Episode 258 – Grassroots Censorship

In this episode, we discuss indigenous spokespersons, grassroots censorship and Scott Morrison’s latest cock-ups.

Feedback from Last Week

From Graeme (Who is a patron)

Disappointed that you indulged in a popular pastime of white fellas, of making sweeping generalisations about Australian Aboriginals without actually involving an Australian Aboriginal.

Do better next time please Trevor.

My response will be

Graeme seems to be suggesting that our podcast was unbalanced and we needed to give time to alternative views from the Aboriginal perspective.

Or maybe … there are issues here which you couldn’t possibly understand because you don’t have the lived experience

But …

The stereotypical indigenous viewpoint is pretty well documented and well publicised and we were basically responding to the position put forward by indigenous activists on QANDA, The Drum and the recent street protests.

The arguments we made don’t get air-time anywhere. The right-wing media takes up some bits but pretty much ignores the nuanced cultural angle.

Having said that …

I actually called for listeners to Zoom in and push back. Based on previous correspondence and his online comments (on Dark Emu) I fully expected Paul to disagree. Any indigenous viewer was welcome to Zoom in and give their 2c worth.

Suggesting an aboriginal guest is insulting to indigenous people. It assumes all indigenous people think the same. If I invited Jacinta Price you probably would have said “not that sort of aboriginal”. A less insulting request would be “someone who is likely to push back against some of your sweeping generalisations”.

Is there a “white person’s” position on indigenous incarceration? No? Why would there be a black person’s?

Is there a black person or white person position on immigration, private health insurance, private school education, drug legalisation?

I would be embarrassed to pretend to speak on behalf of white people. The same should apply to black leaders. They should have ideas that they recommend but not pretend that those ideas have popular acceptance among black people unless they have done some sort of poll of black attitudes.

Why would there be a black person position on anything unless you think of them as a noble savage hamstrung and pidgeon-holed by their skin colour.

We have previously requested pushback and, other than a minor pushback from Bronwyn, received nothing. If you find a suitable guest, we will speak to them. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

The call for pushback carries a condition. To argue the issues we have raised and the positions we have taken. Simply saying “you are white and therefore blinded by your privilege” is not good enough. It may be arrogant but I consider our arguments to be deeper and more intellectual than most people would be used to encountering. We are basically giving our opponents a free look and an invitation to think and reply without being forced to think on the run.

Sweeping generalisations are unavoidable when discussing society and culture. That is the whole point of a study of society podcast.

Where was your disappointment when, in multiple previous episodes, we made sweeping generalisations of Asians and Scandinavians and Americans?

If Graeme thinks input from a black perspective was missing, I remind Graeme we spent considerable time describing the views of Coleman Hughes and he is …. an African-American man.

Having indigenous heritage doesn’t necessarily make you a valuable commentator on indigenous social trends. A few weeks ago we were were going to invite a Chinese lady to discuss China and she admitted later that we knew a lot more Chinese history than she did. I’m not American but I’m convinced I have a deeper understanding of America and its place in the world, than many Americans. An individual indigenous person can offer anecdotes of their life experience but is not necessarily capable of offering insightful advice as to indigenous social trends. I’m reading Dark Emu. Many people have. But I’m also reading “Australia and the Origins of Agriculture” by Rupert Gerritsen. Very few people have read it. By the time I get through it, I’ll know more about indigenous agriculture than most indigenous people. When I do a podcast on that topic, will you suggest that I must have an indigenous person present? Will any indigenous person do? Must it be someone who pushes back? Must they have studied indigenous agriculture or would their lived experience be sufficient?

From an article in Medium

“At one of the premieres of his landmark Holocaust documentary, “Shoah” (1985), the filmmaker Claude Lanzmann was challenged by a member of the audience, a woman who identified herself as a Holocaust survivor. Lanzmann listened politely as the woman recounted her harrowing personal account of the Holocaust to make the point that the film failed to fully represent the recollections of survivors. When she finished, Lanzmann waited a bit, and then said, “Madame, you are an experience, but not an argument.”

This exchange, conveyed to me by the Russian literature scholar Victor Erlich some years ago, has stayed with me, and it has taken on renewed significance as the struggles on American campuses to negotiate issues of free speech have intensified — most recently in protests at Auburn University against a visit by the white nationalist Richard Spencer.

Lanzmann’s blunt reply favored reasoned analysis over personal memory. In light of his painstaking research into the Holocaust, his comment must have seemed insensitive but necessary at the time. Ironically, “Shoah” eventually helped usher in an era of testimony that elevated stories of trauma to a new level of importance, especially in cultural production and universities.

During the 1980s and ’90s, a shift occurred in American culture; personal experience and testimony, especially of suffering and oppression, began to challenge the primacy of argument.


