The postmodern election

From today’s Crikey email:

There’s a now infamous quote from a senior Bush administration official which goes like this:

That’s not the way the world really works anymore.

We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

It may well have been Karl Rove.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Howardian culture wars, it’s that postmodernism is evil. Stick to the facts and memorise the dates, get the narrative straight. That’s the mantra from the Windschuttles, McGuinnesses and Donnellys of the world. And it’s been chanted by successive Education Ministers as well as the PM himself.

But this election campaign is nothing if not postmodern.

Over at The Australian, housing stress apparently doesn’t exist, and rate rises are “very good news for John Howard”. And the almost daily Newspoll gizzards are picked over by the resident augurs to find a good omen somewhere.

In an almost Derridean deconstructive move, we’re asked to simultaneously believe that WorkChoices has raised wages and that wage constraint is a necessary and good thing that can only be ensured by WorkChoices. None of those nasty binary oppositions in the Coalition’s discourse, thank you very much.

And speaking of industrial relations, we have a debate “that does not quite take place” (to quote Jacques Derrida himself) because the government won’t release any research and spins the ABS figures any which way it chooses, depending on the narrative needs of the time. Meanwhile, anyone who puts their head up above the parapet with a bit of empirical data risks having it shot off. There’s no neutral knowledge in a postmodern world, of course – it’s all coloured by the bias of the author.

Reality? Pfft. It’s the story, stupid.

Of course, any old fashioned sociologist could tell you that beliefs and ideas have their own force if enough people have faith. But our unfashionable empiricist would also point out that they have to have some connection with lived reality, and tend to crash and burn when the narrative starts to fracture and rubs up against the real world.

Karl Rove could probably tell you that too. Now.

The election result is going to be empirical proof of one thing at least – whether or not right-wing postmodernism has spun out of control. In this dialectic, the ideological world is about to meet the material world.

Posted in federal election '07
52 comments on “The postmodern election
  1. Enemy Combatant says:

    “In this dialectic, the ideological world is about to meet the material world.”


  2. murph the surf says:

    I blame the internet and the young’uns.
    Story , response , counter spin – no considered reflection , no contemplation on any issues.So much speed in responses has become haste.
    Just fake news worthy media spot, control the angles , response , counter quibble. I mean really – You Tube and the ear wax episode becomes a talking point?
    Does it matter that close examination reveals an empty public domain of ideas? Politicians seem more like celebrities these days with a corresponding lack of need for mental ability or experience.

    “we’re asked to simultaneously believe that WorkChoices has raised wages and that wage constraint is a necessary and good thing that can only be
    ensured by WorkChoices.” Perhaps it has raised some people’s wages but not for everyone who is doing a similar job?

    “Over at The Australian, housing stress apparently doesn’t exist, and rate rises are “very good news for John Howard”. Didn’t Clive Hamilton’s think tank comment recently that mortgage stress was not widespread ? Rates rises for most were still not having a marked negative impact on disposable income as so many mortgages are for less the $100,000?
    How this can be spun as being “good news ” is just bizarre though.

  3. tigtog says:

    They only hate postmodernism because it teaches the sheeple to deconstruct dissonant narratives and find the flaws in them. Makes it much harder to pull the wool over their eyes, and therefore it must be stopped.

  4. Mercurius says:

    In recent weeks, the expression on John Howard’s face during interviews has begun to resemble that of Wile E. Coyote, as the rapidly-expanding shadow of a falling boulder darkens all around him.

  5. murph the surf says:

    Could someone provide a link to Latham’s articles in the AFR ?
    He always has an interesting point of view.
    “”The nation state has less work to do, but the political class needs to keep itself in work,” Mr Latham writes.

    “When no issues exist, politicians have an interest in manufacturing them, creating an artificial sense of crisis.”

    Mr Latham said a family could by a house in southwest Sydney for $250,000 if ”they are willing to hold down a regular job and forgo water views and boutique shopping”” this bit from the Australian.

    Hold down that job. Love the choice of verb.

