• Generation Snowflake: On Claire Fox’s I Find That Offensive

    A question for ideology wonks: what do the following books have in common, apart from the fact that they’re all related to the issue of freedom of speech and expression? On Tolerance: A Defence of Moral Independence, by Frank Furedi; Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech?, by Mick Hume; A Duty to Offend: Selected Essays, […]

    Generation Snowflake: On Claire Fox’s I Find That Offensive
  • Bad Hombres: Three New Books on Populism

    So, it’s happened. Donald J. Trump, the guy hardly anyone thought could win the Republican nomination, and, having won the Republican nomination, hardly anyone thought could become US President, is US President. It still doesn’t feel entirely real, and the sense that we’re living in an alternative present, a counterfactual come to life – more Back to the Future Part […]

    Bad Hombres: Three New Books on Populism
  • Meanwhile, in Europe … Wilders, Le Pen and Illiberal Liberalism

    Not much fun is it – the age of Trump? The walls, the calls, the travel bans – it’s all too much to process, don’t you find? Alec Baldwin does his best to cheer us up, but this shit is about as funny as an orphanage on fire. Some mornings I can’t get out of bed. My hair is coming […]

    Meanwhile, in Europe … Wilders, Le Pen and Illiberal Liberalism
  • Show Us the Money: The (Radical) Case for UBI

    Ah, Finland! Land of saunas and heavy metal bands. Of unpronounceable nouns and the freedom to roam. Of Santa Clause and archipelagos. Of clean air, clean skin, and clean criminal records … And, now, of the world’s latest experiment in Universal Basic Income, which a whole array of public figures, from Elon Musk to Yanis Varoufakis, agrees is A Bloody […]

    Show Us the Money: The (Radical) Case for UBI
  • The Dialectics of Truthiness

    So, ‘post-truth’ has entered the lexicon. And not just via the boffins at the Oxford English Dictionary, who have made it their word of the year for 2016, but also via our own Prime Minister, who this week dismissed Bill Shorten’s attempts to elicit some answers about the Bell Group affair and Senator George Brandis’ role in it as ‘the […]

    The Dialectics of Truthiness
  • I’m with Him: Identity Politics Goes Home

    “So, the first question we must ask ourselves is, what is a Boggart?” Hermione put up her hand. “It’s a shape-shifter,” she said. “It can take the shape of whatever it thinks will frighten us most.” “Couldn’t have put it better myself,” said Professor Lupin, and Hermione glowed. “So the Boggart sitting in the darkness within has not yet assumed […]

    I’m with Him: Identity Politics Goes Home
  • Media Culpa: Journalists Take Responsibility for Trump

    The late Alexander Cockburn once suggested – mischievously, as was his wont – that the principal reason The New York Times published a “Corrections” column every morning was to convince its readers that everything else in the previous day’s paper had been 100% true, morally as well as factually. In this way The Gray Lady maintained her reputation as America’s […]

    Media Culpa: Journalists Take Responsibility for Trump
  • Crying Freedom: On Chris Berg, Andrew Bolt and Paul Ritchie

    In October 1976 an aged Austrian economist assumed the podium in a Melbourne hotel and delivered, extempore, a speech that set libertarian hearts racing. The economist was Friedrich Hayek and the occasion was the Annual General Meeting of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which was then in the process of transforming itself into a radical free-market think-tank of the […]

    Crying Freedom: On Chris Berg, Andrew Bolt and Paul Ritchie
  • Future Perfect: Beyond the Delusional Present

    This essay was first published in Griffith Review: Imagining the Future. You can purchase a copy here. In ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’ (1891), Oscar Wilde wrote that ‘A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.’ Certainly it […]

    Future Perfect: Beyond the Delusional Present
  • Dead Centre: The myth of the political centre

    In the three months since Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister of Australia, one concept more than any other has dominated the political discussion: the concept of the ‘centre ground’. In the mainstream press especially, the notion that politics has a ‘centre’ and that Turnbull has to move towards it in order to win the next election (and that he is […]

