Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Aussie Aussie Aussie Oy Oy Oy

Hi Folks,

Well, it seems that the US is not the sole repository for ignorant right wing rednecks and nationalists. Australia's largest city has been rocked by riots as gangs of mainly young white males attacking Middle Eastern looking passerby, torching cars, destroying property and fighting with the police. Their excuse was the rumor that two beach life guards had been attacked by "Lebanese" young men. Monday (today? Tomorrow? Who knows), Middle Eastern youths responded with similar riots of their own.

Australia has a far right wing party, Pauline Hanson's "One Nation" party, that has had some alarming electoral success at the local and state level.

Australia has something in common with the US. A right wing leader of a formerly classical liberal party, who has propped up his electoral chances with naked appeals to nationalism and fear of terrorism. Americans will do well to take these riots as a warning of what can happen here if we don't have a return to normalcy. Thankfully, polls indicate that such a return to normalcy is in the air.

Of course, after years of listening to European and Australian left wingers wax indignant about the narrow victories and dramatic obnoxiousness of the American right, I think it is appropriate now for the American left and center to indulge in a little finger pointing. But just a little. Then we should get down to figuring out how to avoid such a thing happening here in the future.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is worth noting that we had no such race riots here, even after 9/11.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Indeed the race riots in Cronulla are a blot on Australia, as they would be on any country. Australia is very similar to the USA. We have rednecks and stupid people as well. The difference is our population is only 20 million and hence there are less numbers at the extremes of society to band together. The majority of the population is homogenic too: 85 percent of people live in urban areas. There is no west coast, east coast, south or mid west.

The race issues are huge in Sydney. Areas of the western suburbs have large concentrations of immigrant populations, as you would expect in a city of over 4 million. Ethnic tensions run high in the more recently arrived groups. Serbians, Croatians, and Lebanese in particular. The former two used to riot over soccer teams leading to the complete reorganisation of the Australian Soccer League, removing teams with ethnic associations. More recently a family of immigrant brothers -- Lebanese I believe -- were gaolled for a callous and brutal gang rape of two teenage girls (pre-planned and videoed).

In the context of these ongoing issues -- predating 9/11 -- LTG's comment is insulting for it's lack of understanding. Finger pointing, RbR? Unless I am misunderstanding what you are saying, that seems more than a little childish as well.

My personal opinion is the current John Howard Liberal Party government is doing very well pandering to people's fears, as did parties such as One Nation and Family First. (One Nation is basically defunct now, by the leadership being charged with electoral fraud. That though does not remove the racist views from the community.) The Liberals have no had progressive ideas, and are simply riding on the back of a strong budget surplus. Unfortunately the opposition parties are not being a credible opposition. The Labor party have put their weight behind a previous leader Kim Beasley, after the last leader imploded in a very public breakdown. The Democrats -- who used to hold the balance of power in the Senate -- self destructed with internal bickering. The Greens are the only ones with a moral outlook, but are labelled as a single issue party. Pragmatically they are not helped by a openly gay, uncharismatic leader. What we really need a leader who will lead rather than simply following the polls. 

// posted by Koala Boy

Anonymous said...

Hi Koala Boy,

Of course finger pointing is childish (I won't tell you what my friend from New Zealand had to say about this). So we shouldn't indulge too much in it. Especially when the US has obvious problems of its own with regard to racism. But then that's an observation that rarely gets made when the fingers are pointing at Americans.

The bottom line is that racism and xenophobia are universal problems in modern advanced democracies (and developing countries too for that matter).

Thanks for the Auastralian far right primer. Was it One Nation or Family First that gained the Premiership of Queensland? From their websites, I got the impression that One Nation had undergone some sort of schism but for obvious reasons, they weren't ellaborating.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Insulting comment? Americans are accustomed to Europeans and Australians belittling us for our racial problems and history. These comments are often loudest and most arrogant from societies that are actually very homogeneous. So I think many of us felt a bit of Schadenfreude when we saw the news. For all our problems here, we didn't have anti-muslim violence in the wake of terrorist attacks.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

I don't think the issue in Australia is about anti-Muslim violence so much as about immigration and tensions between ethnic groups. I am not even sure you can call Arabs a different race.