  6. jinmaro says:

    Except, perhaps, more importantly, those memorable, chilling words prove now as they did then, the reverse of the analogy suggested, i.e., the falsely constructed material reality of the Howardian era has come up against and is about to be defeated by the ideological buffer of the received wisdom, commonsense, beliefs, desires – whatever you want to call it — of the majority of Australian people.

  7. ShowsOn says:

    Here is a petition to encourage ABC’s Lateline to invite Paul Keating and John Hewson to jointly debate the election campaign on the night before election day:

    I’ll pass it on to the ABC this time next week. So hopefully we can get 1000 or so signatures in that time.

  8. Sir Henry says:

    Yeah, well, Mark Latham’s piece in the Review section of the Fin was okay as far as it went. I couldn’t argue with much of it.

    However, both Beattie’s but especially the Rodent’s response were quite absurd. Ratty reckoned Latham’s opinion piece was proof positive that Labor will revert to commie type (as first mooted by Garrett). Except that Latham was arguing exactly the opposite. Howard’s remark was totally off the wall. Either Johnny Howard is being advised by total rube amateurs or if it is the Rat’s own work he has gone M A D.

    The Liberals have hit the final spiral down the gurgler with this one. Not the least point being that only about 50,000 people read the Fin, and most of them only look at the shares tables anyway. Good-bye John.

  9. paul walter says:

    ( dips toe in water… like coyote?).
    Bahnisch: “…Stick to the facts…that’s the mantra from the Windschuttles… of the world”.
    Fact. ” The unions illegally set up pickets.”(legal narrowism).
    Yet, from another aspect: ” Employers locked out employees owed entitlements, these protested outside the premises, ( inadvertantly? ) blocking trucks, in order to retreive ineffectively protected entitlements”.
    As Jinmaro and Tig tog observe correctly, and as far as I am concerned also,” one person’s subversive” may indeed be, “another’s resister”.

  10. clarencegirl says:

    “Here is a petition to encourage ABC’s Lateline to invite Paul Keating and John Hewson to jointly debate the election campaign on the night before election day”
    Oh no, you couldn’t be so cruel – haven’t we all suffered enough?

  11. Christian says:

    I don’t have a blog for this, but its written in response to this LP post. I just didn’t want to leave it at a comment.

    Substance Is Impossible: A 2007 Campaign Writeup

    One overarching theme of the 2007 Federal Election has been what Labor pariah Mark Latham has just termed the ‘zenith of policy convergence’; in narrative terms, the occlusion of any progressive remnants in the Federal Labor caucus by the more conservative ones. This goes without saying. In practice it has meant nothing short of a coward’s revolution, get over the finish line, regardless of the sport.

    The problem isn’t a political one, but one of complete and overarching subjugation of policy to politic – by which we can dispense with the veil and call roundly, the state of Australian media. Those who careers are birthed out of this mire have long noted the deep ideosyncracies welded into the structure of our newspapers, television stations and radio networks. We demand a different breed of political engagement from both candidates and media denizens than any other democracy.

    One rule, above all, lies etched in stone above every archway – Don’t take the punters for mugs. You can lie, as long as you apologise. You can get it wrong, as long as you buy the next beer. This tender punch-and-judy dramaturgy simply doesn’t fly in American or British political media.

    American politicians live and breathe by their trajectories; they have to be smooth and unthreatening shooting stars – the media complicit in the automatic selection of the least different newcomer and the dismantling of those who dare to challenge the status quo. One big mistake and its over. That is, one big idea and its over. Howard Dean springs to mind.

    Britons love their stump speeches, and demand of the politicians the most inventive collage of the major twelve magical words; hope, opportunity, change, action, the future, our children, best and brightest, compassionate, tough-minded, vigilant, decent and finally, hard-working. The media glumly trots out the variations of these terms until someone is bold enough to stray from the formula. George Galloway springs to mind.

    So there is something entirely unconvicing about recent articles in The Age, The Australian and describing this election about being a morotorium on ‘experience versus ideas’ – its plain to all that neither party has people with the intellect or nous to gather either. Since the vast majority of election coverage relates to the real competition of narratives – the running of the polls and the running of the columnists – we can also dispense with certainty with that most gross and hideous lie – ‘electability’.

