Sunday, July 09, 2017


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG mocks the fuss about Pauline Hanson flying a drone

Clementine argues for suppression of "incorrect" views

Mind the Fascism! Clem Ford puts up a reasonable-seeming argument below to the effect that the facts behind an opinion should weigh on whether that opinion is given exposure.  If only!  As an extreme atheist myself (I  don't believe in Karl Marx, Jesus Christ or global warming. And I also don't believe in the unhealthiness of salt, sugar and fat). I would love some way of filtering out credulity.  But how do you do it?  What to one person seems factually-based will to another seem hogwash. 

Let me give an example from Clemmie's own misapprehension of what is factual.  She dismisses global warming skepticism on the basis of an "ad hominem" argument:  "Experts" believe in global warming so we all should".  Where are the facts in that argument?  "Ad hominem" arguments are not only one of the classic informal fallacies in logic but they have repeatedly been proved wrong.  A hundred years ago, the reality of continental drift was pooh-poohed.  Now it is an accepted fact.  And combustion is explained by the presence of phlogiston, of course.

And, more to the point, what does Clemmie make of the long temperature stasis between 1945 and 1975 when CO2 levels were soaring?  What should have been 30 years of warming was 30 years of no warming. Has she ever looked at a climate chart and noticed how tiny the calibrations are?  Does she know why that should concern her? Has she ever noticed how pro-warming scientists repeatedly flout basic scientific standards by refusing to share their data and by treating as significant differences which are not in fact statistically significant? 

I could go on but I think it is a pretty good argument that the distinction between fact and hokum that she is keen to make leaves her supporting hokum.  Discourse shepherded by Clementine Ford would rapidly stray away from reality

Former US Senator and political advisor Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously once wrote that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts". It remains an unwavering truth in a world where opinions are increasingly viewed as equal to facts, even when those opinions have little more than a suspicion or feeling to back them up.

More recently than that, Ruby Hamad wrote that "We may all have the right to an opinion but that does not make our opinion right – or even worthy of a place in a debate." Hamad was responding to a planned televised 'debate' in which eight people would ponder the question, "Is male privilege bullshit?" before a live audience. In her piece, she elegantly outlined how and why the pursuit of 'balance' has been manipulated to the detriment of journalistic inquiry. But more on that televised debate in a minute.

The science behind vaccinations is a good example of this. Vaccines have saved millions of lives over the past century but sceptics continue to spread their dangerous paranoia across the landscape of the internet, revelling in the phenomenal privilege they get to enjoy from living in countries where herd immunity protects their "free-range" tribe.

But press them on their qualifications to counter decades worth of scientific research and you'll hear about how "Big Pharma" is invested in turning us all into robots.

The rhetoric around anti-choice movements is similarly lacking in insight. When the founder of the annual Warped tour (a music festival whose audience members are predominantly teenagers), invited an anti-choice not-for-profit to set up a stall at the 2016 event, he was roundly criticised. But Kevin Lyman stood by his decision, tweeting, "Punk rock was about welcoming all points of view, you can make your own decisions, and opposing platforms and views are important."

Lyman claims to be pro-choice, but you cannot be pro-choice while also providing microphones to people who support the reduction or removal entirely of reproductive healthcare rights – particularly when those people are manipulating some of the people most at-risk of underage and unwanted pregnancies.

Too many people labour under the bizarre assumption now that everything requires "hearing all sides" if there is to be fair and balanced commentary. But fair and balanced commentary around, say, climate change does not mean that we have to counter the weight of an actual scientist and their quantifiable research with the opinions of someone who loftily refers to themselves as a "climate change sceptic". It's an insult to the time and energy spent by people working at the forefront of their fields to suggest their expertise is little more than one side of the story.

And so to the debate on male privilege. I appeared recently on that episode of Hack Live, a televised version of Triple J's popular current affairs program. Hosted by Tom Tilley, the episode brought together eight panellists to debate the existence of male privilege; something that all reason, logic and (most importantly) evidence supports as being very much real.

I was sceptical of the show's purpose in the lead up to its filming. But I believed that it may do some good in terms of reaching an audience of young people who may be forming their views on feminism by watching angry YouTubers.

