The Possum Box

Thoughts of the Pollytics Community

Australian attack bloggers and the Overton Window

Posted by Possum Comitatus on June 19, 2008

By Changa’s Boots

One concept that’s been picked up by US left of centre bloggers in the last little while is the Overton Window. I want to talk about it on the Possum Box because I think we can use it to think about the strategies of some of Australia’s right wing attack bloggers and columnists.

Ever since it was raised in a post on Daily Kos (which in turn was picking up on a post from a Libertarian think-tank) it’s been provoking discussion among the netroots. The basic proposition on Kos was this: while the Democrats are still playing to the essentially 1990s strategy of triangulation for the centre, Republicans and their fellow-travellers are constantly working to shift that centre by articulating extreme views that expand and change the limits of political acceptability.

Kos puts it like this:  “[The GOP] know that by playing to their base in very well-crafted ways, they can shift the very definition of what the middle is. By introducing radicalism into the public discourse (and taking initial heat for it), whatever used to be radical within this context becomes moderate by comparison.” Except, as some of Kos’s correspondents point out, the GOP don’t even need to take any heat – that’s what Fox News, shock jocks, and wingnut bloggers are for. It’s a no-risk, all benefits strategy for all concerned – not least because radical positions for the “opinion leaders” of the right can be career-building, and can help to nurture a niche (albeit crackpot) audience.  It’s a long-term strategy for committed political actors who are not seeking election, wherein the electorally focused GOP become beneficiaries/patsies of their more extended, focussed policy advocacy. (Obviously, the strategy depends on policy advocacy working on the GOP, too.)

The strategy is named for one Joseph Overton, who was vice president of a conservative think-tank called the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He was quite systematic in setting it out – his primary concern was education policy (taking down public schools and arguing for home schooling yada yada yada), but he rightly thought it was applicable to a range of issues. The continuum on which you can place any particular policy proposal, according to Overton, goes a little something like this:

* Unthinkable

* Radical

* Acceptable

* Sensible

* Popular

* Policy

By shouting long and hard enough on behalf of radical proposals, you can alter their position in the public mind. Even by proposing unacceptable proposals persistently enough, you can make slightly less extreme proposals seem moderate by comparison. Intuitively it makes sense, and it’s a useful explanatory device for the shrillness of much of the discourse in the right-wing blogosphere in the US. Voila: the culture wars in a nutshell.

How does it apply in Australia? Well, our right-wing think-tanks may be slower of wit and less weighty in terms of policy development than their US colleagues, but who needs them when you can work the Overton window in the Murdoch papers and the blogosphere? Let’s take the Bolt/Blair/Albrechtsen axis, for example. On issues like the stolen generations, climate change, feminism and the “war on terror” they articulate positions that are pretty far removed from mainstream opinion (if election results and polling are any indication). But their rhetorical style and the prominent platforms they enjoy mean that they can run lines that make slightly less OTT positions from the Liberals seem like the soul of reason.

In a variation on the Overton, they also work hard at simplifying complex debates and shift the ground in a debate. “Name just ten”, “global cooling?” and “Rudd is spin not substance” are lines they all run in various forms that aren’t just out-there death-beastery, but active distortions of the topics under discussion. They also selectively misrepresent whole categories of their opponents – academics, artists, bureaucrats, the “guilt industry”, Greens, Left-wing journalists, NGOs – by presenting radical positions taken by misguided individuals as the norm, or taking isolated remarks out of context and treating them as the core of the opposing argument.

The aim is not really to win any substantive policy debate (think of Blair’s blogging style, and you’ll realize it’s simply not geared for that purpose). Rather, the focus is smearing and discrediting opponents, throwing doubt on established premises in policy debates, shifting the goalposts through simplification, and most importantly of all, keeping the conservative base on-message. Want some examples? How about Blair’s concerted attacks on Tim Flannery? What about the daily red herrings of Bolt and Blair on climate change? Witness Bolt’s constant, simplistic demand that opponents produce people who were stolen “because they were black”. And then there’s Blair’s deployment of groupthink to whip up the “winged monkeys” into regular attacks across the blogosphere, often on bloggers who have not sought any kind of engagement with him.

The beauty of this kind of advocacy is that the columnists themselves never have to fight an election, and aren’t accountable to anyone except their employer. The consistency of their lines of attack suggests that, if there isn’t actual orchestration going on between them, their common master certainly approves of and values their lock-stepped views. Win, lose or draw for the Liberals, they can take comfort in the knowledge that there will be righties on big soap-boxes spruiking for them, and furthering their own careers in the process.

If all this is true, what should the left do?

For the Rudd government, the advice on this basis of the right’s Overton strategy would be: be bold. Seek not the centre, because it isn’t a stable target any more. Spend some political capital in an effort to seize the agenda, and benefit by isolating these people. Make the culture wars no longer worth fighting by depriving them of relevance. Do not fight on their chosen ground.

For the rest of us, perhaps the best strategy is to ignore them. Bullying tactics aside (naming anonymous bloggers, trying to make trouble for people at work, or directing the monkeys at people struggling with drug addiction), it’s all sticks and stones. I really enjoy reading blogs like The Blairboltwatch Project, but I wonder whether it institutionalizes Blair and Bolt as blogospheric voices, and risks misrepresenting their Overton-ing for serious invitations to debate. And I’m sure all of Planet Janet’s Christmases came at once when Paul Keating had a shot at her in the Oz recently. Maybe we all need to get better at practicing an aikido debating style: jump out of the maddies’ way when they attack and watch them go arse up on the other side of the room.

Seriously, though, the lesson here might be not only that we can’t win back the right-wing base through reasoned discussion, but that some right-wing commentators just aren’t seeking debate in good faith, and are just running lines in the hope that less extreme (but no less sympathetic) positions are adopted. Which side of politics heeds them probably doesn’t matter too much to them at the end of the day, but continuing apparent relevance does. The proper response is not to pander to a shifting centre, but to inspire it with good policy, clever advocacy and straight talking.

