Last week on ABC’s Q&A, Yassmin Abdel-Magied declared Islam to be “the most feminist religion.” It’s a strong field, but this may well be her most idiotic statement yet.
I’m always on the lookout for new writing opportunities, especially with publications funded by the Australia Council for the Arts, as one can usually expect modest remuneration. I was initially pleased, then, to discover the literary magazine called, quite appropriately as you’ll see, SCUM. Its About section notes that it “has filthy feminist leanings and a disregard for propriety.”
Terrific, I thought. Perhaps I could pitch an essay or two. I have often detailed the squalid nature of contemporary feminism à la Clementine Ford and the rest of the gang. While I haven’t dipped into her new book, Fight Like A Girl, I’m keeping an open mind, should the opportunity to read it ever come up. To update the old joke, I imagine that Ford’s oeuvre, along with every copy of Fairfax’s Daily Life, will be the only reading material available for borrowing at the single library in hell.
There, how’s that for propriety?
Are the Gender Wars Just Getting Started? – Quillette
The Victorian government has delivered an unexpected Christmas present to Australian conservatives: a parting of the ways with Roz Ward, the co-founder of the controversial Safe Schools program. Score one for the cisheteropatriarchy, as the kids call it.
It may not be in the spirit of Tiny Tim to gloat over someone’s misfortune and dismissal at this time of year, and many people would resist the impulse. But I am not among such people. Since her emergence in the public spotlight, the problem with the criticism directed against Roz Ward is that it has not been relentless enough.
Assad’s Aussie Cheerleader – The Spectator Australia
On more than one occasion, I have put forward the thesis that some of the most deeply stupid and sinister people in this country hold PhDs in the Social Sciences. As additional proof, I would like to introduce Tim Anderson, a lecturer at Sydney University, an anti-war activist, and an apologist for the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
Fight Like A Termagant – The Spectator Australia
From time to time, I open the pages of Fairfax’s Daily Life, just to check that Clementine Ford still isn’t interesting or insightful. Once assured, I resume my dislike of the feminist firebrand.
In her most recent column, her outlook, as ever, is rather cheerless. That’s understandable, I suppose: despite her best efforts, the patriarchy remains unsmashed and all those pesky males have somehow avoided extirpation. On this occasion, there is an additional weight upon her spirits. Allow me to explain.
In Praise of Hurt Feelings – The Spectator Australia
In the keynote address at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival in September, the novelist Lionel Shriver took aim at some of the prominent idiocies of the contemporary Left, namely political correctness and the politics of identity. For Yassmin Abdel-Magied, one of the more sensitive plants in the audience, the prospect of encountering an idea that challenged her worldview was simply too much to bear. She stormed out during Shriver’s throat-clearing introductory remarks.
I highlight this incident to demonstrate the tremendous publishing opportunities available to writers and artists willing to parade their stupidity and ignorance as virtue. In an essay in The Guardian, Abdel-Magied described her unmannerly exit in excruciating detail and critiqued a speech that she had not even heard.
The Saturday Paper invites similarly fatuous submissions. Maxine Beneba Clarke wrote of her post-speech confrontation with Shriver in the hallway, where heavy words like racist and disgrace were thrown around with unusual ease. Clarke, of course, didn’t think it necessary to attend the event in question. Her knowledge of the speech was based entirely on a casual scroll through the opprobrious remarks of her Twitter comrades.
A stern but sensible editor would rightly reject, say, a book review if the reviewer admitted that the book had remained unopened. No such editorial standards apply to the professionally outraged.
Saul Bellow once described the experience of reading the literary quarterlies of the fifties and sixties, after their takeover by the academy. He recorded feeling “first uncomfortable, then queasy, then indignant, contemptuous and finally quite bleak, flattened out by the bad writing.”
If you have followed the events and aftermath of the recent Brisbane Writers Festival, you may have experienced a very similar emotional reaction. In this essay, I hope to arrest that sense of bleakness, but first, a brief summary is in order.
To put it uncharitably, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, a sensitive plant, had a tantrum during the keynote address by Lionel Shriver. Her ire was caused — or triggered, as the kids say — by what is a very conservative notion nowadays: writers of fiction can write about whatever they damn well please.
Earlier this week, Metallica announced the release of a new album, due in November, and a new single, Hardwired, which is available here. Metallica fans have always been a disputatious bunch, and opinion on the latest track quickly divided into two schools of thought.
The conservative faction, which has been miserable, outnumbered and out of power since the late 1980s, denounced the song as an unsuccessful raid on the group’s thrash metal roots. Unworthy of the eight-year wait, unimaginative riffs, and fatuous lyrics made up the lengthy bill of complaint.
The progressive element, which is chirpy and more numerous, greeted the new track with all the enthusiasm, head-banging and variations of “Hell yeah!” that the situation unquestionably called for. For these fans, Load is criminally underrated and Lulu, you know, is really worth a second listen.
This, of course, is a caricature, but it’s based upon a reading of the comments under the Hardwired video on YouTube, where only the most passionate and quarrelsome views find expression. This has convinced me that the vast majority of Metallica listeners fall into neither of the two camps: they are centrists and moderates who have attended a concert or two; they have their personal favourite songs and albums, but would only ever express polite disagreement with their fellow fans; they listened to Metallica in their youth and now do so irregularly, but every time they do, they find their youthful appreciation very much intact.
Highly Educated Idiots – Quadrant
I have a strong suspicion that some of the most useless people in this country have PhDs in the Humanities/Social Sciences. Of course, I don’t really mean to say that these people are unintelligent; obviously they know a good deal about Derrida, Foucault, Butler, and the rest of the gang. It’s their moral relativism that irks me, as well as the cultivated grudges against their own societies and culture. I’m thinking of the insistence that Australia was ‘invaded’, for example, or the tendency to self-blame after each attack by our Islamist enemies. In a way, one has to admire their industriousness: every day they manage to find brand new ways of hating themselves.
When it comes, then, to questions about the upkeep of Western civilisation, the university lecturer is not the person one first thinks to consult. Once upon a time, I have heard, his thoughts and recommendations were confined to the mercifully recondite and unreadable journals of the academic Left. No longer, though. This means I have to update my earlier suspicion: if I am right (and let’s face it, I am), all these useless people will appear, at some stage of their careers, on the ABC.
“Like” This Essay: The Case Against Social Media – Quillette
When asked where he was from, the Greek philosopher Diogenes replied “I am a citizen of the world.” A jolly sentiment, yes, and one that is well suited for our age, when digital interconnectedness can be harnessed to a universal ethics.
At first glance, social media is a useful means to bring about such a world, but the second glance has a more disheartening effect: one can’t avoid the competitive nastiness, the cries of execration, the trolling and bullying. Diogenes, too, often sounded better in theory than in practice. Against his name there are some fairly credible charges of spirited public masturbation as well as a rumour of his urinating on philosophical detractors. He would have been great on Twitter.
A stirring cosmopolitanism must remain the goal, but I doubt that social media will take us there. It has become a swamp in which tribalism and identity politics suppurate and stink, but never die. It is where one declaims a different and sectarian kind of belonging in the world, more along the lines of “I am a citizen of the gender-bendered, panromantic-demisexual, queer-on-the-second-Tuesday-of-the-month community, ya gotta problem with that, ya fascist?”