Deconstructing a propaganda narrative to re-enforce a liberal ideological status quo
|It is now just over two years since one of Australia's most prominent television documentary makers, 'Four Corners', did a viscerally shocking 'expose' of 'violence' against indigenous 'children' in the Don Dale youth detention center in the Northern Territory, which is one of the non state federally administered regions of the Australian Commonwealth. The expose led to a Royal Commission Inquiry which is the most powerful instrument of its type available to a federal government.
The Royal Commission heard evidence which was regularly characterized in the liberal press as 'shocking' and a 'national disgrace'. And when the reader sees the link below, it is easy to understand why that might be the case.
One of the earliest 'discoveries' about film was that while it has visual veracity, it isn't necessarily 'true', not just in terms of potential doctoring of the images, but the editing process of what is included and excluded, that gives what is being seen its social and moral context. Film can be not just misleading, but a powerful propaganda tool to serve a particular ideological narrative. And often, what is not included is infinitely more important than what is.....
For me, what was so ‘shocking’ about the ‘brutal’ video footage shown of the attempted disciplinary action against recalcitrant juveniles in the Northern Territory on the Monday 25th June Four Corners episode, wasn’t ‘the cruelty’, but the chaos.
What is outrageous is the reactionary collective knee jerk. It is a measure of the extent of the suspension of critical judgement and an implicit denial of just how deeply implicated in this are the morbidly obese human rights public values that have so corruptly lost their way over the last 50-70 years. And it is a sobering reflection of just how ideologically colonized mass populations have become by the orthodoxy of their day, that hardly anyone can tell the difference any more between ‘torture’ and chastisement, or ‘abuse’ and toughness.
Even for those with a stomach for it, watching the business end of aggressive disciplinary enforcement is never a pretty sight. It isn’t supposed to be. It is a salutary one and designed to singularly focus the mind on the all too possibly, inconvenient, uncomfortable, stressfully and possibly painful consequences of consistently poor attitude and bad behavior.
Human rights values legitimately started life as a measured and disciplined democratic response to rogue state sponsored mass murder, enslavement, and the use of truly terrifying state security apparatus’, as exemplified by the Gestapo, the Kempetai and the NKVD. However, as the decades have gone by, they have degenerated into little more than consumer freebies bestowed by people who cannot tell the difference between a citizen and a customer, or do not understand that for a right to mean anything and not be turned into a grotesque caricature, it must be earned through the acquisition of responsible adult agency, and the training for it, first.
To give children so called ‘human rights’ is just the most egregiously damaging gobbledygook. It is the responsible agency of parenting and related in loco parentis authorities that have certain child welfare standards to meet as a sine qua non for their right to have and keep children under their care. Further, part of those parental or in loco parentis obligations are the enforcement of reasonable sociophilic (as opposed to sociopathic) standards of behavior, to the extent that they should not just be credited for the excellent performance of the children under their care, but held responsible for their poor attitude and standards of conduct, if these should come to public attention. Social accountability is not a Humanist Ascendancy strong suite, unless of course it serves their interests in undermining social authority..
Everyone wants to be in on the warm fuzzies and getting their piece of the action in the film credits when a Kathy Freeman (a famous indigenous Australian athlete) pops out of their mob (indigenous community) and stars in the Olympics. But when the mob produces far more than its fair share of rotten apples, well everyone is into copious amounts of anti-stereotype repellent, well practiced expressions of innocent outrage and cannonades of ideological grapeshot fired at ‘prejudiced’ straw ‘bigots’. And what gets conveniently obscured is the eternal reality of how hard it is to win a good reputation and how easy it is to lose it, no matter who you are...which is why those with a good reputation fight so hard to keep it, and those who have lost it resort to the bankrupt’s declarations of unfairnesses, discriminations, adverse historical forces and anything that can relieve them of responsibility for anything.
The apoplectic objections-to-'racist'-criticism likely to come back at that proposition are in reality a grim reminder of just how laissez-faire and egoistically irresponsible our fundamental social arrangements have become, and a reflection of the general denial of how impotent and undermined parents and in loco parentis authorities have become across the whole culture, which becomes brutally obvious if they do try to enforce bottom lines and refuse to indulge people.
