Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Jolly Follies with the Ruling Class

There was an entertaining story on ABC's Lateline last night that basically said NSW Young Liberals were 'racist, sexist, and homophobic'. It went on to show footage of a bunch of (probably) drunk Young Liberals chanting 'We're racist, we're sexist, we're homophobic', which pretty much proves it, I guess.
Apparently, the ABC got this footage from some intrepid documentary maker who happened to be filming at a conference in Ballarat last year.

It was a busy day for security guards at last year's National Union of Students conference in Ballarat. For the second year, members of university Liberal clubs were removed from the conference.

Yeah, film this, I've just been assaulted, the security guard just punched me in the face, he's assaulted me, called me a cunt!

In 2004, Aboriginal elder Ted Lovett opened the national student conference with a speech from the land's traditional owners. He says that throughout his speech, Liberal students sang God Save the Queen.

Shortly after giving a rousing recitative to Regina, Her Royal Majesty, this avuncular group decided to 'take the air'. Or, to put it in more formal terms, they were 'escorted from the premises':

... The Aboriginal elder wants an apology and a guarantee that it won't happen again at this year's conference. In December last year, documentary filmmakers Vanessa Hughes and Jessica Tyrrell captured these images at the student conference.

At this point, it seems, the dauntless chaps gathered together and carolled in lusty unison the following inspiring lines:

STUDENTS (All chant):
We're racist, we're sexist, we're homophobic! We're racist, we're sexist, we're homophobic! (All sing): Glory, glory, Liberal students, in history's page, let every stage - advance Australia fair...

Far be it from me to question the ABC's motives, but it does seem a little odd to focus on the fun and frolics of a bunch of drunk fucks six months after it happened. Still, there was more to come. It seemed the ABC had happened across a former member of the NSW Young Liberals, one John Hyde Page, who had written a book, The Education of a Young Liberal:

John Hyde Page is a current member of the NSW Young Liberals and a member of the moderate faction, which has been fighting a losing battle with the right wing of the Young Liberal movement. He's recently published a book detailing systematic branch stacking by the Liberal Party's right faction, led by NSW Upper House member David Clarke. He claims racist attitudes are not uncommon throughout the new, dominant right wing of the NSW Liberal Party.

I think it's a sign of the growing power of bigoted conservatism in the Liberal Party. I think it's a reflection of the sort of almost militarised operation that's been run by senior members of the right wing in this state.

I suppose that's the clincher, then. (Adam 1.0, by the way, has some more entertaining things to say on the subject of branch stacking.)
Anyway, in spite of the tenuous nature of the Lateline story - a puff-piece for a disgruntled former Young Liberal's book - I was interested to hear about this Page character. I think I'd run into him once or twice at Sydney University. I did some googling around for him at work today, and it turns out I was right; he had started off at Sydney University. I remember seeing his bland features pasted all over the campus one year (his glasses were his most remarkable characteristic). He'd been running for some union position or other. Possibly the presidency, though I don't really think he'd know what to do with ultimate power, even if he got it. If I recall correctly, he was campaigning for more taping for lectures, or some other worthwhile cause. It must have been doomed from the start - there was no way the 'Fight the Power' types that vote in student elections were going to be vote for him.
Doing a little more googling, I found this story by Rachel Hills, of Vibewire fame linking Page to another entertaining incident on Sydney Uni campus. It seems that, in a fit of pique at Honi Soit,the SRC newspaper, for negative press coverage, he took a goodly portion of the newspapers and threw them in the Victoria Park pond. Talk about the silencing of dissent! I remember at the time being pissed off because I wasn't able to get a hold of the paper, though I had no idea there was a Page connection.
Still, it was good to see old pasty-face Page resufacing again, (although without the glasses). It was almost like bumping into an old friend. If the blurb on the Melbourne University Press website is anything to go by, his book promises to be nothing if not entertaining:

'I put my hand out in greeting, but the (Right Winger) announced that he only gave the Liberal Party handshake. What was that? The guy suddenly turned very sombre . . . He placed one hand on each of my shoulders, he winked, then abruptly kneed me in the groin. I doubled over in pain. The Liberal Party handshake. It set the tone for much of what was to follow, from the Right Wing at least.'

Something tells me Page would have been the kind of kid who was always playing fifty-two pickup at school - while eating knuckle sandwiches.

But hey, I guess he could have a point. I was never one of the political kids at Uni. Pretty much the only Liberal I know personally is Rachel, and I'm rather sure that she would strenuously deny being racist, sexist, or homophobic, or, for that matter, classist, fascist, or bigoted in any way, shape or form. Ask her about whether she's planning world domination, on the other hand, and you might get a more equivocal response ...


