Philosophy Hurts Your Head

The blog of a cranky Philosophy PhD Student from Newcastle, Australia.

Resistance, GetUp!: Too Soft on Labor?

Posted by Sam D on November 10, 2008

I have noticed a distinct lack of activity on the part of two organisations with regard to the spectre (if I can use such an emotive word) of non-transparent government internet censorship in Australia. Read more about the censorship here

GetUp!, instrumental in the downfall of the Howard government (or so some think), has had very little to say on the subject, and has launched no campaign. Some do not think the organisation is as independant from the Labor party as it would have the public believe. I’m not sure what has caused this lack of response.

The other political organisation whose lack of response strikes me as odd is Resistance. Now, being a left leaning orgainisation, I understand that their members are probably happier with Mr Rudd as PM than Mr Howard (I know I am, or I was til recently). But I have heard nothing from them on this issue, at all. Nothing on their webpage. Nothing on the Resistance Blog. Nothing in Green Left Weekly. And it isn’t like they don’t know, becuase I’ve emailed them myself. Have they not worked out that ISP interent filtering in the hands of a government hostile to them could wipe them off the web in Australia? Apparently not. I don’t know if Pete Robson is still involved with Resistance, but if he is: Pete, I’m very dissapointed. 

So what is this all about? Why has the Left (and I use the term very loosely to mean non-Coalition) other than the Greens had nothing to say about this? Is it fear of causing a divisive discussion between conservative and progressive members? Is it backroom politics and links to conservative trade union movments (not really my theory by the way). Is it run of the mill disorganisation and incompetance? I don’t know, but I intend to find out.


12 Responses to “Resistance, GetUp!: Too Soft on Labor?”

  1. kerrycraig said

    I too have noticed that many so-called “left” organisations have been rather quiet on this issue. A number of “left-leaning” blogs have (to their credit) taken a stand, but generally they like to point the finger at the dreaded Christian Right.

    This issue may in fact be a little uncomfortable for them because the truth is that a major figure in the whole campaign for mandatory ISP-level filtering has been none other than Clive Hamilton and the Australia Institute (of which he was executive director, until recently). Hamilton started his campaign in 2003 but was unable to get very far at all under the Howard government. Various Christian and family-oriented groups took up the campaign only *after* Hamilton had achieved a media splash in 2003. These groups made extensive use of the (dubious) research put together by Hamilton and his collaborator Michael Flood.

    So in fact, the danger we now face is at least partially attributable to a man who is rather popular among people who see themselves as Left. And more embarrassing still, the Howard government was far better than the Rudd government on this issue. In fact Hamilton became so annoyed at Howard in 2004, that he issued a press release entitled “Howard Wimps Out on Child Porn” (and called yet again for mandatory filtering).

    I’ve posted a detailed account of this on the blog I write for:
    It was Clive Hamilton who launched the current attempt to censor the internet

  2. kerrycraig said

    I don’t know why the link I posted above doesn’t work. I’ll try posting it again, and also provide the url as a non clickable link in case I fail again.

    It was Clive Hamilton who launched the current attempt to censor the internet

  3. Sam D said

    Looks like the link is working now Kerrycraig, thanks.

    Someone on Whirlpool (frankf?) mentioned this in the ISP Filtering thread(pt 11 I think). I have to say that I was disappointed in the Australia Institute. For a group that ostensibly prides themselves on a rational approach to issues, there seems to be a single-minded drive to demonise both pornography and the internet (as it is currently) in general.

    If the impetus for this policy does in fact lead back to the original Australia Institute publications, then they hide it well – there’s no mention of it on their front page.

  4. kerrycraig said

    If you search the site you’ll find plenty of stuff about the social danger of pornography and the need for the government to introduce mandatory filtering. I’ve linked to some material in the piece I wrote at Strange Times (the blog piece that I linked to in my message above). I have plenty more, some not from the Australia Institute site, but I didn’t want to overlaod my post with links (and it’s too time consuming…).

    I can provide you with more info by email if you’re interested.

    It does seem that both Hamilton and the Australia Institute have chosen to keep a low profile at the moment, otherwise you’d think that they would be featuring this stuff on their main page It is a current issue which they put substantial effort into kicking off, after all.

    It’s fairly well documented on the Electronic Frontiers Australia website, but someone really should find the time to go in and add some links to it at other places.

    The reason that I think it’s important to expose the active involvement of a supposedly Left think tank in all this is that people need to be made aware that there really is an insidious creep of nasty, authoritarianism in the entire “left” culture. As a left heretic I’m very aware of this.

    btw, in a previous life, I was deeply interested in philosophy of mind, AI and the whole cognitive science area. I have a never-completed PhD to show for it….(or rather not to show). I understand PhD crankiness only too well….

