Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Deal? Maybe not, Andrew Bolt.

Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt is about as right-wing as it gets in the mainstream media here in Australia. And yet he is clearly a liberal rather than a conservative.

This is most obvious whenever he writes about race and ethnicity. In his most recent column, for instance, he complains that Aboriginal activists who attack whites are often considerably of European descent themselves.

It's a fair point and one that is likely to appeal to the conservative rank and file. However, Bolt also uses the column to push the idea that race is artificial, trivial and should be made irrelevant.

For instance, he writes of Tara Jane Winch, who is of mixed ancestry but identifies as Aboriginal, that:

She could call herself English, Afghan, Aboriginal, Australian or just a take-me-as-I-am human being called Tara June Winch. Race irrelevant.

His comment on the phenomenon of mixed race activists identifying as Aborigines is this:

It's also divisive, feeding a new movement to stress pointless or even invented racial differences we once swore to overcome. What happened to wanting all of us to become colour blind?

He finishes this way:

... let's go beyond racial pride. Beyond black and white. Let's be proud only of being human beings set on this land together, determined to find what unites us and not to invent such racist and trivial excuses to divide. Deal?

Sorry, Andrew Bolt, no deal.

It's important to understand where Andrew Bolt is coming from. Andrew Bolt once criticised a group of Aborigines for wanting to hold onto some historic artefacts. He told the Aborigines that by identifying with their own communal tradition they were forgetting,

The humanist idea that we are all individuals, free to make our own identities as equal members of the human race. In this New Racism, we're driven back into tribes.

This is standard liberal autonomy theory. According to this theory, we are made human by our ability to self-determine who we are. Therefore, we are supposed to reject as impediments to our individual autonomy anything significant to our identity that is inherited rather than self-created.

It's a theory with radical consequences. It means that we can't identify as men and women as our sex is a "biological destiny" rather than something we select for ourselves. And it means that we can't identify with our own race or ethny or nation as we are born into these.

We are not allowed to belong to distinct, particular human communities. Only to a single human one.

This is just about the opposite of a true conservatism: if the term conservative has any meaning it refers to the aim of conserving a particular tradition against the onslaught of liberalism.

Andrew Bolt has not always been so dismissive of ancestral identity. He himself is a Dutch migrant to Australia. As such he did not feel as strongly connected to the mainstream Australian tradition. This changed when he married an Australian woman. He once thanked his two Anglo-Australian grandmothers in his column for granting him this gift of an ancestral connection to country:

I do now have a deep bond to this country, its history and its culture, and a sense of belonging for which I am intensely grateful. Even better, my children have roots that dig deep in this soil. I thank my two Nans for this - for helping to make me and mine feel at home. (Herald Sun 20/10/2000)

This is more the reality of things. No talk here of a single human identity or trivial, invented differences. Bolt here admits the importance of ancestry, history, culture, roots, home and belonging.

Bolt in his more recent columns asks us to give up too much - stable forms of identity and belonging and a deep connection to country - for the sake of a radical political idea, an ideology.

We have to think beyond the limits of Andrew Bolt's right liberalism if we are serious about conserving our own tradition.


  1. And of course, a Google search reveals that even Bolt is routinely described as "right-wing", or (horrors!) "extreme right-wing".

    Bolt - like Keith Windschuttle, Hal G. P. Colebatch, Frank Devine, Tim Blair, and the rest of Australia's official conservative crew - is no more "right-wing" than was Lionel Murphy. In particular, Bolt's anti-racism (really a kind of ethno-masochism) is matched only by his indulgence towards sodomites (see his bleat in his Herald Sun column of 9 April 2008: "for too long gay newsreaders and current affairs hosts on commercial TV - even Graham Kennedy - have felt obliged to hide their homosexuality, largely through fear of not being taken seriously, if not shunned completely.") Yep, it's all the fault of us Homophobes!

  2. Bolt in his more recent columns asks us to give up too much - stable forms of identity and belonging and a deep connection to country - for the sake of a radical political idea, an ideology.Your ideas of race and nationality, which, it should be pointed out, have no basis whatsoever in biology, also constitute a 'radical political idea' and 'ideology'.

