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The Censor and the Pamphleteer

Webdiarist Henry di Suvero has written a trilogy of plays on the Palestinian dispossession. Crescent Moon, Yellow Star asked "Why do the Palestinians have to pay for the Holocaust?". The Ballad of Rachel Corrie examined the use of Palestinian non-violence. The Refusenik looked at opposition inside Israel to its Palestinian occupation. Claws of the Eagle, is a play about American imperialism.

The son of an Italian Jewish father and a Catholic mother, di Suvero's parents fled China, where he was born, to the United States before WWII. For fifteen years he did legal work in the anti-war, civil rights and poverty law movements. He worked in the Black ghettos of Newark, New Jersey, and Watts, Los Angeles, and served on the staff of the American Civil Liberties Union as well as President of the left wing National Lawyers Guild. He was the principal organizer of The Peoples College of Law, a night law school for Third World students in Los Angeles.

In 1979 he taught in Papua New Guinea and assisted the West Papuan resistance to Indonesian rule. He studied yoga at the B.K.S Iyengar Institute in India before returning in 1982 to settle in Sydney with his Australian wife. He taught law at UNSW and practised at the NSW Bar, specializing in criminal defence. He lives in Byron Bay with his wife and writes for theatre, film and television.

 * * * * *

David Marr’s impassioned opening day public lecture at the 2007 Byron Bay Writer’s Festival, exposing and condemning Howard’s suppression of free speech and dissent, ended with a call to action to the assembled literati to fight Attorney General Ruddock’s proposed amendment to the Film and Literature Classification (i.e censorship) Act. Ruddock, said Marr, wants to forbid “advocacy of terrorist acts” in literature and film, which would result in emptying library shelves and banning a wide range of movies and video games.

When Marr ended to loud applause and the crowd was exiting, flushed by the call to arms to defend free speech, I began to distribute two flyers I had prepared critiquing two journalists, Paul Sheehan of the Sydney Morning Herald, and Michael Gawenda, recently retired from The Age, both of whom would appear later in the Festival program.

The Sheehan flyer carried the photograph of Sheehan in The NSW Board of Jewish Deputy’s 2006-7 Journalist Mission to Israel and a copy of my Letter in The Echo calling him the High Priest of Islamophobia. I said his Festival placement in a panel on “the ethics of investigative journalism” was “preposterous” because after his Israeli trip, he wrote several pro-Israeli articles without any acknowledgement of his sponsorship.

The flyer also carried liberal excerpts from a 5 August 2006 book review by Shakira Hussein in The Australian of Sheehan’s book about the Sydney rape trials by a gang of Muslim youths. Her critique was that “Given the total lack of empirical evidence that Muslim men in Australia are any more likely to commit rape than anyone else in Australia, Sheehan’s willingness to endorse the idea that a Muslim upbringing conditions one to sexual violence is a dangerous and repellent slur.... Centring discussions of rape around ethnicity and religion is as dangerous to Australian women (of whatever background) as it is to Muslim men.”

The flyer concluded with the caution that “If you want to keep your mind pure and your bookshelves clean, don’t buy Sheehan’s book.”

The Gawenda flyer carried the 6/5/02 transcript of a Media Watch interview between Marr and Gawenda when he was editor of The Age about his decision not to publish a two panel cartoon by Leunig that compared the entrance to Auschwitz with the entrance to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Gawenda said the cartoon was “just inappropriate” adding “Anyone seeing that cartoon would think it was inappropriate.”

85% of The Media Watch poll disagreed and thought The Age should have published the cartoon.

The flyer attacked the sanitized Festival biography of Gawenda for not revealing his past as an Associate Editor of the Australian Jewish News. It also claimed that, during his SMH assignment to America, he failed to file major stories critical of the Israeli lobby.

Five minutes after I began handing out flyers, Russell Eldridge, Editor of The Northern Star, stormed up to me, angrily shouting “You can’t do that! You can’t do that! No one can hand out pamphlets without permission! This is a private event! A private event! You need permission, etc.” As a steady stream of vitriol continued to spit from the mouth of the squat man in front of me, my eyes glazed and he morphed into a spitting cane toad with bulging eyes.

When I came to, I asked this Festival Thought Police Officer what authority he had to stop me, then offered him a leaflet, pointing out it was a reasoned critique of a speaker at the Festival. “I don’t need to see it.” he barked, refusing the offer by folding his arms so as not be contaminated, and continued his harangue.

A breathless female Assistant Thought Police Officer rushed up reporting “Jeni Caffin, the Director of the Festival, refuses you permission to distribute leaflets!”

“Refused without making a request.” I thought. “How Alice In Wonderland! Ruddock could learn something from Caffin.”

Having more than a fifty year history of leafleting and demonstrating in the States, from my uni days and continuing the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war years, I realized it was futile to deal with raging irrationality, and packed away my leaflets.

The Festival is held at Becton’s Byron Bay Beach Resort by Belongil Beach, north of Bryon. Temporary Cyclone fences, marking a boundary that requires the exhibition of a Festival pass to enter, corral the Festival marquees. The Resort is located at the eastern dead end of a bitumen road that begins at the Ozigo (BP) turnoff from Ewingsdale Road and passes over an unused set of railway tracks.

No signs announce the entrance to private property anywhere along the road, so I assumed the road was one of those famously ill maintained Council carriageways.

The next morning at 8:30 am I began distributing on the road, handing leaflets to drivers as I worked the line of cars backing up from the entrance to the Festival’s parking lot or to pedestrians walking to the Festival. I dressed neatly, was clean-shaven, had a short pitch, and wore a big smile.

“This is prohibited literature.” I said. “I’m not allowed to distribute it inside the Festival. Thank you for taking it and supporting free speech.” Every driver took the leaflets, rolling down car windows, many greeting me with a laugh or clever subversive repartee. The readiness to accept, to be open to engage in the contest of ideas, was exhilarating. Free speech was at work, circumventing the Festival’s Thought Police.

“Henry you can’t do this!”a voice screamed out behind me.

You’re not allowed! You were told this yesterday!”

I turned and saw a small, thirtyish woman with her hair gelled in that spikey, matted, semi-grunge look.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m Jeni Caffin” she said.

“The Chief of the Thought Police herself.” I thought.

Becton owns the road!” she screamed. “You can’t distribute on this road!”

“The’re no signs saying it’s a private road” I replied.

Becton owns the road!” she screamed again, raising her arm and pointing beyond me. “ All the way to the railroad tracks! All the way to the railway tracks!”

As a 71 year old pamphleteer I had promised my good wife I would try not to add to my arrest history, so rather than pour petrol on the fire breathing Thought Police Chief and invite arrest, I did an Aikido fall, turned my back and channelled her fury to propel me towards the railway tracks, only fifty metres away.

As I walked, The Police Chief shouted “You slandered me!”

“Poor thing.” I thought, “she’s taken it so personally.”

You see, the Gawenda leaflet had a sub-head “The Festival Spin”, quoting The Police Chief’s Festival announcement this year’s program dealt with “ Who is shaping our vision of the 21st Century?” Citing my critique of the Islamaphobic Sheehan and the closet Jewish Lobby’s Gawenda, I concluded “Enter the 21st Century with [their] twisted perspectives, compliments of the Byron Bay Writers Festival.”

With the shouted “You slandered me!” bouncing inside my head, I had an epiphany moment, a true, drug free, post modern, Orwellian, Byron realization: Inside every authoritarian hides a swollen, fragile ego, unable to take the slightest criticism, no matter how valid. Obsessive Thought Policing is the authoritarian’s weapon of choice for controlling the intelligentsia.

The railway tracks lay on a gentle one metre rise, forcing cars to slow down and back up beyond the tracks. Modifying my distribution strategy, I now ended my pitch adding “Free speech starts at the railroad tracks.”

A fellow playwright stopped, and as he took the leaflets laughingly asked if this was a piece of street theatre. Gareth Smith, local pillar of the peace movement, hopped off his bicycle to embrace me. With more than half the drivers I shared the common bond of grey hair. It was plain as they took the leaflets, they were my companeros, who also had been there, done that.

My stack of three hundred sets of leaflets went in no time.

I walked back to the Festival site talking with a fellow Greens Party member, telling him about the Festival Thought Police in detail.

“It’s like Gunns” he said, referring to the lumber company suing the Greens for picketing and obstructing their massive land clearing of old growth forests in Tasmania. “They’re suing us for millions for protesting and exercising free speech. It’s the same fight about what’s more important. Free speech or property rights. It’s so weird they’re talking about human rights and censorship inside the Festival, and look at what they’re doing to you.”

“Yeah,” I said, “they don’t walk the talk, do they?”

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Channel Ten news today showed a group of Christians protesting a TV show. With all the shit that is going down in the world, this is their petty priority. Californication has mildly amusing scripts which are good television but mediocre art. The attitude is right, and, it has restored my faith in free-to-air television. It has also restored my faith in losing faith in Christianity. Loosen up.

Note that it is running a simulcast with the US, probably to avoid a loss of audience to online piracy channels. Expect more of this, for targeted ratings winners on free-to-air.


John, your link about Christian vandalism in Penrith is interesting. None of the Christians I know were that pathetic. Nevertheless they treat wicca and any belief systems which clash with Christianity as essentially tricks of the devil. The Uniting Church was highly-sophisticated in its approach to evangelising and any of the people I knew would have recognised the vandalism as counter-productive, even if they felt similarly about the beliefs the store was encouraging.

Your other points seem to be just cherry-picking from history. Christianity is a massive movement full of diversity. Yes, it has involved imperialism and brutality, but so have most of the other major religions. I think Islam is better for being more honest and practical about who it dislikes.

Examples of Christian temperance.

Solomon: you say "Christianity is tempered by the emphasis placed on forgiveness and not judging people, so the anger - or perhaps "angst" is a better word - is more hidden than I would expect in Islam, who is more upfront about criticising outsiders."

Some examples of Christian forgiveness and not judging people.

They may have made good meals for lions and been crucified for their beliefs but it appears that some Christians have developed little tolerance for other religions. 

An example of this intolerance is found on the doors of Earth Magick, formerly known as Outback Gems in Penrith's High Street. 

Earth Magick is a supply shop for local witches, Pagans and Aquarian Age types. Over the last few months the shop has had graffiti sprayed on the front doors in the forms of crosses and the word Jesus in metre high letters. Coupled with this, the owners of the business, Lily and Joel, have received threats that they will "burn in hell".

... ....

Generations ago, European colonists and Christian missionaries looted Africa's ancient treasures. Now, Pentecostal Christian evangelists — most of them Africans — are helping wipe out remaining traces of how Africans once worked, played and prayed................

The arrival of Christianity to Sri Lanka was marked by violence and bloodshed. In contrast to Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, which arrived on the island in a peaceful manner, Christianity arrived with sword in hand. The native Buddhists and Hindus were slaughtered, their temples destroyed and looted, and their priests killed - all in the name of Jesus Christ. For close to 500 years the people of Sri Lanka were subjugated and Christianity was forced down upon the populace with an iron fist. 

Radical dreams

In for a penny ...

Like many, I've been trawling through Osama bin Laden's latest cable, trying to find the clue. Fox News say "he's impotent". John Kerry says "it's an insult". John McCain reckons he's still "a great danger". Which is true?

Well, if John Howard has half a chance, then try this on. The key phrase is "serves the interests of major corporations". No, hang on, I'm not going to mention AWB. Think Lawrence ... explosions in the desert ... mining boom ... truckloads of nitropril ... coal trains ... Oz economy .. tanks.

Not enough? Add in Japanese Deregulation: Big Corporations are Destroying People's Lives:

I call these dominant voices—like those of Mitarai, Sakaiya, and Yashiro—authoritative opinion (kenron). It exerts control over society and overshadows the opinions of regular people (minron), which is often at odds with authoritative opinion. Those with authority generally define all the terms and conditions of debate concerning social and political issues. As a result, people are easily tricked about labor issues. People often misunderstand the “age of employment choice” to mean freedom to choose their careers and a diversity of values. Another example of how dominant voices determine and define the discussion is the “labor big bang.” Just as the Bill to Encourage Self-Reliance of Handicapped People is actually a Bill for the Destruction of Handicapped People, the Bill for the Protection of Contract Laborers is nothing more than a Bill for the Destruction of Contract Laborers. The language they use is simply fraudulent. Many intellectuals in Japan have sided with authoritative opinion, and they contribute to the aggressive domination of debates about labor issues.

