Video Secrets

[An edited version of this article was published in Quadrant Online as Bile! You’re on Qatar’s Candid Camera.]

Two weeks ago, Comedy Central’s Jim Jefferies responded to the Christchurch massacre with a hit piece on Avi Yemini, who is one of the emerging breed of conservative citizen reporters producing videos on social media. Jefferies had interviewed Yemini a few months prior to the massacre, but rushed his heavily edited footage to air as an exposé of Australian white supremacism. It was built around a portrayal of Yemini as an anti-Muslim activist and an anti-black racist.

Unfortunately for Jefferies, Yemini had secretly recorded their conversation. When Jefferies had aired his ambush, Yemini followed suit with a short series combining segments from Jefferies’ piece with unedited sequences from his own. The results are devastating for Jim Jefferies and Comedy Central, as you can see here.

The glaring dishonesty of the editing was bad enough, but after all, such is the stock-in-trade of television “journalism.” More damaging to Jeffries, and the trigger for a bout of twitter-rage, was the footage of Jeffries using a less well appreciated technique of interviewers: provocation.

Say, for instance, that an interviewer wants his subject to reveal that he hates Muslims, or that he is a conspiracy theorist about 9/11, or any of a dozen other real or imagined PC crimes and misdemeanours. He lulls his subject into a sense of camaraderie and complicity by revealing, off the record, that he shares these opinions, or has doubts about the “official” line on one event or another, hoping that the subject will then open to his newly-found comrade about his own beliefs. Such revelations, however deficient in damning content, can then be worked up into a case for the prosecution by teleological editing.

The best laid schemes gang aft agley; and so did this. Jefferies’ purpose was evident to Yemini, and the former’s open videoing was thwarted by that which the latter concealed. Jefferies’ provocations, though they were secretly filmed, though they were never intended to be broadcast, and though they were designed to elicit desired responses, were taken by the dim bulbs of the social media madhouse to be his actual opinions, because they were secretly filmed.

Take another scenario. In these circumstances the provocateur is the one secretly recording. He does not reveal that he is working with a reporter, and he pretends to be a person of some influence with many people in the community who share a common interest in guns. His subjects, Pauline Hanson and her staffers, who take him at face value, are unaware, and unsuspecting, of his purpose. He arranges meetings with others who share some of Hanson’s concerns, and some of the concerns that he pretends to. All the time, he is after some quotes that will damage the politician. He maintains his pretence for three years.

Politicians talk to a variety of special interest groups and influential individuals. Unfortunately, great personal integrity is contra-indicated for today’s politicians. A degree of adaptability is regarded as a very good thing. When politicians meet influential people, they are always looking to benefit to some extent from that influence; to minimise negative attitudes in some, to gain more enthusiastic support from others. One might expect, then, that politicians in a private meeting and being goaded and cajoled by the company, might say some things that they would not say in public. No conclusions can be drawn, though, as to whether those words represent the actual beliefs of the politician.

And so it came to pass, after three diligent years, that a minute or few of video clips were released in such a way as to cause maximum damage with an election pending. A few clips of video seem like a poor return on three years of investment, but these clips were gold for Hanson’s opponents. The media howled at the moon, and set off after the prey.

After the release of the second batch of videos, I happened to see Shari Markson, who was filling in for Peta Credlin on Sky. She was interviewing Andrew Bolt about the videos. Bolt expressed his reservations about the circumstances in which these had been recorded, and the need to see the full context before making a judgement about them. His deliberate reasoning shone almost as brightly as Markson’s high-wattage good looks; but she was having none of it. The words!  The words! She might have mentioned the thrill of the chase, or the glittering prospect of shooting down the Hanson bogey – nightmare of “progressive” journalists, irrespective of where they happen to be working.

The implicit assumptions about these particular words, words, was that, because they were secretly filmed, they must represent the actual beliefs of Pauline Hanson. They may do; they may not. Context is everything.  One hallmark of Hanson’s public career, and the one that both sets her apart from other politicians and explains her popularity, is that she spoke her mind in public. Would that more politicians did. That is not a conclusive consideration, but it does weigh in the balance in her favour.

