While focus fell on the racism debate on Studio 10, John Maycock analyses the deeper meaning behind Kerry Anne's comments.
THE RECENT clash between Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Yumi Stynes on the Studio 10 program flashed up a controversy that gravitated around a few minutes in a broader conversation – touted as “debate” about changing the date of Australia Day – which was dominated by a conservative rightwing narrative.
The conversation started with the revelation that a pub in Sydney had banned the wearing of flag-adorned clothing or accessories on the day.
Kennerley was first off the mark.
After initially endorsing the right of a business to do so, she accused the publican (or someone) of:
“…trying to rewrite history, history is history, you may not like it but it is what it is.”
Arrogance, fear & fragility on the part of the media hosts, yes, but they're allowed to be that way because #racism is in the interests of Australian #capitalism. If it wasn't, ignorant fools like Kerri-Karen Kennerley wouldn't be hosting TV shows. #auspolhttps://t.co/8Nfi9ecbCX— Ablokeimet (@AblokeimetAus) January 31, 2019
Sarah Harris tries to shift the narrative, pointing out the protest crowds are getting bigger, but Kennerley goes into a spiel about what she (twice) called “Indigenous week” – “a whole week during the year” – rambling on about all of us coming together and getting
“…more involved In the middle of the year for, um ah dar uh, the Indigenous week.”
The word she was grasping for is NAIDOC.
But then Kennerley goes straight into another spiel, an oldie about the whole “globe” being colonised, before segueing into:
“I have nowhere to go – I do not think – and I will not relinquish any more of the country that is... is considered by me, mine. This is my country.”
Here, Harris tries again, asking if we could have it on the day of Federation, but given Kennerley’s enthusiastic response it seems as though she has confused Federation with Australia Day when she responds:
“That was a very important day! 26th of, um ah er, of, ah, January is a very important day.”
When Harris reframes the question, Kennerley just shrugs her off and returns to her original tune:
“I’m not going anywhere, I have as much and I am entitled to this land as everybody else.”
Ajay Rochester steps in here and raises themes that would be applicable to a debate; the memories – the genocide, the pain for a portion of the population – and suggests a unified day that suits everyone. Tellingly, that is all the air Rochester’s input gets.
Instead, Joe Hildebrand responds with a history lesson, which though not relevant at all, has Kennerley bouncing up and down in her chair slapping the desk and throwing her hands in the air while proclaiming:
“But it was a couple of hundred years ago. Get over it, let’s just move on.”
However, Hildebrand is agreeing with Kennerley, reiterating her earlier observation that “the globe was colonised” and, casting a wider historical net, he fishes up the old “everybody was invaded” in the past.
As Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Yumi Stymes traded verbal blows live on air, Joe Hildebrand remained quiet. Now he’s revealed his thoughts on the racism spat, and the problem that society is no longer allowed to talk about https://t.co/klGmmTExMn— Geelong Advertiser (@geelongaddy) January 30, 2019
Without going into it, here it becomes clear that Hildebrand is singing from the same “songbook” as Kennerley — indeed, he adds “virtue signalling” to the list of the publican’s “crimes”.
And that songbook should be becoming obvious by now.
“Rewriting history.” “The indigenous already have special days.” “The whole world was colonised.” “I have nowhere to go.” “I will not relinquish any more.” “This is my country” (and not forgetting Hildebrand’s label of virtue signalling). These notions are all meaningless in any discussion about the issue of Australia Day — or indeed any Indigenous grievances. They have become meaningless tropes – “red herrings” – and they are the type of red herrings often used in various arenas by those who push a White dominance barrow.
Indeed, Kennerley has already shown she doesn’t know what she is talking about and we haven’t even reached the Kennerley/Stynes debate.
Kennerley grabs the conversation again:
But it is history … my ancestors … what they went through … the shocking lives they had, how they got here … just awful beyond belief … got sent over to this godforsaken land and, excuse me, I look around Australia now, we have a fabulous country … high-rise buildings … 25 million people …c ontributing to this society. I don’t want to go back to what we were 250 years ago.
