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December 17th 2017 print

Tim Blair

Nothing to Lose But Your Brains

Said the ardent young socialist to the ABC, 'I was born when the Soviet Union still existed, but I have no memory of it and it doesn’t inform my politics at all.' It's frightening to realise how, even with a universe of fact and history just a  click away, the stupid are determined to stay that way

naked typist IIAt the internet’s dawn, some felt the universal availability of historical and current information might lead to a golden time of human enlightenment. After all, with so many facts so easily accessed by everyone’s computers—and now their mobile phones—surely we would quickly reach a point of great shared knowledge and understanding.

Interesting theory.

As it turns out, that hopeful notion did not count on a few things. Like the insatiable human capacity for cat videos. And porn. And, for all I know, cat porn (there’s something for everyone on the net). Then there was the problem of disseminating information itself. It soon emerged that misinformation is far more attractive, which goes some of the way to explaining why socialism and communism are again so remarkably popular among the young.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s rise in the UK and Bernie Sanders’s barnstorming 2016 presidential run in the US were both driven by youngsters who are really into this crazy new socialism thing. For them, far-Left concepts of collectivism and centralisation are original and fresh—although they might have taken a clue as to the vintage of these ideas just by looking at Corbyn and Sanders, who respectively pre-date a US flag with fifty stars (by eleven years) and the Partition of India (by six years).

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Absent effective father figures of their own, British and American kids have settled on great-grandfather figures instead. In Australia, too, so-called millennials (those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, and destined to be paying off student loans from the 2010s until the 2050s) are swinging to socialism. They might be buying iPhone Xs, but they’re partying like it’s 1917.

Appropriately, our own socialist ABC recently provided an online piece revealing just how it is that children of the information age are so incredibly short of information when it comes to political history. These revelations, pegged to the centenary of Russia’s Bolshevik uprising, were clearly not the ABC’s aim.

“The Bolsheviks’ seizure of power from the Russian provisional government 100 years ago, eight months after the overthrow of the tsarist regime, came at a time of food shortages, collapsing infrastructure and disorder,” the piece initially recalled, accurately enough.

“The revolutionaries’ leader, Vladimir Lenin, had built on the communist theories of Karl Marx to offer an alternative to the liberal democracy supported by the Russian middle class.

“For Osmond Chiu, a 31-year-old unionist and member of the Australian Labor Party, this possibility of an alternative to accepted economics is the key legacy of 1917.”

Young Osmond lives in Australia right now, where you can easily bounce from job to job like a pinball, buy a brand new car with coins scratched up from friends’ couches, fly interstate on bonus points and, if you’re Noam Chomsky fan Lisa Wilkinson, demand a $700,000 raise because you’re a girl. Yet he’s somehow drawing primary socio-financial lessons from a turnip-driven economy some 100 years and 15,000 kilometres away.

“Mr Chiu says the sense that the existing system would deliver for most people, including his generation, was shattered by the global financial crisis,” the ABC piece continued.

“Since then, he says, there has been increased interest in socialism among young people, and that thanks to social media and the availability of information on the internet, the term ‘socialist’ is losing some of its Cold War-era stigma.”

He doesn’t mean “information”. There’s a huge amount of material available online pointing out the economic brutality and millions of deaths caused by extreme leftism. He means “affirmation”, of the type you’ll find if you limit yourself to far-Left websites. We’ll return to Osmond momentarily, because the ABC also interviewed twenty-seven-year-old commie kidlet Eleanor Robertson, a writer, editor and “non-denominational communist”:

“Ms Robertson came to socialism through feminism, after being increasingly disillusioned with what she saw as mainstream feminism’s obsession with the number of women on boards or in Parliament.

“In her assessment, socialist history and theory—including an appraisal of the Russian revolution and the Soviet Union—are still live issues on the left.”

