Select Page

Some quality comment and astute observations by by Paul Kelly 

….The rise of identity politics in Australia — with its poisonous assault on rational, honest debate and the quality of public policy — is now tangible in both indigenous and gender issues and was on display this week over the Northern Territory detention crisis.

Identity politics, pursued in the US and on display within university campuses and at the recent Democratic National Convention, is about laws, norms and etiquette to protect and advance identity causes. Race, gender: the risk of identity politics

A powerful movement with deep cultural roots, it testifies to the revolution within leftist and progressive politics since the failure of Soviet communism and the supplementation of class consciousness with identity based on race, sex, gender and ethnicity. This is fused by historic grievance suffered by such identities and their contemporary demand for redress.

The politics of identity speaks to deep human need. Yet its application veers towards narcissism, censoring of public debate, vicious campaigns of intimidation and a diminished public square. It is extraordinary to see how many institutions and prominent figures buckle before the campaigns of identity politics, too weak to stand on principle.

This sentiment now invades our public culture. It was on display this week following the ABC’s Four Corners program on the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Northern Territory that exposed shocking abuses in the child protection and detention system.

Australia, once famous for its straight talking, seems a frightened country. Too many people now know that honest talk is risky but, more important, breaking the rules of identity politics risks being branded a racist or sexist. Most people just avoid the risk.

Is this Australia’s future? It is certainty the future the progressives want. A cartoonist who offends no one is a cartoonist who doesn’t deserve a job. The reason section 18c is important is that it points to the type of Australia the law envisages, that on racial issues the test is subjective — whether an individual is offended. Across time this leads to a political culture of silence and victimhood.

The essence of identity politics runs as follows: because you haven’t shared my identity you haven’t shared my oppression and you cannot understand my pain and if you cannot understand my pain you have no right to tell my group how to behave. Identity politics, therefore, is hostile to ideas and debate. Indeed, it mobilises the argument of “offence” as a disincentive to debate and to challenge the right of others to engage in vigorous or provocative public discussion.

Consider the fierce opposition to the government’s proposed plebiscite on same-sex marriage. Some people oppose it saying this should be decided by the parliament — that’s John Howard’s position. But the principal argument against the plebiscite is different: that it should be opposed because it will offend the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.

The identity push is about etiquette, norms and language, seen recently in this country in the ludicrous claim that the word “guy” is sexist and must be avoided. Many people think this is harmless nonsense. Yet it is driven by a powerful idea whose essence is “respect my identity and don’t offend me”.

The truth is the debate about the steady rise of identity politics in this country is feeble, drowning in a sea of politically correct approval. We should not be surprised. The idea is to censor Leak in the guise of branding his work racist. And the mechanism to achieve this exists in the current law, as prized and cultivated by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The parallel mechanism is social media — used to brand institutions and people as racist and sexist as a means of destroying them by mass hysteria. In this climate the spirit of Orwell and Voltaire face a slow but sure death. Let’s hope there is still sufficient left of the old Australian character and courage to turn back the tide….”