The subject of the interview would have been 13 or 14 in 1945. Japan has the runs on the board - theories of racial purity, nihilism (Aum Supreme Truth) and national trauma on a grand scale. A fertile seedbed for revolutionary thought and practice?

Does anyone know if there is a link between 'Japan Focus' and Soka Gakkai?

Can anyone out there slip across an mp3 of Angelique Kidjo's version of 'Gimme Shelter'?

Uncle Tom

Craig, your comments about the effects of segregation in America on Qutb are very interesting. He reminds me, almost, of another angry black Muslim, Malcolm X. I have been drawn in to the American civil rights movement by black writers like James Baldwin or Ralph Ellison; I wonder how Qutb would respond to such authors, given his former appreciation for American literature. They are full of a kind of smouldering, highly-sexualised emotion. Baldwin was a homosexual - how would he handle that? He must have read older works like Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, dealing with issues of black slavery. Indeed how must he have felt about Abraham Lincoln?

America of the 40's is very different from the America the came after. There is that same phenomenon where by a lack of contact with a dynamic country might freeze-frame impressions of it. How would Qutb have responded to Martin Luther King Jr.? How would he have responded to the anti-war movement of the 60's? One of your links suggested that he disliked American Negroes and the jazz culture because of its connection with loose sexuality. His experience of discrimination still seems to survive in conjunction with his judgemental nature.

Persian immigrants

Craig, I am reading the work by psychologist Tahereh Ziaian on the integration of Persian women in to Australian society. I think she is a remarkable woman She graduated from Teheran university before coming to Australia. Iran seems to do well in education - one day I would like to visit Teheran university.

It is extremely nuanced and valuable work and I cannot do justice to it here, but some of the insights I think are relevant to the issues raised by Qutb. I think it is worth studying the reactions of people of similar backgrounds who don't become terrorists, as much as it is to study the terrorists themselves. I know Iran is very different to Egypt in a number of ways, but broadly speaking they are both Muslim countries, and Iran is a country that has captured my attention and imagination, as you know.

One of the major points she makes is that what Iranian women value most about coming here is freedom to live their lives and practice their religion. This has given me pause for thought. There is an over-representation of the intelligentsia and minority religions here, such as Christians, Zoroastrians and Bahais after the Islamist Revolution of '79, but the majority are still Muslims. Religious minorities have been ruthlessly persecuted in Iran, and, clearly what draws many here is "freedom". We should take their presence as a compliment.

There was nevertheless a concern about the potential "abuse" of those freedoms, especially in regards to sexual freedom. They consider the attitudes to sexuality by Westerners as "immoral", and, especially in older Persian women there were instances where they felt they could not tolerate Australian society. They lived here, nevertheless, because of their children, to give them the best education and to be near them.

One of the insights that Ziaian had was that since immigrants have a low-level of contact with the Mother country, that their attitudes tend to freeze-frame, whilst their country continues to develop. Iran continues to improve on female participation in the workforce, as one example. She found also that parents can become more protective of their children here because they don't trust the society in which they live, meaning that children grow up with less freedom than they would in Iran, where their movements are not so heavily scrutinised.

I have had friends in the Bahai community who described themselves as Persian, and, I found that the kinds of trends noted by Ziaian seemed to be fulfilled in them just as much as in any Muslim people. I think the issues are cultural more than specifically religious. There is a value on family and children, education, social status and male dominance within a family. Isolation from extended family means that parents tend to focus a lot more of their attention on their children, compared to in Iran.

The experience of Muslims in Australia and other Western countries, may, I think, put them in opposition to their society and under heavy pressure from their parents, who in many ways depend on them. My experience as a Christian illustrated to me a similar phenomenon, where they seemed to be at odds with society, sometimes in an angry way. Christianity is tempered by the emphasis placed on forgiveness and not judging people, so the anger - or perhaps "angst" is a better word - is more hidden than I would expect in Islam, who is more upfront about criticising outsiders.

Ziaian also talks of loneliness - it is quite heart-breaking, at times - in the experience of Persian women. They feel disconnected from Australia, and yet, upon returning to Iran they realise they are different from when they left. To me this is a process of self-development and not necessarily a negative thing, but it must nevertheless be difficult. Some asked themselves: can I do the things other Australian girls do? She describes Iranian women as preferring to work within the confines of their society, which seemed to gel with my research on Iranian feminist photography. There was a level of restraint involved in their work and philosophy, which I think is a positive aspect of Iranian culture, but which can also be extremely limiting.

Yet to a large extent these people cope. They don't hate our country but rather value it so much as to transplant themselves here, despite all the hardship. Tahereh Ziaian is one women who is an example of a success story. If you contrast her to Qutb the difference is very clear, and, the pettiness of his philosophy becomes more stark.

Tolerance, to me, is a complex idea. I think it is far easier to tolerate other cultures than to challenge the foundations of those culture. One of the problems to me seems to me that Australia does such a good job of tolerating other cultures that essentially we ignore them. At least dislike is something, it recognises that they are there, that we've noticed them, that in a way we care.

There is a very strong and very real part of me that wants to undermine the assumptions of Islamic culture, to bring people out of their "cage" as Ayaan Hirsi Ali put it, and to live in concert with themselves rather than what their parents and their society asks them to do. They would view this, no doubt, as "corrupting". I suppose that is their prerogative, yet, there is a sense in which they seem to value freedom but only within narrow limits. What I would ask of such people is that they open their hearts and their minds a little and be more generous in their attitude to their adopted country.

What I would hope for is a relationship, a dialogue, a beginning of an interaction between "us" and "them".


Craig, I read your comments with interest but I assure that no-one has tried to frustrate my dreams. Rather, I live in a society that has actively tried to facilitate the realisation of my dreams. Any problems that I have had have been to a very great degree the result of personal limitations and not because of the malevolent actions of a hostile world.

The people who have had their will frustrated by our country are the people we turn away in refugee boats or detain excessively whilst we process their asylum claims. I don't see myself in Qutb, even in his early stages, because though I may have shared his passion for literature and dissatisfaction with society, I moved beyond it, made efforts to understand and accept the world, to be more generous and open-hearted to people I may previously have scorned.

Qutb clearly went on to develop far more radical "dreams" which seem to spawn from a deep dissatisfaction with the world. In fact his work reads like Mein Kampf, with its desire for culture and values and nation building. These are not real solutions, they are just delusions built out of longing. What he needs is to learn a greater acceptance of the world as it is. He is far from basic religious values like forgiveness, mercy and compassion.

Nature Boy: Qutb in the USA NY, DC, CO & CA

Yes, Solomon, Qutb did indeed go on to develop far more radical "dreams".  Like you, I see them being rooted in a deep dissatisfaction with the world. Like you, I see him as an ideologue who inspired others to share his ideological view. Qutb’s work is to some militants in the Middle East what Das Kapital was to communism or Mein Kampf was to the Nazis. In American terms, he is Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Paine, all rolled into one.

Please bear with me, Solomon, there's more to Qutb's story. There's the tipping point to look into.

But before getting into that, I must clarify that I did not wish to imply that Qutb when your age may have been like you other than in the most general sense that at each life-stage all human beings have some common psychological/developmental challenges.

So, let's look at what would have weighed on Qutb's mind when he travelled to the land of "the American Dream".

At the age of 42, Qutb travelled to America in November 1948. He arrived in NYC, went to Washington DC and then onto Greely, CO and Palo Alto, CA. As a result of this journey, his outlook on the West changed. He went from seeing it as tolerable to seeing it as completely objectionable. 

A quick glance at UNSC resolutions and other key documents published in the year leading up to his American 'adventure' gives a sense of some of the world changing events which would have loomed large in Qutb's conciousness before he sailed from Alexandria to America:

1947 - U. S. Position on Palestine Question - Statement by Herschel V. Johnson, U. S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations, October 11
1947 - Partition of Palestine : United Nations Resolution 181; November 29
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 42; March 5
1948 - U. S. Position on the Palestine Problem - Statement by Ambassador Warren R. Austin, U. S. Representative in the Security Council, March 19
1948 - U. S. Proposal for Temporary United Nations Trusteeship for Palestine : Statement by President Truman, March 25
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 43; April 1
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 44; April 1
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 46; April 17
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 48; April 23
1948 - General Assembly Resolution 186 : Appointment and terms of reference of a United Nations Mediator in Palestine; May 14
1948 - Israeli Declaration of Independence; May 14
1948 - Letter From the Agent of the Provisional Government of Israel to the President of the United States, May 15
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 49; May 22
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 50; May 29
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 53; July 7
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 54; July 15
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 56; August 19
1948 - Conclusions From Progress Report of the United Nations Mediator on Palestine, September 16
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 57; September 18
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 59; October 19
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 60; October 29

According to some accounts Qutb set sail from Alexandria Harbor in November 1948 on his first overseas journey, and almost immediately, he got his first blast of culture shock when a “drunken, semi-naked” woman appeared at the door of his cabin late one evening. It is said that Qutb would later proudly relate how he had resisted her advances, but the incident set a tone for the remainder of his voyage (and, indeed, his entire American expedition). He was to see himself as a solitary pilgrim, alone among the infidels.

Qutb would have entered a world totally alienating to him when he disembarked and stepped foot on "The Isle of Tears"  and caught the ferry to NYC. In the background from Qutb's perspective - Truman had just beaten Dewey;; the people enjoyed a postwar boomtime, making both money and babies.

After Qutb's arrival three more UNSC resolutions were passed, the gist of which might have caught Qutb's attention:

1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 61; November 4
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 62, November 16
1948 - United Nations Security Council Resolution 66, December 29

[BTW I wonder whether one more decision by the UN had come to his attention as well. On Friday 10 December, 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.]

We know from letters he sent back to his Egyptian colleagues that initially he was reasonably happy in America. Later the hints of homesickness come through. He starts to describe Americans as materialistic and self-absorbed, concerned with trivial topics-- fashions, cars, and movie stars. Qutb also described Americans as "crass people who were generally disinterested in life’s spiritual and aesthetic dimensions."

But ... he went from NYC to Washington D.C. and there he witnessed a commotion surrounding an elevator accident. He was stunned to hear other onlookers making a joke of the victim’s appearance. From this and a few offhand remarks in other settings, Qutb concluded that Americans suffered from “a drought of sentimental sympathy” and that “Americans intentionally deride what people in the Old World hold sacred.”

Also in Washington D.C., Qutb learned of the death of Muslim Brotherhood’s leader, Hasan al-Bana. It was at this very time that Qutb was stunned by what he found objectionable in those onlookers that he became more aware of the Brotherhood’s opposition to Western influence in the Muslim East. He began to respect the Brotherhood more, which led to his involvement in the Brotherhood when he returned to Egypt.

From D.C., Qutb travelled by train to Greely in Colorado. He recorded his observations of the place in letters to friends and a series of articles for several leading Egyptian magazines. One of Qutb’s earliest reports had this to say about his new surroundings:

”This small city of Greeley, in which I am staying, is so beautiful that one may easily imagine that he is in paradise. Each house appears as a flowering plant and the streets are like garden pathways. As one observes, the owners of these houses spend their leisure time in toil, watering their private yards and trimming their gardens. This is all they appear to do…”

”I stayed there six months and never did I see a person or a family actually enjoying themselves, even on summer nights when breezes waft over the city as if in a dream. The most important thing for these people is the tending of their gardens, much in the same way a merchant spends time organising his store or a factory owner his factory. There is nothing behind this activity in the way of beauty or artistic taste. It is the machinery of organisation and arrangement, devoid of spirituality and aesthetic enjoyment.”

"So, he didn't like potting about in the garden", some will say missing the main point he was making: No-one seemed to be enjoying the gardens they tended together. He described lawn work as a further example of “external, material, and selfish individual dimensions of life,” as opposed to engaging in social and spiritual discussions with their neighbors and members of their community. He wasn't alone in making that kind of observation. Not that many years earlier, Ernest Hemingway had derided the “broad lawns and narrow minds” of his native Oak Park, Illinois.

As indicated in the quotation above, Qutb stayed in Greely for six months. He was no monk, he was receiving a generous stipend from the Egyptian government and it appears he did his best to sample day-to-day life in post-war America. It is known that he did socialise with the locals and other foreigners visiting to the Colorado State College of Education.

A yearbook shows Qutb as a member of the International Club, a group of 45 students that met for to share meals of many flavours ("multicultural potluck") and to swap stories about their home countries.  A Palestinian who was also at the College at the time described Qutb as “a lovely person. He was quiet, but his intelligence was apparent. He had the personality of a politician. Once he met you, he never forgot your name.”