Here’s to you, Ms Robertson. Stalin loves you more than you will know. According to “non-denominational communist” Eleanor, the century-old Russian revolt remains a big deal for youthful Australians. “People are still talking about these things and trying to figure out what they mean in their context, and what they mean today. It’s still fraught,” she told the ABC, which is the only mainstream Australian media outlet that would present this as serious commentary. Back to Osmond, who the ABC says “considers it an advantage for millennial socialists to be liberated from the baggage of the Soviet Union”. Well, obviously:

“I was born when the Soviet Union still existed, but I have no memory of it and it doesn’t inform my politics at all,” he told ABC interviewers.

It must be lovely to live in a world where history, even extremely recent history, does not inform your politics at all. Millions of dead peasants? I have no memory of it, so what the hell. Economic degradation, mass executions, planned famines? Can’t remember those either. And apparently I can’t look them up on this new-fangled interweb machine, despite all those “information” promises. More from the ABC:

“The mass strikes by textile workers and metalworkers in early 20th century St Petersburg might bear little relation to the industrial relations landscape of Australia in 2017, but for Ms Robertson, that means the solutions offered by young socialists have to be different as well.

“She points to ideas like a universal basic income, in which everyone is paid a living wage by the government regardless of their work situation; a jobs guarantee, in which everyone is guaranteed work; and reduced work hours, as possible policy proposals.”

Thank you, young lady, and thank you, ABC. Now that we know the full extent of the problem, action will be taken from this point forward. Everyone will be guaranteed full-time employment.

Please assemble at the Adani mine site to be assigned your official tasks.

 

PITY the Australian war hero. Despite his accomplishments in battle, the reverence of his fellow citizens and an everlasting and deeply deserved pride in his defence of national honour, he knows that even death cannot protect him from a final, eternal humiliation.

For one day this man will be brought down. One day he will be ritually and terminally diminished. One day he will suffer the curse of all Australian war heroes who have gone before him and all who will follow.

One day Peter FitzSimons will write a book about him.

Well, perhaps it won’t be specifically about him, but it will be about the conflict in which he fought. Either way, a grand legacy will be either reduced or completely eliminated. Many Australian servicemen and women survive their wartime exchanges with foreign types who would presume to be our masters. Bullets, bombs, knives and flames are as nothing to these antipodean titans of humankind.

None, however, emerge intact from a confrontation with FitzSimons’s gasping, toxic, creative-teenager prose. Lately Peter has diverted from his very lucrative Father’s Day war histories to examine the exploratory adventures of Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills. Let’s take a look at a random extract. Because I don’t have the book at hand, this extract is entirely imagined by me in the FitzSimons historical-revisionist style:

“WTF?” thought Burke. This was the second night running that Wills had crept into his tent, naked except for rainbow-coloured silk underpants. Wills offered the older man a plate of late-evening treats. “What have you here?” Burke asked, his homophobic defensiveness an obvious precursor to Australia’s contentious 2017 postal vote on same-sex marriage. “Oh, you know, just some stuff I found around the place,” Wills answered, twirling as he spoke. “I think this is a native kale salad. Delicious!”

As we’re approaching Christmas, it might be best to dodge FitzSimons-authored works and instead offer gift books written about British war heroes whose nationality renders them safe from Peter’s ruinous retelling. A number of books, for example, tell of Reginald Joseph Mitchell, designer of the Spitfire—an aircraft rightly credited with winning the air war over Europe. Mitchell never lived to see the Spitfire in combat. Following a cancer diagnosis in 1933, he underwent surgery and continued work on his civilisation-saving plane. Spitfire’s design largely complete, Mitchell succumbed to cancer in 1937.

Otherwise, readers may enjoy The Reconstruction of Warriors: Archibald McIndoe, the Royal Air Force and the Guinea Pig Club, by Emily Mayhew. McIndoe’s social and surgical achievements were so astonishing, visionary and far-reaching that I won’t say anything further beyond this: buy Mayhew’s beautiful book. It is guaranteed completely red-bandana-free.