ben.eficium is the blog of Ben Slack, citizen and principal consultant at Systems Xpert.
All posts are Copyright © Ben Slack on the date of publishing.

11 December 2019

A response to one Mike O'Connor

A family member recently sent me an opinion column (paywalled) from the Courier Mail's Mike O'Connor (twitter - @mikeandraine).

Here is my response to his article line-by-line.

> Dissent is dying in ‘modern’ Australia
> Mike O’Connor October 21, 2019 8:00pm
> There are times when I feel like a stranger in my own country, the urge to
> scream in frustration all but overwhelming.

Fair enough. You are lucky you can vent your frustration in such a public forum. It's good to talk about your feelings. 

> My problem is that I’m not a believer. I don’t believe in man-made climate
> change and shake my head in bemusement at the people who are presently
> running through the streets screaming “climate emergency.” 

Your choice. It's a free society. Every argument against global warming has been thoroughly repudiated. Proving that it is wrong would require a revolutionary, overturning, breakthrough in physics and chemistry. The biggest discovery since Newton. And no skeptic or denier has come up with such a thing. You don't like the man-made global warming theory, you go out and prove different. Then have it peer-reviewed and published. If you do so, I assure you, it will be taken seriously. Personally, I don't think you're up to it, but if you have a go maybe you'll get a go. 

> We now live in an age in which if something is said often enough by
> self-interested parties then it must be true. 

This has always been the case. It's not a new thing. Societies have often and always come to believe fallacies (e.g. Easter Island). However, 500 years ago we began what is termed the Scientific Revolution. This gives us the power to question fallacies in a way undreamt of by our ancestors. We have capabilities to investigate and establish fact like no other society before us. The scientific method is an incredible tool - use it.

With regards to self-interest, I agree we must always be skeptical of claims by vested interests, like the fossil fuel industry for example.

> Anyone who attempts to voice a contrary view is howled down and branded 
> a “denier.”

For around 25 years the arguments of deniers were dealt with in a sober and respectful manner by the scientific community. After that long, when there is still resistance in face of all evidence, there is bound to be anger. If it's reasoned argument with facts and figures, it's not “howling”. This is an exaggeration.

What you require is not a "contrary view", it is contrary science and fact. Well, go out and get it.

> No one dares to be different. Such is the desperate need to be accepted and
> on-trend that we will happily go along with any point of view which will be 

> favourably viewed by social media.

You dare “to be different”. And you are published in the 5th best-selling newspaper in the country which has a monopoly in the 3rd biggest city. You, of all people, can't complain about being silenced or ignored. It's a non-sequitur.

> The intellectual laziness of the masses is as sad as it is tragic. We have
> become a nation of unthinking morons which unquestioningly accepts the 

> views of self-anointed “experts” without wondering if their shouted
> declarations that the end is nigh might just be driven by the urgent need
> to justify their existence and get their hands on another research grant.

The "intellectual laziness of the masses" is not as new thing, we haven't become such, we've just found new ways of expressing it. Such as whingeing opinion columns devoid of fact or reasoned debate.

As for experts, my response to this could fill a book. I'd refer you to Philip Telock's wonderful work, Expert Political Judgement - there are some areas of expertise that are indulgent and self-inflating and some that are not. The long-standing accusation that climate science is a self-perpetuating fraud has never been proven. Quite the opposite. You believe it? Go out and prove it. Publish your proof in a peer reviewed journal of cultural criticism.

> To be a climate denier is to suffer eternal damnation but it is perfectly fine
> to be a democracy denier as witnessed by the fact that there are large
> numbers of very noisy people who still can’t accept that Donald Trump is
> President of the United States and Scott Morrison Prime Minister of
> Australia.

You are damned because you are wrong. You can't prove your beliefs, they are just faith. And faith isn't good enough with the future of the planet at stake.
I agree that there is a large section of the left who don't accept that Trump won under the rules. I agree this is "denial", foolish and anti-democratic.
I have not ever heard anyone question the legitimacy of the Coalition's 2019 victory. A Google search did not find any. Please provide examples.

> They weren’t supposed to win. How did this happen? Apparently the
> Russians rigged the US elections but how Morrison managed to end
> up in The Lodge remains a mystery. The man’s a Christian, for God’s
> sake, and doesn’t believe that the world is about to end. Go figure.

Russian interference in the 2016 US general election is undeniable. How much effect it had is questionable. I agree that it is overstated in many quarters.

Morrison is in the Lodge because he won an election. To restate - I can find no examples of anyone denying this. Please provide examples.

A Google search of people proclaiming the world will end because the PM is a Christian also yielded no results. Please provide examples. I have seen criticism of him allowing the media to video him worshiping inside his church. This is unprecedented and inappropriate - a violation of church/state separation that would have been unthinkable in past generations of leaders.