    One phrase rings out of American journalist Matt Taibbi’s 2004 Presidential campaign diary, ‘Spanking the Donkey’; “substance is impossible”. Enjoy the electric force that exists in your mind when you read those three words together. Consider everything that has happened in the past four weeks.

    Tony Abbott’s late arrival is a perfect metaphor for the country we find ourselves in. A clearly drugged-out and inconsistently religious figure blusters in without apology to lose a contest of ideas and declare himself the winner regardless. We are lucky in that, unlike the American press (who could very well declare it ‘a gutsy move’), or the British press (who may not report the lateness at all), we are at least given the common decency of having the absurdity of the situation brought into question. But here’s the problem; Abbott’s failures are narrativised into ‘a bad day’. The broader issue, of whether this person should even be allowed to drive let alone hold office, is completely off the table. We have lost even the most basic apparatus of outrage.

    Kevin Andrews’ hilarious two-act performance of the Haneef affair and comments on African immigration are not ‘campaign negatives’. They aren’t ‘problems for the Howard team to neutralise’. He is manifestly poor at this job, even by Coalition standards, and should have been stood down long ago.

    Yet we find it impossible to have this discussion in the national media spaces because to say it means you are partisan. This same system refuses to deal with anybody who isn’t – who doesn’t have a thumping, combative approach. You can’t push on principles on either side of the debates because to do so in partisan. But you can’t get on the air unless you are. The whole thing would look like a Dostoevsky plot, if we were only allowed to kill some of the actors

    To have a discussion in the media about the growing necessity of splitting up the political class and its apparatus for the good of everybody involved is by definition, not possible. You can’t stick buttered toast to a cat and expect antigravity. All media coverage of this election – even true dissent – is subsumed into the pulping, frothing, overwhelming legitimacy stamp for the political elite.

    The complicity of the media apparatus, blogs included, in oversaturating the political machine with coverage (or if you like, fuel) is utterly flawness. Without so much as a whisper, something dry and resolute in the heart of Australia was sold out for greed, boredom and the fun of the fight. In John Howard’s Aspirational Nationalism, bad government is only bad because it effects the next vote. People accuse his government of being moralistic. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is only discussion of morality in that it corrals attitudes. Clusters form.

    Down the dark decades of shrinking faith, we may look back on the breif window of Mark Latham as a memory of heaven. Notice how people from both sides refuse to speak his name, or enter into a debate with his comments? Hawke is too distant now for many but can still bring together the baby boomers missing the days when televised politics meant that politics was a farce, as opposed to tragedy. Keating is universally understood now as The One That Made Howard Possible – and Johnny has repeatedly refused to acknowledge him, the barbs slung on him still stinging after a decade in office.

    To me, the greatest issue of the campaign is the searing hatred between John Howard and Peter Costello. When asked if he thought Costello would make a good Prime MInister, Howard could only say that he thought Hawke ended up being a much better statesman that Keating. In other words, “not only is Costello not leadership material, but if he gets there, it won’t be long.”

    In this sort of environment, where the current leader of over a decade, who looks up to Thatcher and Reagan, is now out of ideas and out of friends – what can be said about the health of the political system? How desperately obvious it is that the Liberal party’s Costello orthodoxy wants to mailbomb Malcolm Turnbull, whose ambition and lazy relationship with the truth makes him a far better candidate for top job of the post-defeat Liberal Party. How desperately obvious it is when not even rhetoric – but rhetoric about rhetoric – given this week’s apology about apologies takes centre stage, that Birnam Wood has come to Dunsinane.
    The man is a decade deep in an authoritarian conservative government, for some reason wanting to stay – and has run completely dry of political capital to spend, and finally, words themselves. I imagine him being torn from Kirribilli by the fingernails, recounts demanded, a concession speech alluding to a comeback, the works.

    As for our competitor, not one positive thing can be said about the public appearance of this person aside from the obvious; that he is somewhat less asinine, incrementally less warmongering, a shade more humane, vaguely less turgid than the current situation. Rudd may as well stand in front of a banner reading “Yes, this is the best we can do.”