That Palestinian man also recalls:

"We were often invited into people’s homes for meals, especially at Easter and Christmas and other holidays. We were also often invited to their churches, and we did that quite often."

And it was in Greely that Qutb attended a dance that began after an evening service in a local church he'd attended. It was this dance that Mike Lyvers had heard about and fixated on. According to an account written by Qutb, the church’s pastor lowered the lights and put a recording of Baby, It’s Cold Outside on the turntable.  He wrote:

”The dance hall convulsed to the tunes on the gramophone and was full of bounding feet and seductive legs. Arms circles waists, lips met lips, chests met chests, and the atmosphere was full of passion.”

And it's that infamous quote which many can't see see beyond when they look at Qutb's aversion to the America he experienced ... but there is another aspect of his experience in Greely not as often revealed in cursory biographies like that BBC one you've seen.

In Greely, Qutb experienced racism. The story is told that Qutb and another Egyptian student were denied admission to a theater because they appeared to be African-American (as an indicator of community attitudes in Greely at the time not that there were segregated parks and lunch counters still to be found in town).  We know that when Qutb returned to Egypt he wrote an article for the Cairo periodical al-Risala condemning the ‘White Man’ for his racist imperialism.  It was the first time he'd used a term like that.  So the experience of racism must have left some mark on him.  For him, it would have magnified the difference between East and West, between "us" and "them".

Solomon, I'll leave you to ponder all this extra biographical information on Qutb with a contradiction: The lyrics of a 1948 US No.1 hit song - Nature Boy by Nat King Cole.

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
"the greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"


John, I don't think your strategy will work, because it doesn't address the issues relevant to the people you are addressing. High Court appointments matter to me but they don't matter to my barber. I also believe the Coalition has been very thoughtful in its judicial appointments, based on the self-confidence of the Attorney-General, who often picks fights with the judiciary but who is unafraid of a fair fight. They haven't been overly political appointments. The previous Keating government was also thoughtful in who it appointed, giving us Justice Michael Kirby right before being obliterated.

In the past you would end up with a former Attorney-General on the High Court, like Barwick or Murphy.

War & Elections

John, I don't know who, precisely. I got a haircut the other day from a barber in the sleepy, semi-rural town where I now live. I took photographs of him for a photojournalism assignment - pity the prints came out poorly. Something he said to one of his customers reached in to me a little: that he is sick of hearing about Iraq and that he doesn't care if Howard has lied, because which politicians haven't lied? I have heard this statement before but never before considered its depths, how far such a feeling must go. If Howard hasn't done anything wrong, why get rid of him, he asks?

Here I discovered two people who would be disenfranchised by a Howard loss and I have no idea the real reasons, because Australian men have this way of dancing around their feelings and not admitting to them. Two isn't many, but, it is more than anyone else has found. It is an unasked question. Ask it - see where you end up.

His shop is a male retreat owned by a woman. Explain Australia to me, I am at a loss.

Angela, I was wondering at myself for being a little apathetic at the beginning of this semester and then realised that in fact judging from how I felt I was probably clinically depressed. Yet I was still engaged and interested in life. I don't even mind the sadness anymore. Its good that I don't drink - now. If you are not sad you are not paying attention.

I spoke with a young Hijabi the other day, who is studying the same course as I am. She complained about dress requirements for a practically-based legal assessment. She said it made her feel self-conscious, though, I hadn't even noticed she was formally dressed, any more than usual. Her whole life is conducted formally dressed. I realised that she is in fact my friend, and, that I care about her. I lashed out at legal dress standards as a whole, declaring it was no-one's business how I chose to dress. It was another "Solomon" moment, where I betrayed something of myself without realising I was doing it. I don't think I understand myself.

I think I was right when I said a long time ago that Muslim women still suffer from issues of body image. I have noticed now haw frail many of them seem to be. It is an issue I will research, one day, if I can ever find the time. One of my closest friends has anorexia and I don't know how to help her. Whatever friction I might have felt for people of my age in the past is gone, all I feel is this great and terrible sympathy. Sympathy, not empathy.

I tried to profile myself to day based on how an electoral strategy might see me.  My girlfriend is Malaysian and studies design and works for a TV ratings company. We have both been to Europe and we both wish we were rich. I volunteer in an immigration centre. Yet I would just as soon campaign for the Liberal party. Explain me to the pollsters.

Another friend is an anti-abortion campaigner that introduced me to sushi. I am happy for her and hope she is successful even if her views are blood-curdlingly disparate from mine. Explain her to the pollsters. Explain my attitude to her to the pollsters.

I don't care if you are Pauline Hanson, Kevin Rudd was a class above the rest when he started addressing the Chinese in mandarin. He is a bright spark. Yet, I find myself convinced by the Bush administration that we ought keep troops in Iraq. I was against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars but they are history now. Removing them wont stop the violence and at least they can attempt to re-build what they have destroyed. I cannot for the life of me draw a distinction between Iraq and Afghanistan, except perhaps that Iraq was strategically biting off more then the US military could chew, and, see no moral superiority in Labor's position.

Despite all the complicated theories on Bush's hidden motivations my conclusion is that they fought both wars for the most basic reason of all and that is that they wanted to kill people. They found the worst people they could find that they were capable of defeating. I can't see any other reason for fighting a war than the desire to kill.

Bush has a more inclusive approach to immigration than we do. There are things we could learn from him, starting with the North Korea Human Rights Act.

Mike, evidently Qutb hates us for our values. Who would have thought? In Islam you can have four wives, so I don't quite understand their attitudes to sexuality. There is deep compassion for the birth pains of Mary, mother of Jesus, in the Qur'an, and, in heaven you are supplied with cushions, flowing streams and virgins untouched by any man. You are not meant to frequent brothels but if by some chance you do you are supposed to take a bath. I doubt very much that American "moral" behaviour is vastly different from that carried on in Arab countries, I just suspect it is more hidden. I don't think they admit it to themselves.

He doesn't care if Howard has lied.

Solomon: you wrote "He doesn't care if Howard has lied, because which politicians haven't lied?" 

That is a common feeling, I have come across, in a large proportion of the people I speak with. It is a sad comment on the lack of respect a lot of Australians have for the political system. I can remember when Joh was coming to the end of his power in  Queensland,  the  smell of  corruption was in the air. Even when people thought Joh was corrupt,  the  answer was  aren't,  all politicians  corrupt? 

Politicians have brought this on themselves, they are quick to throw mud  and some of the mud sticks. I say to these people, if you don't trust politicians in general, then that is a good reason to change government every election. The longer they stay in power the more power they have. They are in a position to appoint heads of departments and high court judges. The best way to reduce this power is to throw them out after 3 years.

At the moment we have a tired federal government, who have been there for eleven years. It is time to clean out the garbage, let someone else look at the books and hopefully Australia, will be a lot better off for the clean out.

Mike: why vote for Kevin Rudd? As I have said before, unfortunately it is a two horse race. I tried for thirty years to get a third party up by supporting the Democrats. I don't think we are going to succeed this year, so the main goal is to change government. There are many differences between two parties I believe Mr Rudd is competent and will make an excellent Prime Minister. Howard has made too many mistakes, work choices, Iraq, but the big one for me is the lack of spending on aged care and health.


Paul Kelly argues the electorate is no longer listening to John Howard, that he is viewed as stuck in the past, etc, etc. This is particularly flimsy analysis, based on nothing except data collected by others and keeping abreast of the news. This is what I have come to expect from our opinion-makers and it is disheartening. This kind of knowledge should be a starting point and not an end point. There is not a single quote from a single citizen in his piece. Think about that.

I wish the media had more power. As it stands it has no power because it has nothing to say. It knows nothing more than what you or I know.

I think that the public is listening very hard and they don't like what they hear. If they thought the government was doing well it would be reflected in the polls, any arguments to the contrary are absurd. Apathy used to be considered in Howard's favour, that we were "relaxed and comfortable" and suffering change fatigue. It makes little sense for people to want a change for the sake of it, as if all of a sudden they have grown tired of the most boring Prime Minister in the history of the universe. He has been a tired old hack since '96: that has been the mainstay of his appeal.

Kevin Rudd is an effective opposition leader who is engaged with the issues of the moment and capable of carrying through with a debate. I think the public is trying to use the opposition to make the government work harder, just as they made use of Latham. Kelly is right on this point.

The problem is the same one that Keating had in '96 when they toppled him: he had become unresponsive to the opposition. Howard needs to start behaving like he is abreast of current issues and is tackling Rudd on the fine detail. Instead he looks as if all he is doing is trying to "peg" the opposition leader and do away with him. Howard has been a shrewd man that has learned from history but the problems of the moment are not in history, rather, they will require a level of creativity and leadership. He has no-one else's mistakes to learn from. He is a one-trick pony that has done his one-trick.

Costello is the most uncommunicative of all treasurers and would only be worse. He is more aloof than Keating ever was. He is so aloof people don't even notice that he is aloof. The invisible man. He is Howard's biggest liability because Howard relies on him for all the economic detail.

All of this is particularly tragic because there will be a lot of unhappy people out there if this government loses this election. It will be satisfying for the die-hards but it will be a shallow victory if it disenfranchises a large portion of the Australian electorate, who have been ascendant for eleven years. The first question I would ask myself if I were running this campaign is: who will really lose out here, if Howard loses government?

More smiles than frowns when Howard departs

Solomon: you wrote "All of this is particularly tragic because there will be a lot of unhappy people out there if this government loses this election. It will be satisfying for the die-hards but it will be a shallow victory if it disenfranchises a large portion of the Australian electorate, who have been ascendant for eleven years. The first question I would ask myself if I were running this campaign is: who will really lose out here, if Howard loses government?"

I am sure there will be more people made happy, when Howard is thrown out. Remember more than half the voters of Australia didn't want him in the first place. Who would be disenfranchised by a labor victory?

The coalition has had a good trot, now its time for the other team, You know, the Australian thing of a fair go for all.


But John, why Mini-Me?

Although he appears set to win, I can't imagine anyone actually getting the least bit excited about Kevin "Mini-Me" Rudd. 

Team America

I finally got ahold of Team America. It made me recall the sit-com That's my Bush, also made by Matt and Trey. It was unflattering to Bush but its real target seemed to be Brady Bunch, Happy Days and My Three Sons style television. As such it was light comedy and not political satire. Apart from the obvious malice, that is what I see in Team America, an attack on Hollywood film techniques, hypocrisy and vanity, not unlike Scary Movie or Hot Shots. There is actually a lot of subtlety involved in its observations on film, especially in the soundtrack. The reason they blow up the Eiffel tower and the pyramids is not political satire, rather, it is because film conventions necessitate that a) there be scenic locations and b) that something gets blown up. The point appears to be to apply Hollywood logic to world events and reveal how ridiculous it is.

The editorialising is the weakest portion of the film. They underline their points - which are not very profound - so heavily that it becomes off-putting. I get the point but I didn't need this film to enlighten me about any of this. They shouldn't presume that I do. It is also stupid to argue that actors, by definition, don't know anything about geo-politics if you don't have a more sophisticated response yourself. I still don't think Fox has anything to do with it. It bears every trace of Matt and Trey themselves.

I quite enjoyed some of the scenes with Kim Jong Il. He is a fair target, and, the funniest parts of the film were the actual propaganda posters. I also enjoyed his lament about his loneliness, laced with his own vanity.

Other than that it is an exercise in avoiding the issues. I wont watch it again, and, did so only the first time because I feel obliged to educate myself in pop culture. I don't know what Miranda was thinking.

Solomon....think pomme frites and finish with five brave journos

HI Solomon, er, when was Miranda thinking?

As to le tour Eiffel, consider les Frites pommes and le refusal a la UN securitie counsel, a la pissoir-offed Nouveaux Cons. No accident .

Nice of you to check it out.  Kim is fair game to all. Yet, ...he is still the victor in a war not ended, non?  All a lot of nasty games,methinks just to justify a ridiculous amount of money spent on military hardware that everyone hopes will never be used and rusts away. There's a poem in that. Did you notice ,in the build up to Iraq invasion, how very quiet the great Peace activist was? And after his quietness he was given the award for the Best Ever Performer. Ahhhh, times they are a changin'.

 The Dixie Chicks, love 'em. Bruce Springsteen , love 'im, Silver Chair, Kate Blanchette, ..so many spoke out against the war folly. The Dixie chicks have a DVD out now about that and the repercussions and death threats they received.   So many  stood up and said this is wrong. So many stood up and said the evidence is faked, so many were right.