Changa’s Boots can be contacted at:

changa IatI hushmail dots com

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76 Responses to “Australian attack bloggers and the Overton Window”

  1. Ad astra said

    Thank you Changa’s Boots for an insightful article. Your proposition that by taking extreme positions, some writers are deliberately attempting to make less extreme positions seem ‘middle ground’ and therefore more acceptable, is intriguing. Your reference to Overton’s deliberate use of this approach gives credence to your assumption that this ‘Overton Window’ is operating in the Australian media, at least among the writers you name.

    I have often wondered whether what these and other ‘extreme position’ columnists write portray their actual and deeply held beliefs, or whether they are playing a cynical mind game with their readers. I’ve found it difficult to accept that they actually believe some of the extreme views they express, and if not, what their game really is. Is it to pander to the owners of their papers, or to a readership that holds similar views, or simply to stir up controversy and get the bloggers out in force. You suggest a more sinister reason, a premeditated calculated plan to make less extreme positions look moderate and reasonable. One would hope this is not so, but as you may be onto something important here, we should view each piece they write through the ‘Overton Window’, looking for their real intent.

    Your suggestion: “The proper response is not to pander to a shifting centre, but to inspire it with good policy, clever advocacy and straight talking.” makes good sense.

  2. janice said

    An interesting article that puts a whole new perspective on what appears to be an ultra right wing campaign in the media. Thank you Changa’s Boots for bringing Overton’s Window up for scrutiny.

    One would hope this is not a premeditated calculated plan to make less extreme positions look moderate and reasonable, Ad Astra, but sadly I think it could well be so.

  3. changasboots said

    Thanks for the comments, Janice and Ad Astra. I’s stand by the assessment that these guys aren’t really aiming for honest debate, they’re just energising their base and making sure that extreme positions are out there in the public sphere.

  4. caf said

    Is there any reason why the Left can’t fight back in the same way? Why aren’t there expendable bloggers out there advocating nationalising BHP and abolishing private schools?

  5. changasboots said

    I’m not sure about those particular positions, Caf, but there are bloggers out there advocating some bracingly left-wing positions. The difference, I suspect, is that they don’t have the platforms that the righties enjoy. I could be biased, but I think also that there is still a tendency on the left to go after the issue rather than engaging in personal attacks.

  6. Howard Stinks said

    Thanks Changasboots your analysis is sadly true,it is also true that those who choose to dig another’s grave sooner or later end up in it.

  7. I think you’re right, but there is a downside to this tactic that I think is also worth considering. That is that impressionable (usually) young followers get sucked into believing the extremist rubbish and become largely useless as candidates or in other mainstream roles.

    From what I have seen most young members of the Liberal party really believe all the Bolt/Blair stuff, and repeat it ad nauseum. This creates several problems for the Libs. The most obvious is that in a decade’s time these people are going to be constantly embarrassed with quotes they made about how Global Warming was a lefty conspiracy etc.

    But a more profound problem is that instead of doing any thinking about how the right can adapt to Global Warming (to choose just the most important example) and make a credible case on it all they’re doing is locking themselves into a situation where any rightwinger who tries to confront it is expelled with Judas ringing in their ears.

    In the US this is a big part of why the Republicans are looking like getting hammered in Congress this year – they had their moment in the sun moving the debate, but as people were confronted with the reality of the economy, Iraq and Climate change the electorate started to move back and the Republicans couldn’t adapt.

    In the US the Republicans will probably recover – they’ve got so many activists that they can afford to have 90% of them lock themselves into a corner and they’ll still probably have enough smart people to eventually work their way out. The Liberals don’t have the same luxury. The number of right-wingers under 40 actively engaged in politics, even using the broadest definition of that word, is so small they just can’t afford to burn this many.

    Part of the reason the left has been on the retreat so much in recent years is that in the 60s and 70s so many lefties started believing way out positions that the hard thinking about new directions didn’t get done. We don’t want to go back there.

  8. gandhi said

    Wow. Great stuff!

    I have been saying the same thing for many years and getting nothing but grief from the suburbanite cucumbers-sandwich-eaters in the leftwing blogosphere. I guess I should have spent more time at Possum’s blog and less time elsewhere.

    Here’s the thing: rightwing politics is pro-business, which means business will throw money at rightwing politicians in expectation of a return on investment one way or the other. And sure enough, they tend to get payback. What we generally call “Leftwing” politics these days (not to be confused with old-fashioned militant Communism, m’kay) is pro-people. But “people” don’t throw money at politicians. Coz they haven’t got any money to spare for such things.

    So the left wing of our political establishment has slowly followed the big money to a “centrist” position. Otherwise (so the “realists” have argued) they would never have been able to win re-election. Of course, that steady movement towards the center means people have not been offered the choice of real “left” policies (now defined as anything not conducive to Big Business) for a very long time (think 1975). And the re-election of Labor last year supposedly proves this “realist” thinking was correct (never mind 11 long years of waffling Labor opposition).

    So we end up with a pro-Business right wing opposition and a pro-business centrist government, and there is not even any debate about whether being pro-business is a good thing or not in the pro-business media because – hey! – media is also a business. Thus politics itself has become just another enabling branch of business, particularly globalised business.

    What’s weird is that the Australian voters have swallowed all this hook, line and sinker. Even as the dreadful consequences of Reagan-Bush “trickle-down” economics become apparent, Aussies are still toeing the sensible middle-of-the-road approach to all things political and economic. There IS no left wing any more. There is just Business versus People, and strangely enough most of the people are on the side of Business because that’s how their minds have been conditioned by the pro-business rightwing press.