  5. Sam D said

    “left heretic” – Yeah, the left here don’t talk to me any more since I tried to tell them that parts of John Rawls’ work wasn’t so bad. Mid you this could have to do with the fact that some of them had Rawls and Nozick (yes, you heard me correctly) mixed up.

    I’ll follow up over the weekend when I’m not at work, but I’d like to focus more on the nature of the research that Clive Hamilton churned out for TAI. I hope that these policies are based on more than his discussion papers. Methodological questions have been raised on Whirlpool regarding the surveys, and the inferences that are drawn from them (and how they are drawn) also seem questionable. But at a rally basic level, I can’t stand the continual statement of apparent fact without corresponding direct citation of the source. ‘Pornography has such-and-such an effect.’ Where’s the reference?

    Sexual behaviours involving rape, bondage, sadomasochism, transsexuality, urination,
    defecation and bestiality are widely regarded as harmful, immoral or unethical in and of

    WTF? Where is the evidence that such views are widely held? And where is the argument that suggests such acts are unethical in and of themselves? It’s a very strong and deeply conservative claim. The more I look at this, the more I wonder if The Australia Institute is part of what has gone wrong with the ALP.

  6. A couple of quick things:

    (1) The “Somebody Think of the Children” site has a report of a debate which occurred on Radio National last night in which I think Clive Hamilton was a participant.

    Filter supporters talk, Australia listens

    There’s a link to a podcast of the debate there. (I haven’t had a chance to listen yet…)

    (2) Hamilton has a piece in today’s edition of Crikey:

    Hamilton: Net p-rn goes way beyond naughty

    (Some Crikey material is “subscriber only” …if you can’t read it, let me know and I’ll send you a copy)

    As far as I can see most of the Australia Institute stuff has been on the “discussion paper” level with selective mention of various polls and surveys, including one or two of their own. It would be a very big stretch to call it academically rigourous.

    And in any case, while most of us can probably all agree that there *is* material on the net and elsewhere which is worse than “not nice”, and in some cases could (a) be linked to criminal behaviour (most probably in already disturbed individuals, but not necessarily) and (b) feed “bad attitudes” ( a necessarily subjective judgement), the censorship solution requires far more justification. There is just not a simple logical leap from evidence that “exposure to porn has X negative effects” to “it would be socially good for the State to restrict access to it”.

    All sorts of human behaviour are known to at times result in terrible consequences.

    Cigarettes, alcohol, driving cars, overeating… no point in even attempting a list. It would be easy for anyone of us to produce a survey demonstrating the links between all sorts of things and bad consequences…and not very much more difficult to aks suggestive questions of the respondents which may elicit support for the idea that the State should engage in more regulation.

    The whole porn issue is fraught with so much fear, distaste and hysteria that it’s a particularly easy one to get people going on. People tend to be very afraid ( also guilty, uncomfortable, inhibited) when asked how they feel about porn.

    In fact it’s an issue which arouses really irrational responses. In terms of adolescent safety, the most obvious danger is cars. I read an article the other day which reported that in Victoria alone, 9 young people under the age of 17(!) have died while at the wheel of stolen cars (usually their parents’ cars).

    If we think about assaults on women, as far as I know the numbers have been decreasing rather than increasing (I don’t have clear data to hand on that). If we think about attitudes toward women, I think that they have steadily improved and that that trend in continuing.

    I’m a 59 year old woman (also mother of 4 children) and that has been my personal experience. Once again, I can’t back it up with hard data right now, but having grown up in the ’50s I’m *very* aware of how much things have changed.

    Below is a link to just one of several Australia Institute “discussion papers. It’s entitled:

    Letting Children Be Children
    Stopping the sexualisation of children in Australia
    Emma Rush
    Andrea La Nauze
    Discussion Paper Number 93
    December 2006 (revised)
    ISSN 1322-5421

    “This report on the regulation of the sexualisation of children in Australia is intended to
    be read in conjunction with the earlier Australia Institute Discussion Paper Corporate
    Paedophilia: Sexualisation of children in Australia (Discussion Paper number 90,
    October 2006).

    Many people have contributed to this paper. Alex Walton and Louise Collett provided
    excellent research assistance. Andrew Macintosh and Christian Downie offered many
    helpful editorial suggestions. Clive Hamilton oversaw the entire project.” (my emphasis)

    Letting Children Be Children
    Stopping the sexualisation of children in Australia

    I’m glad you understood what I meant by “left heretic”! I have also become a “person not to be talked to”. That’s because I disagree with a great deal of what is currently regarded as Left. What’s upsetting about it is not the disagreement itself but the refusal to engage in productive and civil discussion and the tendency to resort to abuse (aimed at shutting me up) and (related to that )a strong reliance on ad hominem argument.

