The Chattering Class and Australian Social Cohesion
The concept of a "knowledge class" based on technical, scientific and administrative expertise located in a knowledge based society has been developed by social theorists since the 1970s. They refer to a "new class" of symbol manipulators and possessors of "cultural capital" strategically placed to control and dominate others.
The "new class", often described as a "secular clerisy" or a new "priestly class", has three functions referred to by German sociologist Helmut Schelsky: belehrung, betreuung, beplanung, or indoctrination, therapy and symbolic planning in relation to "quality of life", and personal and national identity issues.
The critical development in the formation of a radicalised "new class" in Australia was the fusion of New Left and counter cultural movements with the "progressive forces" of the Labor Party drawn from the university matrix of the 1960s and 1970s.
To challenge the long hegemony of the Liberal-National Party coalition, the elite structures had to be "reformed"; notably the Canberra bureaucracy. The Labor Party was the obvious carrier movement for the "new class". But after the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in 1975 and the subsequent election of the Fraser Government with a massive majority, a virulent motive was added: revenge.
The Canberra-based "new class" was determined to ensure that they had overt or covert access to policy, through strategic appointments such as ministerial advisers and key posts in the bureaucracy, where they could use their greatest undeclared asset, particularly in the intelligence and defence policy area: veto power over policy.
After his 1975 election victory, Malcolm Fraser was characteristically self-righteous but his perceived legitimacy crisis (more imagined than real and maintained by his opponents in the media, legal profession and universities) was political correctness in the form of support for multiculturalism, aboriginal land rights and human rights.
Fraser wanted to establish his credentials with the "new class" as a "real liberal". But Fraser lacked necessary personal communicative and intellectual skills. He confused wilfulness with leadership. Fraser de-authorised himself. By 1983 the Fraser Government was exhausted as its contradictory ethos constructed around him had crumbled. But, one of Fraser's most damning legacies was his funding of the institutionalisation of the new class.
The Chattering Class
In the 1980s, a new critical term was popularised by Margaret Thatcher - the chattering class - a pejorative term for the "new class". In Australia, the chattering class was more directly associated with a "progressive" ideology. Australian synonyms included left liberals, chardonnay socialists, and middle class radicals and commentariat do-gooders - all compassionate, sensitive and burdened persons with a "social conscience".
The chattering class was not concerned with the outdated "capture of the state apparatus" but with the reshaping of Australia political and social culture through public education and indoctrination: the redefining of consent and obligation through the formation of a non judgmental therapeutic ethos which "forgives" and contextually understands anti social and criminal transgressions, and through government intervention, legal inquiries and commissions into alleged social problems.
The more committed bureaucrat activists define themselves as "policy activists" and "change agents" (a type of "urbane guerilla" concerned with policy reform often by covert networking inside the target organisation).
Administrative values such as accountability, openness and transparency were promoted to access elite positions but on achieving elite status, their real objective, they resorted to familiar stratagems of duplicity and concealment.
The chattering class had a vested interest in social engineering through "law reform" facilitated by the institutionalisation of political correctness in university law courses and judicial activism. Law reform was critical as it provided the new class with legitimacy.
In the 1980s a new class operational code developed - political correctness - which also required institutionalisation in the name of reform, judicial reform and the rewriting of language in order to be culturally sensitive and inoffensive to every minority. Aggrieved ethnic minorities sought compensation for alleged and fantasised grievances from discrimination tribunals staffed by chattering class "workers" who had a new career path in the ethnic grievance industry.
The Chattering Class Profile
The chattering class is above all composed of talkers located in expressive institutions: communications and media, the helping professions, teaching professions and most harmfully, the legal profession. The paradigm chattering class member is the social worker.
The chattering class are indeed experts; expertly promoting their collective and status interests and policies by manipulating agendas, subversive networking and operating in clusters in key government departments, especially departments which are involved in the authoritative allocation of values, such as education and law.
The chattering class has a distinct occupational profile: they do not have "jobs": they have careers, typically in the public sector, and have a vested financial and status interest in the expansion of the public sector. Dr Peter Wilenski, the administrative guru of the Whitlam Government noted that "the first beneficiaries of any new programme are the persons hired to administer it . . . and these are already the privileged".
Peter Walsh, a former finance minister in the Hawke Government, stated: "The greatest beneficiaries of [Whitlam's reforms], at least on the outlays side, were those who gained sinecures in an expanded public sector and the white collar middle class in general." The chattering class are dependent on government; government funding, contracts, research grants and subsidies. The rigours of competition in the market place are seen as evil, if necessary.
The chattering class would be worthy only of satire if their influence were circumscribed by countervailing influences. However, their "ideas" or more precisely their "policies" promoted under the guise of "the community", altruism and through manipulated "debate" contaminate public policy, often acting as benchmarks for politicians.
