I have a strong suspicion that some of the most pointless people in this country have PhDs in the Social Sciences. Of course, I don’t really mean to say that these people are unintelligent; obviously they know a good deal about Derrida, Foucault, Butler, and the rest of the gang. It’s their moral relativism that irks me, as well as the cultivated grudges against their own societies and culture. I’m thinking of the insistence that Australia was ‘invaded’, for example, or the tendency to self-blame after each attack by our Islamist enemies. In a way, one has to admire their industriousness: every day they manage to find brand new ways of hating themselves.
When it comes, then, to questions about the upkeep of Western civilisation, the university lecturer is not the person one first thinks to consult. Once upon a time, I have heard, his thoughts and recommendations were confined to the mercifully recondite and unreadable journals of the academic Left. No longer, though. This means I have to update my earlier suspicion: if I am right (and let’s face it, I am), all these useless people will appear, at some stage of their careers, on the ABC.
For a measure of proof, I invite the reader to consider last Friday’s episode of ABC’s The Drum, which featured Peter Chen (above), a senior lecturer in politics at University of Sydney. The topic was the ongoing assault on French civil society, but Chen seemed to wonder if this was a conversation worth having at all. He argued that what happened in Nice was awful, of course, but it was hardly new: the conversion of trucks into weapons of suicide terror happens every day in other parts of the world. For Chen, shock was an invalid emotional response. It proved that Westerners only care about their own. He sneered: “Why are we shocked about this? Because it occurred in France.”
It’s easy to rejoin with the obvious point that the French Riviera and the Middle East are different places; that it’s reasonable to have a stronger emotional connection to one over the other; and, most importantly, that most people are shocked by Islamist terror no matter where it takes place. This is because the goal is always the same: the Islamist fanatics who randomly murder and immiserate their subjects in Baghdad and Beirut and elsewhere have plans for our society, too. If we reject that vision here, we must reject it everywhere.
The expression of shock is a good thing: it proves that one has not been inured to terror and violence. It is certainly preferable to Chen’s smug prattle. Shock can lead to action or it can sharpen resolve. Better still, it can harden into contempt for the jihadists themselves, but I’d save a little for academic cretins too.
I noticed a pattern in Chen’s style of critique, which involved continuously changing the subject. Rather than focus on the events of the day, Chen argued that it would be better to “think about 1961, the massacre of Algerian Muslims in Paris . . who were fighting to liberate themselves from the colonial rule of France, right? So this is the problem … We need to talk about the problem of colonialism.”
No, I don’t think that we do. Say what you like against French foreign policy (and I could say quite a lot), it’s best saved for another discussion. However, the fact that Chen groped for this topic says a great deal about him. It coheres with the standard left-wing response to a terror attack, which goes something like this: let’s ransack the past for an instance of inexpiable Western guilt; we rid ourselves of moral authority and the responsibility to condemn; we exculpate the perpetrators, and as for the victims, well, let’s just say they deserve what they get.
Another panellist, former Liberal Party advisor John Adams, timidly but correctly suggested another root cause of terror: the role of Islam. Chen baulked and sniffed: “I think we can call this radical Islamic terrorism if we can call civilian casualties of drone strikes radical Christian terrorism, because the United States is a Christian country. All its political elites, you know, they swear on the Bible, they are extremely pious.”
And here, right on schedule, is the argument for moral equivalence. Apparently, the US government is no different from its Islamist adversaries. A shabby argument, yes, and even Chen would agree. He added that because a sensible person would reject such a religious characterisation of the US, one must therefore reject any connection between Islam and terror, too.
This is somewhat shabbier, to put it mildly. It’s a rather lengthy leap of logic and it’s no surprise that Chen ends up supine. But that’s exactly where he wants us to be. Such a worldview offers neither a plan of action, nor a coherent way of thinking. Chen added: “There is nothing we can do . . to prevent these lone-wolf attacks.” And there you have it, the whole package: equivalence, uselessness, and a chirpy fatalism at no extra charge.
All this, and more, is available at a university near you