Australian Notes

Australian notes

31 January 2015

9:00 AM

31 January 2015

9:00 AM

The Queen has conferred knighthoods on the Americans Bill Gates and Norman Schwarzkopf. She appointed South Africa’s Nelson Mandela to the Order of Merit (along with John Howard.) Prince Philip has received high honours in dozens of countries. Why do Australian journalists and Labor politicians complain so loudly about his new Australian honour? Is it some sort of reverse cultural cringe?

President François Hollande graciously included my grand-daughter Maisie Dubosarsky as a guest at his recent reception in the Palais de l’Elysée for those closest to the murdered victims of the Paris atrocities as well as for the wounded and the hostages. Maisie is the girl-friend of one of the wounded – Simon Fieschi, the web-master of Charlie Hebdo, who, still in hospital, was unable to attend. The reception was closed to the press and public. Several of the guests had intimated that they preferred ‘une cérémonie intime’ to ‘un hommage officiel aux Invalides’ or any other public obsequies. The President deferred to their wishes. According to Figaro, he spoke briefly to each of the hundred guests. Not so long ago President Hollande’s standing, as measured by polls, was among the lowest on record. In September two-thirds of voters wanted him to resign. But his magnificent handling of the terrorist outrages has won him back trust and respect. When he led the great march he confidently declared: ‘Today Paris is the capital of the world!’ Millions see Hollande as presidential again. But the next presidential election is not until 2017!

The new editor of Charlie Hebdo made his policy clear in his first issue after the terrorists’ massacre of more than half of the staff (including the former editor) and regular contributors. What he is most proud of, he wrote, is that the magazine, now selling in millions, is the same as the traditional, uncompromising Charlie Hebdo with its small sales. He is almost right. The ‘survivors’ issue’ has the usual mix. There are bitter political gags : the Bangladeshi slaves cheerfully sewing ‘Je Suis Charlie’ tee-shirts for sale by profiteers in the West; Boko Haram terrorists rejoicing that, having massacred the inhabitants of several Nigerian villages, there will now be fewer subscribers for Charlie Hebdo; President Hollande striding confidently over a cliff while muttering he will never give in to his enemies. There are also the inevitable atheist jokes, some mild, some gross. But there is also a new target – those who say they are firm supporters of Charlie Hebdo but who also ask if Charlie sometimes goes too far. The Pope summed it up : ‘You cannot make fun of other people’s faith.’ He spoke, dare I say it, for many including me? But Charlie and his followers will have none of this. They will not be happy until the last imam has been hanged with the entrails of the last priest! Where will it all end?

Consider this comment, written in Australia, on cartoonists: ‘A cartoonist has no right to be fair: if you are a fair-minded, sober kind of artist, you should not be a cartoonist. Cartoonists are satirists, not magistrates, and they seize on one important aspect of a situation for the purposes of ridicule or dramatization and hammer at that as unfairly or righteously as possible.’ A book censor is, for the cartoonist, a drooling pervert. A Governor-General is a parasitical front-man for sinister interests. A Chinese migrant is an exploiter and seducer. A politician is a weed. Who wrote all this stuff? Well I did. It is from my introduction to Cartoons of Australian History, a selection from the 1780s onwards which I brought out in 1967 with the help of the late Les Tanner. Now after almost fifty years I would qualify my confident dogmatism, although I would not delete any of the ‘offensive’ cartoons. It recalls an earlier, more liberal age before the curse of political correctness hobbled most of our cartoonists. I still strongly support calls for the revision of 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act. It is enough that the law restrict publications that humiliate or intimidate. But who needs protection against publications that merely offend?

Don’t take my word for it. Look up Brendan O’Neill in the London online weekly spiked. He quotes Bill Leak of the Australian : ‘You’d think the last people to succumb to the contagion of PC would be Australian cartoonists, but the fact is most of them have positively embraced it, while revelling in the popularity they’ve been afforded as a result. Most of them are now so PC your average Islamist fascist wouldn’t regard them as offensive enough to shoot.’

The latest book on the climate debates – Climate Change. The Facts 2014 – discusses all the scandals and farces from Copenhagen, Climategate, the hockey stick, the Australasian Antartcic Expedition, Kirabati, the Great Barrier Reef, and polar bears through to wind farms and desalination plants. It is put out by the Institute of Public Affairs and funded by 750 listed donors. All the great figures are in it from Tim Flannery and Ross Garnaut to Chris Turney and Professor Bob Carr (of UTS), and not forgetting our leader Kevin Rudd who instructed us in ‘the greatest moral challenge of our time.’ As the title implies, the emphasis is on accuracy rather than polemic but with contributors ranging from Ian Plimer and Mark Steyn to James Delingpole and Andrew Bolt there is enough wit and polemic to go arouind. The IPA is touring Australia to promote the book. We await the warmists’ reply. But don’t count on it.

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