> Nor do I believe that people who attempt to lie and cheat their way into the
> country should be allowed to settle here and struggle to understand why
> people like Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton is pilloried for doing
> what he is paid to do — protect our borders.

I agree "people who attempt to lie and cheat their way into this country" should not be given asylum or refugee status. Again a Google search to find people who disagree failed to find any works or quotes. You seem to imply there are such people. Please provide examples. 

> My advice to those with bleeding heart tales who wish to live here?
> Get in the queue.

Your preference is the policy of the government and seemingly of the Australian people who keep voting in governments with this policy. I don't understand your point. 

Oh, and there really is no "queue". 

> Admitting that you admire Dutton for his forthrightness is, of course,
> akin to confessing to devil worship and not something you would
> dream of doing in the company of strangers lest you be set upon and
> tarred and feathered.

Your hysterical exaggeration for the purpose of (failed) humour aside, my problem with Dutton's approach to granting asylum and refugee status is with a) upholding international law, and b) the Orwellian fact the government lies about what the law is (e.g. calling people legally seeking asylum "illegals") and states it is upholding the law, yet it is not. He can be as forthright as he likes as long as he sticks to the law. 

> I also have no time for the United Nations, a multi-billion dollar club
> which boasts among its members some of the great hypocrites and
> pontificators of our time and which seethes with corruption.

The UN is a problematic body that needs reform to better identify and eliminate corruption. There are documented examples of corruption - also seen in other international organisations like FIFA or the Olympic body. Any body that comprises both rich and poor "seethes with corruption". That doesn't mean the UN is not useful. It does a lot of good work - The Declaration of Human Rights, WHO, UNITAS and many systems of international standardisation, for example. During the Cold War it was a useful forum for debate. It may have been partly responsible for stopping nuclear Armageddon.

You don't like the UN and the agreements and treaties they have developed that Australia has signed up to and ratified in law? Then campaign to have the ratified laws repealed and Australia to leave the UN. It's a democracy, you are free to do so. Go for it. You have a newspaper column for chrissakes. You are also free to join a political party and work your way into policy-making. Otherwise, I suggest whingeing will achieve nothing.

> Australia Day is three months distant so the non-indigenous among
> us must ready ourselves to be branded as white supremacists
> celebrating a bloody invasion.

Well, it's our ancestors that are being described as invaders with blood on their hands. They indisputably took other people's land and killed a lot of the former owners. So, from a credible point of view, they really were bloody invaders. If you disagree, prove the "terra nullius" hypothesis and prove there was no killing. 

I think claiming that some [you should really say whom] will brand white people white supremacists for celebrating Australia Day is overstated.

I think we need to make more room to acknowledge the dispossession of indigenous Australians. I think this will be psychologically useful for indigenous and non-indigenous Australians to keep building a better nation. Canada's example is instructive.

> I don’t buy it. Instead of wasting energy moaning about historical
> wrongs, tackle the alcohol, drug and sexual abuse and poor parenting
> that denies so many indigenous children a shot at a better life.

I agree that tackling the disadvantage and social problems in indigenous communities should be a priority over symbolic actions and gestures. Can we not do both at the same time though? At the moment we seem to be terrible at both.

> This is not a point of view that people publicly express because they
> know they will be denounced as being racists if they do so. So be it.

Yeah, probably. However, you have a newspaper column so you are better placed than anyone to prove that your views are not racist in (widely read) writing. Given your seeming inability to make an argument backed by facts, you might have difficulty even if you're right. Perhaps you should let someone else do it.

> Christmas is also coming but don’t mention Jesus or the birth of Christ
> lest in so doing, you offend someone and that would never do.

In the past few years the incidents that have comprised the tabloids' war on the "war on Christmas" have proved to be misstated, overstated, wrong or just plain made up. See Media Watch's January editions for the last 20 years.

> I’ll continue to live, then, in my own little offensive, racist, climate denier
> world but I’ve a feeling that I am not alone. Please feel free to join me.

It's still a free country. Go for your life, mate. See how many you get. Though with every poll saying a vast majority both believe in man-made global warming and believe we should take action on it, you are not going to get the “silent majority” you seek. That is delusional.

Perhaps you should pay more attention to things that are actually chipping away at freedoms in this country such as increasing, pervasive and unsafe surveillance (e.g. My Health Record, facial recognition systems outside airports), the creeping presence of "national security" concerns as excuses for not releasing information that has nothing to do with national security, secret trials and denying the accused evidence that may help their defence (Bernard Collaery and Witness K), selling our drivers licence photos to private companies for facial recognition purposes (in NSW), political interference in police investigations, police infringements of freedom of the press and intimidation of journalists, etc.

While your sub-editors seem to have a good grasp of spelling and grammar, the content fails the basic test of introduction, supporting evidence and conclusion. This is in the school curriculum from Year 3 and for many decades. You would have been taught such. It is not rocket science.