On more than one occasion, I have put forward the thesis that some of the most deeply stupid and sinister people in this country hold PhDs in the Social Sciences. As additional proof, I would like to introduce Tim Anderson, a lecturer at Sydney University, an anti-war activist, and an apologist for the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
In a recent interview on the ABC radio program Counterpoint, Anderson offered a corrective to the Western media’s portrayal of Assad, which tends to emphasise his affection for war crimes, dictatorship, and mass murder. This is all very biased and unfair, according to Anderson, who presented his hero in starkly different terms: “a rather mild-mannered eye doctor” and “a very polite, educated person.” Rather than the butcher of Damascus, Anderson described a compassionate and fatherly figure, who is very concerned about the war’s impact on the mental wellbeing of Syrian children, on whose heads he is assuredly not dropping barrel bombs.
The host Tom Switzer very gently inquired about such allegations and other well documented reports of human rights abuses and the deliberate destruction of hospitals. Anderson casually dismissed all that as Western propaganda and fabrication, unworthy of serious attention.
During the interview, Anderson’s tone was measured and thoughtful, which stands in contrast to his manic social media and academic output. It’s no wonder that he has remained satisfactorily uninformed about Assad’s crimes and misdemeanours: he shares and praises the ‘news’ sources of Iran and Russia, like Fars News Agency and RT. He loathes the “colonial” media, and even thinks the ABC a tad reactionary, but he seems to uncritically accept the word of state-run propaganda networks, as long as they are anti-Western.
His latest work, The Dirty War on Syria, is published by The Centre for Research on Globalization, a book club gathering for academic crackpots and conspiracy theorists. At this outfit, Anderson’s chief role, it seems, is to be an informal spokesman for Assad’s war ministry, rebutting all charges that chemical weapons have been used against civilians.
One must give credit where it’s due, though: when it comes to supporting foreign despotisms, Anderson doesn’t settle for Tweets, softball interviews on our national broadcaster, and potty propaganda. In 2014, he travelled to Syria as part of the Wikileaks delegation, offered his solidarity in person to the embattled President, and delivered a stern rebuke to his own government back home. Amusingly, it was Anderson who first reached for the obvious analogy, accusing his critics at the university and in the Australian government of “a Cold War mentality.” In another era, he would have been a terrific Stalinist. I intend that remark to wound, by the way: I worry slightly that he’ll take it as a compliment.
Anderson is a less distinguished member of the club of ‘useful idiots’, the Western leftists intent on giving totalitarianism just one more chance. His company includes, but is in no way limited to: Walter Duranty of The New York Times, who found much to admire in the Moscow Show Trials, but little worth reporting during the Ukrainian famine; Susan Sontag, whose trip to the paradise of Hanoi was only marred by a recurring bout of self-hatred; and George Galloway, the renegade British MP and encomiast of Saddam Hussein.
Anderson’s pro bono work for the Assad regime should be viewed in the light of this sordid and contemptible history. This time, however, something seems different. The anti-imperialist Left is not known for its cheeriness, but they must be smiling at the thought of America suffering a setback, as it undoubtedly is. Assad, assisted by the Russian air force and the Iranian militias, will soon take Aleppo, and his victory in the civil war will be all but inevitable. He will have prevailed by methods of merciless cruelty combined with the pusillanimity of the Obama administration. One shudders to imagine the kind of revenge Assad has in mind: he thinks of himself as the owner of Syria, rather than just its President. Whatever happens, I’m sure his man in Sydney will have a few excuses at the ready. Perhaps we’ll hear about them on the ABC.
A final word, then, on Anderson. In a moment, a reader or two with a good memory may very well exclaim something along the lines of “Oh, it’s that guy.” Anderson was a member of the Hindu cult Ananda Marga, which was suspected of involvement in the Hilton Hotel bombing in Sydney in 1978, Australia’s first confrontation with domestic terrorism. Anderson was charged and jailed, but let me hurry to add that he was later acquitted on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Clearly, he hasn’t travelled very far from his earlier radicalism. But who can blame him? For those of a contrarian and irredeemably anti-Western posture, a very safe and successful career awaits. Think about it: you may be a one-time suspected terrorist, a friend of tyrants, and an utter moral idiot, but you’ll always find a place at one of our universities.
Is this a great country, or what?