Thursday, June 02, 2011

In academe, the Left show the totalitarian stuff of which they are made: Larissa Behrendt revisited

Larissa Behrendt claims to be an Aborigine and pretends to wisdom about Aboriginal affairs -- but she is as pink-skinned as I am and has nothing new to offer on Aboriginal policy. She is nothing like a real Aborigine, even if she has some remote Aboriginal ancestry. She is just a conventional Leftist. She is comfortably ensconced with others of her ilk at the University of Technology, Sydney, far away from the day-to-day problems of real Aborigines. Her many awards and honours suggest that her claims of Aboriginality have served her well, however. It's so comforting to give awards to "Aborigines" who are just like us. It helps to hide the real and sad differences that need to be dealt with constructively -- JR

Janet Albrechtsen

This is about a big idea: the human right to free speech. Yet in the academic world devoted to human rights where Larissa Behrendt earns her living, free speech is often scorned. As the poster girl for urban academics, the law professor has done a first-class job of exposing the Left's lack of commitment to free speech.

Behrendt is entitled to her views. But as a high-profile indigenous academic with a long list of public appointments - professor of law and director of research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney, former chair of one of the Australian Research Council's panels that hands out taxpayer-funded research grants and so on - Behrendt is accountable for what she says and does.

If she wants to follow an out-dated agenda of postcolonial guilt, treaties and indigenous sovereignty, she is free to do so. Some will agree with her. Many others will disagree with an agenda best described by anthropologist Peter Sutton as pie-in-the-sky. They will argue that real progress depends on eradicating violence against indigenous women and children.

Yet when Behrendt tweeted that watching bestiality on television was less offensive than watching Bess Price, a strong supporter of the Northern Territory intervention, on ABC1's Q & A, Behrendt clearly rejected the merits of debate. She undermined her own credibility as a defender of human rights when she transformed an important debate about indigenous violence into something petty and personal.

Behrendt's email apology does not hide her deeper contempt for free speech when she defaulted to the Left's standard tactic of trying to muzzle those with different views. Those who stray from the orthodoxy are not just wrong, they are evil - worse than watching bestiality. Ergo, those with evil views should not be seen or heard.

And then there's the hypocrisy. Behrendt and her fellow travellers are using discrimination laws to try to shut down Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt for expressing strongly held views. Behrendt said much worse things about Price.

Just imagine the fatal career consequences had a white academic tweeted in the way Behrendt did. Defending Behrendt and her appointment to the government's review of Aboriginal higher education, chairman of the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council Steve Larkin said the tweet fiasco had nothing to do with higher education.

This is not just about a throwaway tweet. As The Australian reported on April 19 and 20, Behrendt tried to stop the National Indigenous Times from publishing the views of human rights lawyer Hannah McGlade, whose focus is protecting indigenous women and children from violence. While Behrendt said she had had no conversations with Stephen Hagan, editor of the Times, she wrote an email to the newspaper's general manager Beverley Wyner and her husband, John, which noted her distress at discovering McGlade was a likely new contributor.

In the email, Behrendt writes: ". . . I felt that this meant that our paper was giving all her views legitimacy, including her personal attacks on me." What happened to debate, Dr Behrendt?

In fact, Behrendt's disdain for free speech has everything to do with higher education. As naive as it sounds, the heartbeat of free speech should be at its healthiest within our universities. Instead, free speech risks flatlining when a professor of law ridicules and shuts down opponents. Warren Mundine told The Australian: "If you don't have free debate in academia, then where the bloody hell are we going?"

Consider this too. Since 2002, Behrendt has been a director of the Sydney Writers Festival, a cosy, taxpayer-subsidised couch where like-minded people sit and nod in agreement. At no stage has historian Keith Windschuttle been invited to talk about his contributions to history. He's been invited to the Adelaide Writers Festival, the Melbourne Writers Festival. Even Byron Bay luvvies have hosted him. But not the writers' clique in his home town.

There is a devastating human cost here. It is no coincidence that the human right to free speech is the critical driver of human progress. Progress doesn't come from sticking with the herd. In every sphere, the best ideas often challenged the mainstream. Behind every advance, there is a dissident voice, a radical idea, a genuinely curious, bravely independent mind. Yet so many on the Left, who mistakenly wrap themselves up as progressives, have little time for such voices of dissent.

As Mundine says: "This is about serious debate. Nothing could be more serious than the issues raised by Bess Price in regard to violence against women and children within our society. This really gets down to the very fabric of what our society stands for."


Damn! Aussies to be fined for swearing

I've got no dog in this fight as I very rarely swear. I can express myself pretty cuttingly without needing profane language. But some people swear all the time. Are they going to get tickets all the time? A lot will depend on how this is enforced and applied

Australians may have a love of plain speaking but new laws are set to curtail some of their more colourful language with police issuing on-the-spot fines for obnoxious swearing.
The country's second most populous state Victoria is due to approve new legislation this week under which police will be able to slap fines of up to Aus$240 (US$257) on people using offensive words or phrases.

Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark said the penalties, similar to those issued for speeding or parking illegally, would free up police time.