However, after experiencing the indignity of being pitted against people who literally had no idea what they were talking about, I have to abandon my Pollyanna optimism and agree with Hamad's view that it was pointless from the get-go.

I have amassed hundreds of thousands of words of writing on the topic of gender inequality. I have worked with health experts and survivors and persisted through the sludge of the online space to try to conduct a conversation based on facts, research and cold, hard data.

So it was extremely frustrating to listen to the baffling claims put forward by the panel's token men's rights activist that the oppression of men manifests in far more significant and damaging ways than that of women, starting with the fact that (apparently) young women all over the country are kicking their boyfriends in the balls as a joke.

Most of his evidence was anecdotal in nature, and the bits that weren't were drawn solely from an American propaganda film funded by MRAs and headlined by a man who has, among other despicable declarations, proudly claimed he would vote to acquit in any rape trial on which he served as a juror, even if he knew the rapist was guilty.

Yet here he was not only offering his opinions as if they were in any way, shape or form meaningful to the discussion, but being validated in that belief by way of invitation.

Most recently, we've been presented with the gobsmacking, disgusting treatment of Yassmin Abdel-Magied by not just the nation's lay people but its politicians, media conglomerates and poison-penned journalists. And all because she expressed an opinion on the subject of Anzac Day that was not by-the-book – though nor was it factually wrong.

After Abdel-Magied announced her intentions to move to London this week, Channel Seven posted a poll asking its fans to vote on whether or not she should leave or stay, providing her haters with another avenue through which to bully her.

There's no shortage of irony in the fact that a country whose citizens fight so fiercely to have their rights to an opinion recognised have so gleefully participated in the bullying of a woman who calmly, compassionately and quite correctly expressed her own.

But I guess white privilege has always been good at making some opinions more equal than others.

We are living in very troubling times when it comes to factual analysis and respect for the disciplines of academia. Opinions are not the same as reasonable deductions. They're certainly not the same thing as facts, particularly when based on little more than passionate opposition to what those facts may be.

We have to get over this idea of having to air multiple sides of the same story. As  Hamad wrote in the lead-up to my appearance on Hack Live, on topics like "does male privilege exist'', there is no debate to be had. There's no such thing as balance of opinion when it comes to evidence. There are the facts – and then there are ideas about what we should do about those facts. Anything else is distraction.

And goodness knows we are in too much trouble as a global community to succumb to the dangers of distraction.


'It's absolutely disgusting': Pauline Hanson slams her political rivals for not backing policy that presses migrants to integrate into Australian society
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has slammed the opposing political parties for not pushing for policies forcing migrants to assimilate into Australian society.

Senator Hanson described the lack of assimilation in Australia as 'disgusting' and called the country's multiculturalism 'B.S. [bulls***]' during an appearance on Mark Latham's Outsiders on Wednesday.

Following a segment where Mark Latham took to the streets of Fairfield, in western Sydney, to interview locals, he came across multiple members of the community who appeared to have trouble speaking English.

Senator Hanson became animated claiming her 'mind boggles' at the thought of citizens not assimilating into society.

'My mind boggles over this and I cannot believe it,' Senator Hanson said.

'The whole fact is, it's absolutely disgusting, it makes me so angry and this again is because of the political parties have not pushed for people to actually assimilate into our society.

'If you can communicate you can assimilate and integrate into a society. But they haven't done it. They have allowed them here to form their own enclaves.'

Senator Hanson went on to refer to her maiden speech in 1996 claiming this is why she called for multiculturalism to be abolished.

'We are multi-racial, but if we are going to have to live in a harmonious country all treated equally, get rid of this multiculturalism "B.S." and say we are Australians,' she said in a passionate response.

Senator Hanson finished claiming people should be proud to call themselves Australian or not live here at all.

'Say you are Australian, be proud of it, if not go back to where you came from,' she said.

Senator Hanson controversially announced herself on the parliamentary scene with her maiden speech more than 20 years ago, where she called for the nation's immigration policy to be radically reviewed.

She claimed multiculturalism should be abolished with Australia in danger of being swamped by Asians.