What I wonder is if there is a global pattern here. The normal pattern is that minorities get discriminated against regularly everywhere. And sometimes that leads to violence. We have seen this all over. It is a result of migration shifts. Immigration is an issue all over the Western world or the rich North if you use the words of those in the developing world.

But the new pattern seems to be specific to Arabs. Are they discriminated against in those nations where they are immigrants?. You see riots in France that are the result of years worth of discrimination being set off by what appears to be a minor and random accident.

And in fairness, as I understand the situation in Australia, the Lebanese attacked lifeguards, beating them brutally. The demonstrations the beach were solidarity festivals that turned bad once the beer kicked in. I didn’t know, RBR that the lifeguard thing was a rumor. Is this too, like France, the result of frustration over discrimination or perceived discrimination? Kola Boy, I am not an expert on Australia. But am I correct in saying that the country has had a history of discriminating- especially against indigenous people?

And while Americans don't talk much about Arabs, all you have to do is look at a census map to see that their communities are concentrated in certain areas. If their language skills weren't in such demand here now, who knows what situation they would be in. I am sure that there are some forms of discrimination here, as well. But Arabs tend to keep quiet here because for the most part, they succeed here. And many of our Arabs are Christian or secular Muslims- especially in the Iraqi and Lebanese communities.

Is this tension that we see in Australia and France being fueled by issues in Iraq? 9/11? Increases in terrorism world wide? A combination of all of the above? Is it suddenly OK to open season on Arabs? I think that is a better, more constructive discussion than getting defensive about our respective nations. And BTW: if Americans get pointed out the most, it is because we are the most visible on many issues. It is par for the course. You stick your head up, and someone will be ready to cut it off, as the Norwegians say.
 

// posted by USwest

Anonymous said...

I should clarify. We did have anti-muslim violence here, but it was relatively isolated. We did not have riots. That is was the one thing GWB did right. Some of us expected him to fan the flames.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Of course strictly speaking, there is no such distinction as race. The genetic differences are so minute that they may as well be non-existent.

But ascriptive identity stuff is an important source of violence and mayhem around the world.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Insulting comment? Yes, because it came across as "holier than thou" when there was simply no need. I believe your comment that there were no attacks on Muslims in US following 9/11 is wrong. Riots, no. Violence, yes. I am not aware of any comments belittling the US's racial history.

One Nation gained a number of seats in Queensland but never enough to form government. They only ever got one seat in Federal parliament. Pauline Hanson got reelected once from memory, but she was expelled from the Liberal Party for racist comments, and then formed One Nation. She served gaol time for the electoral fraud. Kiss of death for the party.

Family First are a more recent conservative christian group. They got one seat in the Federal Senate from Victoria on the basis of the distribution of preferences. The Labor Party, in their infinite wisdom, decided to allocate their preferences  to Family First ahead of the Greens. This effectively gave the Liberals control of the Senate, as opposed to the Greens holding the balance of power. Since then we've gotten new terror laws, changed industrial relation legislation, and a muppet of an Education Minister who is contemplating allowing the teaching of Intelligent Design...

USwest is right: the tension in Sydney is ethnic group related, in particular Lebanese, and is for the most part Sydney only. There is nothing similar happening elsewhere in the country. It relates the "ghetto"-like areas in the cities west. I use quotes as we are not talking about actual ghettos, but conglomerations of ethnic groups with developing social and economic issues such as unemployment and marginisation. In effect the issue is the gangs that have subsequently developed. The race thing is a handy card to latch onto. It always is.

In 1901 there was a White Australia policy to counteract the increasing economic influence of chinese, stemming from their reduced labour costs during the gold rush of the 1850s. This was in place until 1958. A referendum was held in 1967 to allow Aboriginals to be counted as people. 1960s immigration came mainly from southern European countries; Melbourne for example is the second largest Greek city in the world after Athens. The "Wogs" were discriminated against of course. Since then we've had new groups come in. The main ones are Vietnamese (great food near my place because of that!), Hmong, some Burmese, the Balkans, and of course New Zealand and England continuing. We are actually getting a few Somali people in Melbourne too, which is interesting as there are very few blacks in Australian cities.