Chattering class policies are especially harmful to social order and cohesion. Such policies are promoted horizontally to authoritative elites in the judiciary, the legal profession, law enforcement and politicians. The policies are promoted vertically to the "punters", as they are fondly called, who inhabit a nebulous space defined by commentators as "out there" by a process called "mainstreaming". Mainstreaming is the indoctrination of chattering and politically correct policies - on discrimination, racism, rights and equality into the lives of normal Australians through myriad restrictive laws.
Many social problems - illicit drugs, the homeless, the marginalised, ethnic groupings, one parent families - attract experts to "reform" and alleviate social costs. The chattering class is expert at crisis intervention as they often play a critical role in creating such problems through their bizarre policies. The chattering class enjoys a double benefit; they may act as agents of social control representing the State and also act as advocates for the victimised-groups. Few of the chattering class are ever unemployed.
Policy areas in which chattering class policies have destabilised Australian society under the cover of "reform" are examined below.
The Chattering Drug Experts
The influence of the chattering class in the illicit drugs field has been particularly harmful and in some cases, literally deadly. The chattering drug experts, commentators, academics, professional victims and assorted careerists have a credibility problem: the social consequences of illicit drug use are visible to normals: street crime, burglaries, robberies, car accidents and related trauma, overdoses and a general increased social insecurity. However, chattering class experts insist that the "drug problem" is "normal", "here to stay" and a "fact of life".
The chattering class began their dominance of public discourse on illicit drugs through the official adoption of the policy of harm minimization in 1985. The ostensible reason was the Labor Government's concern with the alleged linkage between uncontrolled illicit drug use and the transmission of A.I.D.S. - a particularly subtle form of pressure group policy blackmail.
Harm minimisation, the chattering class drug reform and treatment paradigm, has increased drug-related harms especially in the form of viral infections. For example, Hepatitis C has a sero-prevalence of 60-90 per cent amongst intravenous (I.V.) drug users. However, Needle Exchange and Syringe Programmes (N.S.E.P.) continue to dispense millions of needles and syringes at taxpayers' expense.
Needle Syringe Exchange Programmes provide millions of taxpayer-funded clean and free needles/ syringes to intravenous drug users, primarily heroin addicts. But, the annual incidence of Hepatitis Virus C (H.V.C.) continues to rise as more young people inject a greater range of illicit drugs.
In 2001 there were 210,000 persons with H.C.V. antibodies. 16,000 were exposed to H.C.V. during 2001, a 45 per cent increase on the 1997 estimate. A recently published report projected the long term sequelae of H.C.V. infection would treble by 2020.
The location of N.S.E.P.s has been a major community controversy. Many Australians have legitimate fear of the anti-social behavior of illicit drug users and dealers and criminals who flock to the N.S.E.P. outlets, which are never located in suburbs or inner city areas in which the chattering class reside or work. They are located primarily in areas where there is a high concentration of so called "under classes" and ethnic groups.
The chattering class rule is "not in my front yard". In this context, their form of harm minimisation is linked to their understandable concern with personal safety, security and property values - their own. The chattering classes are masters of turning proximal harms into distant harms - to others.
Harm minimisation is taken as self-evidently true and beyond discussion and has framed the so-called "drug debate" based on the following global and dubious propositions: the use of illicit drugs is "normal" and has occurred throughout history, drug policies which prohibit illicit drugs are counter productive; drug use should be treated as a social and medical problem; illicit drug use is the result of macro-sociological factors such as class, unemployment, racism and ethnic discrimination, and treatment goals should not be based on abstinence from drugs but teaching "safe and responsible use" of illicit drugs. Drug reform, a magical phrase, is always on their agenda.
Opposing policies and treatment models are dismissed as reactionary, uninformed, unscientific, and based on poor research. Poor - or more accurately described - fraudulent research, plagues the illicit drug field. Drug users rarely self disclose honestly; there are few, if any control groups,and research findings are quickly outdated in a dynamic illicit research field contaminated by vested academic and status interests. The perpetual clamor for increases in research funds in the drug sector, is expressed in the self-serving phrase "more research is needed'.
Drug-related crime is dismissed by drug experts as a "problematic" concept as direct causation between crime and drug use could not be measured or even inferred. The crime-drugs nexus, if admitted, is allegedly caused by the drug policies of prohibition; if drugs were freely available there would be less crime. This is also one of the official justifications for methadone maintenance programmes, despite the diversion of methadone, a particularly dangerous drug, to black markets and the appeal of methadone (an opioid) to heroin users.
Methadone prescriptions have proved a financial boon for over 10,000 chemists and 6,000 doctors. Academics have a new market - drug studies - and are forging a new career path, promoting harm minimisation principles and depicting drug users as "victims" of prohibitive government policies.