    The media is the key to it, and has been for the last 20 years. And Murdoch has of course revolutionized media with his pro-business, sensationalist, xenophobic, nationalistic, news-as-entertainment model. For any long-term observer to think that the Murdoch editorial line and “expert” commentary strategy is anything less than blatant propaganda is just naive.

    More here.

  9. […] Australian attack bloggers and the Overton Window « The Possum Box […]

  10. phil@vvb said

    Their blogs aside, don’t forget that Blair, Bolt and Albrechsen get paid to do what they do. They probably believe most of it, they may have some theory (Overton et al) behind them, they certainly receive encouragement if not direction and I’m sure they get a psychological reward for stirring (possums and others).
    The left’s major problem imho is that the centre moved the day the Berlin Wall fell. While everyone was expressing thanks for liberating East Germans from their public gulag, the smarties were plotting the rise and rise of not so much a corporatist state as what has turned out to be a kleptocracy. They pointed at Reagan and co’s early adoption of monetarism and said “we wuz right.”
    Were they ever.
    I think some maturing of messages on the left is needed. In the absence of quick policy breakthroughs (too much to discuss here, “working families” has become a joke too quickly. But “common sense” and references to the types of communities we used to have should ring a few bells.
    Unfortunately, I fear that the dogma of “market friendly” has become too deeply ingrained: I mean, it sounds so innocuous, doesn’t it?

  11. fred said

    “Wow. Great stuff!”
    Agreed.

    Thanks to Poss and the authors of these posts, they have already justified the establishing of this forum.
    And the commenters above are a breath of fresh air.
    In this latest gem I particularly like this twin bit of advice as to what to do about the flood from the RWDBs and MSM:
    ” Do not fight on their chosen ground.
    For the rest of us, perhaps the best strategy is to ignore them.”

    BTW Gandhi, stick to your guns at LP.

  12. Just Me said

    In the US this is a big part of why the Republicans are looking like getting hammered in Congress this year – they had their moment in the sun moving the debate, but as people were confronted with the reality of the economy, Iraq and Climate change the electorate started to move back and the Republicans couldn’t adapt.
    Feral Sparrowhawk @ 7

    The Overton tactic contains the seeds of its own destruction, or at least limits. No matter how attractive they may at first appear, the more extravagant and unreal the initial claims, then the greater the subsequent necessary reality check and disappointment will be among the voters.

    Anybody depending on broad public support cannot go to extreme positions for long without becoming irrelevant.

    Which is what is happening now to the Repubs.

    It is also what happened to both the Coalition at the last election (hint: SerfChoices), and to One Nation some time back. The difference here is that the Coalition will recover and re-enter the mainstream.

  13. gandhi said

    It’s worth looking at the Overton Windown in relation to the Karl Rove Playbook whereby the best form of defense is always attack. So for example, those who are pushing us towards Fascism label their opponents Islamosfascists and even Blogofascists. There’s a whole ‘nuther post in that space, whereby the Albrechtens of this world don’t just push total crap but actually very sharply pointed lies for very clear political purposes.

    Anyone still reading this thread might wanna take a good look at Tom Switzer too.

    BTW Gandhi, stick to your guns at LP.

    Hard to stand up for yourself when people delete your posts, Fred. I’ve said what I wanted to say on my own blog, and I sent an email to Mark Bahnisch, which he has not bothered responding to. Enough. Apparently the term “Larvatus Prodeo” refers to Descartes rhetorical “mask” which he used to protect his radical thinking from prying eyes. I look forward to seeing what’s behind that blog’s mask, if it ever comes off (I suspect it won’t. or that there will be nothing there).

  14. Capt. Courageous said

    I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Bolt, Blair, Albrechtsen et al are blunted by Philip Adams, Monica Attard, David Marr and others from the Left who can write a column or book , or who can blog. It’s the cut and thrust, the peaks and troughs of political and cultural discourse and it’s always been that way. Both team Left and team Right have been guilty of jiggery-pokery at different times so stop imagining that one side enjoys the ascendancy without challenge.

    Surely if your ideology is sound (be it Left or Right) it will withstand any attack.

  15. gandhi said

    Capt. Courageous,

    Name me one mainstream Australian newspaper or television station under the control of leftwing ideologues who regularly spout lies as facts without being challenged (NB: nominating the ABC will only expose your prejudices).

    It’s not just a trite case of radical academics playing games, it’s about influencing public opinion (and thereby government policy).

  16. Capt. Courageous said

    Green Left – Australia’s radical weekly newspaper
    Authorised by K. Miller, 23 Abercrombie St, Chippendale, NSW.

    http://www.greenleft.org.au/

    (Google)

    It may be that sales of the Green Left Weekly are not in the thousands but it is a newspaper none the less. I also note that Left wing and Right wing idiots get their chance to peddle their agitprop in broadsheets via columns and opinion pieces. To prove that, The Oz printed that deliberate misquote of Ms Albrechtsen (she’s Right wing) and Mr Adams (of the Left wing) was allowed via his column to beatify a failed treasurer.

    A few years ago an academic expressed his disappointment that his students had voted for Howard. That causes people to suspect that university campuses are a hotbed of political bias. It would seem that the Left and Right get a chance to get their message out using all forms of communication.

    Gandhi, you’re jumping at shadows.

  17. changasboots said

    Come on CC – are you really suggesting that Green Left Weekly is as prominent a platform as the Herald Sun, the Daily Telegraph or the Australian?

  18. Capt. Courageous said

    Mr Langlands, (Changasboots, worn during that ill-fated RL grand final)the Green Left Weekly isn’t as prominent as The Hun or the DT for sure but that in itself might convey a message. It might be up to the GLW to lift its sales.