In general the majority of Australians are not overtly racist. There is implicit racism simply due to the homogeneous nature of the population and a lack of exposure. I don't think you can blame people for that. For example, an Australian friend of mine of asian extraction was working as an intern in a hospital in Collingwood (suburb of Melbourne). He got some very nice 50 something lady asking him where he was from, because he obvious wasn't from around here. He said, in a very broad Australian accent, "no, I've live in Richmond." What gets my goat is watching on the news some white guy saying "go home to your country, this is our country". Complete bullshit, but what do you do?

So, is this particular issue terrorism/muslim related? I would say no. 

// posted by Koala Boy

Anonymous said...

Tough when the shoe's on the other foot, huh? We Americans are accustomed to the 'holier than thou' attitude all the time, particularly when it comes to race relations and the death penalty. Perhaps it's time for all Australians (not directed at Koala Boy really) to be more sensitive now to the tenor of anti-American comments. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

I agree, Kola Boy that you can't blame homogenous communities for being human enough to fear differences and the changes that come with those differences. In fact, it is the the former that really frightens people. On the other hand, it would be quite ideal if we would all start learning from each other's experiences so that things don't get to a boil.

I have read studies, however, that implicit discrimination is somewhat hardwired into our brains. It is a survival instinct. I have to measure you up and decide if you are friend or foe. To do so, I rely on learned traits and thinking. I think this was presented in the book "Blink". Interesting stuff.

On a positive note, there haven't been riots in California over the death of Tookey Williams as feared. Maybe this is something like progress. Maybe we just got lucky this time. 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

"Tough when the shoe is on the other foot, huh?" Maybe it is time for us all to be more sensitive to the tenor of our comments. It cuts both ways, LTG. 

// posted by Koala Boy

Dr. Strangelove said...

I am somewhat puzzled by the hostility that RxR and LTG appear to feel toward our liberal Europeans and Australian friends. I have not heard from any of my foreign friends any "holier-than-thou" comments concerning America's history of racism, nor have I heard any unusual number of similar comments circulating in European or Australian press.

But clearly LTG and RxR have perceived this attitude and have been irritated by it. So I wonder: where have they heard it? Is this something they have heard from their foreign-born friends? Is it something they have read repeatedly in the European or Australian newspapers? Or is it instead something that LTG and RxR have run across in certain specialized academic settings?

I suspect it is an academic thing. If so, then I can understand their frustration, but then LTG and RxR would do much better to aim their comments at that particular segment of European academia (or wherever is appropriate) than at "European an Australian left wingers" in general.

In my experience, my liberal friends in those countries find much to admire in America, and are often more critical of their own nations' faults than of other countries. To accuse in general liberals in other Western nations of self-righteous anti-Americanism, and to express a kind of smugness or glee at the riots outside Sydney, seems to me an unworthy sentiment for this blog.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Strangelove,

I think you are over blowing the extent to which I'm singling any group or country out in my posts.

That said, if you haven't heard this attitude from people from other demcoracies, you haven't been paying attention or you've been hanging out with pro-American right wingers (disproportionately concentrated in the defense industry?). I've met numerous Europeans, Kiwis and Ausies, both in and outside academia and most of them are people who would be considered somewhere at or to the left of center in their political context. The suggestion that American culture is fundamentally and exceptionaly flawed is very pervasive. It is so easily believed in these circles that people are prone to just make off hand allusions almost without noticing it. Of course, often I agree with them on the specifics but I still object to the kind of American "Alleinschuld" that is so in vogue. These ideas are especially pronounced in the writings of European intellectuals (and I'll admit most of my friends both American and foreign are "intellectuals"). Recent writings by Habermas, Derrida and other prominent European intellectuals (at least they HAVE prominent intellectuals) are extremely smug in tone.