    Now imagine that there was a moment of sanity, that behind that caucus room, a plan for a future Australia is being hatched. Surely only a drugged-out creep would sniff out the secret to the press, in some over-air-conditioned airport lounge. This, my fellow Australians, represents our only hope. That ‘changing it all anyway’, whatever it may mean, frankly represents the sheerest optimism we can have.

    That roulette wheel is much more preferable than watching this campaign. The Liberals tell us to go for growth… except growth pushes up interest rates… which is why we need Workchoices…. to keep wages down…. so we can go for growth…. and Workchoices means growth since its put wages up. They are allowed to get away with this and the only place we can reasonably expect to be played out is through Labor campaign material and a few key blogs.

    Substance. Is. Impossible.

    Not just hard to find. Impossible.

    I want Julia Gillard to be Prime Minister. Not because she’d be good at the job. Because we would be able to find all the shit-witted hack PR graduates who’ve been burped out of the top universities into cushy jobs in the political reporting system. We’d be able to find them all and we’d be able to bury them alive somewhere in the scrub in Gippsland. Because every one of them would write one of two divergent pieces. One would be “Now Comes The Test: Is Australian Really Ready for a Female PM?” and the other would be “Style At The Top”. The authors of the first would be required to strip naked before entering the pit, and allowed to write a final letter. The second, no such romance.

    Latham had it half right, there is a convergence going on. But it is increasingly clear that even the PR and advertising apparatus of the two parties is a smokescreen. The policies are now just pure electioneering. We talk about Labor taking steps to the right, but the Coalition just wrote a 83 million dollar cheque for the ABC to launch a kids channel. Try explaining that to Ronald Reagan. Or Thatcher. The parties aren’t converging together. They’re converging towards the media. The negative ads, the positive ads, they are all now finally selling the same product.

    A cold-war era soviet television producer once joked that advertising in Russia was based on the idea that advertising simply needed to be there to give television its formal properties. At one point, they advertised tap water with the slogan ‘Tap water: its in your house.’ The politics of this campaign are there for the same reason. To give it form, nothing more. Only the slightest glimmer of hope exists, maybe the refunding of higher education, the reorganisation of the health system, a 50-year moratorium on nuclear power (its not hard, Peter, just tell them how much water the fucking things use!), and then if we really smoke the best drugs we have, actual action on reconcilation and gay marriage rights. Instead, we are meant to aspire to a redress of the national debt sheet and to get back the rights we until recently had. None of it matters though, not to the political machine. These things are issues. They are food.

    So let me finish with those two moments again; the sweaty Tony Abbott walking into a debate, late, angry, unapologetic and the unguarded Peter Garrett, dryly waving off Steven Price (of all people) and Richard Wilkins (of all people) and dropping either the worst off-the-cuff remark imaginable, or a glimmer of hope for those of us with aspirations of a fair and decent society.

    That the very best we can hope for, the dreams of many of us, is being discussed as a campaign positive for the Coalition tells you precisely where we are. That Abbott walks the earth tells you precisely where we are. George Megalogenis at the Australia begins his new column with this: “John Howard and Peter Costello are asking voters what no incumbent has dared to ask before: to see politics as an extended piece of jazz. We are meant to be transfixed by their search for melody.” The point isn’t that they’re in trouble finding that tune. The problem is we’ve gotten to the point where we think its okay to wait.

  12. Paul Burns says:

    Signed the petition and circulated it.
    Howard has gone MAD. Its really just a question of whether he’s already imploded, or is about to implode. People are even taking bets on the timing – last week, this week, next week etc.
    By the way, now I know what postmodernism is. Sounds a bit like adopting a rigorous intellectual approach, which I learnt at uni before the advent of postmodernism. Once tried to read Derrida, but didn’t get very far. Have read some Foucault – is that the right spelling?

  13. Sir Henry says:

    Now that you have read Foucault and Derrida, read Alan Sokal’s “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”. Here is a useful link to postmodernism –

  14. Katz says:

    Signature moment of the campaign, and indeed the Howard era.

    John Howard, mannequin-like in serious campaign suit, stares blankly at a felled, unconscious, track-suited shopper.

    John Howard rummages through his mind for the appropriate human response to this situation.