I am really starting to wonder how many other world events that we lived through have been faked and manipulated . I usually only look at history a while ago but the 60s and 70s are starting to interest.

The more one looks at events ,the more one wonders at How Did They Get Away with it all?   Is justice and the rule of law only for the plebs, really, after all?   The glass ceiling....

Ah, Solomon, I am starting to feel the approach of the Black Dog too for the first time as I watch these events unfold and start to realise something John Pilger has been saying but I did not accept.

One of the things that most amaze me is the fawning treatment of Indonesia despite the most distrubing actions by their government upon peoples there,and the clear complicity with some in our government and the US. No-one would be surprised by Kissinger and his connection there but  to continue after all these years to protect the faked and glossy history, even when some of our own want closure begs a reality check. Five brave journos, five of our own as Johnny likes to say,that he has betrayed.

And now they are buying yet more military hardware, Tanks, Subs, more attack Helicopters from Putin, and talking of nuclear technology wondering about earthquakes in Java.. Billions spent.  And naval bases for China.  Has no-one had the penny drop yet? 

Our population is concentrated on the SE,our increasingly coveted wealth at the NW. This needs to be addressed. Secondly , Indonesia has person to person Bird flu variety, with a mortality of 6/7. This is a very dangerous variant so I do hope  there is a plan should it be released here,that is better than the horse flu response. I wonder if they have a bio progarm. Why not?  Who would have thought the US and UK would dig up dead people from the 1918 flu just to get a sample?  There is a parallel universe of people doing very bad things in the name of power and security. I wonder how safe our species is some times.

That's it, black dog to the kennel, one should not dwell on such things.


ps time for a bit of happy video-Rat Race and then Ben Elton. Actually I am missing mon mari who is away , naturally at this time. And I just have this bad feeling about the next few days. Is it catching?

Where angels fear to tread

Angela, I appreciate your points. I suppose my concern was that you are entering particularly sensitive area. Your willingness to go there at all is what makes it valuable, but I was not sure your expression of it was quite on the mark. A little too brisk, almost dismissive. Almost. And in the face of 6 million dead, one shouldn't even be almost anything. I think it is my protective streak. Perhaps I could be a public relations operative after all. Do they call themselves "operatives"? They should.

I do care deeply about what you have to say, else I would not be so concerned about how it is expressed. Yet you have nevertheless set off chains of thought which I think are important.

I've been reading about the '96 election all day, in Pamela Williams The Victory (Margo Kingston's favourite political book). I think some of it has rubbed off. There are lessons in it.

According to Geoff I am supposed to treat Suvero's critiques of Israel as "sinister". According to Suvero his material is supposed to be transgressive against some social norm, to upset the "thought police". The whole, self-destructive episode involving Margo Kingston and the Zionist question has been fascinating. I have yet to gather my thoughts on the whole situation as yet, mainly because Jewish history and Judaism has never particularly fascinated me in the way other religions have, especially Islam. I don't know enough to venture in to such a vexed area.


Craig, again, when I look at the biography of Qutb, it seems that the roots of his militancy existed prior to his torture. It seems that living in America and exposure to particularly mild species of liberalism altered his opinions. This seems to me grossly immature, and, inexplicable if he was truly a student of American literature and pop culture. He should at least have had some idea of what to expect, and, even if he did not his horror at American society is a gross over-reaction. Culture clash is something natural and something that I have argued we should be sensitive to, in the past, but we can surely demand a little bit more understanding than what we get from Qutb. So Americans are not as they are in a Henry James novel. Who cares?

The negative reaction to sexuality (as well as greed, self-interest, lack of spiritual interest and jazz music) is what catches my attention. I think whatever it was, it was already in him, though torture may have made him more emphatically himself. It seems in a strange way that the rebellion is not against his torturers but rather against any of his own, remaining inhibitions. I wonder if perhaps it makes people want to assert themselves on the world, having suffered an "humiliation".

I cringe at the results that torture must have on already deeply egocentric people.

Also it was because of his militancy and attempts at assassination that he ended in prison and created the potential for abuse by authorities, just as I suggested might occur before. Torture is wrong, regardless of how bad the victim is, but he nevertheless seemed to go looking for trouble. I think it has to lie deeper than as the destructive reaction to trauma. I am tempted to see in it a question of character: some win their struggle against themselves, some submit to it.

Oh and Geoff, fascism is not a diagnosis. It is a symptom. So is hate. We know all these things exist in them from their actions and expressions. You are not even close to a diagnosis.

Qutb before the radicalisation brought on by torture

Solomon, I'd like to share a brief biographical summary of Qutb's life before he was radicalised (also see my other comment published today in which I've gone deeper into the ideological influences on Qutb's thinking prior to his torture in the 1950s).

Sayyid Qutb Ibrahim Husayn Shadhill was born into a landowning family in a small village near the Egyptian province of Asyut in 1906.

As you can tell by the date, he was born at the end of a new beginning in Egypt.  Between 1882 and 1906 a nationalist movement for independence was taking shape in the society he was born into. It as a time where Egypt began to rebel against British control and the Western ideologies that had became prevalent in Egypt. 

The year of Qutb's birth, 1906, was the year in which the Denshawai Incident took place.

With all this going on in the background, in the foreground we find Qutb's family was religious while maintaining a balance with modern civilisation. His father was a member of nationalistic organisation that promoted Egyptian nationalism and opposed British control.

In 1912, when Qutb was six years old, his parents sent him to a modern primary school rather than a traditional Islamic school. The conflict between tradition and modernity was a major issue plaguing Egypt during Qutb’s adolescence. His parents opted for modern education while receiving traditional lessons, where Qutb was able to memorise the Qur’an by the age of 10. 

So far so good it would seem.  What more could be done than to try to find balance in the tension between tradition and modernity?

In 1919, at the age of 13, Qutb was sent to live with his uncle in Cairo to continue his secondary education.  There he attended Dar al-‘Ulum, a school that was between the traditional teachings of Al-Azhar and the teachings of a modern university. Here Qutb found his passion for literature under the influence of Abbas Mahmud al-Aqqad.

After his secondary schooling, Qutb began a career as a teacher, and more importantly began writing and trying to establish himself as a poet, writer, and literary critic. Not including his books on Qur’anic interpretation, Qutb is attributed with writing twenty-four books and many articles published in magazines.

In the 1930s (when a little older than you are now, Solomon), Qutb published a considerable work of criticism entitled, Muimmat al-Sha’ir was-Shi’r al-Jil al-Hadir (The Task of the Poet and the Poetry of the Present Generation). He later published his own book of poetry titled Al-Shati’ al-Majhul (The Unknown Shore).

Despite the volume of his writing, it's apparent that he didn't have much success as a writer at that stage. So, perhaps personal frustration was a factor for him when it came to the "choices" he made as a young man.  Know the feeling of having your dreams  frustrated as a young man?

[Just a quick aside whilst on the topic of "frustration", Solomon, you may not realise that he wrote the greater portion of his political writings while he was in prison.

And that is probably why his writings became the ideological cornerstone of many revivalist movements emerging in the Arab and Muslim world after the 1960s, after he was executed. The fact that he was executed means that he was made a martyr in the eyes of many.

Now think about what would happen if the IDF or Mossad or the CIA or some other tool of the States with who "we" joined in our "War on Terrorism" were to hunt down, capture, cage, torture and execute say Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah or the man many see as the contemporary Qutb (a Lebanese Shiite, Mohammad Husayn Fadlallah).  Do "we" win, or are "we" sowing the seeds of greater loses?]

After graduating from Dar-al-Ulum, Qutb joined the Ministry of Education and worked as a teacher for six years. He worked periodically with the Ministry until 1950.

At some time in the 1940s, (when about my age) he also became a part of the Wafd party. Its main goals was Egyptian independence. It was a party of nationalism and believed in paramilitary government.

Until the late 1940s, Qutb remained a “Muslim secularist” and nationalist. A “Muslim secularist,” as defined by William Shepard, is a Muslim who values Islamic heritage and views it as agreeable to the idea of an Islamic state, but does not necessarily find it as the main focus of that state.

During the end of World War II, Egypt’s old regime fell and Egypt suffered from economic and social inequality, political corruption, and the continuing influence of Western ideologies on Egyptian society.

During this time, Qutb’s attention turned to the issues of social justice. He wrote articles criticising Western and Egyptian rulers, and by 1948 wrote Social Justice in Islam. Some see this as Qutb’s first book written as an “Islamist", a noticeable transformation from his days as a secularist.

As you'd know, Solomon, an “Islamist” is one who views Islam as the total way of life and desires to have Islamic law implemented in every aspect of life (and no, Mike Lyvers, Geoff Pahoff , not all Muslims are adherents of Islamism).

So we need to concentrate on what happened in the 1940s to find the tipping point for Qutb.  It is the period in which he went to the United States, but the things at the root of his radicalisation may not be the things you and Mike think. Let's look at that period more closely. I'll pick it up in another comment. Later.


Angela, it was Hitler himself that said: who remembers the Armenians? I am not sure it is a particularly meaningful process to compare coverage of different atrocities, as if discussing one were an indulgence. It is to their credit that people create memorial material to remember the Jewish holocaust.

Emphasising other repressed histories can be done without de-valuing dominant paradigms.

Bias in history or just the animation hmm

 Historians do not deal in dominant paradigms. Events are events,data from that event enable interpretation and there are often different perspectives put upon each event. For example ,the Iraq invasion will be written in many different ways wit many different interpretation of the data and pre-invasion events. Which will dominate when it comes to the history text book? We already know which 911 version dominates when it comes to movies. And gaming DVD alredy had Iraq with WMDs.  Conrad wrote of this before the war.(known as John Le Carre).

I think you may have missed my exact point  about the bountiful coverage of the Jewish Holocaust and the silent and denying nature of the same about other similar events to other people. How many movies has Hollywood made about any other Holocausts? I can only think of the Killing Fields and a poor Hotel Rwanda touch.Just two I can think of. How many has Hollywood made about the NAZIS and the Jewish suffering? Well done to make them and now how about the others too?

I remember an interview with a Polish lady who was interpreting for a new Holocaust museum in ?New York with an audio section. She got really enthusiastic and found many Polish survivors but was then told to delete all the non-Jewish testimonies..Surely all should have been there together! Poland lost half it's population in a planned killing . The Slavs were hated as were the Jews .Below human.  I think this is sad to ignore or silence others' stories...and very wrong.

It makes people forget how common such events are in history and how very very careful we must be to prevent them. Look at Sudan right now! Another African tragedy while foreigners arm the different groups hoping for oil control. Same old story,seeking gain at others pain. Dehumanising the sufferers. Move on says the media,back to the shopping channel,back to the need to nuke Iran which itself would be a holocaust of the Iranian people!...but that 's OK 'cos they just might be a threat one day if we can't control them...forget about Saudis trying right now for nukes and Jordan . They just want power stations,just trust us Wahbist jihadist terror trainers. Aha!  As always it depends upon who is the messenger.

I like what you say in your response Solomon,some real gems of wisdom there. And when does our military response to terrorism become worse than what was done? When is what is done, deliberately,in our name against civilians not terrorism? How is to use napalm category weapons, cluster bombs (after cease fire called), targeting power plants and waterworks and dams and hospitals not terrorism? Using schools as bases? Children as shields? Killing children deliberately? Revenge killings like Haditha, dressing as terrorists with bombs as in Basra, killing people and all around just to assassinate someone as in Israel? How are all these not targeting civilians unlawfully and violently inspiring great fear and hence terrorism?

This has all been discussed and some cannot move in their ideas for special reasons. I had my epiphany . and moved.

So finally Solomon, as you seem to be misunderstanding, I do not denigrate the suffering of those who went through the horror of the Jewish Holocaust,nor those who wish to make memorials but do criticise those who use such people and their stories for other aims as Finkelstein writes of,and of those who silence and fail to also publish for the world the many other events that we should have prevented....and like the NAZIS could well and easily have prevented had some had the will and integrity. 

It all depends upon who is doing the telling and what their affiliations/loyalty/passion  and belief systems are like. Just as the Pamphleteer speaks.

Paradigm(pattern ,example, (demonstratos) are for poetry,novels, social science .History purists can examine such and their influence. History is what I speak of,the good the bad and the very very ugly that should have been repaired at birth(can't say not born).What they did,why they did it and who paid for it and who benefited. Bit like a continuous crime scene.  Alas sometimes history does seem like that. We so easily forget the good times in between.I hope we haven't used up all of ours.