What we were looking at as those video scenes unfolded were the consequences of a long term strategy to demolish social governance in favor of marketing, of which ineluctably, the UN convention on the rights of the child is an integral part. It is the point where the axis of free market Liberty Inc (that want access to helplessly impulsive customers) and social libertarians (who want to delegitimize ‘repressive’ discipline and discredit the ‘anti-individualist’ demands of a social commons) becomes a unified regime that is more totalitarian than its state predecessors, because systematically promoted disinhibition is a far more powerful (and socially disabling) instrument than state sponsored terror.
The indulgent regime deregulators and privatizers down at Liberty Inc have been able to remove the power and authority of parents with an ease that has never been possible (but often tried) before, because the instruments were ‘apolitical’, seemed ‘freedom loving’, ‘progressive’ and ‘inevitable’, and resistance was made to look like old fashioned recalcitrance by ‘repressive’, ‘domineering’ and ‘out of touch old fogeys’. Brilliant...
In the process, at the profoundest level, as conformity to the messages from the sponsors reaches its apotheosis, freedom has become a slavery more complete than anything ever attempted before. And from the margins, but working in, what we end up with is socially responsible moral agency that is so smashed up, it inevitably turns in something like those lurid detention centre scenes, which in their own way parallel the adolescent exceptionalist chaos at the top of company boards of banks that resulted in the GFC and the subsequent bank/financial services royal commission in Australia (which while noting it, equally glossed over the collapse of social and moral governance at the elite level, which started with no social potty training from mummies and daddies and went on until final graduation from the Gordon Gekko School of Corporate Deportment) .
The young and violent criminal recalcitrants we saw being disciplined by guards are a product of a long term collapse of non market socialization and unsustainable social practice; as unsustainable as consumer capitalism is in relation to the natural environment. Marketing has zeroed socialization down to production drivers and consumer responders, producing nothing but worker drones and shop troops that are stripped of all else, because it has been deliberately disappeared.
Thus nobody has ever stood up to those young buccaneers and engaged and disciplined them effectively, because the infrastructure for that has gone and been effectively delegitimized, so they have no sense of social attachment. Nobody has given them even the most basic moral and social potty training, so they are incapable of remorse. Nobody has shown them the boundaries of civilized discourse, so for them, they do not exist. Nobody has taught them to obey legitimate authority, so they do not recognize authority of any sort. They are helplessly floundering (as are the wretches who have to administer them) in an existential and social vacuum not of their making.
All they hear are the messages from the commercial sponsors that justify adolescent egoism and the rock solid excuses of the humanitarians that whatever it was, they didn’t do it, but if they did, it wasn’t their fault, but if it were, they didn’t mean it, but if they did, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but if it weren’t, well shit happens and everyone just has to get over it, but if they can’t, well they are disadvantaged and discriminated against poor things who are helpless in the face of the racism, capitalism, imperialism and forces that discombobulated their judgement….
Worse, the other social messages these adolescent monsters are getting are just as dreadful, because their parents suffer from the same disease, where responsible adult agency has been replaced by permanent adolescence, immature, insecure and dysfunctional gender relationships and no parenting templates or social values to populate them with, other than to spend everything they have and then everything they don’t have on mostly throwaway junk and fleeting pleasures. And as with all long term welfare dependent communities, where almost all those children come from, they do not have productive templates to provide even the most basic occupational therapy that would keep them busy, either in study or work, to protect them from boredom and out of trouble.
And like all dysfunctional characters, a lot of the parents and families of these characters do not really want their children to be any better than they are because that would reflect badly on them. So we don’t have to get up in the morning, clean up the pile of beer tinnies from last night, get the kids to school, or make an effort that might threaten the uncomfortably comfortable loser status quo.
We are the ones who have built this very modern version of hell; the corrupt and malign Humanist Ascendancy and the masters of business administration who sit behind them, who market relentlessly to people who can no longer control their impulses at all, because the socialization infrastructure that stops them becoming that way has been systematically destroyed, bit by bit, decade by decade, drip, drip, drip….That is what we should be really outraged by. That is a profoundly cruel betrayal; the cruelest of them all by so much it doesn’t matter.