    John Howard has no human response. He walks off.

  15. Su says:

    That was great Christian. I have been wondering about Garrett’s comment and thinking that action is obviously more important than a statement of intent but what do we lose when our leaders are not prepared to stand up and argue against policies that clearly violate human rights. Even in the event that those policies are reversed by a labor government; what irrevocable harm is wrought when no one dares to say “this is fundamentally wrong” in case they upset the constituency that is quite happy for that wrong to be perpetuated?

  16. Tony D says:

    “When no issues exist, politicians have an interest in manufacturing them, creating an artificial sense of crisis.”

    “Therefore a wise prince will seek means by which his subjects will always and in every possible condition of things have need of his government, and then they will always be faithful to him.”
    – Niccolo Machiavelli, “The Prince”

  17. mick says:

    Christian – that comment obviously took a lot of time, thanks for it. I don’t know that I entirely agree with you about Latham, I’m not much of a fan though once I was.

    I’m in complete agreement with you about Australia’s desperate need to change it’s political class. Unfortunately it seems to me that the only way this can be done is by working hard to demonstrate just how bad they are at what they are supposed to be doing. One thing that keeps hitting me during this campaign is how much it is about marketing and not politics. Latham is right, and many people around here have been saying it all year, that there is a hell of a lot of convergence between the parties going on and it isn’t healthy. It seems in this election the party that can most successfully avoid an argument is the one that’s going to get over the line.

  18. Christian says:

    Su, absolutely. I disagree fundamentally with the idea that Australia has shifted to the right. Australia shifted to the neo-liberal, and thats a very big difference. A Labor government will be in for a very very long time, unless the Liberals choose someone like Turnbull to fight the machine that the massive (and inevitably corrupt) policy machine that Labor has become. Bob Brown and the sadly departing Natasha Stott Despoja are the only major political figures on the left (and I would argue Turnbull and perhaps Vanstone on the right) who have demonstrated the ability at times to corner broader issues about the dysfunction of the current two-party system. We’re not even allowed to talk about the conceptual merits of ideas without being categorised as a polemicist. Everything is sublimated into ordered categories. My feeling is that it isn’t our votes which are sorted according to preference systems, but our ideas.

    I would literally welcome a massive growth in the Family First vote if it would shunt people like Abbott to their natural home.

  19. Christian says:

    Mick, I’m not a fan of Latham either, he’s mad. He as well believe in the return of steam power. But Rudd wouldn’t back a potential minister’s appeal to end the death penalty on World Abolish Death Penalty Day. One of these people is considered ‘electable’.

  20. John Ryan says:

    Yeah well I,m don,t know what postmodernism is let alone where it lives,I,m half way through The Spanish Civil War by Beevor and The Coming of the Third Reich,I,m buggered if I know who the other two blokes are in thread 13,but however I see the OZ spinning away this morning, labour cant win,the over 60s will beat the younger gen, well I,m over 60 and I loathe Howard and his slipshod liars with a passion,and I think there might be a few more like me.
    I shall just remain silent and hope like hell Rudd wins then I will let a few people know what I think of them their Paper uncle Tom Cobbley and all

  21. Paul Burns says:

    John Ryan,
    Beever’s book on the Soanish Civil War is marvellous. I’m not too sure who Derrida is either, but I found him very hard to understand. Foucault was a French sadomasochistic pain freak and philosopher who wrote a wonderful book on prisons. He died a couple of years ago.
    Sir Henry,
    I’ll take you seriously and have a look at that book.

  22. Katz says:

    Here is an interesting story from the Bloomberg wire service which does not seem to have been picked up by any local publication:

    An extract:

    “After 33 years in the House of Representatives, Howard, 68, is in danger of becoming Australia’s first prime minister since 1929 to lose his seat. In some past campaigns, he has argued for stronger immigration controls, especially for Asians. Now his Bennelong district is 41 percent Asian, compared with 2 percent when he was first elected in 1974. A change last year in the district boundaries also added more lower-income families.

    ” ‘Howard has been able to win people over at the last minute in previous elections playing the race or immigration card,” said Malcolm Mackerras, a political analyst at the University of New South Wales. Now “he has to attract both the Asian and working-class vote.'”