Christians would be another good example. Who knows more about the origins of the Bible? Me or your average Christian? We did a whole podcast on the origins of the Bible. No one complained that there were no Christians. If you were to ask a Christian about their lived experience, many would tell a tale of persecution that has no resemblance to reality. Marriage equality, abortion laws and other secular laws would be described by Christians as an affront and an insult to them and their God. Would they be right?

Only a black man can interpret indigenous problems sounds like “only a priest can interpret scripture”. Maybe indigenous cultural discussion needs a protestant reformation.

ABC Insiders got into trouble for not having an indigenous panellist. The next week they had Bridget Brennan who is the ABC  Europe correspondent.

Bridget Brennan is a Europe correspondent based in London. She was previously the ABC’s national Indigenous affairs correspondent, covering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs across Australia. Bridget has worked as a reporter in Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin and Hong Kong.

With respect, she is whiter than me, not obviously aboriginal in appearance and has had a privileged adulthood if not childhood.

Her work as a journalist might qualify her but not her skin colour.

From an ABC story in 2017

Bridget Brennan is the ABC’s National Indigenous Affairs Correspondent. She was appointed to that position after winning a 2016 Andrew Olle scholarship and spending 12 months investigating the issues affecting Indigenous Australians, an assignment which helped her develop a strong connection to her culture.

Investigating the over-representation of Aboriginal kids in child protection, Bridget travelled to Tamworth, Katherine, Brisbane and Shepparton to meet some inspiring people with great stories to tell about how they are trying to combat the problem.

“Listening to their stories made me feel really connected to my culture,” says Bridget. “Working at the ABC allows me to go out and do these types of stories, which is really great.”

Bridget is from Victoria and of Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta heritage on her father’s side. She grew up with her mother and it was sometimes difficult for Bridget to connect with her culture.

“It was tough at points when I wasn’t surrounded by my Aboriginal culture and family, and I think that’s actually a common thing for a lot of Aboriginal people,” she said.

“But I did grow up with a mum who always taught me to be very proud of my ancestry. I always had a sense of who I was because of her.”


I don’t know why you would be disappointed. This is a show about 3 white men sitting around making sweeping generalisations about society and current affairs. The study of culture is about studying generalisations of cultural groups. That’s what we do. We don’t need special permission to discuss aboriginal culture.  If generalisations are banned then we can’t talk about culture. We regularly speak about Christians, Muslims, Neo-liberals, Communists, Americans and Chinese and we virtually never invite any on. Why would you expect anything different? Is it because you strongly disagree with us on this issue that our style and format suddenly seems unfair?

When I’m busy making sweeping generalisations, I don’t like to be interrupted with anecdotes of individual life experiences. There will always be exceptions to general rules or trends. A life experience is not an argument. I like to be challenged with contrary arguments which usually take the form of contrary sweeping generalisations.

Identity Politics

It emphasises the identity of the speaker as opposed to the merit of their ideas.

It superficially objects to racism but entrenches it by ascribing value to something based on the race of the speaker.

It necessarily leads to a backlash as the white majority adopts the same identity strategy.

It is deeply flawed and is responsible for much of societies woes. Don’t buy into it and openly reject it whenever you see it.

The problem is not that rich people can’t feel poor people’s pain; you don’t have to be the victim of inequality to want to eliminate inequality. … the relevant question about our stories is not whether they reveal someone’s privilege or disadvantage but whether they’re true. The problem is that the whole idea of cultural identity is incoherent.

I probably spent about 16-20 fucking hours preparing that show (and five years practising my delivery). Finding and inviting and researching and involving an indigenous guest would have added another 20 hours which I simply don’t have.

Graeme, you need to lower your expectations.

I can’t do better.


We have some new ones


The Thought Police

Don’t mention the war.

Three issues.

  1. Removing offensive television shows, movies and books
  2. Removing statues depicting historical figures
  3. Mass displays of contrition (footballers kneeling)


Seriously, regarding the first and the third, the Red Guard would look on with envy at some of this stuff.

Regarding the second, Orwell would look on and say I told you so.

Football players kneeling. What choice did they have?

There may be talk of defunding American police forces but the Thought Police are in vogue

From Episode 211


1984 by George Orwell (1949) warned of how language could be corrupted and weaponised.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) was about book burning but it was the population not the government that enforced it.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932) .

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.

In the current case, Bradbury is correct.


Morrison Cock-ups and shit-fuckery

A $60b mistake

1500 employees or $1500

The whole idea of ministerial responsibility is overblown (unless it is something like the Qld Health payroll saga)

Followed by the Homebuilder mistake

From the conversation

Scott Morrison’s new housing stimulus package is straight-out retail politics.