Since the mid 1980s drug reform, drug policy and drug counselling have become a global growth industry with pro-drug reform pressure groups, networks and research centres. Drug user support groups have been formed in most States to promote the "rights" of illicit drug users. Many are subsidised by State governments. Few illicit drug users seek treatment, unless compelled by serial crises. Nevertheless heroin users have set up their own taxpayer-funded trade unions to "represent" user groups.
According to the chattering class and academics, illicit drug users are "demonised" and stereotyped by governments and prohibitionists and "drug wars". In their blame scenario, the United States drug policies are predictably assessed as the policy source of global drug problems. Capitalist societies, class, racism sexism and gender discrimination are other blame candidates and the list is seemingly endless.
Government-sponsored drug control programmes are viewed as social control mechanisms, although this conveniently overlooks the co-morbidity and psychopathology of many drug users, and their malignant narcissism and anti-social attitudes. The "non-judgmental" ethos of drug counseling reinforces the super ego pathology of drug users. Drug users agree with drug experts and counselors that they should not be judged. The drug users' contempt for the "straight world" is often shared by their treatment providers.
Drug users are skilled in blaming others for their habits. Drug experts and treatment providers and policy-makers have laboured to assist them by being "non-judgmental"; using the term drug dependent instead of addict as less stigmatising and non-judgmental. As Theodore Dalrymple has pointed out: "The drug treating establishment tries to ingratiate itself with the drug takers by seeing everything from their point of view." In jargon terms - "by being supportive".
Many drug users internalise chattering class platitudes and policies and repeat them to the chattering class counsellors, which accounts in part for the high dropout rate in drug counselling and treatments. Heroin withdrawal, a fast growing and profitable industry, is in medical terms a simple procedure involving minimal intervention and has the same symptom profile as influenza and subsides within 7 to 10 days. The myth of "horrific heroin withdrawal" has prevented many recoveries. However, treatment providers and addicts collude in regarding it as the challenge.
The most serious charge against the chattering class drug experts and academics relates to their misleading advice and recommendations to a generation of adolescents by stating so-called recreational drugs are not harmful if used "responsibly", whatever that term may mean. If the drug experts advocated such policies on the streets they could face arrest. But in universities, drug education outlets and drug reform organisations, they are protected.
Many teenagers believe M.D.M.A. (Ecstasy) testing kits available at public functions such as outdoor raves and parties show valid results. Ecstasy, a title chosen by drug manufacturers for commercial appeal, is manufactured in clandestine laboratories and is subject to a variety of toxic additives, primarily amphetamine.
Many academics claim that heroin is and may be used as a recreational drug without adverse effects and marijuana is similarly promoted as a "harmless drug" with less attendant harm than alcohol, which overlooks the high concentration of the psychoactive agent, T.H.C., in cultivated marijuana.
The chattering class predictably calls for the legislation of marijuana. The legalisation or decriminalisation of marihuana would create a new set of harms including an amotivational syndrome, marijuana-related disorders, transient micro-psychotic states, cognitive and memory impairment, a pathway to other drugs and the normalisation of drug use as a means of coping with life exigencies.
The chattering class is well placed to control the drug debates, by virtue of their access to government, their professional training in drug studies, counselling and psychology and above all, access to the media. The drug experts can be relied on for a quick grab or catchy media quote, typically to criticise government policies or demand increased funds, allegedly for more treatment, but in many cases to gain personal benefits. Chattering class policy platitudes abound including: "the war against drugs cannot be won; the war against drugs has been lost, prohibition didn't work". They have inverted the medical motto, "Do No Harm".
However, drug experts and researchers have a grave methodological problem: many of their research subjects are dead or in varying stages of morbidity. The drug experts' immediate response: blame government policy! Government is blamed for drug policies based on prohibition. Government is blamed for denying funds to treatment centres. Drug experts, like drug addicts, are also addicted to blaming others. As Theodore Dalrymple has warned: "Thousands of professional carers for addicts . . . in a manner of speaking are addicted to addicts. They can't get enough of them."
There are statistical indicators of a reversal of drug trends under the Howard Government's Tough on Drugs Strategy. The number of persons arrested for heroin-related offences continues to fall: 7,396 in 2001-2002 to 3,239 in 2001-2002, a 56 per cent reduction. There were 725 heroin related deaths in 2000, 306 in 2001, a decrease of 58 per cent. In Victoria, fatal heroin overdoses dropped from 347 in 1999 to 61 in 2001.
The Howard Government's policies have been more successful in terms of key criteria than preceding strategies. Chattering class "policies" encourage illicit drug experimentation and addiction and cause personal community and social harm and trauma. Many concerned Australians understand this truth. Drug experts do not. And they do not wish to.
Criminologists are crimogenic. Their policies are unduly influential on Australian law enforcement officials, especially at the senior levels, as many senior level police at management level have studied at criminology departments and pursued diplomas and higher degrees.