  19. Why hasn’t anyone mentioned the queen (king?) of the unacceptable, outrageous far-right, Ann Coulter? Wikipedia calls her “conservative” but she is far from that. She advocates the obliteration of everything that is short of Genghis Khanist extremism.
    However, she laughs while she does it which makes me think she is doing exactly what Changa describes and is amused by how easy it is. It’s either that or she is pursuing a liberal/libertarian countermeasure to discredit the far right through massive exaggeration. (Unfortunately, apparently there is no limit to how far to the rabid right you can go and still appear credible to some.)

  20. Capt. Courageous said

    Good call Roger. But like I point out, Ann Coulter is blunted by Noam Chomsky. What did Mr Chomsky say about Pol Pot? So you see, the Left and Right are capable of producing professional idiots.

  21. notgotmuchspaminit said

    Re Ghandi: “Name me one mainstream Australian newspaper or television station under the control of leftwing ideologues who regularly spout lies as facts”
    What about The Age?
    It’s also interesting that you immediately preclude reference to the ABC. That’s like me asking for a list of right leaning newspapers – but don’t mention the Herald-Sun…

    Re changasboots
    “I think also that there is still a tendency on the left to go after the issue rather than engaging in personal attacks.”
    I hear this frequently on left wing blogs, but I’ve yet to see any evidence. While both sides have their fair share of people who ‘play the man’ I have noticed that conservative commentators argue issues far more often than their left wing counterparts.

    Incidentally, the Overton Window could easily be applied to most left wing opinion columns as well. Just wanted to make sure you were aware of the irony.

  22. PeterTB said

    What about Margo kingston in the Fairfax press, and on WebDiary? I can’t think of a better example of the loopy left being given free rein in the mainstream media.

    As to whinging that Blair, Bolt etc get a larger following that their left wing equivalents – doesn’t this shoot big holes in your contention that their views are extreme?

  23. Ronald Van Wegen said

    The globe hasn’t warmed in 10 years.

  24. Gandhi, you can continue your campaign against LP all over the intertubes if you like, but you don’t do your own credibility any good whatsoever by lying. You claim at 13 that I didn’t reply to you. You yourself recognised that I might not have time to respond immediately because I’m trying to get my PhD finished and I have a deadline. You would have received an automated email from my gmail pointing out why I wasn’t responding to emails. To suggest, therefore, that I ignored your concerns is false.

    You don’t do your own credibility any good whatsoever by engaging in the sort of ad hominem abuse – the rest of your comment is heavy with insinuation. I certainly have no intention now of responding to you if you’re going to show such bad faith. As far as I can see, you’ve gone from praising us one week to damning us the next because you didn’t like the moderation decision on one thread. That doesn’t say a lot either for your consistency or indeed whether your ostensible principles take second base to personal peeves.

    I apologise for wasting everyone else’s time on this thread, but I hope people will understand I’m disinclined to let such rubbish go unchallenged, when a direct reflection is made on me and on LP.

  25. Capt. Courageous said

    This from the main story:

    “One concept that’s been picked up by US left of centre bloggers in the last little while is the Overton Window. I want to talk about it on the Possum Box because I think we can use it to think about the strategies of some of Australia’s right wing attack bloggers and columnists.

    Ever since it was raised in a post on Daily Kos (which in turn was picking up on a post from a Libertarian think-tank) it’s been provoking discussion among the netroots. The basic proposition on Kos was this: while the Democrats are still playing to the essentially 1990s strategy of triangulation for the centre, Republicans and their fellow-travellers are constantly working to shift that centre by articulating extreme views that expand and change the limits of political acceptability.”

    You don’t say. Well then let’s see who really invented this Overton Window theory. Here’s Noam Chomsky on why China has the right to bomb North Carolina:

    >“Chomsky is opposed to the role of the United States is playing in Colombia. He claims that American policies have nothing to do with controlling the production of drugs but are part of a war against the revolutionary group called FARC (Columbian Revolutionary Armed Forces). He objects to the use of airborne weapons to destroy coca plantations and asks the following questions:

    Does China have the right to bomb North Carolina? I mean, North Carolina is producing drugs which are killing tens of millions of Chinese. Does that give them a right to bomb North Carolina? Well, why not, if we have a right to bomb Colombia why don’t they have a right to bomb North Carolina?”<

    Who is it that is articulating extreme views? Surely not Uncle Noam. I’m sure there are more vignettes from team Left and team Right to be read and I invite anyone to Google. I myself think that team Left and team Right have a role to play in society and that role is to offer people a non-invasive, chemical free treatment for constipation.

  26. Apologies – second para should include phrase “the sort of ad hominem abuse you resort to”.

  27. gandhi said

    The fact that the Green Left Weekly and the Fairfax press are the best any rightwingers here can come up with says it all, doesn’t it? Let’s not forget that Fairfax, aside from publishing regulars like Henderson, Devine, and even Tony Abbott, came out openly in support of John Howard just ahead of his last election win. Tres leftwing – NOT.

    The disequilibrium of the Australian media landscape is now beyond debate (for anyone in the reality-based community anyway), the real question now is whether we can ever reclaim a more rational and public minded media space. And if so, how?

    If the government is not prepared to repair the damage done by lax media ownership laws, then people need to turn to alternative media sources. At the moment, however, the alternative media landscape remains pretty barren (especially from a financial perspective). I would suggest that less petulant proprietary marking of territory might be conducive to more collaborative successes.

    Which brings me to my next comment…

  28. gusface said

    The right is preaching to the jellybots and using the MSM to reinforce master/slave relationships.

    During the last Oz election the internet was used to energise the broader left base by providing factual rebuttal to MSM lies by the great unwashed bloggers (meself included).

    Now the Masters of the universe want to preach their message via the new “medium”

    Unfortunately Uncle rupe wised up to this fact and dispatched the hellhounds to muddy the waters (and incidentally shore up his deteriating hardcopy revenue)

  29. gandhi said

    Mark,

    Interesting that you choose to pursue this issue here, after 7 days, rather than at LP or by email, or even on my own blog.