Here, Kennerley has channelled the PM with the false equivalence of the deprivation suffered by their “glorious” ancestors and invoked Abbott’s “nothing but bush” before settlement — while a jingoistic ethnocentrism lurks just below the surface.
Superbly articulate breakdown of KAK’s public racism: “Kennerley’s comments were a veiled concern for Indigenous people to mask her discomfort with Australians protesting against a day that solidifies and elevates her status as the dominant culture.” https://t.co/GKKEqE4vs4— James Humberstone 🌈 (@JamesHumbers) January 30, 2019
(Indeed, this author is most incensed that Kennerley referred to Australia as a “godforsaken land” prior to settlement, especially considering that her glorious civilisation has turned the Darling River into a godforsaken land.)
With regards to going back 250 years, someone interjects here: “No one is suggesting that.”
But Hildebrand brushes that off the table and adds more fuel:
“…we seem to be incredibly focused on something that happened nearly 250 years ago and not focusing on….”
A meme shift and more red herrings – and another oldie – there are more important things to be done than arguing over a date. Again, issues which are not relevant to changing the date.
Once more, I won’t dwell on what Hildebrand has to say, but be sure he is as over-the-top as Kennerley and, to a degree, he is feeding Kennerley ammunition.
Suffice to say that Stynes was moved to say to “virtue signalling” Hildebrand:
“They are not saying we’re better than you guys, they are saying don’t be massive arseholes.”
“I’ll tell you what Kerri-Anne Kennerley is guilty of — apart from racism — conflating two completely separate issues, so the focus on one is then deflected to another.” Excellent piece from Marg #Aboriginal #Indigenous #KAK https://t.co/iKuILnN4RD— Stefan Armbruster (@StefArmbruster) January 30, 2019
The reaction from Kennerley and Hildebrand is typical from someone whose red herrings and strawmen are bouncing off a fearless and frank adversary.
And so, wound up by Hildebrand and with their fallacious arguments falling flat, Kennerley changes tack and flies into her now infamous ad hominem attack on the protestors and Indigenous communities (in the case of the latter, it is almost as though Kennerley is saying that Indigenous folk don’t come up to “our” standards and so they are undeserving of any concessions — not even a reconciliation over a date).
Regarding Kennerley’s attack on the protestors, it is a rhetorical question delivered to steer the listener to the “right” conclusion, but, even so, to be sure the message gets through as she was being pulled up, she provides both the question and the answer:
“What have you done? Zippo.”
When called out, Kennerley tried to take the position that it was only a question, which it obviously wasn’t and, here, Kennerley had not only made a statement that she had no way of knowing to be true, having done so she then puts it onto Stynes to prove otherwise. Another tactic used by those who argue from less-than-firm ground.
However, without realising she is undermining her own argument on that question, Kennerley eventually falls back on her right to have a view (opinion?):
“Just because I have a point of view, Yumi, doesn’t ... mean ... I’m ... racist.”
So it was an “I’m not racist but...” view. Nevertheless, Kennerley stated that view and her expectation of the right to make that statement without being called out has a hint of the anti-PC freedom of speech narrative — the one where we have the right to say what we like but you have no right to call us out on it.
And so, the focus on those few minutes of the segment, which some are calling a debate, hid the true nature of the conversation. Kennerley (with Hildebrand) had been controlling the narrative and browbeating the discussion away from the real issue, venomously dishing up distraction and division with erroneous argument, illogical reasoning and vexatious sweeping generalisations.
This is not debating — it is shutting down debate before it gets started. It is the tried and proven method of those who cannot justify their position. It can be seen in the illegitimate reasoning of the rightwing culture warriors and, whether they believe it or not, it seems those controlling the narrative were pushing a White dominance barrow right from the start.
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