The social origins of most police officers are "normal"; that is, they are not elite members and they therefore have an inordinate, trusting and often delusional belief in the intrinsic value of qualifications. Many of their criminological qualifications are fraudulent - craven academics would not "fail" a senior police officer - but they adorn the offices of senior police through Australia, as the crime rates, burglaries and ethnic based-crime increase. As the number of police involved in management has increased, there has been a sharp rise in the loss of control of the streets and a weakening of traditional law enforcement functions.
Popular concerns with crime, the incidence of crime and demands for punishment of criminals are dismissed by the chattering class criminologists as examples of "moral panic". Police crime statistics are dismissed airily as "unreliable"; public concern with punishment of criminals is dismissed as "desire for revenge".
Politicians and media figures who express popular concern are stigmatised as "vote driven opportunists" who propose "knee jerk reactions". A normal response to crime problems is dismissed as "fear of crime" and "irrational". Tabloid newspapers and radio talk back shows are hate objects for the chattering criminologists, but due to chattering class influence in the media, normals have few other means of having their views and opinions heard.
The chattering class criminologists view criminals not as the cause but as the victims of crime as crime is a social construct. Ethnic crime accordingly is a "social construct" and the descriptor ethnic crime is represented as a form of racism and discrimination against alienated ethnic minorities. In 2004, the N.S.W. police reformed Middle East and South Asian ethnic crime squads due to widespread public concern and fear of ethnic-related drug dealing, drug-related homicides, organised crime, contract killings and homicides.
By decomposing the concept of deterrence, chattering class criminologists facilitate criminal activity. Criminals are increasingly aware they will be relabelled in a non-judgmental manner as "offenders", not as criminals. They will not face deterrence but understanding: not sentencing but therapy, and not punishment but "time out". Professional sociopaths with long criminal careers may be elevated as pseudo-folk heroes for opposing an unjust society.
Chattering class criminologists are opposed to "labeling" and stereotyping criminals and deviants as deviants and criminals. The people who benefit from the redefinition of deviance by academics and lawyers are the deviants who become increasingly anti-social as boundaries for defining deviance are stretched. The chattering class cannot accept the grim reality faced by police on a daily basis, namely that for many criminals, crime is a way of life and many derive pleasure and power from harming innocents. Imprisonment is regarded as an opportunity cost.
Normals who believe in sentencing, punishment and deterrence are treated as "uninformed" and suffering from moral panic and are dismissed as manipulated by tabloid media sensationalist claims and by vote-seeking politicians who "deliberately amplify" crime problems.
By dismissing normals' concern with crime as irrational and populist, chattering class criminologists are of course not interested in the pursuit of truth of the causes of crime but in the promotion of their counter policies. They are pathogenic as they infect the legal and criminal justice system, and they are also crimogenic; their radical rejection of social reality ensures they identify with the aggressor - their real identification is with the criminal.
Multiculturalism: A Political Artifact
Multiculturalism is the demand that Australians should adapt to rancorous demands by newly arrived or resident ethnic groups. Multiculturalism emerged from the New Left matrix of the 1960s and 1970s and is the crazed orphan of cultural relativism. In the Australian case it was designed to destabilise the affiliations to British-Australian traditions, institutions and values. The operational assumption that Australia was a W.A.S.P. paradise built on racism, genocide and oppression is still assiduously promoted by leftist historians and by ethnic and pro-ethnic media. Hating Australia became a profession.
In asserting the regressive fantasy that all cultures are "equal", cultural relativism ensures that the host country, Australia - a term that multiculturalists are trying to depreciate - was denigrated as the source of authoritative allocation of values and legitimacy. Australian multi-culturalism was never put to the people and was almost covertly promoted by progressive activist networks.
Multiculturalism became a contentious topic decades after the realisation that it was politically and culturally destabilising and the origin of many taxpayer-funded social problems including ethnic crime, narcotics, social and religious separatism and political vote-catching.
As two researchers recently summarised, "Multiculturalism was not well known or popular among ordinary Australians." Subsequent research into popular acceptance of multiculturalism reveals respondents were particularly concerned that "they were never asked to vote on it".
The historian of Australian multiculturalism, Mark Lopez, points out: "Multiculturalism was developed by a small number of academics, social workers and activists, initially located on the fringe of the political arena of immigration, settlement and welfare. The authors responsible for versions of the ideology were also principal actors in the struggle to advance their beliefs and make them government policy".
As Max Teichmann has noted: "The original definers of the multicultural scenario were few in number, so had to move carefully . . . Few Australians, native born or immigrant, really wanted it . . . Most Australians were quite unaware of this process of conversion by stealth of the decision makers and opinion formers."