    Yes, it’s seven days since I got your auto-response email, and I notice that you have had time to write a few posts at LP, add a few comments, and presumably cruise “all over the intertubes” to follow my “crusade against LP”. During that time my criticism was of the LP team member’s groupthink censorship, not directed at you personally. I said at #13 that you had “not bothered” responding to my email, which was correct. Obviously you didn’t think the matter was all that important, and you had more important things to do. Guess what – so do I. So to accuse me now of lying is pretty thin ice, really. It doesn’t do your credibility any good.

    You can make this a personal issue between you and me if you like, but you don’t do LP’s credibility any good whatsoever by taking that sort of ad hominem stance. Just to repeat: I was labelled an anti-Semite on the basis of a single comment and all my subsequent efforts to explain myself were deleted. My comments at LP are still being deleted today. What would you do if that happened to you? I mean, that’s pretty ad hominem right there, mate.

    So who is showing bad faith here? I will happilypraise what’s worth praising at LP one week and vehemently damn those who unfairly censor me the next, if that’s what happens. I’m not interested in joining online social clubs where loyalty to the team is paramount: I am interested in seeking the truth. And I don’t think you are going to get to the truth on important issues like Israel and 9-11 if you cave in to faux outrage as soon as someone shouts “anti-Semite!”

    If you want to talk about “consistency” and principles taking second base to “personal peeves”, just ask yourself where you would normally stand on such issues. If you don’t think anybody in Australia should ever be allowed to criticise Israel, or note that prominent businessmen involved in 9-11 have Jewish backgrounds, then perhaps you should join the Labor Party.

    I apologise for wasting everyone else’s time on this thread, but I hope people will understand that we should all practice what we preach when it comes to free speech and respect for alternative opinions, even seemingly radical ones.

  30. PeterTB said

    Gandhi: The Green Left Weekly and the Fairfax Press?

    Apples and Oranges. I cited the Fairfax Press as MSM – not left. Oddly, you then assert that the Fairfax press came out in support of John Howard ahead of his last election win and seem to think that is relevant – even though I dod not assert that Fairfax was of the left. Presumably you think the Fairfax press should have supported Mark Latham?

    Also, you have arbitrarily asked us to exclude the ABC as a left wing organ, which as a government funded organisation is the only one which is obligated to be even handed.

    Did you notice that most of the Murdoch papers supported Kevin Rudd before the 2007 election? What do you make of that?

  31. Gandhi, it’s you who’s chosen to make comments about LP all over the blogosphere. If you can’t understand that we’d rather not publish a comment that you admit is probably defamatory, that’s your problem, not mine.

    I’m not interested in corresponding with you privately – however much time I have on my hands (and I’m the best judge of how I spend my free time – and if I choose not to reply to your email instantly, that’s my choice, not yours) – if you want to make a private disagreement public. In my opinion, that’s not particularly ethical. I’m sure the issue you had could have been sorted out if you’d taken a more conciliatory approach, and not immediately jumped to all sorts of conclusions. But I’ve drawn my own now based on your public behaviour.

  32. Mike G said

    So basically, the argument is, our core traditional values are attacking the west as the source of imperialism, destroying the patriarchal family, and allowing radical Islamists to establish sharia in parts of our societies, and some dangerous radicals on the right are trying to shift those hallowed, unchanging traditions to accommodate such radical beliefs as capitalism, democracy, the nuclear family and the separation of church and state?

  33. gagadju said

    Ghandi? Bit supercilious mate but that is a wel known trait of the Left (Manne,Marr,Manning Clarke)

    As for your accusations about the Murdoch Empire you apparently forget they joint sponsored the “Global Warming” windbag Gore during his Australian lecture,supported Rudd pre-election (much like they supported Blair in the U.K.) and show their daily support for the Rudd Government through David and Kieran of SKY TV.

    Try getting your head out of your arse Mahatma and smell the fresh air.

  34. gandhi said

    PeterTB,

    I cited the Fairfax press as MSM – not left

    Yes but the challenge was to name “a mainstream Australian newspaper or television station under the control of leftwing ideologues who regularly spout lies as facts without being challenged”. I think we all realise Fairfax is MSM, thanks. And BTW Margo’s Webdiary was unceremoniously dumped after said Howard election win.

    Did you notice that most of the Murdoch papers supported Kevin Rudd before the 2007 election? What do you make of that?

    What I make of it is that Rupert always jumps horses when the finish line is in sight and he knows he’s backed a loser. It gives him the illusion of control and maintains his mystique as a power-broker. Rupert himself suggested Howard should stand down before the election, remember? In the USA, he quietly backed Hillary after the Dem’s 2006 landslide, now he’s stuffed. Tee hee.

    Same thing goes for Gagadju’s comment @33 on Al Gore: by the time the film came to Australia, the only people still arguing against climate science were Murdoch’s sad little minions.

    PS: I asked people not to nominate the ABC because I don’t think it is leftwing: critics say that as a way to push it to the right. And say what you will about the ABC, I don’t see them “regularly spouting lies as facts”, particularly “without being challenged”. But I also know a lot of one-eyed wingnuts have been educated to believe the allegations of bias which – curiously – usually seem to emanate from the Murdoch stable (particularly when Mediawatch drag them all over the canvass).

  35. gandhi said

    Mark, you seem to be clutching at increasingly short straws.

    I never said my remark about Frank Lowy was “probably defamatory”. I said I could understand why LP might THINK it was defamatory, and I admitted it was lazy of me to scare the cucumber-munching LP horses that way. That’s all.

    Lowy is Australia’s second richest man but I’d be happy to see him in court if he thinks he can win a defamation case where somebody is just calling for more discussion of his role in 9-11. I wonder how and if the Oz media would report such a case?

    As I said, the widespread political timidity of Oz blogs is a reflection of our balls-free society these days. I have been under the impression that blogs are places where concerned citizens can engage in robust debate on important issues, but maybe I am wrong.