The royal commission that was set up was always going to be a show trial in the classical tradition of the Soviet Union; a device that would obfuscate as much as it revealed, and would transfer blame to low level officials who would take the rap for regime malfunction. It would result in a lot of color and movement, a flurry of administrative changes, and then everything would go back to business as usual, which is out-of-control juveniles that no one can manage, in an environment that can only get more toxic and dangerous for anyone anywhere near it. Real change that would confront the ideological status quo isn’t allowed because children have rights designed to keep them just the way they are.
And two years later, that is largely what has happened, with neo-progressives (who are as dubiously 'progressive' as their neo-conservative regime opposite numbers are 'conservative') pointing out the screamingly obvious, that business as more-or-less-usual was and is still in place, because 'we' (and 'the system') have not done enough (and can never do enough) to stop overwhelmingly aboriginal children from breaking the law, ending up in detention and behaving badly when they get there, which is everyone else's fault except theirs, their families and their communities...and their white (and just off white) neo-liberal Humanist Ascendancy sponsors.
( https://www.hrlc.org.au/news/2018/7/26/two-years-on-from-don-dale-expos-nt-child... ).
It was thus with military/police intervention after the 2007 'The Little Children Are Sacred’ report on egregious child sexual abuse in aboriginal communities, also in the Northern Territory. (See http://www.inquirysaac.nt.gov.au/pdf/bipacsa_final_report.pdf ). Nothing has changed because no one is prepared to stand up to the ideological status quo and admit that the human rights establishment is stone cold motherless defunct and should be disposed of as quickly as decently possible, so that people living with the awful misery of liberty without moral agency; i.e., a disinhibited life without boundaries, can have some chance to regain their self possession and their their authenticity as human beings, because disciplined social training and consistently meeting its expectations are the gold standard basics for existential and social autonomy.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies report for 2015 claims a substantiated child welfare notification rate for indigenous juveniles for 2013-14 that is seven times that of the rest of the population, because the designated sacred site status of indigenous culture is in reality a shambles that existing ideological policy settings can’t manage, because the ‘gift ‘of human rights intensive/responsibility vacant libertarianism has done even more damage than the paternalism of its predecessors. And when this toxic mixture threatens to get out of hand, there is nothing better than a cleansing royal commission to clear the air, the status quo and the ideological establishments that stand behind it, of even a sniff of responsibility. Very nice...
In the meantime, the rest of us just have to grin ‘n listen to the painful baloney and ideological obfuscation...like the old chestnut about indigenous ‘over-representation’ in the prison system, as if this were everyone else’s fault and that the ideological poor thing ‘clients’ are blameless ‘victims’ of the ‘discriminatory’ system, ‘racist’ history, ‘fascist’ invasion, massacres and the whole damn thing….the perfect storm of apparently bullet proof excuses why ‘the clients’ can’t possibly change anything and their dysfunctional behavior (a NT aboriginal women is 22 times more likely to be hospitalized through family violence than her non indigenous counterparts) is justified, and why we must ‘understand’, ‘tolerate’ and ‘empathize’ in perpetuity, because ‘everyone knows’ we are the guilty ones, and no remedy is ever going to work beyond worthy but futile gesture making... which will secure the careers of whole fleets of petty bourgeois white bureaucratic dabblers, racial ‘carers’ and indigenous funding submission wonks, their children and grandchildren, forever….swallowing large chunks of the funding...who will continue to live indefinitely in expensive inner city precincts that are as far as humanly possible from their indigenous ‘client’ dependents…. who will go on training their children to become first world/third world champion losers just like their parents, for the next 60,000 years!
60,000 years! Do I hear the swelling strains of a thousand violins and didgeridoos, celebrating the same old same old for all that time, because no one could get in or out of the Australian continent until the late eighteenth century of the modern era, and the record got stuck on a repeating loop from which no one could escape? Are we talking about the most conservatively traditionalist culture on earth that is so buried in its seemingly eternal repetitions, it just cannot bring itself to move on, even though it is palpably falling to pieces, but survives on sentimental government funded life support, unctuously sickly sweet apologies and more prancing white liberal prejudices than an Indian sacred cow procession?