Multiculturalism as a policy was never discussed internally at Cabinet level or party room within either political party. Members of both parties presumed that the legitimacy of multiculturalism derived from political leaders and elite support. Multiculturalism was public policy by stealth.
Lopez notes that through "core groups and activists' sympathisers and contacts . . . multiculturalism became government policy . . . because the multiculturalists and their supporters were able to influence the ideological content of the Minister's sources of policy . . . Contemporary public opinion polls implied...in the general population, a widespread resentment, or a lack of interest, of the kinds of ideas advanced by multiculturalists. ...The original constituency for multiculturalism was small; popular opinion was an obstacle, not an asset, for the multiculturalists."
Finally, "Multiculturalism was not simply picked up and appreciated and implemented by policy makers, government and the major political parties . . . [I]n every episode that resulted in the progress of multiculturalism, the effectiveness of the political lobbyists was a decisive factor. . . . [Multiculturalism was] tirelessly promoted and manoeuvered forward".
Gradually the downside of multiculturalism has become clear. The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington have provided further insight into this perilous dimension, for as Walter Lacquer has written, the hijackers operated "all under the cover of multiculturalism".
By prescribing through law the status of numerous ethnic identities, Australia entered a new culture of complaint and litigation - against alleged discrimination. The multi-culturalists had a strategic advantage: their opponents were stigmatised as racists. Racism was described by university historians as the lynchpin of Australian nationalism and identity and involved a "cosmopolitan" hatred of Australians. As Lopez summarises: "In addition to being racist, the typical Australian was negatively stereotyped as parochial, boorish, narrow-minded, materialistic, suburban, culturally inferior and in need of improvement."
Multiculturalism became a profession based on the mobilisation of ethnic resentment. Grievance mechanisms required the expertise of the chattering class in the form of lawyers, social workers and, of course, the establishment of commissions and statutory bodies to rewrite "racist" laws and advance the interests of ethnic minorities repressed by the "dominant culture".
No country is naturally multi-cultural - it is always imposed. In 1996, the architect of multi-culturalism Jerzy Zubrycki described multiculturalism as, "a good idea that has gone wrong. Ethnicity has been cynically exploited for electoral and civic advantage. Morality rather than social engineering is now required to make Australia a better place." Multiculturalism poses the key questions of loyalty and allegiance to Australia: to whom do the hundreds of ethnic groups and communities owe allegiance? It may take a crisis to find the answer.
The chattering class quickly attached itself to the immigration / refugee issue and promoted a climate of suspicion to all Howard Government claims. Immigration is a low or no-cost cause of high symbolic value. Demography and distance also shape its stance. The chattering class resides in areas and suburbs in which there are few ethnic minorities and therefore few attendant social problems.
The chattering class view immigration and illegal immigrants - commonly misnamed refugees - as a test of their cosmopolitanism, tolerance and cultural relativism. Support for immigration is a litmus test for moral superiority. They do not feel threatened.
However normals regard high immigration levels and illegal immigrants as threatening personal, community and national security (national security is a concept systematically devalued by the chattering class).
The chattering class accuse the Howard Government of exploiting the latent racism and xenophobia of Australians, thereby expressing their lack of understanding and contempt for one of the most racially tolerant countries in the world. The "illegal immigrants-refugee" issue also offers a media platform for a host of formerly anonymous legal mediocrities who can promenade as "men of principle", defending "refugees" in their favourite media outlets the A.B.C., The Age and S.B.S.
In mid-December 2001, bemused Australians television-watched "asylum seekers" burn down fifteen detention centre buildings, destroying four of them in Woomera, South Australia, as they chanted: "visa, visa, visa". The chattering class commentators justified their arson and sabotage against Commonwealth property by claiming it should be seen "in context" and they "shared their pain".
Living in their twilight zone, the commentators denied the existence of multi-million dollar people-smuggling rackets which placed hundreds of men, women and children at risk of death and massive trauma. They denied the existence of terrorist-sleepers entering Australia in the illegal immigrant streams. Thus the refugee-detention issue provided a unique insight into the moral posturing of the chattering class and their contempt for the key issue: Australian sovereignty.
Consistent with the compulsive attachment to "rights", the controversy over aboriginal rights and apologies is conducted by those who have knowledge by description rather than knowledge by acquaintance. Robert Manne, the chief academic exponent of the stolen generations myth recalls, "I did not encounter a single aboriginal child in my primary or high school years."
The use of the term genocide is particularly misleading and offensive to the many Europeans and genuine refugees from Asian countries who fled communist genocide and mass murder. Not only does it degrade and cheapen the horrific dimensions of genocide, but it also reduces genocide to a propaganda slogan against Australia's past. It is a chilling example of the "Big Lie".