Geoff is right about the rise of fascism but from his vantage point he misses so much I think.Just as the writers of the times,in the thirties,missed so much as they liked what was happening to their enemies and cheered on. Too late, it happened to them.

On a personal level, I always think,"would I want that to happen to me and mine?" It helps me understand the fear some feel and the ruthless approach they then adopt,but what if such was being exaggerated and manipulated? 




Geoff, I have to note also that you seem to bring a certain heroic strand to your violent retributive instincts. I think you genuinely believe in liberty as a central, ethical goal. It is impressive. The most I see others dig up tends to be spite. You have spite too but it doesn't define you. I'd vote for you, though I couldn't be certain you'd kill less people than the next guy.


Geoff, as for Hitler, I think that perhaps, had humanity made different choices then the Holocaust or the second world war might not have happened, that at some point it could have been prevented. If you don't recognise the possibility of choice in human interaction then I would ask you by what means does our destiny come about: dialectics? Fate? Birth? Luck?

Morals, history

Angela, the two works I referred to in relation to the second world war were non-fiction. Elie Wiesel won the Nobel prize and Hersey was an acclaimed journalist. Pan's Labyrinth I appreciate as a film but was not looking to it as a source of historical fact. I was attracted to it because of a pre-existing insight in to the way germanic-style folk myths seemed to be prevalent in Nazism and Neo-Nazism, and, wanted to see how the film would explore the mix of fantasy and history. As it happens I learned nothing of history from the film but that is largely irrelevant to my purposes. It is really quite a beautiful film.

Geoff, some situations will require military action, either defensively or to prevent imminent harm to others. Nazism was one of those. I am not moralising. I think you want to kill terrorists and that is your prerogative. I think you have an especial distaste for them because they are anti-semitic. The point that is clear to me here is that you want to, and, you don't care whether there are alternatives. Be that. Own it. Just don't tell me that is all there is. Nobody is born a terrorist, they make a choice to become one.

Killing fascists

Geoff, that was a particularly nihilistic outburst. I also see something prototypically fascist in the rhetoric of the "struggle against evil" and of the inability of the Iranian regime or Al Qaeda to reform. The difficult process from soviet communism to democracy has been an inspiration, as have the efforts in the Northern Ireland peace process at de-militarisation. There are other ways to deal with problems besides killing people.

Recall the way in which Hitler defined Jews as incapable of change.

"The great masses can be rescued, but a lot of time and a large share of human patience must be devoted to such work. But a Jew can never be rescued from his fixed notions." - Mein Kampf

Defining people as evil and incapable of change forces you in to the position of solving this militarily, which is of course what you want: to kill fascists. I don't know why the word pleases you so much. The actions of these people is horrifying enough of itself without drawing an analogy to the princes of horror.

Some individuals cannot be redeemed but I think they all have it within them to change, if only in relatively minor ways. I will leave other considerations to God.

I also don't believe that terrorists are bred from birth, rather, the examples we have seem to imply a conversion, often from a comfortable middle-class existense. I wont grant them the excuse of upbringing or dysfunction within their society: plenty of people grow up with such problems and don't become terrorists. It is theirs, it comes from within them. I also refuse to write anyone off, especially when you consider how fragile the intellectual state of their ideologies are, if they allow for the killing of innocent for no rational reason. They may be emotionally compelling to the individual but they are easily defeated if held up to scrutiny. If a person is incapable of being brought to this realisation then something in their thought processes is disturbed, which is another excuse that I refuse to acknowledge as prevalent in causing terrorism.

I think they kill because they want to kill, and, it is this desire that needs to be challenged in them. It is not enough for them to say the world is unjust. Of course it is unjust, but that is no reason for you to be unjust too. I don't know, maybe they live in a world where nobody has ever told them that.

Making Nice People Out Of Fascists

"There are other ways to deal with problems besides killing people."

Spare me the youthful moralising Solomon. Kinda cute but a bit tiresome. How would you have dealt with Hitler? Make him a cup a tea, ask him to sign a scrap of paper and give him Czechoslovakia? I demur. I much favour the Von Stauffenberg approach.  There are some "problems" that can't be solved without killing people. I think you know that. 

Not that long ago I thought I would never use the word "fascist" in a serious way again. It was a word reserved for cigarette machines that refused to cough up and bartenders who closed the bar early.

Now we are threatened by a new and particularly virulent form of the disease. If it is not fought it will win. The first step is an accurate diagnosis. Fascism. As ugly and anti-human a strain as any of its precedents.   


Craig, Al-Zawahiri's biography seems to suggest that his militancy existed prior to his going to prison and suffering any torture. According to this BBC profile he joined a fundamentalist group at 15. Clearly his involvement in the assassination of Sadat cannot be attributed to prior torture, and, seems to have been motivated by moves towards peace with Israel. Hatred of Jewish nationalism seems to win out over solidarity with other Muslims, if you recall that Sadat was a Muslim. It makes me think that perhaps the reason torture might be high amongst terrorists because it is a natural consequence of militancy, rather than a specific cause of terrorist sentiment. It is likely that politically active people are the ones who will end up in custody, where they may suffer abuse from authorities. This guardian article supports the notion that torture hardened Zawahiri's views but it also points out that in the case of Abu Sa'eda the experience led him to human rights activism. People make different choices - again, why?

Still there is the mystery of why his hatred is directed at the US and Israel, rather than his specific Egyptian torturers. It looks to be about politics, to try and dig up recruits for the anti-Israel cause. I am doubtful that this man will ever take it upon himself to become a suicide bomber himself, he seems like a politician. He says that "the whole world is an open field for us." This is utterly incoherent and disconnected from any specific motivation or cause. Anyone, anywhere, with a grievance against anyone, can fit under his banner.

Zawahiri declares:

"As they attack us everywhere, we will attack them everywhere. They gang up to wage war on us; our (Islamic) nation will fight them and wage war on them,"

Who the hell is "them"? Clearly it includes anyone who is not one of "us". This is the point I was making earlier, that victims are chosen based upon convenience rather than directed at specific targets.


Yes, Solomon, I do agree with you that a point made in that the article by Owen Bowcott  in The Guardian supports the notion that torture hardened Zawahiri's views. 

Consider the implications if the point made by Montasser al-Zayat (and relayed by Bowcott) is indeed true:

... traumatic experiences during three years in prison transformed Dr Zawahiri from a relative moderate in the Islamist underground into a violent extremist.

Combine that with what I wrote in comments on Bingo! (sadly hidden by Fairfaix nowdays) about Anwar el-Sadat's own personal journey as set out in his autobiography In Search of Identity

People turn the pain of their trauma into different kinds of energy. I think we've got to get to a better understanding of why that is, how it works, and what can be done about it. 

Others think you just kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out.


Solomon and Craig -

Solomon and Craig, admittedly most of what I know about Qutb comes from documentaries screened on SBS, such as the excellent "Power of Nightmares" series. In those Qutb was said to have become radicalized after living in the U.S. and being disgusted by the freedoms that women had there, the open displays of sexuality, and especially the dancing. This was well before any experience of torture - unless you consider being exposed to "lascivious dancing" a kind of torture (which it very well may be to a male brought up as a strict Muslim).

Zawahiri as a teen

Also Solomon, just a quick point about Zawahiri joining al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin at age 14 or 15. It is said that he was influenced at that time by his uncle Mahfouz Azzam, who had been a student of Sayyid Qutb.

In fact, Qutb published Mahfouz Azzam and Mahfouz Azzam was Qutb's lawyer.  There is little doubt that as a teenager Ayman al-Zawahiri would have heard the gory details of Qutb's torture. 


Mike Lyvers admittedly knows very little about Qutb, so I offer this to help inform him, Solomon and other interested readers on some of the influences behind Qutb's thought.

The evolution of Qutb's thought falls into two distinct periods: before 1954, and from 1954 on during which he suffered imprisonment and torture in Nasser's jails.

In 1949 he wrote Social Justice in Islam in which he stated:

So all creation issuing as it does from one absolute, universal, and active Will, forms an all-embracing unity in which each individual part is in harmonious order with the remainder...Thus, then, all creation is a unity comprising different parts; it has a common origin, a common providence and purpose, because it was produced by a single, absolute, and comprehensive Will...So the universe cannot be hostile to life, or to man; nor can 'Nature' in our modern phrase be held to be antagonistic to man, opposed to him, or striving against him. Rather she is a friend whose purposes are one with those of life and of mankind. And the task of living beings is not to contend with Nature, for they have grown up in her bosom, and she and they together form a part of the single universe which proceeds from the single will.

After his imprisonment and torture over a period of 10 years and the hardening effect that had on his views he published Ma'alim fi'l Tariq (literally "Signposts" but known as Milestones in the West), a work that has inspired some of the most extreme expressions of Islamic revivalism. In that document, published in 1964, he stated:

Mankind today is on the brink of a precipice, not because of the danger of complete annihilation which is hanging over its head - this being just a symptom and not the real disease - but because humanity is devoid of those vital values which are necessary not only for its healthy development but also for its real progress. Even the Western world realizes that Western civilization is unable to present any healthy values for the guidance of mankind. It knows that it does not possess anything which will satisfy its own conscience and justify its existence...

It is essential for mankind to have a new leadership...

It is necessary for the new leadership to preserve and develop the material fruits of the creative genius of Europe, and also to provide mankind with such high ideals and values as have so far remained undiscovered by mankind, and which will also acquaint humanity with a way of life which is harmonious with human nature, which positive and constructive, and which is practicable.

Rightly or wrongly, Qutb saw Islam as the only system which possesses the values and way of life which is harmonious with human nature. He went on to say:

If we look at the sources and foundations of modern ways of living, it becomes clear that the whole world is steeped in Jahiliyya (pagan ignorance of divine guidance), and all the marvelous material comforts and high-level inventions do not diminish this Ignorance. This Jahiliyya is based on rebellion against God's sovereignty on earth: It transfers to man one of the greatest attributes of God, namely sovereignty, and makes some men lords over others. It is now not in that simple and primitive form of the ancient Jahiliyya, but takes the form of claiming that the right to create values, to legislate rules of collective behavior, and to choose any way of life rests with men, without regard to what God has prescribed. The result of this rebellion against the authority of God is the oppression of His creatures...

The Islamic civilization can take various forms in its material and organizational structure, but the principles and values on which it is based are eternal and unchangeable. These are: the worship of God alone, the foundation of human relationships on the belief in the Unity of God, the supremacy of the humanity of man over material things, the development of human values and the control of animalistic desires, respect for the family, the assumption of the vice-regency of God on earth according to His guidance and instruction, and in all affairs of this vice-regency, the rule of God's law [al-Shari'a] and the way of life prescribed by Him...

Now I don't have the same view as Qutb ... raised a Catholic, I'm now agnostic and take a secular humanistic view on social and political issues... but I've presented this window into Qutb's views here because I think we need to understand it if we are to be truly effective in dealing with those groups of people that chose to use terrorism as a tactic in their reactionary fight. A fight they perceive as being about diminishing the influence of a "rebellion against God's sovereignty on earth".

To fight that fight, Qutb urged the creation of a tali' ah of believers, a "vanguard", who would lead the way against jahiliyya.  His thinking in this regard was heavily influenced by Sayyid Abu'l-A'la Mawdudi, the founder of Jama'at al-Islami.

Mawdudi's thinking was in turn heavily influenced by the founder of Egypt's al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (the Muslim Brotherhood), Hasan al-Banna.

Hassan al-Banna established the al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen in 1928. He was 24 years old and as a teen had hated the British Protectorate over Egypt.  At 24 he was still reacting to British meddling in Egypt. He was reacting to European domination of his homeland.  He was reacting to the humiliation of his people.

Four years earlier,  Ataturk had abolished the Islamic caliphate bringing to an end the dynasty of Osman which had come to power in 1299. That's was a radical break from the past. Some couldn't adjust. It caused culture shock and perhaps a sense of hopelessness unless something radical was done.

Hassan al-Banna was deeply influenced by the ideas of Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani (1838-1897) who had reacted against Western colonialism in the Muslim world and urged Muslims to reform themselves as the first step in meeting this challenge from an alien, more powerful culture. In 1880, Afghani had written:

"They [the materialists, influenced by the West] are the destroyers of civilization and the corrupters of morals...they are the annihilators of peoples...Their kindness is a ruse, their truthfulness a deceit, their claim to humanity imaginary, and their call to science and knowledge a snare and a forgery. They make trustworthiness into treachery; will not keep a secret; and will sell their closest friend for a copper coin. They are slaves to the belly and bound by lust..."