And unless someone has the whatevers to call some bluff, the human rights agenda will remain as sacrosanct as it is incompetent and corrupt.
Our country is rapidly filling up with people whose history of suffering puts indigenous experience into some sort of perspective; people who have or are making the often terrible and tortuous path into the modern world, but only taking as much of ‘their culture’ as is portable and still make it there; who see this country as a golden opportunity and not an insurmountable problem; who have poulticed their sufferings, allowed space to heal the wounds of history and are moving right along to capture the opportunities and security of life and property that likely exist here in greater measure than almost anywhere else.
And I say to my indigenous brothers and sisters, whinge to someone from the Horn of Africa about the hopeless wretchedness of their condition, and see how much sympathy they get.... But they will always get a rapt hearing from intellectually decadent petty bourgeois white blatherers whose grossly inflated rhetoric cannot distinguish between an ‘invasion’ and a takeover, ‘fascism’ and modernization, ‘racism’ and political/cultural asymmetry, minor albeit ridiculously unequal frontier skirmishes and systematic modern scale killing... guaranteed!... garnished with all the progressive’ stereotypes and white dreamtime legends we have come to expect and love. Harry Potter eat your heart out.
And just in case anyone is any doubt the truth about what I am saying, go back to chapter 4 of the 2007 Northern Territory report, ‘The Little Children are Sacred’. It will give humanist do gooders a castor oil taste of where those 'victims' in last Monday’s ‘Four Corners’ program are coming from, and some vague idea of the dimensions of what needs to be done to save not just remote indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, or equally disabled elements of the non indigenous long term welfare population, but all the rest of us, as we relentlessly lose genuine adult role models and embrace adolescent infantilism and egoistic fantasizing as the new normal for a dysfunctional family pandemic that promises only to get worse, spreading damage everywhere, including the top echelons... as we saw so brutally clearly during the GFC in 2008, when we woke up one day to be confronted by ‘a whole generation’ of bankers who believed that the financial system was all about them, and not Other Peoples’ Money...and their sense of historical exceptionalism, which made them believe that prudence and integrity no longer mattered... because that was the province of incorrigibly unenterprising yesterday’s people, who just so didn’t ‘get it’.
Any real change vector is going to involve a lot of very ugly confrontation and ‘attitude adjustment’ that will involve processes that will bear no relation to alienated human rights and a great deal to human obligations and sociophilic (as opposed to sociopathic) attitude formation.
Anyone interested as to what the process might look like can consult R.J Lifton’s ‘Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism’. It is a study in personality/values reconstruction as carried out during the years of Mao Zhedong’s rule. It failed in its objectives not because it broke every rule in the Human Rights Rule Book, but because in the end, Mao’s vision of Permanent Revolution caused so much damage to Chinese society and the economy, that it had to be abandoned. However, it is a perfect tool to deal with severely screwed up individuals that require a complete makeover, like the young characters we saw on TV the other day.
One can see this system working at its best in the scenes from ‘The Last Emperor’, after the Japanese puppet Manchu emperor is captured by the Communists and ‘reconstructed’ from a traitor to a humble but productive worker in the New Order. When, much later, the ex-emperor sees his ex-interrogator/mentor in the street falling victim to Mao’s megalomaniac ‘Cultural Revolution’, he futilely tries to intervene on his behalf, out of respect for the man’s integrity and fundamental decency.
That is what those young buccaneers we saw the other night need and they do not finish their sentence until everyone in the corrections system is 100% satisfied that the reconstruction has been a success. And that is because as responsible public agents, they are not going to return anyone to civil society who they feel is likely to re-offend, if their attitude is exactly the same as what it was when they came into the corrections system. That might be bad for individual rights, but it is excellent for public safety, potential victims of crime, and the management of the much more extensive and socially damaging sociopathic attitude and behavior that underlies crime, which all who know and share space with a real rogue are forced to absorb in full measure, at their considerable unreported cost.