    Mark, it’s a pity you are not even prepared to hold this discussion on your own blog. You say it’s “not particularly ethical” to “make a private disagreement public” but you have nothing to say about labeling me as an anti-Semite and then deleting further comments (where I did politely try to assert my point of view). Is that particularly ethical?

    When you say things could have been sorted out, what you really mean is that I should have just shut up and copped it sweet if I wanted to keep posting comments at LP. Here, old chap, have a cucumber sandwich.

  36. Papachango said

    so some bloggers and journalists have different political opinions to you. Get over it.

    There’s not exactly a shortage of left wing journos and bloggers.

  37. gandhi said

    Just to recap: I am labelled an anti-Semite, called a liar, and then falsely accused of admitting to defamatory comments. But I’m the one with ethical problems.

    And Mark doesn’t want me criticising LP “all over the blogosphere”, but he won’t post my comments at LP, or at my blog, or respond to my email.

    Go figure.

  38. Wow! What a fantastic insight into the projection of the left. Thank you for taking the time to write the article.

    One of the main reasons for the left coming up with ridiculous ideas about the right such as this one is because the left doesn’t understand the right while the right does understand the left.

    Those on you on the left should think about why that is…

  39. John Van Krimpen said

    Mark Bannisch.

    But your censorship principals in terms of your Blog’s group think, circle sex operatives is well known. You allow your blog groupies or (blog co stars) to say anything they like and a response of the same vein is censored. That is why I avoid your place like gonorea.

    You should not get tizzed or your pretty little hairs all teased up if you are called for it anywhere else seeing you apply the blowtorch of censorship ruthlessly. Gandhi is not the only one, I copped the same sort of treatment. I know of many others. You don’t believe in debate, or else you would not censor so bloody ruthlessly.

    But to keep on topic, saying that Bolt Blair et Al have a venue and are paid and there is a grand conspiracy is so infantile it belongs in a left wing museum, the argument also neglects the fact a lot of left wing types have a continuous gig at ABC online which is MSM, using extremely narrow arguments at times. Both sides use the same tactic of repetition that I can see.

    Before people get huffy. I am a centrist which is a good position to examine your culture wars from, this is a left of centre blog, because everyone comes to praise mostly and hardly ever to dissect, so I gave it up.

    I liked it better when it was straight political analysis. But hey it’s Poss’s place and his politics his comments. I respect the pepsicology and also the Cosby Textor stuff. But knew it was time to go when I started cringing when the “oooh I love you gleaming light on a hill Possum my hero”, types arrived.

    I was browsing Bolters got sent to Blair, so Poss’s hit counter might do a blip today.

    later.

  40. JVK – Actually the Possum Box isnt deliberately left, right or otherwise. It’s politics is whatever the politics of the articles are that get submitted to me. The whole point of this new blog is give occasional writers or new bloggers some exposure via my Pollytics site traffic to help them expand their readership quickly if their quality merits, or to let occasional writers that don’t produce enough to run their own blog a place to have their thoughts exposed to a wider audience. I simply act as a basic quality filter on what get’s put up or not, but that filter isn’t partisan or political (as the McCain betting market piece should have demonstrated) – it’s simply whether the article in question is cogent regardless of whether I agree with it or not.

    It also serves as a way for a broader audience to be critical or supporting of the arguments a writer produces in their article.

    I have no intention of writing anything for this blog – this place serves a particular purpose

    My stuff will stay on the Pollytics site.

  41. John Van Krimpen said

    Mark

    In my opinion, which I am allowed, you represent the fallacy in this possum post, you and your fellow travellers believe in great conspiracies, expound them continually ad nauseum and then silence dissent claiming censorship of the left.

    The left of this nation has not been silenced, never, they can stop a city when ten people and their seeing eye dogs decide to represent the masses, often violently pretending that some one else started it.

    Isn’t that the main left wing mantra of the moment still pretending to represent majority opinion and getting minority agreement to your proposals.

    Conspiracy what a joke, if so what about the great conspiracy tactic of the left that they are being silenced. Lefties talking of the right for others to express freely brings the biggest guffaw of bullshit. They invented politcal correctness or the ultimate censorship.

    Tee focking hee. Labor gets in and the left is still under represented and moaning. You can’t please commos.

    Perhaps in view of this silencing of dissent everyone should protest against the government. Oops that was very politically incorrect of me, this is the government the left wanted.

  42. Gandhi, this is why it’s pointless engaging with you. Any decision you don’t like is “censorship” and immediately implies all sorts of personal and political faults on the part of whoever takes it (and it wasn’t me, by the way). If you want to make comments about Frank Lowy which are potentially actionable, and based on nothing as far as I can see than that he’s a “Zionist”, you have your own forum in which to do so. I am under no obligation to cop defamation lawsuits on your behalf. That has absolutely nothing to do with criticism of the Israeli state, and I don’t accept that you know anything about Frank Lowy being “involved” in 9/11. You’re drawing a bow so long that it’s stretched far beyond breaking point, and I could see why your claims of a “conspiracy” might be read as highly offensive by others.

    You write:

    If you want to talk about “consistency” and principles taking second base to “personal peeves”, just ask yourself where you would normally stand on such issues. If you don’t think anybody in Australia should ever be allowed to criticise Israel, or note that prominent businessmen involved in 9-11 have Jewish backgrounds, then perhaps you should join the Labor Party.

    I apologise for wasting everyone else’s time on this thread, but I hope people will understand that we should all practice what we preach when it comes to free speech and respect for alternative opinions, even seemingly radical ones.

    “Seemingly radical” is absolutely accurate.