    Mackerras’s point requires local circulation. In the past, when faced with electoral defeat, Howard has reached for the wedge, which more often than not was racial.

    Mackerras is implying here that Howard cannot afford to use that very effectual wedge this time round because wielding it would imperil his own seat.

    What a delicious irony! Howard, forced to choose between prolonging Coalition rule and his own return to Kirribilli, plumps for the Kirribilli long-shot!

    Memo to Howard’s cabinet colleagues: Ratty is cutting you adrift. Enjoy the next three years with Howard on the Opposition backbenches. And enjoy the next generation of political oblivion.

  23. jinmaro says:

    That’s funny, Katz.

    Of course Howard’s always been a class warrior par excellence, while denying or obfuscating the existence of class power and secretly delighting in and encouraging the ascendancy of postmodernist perspectives and techniques beloved of so many of his political opponents in the ALP and the liberal left. But now, in this case, given the choice, he preferences saving his own skin. How post-modern and relativist of him.

    His class denialist, postmodernists’ sucker bait is now, in turn, choking the old class warrior to death. What delicious irony indeed.

  24. Christian says:

    It just struck me how much Howard is a fan of postmodernity. There is never a clear narratives, words mean whatever you want them to mean, ideas parsed instead of facts. The man is a comic genius.

  25. Spiros says:

    “Enjoy the next three years with Howard on the Opposition backbenches.”

    You must think he will retain his seat.

  26. Sir Henry says:

    Christian, may I say that your lengthy opinion piece, written as a cry of the heart, is among the most impressive I have read during this election.

    Mark Latham’s piece in the Financial Review (Review supplement) is really worth a read too; too few people have read it but everyone has an opinion on it; and Christian’s commentary here takes Latham’s argument further.

  27. mbahnisch says:

    It just struck me how much Howard is a fan of postmodernity.

    Well, dude, that was the point of the piece!

    Even if Howard does win his seat, he certainly won’t be sitting on it for three years.

    Sir Henry, there was a lot to agree with in what Latham had to say, and he’s right, in my view, that those who are hoping for some sort of progressive Rudd to appear after the election are kidding themselves. But his “manufactured crisis” thing was off target.

  28. Katz says:

    “Even if Howard does win his seat, he certainly won’t be sitting on it for three years.”

    But Mark, Mr Howard PROMISED.

  29. murph the surf says:

    “he’s right, in my view, that those who are hoping for some sort of progressive Rudd to appear after the election are kidding themselves”

    No ,no, progressive Rudd will jump out – all the better to suppress radical Garret.
    No argument has convinced me Howard is embracing and comfortable with post modernism . He is being a “winning” politician.

  30. mbahnisch says:

    A promise isn’t the same thing as a pledge, Katz, and Mr Howard isn’t an English teacher as he tells us.

  31. CK says:

    “But Mark, Mr Howard PROMISED.”

    Now, now, now *finger-wag*.

    We need to look FORWARD to a FUTURE of bright, shiny jetpacks of unbroken promises for all and the optimistic pessimism of the well-managed yet potentially disastrous economic tsunami about to engulf us all and which may or may not be the government’s fault (depending on circumstances) rather than trawling through the tawdry smelly fish-heads of the past.

    Mr Howard has given his solemn word that he’llfaithfully represent the voters of Bennelong for his full termfuck off if we re-elect himhand over to Peter Costello. Oh hello Malcolm, what are you doing here?loves being prime minister and living at the best address in Sydney at our expense.

  32. Christian says:

    This was a great post, Mark, its got me thinking quite a bit.

  33. mbahnisch says:

    Thanks, Christian. Enjoyed your comment/essay – thanks for the contribution!

  34. Christian says:

    Having just seen the Channel Seven ad that is a parody of the Liberals anti-union ones, declaring Kerry OBrien and Laurie Oakes as boring in the same style.. then seeing Peter Beattie and Jeff Kennett side by side asking viewers to ‘vote for Seven’… I’m pretty sure we’re well and truly through the looking glass. They promise to be commercial free ‘until a result is firm’. Literally. Business as usual the second – the second – a result is known. Fabulous. We even get Andrew O’Keefe.