I take no pleasure in the riots themselves. They are a tragedy for Australia and a warning to the rest of us because when it comes down to it, Australia and America share many problems as well as achievements. However, I will not shy away from pointing out to those who would criticize my country alone that their country has exactly the same problems as mine. And that when confronted with the moment of crisis, their supposedly supierior political system/ culture is no better able to handle it than ours. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Well, I have many foreign friends and I have connections with the defense part of things. I hear all sorts of things. I hear people critique both the U.S. and their own countries equally. I hear members of the defense community privately express unhappiness with things, but who are required to fulfill their duties regardless. I hear many who have long held American up on a pedal stool (including Americans) and they are now disappointed with what is happening because they have always expected more. In this case, I agree with them.

In neither France nor the U.K. did I hear smugness over the events in New Orleans. I heard sadness at the plight of the people, disbelief that a nation like American could have such a thing take place, and the hope that we could solve the problem. What I heard was an outpouring of "how can we help" that got slapped back by an arrogant Administration that did not want to admit weakness. I didn't hear anyone say that America is racists because it ignored black people. I did hear criticism of American policies in Iraq and concerns over how that affects the security of the globe in general. I heard a lot of people criticize George Bush and questions about how he managed to become president again. There was anger about that. In short, I heard nothing unreasonable from anyone. In fact, they seemed to feel rather sorry for us with these people in power. There was one time I almost got into it with my French father over the situation in Iraq, but it was only a momentary thing. And, as he pointed out, “I have the right to say what I think.” (translation: Just because it is an American affair doesn’t mean that I can’t express a point of view.)He is right! And I know that both LTG and RBR agree with that. I also know that it gets old and tiring sometimes to hear your country bashed right and left, even if it is in jest. Even I have started spouting off like a neo-con at times when it has gone one step too far.

When I lived abroad, I would run into the occasional chauvinist who would claim America was a horrid place. Usually they were members or the French Communist Party which is now considered a joke by most French (or at least the Toulousians who are more likely to be conservative). All in all, I found a majority of people willing to listen and to discuss. There was always a genuine exchange of ideas.

I might be more inclined to say that intellectuals in general have this strange competitive edge that they have to be right; they have to have the last word. This is what makes many people chafe at them sometimes. And sometimes this tendency closes down discussion and comes across badly. It may be appropriate in some forums, but not in a general conversation. I have to agree with Strangelove that the tenor of some of these comments, especially those of LTG has been unfair and perhaps inappropriate. A little humility in accepting outside opinions I think is warranted. If you want to be competitive, or if it is part of an inside ribbing between friends, then have that conversation off-line or let the rest of us in on the joke.
 

// posted by USWest

Dr. Strangelove said...

RxR, I did not suggest you singled out anyone. I quoted you exactly when you discussed "Europeans and Australians." You singled out no particular country in those areas; you took a swipe at all of them.

You say that, if I have not heard the pervasive, smug anti-Americanism from Europeans and Australians, then either I, "haven't been paying attention," or I have been, "hanging out with pro-American right wingers." Wrong on both counts. As I clearly said, my foreign friends are liberal. And I do a good job of paying attention to the foreign press, thank you very much.

It is telling that you quote Derrida. My point was precisely that it was probably a certain clique of European academics that held the anti-American attitudes you were irritated by--not majority of liberals in those countries. I believe you have made my case.

Anonymous said...

Let's see where to start...I've heard directly chauvanistic accusations about "America" in general from both academics and non academics from Australia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Poland, Spain and Sweden. These are either friends or friends of friends. I won't name names but I could (no one involved in this blog). This isn't some paranoid fantasy I cooked up in a moment of drunken crankiness.

These comments range from "America is a fundamentally racist society with a racist foreign policy (a popular one in Denmark)" to "How can you people be so stupid as to elect George Bush?" and the related "Why does everyone there like George Bush?" to "Americans are very conservative" to "Americans are war mongers" to "American white people are racists" to the rediculous "Americans all beat their wives" (heard that last one in Germany - I almost choked on my musli when I heard it). 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

We never said it isn't said. It is said. And if you look at what I wrote, I admitted that I have heard unflattering things from people. I even acknowledged that I get mad sometimes. Anti-Americanism is a real thing, just as Anti-Europeanism, Anti-Westernism, etc. are real things. That doesn't mean we have to take a particular incident in a particular place and say, "Ha ha, see how the shoe feels when it's on your foot."

