Indigenous people have become a postscript to Australian history thanks to a belief in the superiority of white Christendom, writes Stan Grant.
Dodgy data, the Coalition and the Murdoch Press have again presented a spectacular performance in renewable energy misinformation, writes Giles Parkinson.
During a segment on drug incarceration, Fox News’ Eric Bolling suggested the higher incarceration rates for African Americans are not about race, but instead because “blacks committed more of the same crimes.” From the April 22 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:BILL O’REILLY (HOST): I feel very
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were only a handful of hallucinogenic psychoactive substances known to humankind. By the end of the millennium there were hundreds. Most were discovered or rediscovered by the eccentric chemist Alexander Shulgin. Before he died at age 88, he had personally experienced the effects of these drugs thousands of times.
Source: Echolalia (part 1) | The Monthly
The publication of John Lord’s article on Facebook today – because it mentioned the word ‘race’ – seemed to be the trigger for ‘Abo haters’ to vent their spleen. What struck me, aside from their demonstrated outrage, was that their ‘knowledge’ of Aborigines was gained from ‘experts’ in the field such as Andrew Bolt, or…
Were the Palestinians better off under Labor government than under Likud? For many years, much of the Western world understood Israel based on a cluster of myths, from the early fables of the Zioni…
After risking their lives to make the journey, migrants face damning stereotypes from many European officials.
Killing Jesus – the adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s book premiering on 29 March – is not history. This might seem like an obvious statement, but it bears repeating, given how the three-hour “television event” is being pitched to viewers: as a restrained Biblical history, suitable for believers and non-believers alike.
We rarely think and talk about “Bible movies” as products of artistic interpretation – instead, we often treat them as “historical” or “religious” films. But Exodus is a Ridley Scott movie; Noah is a Darren Aronofsky movie. If we’re to go by the same guidelines here, let’s call Killing Jesus not some generic “history,” but a “Bill O’Reilly movie.”
Going Clear and Killing Jesus show controversy is cable TV’s secret weapon
O’Reilly, the American pundit with a long-running show on conservative Fox TV, is virtually synonymous with “opinionated.” He makes his living using those opinions to bully anyone who disagrees with him, including guests on his show. Recently, O’Reilly’s disregard of facts has been especially well-documented.
A Catholic self-described “traditionalist,” O’Reilly can’t be trusted not to confuse religious interpretation with historical fact. Thus, if we see Killing Jesus as a Bill O’Reilly film, that should remind us that it can’t be an impartial, historical film at the same time.
Much is being made of the show casting a young Muslim actor of Middle Eastern descent as Jesus, possibly in hopes of avoiding charges of Christian bias, or as a way of emphasizing the human qualities of Jesus. (Islam considers Jesus human, and prophetic, but not divine.) Promotional videos tout the “real authenticity” gained by filming in the Moroccan desert. The show’s credibility is buoyed by its association with the National Geographic Channel, which also produced other O’Reilly TV movies, such as Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy.
At least Lincoln and Kennedy are within the scope of recorded modern history. Jesus is not. As the devout Catholic author James Carroll writes in Christ Actually: “the empirically identifiable Jesus, focus of historians’ quest, and the interpreted Jesus of the Gospels, focus of theologians’ contemplation, are not the same Jesus”.
Even the critics are confusing the issue. Bryan Lowry writes of Killing Jesus in Variety: “Along the way there are discreet miracles, but this represents a more historical approach to the material”. More historical than what? Miracles, by definition, no matter how discreet, cannot be counted as fact.
O’Reilly’s telling takes as fact a number of time-worn myths that have been repeatedly disavowed by scholars. Characterizing the apostle Paul as a Christian is an anachronism: Christianity didn’t begin until a century after the crucifixion; Jesus and all his apostles died Jews. Scholars have noted with irony that in depicting the Pharisees as legalistic, hypocritical evildoers, O’Reilly, ironically, picks up on a caricature originally created by Reformation-era Protestants to ridicule Catholics. Even the show’s air date belies its historical, universalist veneer. If Killing Jesus is supposed to be history suitable for Christians and non-Christians, why on earth does it premiere on Palm Sunday, the start of the Holy Week leading up to Easter?