Chattering class foreign and international policies, predicated on "peace" and anti-Americanism, appeal to Australian independence and the rewriting of Australia's military and international relations history. Predictably, the chattering class combined their demands for an Australian republic, which they falsely promoted as a sign of Australia's independence with "engagement with Asia". It was alleged that Asian countries would respect Australia's republican and multi-culturalist policy. But multi-culturalism sent a shiver down the backs of many regional leaders.
The platitude "Australia is part of Asia" was another chattering class claim. There is no evidence that Asia regarded Australia as part of Asia. Many regional leaders which included autocrats, military juntas and dictators, ridiculed such claims.
Contiguity was the key element in the "engagement-with-Asia" claim. Enmeshment replaced prudent and principled bilateral relations with countries that have differing and opposing interests and different cultures. Australia, it was hoped, would integrate with Asian and regional economies, primarily that of Indonesia, but the Keating paradigm, A.P.E.C., is now regarded as an atavistic embarrassment.
Alliance destabilisation and anti-Americanism were the real objectives. But good relations with China were also an important part of their equation. The chattering class have a curious fixation with China, a residue of the 1960s and 70s radicalism. Australia is advised to have "treaties" of various kinds with China and to maintain the vaunted and non-existent "special relationship" between Australia and China.
The publicly undeclared motive for the engagement-with-Asia lobby, apart from financial rewards obtained through consultancies, investments and advisors to foreign governments, was that it would promote "self-reliance" and weaken Australia's alliance with the United States. The code word was "Australian independence". However, it is a policy that dares not speak its name as it contains the spectre of political and electoral defeat. Nevertheless, like most truths, it emerges in times of stress, notably after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.
Terrorism and Anti-Americanism
The moral culpability of the chattering class is vividly expressed in their prefix "so-called" to the war on terrorism. The majority of Australians, as numerous polls reveal for decades, approve of the U.S.-Australian alliance and are pro-American. However, like the Islamic terrorists, the chattering class views the United States as the "Great Satan" whose imperial hegemony in the form of globalization is the source of world suffering and inequity.
According to chattering class blamers, the West is responsible for the "root causes" of terror, due to the failure to address issues such as poverty, powerlessness and legitimate grievances of the Middle East. Unless the "root causes" of terror are addressed, there should be no defensive action against terrorists - a suicidal doctrine which must warm the heart of every terrorist.
The 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington were greeted with barely restrained applause by many of the chattering class. The agenda was set by professional U.S.-haters Susan Sontag, Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, and faithfully recycled in Australian academic and media commentaries.
Robert Manne has been a persistent critic of U.S. foreign policy. He recalls his heady days as a teenage leftist: "When I marched in the moratorium of 1971, I gravitated towards a banner which read 'neither Washington nor Hanoi'." Such early "moral discrimination" would appear to be a strange basis for his subsequent anti-communist career, but his ambiguity has evidently been resolved by his recent opposition to the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strikes and the war against Iraq.
The chattering class has a new item in their victimology: Muslims. Muslims are depicted as the victims of American foreign policy and globalization. Further, within Western countries Muslims are depicted as subject to "stereotyping" and religious and political discrimination.
A new chattering class industry has developed: lawyers representing suspected terrorists, immigration lawyers representing "refugees" and a host of multicultural specialists wasting vast amounts of taxpayers' funds on bogus self-validating research. The chattering class agrees with the claims of suspected Islamic terrorists: that they are always innocent of any charges and are always victims of discrimination.
The chattering class has a new phobia: counter-terrorism. Law enforcement and intelligence action against terrorist suspects are branded as "discriminatory", and examples of "Islamophobia". The chattering class opposed the raids on terrorist suspects after the Bali bombings. The majority of Australians supported the raids. The attitudes of ordinary people to terrorism and counter-terrorism and the reactions of the chattering class reveal the moral bankruptcy of the chattering class and their identification with the aggressor.
The chattering class suffered a defeat in the 1990s. The West, lead by the United States, won the Cold War. The "hate America brigade", like the Islamists, still regard America as the "Great Satan".
American global and particularly regional power is crucial to Australia's security. Australians recognise a strategic truth that the experts deny. Conflict between North and South Korea, Taiwan and China, Japan and China would disrupt vital Australian trade relations and maritime routes. In this context, A.B.M. defence may be critical in defending Australia's security and trade interests. The opposition to A.B.M. defence is based on the claim that missile defence is destabilising and results in a regional arms race.
The discerning will identify critics and "defence experts" opposed to missile defense as former members of the "peace camp" who preached Australian self-reliance, independence and neutralism during the Cold War. They have learnt nothing about the need for deterrence. They do not criticise totalitarian states with often crazed leaders and the intention and capability to threaten Australia or the United States with missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Their criticism is reserved for their country of origin - Australia, and of course the United States.