    “This is a crucial election and we think our viewers deserve to be informed right up until they vote,” – Director of Morning Television Adam Boland. From their press release: ” All the facts, all the results, all the drama – we’re just cutting out the boring bits.”

    Channel Nine are going for the ‘dark chocolate’ version, with Charles Firth happy to take a cheque for a few cheap barbs.

    Ten are literally following their one-hour wrap-up with an episode of The Wedge. The election is followed…. by The Wedge. Poetry.

    But Seven.. wow. If anybody can record and Youtube that advert, we will an enduring monument to the end of civilisation.

  35. Enemy Combatant says:

    Web logging doesn’t get much better than this. Been a treat to have been along for the ride.

  36. Katz says:

    How Right Wing Post-modernists see themselves: “We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

    How History will see Right Wing Post-modernists: “We’re history‘s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

    [Intertextuality 101.]

  37. David says:

    Nooo…. The word “postmodern” should be banished, rather than reclaimed as a spanking word for rightwingers. It’s already stretched way too thin, a quasi-smart sounding adjective for all occasions. How is what Howard doing substantively “postmodern” as opposed to spin, manipulation, lies and Newspeak? I would say it’s centrally coordinated 1984-style rather than happy dispersed centreless postmodernism.

  38. Foucault A Go Go says:

    I don’t think people here quite understand what postmodernism is. It does not mean an anything goes relativism.

  39. Foucault A Go Go says:

    Postmodernism is not an active (let alone positive) philosophy/ideology; it is a form of critique. To say that John Howard is running a postmodern election campaign simply does not make sense. Also, the OP contains so many strawmen it is clear the author does not understand postmodernism.

  40. David says:

    A word’s meaning is it’s usage. Thus, stricktly speaking, postmodernism doesn’t actually mean anything.

  41. mbahnisch says:

    I’m well aware of what postmodernism means. The point of the article, which I think both Foucault A Go Go and David are missing, is to highlight the irony of a government and its associated culture warriors who constantly decry postmodernism as if it means relativism and a disregard for truth and that reality is malleable actually acting in that fashion themselves constantly. I’d have thought that was relatively clear. Perhaps the fault lies with me if it isn’t.

  42. David says:

    Mark, perhaps it’s not a far comparison though. I would say political arguments in the public sphere are supposed to be about persuasion, rather than scientific accuracy. I think everyone knows this and treats them with scepticism. But there is a strong tradition that academia should be primarily descriptive rather than prescriptive. There are good reasons for these differing standards (eg. citizens can choose who to vote for, while students are in a powerless position to refute their academics’ prescriptions). Now every so often you do hear “pomo” academics analysing their purpose in a very political/strategic way, and I would say that is concerning. Of course it’s nothing like the complete BS that comes out of guys like Windschuttle and Howard, but this isn’t much of a yardstick for intellectual validity!

  43. mbahnisch says:

    Yes, but it’s recursive, David, in that the Windschuttle/Donnelly/McGuiness crud that Howard, Nelson and Bishop so enthusiastically champion is meant to be the standard for public discourse generally in their universe.

  44. David says:

    Fair point.

  45. Christian says:

    “While students are in a powerless position to refute their academics’ prescriptions.”

    I’ve been challenged every time I’ve made a polemical statement, and invite free debate all the time. I just don’t know if this is true, or perhaps it isn’t anymore.

  46. Andyc says:

    David “students are in a powerless position to refute their academics’ prescriptions”

    I hope not.

    Sounds like higher-educational malpractice, if so. One of the major objectives of Tertiary Ed is, or should be, to teach students how to think critically and independently.

    Even though I speak from within the Physical Sciences, I would expect that to be the same in the Arts & Humanities.

  47. Sir Henry says:

    Going back to Mark Latham, an article tagged Soaking up the high life (see,22049,22737893-5006009,00.html)
    about Mark latham living quietly and modestly by all accounts, filed by junior Murdochette called Sharri Markson, is the absolute nadir of “political” reporting for this year.