 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's a blog. I get to be provocative from time to time. Surely, Dr. S has seen the Simpsons where Homer starts a youth hostel and a German tourist begins haranguing him about what is Wrong with America. I agree with RBR. Broad and smug anti-American sentiment is pretty common out there. I remember a conversation with a Norwegian, and Englishwoman, and a Swede about politics. I mentioned that I supported the death penalty. I might has well have served a cow pie with crackers, for the looks on their faces. Then I was lectured by the Norwegian. I was an exchange student in Russia in '92, with others from Holland, England, etc. You should have heard what we were subjected to after the LA riots took place. The point is, we still love our country, and even if we agree with the criticisms, we don't appreciate constantly hearing them from strangers, particularly when served with a sharp tongue.

And that was my point to Koala Boy. It is tough when your country looked down on, even for its obvious faults of which you also disapprove. Europeans in particular dish that out to Americans on a regular basis. 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

Is anti-Americanism in certain parts of European popular culture more pervasive than anti-Europeanism (is that a word?) in certain parts of American popular culture? We've all heard people in the U.S. say nasty things about Russia, Germany, Holland, Sweden, etc. ...and of course making fun of the French is a national pastime in certain quarters. And there are people in those countries who treat America the same way.

But we must remember: those who commonly say such things are just the usual cadre of xenophobes, rednecks, right-wingers, etc., whose criticism is as ignorant as it is hypocritical. (These are the same sort of people who rioted in Sydney, after all.) They are certainly not liberals. It is important that we not confuse this kind of hateful nationalism from the Right with the question of undue criticism from the Left.

LTG and RxR feel that European liberals "dish out" scorn to Americans on a "regular basis." Both have experienced a lot of smug anti-Americanism, apparently from their friends and acquaintances as well as in their readings. LTG and RxR feel such criticism is aggressive, over-reaching, and hypocritical. Even where LTG and RxR agree with the criticism, they don't want to hear it from Europeans. I can understand their irritation. USWest understands it too.

But this has not been my experience in general, and I believe USWest also said her liberal foreign friends do not usually single out America for undue criticism (though she agrees that she doesn't enjoy hearing it even when it is reasonable, like criticizing W.) So while there are surely some liberal academic, intellectual schools in Europe who espouse a lot of anti-American sentiments, I think it's a myth that most European liberals think Americans are racist or have a "fundamentally flawed" culture. This is a myth that does not do justice to the intelligence, compassion, and reason of liberals elsewhere. It is a myth perpetuated by the Right to divide the Left.

I will never forget an article on the front page of Le Monde on September 12, 2001. The article asked, "If Bin Laden, as the American authorities seem to think, really is the one who ordered the Sept. 11 attacks, how can we fail to recall that he was in fact trained by the CIA and that he was an element of a policy, directed against the Soviets, that the Americans considered to be wise?"

But the article also said, "In this tragic moment, when words seem so inadequate to express the shock people feel, the first thing that comes to mind is this: We are all Americans! We are all New Yorkers, just as surely as John F. Kennedy declared himself to be a Berliner in 1962 when he visited Berlin. Indeed, just as in the gravest moments of our own history, how can we not feel profound solidarity with those people, that country, the United States, to whom we are so close and to whom we owe our freedom, and therefore our solidarity?"

I still get moist-eyed reading these words. There was no glee or satisfaction, not even in the sad criticism. Instead, there was compassion and solidarity. And I think we liberals could all use a little more of that right now.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Dr.S., I think you've got the divisions all wrong. Yes, there are some extreme ultra-nationalists in Europe who hate America for that reason, in 19th century style. That's rare. Most of the center-right parties in Europe are relatively pro-American. On a recent trip to Scotland, I met a group of people who were sympathizers with Irish Protestants, all of whom were pro-American/pro-Bush in terms of the war on Iraq. Given America's historic support of Irish Catholics, this tells you something interesting.

