All aboard the Grievance Gravy Train
The Mocker The Australian October 26, 2017
Is there a collective noun for those who make a living out of publicly decrying the evils of whiteness? Consider for example, a cacophony of virtue-signallers, a soliloquy of self-flagellants, a dirge of self-loathers, a nursery of penitents, and a turgidity of neo-Pharisees.
For such zealots the crusade against racism — or more accurately to be seen as crusading against racism — is a secular calling. Its central philosophy is the disparaging and loathing of whiteness. Are you thinking irony or downright hypocrisy? To describe it so would be correct, but those terms do not illustrate the degree of cognitive dissonance in the crusader’s mind. To describe it as Orwellian doublethink, however, does.
What featured in last week’s episode of ABC Radio National’s The Minefield served as a stark example, its subject title “Wrong to be ‘White’: Is Racism a Moral Problem?”. Apparently rejecting the notion that racism is an aberrant element of whiteness, host Scott Stephens mused that it was innate. “A great many more philosophers and a great many political theorists … would see the persistence of racism not as a moral topic but in some ways as foundational, as fundamental as in some ways infecting and rendering us complicit in pretty much everything we do,” he said. “What do you think”, he asked co-host and Deakin University lecturer Dr Joanna Cruikshank.
You might think the correct answer, after suppressing an outburst of derisive laughter, would be to say this secular construct of original sin was both simplistic and sweeping. But Cruikshank did not demur. “As a historian I think I’m constantly struck by the way the structures of many modern nations have been racial right from the start,” she said. “I think I would even say white supremacist from the start.”
It is a term that Cruikshank resorts to frequently, particularly in respect to self-loathing. “I am a white supremacist,” she wrote in June this year. “I sing a national anthem that proclaims Australians to be ‘young and free,’ directly excluding the ancient nations of this land and their people — people who, for most of the century this anthem has been sung, have been anything but free. I work in institutions and walk on streets named after men who authored the White Australia policy.”
The list of self-indictments is a long one. “I watch television and movies where white people portray almost all of the heroes, while people of colour play the feisty friend, the wisecracking sidekick, the super-strong villain or the treacherous terrorist. If I watched sport more often, I would see players of different races, but almost all white managers and coaches.”
The purpose of telling us this, she writes, is not “to indulge in self-flagellation.” Whether she is trying to convince us or herself of that one cannot say. “No doubt people of colour around me could point to many more examples of the way my words and actions reflect and perpetuate white supremacy,” she adds. “I am working to change this.” These changes, however, do not appear to go so far as the reluctant white supremacist giving up her taxpayer-subsidised job to make way for a person of colour, but that’s by the bye.
The two co-hosts could not be more alike in spirit. “Like you, I’ve been rather troubled by the political response as well to the National Constitutional Convention at Uluru,” said Stephens, who then added the indigenous resolutions such as a treaty and a so-called truth and reconciliation commission to be “clear and unequivocal” and “morally rich”.
As with Cruikshank, Stephens appears to regard the ABC studios as the nation’s confessional. He deplored the “grubby public debates about things like the Australia Day date,” describing them as a reaction to “historical truth-telling.” The protests were a “reassertion of a muscular white nationalism,” he went on to say. “This for me is really the symptom of something that remains very deep and very wrong with who we are.”
You could be tempted to argue in response to such strong sentiments that the attempt by socialist and Greens-dominated councils to change the date of Australia Day is an aggressive form of cultural cleansing. Alternatively, you might suggest that this whole notion of whiteness and inherent racism is sanctimonious piffle, as well as an exercise in attention-seeking.
Ah, but Stephens had anticipated this. “It‘s now common for people to come out and to deny that they themselves are racist while engaging in either forms of speech or patterns of behaviour that would be I think rightly morally described as racist.” To assume that a denial of racism from one accused of such behaviour is evidence of guilt is truly a Kafkaesque mindset.
These views are disconcertingly similar to those of the Australian Human Rights Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane. “Not to put too fine a point on it,” he observed only two months ago, “but we must be prepared to say that if people don’t wish to be called racists or bigots, they shouldn’t blame others; they should begin by not doing things that involve racism or bigotry.” But what about the right to a fair hearing? For a cultural Marxist, that is merely a bourgeois anachronism.