Parole boards wrestle with this, and like everyone else in the current system of social mismanagement, they are haplessly struggling with a prison system that hardly touches the attitudes of the people that pass through its gates, out of communities that have long forged their vicious temperaments, to the extent that only the terrible business of leveling them down to their existential foundations and starting again, will work.
In the end, as our social infrastructure continues to collapse, and the sort of behavior we saw on our TV screens continues to make its way from the margins into the social center, the perceived virtues of what I am suggesting will become overwhelming. Even the wealthiest and most powerful families are not immune to a garbage culture. At some point, traditional legal justice and rights will no longer be able to co-exist with a pandemic of social disorder and chaos caused by the break up of our social commons. Unfettered individualism (egoism) has devilish consequences. People have known that clearly for eons, but the modern libertarian humanist 'wets', who imagine themselves to be historical exceptionals, just don’t 'get it'.
And the traditional human rightsie crowd will have no one to blame for all this but themselves. Naturally, like their free market corporate cousins who are also very reluctant to own up to their part in destroying our social and ecological commons, their social libertarian cousins will be equally obtuse and obstructive of necessary change. Every establishment with a large stake in the status quo behaves in exactly the same way, until the shit hits the fan and the awful truth crashes in on if not them, absolutely everyone else.
If there were ever a time for calling out the bluff and bluster of Social Establishments like the human rights, welfare and sexual fetish lobbies, this is it. We mustn’t be afraid of the ideological smears and stereotyping that comes out of the mouths of ideological incumbents, who have so much to gain from the status quo; who have grown fat and lazy in the glow of their own congratulatory self esteem, the overwhelming political effectiveness of their institutionalized cant, and their still very substantial control of the means of cultural reproduction (and documentary exposes).
And yes, the likes of me will be dismissed as old fashioned ‘authoritarians’, but just remember, that it is coming out of the mouths of people who congenitally can’t tell the difference between that and the rightful assertion of legitimate authority; the authority of a social commons they dismantled and then handed across, lock, stock and barrel to the marketing section of the economic department of Liberty Inc; a matrix that was once quaintly known as capitalism; a Golden Gulag without walls or guards, because the prisoners there are held by visions of paradise, brought to them by the proud sponsors, who offer any fantasies they want and then give them the freedom to drown in them.
This is why, despite the orderly infrastructure and apparent prosperity, it is a charnel house. It destroys social and existential software with the same alacrity as the old dictatorship’s proclivity to murder people. The only software that is allowed in the New Order is as narrowly conceived as that of its totalitarian predecessors; production drivers and consumer responders and that’s it. No other software is supported. Anything else has become a laissez-faire free fire zone.
This is not just an ideological argument. The discussion of evidence that swirls around it shows the same pattern of denial and avoidance by the dominant responsible groups within Liberty Inc. The attempt to quarterize information flows that might disrupt the status quo crosses administrative boundaries, whether corporate or social.
When I was doing my research for this essay, I noticed that there has been relatively little change in in the child welfare intervention statistics over most of this century, where one might have expected to find noticeable changes, if the social system was as dysfunctional as I am suggesting. I was certain that the numbers did not reflect the realities on the ground.
For years, it has been obvious that social welfare workers across all jurisdictions have been drowning in their caseloads. The tragedy of children falling through cracks in the system is so frequent that it is barely noticeable any more, and only becomes news if they actually die or are seriously injured, or a pedophile ring is uncovered. Domestic violence gives rise to all the appropriate hand ringing and noises about ‘violence’, but when it comes to analysis of why this is happening, the silence is deafening, other than to pin the whole thing on perpetrators, with no further questions as to what is actually going on, that might reveal the real state of our social infrastructure, and the role in that of the present ideological incumbents.
At the very same time that the ABC expose came out, the South Australian (South Australia is a state government) premier, Jay Weatherill, flagged the abandonment of mandatory child protection reporting because it was producing a horrendous flow of work for welfare agencies who could not follow up more than a third of the cases, that involved one in four children in the state. He tried to suggest that this was a product of ‘over-reporting’. But the system has been in place since the late 1970s. And, as child protection authority and UniSA emeritus professor Freda Briggs said, stepping away from mandatory reporting was a “backwards step”, because “This is just to cover up the fact that they’re not coping.”
