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Essential Reading

Terrorism, it's academic

anne alyDid you catch Q&A last night, a show that promised many attractions and diversions. How often could compere Tony  Jones interrupt in the course of a single hour? Would most of those interruptions be directed at what, for want of a better term, might be described as the conservative members of his panel? Well the transcript has been now been posted and, for those who need further confirmation of the way the ABC operates in general, and Q&A in particular, any tally of the constant interruptions endured by Paul Kelly and Tim Wilson will stand in stark contrast to the free rein Tanya Plibersek was afforded to run on at the mouth.

Not that Jones had to shoulder the heavy burden of derailing his less-favoured guests' points unassisted. To his left was was the showman warmist Lawrence Krauss, who burbled like a blocked gully trap, such was the touring and newly landed American's eagerness to explain Australia to Australians. No surprise there. If you are on the gravy-train circuit, whipping a living out of pop-science cliches and the sort of self-satisfied alarmism that invites audiences to celebrate their own virtue, then you simply have to deliver the goods. Fortunately for Krauss' livelihood, the ABC's gift for stacking live audiences with the dim and noisily trusting meant his braying self-promotion was applauded as deep wisdom.

And then was there was the other guest, the academic Muslim lady, Anne Aly (above), who was billed as "a counter-terrorism expert" and further relieved compere Jones of what he evidently regards as his professional obligation to make sure that opinions unlikely to meet with approval in ABC lunchrooms simply cannot be pithily expressed. When Jones rested his butt-inskis, Garrulous Aly filled the void with tautological profundities such as this:

"It's not just counterproductive, it's futile!"

What Professor Aly didn't address was just what it takes to be listed on an ABC booker's RolOdex as one of those counter-terrorism experts. A talent for kicking down doors, perhaps, or planting bugs and monitoring terrorists plans and conversations? You might think those would be valuable skills in such a calling but, in the case of Q&A's guest, you would be wrong. As her learned papers attest, Aly is an expert on deconstructing counter-terrorism. Her assembled writings can be found here and via the link below, but this slab of po-mo palaver captures the essence of her shtick:

The symbolic significance of terrorism is vested in its capacity to appeal to vast collectives of people who have little knowledge of each other but who share in the spectacle of the event. Whether terrorists succeed in evoking interpretations in the minds of audiences that correspond to their symbolic meaning depends largely on the social and cultural contexts in which meaning is constructed and symbols become representative. Interpretations of terrorist acts are rarely unmediated and always transpire in context. Audiences of terrorism are not a monolithic collection of spectators, but interpret terrorism through cultural discourses, lived experiences and as members of social networks. A school may be a symbol of the lack of educational opportunity for the groups that terrorists claim to represent; but for the audiences that are agents in the interpretation of the terrorist performance, the school may be symbolically representative of innocence. Thus the imagery of the performance (in the mind of the performer/ terrorist) is not connected to the imagery of the interpretation (in the mind of the interpreter/audience).

Wiser now? If not about terrorism -- or counter-terrorism, as practiced in Media & Cultural Studies common rooms -- then certainly about what it takes to be a favoured by Q&A. Tony Jones cannot be expected to do all that interrupting on his own, you understand.

-- roger franklin

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The Left path to ISIS

bilardiBefore he ended his short, pointless life with a short, pointless explosion on behalf of ISIS, Melbourne teenager Jake Bilardi shared his view of the world via a blog which did not long survive its author. Taken down almost immediately upon news of his suicide, its rapid trip into the memory hole did a disservice to those who seek to understand the nexus between jihadism and leftist orthodoxy -- a topic Quadrant's Merv Bendle examines today.

Fortunately, a Quadrant reader screened-grabbed Bilardi's blog before it was made to vanish. The excerpt below neatly illustrates Bendle's point about leftism kneading the dough for jihadism to bake.

Who filled a gullible kid with this tosh? What teachers allowed his bizarre views to go uncorrected? Who planted this garden of noxious weeds in the empty space of a child's head?

