Saturday, August 09, 2003
  A Loss of Control?
Here's something Bob Bunnett wrote in a comment on one of Tim Blair's posts:

PS: By the way, one of the reasons I reckon why so many leading left ideologues are shrieking with impotent rage about our deplorable lack of “morality” is that they have lost the capacity to exert control through shaming.

I have commented on this before but, before Howard, dissent against elite left wing opinions was often able to be effectively controlled by “shaming”, or the prospect of shaming, in the the all-pervasive PC culture existing at that time. Howard's greatest gift to Australian political culture has been to consign this to the dustbin of history. People feel much more free to express what they really think politically - and that is a damn good thing. True freedom of speech. But it has made the custodians of PC incredibly angry - how dare the hoi polloi depart from the one true path that we have decided is best!

Worth thinking about. (And well written, too.) Mr Bunnet's blog,, is worth visiting. I've added it to my “recommended reading” list.
  Ugliness we should not ignore
Some people on the left of politics have accused politicians such as John Ashcroft and John Howard of being “right-wing extremists”. Such claims would be instantly and universally laughed at if people knew anything about the hateful and hate-filled world of the genuine far right. (Why do the mainstream Australian media pay so little attention to these whackos? If you know, please e-mail me.)

As my own small contribution to the cause of reason, I hope to post some essays on the Far Right in Australia. (Describing the Far Right in America is way beyond my capabilities!) For some details of the League of Rights, scroll down.

Aside: left-wingers have sometimes adopted the credo that “there are no enemies to the left”. Those on the right have rarely made the same mistake, because the far right are so gut-churningly monstrous.

Update (12/8): the best website about the US Far Right that I know of is Militia Watch. Unfortunately it is a little dated; its author, Mark Pitcavage, changed jobs in 2000 and stopped work on the site. Nevertheless I recommend it for those with strong stomachs. (If you want to see something really weird, take a look at the doctrines of the “Christian” Identity movement.) 
Thursday, August 07, 2003
  A Genuine Conspiracy
Do you get sick of all the conspiracy theories around these days? So do I. Nevertheless, here's another one, about a sinister right-wing plot to take control of a significant fraction of the Australian government. Only this isn't just a theory: it really happened. My father helped defeat it.

The plotters were a secretive group called the League of Rights. They are basically Nazis without the good points: they have the same ideology (blame everything on the Jeeeews) they sneek around in the shadows whispering their poison into the ears of anyone who will listen, whereas the Nazis at least staged some dramatic spectacles and shouted their hatefilled propaganda out loud. IIRC, the League actually started before WW2 as an Australian facist movement. In the 1950s they conned the CIA into giving them a million US dollars “to fight communism”, but their attempts to expand beyond their small and largely rural base failed.

To understand this plot, you need to know about a rather strange feature of Australian politics: there are two right-of-center parties who usually govern in coalition, and those coalition governments are stable. (Coalition governments are quite common, but stable coalitions are extremely rare.) The two parties are the Liberal Party, who get roughly 40% of the vote at most Federal elections, and the National Party, who represent farmers and other rural interests and get nearly a tenth of the national vote. Naturally the Liberals play a dominant role in the coalition governments, except in Queensland where the Nationals have sometimes outpolled the Liberals. (The state of Queensland is the exception to many — perhaps even most! — statements about Australian politics.)

In the late 1970s and early 80s, the League tried to do to the Nationals what a Trotskyite organisation called Militant Tendency was trying to do to the British Labour Party. They got lots of people to join party branches and vote plotters into leadership of those branches, then used the branches they controlled to put their people into regional committees, and so on, moving up the heirarchy towards the top positions in the party.

In Britain, the Trotskyites nearly gained control over the Labour Party. They were able to get it to adopt some very Leftist policies, but that backfired badly: the swinging voters rejected Labour, giving Margaret Thatcher several election victories. Later, Neil Kinnock spent much of his time as leader of the Labour Party getting rid of the Trots. Then Tony Blair took over and moved the party platform sharply center-wards. Now Mr Blair has 2 wins from 2 elections, and it is the Conservatives who are in disarray.

In Australia, Coalition governments usually appoint National Party parliamentarians to ministries such as Agriculture, Transport and Trade. Hence a Coalition win could have given the League political control of those ministries. However, the League would have had to infiltrate and take over the National Party without alienating the Nationals' voters — a difficult task, way beyond the League's minimal political skills. Also, they would need the Liberals to either fail to notice the take-over (extremely unlikely) or to knowingly go into Coalition with neo-Nazis (also unlikely). And even if they did control some ministries, the bureaucrats would never have implemented the League's policies. So the League were stupid to expect their plot to achieve anything much.

In any event, the Nationals soon recognised that they were being subverted and counter-attacked by vigorously recruiting non-league members. (The Nationals ended up with more members than any other Australian party!) It was several years before the League's infiltrators were chased out of the National Party — and the “Joh for PM” campaign brought lots of them back out of the woodwork. ((Joh Bjelke-Petersen, long-time leader of the Queensland National Party, launched a crazy and futile attempt to take over leadership of the Federal coalition in the late 1980s. Fortunately, he failed, but he did keep John Howard, our current Prime Minister, from winning the 1987 election.))

As is so often the case, the truth is a lot less dramatic than the fictions. This conspiracy story, though true, is full of messy detail and there was never any real danger, whereas the Afghanistan pipeline and “Vince Foster was murdered” stories, to pick just two conspiracy stories, are simple and intriguing [um, inadvertent pun there]. Believing in conspiracy theories gives you a wonderful sense of superiority based on being one of the few who Know What Is Really Going On, and also provides a wonderful excuse for ignoring real-world events. Nevertheless, conspiracy theories, like urban myths, have to be appealing as stories in order to spread widely. That is why they are (almost?) always fiction

[Reposted with slight improvements Sat 9-Aug-2003] 
Miscellaneous musing from Chris Chittleborough, Australian farmer's son, computer programmer and chronic information junkie

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Recommended Reading
Tim Blair
Bob Bunnet
Christopher Hitchens
Andrew Sullivan
Michael J. Totten

Glossaries's Blog Glossary
The Hacker's Dictionary

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