It may be true that Ridley Scott, whose company helped produce the film, learned from the critical response to Exodus that Bible movies should make greater efforts at Middle Eastern atmospherics. Scott was accused of racism and inaccuracy for casting, for example, John Turturro as the Egyptian Pharoah. But I’d prefer a Bible movie with more greasepaint and special effects that billed itself as the blockbuster entertainment it was over a Middle Eastern-looking Bible movie that thinly masks Gospel theology.
We need to stop passively accepting “truisms” that long ago ceased to be true, and we should start with the myth about the Coalition’s superior economic credentials, writes Tim Dunlop.
Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are on track to destroy one of the most commonly held beliefs in Australian politics, namely, that the Coalition are better economic managers than Labor.
Indeed, smashing this “truism” may be one of their few lasting legacies.
Still, even as they undermine it, it is remarkable to see just how sticky the myth is. For instance, during his recent speech at the National Press Club, Mr Abbott intoned:
This government will deliver Australia’s economic future because only a Coalition government can. As Liberals and Nationals, sound economic management is in our DNA. We’ve done it before and we are doing it again.
What’s remarkable about this is not that he said it, or even that he believes it, but that his assembled audience of media heavyweights didn’t burst out laughing.
I mean, what exactly does the government have to do before the press gallery and other distinguished commentators not only stop playing along with this little fantasy, but acknowledge that the Abbott Government is on track to be one of the most useless economic managers of modern Australian history?
It’s not just that unemployment is rising and that the budget deficit persists; nor is it simply that the budget is stalled and in a complete shambles (imagine the conniptions sections of the media would be having if Labor were in this mess). It is that the Government simply don’t seem to have a clue about what they are doing.
Take the Medicare co-payment. This was simultaneously sold as a way of staunching the budget deficit and as a way of creating a medical research fund. Talk about magic pudding logic.
The health portfolio is now onto its second minister and there have been, what, three other variations on the copayment theory? Tony Abbott now says the copayment itself is “dead, buried and cremated”, but Tony Abbott says a lot of things.
Or take industry assistance. The government patted itself on the back about not offering grants to struggling industries and assured us that this was part of their tough, no-nonsense approach to curbing expenditure.
Great, except that as of this week, they’ve changed their mind. They are now providing up to half-a-billion dollars for the car industry, and as Laura Tingle noted on Twitter, they did it without so much as a press release.
These are not just adjustments brought on by a measured rethink or changed circumstances: they are incompetence, plain and simple, brought on by desperation and confusion.
But wait, there’s more. Delayed payments for those on unemployment benefits is being reconsidered by new minister, Scott Morrison. The PM’s precious “captain’s call” parental leave scheme has been dropped. Defence have got the pay rise the government said they wouldn’t get.
And this doesn’t even include the measures that are simply being blocked by the Senate such as the inequitable higher education funding arrangements. The Government seems to have no clue as to what to do about that.
To top it all off, Joe Hockey has been “floating” little ideas about changing the way we access our superannuation. Tony Abbott has said that it is a “perfectly good and respectable idea”, but even Peter Costello groaned:
We went through all of this back in the mid ’90s. We had a look at it, we decided, because we thought superannuation should be for retirement savings, we decided not to allow superannuation to be available for housing.
At this stage it is less the efficacy of the policies themselves that matters than the fact that the government flits like a drunken butterfly from one measure to another and back again, and back again, without any apparent governing logic.
Look, it is important to stop retelling ourselves this ridiculous fable about the Coalition’s economic credentials because it distorts so much of the rest of our political debate. Indeed, one of the reasons people are shocked – to the point of denial – about how bad the Abbott Government is at running the economy, is exactly because very few people ever called out the Howard government’s economic failings.
