazy and cowardly journalism […]  [J]ournalism cannot escape the driving force of Gresham’s law: the bad will drive out the good … or at least reduce it to the margin of life, if the only objective is commercial profit.

I recently upset a few journalists on Twitter by repeating these sentiments.  The context was whether Trump was right to consider removing journalists from the White House.

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I bet I’d move it on a little farther down the line… The problem with pardons

There’s a risk that I end up being ‘That Guy’ in this post.  Something happens and people are happy, then That Guy says: ‘Aha!  You are all stupid for being happy about this because it is actually bad!’  We often see That Guy perform along to partisan beats.  The NDIS is launched and a right wing That Guy bloatedly explains that the NDIS is actually bad somehow.  A terrorist plan is thwarted and a left wing That Guy bloviates that it is somehow a false flag.

On one level, we should be happy that Chelsea Manning was pardoned.  She gets to be reunited with her family and friends, and we shouldn’t begrudge her that genuine happiness.  It is a monster who responds to an act of mercy with spite or with pettiness.

At the same time, we should keep a critical eye on this act of executive power and question whether we think it meets our community standards for how we want our justice system to work.

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I’m in the hi-fidelity first class traveling set… Outrage about political expenses is easy

Shortly after the Centrelink fiasco — in which Centrelink overzealously pursued the possibility of debts to the Commonwealth regardless of the quality of its evidence — Australia was served a fresh helping of ‘Politicians spending any money at all is an outrage’ in the media.  Journalists love these stories because they practically write themselves.  Take an example of a politician spending money, strip all the context away from it, and then sit back and watch the outrage engine do the rest.

There is a reason why conservative female politicians are always the ones who suffer the brunt of this kind of public discussion.

Many hack journalists have tried to link the Centrelink fiasco with the political expenditures discussion.  The two feed into each other naturally: on the one hand, the government is pursuing debts that do not really exist while, on the other, politicians are wasting taxpayer funding on travel and meals.

This sort of analysis only works on the most superficial levels.  Perhaps that is why so many of Australia’s journalists are peddling it.

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