Feb 152011

Turning back to observations of the Conservative Express today.

For those unaware, ‘Conservative Express’ is my pet name for what passes as the so-called national broadsheet, ‘The Australian’. I think it’s fair to state that this particular Murdoch rag, over all the other Murdoch rags in this country, portrays by far the most dedicated conservative ethos of all media outlets in Australia.
Today I’d like to take issue with this op-ed piece, which comes from the virtual pen of one Melanie Phillips.

“Styled a conservative by her opponents, she prefers to think of herself as defending authentic liberal values against the attempt to destroy western culture from within.”

That her writing attract plaudits from the likes of William Kristol speaks volumes to me of the type of mindset her writings appeal to, however, to focus on the inclusion of her opinion in the Con Ex. It’s entitled “On Egypt the Left are all neo-cons now” clearly a reference to a perceived hypocritical stance, by what is clearly her anti-thesis, on the probable outcomes of recent revolutionary turmoil in Egypt. I’m always amused by people who use the bland terminologies, ‘left’ and ‘right’ to conveniently pidgeon-hole and even simplify discussions of political philosophy. Let’s take Egypt as an example. Were there forces from these mysterious ‘left’ and ‘right’ parts of an equally mysterious global political demography on display over the past three weeks? All I noticed was a society enamoured of change, fed up with repression and willing to risk all to achieve ends better suited to their desires. I saw pro-government forces consisting of mainly paid thugs assaulting free-thinking people. I saw those same free-thinking people prepared to do whatever it took to achieve an end by their means. I certainly didn’t see anything which defined ‘left’ or ‘right’. If anything, I saw what I would call a version of libertarianism. A strong desire for freedom, justice and transparency. Nothing more and certainly nothing less.
However, before I start dissecting Phillips’ treatise, let us first explore this mythical definition which conservative adherents persist in using as some bizarre form of opprobrium, the left.
To quote from Wiki:

“The terms Left and Right were coined during the French Revolution, referring to the seating arrangement in the Estates General; those who sat on the left generally supported the radical changes of the revolution, including the creation of a republic and secularization.
Use of the term Left became more prominent after the restoration of the French monarchy in 1815 when it was applied to the “Independents”. The term was then applied to a number of revolutionary movements, especially socialism, anarchism and communism as well as more reformist movements like social democracy and social liberalism”.

So, it’s easy to see that these terms, ‘left’ and ‘right’ have no meaning other than to define an 18th century seating arrangement in a moribund French class-driven advisory council to the monarchy of the day. In the early years of the 19th century, even that institution, the Estates-Generale, ceased to exist under the new French Republic. When explored further, the Estates-Generale seating arrangement embodied a rigid class system whereby:

“ liberal deputies from the Third Estate generally sat to the left of the president’s chair, a habit which began in the Estates General of 1789. The nobility, members of the Second Estate, generally sat to the right. In the successive legislative assemblies, monarchists who supported the Ancien Régime were commonly referred to as rightists because they sat on the right side. One major figure on the right was Joseph de Maistre who argued for an authoritarian and less liberal form of conservatism. Throughout the 19th century, the main line dividing Left and Right in France was between supporters of the Republic and those of the Monarchy.”

There are some parallels of that regime which do carry through to present day Australia, whereby ardent conservatives are more often than not monarchists and social democrats, such as myself, support a more libertarian-republican viewpoint, HOWEVER it is important to note that these definitions have become so blurred over time as to have no genuine reference to present day politics, aside from the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ being utilised as they undoubted have been since 1789, as ad hominem.
Returning to the Phillips article, I find her attempt to paint her anti-thesis – or her perception of same at least – to be remarkably disingenuous in that she attempts to claim parallels between a popular uprising – an essentially peaceful exercise in civil disobedience – and the illegal invasion of Iraq which took place in 2003 under the pretext of regime change for the benefit of a people who were supposedly crying out for Pax Americana . We are now 72 hours into a changed socio-political structure in Egypt, where a military government has replaced an autocratic dictatorship, yet those who support militaristic impositions of democracy – the best of the worst of socio-political structures – are attempting to claim hypocrisy on the part of those who opposed the Iraq invasion because they support a people’s revolution. In my view, THAT hypocrisy in and of itself is startling in its arrogance.
Phillips opines:

So what was the difference? Simple. Saddam Hussein was an enemy of the West; Mubarak was an ally. So progressives claimed that getting rid of the former was a crime against humanity, while not getting rid of the latter was a crime against humanity. Got that?

An inconvenient truth? Most assuredly. What is there to fear from a 3-day old change in social and political structure which has yet to reveal it’s true form? Clearly, fear itself. Fear of change, the hallmark of conservatism worldwide. Let’s be logical, instead of attempting to score some kind of point over a phantom nemesis. Saddam Hussein? Bad Man. Hosni Mubarak? Well, in so far as the conservative causes in the US are concerned, clearly not all that bad, given the massive sums of US civilian and military aid pumped into Egypt over the past 30 years, and let’s not forget the extremely distasteful ‘rendition’ process which Mubarak’s Egypt was a willing participant in during the Bush administration years. Clearly, Mubarak was/is a very naughty boy, but equally clearly, being a compliant servant state of the US makes any nasty transgressions forgivable. My tongue is firmly jammed in my cheek, by the way.
But we know why Phillips carries the bile she seems to in regard to her disdain for this mythical ‘left’. Phillips is an ardent supporter and sympathiser of all issues Jewish. Read: Israel. Her weapon of choice, as clearly portrayed in this article of hers, is rhetorical fear and loathing, which frankly seems to be the weapon of choice for all extremist conservatives. Make no mistake, this woman is an extremist. When describing the vivisection of westernised democracy the Muslim Brotherhood plans, by using a re-born Egypt as its base, Phillps states:

Today, they are no less the mortal enemies of the free world. Their leaders have declared war on America, gloating that the US is “experiencing the beginning of its end and is heading towards its demise”, and that “resistance is the only solution”. They support al-Qa’ida terrorism “against the Americans and the Zionists”. They declared that after Mubarak they would dissolve the peace treaty with Israel. They support Hezbollah, make overtures to Iran, and openly employ a strategy of simulating moderation to gain power though democratic means in order to destroy democracy.

And so she goes on. And on, and on and on. Ye Gods! Gird thy loins for the terrifying Islamists will come to remove them. It’s shrill, it’s venom-filled & reeks of a sheer unreasoned irrationality. She even attempts to draw parallels between the French Revolution, Stalin’s purges of the late 1930’s and this unfounded, illogical suggestion that Egypt will suddenly become an Iran-like Islamist state, driven by rabid religious extremists into all out global conflict in the name of Allah. All based on what? Fear. Fear and loathing of that which she does not understand and fully intends not to attempt that understanding. Out of all the things to be feared in this life, surely the wilfully ignorant, empowered by unreasoned trepidation of circumstances as yet unrealised, are at the top of any list. Personally, I don’t find a great many ideologically driven Americans or Zionists to be very pleasant people. As an atheist, I find religion to be its own enigma, and discussions with all but the most moderate of conservatives always leaves me wondering why I bothered. However, I don’t go writing tomes filled with bigoted and baseless accusation of future portents which are highly unlikely to eventuate, while slagging off mythical adherents to some mystical ethos which doesn’t exist.
Of course, the bottom line to this post has to be, where else would such rabidity appear as a matter of course, than the Conservative Express? To what end? To put on display one individual’s irrationality? It certainly appears that way.