HomeBuilder offers homeowners (including first home buyers) a grant of A$25,000 to build a new home worth less than $750,000 or to spend between $150,000 and $750,000 renovating an existing home.

The scheme is limited to owner-occupiers with reported incomes below $125,000 for singles and $200,000 for couples.

Giveaways to home buyers are wildly popular. And who wouldn’t want their house renovated on the public dime? The trouble is it’s bad economics.

Take the new grants for home owners wanting to renovate.

To be eligible, they have to sign a contract with a builder by the end of the year.

But renovations costing $150,000 or more take time to plan.

The plans need to be drawn up, finance approved, and any building and development approvals secured.

Which means that anyone who signs a contract with a builder today was already planning to renovate.

And chances are that many who sign contracts over the coming months have already planned to renovate.

The new grants will also encourage the in-demand tradies to raise their prices.

They’ll add up to a lot of spending for few jobs saved.


Government refuses to release conflict-of-interest disclosures from Covid commission members

But thanks to the Guardian we know there are conflicts of interest anyway.

Power’s role leading the NCCC has raised concerns among a range of civil society groups about potential conflicts of interest because the commission has heavily promoted gas development as a way to boost economic growth after the coronavirus crisis. The escalating public controversy about commercial conflicts prompted Power to step aside from his position as deputy chairman of a gas company, Strike Energy.

The NCCC chairman told Thursday’s hearing he stood by his view “that we should be looking at competitive gas supply for its potential as a raw material for both existing and new manufacturing industry to preserve and create jobs”. He said he agreed with Alan Finkel, the chief scientist, “that there is a role for gas in firming up renewables as we transition to lower emissions”.

But Power acknowledged there was a “perceived conflict”, given his corporate interests.

He said he had not attended a board meeting of Strike Energy since he joined the commission and “I have not voted on any operational or strategic matters and will not while I am at the NCCC”. But in response to questions from the Labor senator Murray Watt, Power said he “probably” was still being paid a director’s fee.

Asked whether the development of a trans-continental pipeline would benefit Strike Energy, an oil and gas exploration company, Power replied “no, not necessarily”.

Power was asked to confirm whether he remained a shareholder in Fortescue, and whether the proposed pipeline would benefit that company. He confirmed he remained a shareholder in Fortescue, and he acknowledged that FMG had lobbied for a trans-continental gas pipeline when he was the chief executive. But Power said Fortescue would not benefit from the pipeline now, because it had not developed gas interests.

Asked whether he had recused himself from discussions among commissioners about developing gas as part of the Covid-19 recovery, Power replied: “No, I haven’t.”

In response to questions about his remuneration, Power confirmed he was being paid $267,345 to cover his expenses. He said the money was paid into a trust, and he said the trust paid tax in according with tax office rules. Officials from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet said Power was not required to keep receipts to demonstrate expenses.


COAG Scrapped

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) will be scrapped and replaced with National Cabinet meetings with a specific focus on creating jobs, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.

“We want to streamline those endless meetings so we can bring it back to one focus: creating jobs out of the back of this crisis.

Conspiracy Theories take hold

Over 40% of Republicans think Bill Gates will use COVID-19 vaccine to implant tracking microchips

A survey from Yahoo News and YouGov finds that the conspiracy theory is popular among Fox News viewers, Republicans and Trump voters.

The representative survey of 1,640 US adults by YouGov for Yahoo News found that half of respondent Americans who say Fox News is their primary television news source believe the conspiracy theory. It’s the largest group responding this way, followed by self-described Republicans and “Voted for Donald Trump in 2016” — 44% of both those groups said they believed the conspiracy theory was true. Twenty-six percent of respondent Republicans said it was false, and 31% said they weren’t sure.


Australian belief in Covid 19 conspiracy theories

Conspiracy Themed Protests in Australia

From The Guardian

Hundreds of anti-vaccination protesters have defied social distancing measures at rallies in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

Protesters claiming the Covid-19 pandemic was a “scam” gathered at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne on Saturday, and carried signs declaring they were against vaccines and 5G technology.

Their placards claimed “5G = communism”, “Covid 1984” and “our ignorance is their strength”.

They booed police – clad in gloves and face masks – who warned the crowd that they were breaching social distancing rules designed to slow the spread of coronavirus.

In a statement, police said those found in breach of Covid-19 directions faced fines of $1,652 each.

In Sydney, up to 500 protesters voiced conspiracy theories regarding not only vaccination but also 5G telecommunication networks, fluoride and large pharmaceutical corporations.

The group convened at Hyde Park in the CBD before holding a singalong of anti-vaccination songs and walking to NSW Parliament House.

… When asked about the protest, Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said “there’s no message that can get through to people who have no belief in science”.

“There’s probably no reaching them,” he earlier told reporters.

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