    Sharri is known to us, bringing fame to Australian journalism, in an infamous episode where she masqueraded as a relative of one of the London bombing victims, bearing flowers, to get an “exclusive” interview with a literally shellshocked man, one on one. This was a disgrace that rightly caused a furore. See Annabel Crabb’s piece here:–media/media-soiled-in-london-terror-trickery/2005/07/17/1121538866727.html

    This time Sharri, armed with her trademark binoculars, rubber gloves to rummage through garbage with, and a digital camera, lobbed on Mark Latham’s doorstep and came away with nothing but still had to inform us that Latham was a total hypocrite because he has moved out of Campbelltown to nearby Camden into a “mansion” with wrap around windows and a swimming pool. I mean, isn’t that disgraceful? The place, Markson reports, has metal gates that were locked and an intercom which Mark refused to answer.

    “The Latham residence, bought for about $540,000 last year, is furnished with antiques from a nearby store.”

    Sharri tells us that Mark is now on a “taxpayer subsidised pension” of $65,000. But does not say that he tried to do something about the parliamentarians’ super rort.

    Sharri was News Limited Journalist of the Year last year for her London bombing scoop.

    Sharri you are just the hack to follow in Glen Milne and Piers Akerman footsteps. Keep up the tradition!

  48. Katz says:

    I would say political arguments in the public sphere are supposed to be about persuasion, rather than scientific accuracy. I think everyone knows this and treats them with scepticism.

    Unfortunately, not true David. Not everyone, even in academia, adheres to your commendably stringent prescription for academic scepticism.

    Indeed, there are many academics who read the following words, quoted at the top of the page by Mark, as an accurate and admirable description of their proper role in the much-desired coming American imperium:

    We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

    The second person plural in this extract is aimed at all academics. Broadly speaking there are three attitudes toward its sentiments:

    1. Yes! This is true and it is a good thing. What can I do to promote the imperium?

    2. This is what is happening and even though I abhore it, it’s too powerful to resist. The Empire has won, or will win soon.

    3. It’s an arrogant load of tosh. And I’m going to enjoy watching the people who conduct their lives according to this fantasy being destroyed by their own hubris.

    No prizes for guessing which one of these I adhere to.

  49. GregM says:

    “Sounds like higher-educational malpractice, if so. One of the major objectives of Tertiary Ed is, or should be, to teach students how to think critically and independently.

    Even though I speak from within the Physical Sciences, I would expect that to be the same in the Arts & Humanities.”

    Read some PhD theses that have been granted approval in the Arts and Humanities disciplines. They demonstrate no capacity for critical or independent thought. Some of them are sub-literate. You harbour an illusion about the intellectual integrity for the Arts and Humanities faculties that they do not deserve.

  50. mbahnisch says:

    This is getting a bit off topic, I think.

  51. Christian says:

    Yes, and frankly I’ve had enough of Arts bashing. Unless you have names to name, Greg M, and theses to specifically call out, your comment rings a bit Boltish.

    Back on topic, the hard political reality of all this postmodern posturing is that ministers no longer resign, as I mentioned in my polemic… just in time, the two old warhorses join in in the GG:

    FORMER prime ministers Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam have intervened in the federal election campaign to criticise the Howard government over accountability.

    The one-time political foes have written a joint letter on the subject to major newspapers to be published tomorrow, News Ltd reported.

    Mr Fraser and Mr Whitlam in the letter call for an inquiry into ministerial accountability.

    “No matter how grave their failings may be, ministers no longer resign,” the letter says.

    “We believe it is critical that this issue is addressed in the forthcoming national election and then acted upon by whichever party forms the new government.”

    The pair also say freedom of information laws introduced by Mr Fraser’s government in 1982 have been eroded.

  52. Paul Burns says:

    This is undoubtedly stating the obvious but Howard is a control freak and there would be no way he would allow any future Government he leads to be accountable. The little p___k disn’t even want to have an election, and if he thought he could gety away with it he wouldn’t have had one. Like Hitler, he appears to have been driven insane by power. And don’t say the comparison isn’t valid. On another thread some one mentioned how the little fascist was endorsing the League of Rights.

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