Energy debate fuelled by infinite sources of renewable acrimony

If there is one economic issue where the ideological prancing and post-material indulgence of the media/political class clashes violently with the daily priorities and pragmatic common sense of the mainstream, it is energy policy. With the highest electricity prices in the world now achieved in South Australia (other states are in hot pursuit) and past blackouts heightening fears of further shortages, the situation is shambolic.

Imagine the lunacy of an ­energy-rich nation — one of the largest exporters of coal, gas and uranium — inflicting an energy crisis on itself. This is self-harm by government decree. The bipartisan renewable ­energy target has been the main cause. It achieved its aim of boosting ­investment in wind and solar generation but governments — federal and state, Liberal and Labor — ignored cost and security. Now, through the Finkel review, the Turnbull government is trying to retrofit affordability and security to an electricity network ­up-ended by the RET.

With coal generators priced out of the market in SA and Victoria, and insufficient investment in storage or back-up gas generation, the nation faces a pricing and ­security crisis. SA experienced the trauma of a statewide blackout triggered by a storm, system instability and over-reliance on inter­state interconnection. It is worth noting that SA took the power price world title from Denmark, which also relies on wind for more than 40 per cent of its electricity.

Energy is the most crucial and volatile policy issue in national politics. In the wake of Finkel, we await a detailed plan from the government. It will be a defining factor in whether the economy can ­reclaim confidence, rekindle growth and diversify.

It will determine whether the Coalition has a chance of remaining in office beyond the next election. And it will be critical in resolving or unleashing the titanic policy and personal struggle ­between Turnbull and his ­aggrieved predecessor.

Tony Abbott talks a big game on electricity now he is free from the constraints of office or cabinet solidarity. He wants to cap the RET, invest in new coal generation and give priority to affordability and security over emissions reductions. But as prime minister, he behaved differently. Abbott scrapped the carbon tax but implemented direct action to cut emissions, supported the RET and negotiated the Paris target. None of this means he is wrong now; it merely exposes him to charges of hypocrisy, changeability and opportunism. Most of the media/political class are committed to climate gestures and ­renewable energy, so shout down his present interventions. But ­Abbott makes a lot of sense, ­especially to mainstream voters worried about the impact of power prices on household budgets or business cash flows.

The core policy challenge is ­described by Turnbull as a “trilemma”: meeting three criteria of affordable energy, secure supplies and reduced emissions. The fatal flaw is that reducing emissions is precisely what has made power more expensive and ­less reliable.

If we really want the cheapest and most reliable electricity we would concentrate on thermal baseload generation and forget emissions. And if we really want lower emissions and refuse to ­embrace nuclear, we must accept higher prices and less reliability.

Putting climate science arguments to one side, it is clear that given the minuscule size, globally, of Australia’s carbon dioxide ­reductions and the massive ­ongoing increases from China and India alone, our cuts will have no discernible impact on the planet. So as a nation we must decide whether we are prepared to pay a high economic price for no environmental gain.

Alternatively, we could decide this moment in time — with the US withdrawing from Paris, our economy in flux and ­global temperatures stubbornly ­refusing to rise in line with the models — might be opportune to abandon or forestall reductions targets and concentrate on economic stability. This is a proposition few politicians, aside from Cory Bernardi, Pauline Hanson and, less directly, Abbott, are prepared to even discuss. Little wonder the major parties are in strife.

Turnbull faces an even more challenging political “trilemma” than his policy challenge. A ­workable political resolution on energy needs to meet three ­demands that, like his policy aims, are irreconcilable. The Prime Minister first needs a technically plausible plan, as he says, based on economics and ­engineering rather than ideology. This goal is compromised by the determination to reduce emissions by at least 26 per cent by 2030 and is a diabolical challenge for any technocrat given the starting shambles.

Turnbull’s policy must also pass through parliament and deliver ­investment certainty; the only way to satisfy those aims is to win agreement from Labor. If Bill Shorten approves of the package, it will sail through the Senate and business can confidently make ­investment decisions with perhaps two terms of policy certainty — an eternity compared with the dystopia of the past decade.

Finally, the Turnbull plan needs to demonstrate policy differentiation and political advantage to provide some chance of recovery in the polls and re-­election. But the Coalition cannot simultaneously trump Labor and win its bipartisan support. Like his policy trilemma, this political trilemma cannot be resolved.