Given Stephens and Cruikshank’s controversial and near identical views on whiteness, surely we could expect their only guest would provide a challenging and robust counterargument? After all, ABC editorial policies require The Minefield to “Present a diversity of perspectives so that, over time, no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded or disproportionately represented.” So how did that work out with this guest?
“I’d like to start off actually by acknowledging that here in Sydney, in the ABC studios, I am actually sitting on lands stolen from the Gadigal people,” began Alana Lentin, associate professor in Cultural & Social Analysis at the University of Western Sydney. Does that give you some indication of how much balance you can expect?
Lentin is also the president of the Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association. Its charter is to “critically investigate and challenge racial privilege and the construction and maintenance of race and whiteness, both past and present.” In respect to the assertion that denial of racism is equivalent to an admission of guilt, Lentin takes an even more extreme view. “The assertion of ‘not racism’ that accompanies many structurally white discussions of and pronouncements on matters of race is itself a key form of racist violence,” she wrote for ABC only last week.
Not surprisingly, it was a very cosy little chat among the three, with acclaims along the lines of “Absolutely” and “Wow”. “We know that white people in this country are not jailed for unpaid fines,” said Lentin, commenting on the death in custody in 2014 of West Australian indigenous woman Miss Dhu. This is a blatantly absurd fiction, yet neither Stephens nor Cruikshank corrected Lentin.
Judging by her Twitter account, one sees that Lentin has a tendency to weaken labels through overuse. According to her Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is a “fascist”.
Fascist Turnbull presides over same racist policies as Trump regime is trying to install https://t.co/2guTeBlIqS
— alana lentin (@alanalentin) January 30, 2017
So too is his cabinet colleague Scott Morrison, but he is a “total fascist”.
“@deepthought4: Cc: @xBorderOps pic.twitter.com/SMGwUETVVJ” What a total fascist
— alana lentin (@alanalentin) February 18, 2014
You will also be shocked to learn that in 2015 she described then Prime Minister Tony Abbott as “very fascist”.
How very fascist: Tony says ‘families, jobs, economy, secure nation’ and ‘I love this country’ http://t.co/13NRC20lm1
— alana lentin (@alanalentin) February 9, 2015
On what basis? It turns out that Abbott had espoused the importance of “families, jobs, economy, secure nation”, and had said “I love this country.”
Her accusatory outbursts do not end there. Lentin frequently refers to immigration detention centres as “concentration camps”.
— alana lentin (@alanalentin) September 14, 2015
We can take comfort though in other countries having to share her censure. “I was not happy to read that invaders are referred to as ‘immigrants’ in US public school social studies,” she tweeted this year upon seeing an elementary school assignment on the subject of Native Americans and early settlers.
I was not happy to read that invaders are referred to as ‘immigrants’ in US public school social studies pic.twitter.com/c1cDoWXsqg
— alana lentin (@alanalentin) April 22, 2017
Her most revealing tweet was one sent on the eve of Australia Day this year. “Does anyone seriously think that #changethedate will resolve the pesky fact that Australia was stolen? No to nationalist days!” Never kid yourself in thinking that the progressives’ campaign to change the date of Australia Day will end there.
Does anyone seriously think that #changethedate will resolve the pesky fact that Australia was stolen? No to nationalist days!
— alana lentin (@alanalentin) January 26, 2017
As for episodes like that of The Minefield, what does it say of the ABC’s adherence to its statutory charter? Only this month managing director Michelle Guthrie claimed the government’s legislative proposals to amend the charter — including a requirement that coverage be “fair” and “balanced” — amounted to a “political vendetta”.
Finally, one should reflect on the words of Stephens, who linked the concepts of race and whiteness to “products of capitalism itself”.
Capitalism, he asserted, “produces subjects who are willing to profit off the back of the misery and the immiseration of others,” he said. He’s absolutely right. It is called the Grievance Gravy Train, and it is publicly funded through taxes paid by capitalists. And it is not only its drivelling passengers who enjoy such a lucrative run at the expense of others, but also those who stoke its fires and drive it.
1/ ‘Legislation designed to further a political vendetta by one party uncomfortable with being scrutinised by our investigative programs is not good policymaking’ … ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie. Photo: Kym Smith