Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Roskam a witless Pangloss or a prostitute

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-07-18

John Roskam is Andrew Bolt without the impish way of words, and his piece in The Age 2007-07-18 ("Terrorism is real. Just ask those who have lost loved ones") makes Dr Pangloss look clear-headed.

Roskam’s thesis is that the left ignore all evidence about the threats of terrorism so they can castigate Howard and Bush, while also ignoring the black-and-white "pure evil" of terrorism.

Here is one of the sentences that floored me:

It’s not as though anyone who enjoys the freedoms provided by a liberal democracy can have any sympathy with the aims of jihadist terrorists.

Ironically, this was printed opposite the Julian Burnside piece about the flagrant violations of traditional freedoms we associate with liberal democracies, freedoms that Roskam should be worried about given that he is executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs, which …

is an independent, non-profit public policy think tank, dedicated to preserving and strengthening the foundations of economic and political freedom.  We believe in the free market of ideas, the free flow of capital, a limited and efficient government, the rule of law, and representative democracy.

Political freedoms?  Rule of law?  Limited and efficient government?  Either Roskam is an intellectual prostitute or has a cognitive disability, or he’d be attacking the Howard government for rendering impotent the freedoms we thought we had, pointing out that the executive is expanding it’s power to override the judiciary (hardly a limited government committed to the rule of law), and would be arguing against the electoral restrictions currently being introduced.

Since when have the leftists (who it seems are the only ones arguing about the need for freedoms to which Roskam pays lip service) argued that the jihadists were right?  The left have been arguing that the jihadists need to be fought by improved education, and a resolute defence of the freedoms we hold dear.

He goes on:

Most likely what has happened is that a hatred of conservative political leaders has combined with a cultural relativism.  Thus there is a refusal to acknowledge the existence of any universal application of the concepts of right and wrong.

Wrong!  The "conservative" political leaders (I’d label them radicals) are the ones that promote cultural relatavism as they attempt to justify the constant erosion of rights we held absolute.

Classifying something as "pure evil" doesn’t satisfy the predilection of relativists for seeing shades of grey in everything.  But surely there can be no other description for the sort of terrorism we’ve experienced.  If the premeditated murder of thousands of people is not evil then what is it?

This after berating the left for seeing Bush and Howard in black-and-white terms!  And given the body count (both direct and indirect), it’s fairly obvious that if guilt must be assigned to those whose premeditated actions have led to the greatest amount of human misery in black and white terms, the guilt is on the head of Roskam’s paymasters.

It’s not like Roskam can argue that the deaths, and the pretexts for the Iraq invasion were unintentional – as he is defending the very despots that detain without trial a man who was reckless with a SIM card.  Can Howard and Bush argue that their own recklessness has not lead to thousands or tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths?

What’s at stake in the debate about terrorism is more than a question of historical interpretation.  Unfortunately there’s nothing imagined about terrorism.

Here, Roskam is correct, but he does not raise the real of question of how to stop terrorism.  Roskam merely gives implicit support to Howard and Bush’s methods of dealing with terrorists, or, as Tom Lehrer put it about the cold war "performing escalatio on each other".

The real questions Roskam should address are:

  • What are the freedoms we stand for?
  • How can we stop recruitment to terrorist causes?
  • Is the west acting hypocritically, dealing with different Arabic states for expediency rather than on principle?
  • Why did Osama Bin Laden specifically urge his followers to refrain from attacking western states (such as the Nordic Nannies) that do not treat Muslims as children of a lesser god?

I reckon it will be fairly easy to prove or disprove Roskam an intellectual prostitute: when efforts for an Australian Bill of Rights surface again, I bet Roskam will be bending over for his paymasters and arguing against every single right.  If he argues for the freedoms the IPA says it cares for, his revenue stream will dry up.


  • In case you think this is a pure lefty rant on a right-wing spin-tank, you’ll see I am quite respectful of some self-identifying right wingers, such as Andrew Norton
  • My argument that Roskam’s IPA is antipathic to human rights is borne out by a Google search of the IPA for human rights and viewing the literature it returns.  Past 3 months? Nothing!  It’s worth quoting the only substantial article I could find in a short time that is unadulterated IPA – an editorial from September 2000 IPA Review which lambasts those arguing for civil rights and civil society, opening with ….

    The time has come to stop the advocacy charade. For far too long we have allowed ourselves to be manipulated, abused and fleeced by a growing gang of advocacy nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). We have allowed these group to make false claims about representing civil society or other mass causes. We have allowed them to undermine national sovereignty and democratic institutions, to ‘dumb down’ debate on vital but complex issues, to lie, to destroy property without just cause and to capture the imagination of the young.

    If "dumbing down" debate or false claims about representing liberal democracy is the charge, I’d say the IPA is in the frame.

    The IPA will strive for an open and transparent market in advocacy, based on honesty and integrity. Anything less is a sell-out to anti-democratic behaviour.

    Yes, … open and transparent?  Try looking for "donors" or "sponsors" on the site – with either Google or the site’s own search engine.


One Response to “Roskam a witless Pangloss or a prostitute”

  1. […] Gordon Gecko Appreciation Society.  Roskam has already been the star of previous Balneus posts here (unsurprisingly, a negative review) and here (a "Shock! Horror! Roskam has a point!" […]

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