    And when you talk about preserving 'our' tradition, who is included in this first person plural possessive? A handful of embittered Anglo Saxon bourgeois chaps, pining for more cricket in schools, and a ban on yum cha on Sundays?

  3. I wish Australia had someone like Kevin Myers, the Irish journalist, who is prepared to say such unPC things that would never be published in Australia such as here, here and here

  4. Bolt also welcomes inter-racial marriage as a step forward. But, in reality, it is not a trivial matter:

    "People say my daughter has my eyes or my mouth, but I know they are just trying to be kind. She looks as similar to me as I do to Naomi Campbell. I didn't expect this to matter to me, but it does."

    Far from being a trivial matter, identity springs from deep within our physiology (Rushton, 2009, Inclusive Fitness):

    "Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies are beginning to demonstrate the neural correlates associated with viewing kin and facial self-resemblance (Platek, Krill & Kemp, 2008). The results suggest that the detection of resemblance is occurring below the level of conscious awareness (Platek & Thomson, 2007)."

    Andrew Bolt does have a point i.e. some of those claiming to be Aboriginal do look more Anglo. But he is wrong to trivialise our need for identity and want for a homogeneous environment. The studies prove it:

    "Similarity, whether actual or perceived, is one of the most important factors in human relationships. It is more surprising to find just how fine-tuned the recognition process can be. The studies reviewed above show that the preference for similarity occurs within ethnic groups and within families..."

  5. Thr,

    The one virtue of Andrew Bolt's right-liberalism is that it's consistent. He thinks ethnicity should be made not to matter - for everyone.

    I'm sceptical that you are as consistent. When I write of wanting to conserve my tradition I cop ridicule from you (a handful of embittered Anglo-Saxon chaps etc). Would you write in the same tone if a group of Aborigines spoke positively of their tradition?

    As for your claim that race is a cultural construct, I think that's about as valid as the claim by the liberals of the 1970s that a person's sex was a cultural construct. There is an obvious biological basis for both, even if culture influences their specific expression in society.

    One final point. The need for stable forms of identity and for a sense of belonging that extends beyond our existence as individuals is not a product of politics. It is a significant aspect of our development regardless of the politics we formally assent to.

  6. Kevin Myers (rightly mentioned in Mild Colonial Boy's post) is an Irishman; and Irishmen, historically, have been very good at fighting for their rights, rather than wallowing in a mudbath of taxpayer-funded cowardice. This wallowing, let's face it, is the average Australian's notion of political and (heaven help us) intellectual life.

  7. Mr. Richardson writes:

    "This is standard liberal autonomy theory. According to this theory, we are made human by our ability to self-determine who we are."

    A fascinating and disturbing way of putting it. It never occurred to me, not just that liberals believe that we self-determine who we are (a point that traditionalists generally understand), but that liberals believe that it is our very ability to self-determine who we are that makes us human! It is in the act of rejecting the order of the world in which we live, the world which made us what we are, the world without which we would not exist, that we become human. Without that act of soulless, egotistical assertion in a nihilistic void, we're not human. Mr. Richardson's observation explains so much and shows the horrible nature of liberalism more clearly than ever before.

  8. I wish Australia had someone like Kevin Myers, the Irish journalist, who is prepared to say such unPC things that would never be published in Australia such as here, here and hereHeh. I forwarded those to an aunt in England when they came out, and she gasped, "Who is this racist monster? He sounds like he's in the BNP!"

    Why is it a surprise that liberals reject the existence of "race"? They reject the existence of everything else: nation, culture, religion, family, biological gender, and most of all, objective truth. Liberals seem to think they can build a new society based on nihilistic repudiation of the pre-existing society. It should be obvious that such a purely negative project can never succeed, but it hasn't stopped them from trying.

  9. I think Milton described the liberal urge:

    Better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven.Samuel Johnson:

    I have always said, the first Whig was the devil.Whatever you think of Christianity, it has captured the fundamental liberal spirit perfectly in its descriptions of Satan.

  10. Better formatting:

    I think Milton described the liberal urge:

    Better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven.Samuel Johnson:

    I have always said, the first Whig was the devil.Whatever you think of Christianity, it has captured the fundamental liberal spirit perfectly in its descriptions of Satan.