As economist Stephen Koukoulas noted back in 2012, Howard and Costello were accorded a respect their actual economic record didn’t deserve:
The budget papers … show that the Howard government was the highest taxing government in Australia’s history. In 2004-05 and 2005-06, the tax to GDP ratio reached a record high 24.2 per cent. In addition, there have been only seven occasions where the tax to GDP ratio has been in excess of 23.5 per cent of GDP and all seven were under the Howard government.
In a similar vein, in the last 30 years, there have been 10 occasions when the tax to GDP ratio has been below 22.0 per cent of GDP and all 10 were under a Labor Government. To put simply, the Howard government was a high taxer, while the current Labor Government is a lower taxer.
In terms of government spending, there have been only five years in the four decades leading up to 2012-13 when real government spending was cut in real terms. None of those cuts were delivered by a Coalition government.
Maybe if these facts were better known, if they were hammered by the media in the same way they hammered 20-year-old stories about Julia Gillard’s time as a lawyer, the incompetence of Messrs Hockey and Abbott would not have been such a well-kept secret.
So here’s a suggestion. Who leads the government is an important matter and the media are right to cover it. But Tony Abbott’s dying swan routine is one thing: the underlying incompetence of his government is something else altogether.
So can we reprioritise a bit? Can we please stop talking quite so much about the leadership mess that the government is in because in the end, it doesn’t much matter who leads a bad government.
Let’s instead start telling the truth about how bad they actually are, and let’s begin by not passively accepting “truisms” that long ago ceased to be true. Let’s actively challenge this damaging, childish myth about the Coalition’s superior economic credentials.
The truth is, the only sense in which the Coalition are the better economic managers is the sense in which every parent thinks their kids are smarter and better looking than everyone else’s kids: they may believe it in their hearts, but it doesn’t necessarily stand up to objective, unsentimental analysis.
Tim Dunlop is the author of The New Front Page: New Media and the Rise of the Audience. He writes regularly for The Drum and a number of other publications. Twitter: @timdunlop.
The self-styled ‘Islamic State’ Group (ISIS or ISIL), the Arabic acronym for which is Daesh, is increasingly haunting the nightmares of Western journalists and security analysts. I keep seeing some assertions about it that strike me as exaggerated or as just incorrect.
1. It isn’t possible to determine whether Daesh a mainstream Muslim organization, since Muslim practice varies by time and place. I disagree. There is a center of gravity to any religion such that observers can tell when something is deviant. Aum Shinrikyo isn’t your run of the mill Buddhism, though it probably is on the fringes of the Buddhist tradition (it released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995). Like Aum Shinrikyo, Daesh is a fringe cult. There is nothing in formal Islam that would authorize summarily executing 21 Christians. The Qur’an says that Christians are closest in love to the Muslims, and that if they have faith and do good works, Christians need have no fear in the afterlife. Christians are people of the book and allowed religious freedom by Islamic law from the earliest times. Muslims haven’t always lived up to this ideal, but Christians were a big part of most Muslim states in the Middle East (in the early Abbasid Empire the Egyptian and Iraqi Christians were the majority). They obviously weren’t being taken out and beheaded on a regular basis. They did gradually largely convert to Islam, but we historians don’t find good evidence that they were coerced into it. Because they paid an extra poll tax, Christians had economic reasons to declare themselves Muslims.
We all know that Kentucky snake handlers are a Christian cult and that snake handling isn’t typical of the Christian tradition. Why pretend that we can’t judge when modern Muslim movements depart so far from the modern mainstream as to be a cult
2. Daesh fighters are pious. Some may be. But very large numbers are just criminals who mouth pious slogans. The volunteers from other countries often have a gang past. They engage in drug and other smuggling and in human trafficking and delight in mass murder. They are criminals and sociopaths. Lots of religious cults authorize criminality.