    You’re quick to adopt some “lefter than thou” pose and refer to joining the ALP as if it were akin to supping with the devil. Let me just point out that there are social democrats and democratic socialists in the Labor party who have a coherent vision of social change, and an understanding of political efficacy. By contrast, your “radicalism” seems to consist of repeating an endless mantra that Murdoch is teh evil, that linking to Tim Dunlop is some sort of sin, and that John Howard should be tried in the Hague. Not to mention umpteen Chomsky-lite conspiracy theories. Where is your coherent political vision? What is your ideal society? How would we get there? How do you work with others to achieve it? Is constant loud denunciation and personalisation of any disagreement sufficient to bring about the New Jerusalem?

    I have no intention of engaging with you further on this thread, and it doesn’t reflect well on this blog that you’ve been allowed to continue to utter your grievances – which have nothing to do with the subject of this post – under the ostensible basis that there’s some point of principle at stake when the reality is that you can’t deal with any constraint on your tendency to engage in irresponsible, offensive and possibly actionable speech in any other way than to paint yourself as some sort of political martyr. That’s risible.

  43. John Van Krimpen said

    I will apologise Possum, as I said I gave up your site a while back I just thought this was comitatus reinvigorated. I just came for this post.

    But I saw mark and saw red, because I’ve been involved in the blog world for a long time and he was the first great censorer, which really is antithesis to blogging.

  44. gandhi said

    Mark,

    Where is your coherent political vision? What is your ideal society? How would we get there? How do you work with others to achieve it?

    You want that in 50 words or less, professor?

    I guess it starts with basic respect and tolerance for differing opinions, something the political Right is notoriously bad at. I don’t bother posting at rightwing blogs any more for exactly that reason. I expect a bit more from those who those who claim to embrace such concepts.

    it doesn’t reflect well on this blog…

    On the contrary, I would like to thank Possum, who probably doesn’t know a thing about me, or my blogs, or my political opinions, for allowing us to thresh this little issue out here. Remember, Mark, it was you who chose this forum to engage me, not vice versa.

    Have a nice day, old chap.

  45. Just Me said

    JVK says

    They [the ‘left] invented politcal correctness or the ultimate censorship.

    Bollocks. PC has been with us since the beginning of time, in one form or another, and by one name or another. It is simply part of the standard political process in which whoever is in power gets to set the agenda and sideline, or sometimes even completely silence, their critics. All sides of politics do it when they are in power, Howard certainly did. Being ideologically sound is just as much a requirement for membership of the right as the left. (And yes I am aware of the historical origin of the term ‘political correctness’, but the basic aim and practice did not start or stop there.)

    Gotta say, for somebody complaining about excessive ideology from the left, you showed a fair bit of outdated right wing ideology yourself. (I mean “fellow travellers”, “commos”? Puhleese, Labor left anything even vaguely resembling communism behind several governments ago.)

    Since when has the right been seriously silenced in this country? Never, as you well know.

    Bu you really gave yourself away with this one:

    …this is the government the left wanted.

    Only in preference to more of the Howard government. The Rudd government is centrist by any standard. Nobody on the left deludes themselves otherwise. It is only the hard right ( a minority in itself) that thinks that the Rudd government is populated by dangerous extremist lefties.

    Rudd is not the government the ‘left’ wanted, it is the government the majority of the voters wanted.

  46. Just Me said

    And right on cue, we have the right censoring their own.

    http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,23908429-3102,00.html

    Ha ha ha.

  47. gandhi said

    PS: Isn’t ANYBODY going to suggest that I might be “working to shift that centre by articulating extreme views that expand and change the limits of political acceptability”?

    Stay on topic, folks! LOL

  48. Capt. Courageous said

    Gandhi, I don’t think you’re really trying to discover Left Wing bloggers and sites where the views of the Left are disseminated. Without trying too hard I came up with; Miss Politics, Anonymous Lefty, The Thinkers’ Podium, Broken Left Leg, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Australia Watch, Big Red House, An Unrepentant Communist, Investigating New Imperialism, Left i on the News; and on and on it goes. Plenty of those sites feature the usual leftist boilerplate arguments as well as the standard T-Shirt offerings (S,M,L,XL) featuring a beret-wearing Che Guevara bust.

    You betray a certain insecurity by branding as Right wingers anyone who takes the time to point things out to you. It just might be that there is a groundswell of fed-upness with the fabulists from team Left and team Right and their battle for hearts and minds.

  49. PeterTB said

    It gives him the illusion of control

    So Gandhi, you acknowledge that Murdoch has no actual control? Or are your words just sound and fury, signifying nothing?

  50. gandhi said

    PeterTB,

    I meant that it gives others (including the reading public, his Big Business peers, the candidates and their parties) the illusion that Murdoch’s opinion is critical to success.

    He is of course just a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage. Not all that poor, though…

  51. Megan said

    Oh Gandhi I don’t know what your problem is!!! With 70% of its media owned by Rupert Murdoch, Australia has a very well informed citizenry, which can only bode well for the future of our democracy!

    Take Brisbane for example – it’s saturated with Murdoch publications, and his journalists give fair coverage to all politicians, and it’s so excellent that the editor of the ‘Courier-Mail’s’ wife has a morning show on ABC radio.

    You can read Rupert Murdoch’s ‘Australian’, Rupert Murdoch’s ‘Courier-Mail’, any of Rupert Murdoch’s 17 ‘Quest’ newspapers or you can grab an ‘mX’ which pollutes the CBD streets every afternoon.

    Mr Murdoch sure loves informing Brisbane people, and having a conversation with people who rely solely on Murdoch publications as their source of news is so intellectually stimulating!

    Gee, it must be costing Mr Murdoch a fortune to bring information to the people of South East Queensland! Just ask anyone who’s tried to set up a rival paper!

  52. Marcus said

    Gandhi, I never heard of you, only came here via Blair’s blog, but you sound like a real b..dy wank to me!

