Some of my very strong reaction to Robert Manne’s article on asylum seekers is because I don’t like being made aware that my side is losing the fight. You know, my side. Us latte-lefty inner-city poofter PC-thought-police straw persons.
Some of it is because of my weariness at those generalisations: battlers v elites, the western suburbs versus the inner city, on and on and on. Perhaps our nation is trying to stop the boats coming by boring them to death, but I think simple journalistic laziness is to blame. Manne is very soft on the media’s role in this: every media outlet loves this issue and will never, ever run a story arguing that perhaps people don’t really care that much about asylum seekers, or that there are volunteer organisations in the western suburbs helping to teach refugee kids English, for example. (See “Boats and votes: more evidence on the opinion gap” and “Howard’s victories: which voters switched, which issues, and why” for some journos actually trying to find out about voter opinions and habits, rather than just recycling received ideas.)
But mostly it’s because of the last three paragraphs, which seem to me to be disgraceful. He is saying that if the majority – or, to use his phrase, “the overwhelming majority of the Australian mainstream”, whatever that is – hold that discouraging asylum seekers by treating them brutally is OK, then there’s basically fuck-all we can do about it, no matter how irrational their position is; or, worse, that we LLICPPCTPSP are like the East German government who in Brecht’s phrase “have decided to elect a new people”.
If our only weapon against irrational brutality is to throw our hands up (and “confront honestly” the fact that we’re powerless), then there is no point to political action of any kind.
But, as it happens, we’re not all still living in tribes or absolute monarchies or dictatorships, all of which have been supported by majorities at one time or another.
I think he should be ashamed of himself.