20 January 2012

On having one's arse handed to one by the internet

Earlier this week I posted about the killings of Iranian nuclear scientists. Responses to that post on the blog and on Twitter have been instructive to say the least.

It showed that, unlike most bloggers, I can no longer just squeeze out any old brain-fart and expect what has become an established readership to just deal with it. That sort of mentality is clearly good enough for the Leader of the Federal Opposition (and his Giggle Squad in the press gallery) but, having flailed professional journalists for not doing the background work necessary on such an issue I am defenceless to the usual barbs of "don't know what you're talking about".

My parents were great admirers of Plucky Little Israel and I absorbed that. When I first became interested in politics I just assumed that the political problem of Israel and its neighbours was an intractable one, but then I thought the same about communism. When Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and after the Oslo Accords when Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat almost all of what he wanted for a Palestinian state only to have it rejected, I gave up on following Israel's troubles with Palestine and other countries in the region. It represented another failure for moderate, transactional politics, which I regarded then (and now) as the harbinger of dark times politically. I hadn't really paid much attention to the politics of the region since - unless you count the so-called "Arab Spring", which doesn't really relate to Israel anyway.

This doesn't mean I'm now knee-jerk anti-Israel, far from it. Over at the other post in the comments section I've attempted to give some nuance to my views and how they've changed. I'm not sure that the debacle in Iraq means that all cries of "Wolf!" (or, to use the old libertarian scenario, the cry of "Fire!" in a theatre) are to be derided and dismissed. I'm still biased against the Iranian regime, but I still don't have a cogent response to the bush-lawyers of "international law". You can see I have a way to go.

Say what you will about my appalling ignorance of Middle Eastern politics, and the degree to which I've been sucked into facile propaganda, etc, etc. When you're done with piling on, dare to gainsay the following statement: my knowledge of Middle Eastern politics today is well above that of the average member of the Australian Parliament, including some who've copped a junket there.

Now I'm doing a lot of reading about Israel and its place in the Middle East. As with any other issue I can say that there's a lot of good stuff and a great deal of crap out there. I'm not out to reinforce any biases because that hasn't done me much good. Doubt that I'll be flying too many more kites as I have with this issue, and I will stick to the core business of Politically Homeless: the inadequacy of the conservative response to a time of great change, and the apparent death-wish of the Australian media in refusing to address the changes to its own environment and the stuff which they presume report to us.

Update: Yes, I have seen this.


  1. Kudos is due for the mea culpa Andrew.
    Sticking to your knitting (while reading up on the intricacies of crocheting) sounds like a sensible plan.
    Particularly when you're so good at your "special subject." :-)

  2. You really deserve a column in the MSM.

  3. Mate, great response. Many of us suffer others and ourselves by opining carelessly. I'm sure you are the type to defend yourself vigilantly by digging as deep as you can go on Middle East issues and Israel specifically. Ignore the cheap shots even if you feel like you might deserve them, look for those who are or will genuinely want to inform you without malice or an agenda. I look forward to hearing about what you have learnt.
    Brett @WNBSprague

  4. Obviously Obtuse20/1/12 7:58 pm

    The ability to take on board criticism is very difficult. I think Andrew has shown he can do it. I'm currently re-reading Barbara Tuchman's "The March Of Folly From Troy to Vietnam", (is it the best book on politics ever?). Anyway she writes about how Governments have often pursued policies directly and evidently against their own self-interest, even though plenty of their own people knew and pointed out the disastrous consequences of said policies. I'll paraphrase one sentence: "If the mind is open enough to percieve that a given policy is harming rather than serving self interest, and wise enough to reverse it, that is a summit in the art of government." I submit Andrew is displaying something analogous to this with this post. (A compliment to complement my first critical comment on the Iran post.)

  5. Obviously Obtuse20/1/12 8:10 pm

    Gudonyer for the unfailingly polite responses, as well.

  6. Very genuine mea culpa Andrew.

    Never mind the "brain fart", just another glitch in the road.

  7. "Plucky little Israel". Yes. I absorbed that as well. Along with the books 'Exodus', 'Mila 18' and 'The Source' which I read when I was a teenager. I remember the opening paragraph in 'The Source' in which the central character while viewing the Dome of the Rock said (wtte) that "Israel, denied religious freedom by everyone else, guaranteed it to all" and near the end there was a bit about how the Palestinians weren't driven out of Israel in 1948. No. The Israelis begged them to stay. The Palestinians left of their own accord...

    Not sure when the scales fell from my eyes. I think the moment came (early 80s?) when a Palestinian democratically elected to parliament was denied his seat. Can't remember the details. But it seemed a betrayal of everything I'd been told about Israel.

    Most of the time your pieces are well thought out. I didn't think this one was. However, you can take some comfort that your opinion matters. As you note, most bloggers can and do say anything and no one gives a rat's. You are no longer one of them.

  8. "the inadequacy of the conservative response to a time of great change"

    ...and is inimical and endemic to both the Liberal and the Labor parties.

    Great post, decent and intelligent like all that you put up.

    Two points that I would like to make are; Firstly countries that are new nation states and growing out of disparate tribal, clan and ethnic identities have an extraordinarily difficult road to nationhood. Australia has been blessed by our capacity to forge a nation free of history.

    That is why we should not be judgemental in regard to Iran, South Sudan, Cambodia or wherever.

    Secondly, the story of the Palestinians throwing the Oslo Accords away through their intransigence is yet again completely wrong. More clever propaganda, not reality.

    At the risk of everyone being sick of this topic, I would like to add that in my view is that the victory of the Israelis over the Palestinians is so total, overwhelming and irreversible that the world should insist that Israel make them all Israelis. Without the ethnic cleansing free pass that the Israelis have got away with for so long.
    And why not, after all the Palestinians are more genuinely descendants of the ancient tribal peoples of the region than the Germans, Italians, Austrians and Poles who founded Israel.

  9. Not the sort of post you'd ever see from Miranda Devine, Piers Ackerman, Gerard Henderson, David Marr et al.

  10. Virtualkat21/1/12 8:54 pm

    Andrew great post. It's very hard for most people to admit that they are wrong and even harder to see errors in long standing beliefs. Being able to hold opinions lightly and changing those opinions when presented with new facts is a great skill.

  11. I enjoyed the Iran Nuke post and comments even tho I was disagreeing. I suspect there was at least two different angles at play. Some were talking about what the `fools` in charge will do - `old-ideas`. While others were talking about what `should` be done - `new-ideas`. The world seems to be ruled by out-dated practices in regimes of all types and no regime is particularly good because of this, including ours.

    I have seen doco`s on TV about refuseniks that have a lot to say about the Israel system, but you will need to google. The refusniks are Israeli soldiers refusing to do certain duties, they seemed truthful, if your interested.

  12. Sure, Andrew, stick to your core mission, but don't shirk the the occasional post into other topics. The response from critics has been educational. It's nice when people are transparent about how they think they've arrived at a certain position.So not like anything you ever get reading regular opinion writers in the MSM. Sack them all.

  13. Good form, Andrew. On the relationship between the US and Israel, I recommend this piece: