Two or three reasonably informed people discussing an issue might get somewhere. Ideas will develop; theories be refined. But dump ten or more people in a television studio and you’ll only rarely get beyond talking points and half-formed positional statements, which is why I declined SBS’s invitation to attend taping of Monday’s Insight program. Judging from the transcript, I may have made a mistake; the thing was a festival of correctional opportunities. Here’s guest David Marr addressing the show’s topic, What It Means To Be Australian:
I think there are things that mark us. And these days, and perhaps for a long time, kind of passivity, kind of putting up with what we’re given, a sort of bedrock understanding that somebody’s going to look after us, there’s somebody somewhere looking after us. And we just take what comes. We moan about authority but we don’t do much about it. We whinge but when was the last time an angry public stopped the Federal Government in this country doing anything? We just cop it.
The last time an angry public rose up was at Cronulla. Can’t imagine Dave was too pleased by the rioters’ rejection of passivity, and their evident refusal to “cop it.” You know, sometimes it seems as though Marr isn’t a great fan of Australia:
We do believe in mateship and we do believe in a fair go but not passionately. We’re not going to go out into the streets, we’re not going to passionately defend those virtues. I mean, a country that has just junked a century of understanding about labour law and how we deal with working men and women in this country, just junked it effortlessly, it’s not a country that believes deeply in fairness and mateship.
Partisan hack Dave then veered into a wild Anzac Day theory:
Lately there’s been a lot of marching up and down and a lot of drums being thudded around by the Government and, to some extent, also by the Opposition. I think Australians find this a bit embarrassing. But Gallipoli is now so far in the past, it’s an iconic Australian event, it puzzles us. And I think a great deal of the fascination of Gallipoli is it’s a riddle, it’s a hard riddle for this country to solve.
It’s dog-whistling politics. You know, this rhetoric from the Government at the moment about Aussie values – it’s talking white values and Christian values. It’s dog whistling and it’s disgusting and it is one of the most embarrassing things that’s happened in public life in the country for a very long time. This is wholly unnecessary. Costello’s rant the other night about the, you know, the dangers of sharia law in this country was a confected rant against Islam. And this is a country, Australia is a country terrified of Islam at the moment. Why? Well, it’s very good politics for the Government and that is a very sad thing.
More from confected David shortly. Now to an exchange between host Jenny Brockie and Hizb Ut-Tahrir representative Wassim Doureihi:
BROCKIE: Now, democracy, secularism, do you believe in those things?
DOUREIHI: Muslims do hold a unique set of values which will definitely, and I’ll say very unequivocally, which will go against notions of secularism and democracy because Islam puts the role of the creator as the pillar for both the personal and the political. But that is a belief. No-one is suggesting that the Muslims in this country are engaged in subversive activity to alter the political reality in this country. We exist, we’re under one set of laws and no-one is suggesting we are trying to implement sharia on this country. It’s the exact opposite that is occurring.
The exact opposite? That point could have been explored a little further. We now return to Dave, debating matters with One Nation’s Bob Vinnicombe, comedian Mikey Robins, and the Muslim Reference Group’s Mustapha Kara-Ali:
MARR: Let’s not romanticise Australia’s past. Australia is a paradise of a kind and it’s because people like you who spout this hateful rhetoric … hateful rhetoric of unity. Why do you say like me? Have you studied no history? The calls for unity …
BROCKIE: Hang on a second.
MARR: And I’m old enough to remember when this country was so bitterly divided between Catholics and Protestants, they couldn’t marry each other, they didn’t know each other.
VINNICOMBE: They didn’t blow each other up.
MARR: They didn’t speak to each other.
VINNICOMBE: They didn’t blow each other up.
ROBINS: Who’s blown who up, sorry?
VINNICOMBE: The Muslims murdered 88 Australians in Bali. They blew up 50 people in London. They killed 3,000 people on September 11.
BROCKIE: OK, Bob, you’ve made your point.
KARA-ALI: This gets to the heart of extremism. This is a form of extremism Australia can do without.
VINNICOMBE: I’m not an extremist, I’m the most moderate person here.
KARA-ALI: Muslims did not kill 88 people. Listen – no, no, this is very important. This is exactly, unfortunately, exactly the language that breeds extremists for Muslim youth. They listen to you and they go out very angry and frustrated.
Got that? Muslims did not kill 88 Australians in Bali, and Islamic extremism is caused by a One Nation bloke nobody has heard of. Let’s close with another line from Dave:
A tipping point would come if there were large numbers of people who were disobeying the law, or even a small group disobeying the law in a way which caused immense difficulties for the country. But thank God a terrorist hasn’t so much as exploded a firecracker in this country, yet we have laws now which are all set up as though this country were being rent by communal violence. It’s a strange thing going on and I think in some ways the law has tipped over a bit here.
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