Saturday, February 04, 2012

Is it wrong to think the right wing of a chook means there's many a right winged chook flapping about?

(Above: yes this is a serious blog, discussing serious issues such as the Colbert bump in relation to cat breading).

Denialism is a naughty word these days, but it's hard to see why because it really only describes people living in a state of denial.

And that state can apply to all kinds of things and all kinds of people. Take John Roskam, current head of the Institute of Public Affairs, burbling on in Profile: John Roskam:

Just don’t label Roskam – or the IPA – as “right-wing”. “If journalists describe the IPA as right wing, I email or ring them and ask them how is the IPA right wing?” he says. “Right wing is Pauline Hanson.”

The funniest thing is that Roskam explains in the piece how George Orwell's Animal Farm inspired a youthful passion for free market liberalism.

But apparently not a passion for Orwell's love of precision when it comes to the use of words.

Is there something wrong with being right wing? Can the right wing only be represented by Pauline Hanson, and other such eccentrics? Is there no one willing to embrace the concept of the right? Is the IPA just a turkey pretending it's a goose? Or a chook?

Roskam prefers to describe the IPA, which he has led since 2005, as a free market think tank.

Yes, it's a right wing free market think tank and nothing wrong with that, and no need to dissemble, equivocate, mangle, murder or otherwise abuse the English language.

The pond for example is inclined to a fuzzy, heady brew of anarchist, libertarian, right wing thinking, along with a murky inclination to regulation and intervention based on long observation of human greed, and the notion that if you give free markets and the IPA a yard, they're likely to steal at least a mile. Especially when it comes to the promotion of gambling, alcohol and cigarettes ... or making out like bandits if offered a tax break.

Put it this way. When was the last time you saw a left-wing institute promoting the visits of Mark Steyn and Dan Hannan?

You can find the Conservative MEP Hannan pounding away in the UK's Daily Terror here, and you can find the conservative Mark Steyn here. Who better to fill in for Rush Limbaugh when the pill popper takes a break? Who better to keep Sean Hannity company when moaning about liberals?

Now one of the simplest ways of sorting out institutes is the company they keep, and they don't have to keep Pauline Hanson's company to find a slot on the right.

As Orwell himself noted in Politics and the English language in 1946:

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

You know, like saying the right wing is Pauline Hanson. Or having "free people free society" as a slogan while peddling all sorts of agendas for corporate clients.

What on earth does that slogan mean? Can the pond at last drive on the road on the right in the preferred American style and to hell with other road users down under?

Do go on Mr. Orwell:

... if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow.

What, you mean like saying you're part of a free market think tank because calling it a right wing think tank might actually unveil the truth to punters in search of the truth?

Oh okay, pass the Godwin's Law swear jar - we recognise at the pond the sub-category involved in using the word Orwellian - but really it takes an enormous amount of cheek for Roskam to propose that the IPA isn't on the right side of politics, and that somehow the right wing is only incarnate in Pauline Hanson.

Why that's the first time the pond has felt sympathy for Pauline Hanson in a long time. Poor dear, such a burden, the entire right on her shoulders.

Is the meaning of words so expendable, must denialism always rule the roost in every way?

Speaking of denialism, there was a lovely outburst by Cardinal George Pell - another man of the reactionary right - in his homily for the Sunday Terror last week on Australia Day. (Can the Catholic church be to the right, you ask, when you should be asking can the Catholic church get along with Franco and Mussolini).

Now you don't have to argue that Jesus romps home on the donkey vote to appreciate that mainstream churches in Australia are hurting, and that Pell has overseen the long, slow decline and fall in the Catholic church, which has in recent years only seen its numbers sustained by immigration.