    Dead Centre: The myth of the political centre
 

OTHER RECENT POSTS

Tweaking Capitalism: On Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists

Tweaking Capitalism: On Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists

Most writers on utopia tend to take a ‘two cheers’ approach to the subject. Utopias are all well in theory, it is said, but attempts to put them into practice are bound to end in disaster. The political experiments of the twentieth century tell us all we need to know: utopias should be regarded, not as serious political interventions, but […]

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Political Correctness Gone Sad: On Trigger Warnings and the Appropriation of Trauma

Political Correctness Gone Sad: On Trigger Warnings and the Appropriation of Trauma

Good news for US exports this month. Australia, my adoptive country, has also adopted the trigger warning. Taking its lead from US campuses, Melbourne’s Monash University has obliged its academic staff to review their course materials with the aim of identifying content that may be “emotionally confronting” for students, and is set to attach fifteen advisory statements to subjects dealing […]

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Wolf-Whistle Politics and the Conservative ‘Case’ Against 18c

Wolf-Whistle Politics and the Conservative ‘Case’ Against 18c

If, like me, you’ve been following those who’ve been following the latest thrilling instalment of the free speech wars in the past few weeks you’ll have noticed a certain consensus forming among the Canberra commentariat. Applying its fingers to the nation’s pulse and studying the transcripts of her many summer barbecues (the barbecue being to public sentiment what the Olympic-size […]

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A Watermelon and Proud of It? On Richard Di Natale’s Press Club Speech

A Watermelon and Proud of It? On Richard Di Natale’s Press Club Speech

When Richard Di Natale became the leader of the Greens in 2015, he set about painting himself as a pragmatist, as someone in politics to Get Things Done. Perhaps sensing that the Greens are often viewed as unworldly, as political naïfs, he set out a new vision of the party as the voice of principled compromise. ‘I am not an […]

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‘Pro-this, pro-that, anti-this, anti-that’: Everything that’s wrong with progressive politics in one, self-defeating artwork

‘Pro-this, pro-that, anti-this, anti-that’: Everything that’s wrong with progressive politics in one, self-defeating artwork

“How we gonna make this shit okay to be a Nazi out here?” demands a guy in a red beanie, his bearded face filling half the shot. “That’s bullshit, bro, it’s not okay! He will not divide us!” He paces the street like a lion in a cage, circling back to the camera, angry. “He will not divide us!” he […]

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Cory Bernardi Exits, Stage Right

Cory Bernardi Exits, Stage Right

And so, with a swish of his senator’s robes, Cory Bernardi takes his leave of the Liberal Party, thus putting to rest months of speculation about whether he would stay or go. It feels like long past time, and only natural – he was always an awkward customer, what with his views on animal love and weakness for European blondes. But still, […]

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Solidarity and Its Discontents

Solidarity and Its Discontents

A blast from Hollywood’s golden past … In a dry valley in the Italian countryside, the remaining members of Spartacus’ slave army sit in chains, surrounded by their Roman captors. At the front of the group sits Spartacus himself (Kirk Douglas) and next to him Antoninus (Tony Curtis), a slave entertainer and Spartacus’ favourite. The victorious Roman general, Marcus Licinius […]

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Democracy Inaction: Two Major Parties, One Major Train Wreck

Democracy Inaction: Two Major Parties, One Major Train Wreck

Even by the standards of the Australian parliament, this year has been a dull affair, at least for those of us more interested in policy than in the politics of politics. The recent agonies over the backpacker tax were almost Talmudic in their hair-splitting tedium, while the faux debate on immigration sunk even further into absurdity, with Labor basing its […]

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Raise the Floor to Smash the Ceiling

Raise the Floor to Smash the Ceiling

There’s been a strong backlash in the last few days against the recent spate of articles suggesting that one of the reasons Hillary Clinton lost the election is that she relied too heavily on identity politics, ignoring the bigger economic picture in favour of an emphasis on diversity and rights. Two fairly representative pieces were by Laura Penny, writing in […]

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Mooting an Elephant

Mooting an Elephant

When economist Branko Milanović first published his now-famous chart showing changes in global income distribution between 1988 and 2008 he furnished the world with a neat explanation for the various anti-establishment types now rocking the boat of Western politics: sandwiched between the Asian middle class and an increasingly bloated 1% – the winners from twenty years of ‘high’ globalisation – […]

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