  53. adam said

    Wow, you might be on to something! The big right-wing conspiracy is sure in full swing! I mean you only have at look at the make-up of all the state governments and even the federal government… oh wait a minute, what point were you trying to make again?

  54. Megan said

    Hello flying monkeys!
    Rudd is not “Left-Wing”.
    Iemma? Nah. Bligh, Brumby, Carpenter? Nup. Can’t find any Left-Wings anywhere.
    Maybe Fairfax is the “Left-Wing” liberal media that threatens to lose the War? There is no Right-Wing “Conspiracy”, for a conspiracy you need a bunch of people conspiring. The Overton Window is working just fine apparently.

  55. gandhi said

    You know, Megan, the flying monkeys might actually learn something on this thread if they can just keep their minds open.

  56. I’m looking forward to both Bolt and Blair ripping into ex-Australian Rupert Murdoch when he returns to his ex-homeland soon to give a series of lectures (for the ABC), during which he will expand greatly on his previous rhetoric that “climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats.”

    Seeing as Rupert Murdoch is undeniably the world’s most influential promoter of climate change-related doom, surely Blair and Bolt won’t ignore Murdoch’s hyping of a reality they both believe is either a green conspiracy or “a pagan religion.”?

    Don’t count on it. The golden rule of taking Murdoch’s money is you don’t diss the boss, even when he makes you look like an absurd hypocrite.

  57. wronwright said

    #54 Megan – “There is no Right-Wing “Conspiracy”, for a conspiracy you need a bunch of people conspiring.”

    That’s exactly what we want you to think. (suppresses the urge to laugh villanously)

  58. ARC said

    ……………… or note that prominent businessmen involved in 9-11 have Jewish backgrounds, then perhaps you should join the Labor Party.

    Don’t blame Mark for deleting that comment. LP is as left as they come, but they aren’t 911 Truthers and don’t need to allow a pathetic comment like that on their site if they want to.

    So tell us, Gandhi, you evergreen nimrod, what was this Jewish conspiracy theory of yours, you Truther you. Lol.

    And one other thing dipshit: The Melbourne Age is as left as they come. Don’t give me that MSM crap as it isn’t going to work as a cover.

  59. ARC said

    I guess it starts with basic respect and tolerance for differing opinions, something the political Right is notoriously bad at.

    Gandhi, you dipshit, don’t be such a pathetic girly man. If your views don’t stand up to scrutiny then people will tear parts of your flesh off.

    What you don’t want is a free exchange of ideas where your opinions shouldn’t be criticized. Fess up, you don’t like getting called up for being an idiot.

  60. Possum Comitatus said

    Let’s avoid thread entropy folks.

  61. gandhi said

    Actually, Daryl Mason #56, I hear that Murdoch still mutters under his breath (e.g. at Davos recently) that global warming is still a load of bollocks. But it’s become impossible for his editorials to maintain that line against the weight of global scientific and (finally) political opinion.

    This September 2006 headline in The Sun was just the beginning. At the time, I called it a “Murdoch double pike with twist” but it seems it may have been one of those rare occasions where a Newscrap editor makes a major independent decision. Or else the kids were involved, ie Lachlan or James.

    Murdoch steers the current, he doesn’t swim against it.

  62. Dazzaaaaaaa said

    Rudd is not left? Are you serious? Reregulation of the labour market, apology to ‘stolen’ generation, that ridiculous Fuelwatch scheme, carbon trading, luxury car tax, telling those evil big banks not to raise interest rates independently (even though anyone with a bit of sense knows that money costs more because of subprime)…and that’s just off the top of my head.

    The Age is mainstream? That’s a joke, right? (No pun intended).

  63. ooh honey honey said

    I checked this blog out because Tim linked to it. Bunch of people with not much remaining were the populist, broadbrush categories of “left” and “right” were confiscated from them, but when I got to this lame argumentum ad verecundiam:
    “…because I’m trying to get my PhD finished and I have a deadline.”
    it put things into perspective.
    Prattle on, teenage wankers.

  64. Just Me said

    Dazzaaaaaaa Says:
    Rudd is not left? Are you serious?

    Rudd is left? Are you serious?

    Rudd is centrist by any vaguely rational standard. To try to portray him as left reveals far more about your viewpoint than anybody else’s. By that standard you probably think most of the population are left.

  65. kcom said

    “But it’s become impossible for his editorials to maintain that line against the weight of global scientific and (finally) political opinion.”

    Fortunately, the public at large aren’t quite as credulous as “political opinion”.

    href=”http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jun/22/climatechange.carbonemissions”>Poll: most Britons doubt cause of climate change

    Common sense may yet win out. The Shakespeare line “The lady doth protest too much” comes to mind. People can recognize the difference between a balanced approach to a complex problem and a full court press bordering on obsession and insanity when they see it.

  66. Mick said

    The free market media is biased against the left? Oh no, isnt that just a terrible story. You know what dictates the free market media? Market forces. You know who Joe blow on the street does and doesnt want to listen to? You all claim to be smart people. Connect the dots.

  67. jc said

    If you want to talk about “consistency” and principles taking second base to “personal peeves”, just ask yourself where you would normally stand on such issues. If you don’t think anybody in Australia should ever be allowed to criticise Israel, or note that prominent businessmen involved in 9-11 have Jewish backgrounds, then perhaps you should join the Labor Party.

    That’s right. The Jews did it. You fucking idiot Gandhi. Mark’s right to give you the flick as he doesn’t want to get sued for allowing crap like that.

    Where were all the Jews on 911? Well a few were sitting right at my desk in NYC and must have all been feigning surprise when the second plane went in. Damn actors. They all knew according to this genius.

    The Jewish guy a few rows from me? He must have been lying when he told us later that day his cousin died in the building.

    You’re truly a pathetic, Gandhi and if you’re going to make comments like that i suggest you do it on your blog under you own name so when the guy wants to sue the wrong doer he can come straight to you.

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