Over Christmas, there was a fair amount of online chatter about what we could learn from the Nativity about refugee policy. On the one hand, there were people who were adamant that the Nativity should inform our imaginations about refugee policy. On the other hand, there were those who were adamant that the Nativity had nothing to do with refugee policy. With all these experts and opinions, however could we ordinary humans possibly know whether the Nativity tells us something interesting about refugee policy?
By now, everybody should have read Richard Cooke’s piece in the Saturday Paper about how Australia’s right wing has a habit of inviting the worst of the world to our shores:
This national strain of credulousness has since been politicised and weaponised. The ABC has been cowed into compliance. Fairfax Media has been gutted, and that means the Murdoch press calls the shots. In their world, Nick Cater counts as a formidable intellectual import, and he’s a former laundry van driver who cut his teeth in the University of Exeter sociology department. In comparison, every climate change hoaxer and vape merchant and tax-cutting lightweight from abroad really is a god in the firmament, and is given Olympian treatment accordingly.
If you’d failed everywhere else in the world, argued Cooke, Australia’s right wing commentariat would give you a safe harbour. Yiannopoulos had recently suffered a number of blows to his empire, so Australia’s mainstream conservatives gave him a book tour in Australia.
Thus begins this strange tale of a weird publishing company based in Melbourne.
Let us be absolutely clear. A group of religious fanatics launched an attack on Australian society but used the power of the state to punch downwards. The Plebiscite was not an exercise in democracy or a good-natured exercise in public participation. It was an assault on Australian society.
Note: it wasn’t an attack on LGB Australia; it was an attack on all of us with LGB Australians suffering the most.
Unfortunately, the brain parasites that are consuming our media class haven’t quite worked out what’s going on. Here is Mark Kenny, the national affairs editor for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, praising an article by Joe Hildebrand, a crazed racist who ‘edits’ the Daily Telegraph‘s opinion column and spouts nonsense on daytime TV.
I guess most people on this infuriatingly shallow & shouty platform will not read this article before commenting, but many should – it contains some confronting truths. @joe_hildebrandhttps://t.co/MN5mvyKLHx via @newscomauHQ
— Mark Kenny (@markgkenny) December 15, 2017
The public’s trust in the media continues to nose dive. We should ask ourselves whether we really believe that the media is good for democracy and that journalists should continue to enjoy the many protections that we give them.
First up, the boring part of the review: Blade Runner 2049 is amazing and you should go see it. It is a very good heir to the original Blade Runner, if only because it compels you to think about the original in a new way. Even down to basic questions like: ‘Could the original Blade Runner be made today?’ ‘How do we feel about the legal/political/social questions of the original movie today?’ and ‘Should we think more closely about the genre of film that seems to be defined by multiplicity of versions?’
It is a beautiful movie that somehow matches sophomoric and boring questions about authenticity with much more difficult questions about technology and sexuality. The movie is closer in substance to the original theatrical cut of Blade Runner than to the Final Cut: there’s very little ambiguity about the content of the movie, and the movie does a lot (too much for my tastes) to make it really, really clear where we’re up to in the story. I would have been happy with many of the movie’s questions to remain unresolved. In a sense, even the biggest questions from the plot don’t really need an answer. I look forward to watching a dozen edits of this movie over the next three decades.
For those of you who unwisely avoid spoilers, here is where you should stop. I want to discuss a few scenes in particular, and why some of the criticism about the film’s sexual and racial aspects are unwarranted.
It’s a well-known dance. The government announces a new national security policy, then the media and the usual human rights organisations breathlessly inform us that this is Orwellian, Kafkaesque, and the last piece of evidence we need to support their preferred policy option (usually some Bill of Rights or a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption). After a few days, we go back to normal when a Kardashian posts a ‘problematic’ selfie to Instagram or something similarly edifying.
Why does the debate happen like this?
‘Every child deserves a mum and a dad.’ ‘Every child has a right to their biological parents.’ ‘What about the children?’ ‘What about the rights of the child?’
I kept hearing this rhetoric repeated again and again by the No campaign. Biological family was inalienable, a birthright with which the State should not interfere, an entitlement beyond the reach of social engineering.
Even as a conservative myself, I find this position a bit basic. It’s certainly not historically how our society has operated. For all the dodgy studies trying to convince us that there is something essential that a person gets through a relationship with a biological mother and biological father, there is the obvious preference that people have stability and certainty. People will love each other and bring children into their family units; it would be preferable that this unit be as stable as possible regardless of the gendered accidents of the people involved.
Australia has not had the greatest history of protecting families. Even recently, rules have changed on family visas making it harder to reunite families in Australia.
But perhaps the worst example of this attitude towards families was the genocidal attack on Australia’s Indigenous culture through what would become known as the Stolen Generations. For all this rhetoric about the need to preserve family units, we should expect that the loudest voices behind the No campaign are also the most outspoken about the atrocity of forcibly destroying family units.
Media portrayals of terrorism are racially loaded. There’s no doubt about it. But the way in which it is racially loaded is not immediately apparent, and a lot of the hot takes in the media today following the shooting in Vegas shows that people can be far too hasty in their presentation of issues.
Put simply, the problem is not the use of language to describe events, but the difference in prominence of events.