Cui bono? The main beneficiary of this media setup is the Coalition. The release came in the midst of an attack on One Nation led by the Prime Minister. The operation was designed by a former ABC staffer working for Al Jazeera, and was financed by the network. Al Jazeera has, as one of its primary purposes, the dissemination of the worldview of the ruler of Qatar. Qatar is a pariah among the Arab states because of its support of the Muslim Brotherhood. It also provides funding for Hamas. At a time when the other Arabic Gulf States are realising that the djinn of Islamist terrorism needs putting back in the bottle, Qatar is an outlier.  How sobering is it to think that, if this persistent undercover operation of Al Jazeera helps Scott Morrison to victory, Al Jazeera may consider that the Coalition owes it a favour?

Men, Improved

[First published in Quadrant Online as Gender Quotas, Merit and Faux Equality.]

Since the outbreak of #metoo hashtagging in the Federal parliamentary Liberal Party, Peta Credlin (among others) has been promoting targets for Liberal women in Parliament.  Simultaneously, she decries quotas as promoted by, for example, the Labor Party.  Women, she says, don’t want a handicapping system for men; women want to win entirely on their own merits; women don’t want to walk into the party room aware that there were better candidates whose shoes they are not quite filling; etc, etc, etc.  Women who are like Peta only want to get into Parliament by their own honest and honourable efforts.

What’s the difference between a quota and a target? A target has a handbrake.  That’s it.  The rationale of each is identical.  It starts with the  unchallengeable premiss: the country must have equal numbers of women in the Federal Parliament (and just about everywhere else, to boot.)  A target is designed to achieve the same result, but more slowly, and with a little bit of wiggle room.

If the aim is the same, what’s the logic of claiming that targets are better?  Your guess is as good as this one of mine.  A quota forces the pace, and the women who are injected into Parliament suffer all of the detriments to self-esteem that Ms Credlin has sketched out (although they seem to manage it bravely.)  A target, on the other hand, can be accompanied by a development program, which will bolster the skills, the confidence, and the network of the participating women.  By the time the target dates roll around, they won’t be needed, because the women will be competing on an equal footing with the men.

I don’t know whether the thinking about targets actually ascends to the level of some such theory – any such theory – but looming behind this theory is an out-of-focus vision of the restored state of nature, with the elimination of all the handicaps that have been clamped onto women like so many electronic ankle bracelets to confine them to house arrest.  In that wonderful day to come, women will realise their full potential and compete, unimpeded and uninhibited, with men.  And if restored womanhood finds that its natural level is to have greater representation than men, well, let the lines fall in such pleasant places.  It’s Rousseau in a pantsuit.

Whether elaborated or fuzzy, conscious or unconscious, a semi-androgynous utopianism underlies all thinking about “equality”: that women have all of the aptitudes, interests and drive of men, alongside what might once have been called “feminine” traits.  Women lack nothing useful to men in the pursuit of careers, but they soften the edges of aggression and  merciless competition, preferring a certain group consensus which, far from inhibiting, actually enhances the success of their enterprises.  Women are just men, improved.

At the femmunist parousia, when every tear is wiped away from every woman’s eye, and women occupy at least half of the positions in every career in every field, who will be responsible for the manufacture of new humans?  How will these new humans be fed, watered and sheltered?  How will they be raised to become ideological clones of their perfect mothers; each perfectly un-straight, perfectly un-white-privileged, and, for the boys at least, perfectly non-toxically un-male?

It’s a ridiculous notion, and everybody knows it’s a ridiculous notion, yet no-one dares to connect the dots.  While the species remains viable, women will never be equally represented in the workforce, thanks be to God.  All of the high-profile women who agitate for “equality” understand this biological and mathematical inequality.  What, then, are they agitating for?  Far from being a cry for equality, their demand is for systematic, legislated inequality, of which they are the beneficiaries.  For if, among those who pursue their careers with uninterrupted vigour, the ratio of men to women is, say, four to one, then the demand for equal representation at each level of management amounts to a demand that women be privileged for promotion in the ratio of four to one.  Four times as many men as women will compete for every job, yet every second job must be given to a woman. You may argue about the ratio, but short of the abandonment of the very notion of raising a family, it will never be one to one.  Femmunism, like its grotesque progenitor, will remain Orwellian.  War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Inequality is Equality.