  7. informally yours said

    Hello SamD,

    I did philosophy at Flinders but not PhD, and remember reading lists with Rawls and Nozick in them, (positive and negative rights?) but couldn’t remember the differences off the top – but i can relate to your comments about censorship, and coming up against an irrational BS brigade, and being isolated for leading not following.

    It is nice to see getup. standing up against this attempt to censor the net. It is nannyism and ALP factionalism that has gone wrong with the ALP.

    To be honest my probz go with ALP, and Green-Left but good luck trying to shame GL. When you think about ALP factional history you can see that this generation of leadership have taken their pre-selection and seats with the means justifying the ends, and some doing things that transcend the dirtiest tricks in the book. Put this together under Rudd’s leadership and what have you got…Bippety Boppety boo.

    The one that Mark Newton is dealing with as a local member IS NO ACCEPTION.

    (I would so love to see the Rudd govt as a one term government – That ought to be our promise to Rudd/Conroy if this comes in, that we will do our best to make them one termers – Bye bye Kevin07, and StephenConroy, Hello ASP, Bye bye Maxine bye bye, Bye Bye KateEllis bye bye)

    btw i am not around the time frame of this can anyone point me to, or explain this aspect pls.

  8. Sam D said

    (The bulk of what s below is pulled from the wikipedia due to my laziness)

    Rawls:”Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: first, they are to be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and second, they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least-advantaged members of society”

    In a nutshell the most important part of this position is that inequality in society is only justified when it benefits the poorest and most disadvantaged members of society. Eg, it is only OK to pay doctors more than other professions if this leads to more access to health care for the poorest members of society. Note that while it does not necessarily involve income redistribution or social welfare, it isn’t ruled out.

    Nozick argues in favor of a minimal state, “limited to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts, and so on.” Nozick further argues that natural advantages that the well off enjoy do not violate anyone’s rights and therefore have a right to them, on top of which is the fact that Rawl’s own proposal that inequalities be geared toward assisting the worse-off is in itself morally arbitrary.

    Their positions are not really that similar. However, if you are obsessed with Marx and other left-wing ideologies, you might see them as similar as they are both not Marx.

  9. informally yours said

    Hi Sam,
    Sorry, i think there may have been a misunderstanding – I was asking about an outline of the legislative and other time frames that are associated with the web filtering proposal by Rudd. But thanks for the explanation of Rawls and Nozick. I’m not sure i would describe myself as obsessed with Marx but Philosophy at Flinders is very definitely from a Historical Materialist perspective.

    Philosophy 1 took us from the Greeks to Marx and Engels where we literally ended up with the quote the point of philosophy is not only to know the world but to change it.

    I dutifully took this on board but rejected Marxism as too neat an explanation and went off and had a flirtation with poststructuralism for a few years until i came back full circle in realising that in practice the value of Historical Dialectical Materialism (HDM) to understanding the world in order to change it is inestimable. We were taught to treat Marxism as a heuristic and not a dogma.

    I do not see Marxism as ideology. Ideology is that which masks the contradicitons and Marxists seek to identify, expose, and myth bust.

    On the filtering campaign i would think that now that the live trials are pretty much dead in the water, that so too is the project? Therefore it is now a matter of them backing away and out at a pace allowing face saving. Are they hell-bent on this regardless of what Telstra says? In that way maybe it is lucky that Telstra is privatised, as if they were govt. owned the Minister could be able to get away with forcing their particiaption.

    Philosophy really does hurt your head.

  10. Sam D said

    Sorry, I wasn’t saying you were obsessed with Marx, rather that others I’ve met who failed to make the Rawls/Nozick distinction were.

    As for the filtering time-frames – I haven’t scoured the web for updates yet this morning,so all I know about is the trial time-frame (which you are aware of). We’ll have to wait and see what (if any)legislation appears in the new year.

    And yes, they do seem hell-bent on this. I suspect the participation of certain lobby groups, though that would hardly explain this behavior by itself.

    Edit: Bad spelling.

  11. pete robson said

    Hey sam, pete here.

    All I can do is apologise for how long it’s taken us to cover the issue. we had some ppl enthusiastic about writing on internet censorship but there were deadline issues etc.

    we have some new staff on glw and i’m hoping we can assign one of them semi-full-time to the internet censorship issue. first issue is being put together starting tomorrow

    ah well, good to see you

  12. Sam D said

    Hey Pete, good to hear from you! I hope you are well.

    I’m glad you guys are onto this. It’s going to make some strange political bed-fellows. Note that the first case of a political website being blacklisted appears to be confirmed. I’ll follow up later when I’m not at work.

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