In each and every case, these men take up the cause of Islamic revivalism as a solution to the problems they see. They appear to turn to religion as the means of salvation from a perceived 'sickness' of modern society.  Some inspire others or engage themselves in violent means to revive the influence of the religion they see as necessary to "real progress." 

I think we've got to better understand that, and how to deal with people that think like that.  We are not going to be successful if we think the way to deal with them is find them, torture them, or kill them. We'll just trigger more radicalisation doing that.

Calling A Fascist A Fascist.

The Iranian regime is a fascist tyranny. There was some hope it could reform itself at one stage and perhaps an opportunity might emerge again to free the Iranian people or for them to free themselves. Al Quada, and its offshoots, is a fascist organisation. It will never reform. It must be defeated militarily and eradicated.

It is dangerous nonsense to suggest that "torture" or "mistreatment" of individuals or nations has made these ugly butchers, and other Islamofascists, "terrorists".  The ideology was in place in these thoroughly dysfunctional societies long ago and it seeks to breed terrorists and haters of human life from the womb.

Of course it is important to know  who our enemies are and to know who they are not. Of course it is vital to avoid turning potential friends into foes and to name our foes correctly.

That is why we should call them what they are. Fascists. More specifically Islamofascists. To do otherwise is to risk endangering the struggle against this evil and even risk betraying the vast majority of Muslims whose religion and culture the fascists defile.

Switching demographics

Angela, truth is I don't read Dolly and so I don't know what it recommends. Not my demographic. I should read it anyway, at least to get a feel for the market. It is always better to investigate than to make assumptions about such material. I learn from Wiki that Moris Gleitzman first published in Dolly at 17. That was a smart move. It would never have occurred to me at that age to want to publish in a chick magazine.

From memory the most read magazine in Australia is Women's Weekly. Princess Diana is still on the cover of their online version, today. Yet they are also dealing with issues of substance, as with a book recommendation and subsequent "Book club" questions.

  • Is fairytale romance necessary to falling in love and getting married or is it a shallow delusion that can only lead to disappointment?


  • Every woman firmly believes that she'd leave an abusive husband — does reading Mattie's story make you less certain?


  • Why did Mattie keep the abuse hidden?


  • Do you stay in a bad marriage hoping it will improve or should you end it as soon as possible?


  • Is there still a sense of failure associated with a marriage ending or, in these times with a high divorce rate, is it more socially acceptable?

Interesting how a lot of non-interactive media actually tries its best to be interactive. Do people really form book clubs based around what they read in magazines? Do they do so without admitting it? I like how it seeks to create talking points. The agenda is approached subtly and not dogmatically. I suppose the weakness is what it leaves out, ignoring the more traditionally "masculine" areas of geo-politics. Hurrah to Webdiary for being interested in issues not only of particular interest to the "female" experience.

I don't think Women's Weekly quite knows the reason why women keep abuse hidden. Surely this is a kind of self-censorship. I wonder at instances of abuse that I have been told about but have been kept hidden by the victims: some of the reasons border on Stockholm syndrome. Maybe there is some worth in media attempting to coax people out of the confines of their existense.

I heard an ad for home loans on the radio yesterday. It had a distorted voice and its punchline was: "You'd be nuts not to call squirrel home loans." With all the talk about increased sophistication in advertising, it occurred to me based on this that we are still living in the stone-age in regards to the effective use of communication technology. I bet you a million dollars that no focus groups were done for the construction of this ad revealing that people are motivated to take out home loans because of talking squirrels and puns. What is wrong with these people?

I often notice that the methodology of government advertising campaigns involves determining what precisely they want you to think, then drawing a picture of a person with a thought bubble with that message in it. Most of their advertising involves variations on this theme, except on particular "sin" issues, where by they become suddenly deeply manipulative. In both techniques there seems to be a buried contempt for the independence and aptitude of the audience. It is like aiming your work at puppets and caricatures.

religious head of state with religiious laws about PM.....UK


And here ,right on cue is Mr Fisk:


all about the Armenian Holocaust, still denied by Turkey, USA and Foxman from the ADL.It took the principled resignation of various more principled  members to make that arch hypocrite wake up to himself.

Yet here also the pampleteer comes in.

Why have we heard so so so much about the Jewish Holocaust of WW2 and nothing of what Churchill called the First Holocaust of the 20th. No movies,no novels, ...silence.   Why were the Soviets allowed to silence this and the West to play along?  Perhaps there was benefit in one and fear in publicising the other. Perhaps it helped pacify the German population to pile the whole guilt upon all,while Turkey was a valuable NATO ally and the Kurds as well. Perhaps there were some involved in the Armenian cleansing that are not meant to be heard about., just as I suspect there are in the Jewish Holocaust.  Perhaps deals were made.

Thus the pamphleteer must ask-"where do you stand about this event?,"to those who discuss it,to  assess the veracity of what they say or write. Do not expect a Kurd or a Turkman to feel confortable about this part of their history,just as we cannot here about much of the Aboriginial history, nor British about the subduing of the Boer,nor White SA about Apartheid, nor Russians about Ukraine..etc.. One's own bias is so difficult to overcome discussing events where one's "peoples" whom one identifies with  have done terrible things.

And fascism? How the pot calls the kettle black,all through history. I cannot think of a regime with a holocaust guilt where there was not a fascist style regime. Be careful of the definition lest it be thee.Be careful  lest one imitates one's enemies ' worst crimes.  Sadly here the Americans have failed.

I wonder if Iran is so bad compared to other regimes. I think I would rather live in Iran than Saudi or Israel as a non-Jew, .or  Egypt as anyone.

And after all ,Queen Bess is a nonelected religious leader with certain powers of veto in the old land.  Maybe Iran needs a Magna Carta, as do we.

Bring on the Barons of Freedom. Down with prince Johhny.  :)

Oh this election just might be so cathartic. Bring it on.

And then some accountability ,here ,to start with .....then ,who knows? The world? 


Passion for the suffering of the enemy.

Hey Solomon, I haven't read Dolly either ...at least not since I stopped being madly i love with which ever teenybob music idol was in it at the time.  And Women's weekly, one's Monthly, I get for Mum when ever the Royals are in so she can cheer on the rels.

"Dolly"  that I was refering to was the chap that you had earlier quoted.

 And as for your current interpreting world history through fictional novels? Well, there is a benefit as far as understanding the published culture and norms at the time if one compares to other genre of the day,but other than that novels are too  fraught with historical inaccuracies to be taken as a work worthwhile in that discipline.  Again ,it is useful seeing who pays for the Novel. It can be a very useful piece of propaganda, a passionate novel.

If one wants to understand history better then a respected historian or even journalist who lived through it is a worthwhile first stop.Such as Churchill, AJP Taylor, and my favourite is Prof Martin Gilbert and his Tomes describing year by year for casual reading It is always necessary to cross reference any such thing one wants to use for more serious analysis and here one needs to check with other sources ,preferably "across the street" and to dig through archives.  Newly released archives are facinating as I have said before, in the way they change some very important points of history.

Robert Fisk has written a very interesting book about the middle east. Christopher Browning wrote an indepth study of the "final solution" origins.Prmo Levi has written a excellent book, and Finkelstein has shown how the suffering has been used .Try some of his work Solomon. As far as history goes, I am presently keen to wade through Solhenitsen's books A history of Russia, the last 200 yrs.  Bizarre such a celebrated author is not now published in English. Guess one has to be at war with the Soviets to have their dissident literature published.

All in all,Solomon,you ask about the reason behind something and  one must remember that there have been many holocausts all through history,and to ignore the totality of that will ignore the real reasons behind such and prevent "never again". Usually racism-"we are superior"-and dehumanising the victims, combined with sometimes a coveting of land or wealth,fear ,or anger at perceived previous event and blame for personal suffering and wish for collective punishment  and all this by those with a power over the victims.

Frequently it starts with separation,dehumanising, vilifying and then depersonalising the suffering ,justifying it in some way  as the demise progresses. We see this nowadays.Quite ironical really...

And it all goes on again and again because there is no real learning from history other than by those who seek power. The Geneva Conventions have been thrown out, the UN resolutions against such ethnic violence are ignored, targeting of civilians is condoned, deliberate starving entire groups is permitted, destroying safe water and their power generation of such is condoned....on and on , area after area. None really seem to care except a core of passionate loving people who keep trying and battle for the stranger, even ,in the true Christian tradition, to prevent the suffering of the "enemy".

Blessed are the peace makers. May they hurry up and inherit the earth before it is not worth inheriting.. 


Missing pieces

Angela, you always seem to be looking behind things to see who is really in control. I suspect there is a more complex interplay involved than politicians as puppets on strings for corporate power. Surely the communists were just as brutal as the fascists. It is human nature that puzzles me, and, I don't see brutality as arising from one economic system or another. 

There is that old detective novel cliche about following the money to see who is the culprit. Yet when I ask myself, who stood to benefit from the Holocaust, the answer seems to me to be no-one. I don't see any rational self-interest in it, no calculation that makes any sense. I see in it humanity doing great harm to itself, losing its conscience and its soul, for no ascertainable reason. Whatever wealth was gained - if any - was not a worthy trade off. What shall it profit a man..?

Knowing who the culprits are fails to explain the horror of what occurred. When I read Elie Wiesel's Night I decided to read it in conjunction with John Hersey's Hiroshima, to try and see the contrast in what I saw as two examples of inhumanity arising from the second world war. In Hiroshima, whilst heartless and wrong, I can see a tactical calculation made in a war-time situation. Its objective was to stop the war and it achieved that. At least it had an objective. With the Holocaust I don't see any point at all - it seemed to be simply cruelty as an end in itself, perhaps even a pleasure in itself.

The Jews were hated not because of who they were but rather because of imagined characteristics that were assigned to them. In a sense they were trying to kill creatures that did not exist. They may as well have called them fauns. Even if they were as they were imagined to be it would not have justified what happened.

There is something mystical about fascism. I highly recommend the film Pan's Labrynth if you can get ahold of it. It juxtaposes Franco's Spain with a darkly imagined fantasy world of a young girl. The connection made is not logical but it works on an emotional level. Much of fascism seemed to be built on a mythic level: the thousand year reich, the symbols and architecture, the Aryan myths and hero worship.

Craig, if what you say is true then the next logical question to ask is why do some individuals who suffer torture become terrorists whilst others do not. When I imagine the possible effects of torture what I would expect would be that it would create fear in a person and perhaps a desire for revenge against specific torturers, but not necessarily even that. People respond differently to abuse - why? 

In terrorism there seems to be a disassociation between the real or imagined wrong that has been inflicted on the subject and the victim that is chosen. If they selected specific targets in response to specific acts, we would call it an assassination, or, vigilantism. Yet with terrorism the victims are innocent people. You cannot protect yourself from it by your actions, because there is no relationship of cause and effect in it. There may be a cause and then an effect, but the effect has no logical connection to the cause.

Torture is not a sufficient explanation for this disassociation. Surely it will have a profound effect on a person but it wont take away a person's reason.

There is the temptation to blame the actions of the US military and foreign policy and that of other powers for terrorism but I don't think this quite explains it. Nothing the US government did could ever justify the attack on the WTC, because of the mass slaughter of innocents involved. I think there is a missing piece here and it exists in the minds of the terrorists. The rationale for the attack just doesn't gel together. It may make sense in a kind of tactical sense, as a strategy in a war, but I struggle to see this in those terms, mainly because of the element of suicide. If this was over land or wealth or other tangible things I don't think it would contain such heavy doses of self-destructive fanaticism.

There is research that suggests that many people who commit child abuse were abused themselves. This neither explains nor excuses the behaviour. If they were to abuse their own abusers it might not be legal or moral, but it is at least comprehensible as part of the natural human desire for revenge. Instead they abuse other children, who are perfectly innocent, for their own gratification. I see terrorism in a similar light: there is an absence of any coherent sense of justice. The value placed upon innocent human life is less than that of their particular cause or motivation. They may even recognise that their victims do not deserve it, but rather place their own fanaticism above it.