Men Are Mortal

[First published in Quadrant Online as ‘Slut-Shamed’ Victimhood’s Loose Logic]

Men are mortal.
ScoMo is a man.
Therefore, ScoMo is mortal.

Is there anything wrong with this argument?  A stickler for logical forms would insist that the first premiss should be All men are mortal.  Fair enough.  But if you put the initial form of the argument to a large sample of Australian voters, how many would object?  A statement like men are mortal will generally be accepted as a class attribution.

Now try this one.

Men are rapists.
David Leyonhjelm is a man.
Therefore, David Leyonhjelm is a rapist.

How does this one hold up?  That depends whom you offer it to.  To my mind, if you’re talking to those who retain some grip on common sense they will become sticklers for form, and reject the argument.  While all can be implicitly added to men are mortal, the same cannot be done here.

On the other hand, there is an increasingly large group, almost exclusively university educated, who will accept the argument, along these lines.  There are men who have committed rape, and are therefore unarguably rapists.  On the other hand, there are men who have not committed rape, per se, but who benefit from the intimidation of women by toxic masculinity and the rape culture, and who therefore are empowered by their male privilege. One has only to look at the rape crisis at Australian universities. This dichotomy effectively partitions men as a whole. The first premiss of the “rapists” argument is implicitly All men are rapists (by virtue of being men.)  Those who believe this have lost their grip on reality, but there are plenty of them.

Which brings me to Sarah Hanson-Young, or SH-Y as the woman-child is ironically known.  Is there a group in Australian politics in which the “men are rapists” mantra will find more enthusiastic support than among Greens?  Admittedly, it’s a close-run thing, what with the Labor Party en masse, and with much of the much-bullied women’s caucus of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, but the Noes have it.

On Thursday, 28th of June, the Senate was debating a motion from Fraser Anning that the Government allow citizens import tasers, mace and capsicum spray for self-defence. The motion was spurred by the raw memory of the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon, and was directed mainly to the self-defence of women.  The major parties and, of course, the Greens opposed the motion.  It was lost 46 to 5, but all five supporters were men.

The argument against the motion picked up from earlier outrage that women walking alone at night be advised to exercise prudence.  To suggest that women take responsibility for their own safety, it went, was victim-blaming.  The problem, as Greens women loudly insisted, was men.  The rape and murder of women, an immemorial crime, can be eliminated by fixing men.  The connotation is apt.  “The priority,” said Senator Janet Rice, “must be to eradicate men’s violence.” No quantifier or qualifier attached to the word men. Nor was this rancour towards men a novelty in the red chamber.

SH-Y barracked on the sidelines.  Peta Pan, the girl who never grew up, sprinkled pixie dust and flew off to Never Land.  Anchored nearby, though, was mean ol’ Cap’n Hjook.  Senator David Leyonhjelm, across the corridor and two seats away, says he heard from SH-Y the comment, “men should stop raping women.” In response to another display of toxic femininity, he offered the now infamous suggestion that she “stop shagging men.”

There’s logic in the riposte.  If specific crimes like the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon happen because of men, if men’s violence must be eradicated by Governments, if men go about raping women, then shagging a plural subset of men is surely the worst kind of fraternisation and gross hypocrisy.  But the barb depends for its force on the facts of SH-Y’s behaviour.  Does she shag men?  The following Sunday Leyonhjelm underlined his point by telling 3AW and Sky’s The Outsiders that around Parliament SH-Y was known to “like men.”

His attempt to buttress the logical structure of his comment just poured fuel onto the fire.  The story was all about a man’s callously bad manners and the offended feelings of a woman.  Up to that point, though, no-one, least of all SH-Y, had argued that she was actually a chaste woman, hence deeply offended.  This may simply have been an economy: why address that point when Leyonhjelm was being attacked on all sides for daring to make his original comment at all?