3. Massive numbers of fighters have gone to join Daesh since last summer. Actually, the numbers are quite small proportionally. British PM David Cameron ominously warned that 400 British Muslim youth had gone off to fight in Syria. But there are like 3.7 million Muslims in the UK now! So .000027 percent of the community volunteered. They are often teens, some are on the lam from petty criminal charges, and many come back disillusioned. You could get 400 people to believe almost anything. It isn’t a significant statistic. Most terrorism in Europe is committed by European separatist groups– only about 3% is by Muslims. Cameron is just trying to use such rhetoric to avoid being outflanked on his right by the nationalist UKIP. One of the most active Daesh Twitter feeds turns out to be run by an Indian worker in a grocery chain in Bangalore who lived in his parents’ basement and professed himself unable to volunteer for Syria because of his care giving chores. Daesh is smoke and mirrors.
4. Ibrahim Samarra’i’s ‘caliphate’ is widely taken seriously. No, it isn’t. It is a laughing matter in Egypt, the largest Arab country. There are a small band of smugglers and terrorists in Sinai who declared for Samarra’i, but that kind of person used to declare for Usama Bin Laden. It doesn’t mean anything. Egypt, with 83 million people, is in the throes of a reaction against political Islam, in favor of nationalism. It has become a little dangerous to wear a beard, the typical fashion of the Muslim fundamentalist. Likewise, Tunisia voted in a secular government.
5. Daesh holds territory in increasing numbers of countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. But outside of Syria and Iraq, Daesh is just a brand, not an organization. A handful of Taliban have switched allegiance to Daesh or have announced that they have. It has no more than symbolic significance in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These converts are tiny in number. They are not significant. And they were already radicals of some sort. Daesh has no command and control among them. Indeed, the self-styled ‘caliph’, Ibrahim Samarrai, was hit by a US air strike and is bed ridden in Raqqah, Syria. I doubt he is up to command and control. The Pakistani and Afghan governments have a new agreement to roll up the radicals, and Pakistan is aerially bombing them.
Even in Syria and Iraq, Daesh holds territory only because the states have collapsed. I remember people would do this with al-Qaeda, saying it had branches in 64 countries. But for the most part it was 4 guys in each of those countries. This kind of octopus imagery is taken advantage of by Daesh to make itself seem important, but we shouldn’t fall for it.
6. Only US ground troops can defeat Daesh and the USA must commit to a third Iraq War. The US had 150,000 troops or so in Iraq for 8 1/2 years! But they left the country a mess. Why in the world would anybody assume that another round of US military occupation of Iraq would work, given the disaster that was the last one? A whole civil war was fought between Sunnis and Shiites that displaced a million people and left 3000 civilians dead a month in 2006-2007, right under the noses of US commanders.
In fact, US air power can halt Daesh expansion into Kurdistan or Baghdad. US air power was crucial to the Kurdish defense of Kobane in northern Syria. It helped the Peshmerga paramilitary of Iraqi Kurdistan take back Mt. Sinjar. It helped an Iraqi army unit take back the refinery town of Beiji. The US ought to to have to be there at all. But if Washington has to intervene, it can contain the threat from the air. Politicians should just stop promising to extirpate the group. Brands can’t be destroyed, and Daesh is just a brand for the most part.
7. Daesh is said to have 9 million subjects. I don’t understand where this number comes from. They have Raqqah Province in Syria, which had 800,000 people before the civil war. But the north of Raqqah is heavily Kurdish and some 300,000 Kurds fled from there to Turkey. Some have now come back to Kobane. But likely at most Daesh has 500,000 subjects there. Their other holdings in Syria are sparsely populated. I figure Iraq’s population at about 32 million and Sunnis there at 17%, i.e. 5.5 million or so. You have to subtract the million or more Sunnis who live in Baghdad and Samarra, which Daesh does not control. Although most of the rest Sunni Iraq has fallen to Daesh, very large numbers of Sunnis have fled from them. Thus, of Mosul’s 2 million, 500,000 voted with their feet last summer when Daesh came in. Given the massive numbers of refugees from Daesh territory, and given that they don’t have Baghdad, I’d be surprised if over all they have more than about 3-4 million people living under them. And this is all likely temporary. Plans are being made to kick them right back out of Mosul.