Why Bilardi became a jihadi in his own words:

... I continued to read; America’s land grab in Mexico as well as their brutality towards the Filipinos after the Spanish, who were themselves no better, signed over control of the archipelago to the Americans. The Portuguese soldiers who rampaged across East Timor, the British who seized control of many of the Pacific Islands, enslaving the populations on the pretext that non-Whites were created to serve the White race.

Continuing forward and the world bore witness to two World Wars, the second more brutal than the first. US, British, French and Australian forces imprisoned captured Axis soldiers in internment camps, torturing them and executing them as a source of entertainment.

When US forces entered Japan they proceeded on a systematic campaign of massacring civilians and raping the local women before delivering the infamous nuclear bombs to Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The crimes committed by all sides in these wars are far too many to innumerate (sic), so I’ll leave the rest of them for you to discover on your own.

Then as the American war machine was kicked back into action in the Cold War, the world again witnessed more of their brutality, particularly in Korea and Vietnam. Today, they hail as heroes their soldiers who fought in these wars, history will always record though that they were nothing but a gang of rapists, murderers and brutal cowards who loved to inflict pain on an already aching population. Then there was their trade embargo, economic sanctions and isolation of Cuba due to its Communist leadership, which left the people of this small Caribbean island in unimaginable poverty ...

For the record, and to illustrate the pernicious influences that cost a young man his good name, his wits and, ultimately, his life, Bilardi's blog is available as captured via the link below



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Somewhere, over the rainbow...

gay white houseBari Weis, writing in the Wall Street Journal, marvels at the events which prompt reactions and those that don't:

On Friday my phone was blowing up with messages, asking if I’d seen the news. Some expressed disbelief at the headlines. Many said they were crying.None of them were talking about the dozens of people gunned down in Sousse, Tunisia, by a man who, dressed as a tourist, had hidden his Kalashnikov inside a beach umbrella.

Not one was crying over the beheading in a terrorist attack at a chemical factory near Lyon, France. The victim’s head was found on a pike near the factory, his body covered with Arabic inscriptions. And no Facebook friends mentioned the first suicide bombing in Kuwait in more than two decades, in which 27 people were murdered in one of the oldest Shiite mosques in the country.

They were talking about the only news that mattered: gay marriage. . . .

The barbarians are at our gates. But inside our offices, schools, churches, synagogues and homes, we are posting photos of rainbows on Twitter. It’s easier to Photoshop images of Justice Scalia as Voldemort than it is to stare evil in the face.You can’t get married if you’re dead.

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An open invitation to Mark Scott

rsvpDear Mark,

You noted the other day that the 'A' in ABC stands for Australia, a nation of many differing views and perspectives, which is what a vibrant democracy should be. Yet we cannot help noticing that, when you feel inclined to hold forth, it is the podiums of academia and left -- same thing, I know -- to which you seem mostly to gravitate. No doubt this is purely coincidental, as you said as recently as Thursday that it is your job to see that the national broadcaster is "the ABC is for all Australians".

So that's the reason for this note -- to add some breadth to the venues at which you choose to appear: How about addressing a Quadrant dinner and perhaps taking a few questions? True, you would seldom have met a conservative at your ABC, but we are part of that 'A' in Australia all the same, so isn't it time for you to balance the ledger?

We're a courteous and polite bunch and you won't need to fear any set-ups or ambushes. We can positively guarantee no one will throw a shoe at you. Likewise, we can assure you that no Quadrant editor will sharpen and polish the questions of audience members, as did your very own Peter McEvoy on this week's Q&A.

So what about it, Mark?

Come and talk to us at Quadrant. We'll book the venue. We'll handle the catering. All you will have to do is turn up and talk to a subset of those A-for-all-Australians you are so keen to cite.


The Editors

PS: Mark, if you follow the link below, you can read your own words about the ABC's obligation to serve all Australians.

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Holmes in a flap

holmes flapsNot so long ago, Jonathan Holmes compered one of the ABC's marquee TV shows, handing down his weekly pronouncements on the worth or otherwise of journalism done by others. The sort of mind that does well at the national broadcaster, he has this to say in today's editions of the Fairfax press, which these days will publish just about anything.