Then, on Tuesday, the Senator from South Australia put the question beyond doubt.  She accused her fellow Senator of slut-shaming her.

Slut-shaming is an inherently absurd product of the femmunist word-mill. Once upon a time, slut conveyed severe opprobrium. It was the obverse of chaste, when a chaste woman was a pearl beyond price.  In these enlightened times, the values have been reversed.  Behaviour befitting a slut is now applauded and encouraged in girls and women.  They now wear their promiscuity as proudly as the temple prostitutes of Babylon displayed their sashes.  It’s the right thing to do, so there can be no shame in it.

Curiously, femmunists remain squeamish about the word, though not the behaviour.  Slut is one of those words which is held to reflect poorly on the one who utters it, rather than the one it is uttered about.  So what is slut-shaming?  It is drawing attention to perfectly acceptable and widely encouraged promiscuous behaviour of the kind that used to be called sluttish, in order to call down no-longer relevant opprobrium upon the woman so named.  The only way the term makes sense is as ridicule of the person attempting the shaming, and thereby humiliating, not the woman named, but him- or herself.  So why is it presented as something that causes humiliation to the slut-shamed woman?  The concept is irredeemably incoherent. One salient fact pops out of this.  A woman bemoaning her slut-shaming is not complaining that she is accused of something she did not do.  SH-Y is not disputing the truth of the Parliamentary scuttlebutt that she “likes men.”  If, in fact, she does “like men,” then her anti-male rhetoric, in Parliament and out, is hypocrisy, as Senator Leyonhjelm pointed out.

Whether Senator Hanson-Young can grasp this point is moot.

A Modest Amendment

Update

The bills I discuss below were withdrawn on the 27th of February, 2017, because they faced almost certain defeat.  The issue of reform was referred to the Queensland Law Reform Commission.

Two related private member’s bills are currently before the Queensland Parliament. The Abortion Law Reform (Women’s Right To Choose Bill) 2016 removes abortion from the Queensland Criminal Code, lock stock and barrel. This is necessary, as the Explanatory Note makes clear, because “[t]he current law in Queensland is causing great hardship and personal suffering.” Further, according to Dr Carolyn De Costa, “This is the only health procedure that is dealt with like this in criminal legislation. It’s way, way out of date and belongs in the 19th century. We’re practising medicine in the 21st century.” The “Benefits of the Bill” include the following. “The Bill will repeal outdated laws that can criminalise women and doctors for a basic human right and a medical procedure…These archaic laws are dangerous and have no place in modern society where women should always have control over their own bodies. This Bill will protect vulnerable Queensland women and the doctors that are currently risking prosecution to assist them.”

Continue reading “A Modest Amendment”

Redefining marriage

Brendan O’Neill raises a point which I have never heard in the discussion before, but which I have always felt is critical. This unprecedented redefinition of the basic building block of human society rewrites the contract that the State entered into with every currently married person. How’s that for retrospective legislation? I will return to this point below.

Continue reading “Redefining marriage”

A Tale of Two Parties

The election-night convention is that the losing leader first concedes defeat, and when these formalities are out of the way the victor claims the spoils. In each case, these speeches, replete with the necessary acknowledgments and thank-yous, are delivered to a gathering of the hard-core faithful.

I recall some vivid scenes from what my memory tells me are past examples of the genre: Malcolm Fraser in victory deflecting Tammy’s adoring embrace; Fraser in defeat, at the precipice of tears, with Tammy attentive at his side; Keating alone on stage, announcing, This is one for the true believers, to a rapturous rock-concert response. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Parties”

The Turn of the Worm

There’s been much brouhaha about the pulling of Channel 9’s coverage of the Howard-Rudd debate because 9 insisted on showing the “uncommitted voters” responses to the debate in the form of the “worm”, a continuously updated graph of said responses, overlaid on the bottom of the image. This despite Howard’s setting it as a condition of the debate that the “worm” not be used. Continue reading “The Turn of the Worm”