C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

'They're not racist, but...'

It is a commonplace of the co-called 'Culture Wars' that right-wing ideologues reject any notion that Australia is populated with racists. Racism is written out of history (except in history's 'Black Armband' guises), and is attributed only to fringe elements. Some go even further, and cite the progressives as emblematic of a kind of racism, or claim that those who criticise their country are 'self-haters' or bordering on the treasonous. Obviously, these clowns give little thought to how it might serve the ends of a conservative authoritarian government to construct a range of external and internal enemies.

With this in mind, Media Watch had some interesting examples of clearly racist behaviour on the blogosphere. The program looked at the News Ltd blogs in particular, as well as the private blog of Tim Blair, who is a News Ltd hack in any case. Some of the more egregious examples of racism were taken from the Daily Telegraph and Tim Blair:

Hey Mundine, go and eat some Coon Cheese and run it off around Nigger Brown
Oval.

Dogs make Muslim “men” horny, because dogs can be cross dressed as goats or
donkeys.


Of course, those who publish such comments justify them in the name of 'freedom of speech'. (Ironically, Melbourne's Herald Sun, hardly the shiniest beacon on enlightenment, refuses to publish racist comments from bloggers). Irrespective of whether this freedom of speech is legitimate or not, what is noteworthy here is that these comments are not simply to be found on the websites of some lunatic right-wing fringe, such as AWH or Stormfront (to whom I will not link), but are part of a popular mainstream discourse. The News Ltd blogs are hardly constructed by fanatics writing from Unabomber-style shacks, and Tim Blair's little hate-site is supposedly the most visited blog in Australia.

All of this clearly refutes the notion that Australia's racism exists solely on the margins, if such refutation was even needed in the era of Hansonism, Cronulla, and Howard's dog-whistling. Whilst Australia is not, and never has been Nazi Germany, racism has a long and ignominious history, beginning with the Aborigines, then the Irish, and the Chinese, and culminating with anti-Islamic sentiments today. If you take a trip to Melbourne's Immigration museum, you can find examples of anti-Semitic sentiment also.

Naturally, the right-wingers who are confronted with this sort of evidence will try to justify it by saying that some Asians really do form 'ghettos', some Muslims really are 'anti-Western'. Even if these things were true (and by and large, they are not - I am yet to be made aware of Asian 'ghettos' in Ipswich, of all places) they would still be examples of racism by their adherents.

Once again, there is a Žižekian point here. In analysing the rise of vicious anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, would we find it acceptable to examine what the Jews were 'really' like? Would anti-Semitism be okay if it were found that some Jews indeed conform to anti-Semitic stereotypes and caricatures, that some really are money-lenders, or, are indeed 'crafty'? Obviously, we can see that anti-Semitic racism is a product of the racist, not his or her 'object, and thus it remains the case of Australia's fanatics and ideologues today, who are numerable in the 'mainstream'.

I realise that none of this will convince the dedicated and avowed racist. Futility notwithstanding, I think it gives some hope that, as the Howard and Bush eras draw to their close, the Culture Wars will be won by those who have intellectual substance to add to mere ideological barracking, and the victors will not be either Blair, or his fellow gibbons from News Ltd. This does not mean that the battle has been won yet.