Herald Sun columnist Paul Gray gets another run in The Australian today, continuing his crusade against the “endemic anti-Western bias” he believes is being propagated by our Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
What Gray means by this alleged “anti-Western bias” is anyone’s guess, since he again fails to instantiate any examples of systemic propagandising or disinformation being promulgated in ABC programming. He claims the ABC’s bias to be “one of the central problems in our national media”, and “a problem I have observed both at close first hand and at the distance of consumption of ABC broadcasting products.” But his readers are left none the wiser for all this apparent breadth of experience.
So, from the outset, one has the impression that this is just another set-piece of Gray’s that will be embraced by his fellow-travelling thought-nannies and panic elves, while the rest of us either read on with bemused indulgence, or simply tune out.
For openers, Gray bemoans the fact that the ABC’s new director of editorial policies, Paul Chadwick, has rejected the role of “chief censor” for the national broadcaster. Many might applaud Chadwick’s abjuring the role of some kind of Stalinist commissar. But not Paul Gray.
In fact, true to his Stalinist thought-nannyism, Gray proposes “nothing less than the complete philosophical re-education of those ABC staff members engaged in intellectual tasks.” Hmm, perhaps they could be interned in re-education camps, which could be self-funded and self-sustaining by having the inmates grow their own vegetables, and recycle their effluent. It would be good for their taxpayer-funded souls.
Gray presents a brief sketch of the blanket philosophical failings of ABC staff:
The ABC represents the Australian intellectual class in miniature. The journalists, writers and artists who make up that class suffer broadly from the confused values that have characterised Western intellectual elites since the late 19th century. There is political passion without historical knowledge. There is philosophical scepticism, without the well thought-out metaphysical beliefs to make that scepticism useful. There is a nihilistic tendency that goes beyond the call of reason, and summons those afflicted with it to a fundamentalist rejection of the society in which they live, and which on the whole treats them very well.
Where to begin? For a start, the problem of “political passion without historical knowledge” is one that afflicts ideologues at all points in the political spectrum.
“Nihilistic tendency”, eh? Sounds serious! Is this the thin end of the wedge that will see a case of full-blown nihilism take root at Aunty? Or perhaps this is just a case of one person’s nihilism being another’s approach to free enquiry. The catastrophist panic of certain thought-nannies, it might be observed, also “goes beyond the call of reason”.
Then there’s the implication that the ABC should be a loud-hailer for someone’s “well thought-out metaphysical beliefs”. Whose exactly? Paul Gray’s? The Prime Minister’s?
Gray seems not to grasp that perhaps consumers are capable of making up their own minds – that perhaps the “philosophical scepticism” he notes with such ambivalence may be a function of the ABC not exhibiting partisan tendencies, particularly with regard to the government of the day.
But, for Gray, the crux of the problem is the failure of ABC intellectual workers “to learn the basic outlines of Western metaphysical discourse: the tension between utopian political ideologies and the doctrine of original sin, for example.”
In essence, this is about differing conceptions of the perfectibility of human nature – again, a topic on which most people will come to their own judgements. Gray’s couching of this philosophical issue in terms of his Christian beliefs pretty squarely indicates where he’s coming from and where he’s leading to.
Gray, a disciple of Mark Steyn, is a staunch defender of the “traditions of Western civilisation” – those traditions being defined in terms of his Judaeo-Christian underpinnings. These are the traditions that gave us, among other things, the present calamity of Iraq, a misadventure Gray at first defended, before later recanting.
While there’s much about Western civilisation to applaud, there’s nothing in Western tradition that precludes holding its achievements up to the cold, hard light of sceptical scrutiny. In fact, the supposed self-correcting tendency of Western civilisation is held to be among its major strengths. Why do thought-nannies like Gray want to correct that tendency?
Well, maybe the ABC, for all its faults, has “the balance” about as right as it could be. Those faults are inevitable, given the day-to-day pressures to produce thought-provoking content, as opposed to bland panegyrics on our virtues as a civilisation. If folks such as Paul Gray want something else, they can perhaps look forward to another taxpayer-funded visit by über-nannies like Steyn.