The Chattering Classes Discourse
The American sociologist, Alvin Gouldner, has provided an intriguing explanation for the ascendancy of the chattering class. Gouldner argues that a self-serving discourse has been established -"the culture of careful and critical discourse" -used as a boundary marker to identify insiders and exclude outsiders.
The chattering class support "People like us", a trend especially evident in the entourage and office of Paul Keating and which contributed to his defeat. Bound by vested interests, collective interests and a collective identity, the chattering class are generally able to remain in key positions through change of governments. The Howard Government dismissed many of the more fervent chattering class activists, especially in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but many remain to leak classified documents and contrive anti-government crises.
The chattering class mode of discourse is based on '"justification", an idiom which provides them with ascendancy in public policy and debate. As communicators in elite positions in the media, journalism and opinion-forming institutions, especially universities, the chattering class use their discourse which is based on "justification", "skepticism" and a demand for [unavailable] "evidence'" combined with a hyper-moralistic stance. Critics and opponents are literally "out-talked" by a different language game.
The chattering class rarely meets the standards of their own ideal idiom of justification, evidence, skepticism and evidentiary standards, but it is a useful ideology or form of consciousness which invokes superiority. Opponents are represented or misrepresented as "illogical" or "lacking evidence". When other techniques fail, character assassination may be used.
Conservatives are typically handicapped by a lack of any shared cultural reference. How does one explain the virtue of tradition to a person imbued with a presumptive belief in the intrinsic goodness of all change?
Through their own idiom the chattering class de-authorises conservative values, traditions, customs and other "non-progressive" points of view which are re-framed as irrational, immoderate, inappropriate and shameful and lacking any evidentiary base.
Sections of the chattering class in a more manic mode accuse Western societies and Australia of materialism and consumerism. Greed is a key word in the demonology glossary. Australia is depicted as a greedy, materialistic country which will not open its doors or borders and share its rich natural resources with immigrants and refugees. The church chattering class, renowned for their claimed piety and poverty, are especially fond of claiming Australians are "materialistic" and "selfish". Central to the chattering class is their substitute for individual guilt, collective shame, in which "we" all allegedly share.
The Promotion of a Shame Society
Shame is a key concept in chattering class discourse, even rated higher that concern and caring and compassion. Shame has replaced guilt in the chattering class lexicon. Guilt was too protestant, too private. Shame is used to stigmatise political opponents as "shameless" and as blame or shame objects.
The chattering class have their own "philosopher of shame": the opaque Raymond Gaita, an academic philosopher whose fine mind has never been sullied by an original idea. The foremost Australian academic proponent of shame is Professor Robert Manne of La Trobe University, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald and A.B.C. commentator. Gaita and Manne recycle the turning point in the diffusion of shame: The High Court Mabo judgment (1992) which referred to "a national legacy of unutterable shame". The then Governor General Sir William Deane referred to "a national shame about the past". Shame led to the farcical "sorry day" and the call for an "apology".
Shame has psychological dimensions overlooked by its funded proponents; it is in this context a reaction formation against aggression disguised as virtue expressed in the phrase: "I feel shame, you are shameless, and I am virtuous."
Having a monopoly on shame is also a monopoly on virtue leading to devaluation of Australia. As publisher, Hilary McPhee wrote in August 2002, "I do not recognise my country any more." Is it possible, she asks, "that the change of heart . . . we took for granted after Whitlam and Fraser was merely cosmetic change . . . over a deep pool of resentment and xenophobia?"
Julian Burnside Q.C., the self-publicising counsel for Woomera escapees, has described Australia as, "the new South Africa. The government of John Howard is the most immoral since federation". And he refers to Australia's "shame and depravity".
The chattering class has replaced pride in Australia with shame as they have been marginalised after the defeat of the Keating Government. Shame is their revenge. A leading Canberra journalist reviewing Robert Manne's hate-filled The Howard Years (2004) noted, "With Manne's collection, we see the strongest hint of what will shape inevitably as the revenge of the chattering classes. When this is suggested to Manne, he tells The Australian: That is exactly how it was conceived."
Keating was the last political leader who foolishly aligned his political fortunes with the cultural and career fortunes of this group. They have resented Australia since their identity has been spoiled by "ordinary people" who rejected their rancour, manipulated guilt and paralysing sense of shame about their own country.
The Chattering Class and "Ordinary People"
The chattering class fondly present themselves as fearless truth seekers battling popular prejudice, xenophobia and racism. Their political sources are almost entirely circular as Robert Manne, in exemplary fashion, refers to himself as "one of the politically interested class, the class which reads the quality press and follows public affairs on the A.B.C."
The term "ordinary people" refers presumably to Australians who are not members of the "politically interested class". Robert Manne has said, "In Australia, the most salient political division seems to me now not the one which separates . . . the world of the elite from the world of ordinary people".