JP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Don Quixote said...

"Few actually consider themselves racist, sexist or homophobic."

That's a great way to avoid responsibility for nearly any poorly judged action. And the young thug that proclaimed, "we'll always control the world... We'll always be in charge" - he was just parodying the left as well; those lefties who are often known to proclaim, "we'll always defer power to our rightful masters."

What makes me laugh, once we get past the apologetics for the sons and daughters of white entitlement, are the female young liberals proclaiming "we're sexist." In fact, you're right - they are a parody; just like aging rockers that play on far past their expiry date, they're a parody of themselves.

TimT said...

I tend to agree with James; to put it into a kind of leftist language, it's 'adopting the dominant discourse and subverting it through satire'. It is a common right-wing joke - Tim Blair styled himself as an 'oppressor' on his old blogspot site, and there's a few right-wing bloggers who have adopted the sarcastic label of 'right-wing death beasts'. I've been tagged that myself.

But hey, my view is that you should never get too carried away with any ideology. Doubtless a girl who styles herself as a 'sexist' is just as ridiculous as, say, a self-styled 'UnAustralian' left-winger. The ideologies people have usually indicate more about the people themselves, and less about the world those people live in.

TimT said...

Then again ...

When I think about the footage, all this intellectual analysis of their chant seems a bit pointless, really.

I think I'll stick with the 'drunk fucks' description I used earlier!

Comic Mummy said...

TimT said: "...all this intellectual analysis of their chant seems a bit pointless, really."

Tim, that's not like you?!?!?

TimT said...

No, it's not! Or maybe it is! Or maybe it's a little of both!

Um, can I have a while to think about this??!!??!

rachel said...

I don't know... I was fairly politically indiscriminate about who I'd talk to in my university days, and I gotta say - my impression of the Liberal Right was definitely that they were homophobic (gay jokes seemed to abound in conversation), if not racist (they were racially diverse) or sexist (I recall the occasional female president).

When John Brogden had his ass kicked for his comments about Helena Carr and the female journalist last year, I was surprised by the fact that anyone was surprised at all. In my experience, at least, that's the way a lot of conservatives behave when they're drunk.

And while I can't think of any specific examples of racism and sexism amongst the Young Liberals I encountered at university (although they were certainly anti-Affirmative Action, if that counts), I have heard many an older Liberal supporter make what I consider to be very inflammatory remarks in conversation - like "they wouldn't let me into the Town Hall [during an Indian function], but they let those darkies in!" or "I'd never vote for a woman Prime Minister."

So I think it would be very naive to think that there weren't a substantial number of conservative people - although hopefully a minority - old and (although to a lesser extent) young, who hold sexist, racist or homophobic attitudes.

Caz said...

Must have been a slow news day, not like there are any wars going on or anythin'.

don quixote - women saying they are "sexist" is parody?

Ha! If you were a woman you wouldn't find that parody at all. Why do you think feminism fails? Women collude with those who have power, which is men. Toward that effort, women are very often far more sexist than men (they like to think that men don't see THEM as being like "other women" though - THEY are, by some miracle, the exception ... yes, they really do tell themselves that, and that's not parody either).

Racist, sexist, homophobic? What about the poor, the wretched, the disabled, and so on?

Come on, in the very depths of their hearts and souls, they are all of those things, and worse.

What people really believe is always far worse than the worst we can imagine or label, which is why it's a very good thing that we can't read people's thoughts - it would be too repulsive and too scary.

TimT said...

And racism, sexism, etc, etc, isn't party specific. It extends across all parties.

What I find weird is, if this Mr Page is so upset about all this, why didn't he stick in the party and try to change it from within? He strikes me as being a bit of a temperamental chap. Saw him on 4 corners late last night, he seemed to rather enjoy talking about branch stacking.

Rachel, you seem to have several websites ...

Don Quixote said...

"I tend to agree with James; to put it into a kind of leftist language, it's 'adopting the dominant discourse and subverting it through satire'."

Come now - I'm sure you could perceive that those twats were incapable of satire. But we've devoted more time to them than they're worth.

TimT said...

They're not incapable of stealing someone else's satire, though. Even if the meaning flies over their heads.

Caz said...

Tim - no, I don't believe this is party specific, or ideologically specific. Some just happen to wear it with pride, while others weartheir hypocritical and sanctimonious rhetoric with pride, at least for their public face.

TimT said...

I don't always mind hypocrisy so much. When I run into socialists selling the Green Left Weekly, and think about the propaganda those papers regularly contain, I'm rather glad the socialists are hypocrites. Imagine if they preached revolution and massive wealth redistribution and meant it! Sometimes hypocrisy is preferable to the alternatives ...

Caz said...

Too true!

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