"This will give the police the tools they need to be able to act against this sort of obnoxious behaviour on the spot, rather than having to drag offenders off to court and take up time and money in proceedings," he said.

But even the state's top lawyer admitted to swearing sometimes. "Occasionally I mutter things under my breath as probably everybody does," he told ABC radio. "But this law is not targeted at that, it's targeted at the sort of obnoxious, offensive behaviour in public that makes life unpleasant for everybody else."


Prominent State politician under fire for disrespecting Warmist scientists

THE state government's whip in the upper house, Peter Phelps, has been accused of likening scientists to Nazis in a speech to Parliament.

In an address attacking global warming, Dr Phelps said it should not be forgotten that "some of the strongest supporters of totalitarian regimes in the last century have been scientists". "We should not be so surprised that the contemporary science debate has become so debased," Dr Phelps, pictured, said. "At the heart of many scientists - but not all scientists - lies the heart of a totalitarian planner."

He once compared the former army officer and federal Labor MP Mike Kelly to the guards at a concentration camp. Dr Phelps was chief-of-staff to the then special minister of state Gary Nairn in 2007 when he accused Mr Kelly of using the Nuremberg defence, like the guards at the Belsen concentration camp.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Dr Phelps quoted an unidentified writer whom he described as "speaking about the rise of Nazism" and its similarity to "scientists agitating for a scientific organisation of society".

Dr Phelps then went on to say: "One can see them now, beavering away, alone, unknown, in their laboratories. "Now, through the great global warming swindle, they can influence policy, they can set agendas, they can reach into everyone's lives; they can, like Lenin, proclaim what must be done."

The Greens MP John Kaye said Dr Phelps had created "a massive political headache" for Barry O'Farrell. "The Premier can either dissociate himself from the remarks made by his whip in the upper house or forever be a party to the most virulent science-denying libel yet seen in the climate debate," Dr Kaye said.

The Labor MP Luke Foley said Dr Phelps had not learnt from his earlier mistakes. "In the 2007 federal election campaign, Peter Phelps became an infamous figure nationally when he compared Mike Kelly to a Nazi concentration camp guard," Mr Foley said.

"The then Howard government was forced to apologise for Dr Phelps's outrageous comments but he hasn't learnt his lesson and he's back, likening scientists who report the facts on global warming to Nazi propagandists."

Dr Phelps last night denied he was likening scientists to Nazis. "This is not an issue of Nazism or Communism but an unhealthy relationship between scientists and governments that can lead to totalitarianism," Dr Phelps said.

A spokesman for the Premier declined to comment.


Sydney peace prize discredits itself even further

IN A move likely to spark another annual round of healthy controversy, the veteran American linguist, social scientist and human rights campaigner Noam Chomsky was named 2011 winner of the Sydney Peace Prize last night.

Professor Chomsky said he was honoured by the award, whose previous recipients include the South African cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Palestinian activist Hanan Ashwari and the Australian journalist John Pilger.

In recent weeks the 82-year-old has been one of America's most-hated men, subjected to "obscenities, intellectual hysteria and death threats" over remarks following the shooting of Osama bin Laden.

The al-Qaeda leader's crimes, he wrote, were vastly exceeded by those of the former president George Bush. "We might ask how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at his compound, assassinated him and dumped his body in the Atlantic."

Professor Chomsky said the ill-considered American operation had pushed the world to the brink of war, possibly even nuclear war. "The commandos who violated Pakistani sovereignty were given orders to fight their way out if necessary. They risked coming into confrontation with the Pakistani army.

"In a society barely hanging together, the military is very stable, very professional. They are dedicated to the defence of Pakistan, which is probably the fastest-growing nuclear power in the world. If confronted it will fight."

Professor Chomsky restated his opposition to war in Afghanistan, where two Australian soldiers died this week. "Americans and Britons, too, are dying … in fact, to make the world more [not less] dangerous for the United States and Britain. And I'd say for the rest of the world."

The announcement of the prize-winner was made by the NSW governor, Marie Bashir. The citation praised his unfailing courage, critical analysis of power and promotion of human rights.

Stuart Rees, the director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, said, "Chomsky is one of the West's most influential intellectuals in the cause of peace, the most significant challenger of unjust power."

Professor Chomsky, who receives a $50,000 prize and a hand-made glass trophy, will fly to Australia in November to deliver the City of Sydney Peace Prize lecture and attend a gala dinner at Sydney University.

He has visited Australia before, 15 years ago, when he delivered lectures about East Timor refugees at the invitation of the leader, Jose Ramos Horta. This time, he says he hopes to spend more time, catching up with friends, meeting fellow activists, enjoying Sydney's enviable lifestyle.

Meanwhile, he said, peace remained a distant prospect in a world torn apart with wars unnoticed, such as that in the eastern Congo, and wars unwinnable, such as that in Afghanistan.



Paul said...

Far be it for me of all people to comment on the appearance of a woman but...could you do something with that lead article picture? Photoshop maybe?

jonjayray said...

I think you can see the typical Leftist hunger for attention there