I think it is useful to study Seung-Hui Cho because his was not a religious act but one arising from personal demons. Surely all acts of terrorism come about this way. Something pre-existing in a person must attach itself to radicalism, whether it be a creed of their own making or one that they borrow off of so-and-so. I don't see them as either necessarily as naive or manipulated but rather driven by particularly strong emotions towards suicidal and homicidal ends. Notice how they don't seem to want to engage in torture, rather, the objective is to attack quickly in a surprise fashion, to ensure a fatality. It seems to be the act of killing is the essential point, with victims chosen indiscriminately because of convenience. There is also this strange post-humous celebrity desire, a glorification that they imagine they will recieve but which they will never be able to enjoy.

Comic relief

Angela, as it happens I haven't seen Team America, though I was an early admirer of South Park. It makes it difficult for me to comment on it at all, though I do suspect there is something deeper involved in it than pure entertainment. I think they are conscious of their audience and want to provide an outlet for a particular kind of sentiment. This does not make it a good idea.

Roger Ebert wrote of it:

"I wasn't offended by the movie's content so much as by its nihilism. At a time when the world is in crisis and the country faces an important election, the response of Parker, Stone and company is to sneer at both sides -- indeed, at anyone who takes the current world situation seriously. They may be right that some of us are puppets, but they're wrong that all of us are fools, and dead wrong that it doesn't matter."

I have long felt that a diet of comedies like this can have a detrimental effect on people in that it subverts their ability to take anything at all seriously. I base this on friends that I have had and certain reckless and grossly insensitive behaviour which seemed to arise out of a culture of sarcasm and antipathy towards anyone with feeling or sincerity. There is that period of adolescence wear you lose your judgement and ability to assess risks, and, comedy, I believe, can act as a parasite on this phenomenon. Sometimes this kind of simplicity can be a kind of relief from the responsibility to see people in any depth.

To their credit, I think Matt Stone and Trey Parker have not finished in their commentary on the Iraq war situation, it continues through South Park, though I am now only a casual viewer. I suppose my apathy towards comedy is partly in response to my observations about its effects. I've tried to break from it and look at the world in a way which is expansive, rather than reductionist, which is how I percieve most of such material. Reducing people in to puppets is perhaps a metaphor for this whole process. I know I certainly did this too, and I can now see how deeply wrong it is. My objection has nothing to do with taking a side, rather it is about a refusal to recognise the dignity and complexity of other people.

Yes, video games: they are bigger than Hollywood. I became apathetic to these a long time ago too, which is inconvenient, because there is a wealth of material there to critique and bring to the public's attention. I think it is fair to say, at least, that they militarise youth.

Richard:  US and Australian recruitment have improved considerably since both defence agencies put online games on their sites;  It would be a good topic for a piece one of these days.  Unless you'd like a crack a somesuch, Solomon?

Seung-Hui Cho

Interesting to get a more detailed portrait of Seung-Hui Cho, the young South Korean who went on the massacre at Virginia Tech. I learn that he wanted to be a writer and wrote very violently. This is not necessarily a sign of a disturbed individual but it may be. I suppose could have ended up as the next Brett Easton Ellis, if he had any particular talent. It is always tempting to accuse people that do such horrendous things as lacking talent - recall how everyone becomes an art critic when they see Hitler's paintings - but I don't think there is that much of a correlation. 

I remember I wrote very violently when I was a little younger. I think it was initially motivated by strong emotion but eventually evolved in to character studies and things of that nature. I also wrote in a number of other ways and was always conscious how limited shock value has in literature. They say writing can be cathartic and I suppose I have always used it in that way, even here. I wonder at the process. I don't see it as positive or negative, just neutral. A choice to express rather than to internalise. I am not sure if it releases emotions or if it simply perpetuates them, whether it alleviates suffering or whether it creates habits which may even get worse.

I think about Seung-Hui Cho occasionally in an attempt to understand suicide terrorism, which is what his actions seem to resemble. He left a record of his motives, declaring that "You left me no choice". It occurred to me not long ago that this is an individual who had no trace of self-criticism. His interpretation of the world was clearly illogical and nonsensical, the world left him with a great many choices and he chose the absolute worst option available to him. Perhaps this lack of self-criticism infected his writing. I think it is likely. It probably infected everything. A writer like Ellis, of course, has a critical attitude to his subject matter and takes it for granted that so will his reader. It is not so much what you write about that matters but rather your attitude to it.

It wasn't that the world was unaware that he had problems, he was seen be counsellors and psychologists and put on medication. It may seem stupid now but they also tried art therapy. If he had taken some joy in it, perhaps he might not have felt the need to kill people indiscriminately. He was said to have communication and problems with social anxiety, something that I have also had issues with and tried to deal with. The difference is, I suppose, is that I have dealt with it and have had a lot of success. Seung-Hui found it too hard and gave up.

I think what I find beautiful in art and in people is survival. Everything I have written for this site has been directed to the problem of survival, of learning how to survive in a complex world. You live on your wits. All ethics should be survival ethics, and, the only kindness and enlightenment is in understanding that your survival is not contingent upon the downfall of others, that there is strength in unity rather than conflict.

Here is an individual that did not survive, who "failed" the game of life in as absolute manner as possible. It is important to understand that there is no necessary connection between mental illness and an action like this, rather, it comes from choices made by an individual, in how they respond to their own illness. You can be forgiven for how you feel and your limitations - even your mistakes - but there is still a responsibility to critically examine your own behaviour. One of the symptoms of psychosis and other mental illnesses is a failure to adequately examine external reality before coming to conclusions, and, I think we can achieve a lot by improving the ability of individuals to investigate the veracity of their own subjective worlds. Believing that you do have choices, even when you feel you might not, is perhaps the first step towards change.

Alexander Downer said recently that it was important that we read Mein Kampf in order to understand our enemies, and, if we applied this perfectly sensible logic to the problems of the moment, we would see the importance in reading Islamic terrorist literature in order to understand the problem that we are dealing with. The problem is not in the text itself but rather in the person who accepts it uncritically. Removing such material from circulation is not going to fix the problem of hate, or, the actions which derive from that hate. My great hope is that people can change, that they may be convinced away from dire courses of action like terrorism, that they may see hope instead of hopelessness in the world.


Solomon Wakeling: "... if we applied this perfectly sensible logic to the problems of the moment, we would see the importance in reading Islamic terrorist literature in order to understand the problem that we are dealing with. Removing such material from circulation is not going to fix the problem of hate, or, the actions which derive from that hate."

Solomon, that's what I suggested in the Bingo! post I wrote for Webdiary ages ago:

The SMH yesterday published locally a piece by Karen Armstrong - author of Islam: a Short History - called Mind your language or risk turning friends into foes in which she stressed the need for precise intelligence. Armstrong reminded us that:

“It is important to know who our enemies are, but equally crucial to know who they are not. It is even more vital to avoid turning potential friends into foes. By making the disciplined effort to name our enemies correctly, we will learn more about them, and come one step nearer, perhaps, to solving the increasingly perilous problems of our divided world.”

We need to be aware, as Armstrong says, of the dramatically different shades of opinion in the Muslim world. And a good start is to drop the bullshit “Islamofascist” slur, or the misnomer of “Muslim terrorism” and describe it accurately. Armstrong suggests the term "Qutbian terrorism" to indicate its origins in the writings of the Egyptian ideologue Sayyid Qutb. After some research I tend to agree with Armstrong.

I have tracked down a copy of Qutb’s manifesto of political Islam called Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq (Milestones) on the web. I dare not open it yet, certainly not until I check that ASIO won’t disappear me in the early morning leaving my two-year-old son and expectant wife wondering for weeks where I am.

And this is where the idea of synergy connects. You see we do not freely examine the texts that Ayman Zawahiri and his student Osama bin Laden would have themselves read closely, because such an exercise is deemed to be dangerous. And in many ways it is very dangerous, especially in the hands of naïve and easily manipulated people. On the other hand, if intelligent people in the community did freely access such material - in the same way as we could freely access the Al Qur'ān Al Karīm, the Biblical Canon or the Hebrew Bible and all the related literature – we might together come to a better understanding of what makes a suicide bomber tick. We might even begin to see what they think they see and “Bingo!” we might find a way to defuse the ideas that form in their minds.

You never know, out of the synergy of wider community knowledge about these things perhaps we could find a creative breakthrough. Perhaps we could find a new and better way to deal with the problems that trace back to the very cell in which Qutb, the most persuasive publicist of the Muslim Brotherhood, was tortured – his mind.

Since then I've looked into the psychological profiling of a number of so-called "terrorist masterminds" and found that so many of them have suffered torture. 


Craig Rowley writes: "And a good start is to drop the bullshit “Islamofascist” slur....."

Yes indeed, how dare we slur the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist atrocity, or the Bali bombings.

"Islamofascism" refers to a specific subset of ideology in Islam, not Islam generally. But it does extend well beyond Qutbism. In fact, the term "Islamofascism" originally referred to the political philosophy behind the Iranian revolution.

As for "defusing the ideas that form in their minds," to even try that would likely generate a violent response - apostasy being punishable by death in sharia.

PS Did bin Laden suffer torture??


Call it Qutbifascist if you really must work the concept of fascism into the description then.

And when an terrorist isn't driven by Qutbism narrow down the term to be more accurately descriptive of the "-ism" that is behind the will to commit an act of terrorism; which is not Islam (making your 'apostasy' point quite wrong).

Osama bin Laden is a figurehead and financier.  The "lieutenant" is the more critical influence. Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri was one of hundreds arrested following the assassination of Anwar Sadat. He was tortured in prison.

Read what Dolly recommends?

Hi Solomon, you have again put into words so beautifully what one can fee l- what I find so difficult. I agree with how you see the South Park writers' take in Team America's nihilistim, cynical to the extreme, and they seem to have persistently not attacked Neocon personalities involved. Such beautiful targets, how ideological in the TEAM they must be..... or attached to their first backer ................from Fox.

Saying that I do love the totally irreverent politically incorrect humour of South Park. I notice that one of the writers couldn't cope with knocking his own group -The Gods from Space bunch, I forget their name.it was 1984 ish, war is peace etc..something about science.

I like it because they can poke fun at themselves for all to see. (that guy who couldn't, left).

I do however disagree with you about using CBT with psychosis. Try it with someone who is off their face in a drug daze and you'll understand what you are hoping for - the impossible. And read anything Dolly recommends would be too ridiculous. Far more valuable  to read the MIC's profit-loss sheets to understand events and needs. Eisenhower gives us better warnings than reading such as does the funding sheets of the US congress. When a Congressman is known as the Boeing Senator, one should have realised there was a problem in modern days. Instead of Mein Kampf, one should read Germany's investment and banking profolio sheets in the 30s. That is what determines war direction methinks,the rest is just PR for the masses. Plunging Point by Warren Reid had what I think was a great parody of Dolly.


Justin, the first order of business is to produce material that is up to my own standards of what fiction should be. Recognition is only valuable if it recognises something worthwhile. I particularly hate praise that is unwarranted, and, always value criticism that is just. I dislike cheats, frauds and people that take shortcuts. I wont name names but Australian literature is rife with them.

On the other hand I do not believe success need be slow and that sometimes the test of a true intelligence is to seize an opportunity and do something before anyone else does. Timing is an essential skill.

So is strategy. Applying a corporate market strategy to literature is not new but I suspect it is very rarely applied by layman. To confine myself within the realm of romance/erotica - romance novels are, incidentally, right at the top of what people consume - makes a lot of sense if I want to be read and it wont of necessity undermine the integrity of the work. I don't want to be read for the sake of it but rather because what I intend to produce will deserve to be read.

Good writing transcends its genre, and, it transcends its methodology. Yes I plan to mine the world for all it is worth, like it was advertising, but no I wont make use of this in ways that are cheap or tacky. I like corporate methodology but not always what it produces. You should know your audience but that does not mean you need to insult them. To write something worthwhile you should see the potential in your audience.

Why not - for whatever reason

Richard:  You sound like you're looking for a catalyst, Solomon.

A catalyst or audience, or are these terms interchangeable? Solomon wants to be recognised as a serious writer, an author, he wants to be published; such is recognition of his worth, his measure as a player.

For someone to have their creative passion acknowledged by others is rewarding and liberating, go for it Sol, but don't forget the daytime job.

Experimental language

Daniel, you are right, it is too loaded a word, and for my purposes it is more likely to obscure than to explain my meaning. I knew as I was writing it that it would bother someone. It bothers me too. I think I shall work to remove any trace of religious thinking from my work. I am tempted to call this product differentiation but that is a cynical phrase. If I am to be stimulating at all then I will have to say something new, to combine words in such a way that it brings thoughts to you that you have not encountered before. To the hunt.