"Zaky Mallah never joined IS but, more than a decade ago, he was a radicalised would-be terrorist. He has since become an ally – or a potential ally – in the fight against IS. But he's condemned because of his record and the ABC is excoriated for daring to give him a voice."

Yes, the ABC gave Mallah a voice ... and a free ride to and from the studio ... plus a pre-show briefing with producer Peter McEvoy ... plus a little help editing his question into sound byte-worthy shape.

And why did Q&A do all that?

So that the Weird Beard from Central Casting could leap out of the woodwork and wallop the sole conservative on the panel with a left-field sand-bagging.

Holmes doesn't think the set-up worth mentioning. Holmes doesn't grasp that, while Mallah doesn't like ISIS, his preferred version of Islam is hardly less repugnant to all who value the Western traditions of free speech, free thought and individual autonomy. Holmes has missed, or chosen to ignore, Mallah's call that two female journalists be bent over a TV set desk and raped on national TV. The convicted criminal, says Holmes, is "an ally."

No longer on the taxpayer teat, the former Media Watch host yet serves a purpose in reminding us what sort of an organisation he served and left behind.

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Talking Points for ABC Defenders

zaky tweet

Whenever the national broadcaster does something irresponsible, stupid, partisan, corrupt, nepotistic, wasteful, dishonest, rude and/or vulgar -- every other day, in other words -- the sort of Labor/Greens voters who recognise Malcolm Turnbull as their kind of Liberal begin making excuses on its behalf.

Here are some fresh ones, ready to use. They are perfect for defending Q&A's decision to slip into its audience the author of the tweet above, even going so far as to shuttle him at taxpayer expense from Parramatta to the studio and back:

  • Will everyone please calm down! In the last 36 hours we have had calls for everything from the dismemberment of the ABC board to the execution of the Minister for Communications. This is hysteria!
  • Some people want to privatise the ABC. Silly!  This would be an IPO not even Bear Stearns could have dressed up to look attractive.
  • More than 800 comments appeared on The Australian’s website yesterday about a few misunderstood comments on an unpopular TV programme. Another 200-or-so came when that right-wing zealot Chris Kenny weighed in with his tuppence worth.  Rupert Murdoch owns The Australian and Chris Kenny does what Murdoch tells him. That's why the ABC is vital: Murdoch! Murdoch! Murdoch!
  • And all this fuss over what? Free speech on free-to-air!
  • Anyway, what was so bad about what Zaky Mallah said? An inoffensive remark or two urging Australian Muslims to go do their duty for ISIS, and pointing out, justifiably, that the government’s oppression of the Religion of Peace is making them do it.
  • Malcolm Turnbull, ever reliable,  introduced the sweet voice of reason by announcing yesterday that the ABC would conduct a fair, unbiased, rigourous investigation of itself.
  • It was Malcolm -- isn't he just wonderful! -- who first pointed out that the ABC's real mistake was letting a potential terrorist sit among the audience. What if  he had been wearing a suicide vest? As ABC defenders, we need to make this the real issue. We cannot allow the conversation to touch on the ABC's duty to bushwhack conservatives with plants in the audience.
  • Without the ABC, how would Australia get the balanced views it needs to offset the fascist assaults on freedom by this government, and the reactionary bile of the Murdoch Press lackeys?
  • For heaven’s sake, the ABC has apologised, hasn’t it? What do all you people want, resignations?
  • You’re going to get an inquiry and, in the fullness of time, you’ll hear the outcome.
  • Whatever it finds, be confident it will end with these familiar words from Audience & Consumer Affairs unit, which never varies its response:

“Thank you for taking the time to write; your feedback is appreciated. For your reference, the ABC Code of Practice is available online at http://about.abc.net.au/reports-publications/code-of-practice-2014/ 

Should you be dissatisfied with this response to your complaint, you may be able to pursue your complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, http://www.acma.gov.au .”

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