  11. OK, so even in preview mode it looks good, and when I publish it gets jumbled.

  12. I believe that the problem with the pseudo-Conservatism in Australia (and America) was diagnosed by Robert Lewis Dabney in "Women Rights Women" in the 19th century. I've quoted this before at other places but I'll quote it again for the benefit of those who haven't seen it before:

    It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always, when about to enter a protest, very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance. The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.

  13. If Bolt and Blair et al didn't have their own personal concessions to liberalism they would not be allowed to be mainstream journalists.

    A journo like Myers is unacceptable in any mainstream publication in this country.

    Bolt and Blair are the acceptable face of 'the right' which some even describe as 'far/extreme right' which just goes to show how wrong our thinking must be, since we apparently are to the right of the extreme right.

    But we should be grateful for Bolt and Blair (which I genuinely am). In a very possible not too distant future Oz even they will be too extreme to be published.

  14. I agree with most things said.

    Bolt also posted a column about Holland not being Holland anymore a few days ago.

  15. I think in that article Bolt commented on the possibility that these people were chosing an "aboriginal identity" as it gave a fast track into a publicly funded sinecure for life!

    As it happens, I think that it is important to value one's ethnic identity, and the fact that Anglos alone are positively discouraged from doing this, and even demonised for saying the equivalent things others do, is why I'm totally opposed to multiculturalism. There are other issues with multiculturalism, but that's the last straw for me, as it shows it be humbug.

    I don't mind reading Bolt, but I do disagree with him on some of those scores.

  16. Bolt gets a lot of views on his blog. He brings up Aboriginal problems and immigration pproblems.

    I think he would support our right to free speech moreso than others who'd love to censor us.

    By the way abandon skip blog is closing down you might like to copy and paste the stories into word for future reference.

  17. Bolt would support the far right's right to free speech to a large degree. He called the left out on being the thought police for leaking the bnp details.

    Also other issues he posts politically incorrect comments to a certain level than lets his readers say something a bit more politically in correct.

  18. Yes, Andrew Bolt has points in his favour. He is one of the few journalists willing to stand outside of a left-liberal orthodoxy. I often agree with his criticisms of the left, which he makes to a vastly larger audience than I do. He has helped to shake up the old left-liberal complacency.

    But he does this as a principled right-liberal, rather than as a principled conservative.

    As long as we're aware of this, we can take what is useful in his journalistic work, without being limited by the underlying liberalism of his politics.

  19. BTW, sorry to hear that the Abandon Skip site is closing down.

    Do you know why? Time constraints? Other projects?

    There have been, at various times over the past two years, several intelligent, reasonable commentators on immigration/nationalism issues. I sometimes thought it would be more likely to last if they set up a group blog rather than going it alone.

  20. Andrew Bolt's views on ethnicity and race remind me of another right-liberal writer, John Hirst.

    In his book, Sense and Nonsense in Australian History, Hirst makes a number of valid criticisms of multiculturalists, namely their tendency to demonise 'old' Anglo-Celtic Australia and their denial of a distinct Australian identity and culture to which immigrants should assimilate.

    But rather than suggest that Anglo-Celtic Australia re-assert itself as this country's historic majority and once again set the shape and tone of our national culture and identity, Hirst's solution is to hybridize Anglo-Celtic Australians out of existence. No distinct ethnic or racial groups, no problem.

    He writes:

    The standard story of what is happening to our society is that it is becoming more diverse. But the marrying and partnering of people of all sorts across all boundaries is the greatest unifying force in Australia. The United States never saw such a rapidly melting melting-pot. It will produce before too long a new people who will have darker skins, much better suited to this place and our sun.So, far from wanting to preserve traditional Anglo-Celtic Australia, Hirst wants them transformed into a new people with darker skins. Think of an English-speaking version of Brazil in the South Pacific.

    A real conservative would shudder at Hirst's vision for Australia, viewing it as nothing short of ethnocide on a massive scale. But liberals, both of the left and the right variety, do not view it as an attack on a particular people. Rather, such ethnic and racial blending is seen as the ultimate, utopian goal to which we should aspire.

  21. Anonymous, you're right - John Hirst is recommending a form of genocide. And if it works out the way Hirst wants it to, then Australia will become a nation like Brazil, occupying perhaps a 2nd world status.