The Politics    Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bolted down

By Richard Cooke

Bolted down
Andrew Bolt’s anti-racism campaign isn’t going so well

“How could I have failed so completely to convince so many people that I am actually fighting exactly what I’m accused of?”

That’s the question Andrew Bolt asked his readers last year, after the Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton accused him of being a racist. She later apologised, but the episode rattled Bolt so badly he stayed out of the office for a day. He is, after all, a dedicated anti-racist.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, Bolt has suggested a cut in the number of Muslim migrants, a call he has made a number of times before. He has also recommended not taking African immigrants for the same reasons: failure to integrate, propensity to criminality.

This – let's be frank – is an unusual position for an anti-racism campaigner to take. It’s difficult to think of anyone else who describes themselves that way advocating racialised immigration quotas. But what makes it especially unique is how it sits against the rest of Bolt’s personal philosophy.

Elsewhere, he deplores those who harp on the difference between colours and creeds. They, he says, promulgate the “new tribalism” and “new racism” that threaten to tear us apart. Colour-blindness is key. This is why constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians is racist, for example, as is Adam Goodes talking about colonial dispossession. Because it puts them apart. Creates division.

Strangely, this colour-blindness disappears when non-whites or Muslims commit crime. Then, for some reason, it becomes vitally important to talk about race, and restrict migration on the same basis. Bolt fulminates against judges who anonymise Muslim names in their judgements, or newspapers that fail to print racial descriptors of perpetrators. The old tribalism, the old racism, seem to be exempt from Bolt’s criticism.

Perhaps it’s all about culture, a word Bolt prefers (partly because it is more “optimistic”, he says). It’s reasonable then to talk about the cultural element in Islamist terrorism, the same way it’s reasonable to talk about the role of tradition in the Catholic paedophilia scandal. That seems fair enough. Except Bolt described the latter conversation as a “great onslaught of hate” in the media, “a witch-hunt”, “a hate campaign against innocent Catholics”, an attempt to “destroy the sanctity of the confessional” and “tear down the structures of the church”.

It’s difficult to see clearly through the colour-blindfold, but it’s almost like there’s one rule for one set of people, and another rule for others.

I am not a fan of hunting through website comment sections, then smearing writers with their contents. “Nut hunting”, it’s called, a name that shows how easy it is, and how pointless. But the readers of Andrew Bolt’s blog express sentiments so pervasively vile that their sum is unignorable. Five minutes’ reading will be more than enough to get the flavour (remember, too, that it’s moderated –  the juicier turds have already been skimmed from this sewer).

One example has really stuck with me. It’s a comment from a reader called Herb, a former colonial resident of Papua New Guinea. He’d often enjoyed watching colonial riot police at work in the 1960s:

Driving back from the town to the airport I often came across and watched ‘the Police Boi Riot Squad’ at work… The Police Bois laid into anything over their shields with enormous ferocity, arcing their batons from near the ground … The ‘boinks’ were the police bois giving a massive clobber on the skulls like slamming two wooden blocks together …

Herb was writing in at the time of the Manus Island riots. And, like so many of Bolt’s readers, longing for yesteryear.

If the refugees fronted a Police Boi riot squad anywhere near as disciplined in earlier times, they would for sure clobber those thin middle eastern skulls …

Perhaps the reason that it's stuck with me is that Bolt decided to publish it on his blog, in full. “Detainees met a PNG police force that hits back” was the headline.

“Reader Herb gives background to the violent police response to the Manus detention centre riot,” was the introduction. Background.

So how did Bolt's anti-racist readers respond to this image of a baton clobbering a “thin middle eastern skull”? (Why mention the thinness unless to imply breakage?)

With outrage? A re-assertion of love for their fellow man? Like this:

“Boink Boink Boink Boy thats a sound i would have liked to hear”
“What a marvellous description of well organised well disciplined squad”
“That’s how riot squads used to work in western countries too, until the touchy feelie brigade took over”
“Thankyou PNG … Well done, well done.”

I wonder how it would feel, to start an anti-racism campaign and find it polluted with these kinds of sentiments. There you are, just trying to provide some “background” to an event, and find this neutral communication violated by extreme sentiments like this.

I wonder how it feels to look around and find virtually no people of other races in your camp, apart from a few eccentrics and turncoats. To hold a position on the Stolen Generations that requires breezily invalidating the testimony of thousands of people (but only for their benefit, of course).

Of course we can’t know. But I do remember the feeling I had reading this poem in Quadrant.

The jeering, gloating ring of youths
Closed in around a solitary boy,
Teasing and taunting him
Because he was black
The boy staggered from a blow,
The yells grew louder,
Humiliating and bewildering the boy
The colour of his skin was a cause
For ridicule
I wanted to help him
But fear sealed my mouth,
Held me back.
And soon I was yelling with the rest.

That poem is called ‘Fear’. The poet is Andrew Bolt, age 13.

It's not related, of course. Just some background.


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Richard Cooke

Richard Cooke is The Monthlys contributing editor. 


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