This is exactly the same kind of ideological sludge we have come to expect from the climate change denialist lobby. And compulsory notification is bound to be only the tip of the iceberg, because what has happened is that stable inter-gender partnership and parenting templates, reproductive regulatory standards, accounting and auditing processes, mentorship and training institutions and sufficient enforcement infrastructure, have all been abandoned in favor of a laissez-faire regime we would never tolerate in any other industry, and would roundly condemn if such a thing were suggested by free market advocates.
To suggest that the reproductive ‘industry’ which produces the most precious product we make, is purely a private matter between individuals, is the kind of drivel we expect from neo-conservatives, with the same self interested drive towards lack of accountability and the sort of deregulatory and degovernancing agenda that is to be found in that despicable document, The Trans Pacific Partnership. The hypocrisy of the double standards should be blinding obvious, but it isn’t.
When the human rights agenda became official ‘ideology-speak’ in the 1960s, as the libertarian consumer revolution took hold front and center, ‘liberation’ became ‘anything-you-want-baby’, because ‘if it feels good, it is good’, and because discipline was ‘repressive’ and ‘old fashioned fuddy duddy’. That would have been fine if we had replaced the fuddy duddy stuff with new infrastructure, but for reasons no one ever talked about, that didn’t eventuate. A feminist alternative to nasty patriarchalism got a lot of media attention, and then it just somehow disappeared into the academic margins.
What really happened was that the marketing machinery that was promoting the libertarian consumer ‘revolution’ was interested not in liberty, but disinhibition. They were not interested in social discipline. They wanted impulse buyers with all the internal controls ripped out. That is precisely what they got. And it took enough time for the old controls to gradually residualize, that by the time they had gone, no one noticed a thing. The sound of their world falling to pieces was reduced to a background dissonance and the dysfunctional behavior it brought in its wake was just an inevitable fact of life that had always been. Brilliant.
What I and people like me are flagging now, is that that will not wash any more. The Royal commission on ‘cruelty’ to children is obfuscatory propaganda designed to conceal the corrupt incompetence of what is left of our system of social reproduction. It is a despicable con that no high integrity society in real control of itself would ever countenance, if for no other reason that its education system would be good enough to graduate students who knew exactly what ‘cruelty’ meant and done enough clear thinking exercises as part of their English curriculum to identify sloppy ideas and baloney, and critically evaluate the ideological slants and propaganda orchestrated right across our media; all of it!
In 1517, when Martin Luther put up his arguments against the ecclesiastical abuses of his day, he could easily have joined the queue of his predecessors who had been forced to recant, or suffered being burned at the stake. He got lucky because the forces around him that were sympathetic to his cause had coalesced to the point, that when it came to the crunch, he survived and the Church in Rome found itself confronted by a rebellion it couldn’t put down. The Humanist Ascendancy is not so dissimilar to the Medieval Church and is armed with the same sort of ideological naughty corner, the heretic’s dunce hat with the accused’s devastating heresies pinned on it.
It can be tough to be pilloried and branded as 'racists' (critics of the regime race agenda/narrative), 'bigots' (the pot calling the kettle black, as it were) 'prejudiced' (values and opinions 'we' don't like), 'judgemental' (exercising ordinary judgement) 'discriminatory' (critically discerning) and vilificatory hatespeakers (vacant denial of legitimate concern, principled agenda, and rational argument for it) by people one knows to be incorrigible frauds, but one has to have the courage of one’s convictions. Yes one can lose and be made to look bad, or a fool, but if we keep going along with the status quo, the chances of peaceful reconciliation within civil society will steadily deteriorate. And when the stakes have become big enough, all the bets start to come off and everyone plays for keeps. We are moving into that kind of period. The post World War ideological assumptions and geo-political settlements are clearly starting to break up. Serious challenges are coming out of the margins into the center.
People have to gone to war for much less than the matters being discussed here, for these are truly fundamental issues that will very possibly start to define a new epoch, that will find out who has what it takes, and who doesn’t.