03 February 2008

Red, white and Roskam

If you love a bit of straw man work, you can't go past John Roskam's latest:
Australians are starting to realise that maybe America is not so bad after all.

Australians never thought it was. Study after study has shown that there's real affection for the USA in Australia - sure, tinged with occasional frustration and despair/mocking poor choices, but these are characteristics of all real and deep friendships.
Most commentators on the US have been blinded by their contempt, and in some cases their hatred, of George Bush.

21,000,000 Australians, John: you'd be surprised how few are commentators, or have their political opinions shaped by commentators.
So far those same commentators haven't acknowledged that the country that gave the world George Bush, might also give it Barack Obama.

Depends who you mean by "those commentators", John. I'd call you a commentator, and I'd probably have to wear the accusation were it flung back. It's easy to acknowledge that the country that gave us Eugene V Debs also gave us Curtis LeMay, John F Kennedy/Lee Harvey Oswald, Ludwig van Beethoven/Heinrich Himmler, do your own false dichotomy.
Were Obama somehow to become president ...

Uh, by winning a plurality of votes in the Electoral College?
... we can be guaranteed more paeans of praise.

Yeah, because when the United States elects a new President they tend to be fairly laid back about it, lukewarm about the new guy, etc.
One immediate result of his election in Australia would be that our Australian political parties would be forced to start looking for their own Obama. Charisma would be back in fashion.

The demand for charisma isn't the problem, it's the supply, John. Anyway, "forced" is too strong: the Rudd Government would take to an Obama Administration with little apparent difficulty. Which other (state/territory) government in this country would be destabilised by an Obama Administration in Washington? Is there a charismatic politician in state/territory politics, and if so who?
If Obama or Hillary Clinton becomes president, America's critics will be forced to think again. The American people won't be able to be written off as an assemblage of religion-obsessed, gun-toting, rednecks.

Again, John, nobody does. The Bush Administration has crafted its message to appeal to said people though, and it has been re-elected twice. The commentary I've read is that the outfit that gave rise to Dicks Cheney and Perle, amongst others, is some sort of dastardly trick against an otherwise decent people.
Most likely, America will come to be regarded as the repository of all that is enlightened, liberal, and tolerant.

I wouldn't say all, John. It should, however, display more of these qualities in its foreign and other policies than have been apparent for the past eight years or so.
a country can't be judged by its leader. As much as any elected politician would like to be able to speak for "everyone", the reality is that they cannot.

When a person reveals their nationality, their position on the leadership of that country and perceptions thereof become part of who they are. Australians may or may not vote for John Howard, and may or may not have participated in, say, Tampa or SIEV-X, but it is fair for foreigners to ask Australians about the sort of country that would do such things.
Americans also regard themselves as living in a classless and egalitarian society. Whether that's true or not is hardly the point. What matters is that it is believed to be true.

Actually, it is. If a country is governing itself according to principles that no longer apply, it is kidding itself.
The fact that the population of the US is 15 times larger than Australia's only partly explains the differences between the countries ... Australia has had 26 prime ministers. Every one of them has been a male of Anglo-Celtic background.

Never mind larger, the population of the US has always been a lot more diverse than that of Australia. Until World War II Anglo-Celtic Australians made up well over 90% of the population, so it was almost inevitable that the Prime Minister at any point throughout should share this characteristic: a characteristic shared by McCain, Romney, Huckabee and Clinton. Australians have had as many female Prime Ministers as the US has had female Presidents.
It's difficult to imagine any Australian political party allowing anyone who is not a party member to have a say in that party's selection of candidates for office. Yet this is precisely what happens in the US.

Sure it is, it's called a branch-stack. You don't think the far right of the Liberal Party in NSW get their candidates up on their sensible opinions and broad community engagement, do you? The primaries process renders political parties irrelevant.

If a John Roskam article doesn't stand up to the kind of feeble scrutiny applied above, it should not be published. Whether you are the editor of The Age or John Roskam, it is time to reassess the value of a John Roskam article in better understanding the world in which everyone except John Roskam lives.


  1. If you love a bit of straw man work, you can't go past Andrew Elder's latest...

    Come on Andrew! Bagging out shithouse journo's is a mug's game. Give us more of your insight into the Liberal Party. What do you think of Heffernan coming out so strongly in favour of the apology? One must wonder what other things he kept in the closet over the Howard era. Open a (cough) information market on how long Nelson will last.


  2. Roskam is not a shithouse journalist, he's a shitouse commentator who has bullied his way ino the media in the name of 'balance' only to show that the right is intellectually exhausted.

    I think Nelson is a dummy waiting to be spat, talking about him is pretty much beside the point. Heffernan is so bizarre I wouldn't be surprised to see him calling for the nationalisation of the means of production, or rounding up Jews in his ute. Anything could happen with that man, it's generally best to be well clear when it does.