Prioritising the national interest would favour a solution that Labor could support, which is where Turnbull is drifting. It might involve a clean energy target where the subsidy cut-off is set at a level allowing high efficiency coal generation (about 0.6 tonnes per megawatt hour) — this would ­entrench prices higher than they otherwise would be but guarantee emissions reductions.

But politics is bound to intervene. Labor could leave the ­Coalition hanging out to dry, both because its left flank and the Greens would prefer to destroy coal, and it would present an irresistible chance to execute Turnbull politically. Why not destroy Turnbull on energy and go with a carbon price, 50 per cent RET and higher global commitments once in office? Labor seems to be trying to lure Turnbull into undermining his own leadership twice in eight years on climate policy.

There is also a catch-22 for the most conservative and pragmatic players such as Abbott. Even if a hardline Coalition could convince parliament to cap the RET and ditch emissions targets, the electricity crisis would not be over.

Knowing a Labor administration would turn all this on its head, the industry would have no confidence. At the very least, industry planners would factor in a price on carbon and, at worst, would join an indefinite investment strike.

Past bipartisan policy has made investment so fraught for anything other than subsidised and ­intermittent renewable ­energy that we are seeing a return to government intervention. Turn­bull is directly intervening through his Snowy 2.0 hydro plan and other Coalition MPs, including Abbott, are talking about government-subsidised new coal generation. Just a year ago, for the want of about $20m, the SA government stood and watched the demolition of a coal-fired station and Victoria taxed Hazelwood into retirement.

Renewables sound attractive and are popular when they work. But governments who allow high power prices to reduce living ­standards or fail to keep the lights on will not have their mandates ­renewed.


Infantile Leftist argumentation

Grumpy old white men? Come on Senator Hanson-Young. You can do better than that. What about cisgender? How about going the heteronormative route? You need to work harder to get that full intersectional, cross-oppression effect. That’s the problem with the left these days. Its arguments are blunt. Blunt like a butter knife.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young should have been able to articulate a better argument than identity politicking about “grumpy old white men”. Why did taxpayers fund her mother-daughter whale-watching trip last year to the Great Australian Bight at a cost of almost $4000? She should expect genuine curiosity that she took her sick 10-year-old daughter on a plane ride and then a charter flight to watch whales, later posting photos of her daughter, some oysters and sunsets — and of course herself — on Facebook. The Greens senator might have expected some questions about value for taxpayer money when the Bight is already part of Australia’s federal marine reserve network — a “globally important seasonal calving habitat for the threatened southern right whale”. Sniff test?

If the trip smells to high heaven, Hanson-Young’s response reeks of something worse: a rotten form of thinking evident from those who have grown accustomed to hanging out with people with identical views, never engaging in serious debate or testing their ideas, their responses, their thinking. Drug professionals talk about the dangerous effects of drugs on the brain. The same happens when your daily choice of drug is inhaling the social media exhaust fumes of your closed habitat. Being bolstered by confirmation bias might feel great, but the after effects are damaging to cerebral health.

Hanson-Young is a prime ­example of what happens when you don’t exercise your mind enough by exposing it to fresh, even chilly, winds of contrarian thoughts. Your responses become lazy, your ability to engage in a logical discussion becomes limited. “Grumpy old white men” isn’t an argument; it’s a juvenile retort in the playground of identity politics. When an ABC host suggested this was reverse racism, Hanson-Young shot back “cry me a river”. More playground stuff.

Hanson-Young’s lethargic pushback to questions about her taxpayer-funded trip brought to mind a recent discussion on Slate’s DoubleX Gabfest podcast. Slate is a left-wing publication and its podcast features, unsurprisingly, three often entertaining left-liberals, Noreen Malone, Hanna Rosin and June Thomas. The three women invariably discuss various issues along a safe left-liberal spectrum.

Last month when one of the hosts was away, Ross Douthat from The New York Times was invited on. They discussed whether it was appropriate for a private Christian school in Maryland to refuse to let a pregnant student take part in its graduation ceremony. Douthat is the NYT’s resident conservative. A Catholic, he is also anti-abortion. What followed was a terrific conversation between three people about women and abortion and the role shame and judgment play in a society. Malone and Rosin were sceptical of shame. Douthat explained that shame and judgment can play an important and positive role.

