Yet again in The Australian, an excusatory piece by that rag’s token ‘leftie’, Nick Dyrenfurth.
Who is this individual, you may ask. According to his bio under the University of Sydney Business School, he’s a career academic. You know, one of those types the so-called ‘right’ love to hate. In the reading of this piece, and others you can find by the ubiquitous Google, this person claims to be a ‘leftie’. Not your average ‘leftie’ apparently, but one of those rare birds closer to the centre of the political spectrum than most others. At least according to him. His piece is blatantly biased and hardly objective in his analysis of opinions like those of Geoffrey Robertson and Guy Rundle, compared to those who express a more relaxed attitude to the killing of Osama Bin laden a week ago. The former being those more inclined to make the salient observation that US attitudes across the board on moral matters are highly selective and always carry caveats which protect that nation’s national interests. Whatever those interests happen to be from time to time, which are in and of themselves, highly selective.
Dyrenfurth neglects to observe that rule of law is the over-riding tenet of western democracy. Observation of rule of law edicts is what shapes our morality, our sense of right and wrong and gives us – those who feel they need it anyway – a sense of the moral ground we feel we need to stand on from time to time. It is the acceptance of rule of law to which Robertson refers in his critique of the seemingly arbitrary death of Bin laden, and the selective sense of morality inherent in American socio-political structures over the decades to which Rundle refers. These are accurate observations. Accuracy which clearly rankles with Dyrenfurth and those like him who straddle the ideological divide for their own purposes, and more so to those on the opposing side to detractors of those who flout the morality associated with the rule of law precept. Let’s be perfectly honest here and agree that what Obama ordered flies in the face of international law. An act of aggression by one nation, against another nation’s sovereignty, in the interests of the aggressor nation’s so-called ‘national interest’. Not only that, but without the second nation’s consent, with prejudicial despatch against a third nation’s citizen. Why? Because the US believed herself to be right in doing so. As the world’s last remaining superpower does that give her to right to act unilaterally, against the international rule of law? Certainly not, in my view, however the world is not a perfect place and global diplomacy is far from a perfect practice. A despicable human being was available for the taking, as it were. He was dealt with, as one might deal with a verminous rodent in one’s own home. Does one capture a verminous rodent, subject it to a show trial for spreading disease, then take off its head anyway? Certainly not. For mine, this argument as to whether the US should or shouldn’t have taken the opportunity to execute Bin Laden is moot. Always was, because the US will do what the US always does. Act unilaterally. A despicable human being is dead, job done, move on please. Nothing at all to see here.
However, what Dyrenfurth does is something different entirely. He uses the excuse of Bin laden’s demise as a launching pad for a barely concealed ideological attack of his own against those who have obviously critiqued his disingenuity in the past. Those he obviously disagrees with and can’t obtain satisfaction from or agree to disagree with, so he attacks from the pseudo-security of the op-ed pages in a rag he knows will support such personal attacks. Yes, they are personal attacks, especially so when he uses terms like ‘nihilist’ – which for the uninitiated means to reject totally established laws and institutions; to support anarchy and terrorism; promote total and absolute destruction of the world at large, including one’s own self. Big term, ‘nihilist’, with very big implications, none of which can be justified in Dyrenfurst’s tirade. The use of ‘nihilist’ as with his penchant for the arcane terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ is purely as a pejorative. He has no logical rationale for his accusations, so he falls for the false and illogical approach by adopting the surreptitious ad hominem tactic. Name calling. What he’s really coming down to is a criticism of his ideological opposites which effectively declares them wrong, because he says so, without any reasoned rhyme whatsoever.
This sort of behaviour is all too common in ideological exchanges. It smacks of a lack of thought or reason. Is simply a knee-jerk reaction to being chipped when the culprit doesn’t personally like or is unable to handle the chipping. As Nazeem Hussain stated on ABC’s QandA last evening,“you can’t kill an idea with guns and bullets”. Neither can you disclaim an idea by abusing the proponent. Any reasoned thinker worth their salt will simply smile wryly and continue forward, leaving the abuser in their wake even more frustrated and dissatisfied for not having succeeded in bringing their interlocutor down to their own level. I see these attitudes daily in social media, yet the disgruntled exponents of logical fallacy never seem to realise what they’re doing, nor how much they denigrate their own positions by resorting to ridicule without substance. These attitudes are generally fed by the media, as admirably highlighted by Lindsay Tanner in his book, “Sideshow: The Dumbing Down of Democracy”. I find it endlessly amusing that one of the primary culprits of this dumbed down modus operandi just happens to be the rag supporting this poor attempt at engagement by Nick Dyrenfurst. Of course, engagement isn’t the primary consideration, as observers of ideological warfare will realise. It’s all about who can shout the loudest, who can appear the more aggressive, and who can frighten off and shut down their opponent first. It’s a one-sided brawl when the shouter always winds up punching themselves in the virtual face and the crowd gathered around, which always includes the supposed opponent, laugh.
Democracy is much more than an expensive popularity contest held once in three years. Democracy is intelligent, considered and robust debate over the issues that drive it. If academics, politicians and news media outlets are going to allow themselves to be ‘dumbed down’ into unreasoned, illogical discourse aimed at simply declaring ‘I’m better than you, because I say so’ then Democracy isn’t dumbed down. It’s on a slab in a very cold room awaiting the mortician.