March 24th 2001

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Britain's foot and mouth outbreak - the global link

EDITORIAL: The challenge facing John Howard

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Can Howard "placate the crocodile"?

LAW: US rejects International Criminal Court

Straws in the Wind

FAMILY: Senators oppose Howard IVF amendment



COMMENT: Humane economy v. the bottom line

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: How closer Asian ties benefit Australia

EDUCATION: New assessment can mean almost anything

ECONOMICS: China's slow progress on WTO entry

HONG KONG: Has democracy a future in Hong Kong?

SCIENCE: Human cloning attempt roundly condemned

COMMENT: What would a right-wing Philippa Adams look like?

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What would a right-wing Philippa Adams look like?

by Bill James

News Weekly, March 24, 2001
ABC managing director Jonathan Shier is reported to be interested in finding a "right-wing Philip Adams". His first problem might be finding a definition of "right-wing", since the term has been used to describe dictators such as Mussolini, libertarians such as Ayn Rand, nihilist social radicals such as Hitler, reactionaries such as Franco and liberal democrats such as Winston Churchill.

Some "right-wingers" are nationalistic, but so are the leaders of most left-wing regimes. Some "right-wingers" espouse irrational categories such as race, but some left-wingers propagate equally irrational (and, historically, more lethal) concepts such as class. Soi-disant "right-wingers" have included believers and atheists; the logical and intuitive; the sexually permissive and proponents of moral absolutes, champions of both controlled and uncontrolled economies.

Perhaps Mr Shier should eschew labels and simply go for something new - new for the ABC, that is. An Adams alternative might incorporate some of the following features:

* She would respect the traditional family structure while conceding that it can be damaging if abused. Above all, she would realise that it is not a Lego set which can be infinitely reconfigured according to whimsy and fashion, but an organism which suffers from arbitary mutilation and distortion.

* She would either honestly admit to consistent pacifism, or else avoid a sneering and superior tone when referring to the police and the armed forces. "Making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep", Kipling called it.

* She would deplore perversions of religion such as the Crusades and Inquisition, but also honestly recognise that far greater horrors were perpetrated by militantly anti- Christian movements such as those led by Mao, Hitler and Stalin. She would be grateful for the immeasurably valuable contribution that Judaeo-Christian principles have made to our political and legal systems, and to Western thought and culture generally.

* She would despise crude, shallow jingoism, but also what Orwell called "left-wing intellectuals who cannot understand the most ordinary emotions". She would share and understand the affection average Australians feel for their country.

* She would acknowledge the blots on its history, but feel no need to indulge in attention-seeking hyperbolic, broad-brush denigrations of its past. She would not use the possibility of fringe looniness and racism as an excuse to restrict debate on the sensitive issues of Aboriginal policy and immigration to a small, self-appointed, urban, middle-class elite. The voice of the people might not be the voice of God, but neither is the voice of the chattering class coterie.

* She would treat Pauline Hanson as she would any other politician, by keeping her feet to the fire and denying her refuge in evasion, generalisation and emotional blackmail. She would not try to foment moral panic by demonising her and the million or more Australians who have voted for her. She would not invalidate the arduous and repetitive work (such as running a fish-and-chip shop) that most people have to do every day, by treating only academic and media jobs as real and meaningful.

* She would not idolise the market and she would excoriate the vacuities of consumerism, but she would also rigorously interrogate the quack nostrums and petty tyrannies of "expert"-driven soft socialism.

* She would dispute the assumption that crime and poverty are always a result of systemic and structural factors and never the result of personal irresponsibility, dysfunctional sub-cultures or an increasingly nihilistic metaculture.

* She would know that dissidents executed in North Korea, China or Cuba are just as dead as those once killed in Chile, South Africa and East Timor. Her indignation would not be selective.

* She would not indulge in anti-American bigotry. To her, describing the United States as "the good ol' US of A" in an American accent would not seem incisively satirical or side-splittingly funny.

* She would appreciate the absurdities and injustices of McCarthyism, but would display far more historical interest in the millions slaughtered by Stalin than the handful of Western intellectuals inconvenienced by the Senator from Wisconsin.

* She would call the bluff of paranoid conspiracy theorists such as Noam Chomsky and John Pilger who have been freely writing, travelling and lecturing for decades while at the same time claiming global plots to suppress their revelations.

* She would, if a republican, refrain from personal attacks on the royal family. This was funny and iconoclastic when first done by Malcolm Muggeridge during the fifties. It is now extraordinarily tedious, and about as courageous as poking a stick through the bars of a cage at a decrepit old lion.

* She would not treat former communists, any more than she would former Nazi sympathisers, as lovable old heroes and martyrs.

* She would not automatically swallow environmentalists' pet doomsday scenarios, and would force them to face up to the human rights implications of their proffered solutions.

However you labelled her, she would certainly make a change.

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