There has been a cultural war against, in Manne's words, "ordinary people". In 1998 he referred to "the ideological-cultural line separating ordinary people from the elites." Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party was a reaction formation to the great cultural divide between those who worked and those who talked. Unsurprisingly, Manne described the emergence of Hansonism as a "nightmare".
Critics of the chattering class have expanded to include not only the Hansonites, the "battlers" and the upwardly mobile aspirants but the increasing number of "normal people" concerned with the social integration and cohesion of Australian society.
Australians look at the Australian landscape and cannot recognise some of its finer features. They see the valley of multiculturalism and an increase in ethnic-related crime and the rise of ethnic ghettoes; they are afraid of crime against themselves, their children and their households and a fading police presence; they are afraid chattering class academics and drug experts will indoctrinate their children into "responsible drug use".
John Howard's greatest achievement has been his acknowledgement of the great cultural divide, but whether he has been able to communicate this vital but complex theme to his party and Australians is an open question.
But the chattering class is a powerful and funded counter-hegemonic force. They have contaminated both political parties. To appear "progressive" and not to be outstripped by their Labor opponents, some Liberals have become "politically correct" and their choice is Treasurer, Peter Costello, whose motto is "no offence" which means "no firm values".
Chattering class institutions may appear untouchable. This is not the case. As they invariably lack popular support they can be genuinely reformed. The Family Law Court, for example, has been subject to overdue changes. Law enforcement organisations can be set new priorities based on a response to popular concerns. In the illicit drugs field there has been progress. As Prime Minister Howard has rightly remarked, Australia is now a freer society.
"Cultural wars" are political warfare by other means. Even Robert Manne has noted: "An understanding of the gulf that divides the world of the elites from the world of ordinary people is, in my opinion, the most essential clue to the riddle of Australian politics today."
Political parties with leadership that can mobilise popular sentiment against the programmes and policies of chattering class elites will enjoy popular and electoral support from the majority of Australians who are concerned with the destabilising effects of chattering class policies on social cohesion.
The Chattering Class:
Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-industrial Society, London, 1974
Alvin Gouldner, The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class, London, 1979
Peter Berger, The Capitalist Revolution, N.Y., 1968
P. Walsh, Recollections of a Failed Finance Minister
A. Yeatman, Activism and the Policy Process, Sydney, 1998
Australian Illicit Drug Report, Australian Crime Commission, Canberra, 2002-2003
Theodore Dalrymple, "Addicted to Addicts", City Journal, Winter, 1999
"A Free Fix?", City Journal, Winter, 2003
The Spectator in the Breast of Man. C.I.S. Consilium, 3 August 2003
"An Official Licence to Kill", New Statesman, 3 March 2003
John Booth Davies, The Myth of Addiction, London, 1999
M. Hamilton, A. Kelleher and G. Rumbold, Drug Use in Australia; A Harm Minimization Approach, Melbourne, 1998
Editorial, Medical Journal of Australia, 178 (5) 2003.
"Middle East gang unit back on agenda", The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 January 2004
"Arab crime syndicate - arrests in Sydney", The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 January 2004
Multiculturalism: A political Artifact:
B. Gallaghan and W. Roberts, Australian Multiculturalism: Its Rise and Demise. Paper presented to A.P.S.A. Conference, Hobart, September 2002
M. Lopez, The Origins of Multiculturalism in Australian Politics 1945-1975, Melbourne, 2000
R. Holton, Immigration, Social Cohesion and National identity, Parliament of Australia Research Paper, No. 1, 1997-98
J. Zubrycki, "Cynics woo the ethnic vote", The Australian, 15 October 1996
L. Kramer (Ed.), The Multicultural Experiment, Sydney, 2003
Walter Lacqueur, The Australian, 2 October 2001.
Max Teichmann, News Weekly, 4 November 2000
"Asylum Seekers set fire to detention camp", A.A.P., 17 December 2001
Julian Burnside, Australian Book Review, Issue 241, May 2002
Hilary Mc Phee, "I do not recognise my country anymore", The Age, 12 August 2002
Foreign Policy, Terrorism and Anti-Americanism Defence
D. Mc Lennan, "Australia's Security Dilemma", Policy, Spring 2002
David Martin-Jones, "Regional Illusion and its Aftermath", Policy, Spring 2003
The Promotion of a Shame Society:
Hugh Morgan, "The Guilt Industry", I.P.A. Review, 1988
The Chattering Class and Normal People:
M. Thomson, Labor without Class, Sydney, 1999
R. Manne, The Barren Years: John Howard and the Australian Political Culture, Melbourne, 2001
S. Rintoul, "Manne's Bitter Harvest", The Australian, 19 February 2004
R. Manne, The Way We Live Now. Melbourne, 1998
R. Gaita, A Common Humanity, Melbourne, 1998
National Observer No. 60 - Autumn 2004