When the three regular female hosts were reunited a fortnight later, something cool happened. Before delving into the latest Gabfest topic, Rosin said: “Dear listeners, and I love you all. We got complaints about having Ross Douthat on the show and I have say … it’s just not a way to live. If Ross doesn’t count as a person you can talk to about alternate views, who does? I guess I don’t believe in a space where you can’t debate people who have even very different views than you do. And Ross is not outside the pale to me. Noreen, you have thoughts?”

Her co-host agreed: “I was a little surprised by how upset people were just by the fact of us having him on. I think what really upset people more was the abortion discussion and the fact that we didn’t push back more against him. And I will say, at least for me, I’m not used to debating people on things like that really intensely, and Ross obviously was. He seems to spend a lot of his life debating with liberals and so I understand listeners wanting us to have done better but I kind of feel the same way, that I don’t think the Gabfest is actually a safe space, and I think I would be better in my opinions if I debated them more often than I do.”

Rosin again: “I hope to have him again, actually … I love debates like that, it’s like, it makes you sharper.”

There, in three short minutes was an important insight into, and a rare admission about, the intellectual bluntness that comes from not sharpening your mind by exposing yourself to outside forces.

Think of areas where intellectual deviation is verboten on the left: same-sex marriage, indigenous policy, hate speech laws, climate change, border policies, Trump, feminism, domestic violence, Pauline Hanson. Listen to the audience on ABC’s Q&A routinely cheer quips and one-liners that reinforce left-wing orthodoxies. There is a sense of the satisfaction that comes from having your views reinforced.

But too often the byproducts of that comfort zone are intellectually weak arguments. Is Yassmin Abdel-Magied just naive or another resident of the left’s mind-coddling habitat? In that cocoon, assertions are routinely cheered without the kind of corroborating evidence that would turn them into credible positions. Islam is the most feminist religion, she said. Only if you have closed yourself off to irrefutable evidence of misogyny across the Muslim world.

Recently, the Muslim woman said that Australian democracy doesn’t represent her, suggesting a glance at a photo of current MPs backed up her claim. If democracy is truly letting her down, she needs to articulate better arguments than claiming MPs don’t look like her. Abdel-Magied is spreading her wings, leaving for London. The question is whether she can open her mind to consider opposing views that might jolt her from making reflexive responses. As George Bernard Shaw said, “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”

Those on the right also get a warm glow of belonging from hanging around like-minded people. The difference, as one of the DoubleX hosts pointed out, is that those on the right are often forced to spend more time debating their views and that can yield sharper, better articulated arguments. When we conservatives have something to say about Hanson-Young, we tend to do better than sledging her as a whiny 30-something white woman.

Bret Weinstein, a left-liberal professor at Evergreen State College who voted for Bernie Sanders and supported the Occupy Wall Street movement, was recently at the centre of wild protests by left-wing students.

His crime was to suggest it was a form of racism for white people to be asked to leave campus for a “Day of Absence”. He was shouted down, his resignation demanded. It was so unsafe that he couldn’t return to campus for days.

In one interview, Weinstein remarked that, at the moment, he’s more likely to have an interesting, productive conversation with a conservative. “It’s not because I am a conservative. But it’s because I think if you’re a conservative, you’ve been challenged in a particular way for so long that you’ve had to deal across aisles before, whereas the left is more insular.”

In that insular world, it’s easier to rely on reflexive responses that come from a part of the mind that isn’t fully conscious. Nudged back into consciousness, you can have all sorts of conversations, extend your own ideas and sharpen your arguments.

Hanson-Young’s lazy and ineffectual strike against “grumpy old white men” was never going to cut it outside her own political bubble. That said, even Greens leader Richard Di Natale must have hoped for a better response, one less revealing of Hanson-Young’s intellectual limitations and more respectful of taxpayers.

After all, plenty of women and men, grumpy or not, old or young, of varying skin colours are still wondering why the Greens senator and her daughter went whale-watching at taxpayers’ expense.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

1 comment:

Paul said...

Be informative to know if Hanson-Young/The Greens proffered any opinions on Bronnie Bishop's helicopter jaunt a few years back. I'll bet they weren't warmly supportive.