Most anti-Americanism in Europe is from the left. Americans are awful because we have the death penalty, won't ratify Kyoto, drive SUVs, make imperialist wars, support Israel, and have a materialist anti-intellectual culture. These aren't right-wing or xenophobic criticisms.

Can you deny that, in Europe, center-right parties are pro-American, but center-left parties are not? Schroeder, not Merkel, tried to play the Anti-American card. In England, Blair supported the US because he knew that even though Labor would hate it, the Tories would support him.  

// posted by LTG

US West said...

LTG makes a good point. You can't cut the world into liberals and conservatives. For starters, the terms means something different depending on what political system you are talking about. In Europe, I agree with LTG that it when there are attacks, they are, in my experience, coming from liberals who are often further left than our own moderates. Their views don't differ a great deal from those of the activist left in the U.S. In the Arab world, however, it seems to be the conservatives who attack. There, the distinctions between "Liberals and conservatives" is not the same as it is in the West.

Remember, in my initial post, I mentioned that the one instance that really bugged me in France was when a communist got onto me about how bad America is. It didn’t help that my moderately liberal, well educated Portuguese roommate seemed to have this distorted idea that Americans are all rich. I was constantly getting lectured about Portuguese poverty and after a while it started to feel like some sort of passive aggressive personal attack. That is something to remember. Once criticism of one's country starts to feel personal, then discussion stops and arguing begins.

When I worked with the Arab team in for 18 months, I suffered culture shock on a daily basis. There were days when I seriously considered becoming a card carrying neo-con. I'd get so fed up with some of the stuff that I had to read from Arab media and the daily stuff I had to put up with that I'd find myself feeling kinship with Cheney and muttering about the usefulness of nukes in some parts of the world.

Strangelove is correct as well to point out that opinions are diverse throughout the world. And sometimes the type of response you get is dependant on your own attitude and mood at a given moment, if you are abroad or at home, if the person you are talking with knows how to actually discuss issues rather than argue for sport, etc.

And LTG: I spent 3 months in Norway and I while I didn't get a lot of critical comments about America or Americans, I did get pretty fed up with hearing how great Norway is, as if there were no faults. And they never seemed interested at all in hearing about America from me. I’d try to talk about America and they’d switch the subject to Norway. At the risk of falling into the trap that I criticized in my previous comments, I was told by an American ex-pat married to a Norwegian, "Norwegians go to America to teach Americans about Norway. Americans come to Norway to learn about Norway." Chauvinism is part of the human condition, regardless of nationality!

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG and USWest make a good point that the political parties on the Left in Europe are opposed to American policies in Iraq and elsewhere. But then, American parties on the Left also oppose these same policies. We must not mistake opposition to American policies with anti-Americanism.

I accept I was wrong to crudely divide the world into "liberals" and "conservatives," but my point is that warious aspects of America are disliked by various groups around the world, and it is inaccurate to lump them all together. Those who oppose SUVs and our Iraq policies are (usually) on the Left, whether you want to call them "liberals" or "Social Democrats." Those who accuse us of being nasty people, however--those who cheered at 9/11--are (usually) right-wing xenophobic ultra-nationlists. (We have our own such people, of course, who say similar reprehensible things about other nations.)

To respond to the violence in Sydney and say, "see, you're no better than we are!" feels wrong to me on many levels. Other than the obvious insensitivity--which is what I think Koala Boy reacted to--such a statement also rather smugly assumes for America the role of "victim"... as though Americans were never unduly critical of Europeans. It also takes criticism of U.S. from many sources and lumps it all together as an imagined monolithic anti-Americanism.

Those who criticise George Bush's policy on Iraq are not the same people who call us the Great Satan. And accusing us of driving too many SUVs is not the same as calling us racists.

Anonymous said...

fkn aussies are gay
and lebs cros, and serbs rule
gorge bush is a fkn poffeter
and no one likes him
he did 9/11
its all him
and he will die shorty so will all the prestiants of every country
and also there will be world war 3 comign shorty  

// posted by lako