03 March, 2011

There is a Difference

I’m regularly described as being something of a leftie.  This has always amused me, as I’ve always considered my views rather conservative in the traditional sense of the word and fairly Christian in the actual sense of the word.  I have never completely identified with any party.  I assume the leftie tag comes from my opposition to the right wing.  (I won’t call them conservatives.  I have no argument with conservatives but there is very little that is genuinely conservative in the positions espoused by many who self-identify as conservatives.)
If being opposed to the right makes me a leftie ipso facto, then so be it.  I don’t care.

So what brings about this general opposition to the right wing?  First let me say that opposition to one side does not equate to support of the other.  In politics, you have to choose the least worst so that the most worst doesn’t get in, but don’t take that vote against the most worst as a ringing endorsement of the least worst.  To put it simply, I’ll come down on the side that acts like less of a dick.  And by my reading, it tends to be the progressive side that acts like less of a dick than the right.  I know that both sides have their shrill loudmouths who are an embarrassment to their cause, but I do not accept the notion that each side is as bad as the other.  There is a difference.

To me, the difference is so self-evident that specific examples are almost unnecessary, but the most recent one comes from Miranda Devine and her column “No sympathy for sooky independents,” wherein she rationalises abuse directed at independent MP Tony Windsor.
“As proof of his suffering, Windsor released a phone message he had received: “You’re a f...ing dog Windsor,” said the male caller. “You’re a f...ing liar, a dog, a rat, a big f...ing MP dog doing damn nothing. You wait. You’re not going to get voted in again. I hope you die.”
Unseemly language aside, if that’s the worst threat Windsor can drum up then all he’s proved is that he’s a tricky wuss. Take out the swear words and the unpleasant hope that he dies and what you have left is a statement which reflects the feelings of much of Windsor’s electorate of New England....”
Actually Miranda, if you take out the swear words and the unpleasant hope that he dies, what you have left is barely one coherent sentence and a rather banal one at that.  And this is what distinguishes the left wing from the right wing commentariat in this country.  If Windsor and Oakeshott had backed the Coalition instead of Labor and received abuse for it, you can bet that the likes of Miranda Devine and Andrew Bolt would race to their keyboards to bash out another “What is it with the left and foul-mouthed abuse when they don’t get their own way?” column.  If someone left a message on Tony Abbott’s ’phone calling him a fucking dog and hoping he dies, I can’t think of too many progressives who would rationalise that.  Indeed, there were many on the left who defended Tony Abbott over the “Shit happens” controversy, dismissing Mark Riley’s report as a shameful beat-up and gotcha journalism of the lowest order.  For the record, I agree with them.  There are many reasons to be critical of Tony Abbott.  This is not one of them.  If you were to sum up Devine’s point in one sentence, it would be, “It’s okay when we do it because damn it, we have a good reason!”

You don’t have to look very far to find other so-called lefties who are quick to distance themselves from  the outbursts of Catherine Deveny and even John Pilger.  In the US, it’s not hard to find conservatives who are quick to point out that the Bill O’Reillys, Sean Hannitys and Sarah Palins of the world do not speak for them.  Where are the Liberals who are prepared to publically disown the rhetoric of Miranda Devine, Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt?  If you’re out there, please make yourselves known. 

Usually when one of the above, or any of their colleagues, says something offensive, the first thing you hear from their defenders is a lot of crying about free speech.  “What is it with the left and silencing people?” “Why does the left hate freedom?”  Such comments conveniently ignore the fact that free expression does not include a) the right to be paid for it, or b) immunity from criticism.  Ms Devine has the right to say whatever she wants about whatever she wants by any means at her disposal.  I am simply exercising my equal right to say that what she said is stupid.

Having dismissed the independents as sooks, some might argue that this makes Miranda Devine fair game for some hate and abuse herself.  It does not.  It’s tempting, but that would be too easy.  Miranda, I disagree with you.  I think you’re wrong and that you’re probably a hypocrite.  I do not think that you’re a fucking dog and I certainly do not hope you die.  Furthermore, I would not rationalise nor tolerate any such comments directed towards you.  That’s because I have standards - standards that the right wing claims to have but seldom shows any evidence of. 

That’s the difference.


  1. Every side thinks it's ok when they do it and unforgivable when the other side does it. That's not just politics, that's human nature.

  2. Very nicely put, Bill. And what a huge industry has risen around defending the indefensible - I naively expected all the shock-jocks and their camp followers to just shut up forever once WMDs weren't found and children hadn't been thrown overboard. Not a chance.