Here's a few detailed statistics, thoughtfully laid out Peter J. Wilkinson in Catholic Parish Ministry Facing Disaster in 2011:
  • one in four Australian parishes is without a full-time resident priest
  • very few new parishes are being established, despite a rapidly increasing Catholic population
  • 184 existing parishes have been merged since 1994, with more likely to follow
  • since 1995 autochthonous or local home-grown vocations to the priesthood have been few
  • the average age of priests actively ministering in parishes is 60 years and rising
  • only 600 autochthonous or local priests are likely to be available for parish ministry by 2005
  • an annual average net shortfall of 40 autochthonous priests is likely over the next 15 years
  • since 1997 parish ministry as become increasingly reliant on priests sourced from overseas
  • parishes are generally having to care for an increasing number of Catholics, from an average 3481 Catholics per parish in 2000 to an average 4368 in 2010 (+25%)
  • just 13.8 percent of Catholics regularly attended mass in 2006. In 2010 the percentage is probably lower.
  • fewer students from poorer and Catholic families are enrolled in Catholic schools
Now the average board confronted by these figures would ask the average CEO to move along, and licketty split at that, but denialism is everywhere (and is it a coincidence that Wilkinson, a one time Columban missionary priest and Vatican II enthusiast is now retired and married?)

It's probably why the 'no waves' gay priest in the pond's extended family can go on about his business undisturbed by the ruckus emanating from the Pellists ...

But it does make you wonder how Pell can expend so much energy on climate science, while the church is falling to pieces around him, and he carries on, deaf as a lamp post, all the while penning guff for the Sunday Terror about the importance of traditional Christian values and basic truths ... (speaking of reaching for cliches of the Orwell kind).

We're probably overdue for a Pellist (or IPA) piece explaining why 2011 was the second warmest year ever for Britain (here), and why all bar one of the top ten warmest years on record in the UK have occurred since 1997, and why extremes in weather are seemingly on the rise (according to friends abroad, no one is talking about a warm Europe right at this moment).

But back to the Australia Day homily.

In the way that children were terrified by talk of Satan and hell - yes the pond was a terrified child - Pell's style is to talk about financial storms, and family and personal pressures, and the financial pinch, and riots showing nasty pressures, and did we mention financial crisis, as a softener before delivering a one-two punch by channeling David Cameron:

No Australian leader has been as outspoken as Cameron. For too long, he said, the Brits have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong. Live and let live has too often become "do as you please". He warned that moral neutrality is not going to cut it anymore and that bad choices have too often been defended as "just different lifestyles".

People have to stand up for traditional values, he pointed out, if society was to confront the slow motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of the country these past few generations.

And so moral collapse is conflated with financial collapse, as if the two were inextricably linked, and somehow moral collapse created financial collapse, and the IPA and free markets had nothing to do with it, though possibly Pauline Hanson did, and so the Orwellian way with words continues. Which naturally involves the odd bit of snarkiness and snidery:

By Australian standards it was surprising that the Prime Minister stated the basic truths that Christian values such as responsibility, hard work, compassion and humility are central to British life and must be treasured.

Uh huh. By traditional working class Australian standards - a fair go and mateship, with a dash of Henry Lawson socialism - it's unsurprising that Pell should blather on about the basic truths of Christian values. (Do you feel the need for an expensive frock coming on?)

Even more surprising was his recognition that standing up for Christian values did not oppose secular neutrality or do down other faiths. People needed a moral code and it was correct to pass judgement on others.

Uh huh. So being Christian doesn't involve putting the boot in to angry atheists or tranquil secularists or wild Islamics or weird Zen Buddhists ... but it's okay to judge them, and tell them they're all going to hell for eternity.

Well speaking of passing judgment on others, isn't it about time that the board based in Rome passed judgment on Cardinal Pell and deemed his management of the church in the antipodes a hopeless failure?

Most Australians are Christians and many of the best aspects of Australian life are of Christian inspiration.

Especially on Australia Day it makes no sense to ignore or deny these basic truths.

But that was yesterday, and today the Catholic church in Australia is in deep decline and deep trouble. It would seem a shame on Australia Day (or any other day for that matter) to ignore or deny this basic truth ...

But then as we noted at the start denialism is all the go, and in this the IPA and Cardinal Pell are one ... (no doubt in much the same way as others have established Newt Gingrich and Kevin Rudd and Novak Djokovic are one ...)

(Below: and so to examples of cat breading, which involve the ritual torture and public humiliation of cats, now given the proverbial Colbert bump, when he provided these examples in his February 2nd show. What does this say about the IPA, Cardinal Pell, free markets, right wing thinking of the Colbert kind, and Christian values? We merely ask the question and you decide).

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