The kind of discussions we have here are a kind of "discipline". It is useful to learn to operate within its limits but then eventually you find those limits and want to surpass them. Language has so much more potential than what we see here. I am more interested in the experimental. This is too small a canvas for me to paint anymore. Maybe I can convince someone to experiment with me, a process which I hope to be as frightening as it is pleasurable.

Richard:  You sound like you're looking for a catalyst, Solomon.

Full circle

Interesting. I recieved an email from Louise Markus MP's secretary telling me she does not have enough "deskspace" for me to volunteer. Clearly anybody who feels that deskspace is essential to such a venture has no idea what they are doing. I would have preferred if they simply called me a charlatan. Diplomacy hurts more than truth. So does wasting an opportunity. Its their loss.

I quit politics. I tried. The only moral situation that we can do anything about is the immigration system, and, I can better serve people by completing my law degree and involving myself in the day-to-day administration and casework of an ordinary practioner, than trying to make a whole lot of noise. Clearly the country has stopped listening.

I am going to devote my attention to the thing that actually means something to me: literature. I will write that romance novel and submit it to the Valerie Parv award as I planned. I will start publishing online. I will develop my own site and start gathering reviews, getting in touch with the online scene, forging alliances, building audiences. It will take a long time to achieve anything substantial but I think I could do it. All I need is the faith that if I can write well enough, people will respond to that.

No, Solomon, not you too!

So all you need is faith, is it Solomon?

There seem to be a number of folk in the same position, all of them relying on faith getting them through. But is there enough faith to go around?

Do you know someone who promotes faith, who will guide you in your fledgling faith and not pull your leg or the wool over your eyes?

Faith can be tricky, Solomon. There are many false prophets. Be warned! Beware! Demand to see evidence. Always use that as your guide.

Cheers and good luck!


Angela, yes, I am unconcerned about foreign ownership of commercial media. I don't think that a Canadian media organisation has different priorities than an Australian company, rather, their priorities are precisely the same: generating advertising revenue, satisfying their shareholders, keeping faith with their audience and coping with massive structural changes in the media industry.

I think the emphasis placed on ownership in its influence over an organisation is vastly over-stated. External forces, especially the rise of new media, are going to dictate the course of a media organisation, more than any tycoon. New channels of distribution are opening up, many of them clandestine and yet unstoppable. Free-to-Air is dying. Murdoch knows this. I recall with amusement his declaring that there were other formats that were far more interesting and that he had no interest in buying Channel Ten. Nobody believed him. Instead, what did he do? He bought Myspace.

I also think the power of the media is vastly over-stated: the research I have read suggests that a person's own life experience rules out over information distilled from the media. Also remember we live in a country with two public broadcasters, and, the effectively infinite mediascape of the online world. I think we are spoiled for Australian content. When I listen to BBC radio it talks about Africa, Europe, the world. In contrast the ABC has this fetishisation with Australia and examines Australian issues to a micro-level. SBS does a competent job at covering local and international issues and events. We will still have Living Black and Landline. Christ, we still have Today Tonight.

Recall that Rupert Murdoch became an American citizen before buying up half the world. America accommodates and accepts him. The content of his empire is not Australian because of his background, it is all very gung ho American, to the point where he has come under fire by the American intelligentsia for being too much so. I think we should accommodate people who want to do business in our country, without making assumptions about how they might operate within our society. All the problems usually associated with foreign ownership are hypothetical, or, if you will, prejudiced. As far as we know they may place a special emphasis on local content and start commissioning more of it. What I want most of all in commercial media is for a company to invest capital in to the running of the business, rather than vociferously pruning and economising it, as is the accepted wisdom.

Why is Xenophobia okay against a corporation but not an individual? Why does the spectre of "power" and "influence" make prejudice okay? The citizenship question becomes very interesting in the context of corporate power. One of the things that the government looks for in accepting people in to the country is their income and sponsorship situations, to see whether they would be a strain on the Australian welfare and health systems. These concerns are largely irrelevant to successful companies, but there may be other issues. I have an open mind about such issues but I don't want to be reactionary.

Being "Australian" is a fluid concept. It is something you can aquire as much as be born with.

Packer mach 2 is bailing out in to the reliable racket of gambling. To him the problems are clearly too hard to bother with. At least with gambling it is simple: the house always wins. Why anyone who wants to make money would torture themselves with media is beyond me. Unless you have a real and genuine concern for the product you are better off selling "Air sanitisers" or men's underwear. Those are simpler industries. If I was an Australian company and I owned a free-to-air TV station, yes, I would sell out. I would pass the grenade on to the next guy.

In Barons to Bloggers the ABC Chairman raised concerns about the "Daily Me" phenomenon, where individuals might be free to choose the content which suits their own preferences, rather than having a benevolent media organisation to tell them what to think (not in those words). That was in 2004. Now you find the ABC using the ability to have control over the news as a major selling point. How am I supposed to feel about that? In 2004 I wrote an essay about Cross-Media ownership where I came to the conclusion that over-diversity might be a problem and that people may be less inclined to challenge themselves, with the proliferation of media that tells you precisely what you want to hear. Now I think that was too moralising, and, trying too hard to go against the current.

The overwhelming mood of the media industry, as I see it, is fear. If you want audiences now you have to fight tooth and nail for them, and, you can't afford to be boring and you can't afford to have an agenda that conflicts with your audience. It is also becoming increasingly hard to sell anything, because there is a growing expectation that everything should be available for free - music, film, television, news, pornography, social networking. The only money is in commissioning advertising, because people will tolerate it up to a point and because it costs them nothing.

A social networking site like Myspace relies on inertia. People use it because they don't want to pay to host their own content and because they don't want to bother constructing their own HTML, or, building their own social network from scratch. Ingenius, really.

You mentioned my "tutor" before and I think you might have been referring to Catharine Lumby, who is not my tutor, but is a communications lecturer and theorist. Really her attraction is that she is a moralist, interested in the ethics of avante-garde behaviour, especially amongst younger women, trying to defend but also to guide them.

I generally decline to comment upon staff at my own university because I consider it impolite. I will make one exception and say that I think Peter Dallow (who is not teaching me this semester but who recently made a guest lecture) is an excellent theorist and is genuinely concerned with the problems of the moment. His major insight at the moment is that the big new media organisations like Yahoo, Google, Youtube and Myspace don't actually produce any content, but rather rely on user-generated content. All they provide is what he calls "infrastructure".

I will make a prediction: HTML editing will increasingly converge with social networking sites like Myspace. It is already happening but I think there will be an increasing demand to make such personally focused media in to professional media, with quality designs and interfaces. The generally accepted wisdom is, of course, that much of what people produce online is crap - the best content comes, ironically, from professionals, because they have the pre-existing skills to produce it. Ordinary people shoot themselves in the foot by not taking their online exertions as deadly seriously as a corporation. By the same token if you want to make your mark in the online world you have to live it, to be part of the in-crowd and not on the outside looking in.

In all the scrambling and clawing at one another that media people do to try and keep their heads above water, I think the only real future is in producing quality content. This requires thought, effort, time, maturity, skill and talent. I would rather build something over thirty years than to get rich at 23 by inventing a new software gimmick. There needs to be more investment in content, not less, because if all you have is a multiplicity and plethora of crap to choose from, sooner or later you are going to switch off entirely, and wouldn't that be interesting.


Free-to-air television is of course very retro, even though it still exists. I think the programming is not too bad in this country, the people that are letting us down are the corporations, for repeatedly producing and commissioning sub-standard advertising. Advertising should be the best and most entertaining part (See McLuhan!). Buying products is exciting. Hearing about products is exciting. People love to shop. There is every reason that it should be entertaining, but instead it becomes absolutely tortuous every time it comes on.

My common room kitchen stinks to high-heaven but there is still no way I am going to by "Air wick" air sanitiser because of a talking elephant in a tu-tu.  Also, you can't sell tax advice with a talking snail and a kangaroo. .Who writes this rubbish? Advertising has a very short shelf life until it becomes extremely tedious. Once the novelty wears off it is a quick ride in to hell (I am talking to YOU APIA Car Insurance). This makes it all the more important that if you are going to beat something to death, that you produce it properly in the first place. If something is well-written enough it can last, like great literature, or at least, great pop.

Underwear ads are usually rather wonderful: scenes of people wearing underwear, set to music. It is very difficult to get tired of an underwear ad, unless it contains dialogue (I am looking at YOU Rio).

As for assessing blogs I am not sure precisely what there is left to say. They have a particular structure that is unique but are otherwise no more prominent or important than any other kind of online communication. They don't mean anything except in so far as their content is meaningful. It is like "counselling". Counselling is the non-solution provided as an adjunct to every social and mental problem, but it has no meaning of itself because it has no content. They say simply talking can be cathartic but I expect that does not apply if you simply read out a shopping list, or the nutrition information on the back of your Nutrigrain (May contain traces of soy, wheat and Zionofascist conspiracy theories).

The whole media industry is busy competing to find the next billion dollar product like Google, Myspace or Youtube, so that they can retire and live in the south of France and pretend to be avante-garde novelists, escaping from anything remotely to do with media. Soon none of us will be able to sleep, searching for that epiphany, that idea that no-one else on Earth thought of before you, that you can brand and make your own -then give it to the world and make history. I predict there will be a whole lot of mini-Enron's, little false starts and fool's gold. Big media will buy anything that looks new. In fact I expect it will go so far as to start buying hoax products, things that do nothing, which just have a "vibe" about them. I bet you could simulate a situation where by everybody seems to be talking about that new thing, without anyone actually knowing what it is. It is so cool and so new, that you really have to be part of the "in" crowd to know what it is. It might be a good premise for a satire.

The problem with blogs is fishing for original content. The internet plunders all it can from the real world but mostly it will involve either first-hand or second-hand material from someone that actually created something in another format, like a sit-com, or a piece of journalism, or a history of such and such country during such and such period. What is the end result of Wikipedia but to give you reiterated information from pre-existing works, by self-important people, who don't actually create content but rather steal and reproduce it? It becomes like a library catalogue or a bibliography - which, in truth, is still a noble enough goal.

How much blog content is based on facts gathered by someone else, and, therefore, largely unverifiable by the person who perpetuates it? When was the last time anyone investigated anything for themselves? I find myself stealing content from my own life, and, pondering whether or not this is ethical. What is valuable about it is that it is original content - valuable of itself, and, to those involved in what they are calling "data mining". This has a narrow technical definition as it relates to software, but it seems to be used more broadly now to refer to corporate research. I view blogs from a particularly corporate viewpoint, the only problem is I don't have a product to sell, and so I am not systematic about it, and probably far less effective than I could be if I had something to put all my energy behind. As it goes I languish, "waiting for a mission", like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now.

Maybe I will start a journal of erotic literature. I am pretty sure I could write and review it as well as anyone else and it would be an industry worth knowing inside out. All media is fascinated by two things: sex and the underground. This could be the new thing. This could be my new thing.

I don't see the point anymore of publishing on Webdiary in the sense of generating a thread. I have more freedom to express myself if I publish it within a comment, have around about the same likely readership, and, a less permanent looking scar for when it comes back to haunt me on Google. I often say more thoughtful and pertinent things within the context of a discussion anyway. Why perpetuate a false eminence to an undynamic and unfluid idea of a "piece"? I think it is more important to create an online persona, to be  somebody, and to let other people write about you. If you are not doing something interesting enough to be written about then what are you doing in this game at all?

I need to remember how to be interesting. So do you.

Oh, Canada

Angela, you will have to explain to me your concerns about foreign ownership of Channel Ten. Having nothing against foreigners except to the extent that their values conflict in a drastic way from mine, nor objecting to their rights to own property, I am fairly sanguine about such an event. Canadians are on the bottom of my list of other cultures to be concerned about. I don't think the main attraction of Channel Ten has ever been locally produced content, apart from Neighbours and a few internationally-styled reality TV programs, which I don't expect to change in a big hurry.

Rather the appeal has been in carefully picked quality programs from America. I would rather quality American programs than bad Australian programs, which is usually what local content regulations produce.

Having said that I see no causal connection between foreign ownership and a loss of local content. Commercial television is intensively market driven and changing the ownership does not change the audience. If people want local content then that is what they will get. I think of all industries television is best suited to a market system.

There is a lot of talk about "diversity" but I actually like the fact that free-to-air television provides a kind of commonality. With the range brought by paid television it means everyone lives in a different universe.

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