Monday, May 30, 2011

"The Left" vs "The Right"

Gerard Henderson is a quality thinker who supports a diverse policy discussion at the Sydney Institute. Having attended a few events there I can attest that he is a very fair and inclusive Chair.

That said I think it is over-all a fair comment to make that in his personal writing - especially in the SMH and in his own writing for the institute - that he would generally be labelled a critic of "the Left". In particular he is unforgiving of former Communists who ignored the reality of Stalinist Russia, and of commentators of the left who attack the current Government from "the left".

He is also particularly renowned for his search for accuracy. His own Media Watch Dog originally appeared in print form and preceded the ABC show. It has a slightly different beat, not only focussing on inaccuracies and under-researched stories, but also in highlighting the all-too-obvious biases of some commentators/journalists.

This week's issue of MWD contains a classic piece of Gerard being Gerard. He notes the following in Nick Dyrenfurth and Tim Soutphommasane's book All That’s Left: What Labor Should Stand For:

…Quadrant devoted page after page to dissecting the Left, no accompanying explication of a positive conservative philosophy – or even disposition – was forthcoming on what it meant to be on the “Right”. So it is with the other standard bearers of the conservative commentariat. Whether it is Gerard Henderson, Janet Albrechtsen, Andrew Bolt or Christopher Pearson, there is only carping and invective. To be on the Right is to believe that Labor has returned to its socialist ways: that everything is symbolic and hollow; that political correctness has run riot; and, of course, that Judeo-Christian values are under threat.

He then proceeded to ask of the editors;

1.What is your evidence to support your assertion that I “believe that Labor has returned to its socialist ways”? Where did I ever write or say this – and when?
2. What is your evidence to support your assertion that I believe that “everything is symbolic and hollow”? Where did I ever write or say this – and when?
3.What is your evidence to support your assertion that I hold the view that “political correctness has run riot”. Where did I ever write or say this – and when?
4. What is your evidence to support your assertion that I hold the view that “Judeo-Christian values are under threat”? Where did I ever write or say this – and when?

If you cannot support your assertions with documented evidence, it will be obvious that you just invented these claims. In which case, how do you propose to correct your false assertions with respect to me?

However, I don't think the quoted text makes the claims asserted. To talk of "the Right" is as bad as talking of "the Left". The quoted passage makes some broad descriptions of the Right. The only thing it actually says about Henderson is that "there is only carping and invective", and that there is no exposition of what it means to be "Right".

The things which Henderson seeks to be proven with evidence are claims made about the Right in general and therefore have no need of justification as being views attributed specifically to him.

I must admit though to be quite amused by the inability of the authors to engage with him on this, and to be cautious about replying if their response is to be published.

The sad truth is that the book itself is a sorry reflection on the fact that the same accusations can these days be made about the Left. The Left is made up of a grab-bag rabble that professes "progressive" causes, has supplemented a hate of the USA specifically for a dislike of specific aspects of power and criticises capitalist market economies while sharing in the spoils (be they excessive government grants or simply a jolly good lifestyle).

Meanwhile I am becoming quite disappointed in MWD. The same small set of easy targets (Fran Kelly, Deborah Cameron, Malcolm Fraser, the Age amongst the leaders) is targeted issue after issue. If leftist media bias is as all-pervasive as some would have us believe, surely there should be a much wider array of targets for analysis.
Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

No comments: