Razer-sharp – Helen Razer nails the bigots

Helen Razer is a well-known writer and newspaper columnist.

Like so many of us she has Muslim friends, mostly women, who were targeted and harassed by hateful bigots. So she wrote a response.

We loved her powerful response to the tide of Islamophobia that is both encouraged by and threatens to overwhelm social media.

And we remind people that there is an enormous gap between critiques of all religions and vicious, ignorant and violent attacks on the adherents of minority faiths. We also note that attacks on Islam by bigots are usually gendered attacks by the same cowardly morons who would figure as perpetrators of misogynist attacks on women generally.

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SBS guide to dealing with anti-Muslim arguments

5 thoughts on “Razer-sharp – Helen Razer nails the bigots

  1. Hi there and many warm thanks for your endorsement of my rant. Which I wrote at a transit hub without even thinking. I don’t think it deserves the broad audience it has received, because it doesn’t contribute much other than to make me feel great about shitting on people I don’t like. Which is the problem, really, isn’t it?
    Anyhow. One puts something out there, and then one can’t control it. I know that, so do with it as you will. But, when someone tweeted to me that this was on your website, I have to say that I was, after being mildly flattered that someone had republished some nonsense I’d written again, a little disturbed by the title of your blog.
    Okay. I am a bogan. I have white, working class parents neither of whom finished high school. I went to state school. I don’t own property. I actually think there are some good things that have evolved from my Australian ancestors, which include the trade union movement. And if you suppose for a minute that “bogan” isn’t a class slur, then you suppose wrong.
    Honestly. Saying that “bogans” are the problem just replicates another problem. While it is absolutely true that white working class people tend to vote for the abhorrence Pauline Hanson etc, it is also true that these people didn’t get as lucky as I did. I happened to go to a good school. I happened to have decent parents who encouraged my literacy. (And I feel sure that they are grateful for all the money they spent on books when they see how I overuse curse words!) I happened to be a kid in the 1970s where it didn’t really matter if you were from a down-at-heel family, because back then, families had some hope of moving up the economic ladder and all us kids in the working class suburb I grew up in had access to schools that provided us with a good education.
    So. I’m a bogan. I have consumed cider by a river in my teens while listening to oz rock. I admire people who can build a car from the ground up with their hands. I belong to a union and I am very grateful, however shit the contemporary union movement has become, for the brave “bogan” men and women of the nineteenth and twentieth century who fought for my education, my right to a living wage, the housing allowances and other social programs that permitted my parents to have a good start to their married life.
    Bogans died for you. They really did. The shearers’ strike. The Eureka stockade. These bogans are the sine qua non of what few rights as a worker and a citizen you retain. And if you keep demonising the working class (“bogan” is just another word for working class, don’t tell me that it’s not) then what you do is alienate a very valuable ally.
    Working people of all colours and faiths are those who have changed history and who will transform our future for the better. Don’t crap one on segment of them by calling them names. Because name-calling is wrong, isn’t it?
    Signed
    A Bogan

    • Hi Helen and thanks for your kind remarks.

      The current wranglers did not name the blog, and to be honest the name does sometimes cause a bit of a squirm amongst the admins for much of the reason you have said.

      We deal with a wide range of less-than-savoury situations in this place which usually involve hateful and down-right stupid prejudice and discrimination against women and minorities. These situations too often descend into actual threats of violence. So far an alternative all-encompassing term which both describes the perpetrators and heaps scorn on their activities has escaped us.

      The name of the site and its acompanying Facebook page actually stems from a quote from a journalist which originated around the time of the Cronulla riots:

      “…a Bogan, plainly and simply, is a relic of our society who chooses to cling to hooligan type behaviour to express an exclusionist, uneducated opinion, which largely derives from fear – ie. ‘eff off we’re full’. ” – K. Stratton”

      Being of humble antecedents ourselves we are conscious that the description might be seen as an attack on the working class. Far from it. One of the ironies which constantly occurs to us is that the working class of old would not recognise the parade of brain-dead racist and bigoted thugs purporting to be “working class” who are currently infesting social media and the comments sections of the news sites.

      • Well, if you’re stuck with it, you’re stuck with it, I guess! While I appreciate it is not your intention to use the word “bogan” to reference (white) people who are poor in social and financial capital and that you have sought reference from one journalist who insists the word be used in a new way, it retains its resonance.
        I really urge a rethink of the use of this term and to your site and general anti-racist activists everywhere to desist in such strong reliance not only the term bogan, but the most vulgar acts of racism.
        I really, truly applaud anti-racist activism. Racism is an illogical, unethical ill that divides working class people and keeps the big boys happy. But, focus, as I said, on people (often, apparently mentally ill people) on public transport, Reclaim Australia etc sends the persistent message to these people: we think you are the problem.
        I utterly understand the emotional reaction to openly vulgar racism. What I fail to understand is that there are many people (and I’m not saying you do this exclusively) who take the time to do online activism, often written, and do not begin to address the root cause of racism. There have been fifteen years of anti-Muslim propaganda from Australian governments and these ideas now appear to people deprived of things like education as thoughts they had themselves.
        I am old enough to remember a time where no one gave a shit about mosques etc. So, you’re Muslim, eh? Want a beer? Oh, you don’t. Right. These were the sorts of conversations had between the men on the building sites where my dad worked in the seventies. That this conversation has now transformed to ugliness is not (entirely) the fault of the people having it.
        All this “calling out” of people, who are really repeating state propaganda. And. man, such securitisation (that’s what they call it when state powers make your perceive a certain thing as a threat, which you probably know, but I explain this for the benefit of anyone else reading who does not as it’s a thing you may need to have a word for) can be traced from the time of “children overboard”.
        I don’t think we’d call Howard a bogan. I don’t think we’d call anyone who engages in subtle, strategic forms of racism a bogan. And, more to the point, we do not focus on these government strategies that force people to believe this crap, and then enlarge upon it, including some of my colleagues in the media.
        So, the position is tricky. You have a lot of people who now believe they came up with these ideas about the Quran on their own, and then effing tools like Sam Harris convincing the more “intellectual” segment of the western population that Islam is somehow more intrinsically evil than any other religion. (It is ridiculous how he uses the example of “extreme Jainism could never be a thing” to prove Muslims are just worse and naturally more extreme. I guess he didn’t get to the bit in Jainism which recommends suicide.) If you just “call them out” (and particularly those people on trains who so often appear to me mentally unwell; deluded people often seize upon something already in the culture in periods of relapse) what happens?
        I am not saying “be reasonable”. You can’t reason with the calculated results of unreason. But, one is, surely, bound to make racism worse if one continues to spotlight its iterations in populations that we both know are, in some way, deprived and repeating propaganda.
        I have been looking at old Frantz Fanon today for a reminder that there are theories on how to “hybridise” culture to overcome racism. I have been also, for professional reasons, looking at the last fifteen years of propaganda. There are complex causes and they demand complex solutions, such as Fanon describes. And what he doesn’t describe is “calling out” the racist underclass, who find perverse solidarity with each other in their hatred of others.
        Anyhow. It’s a horrible, racist time. It is also a very complex time and the racism of the present is not just an extension of the racism of the past, as you have described. It is much more convoluted. (All things become more complex over time. Have a gander at capitalism, which plays an enormous role in racism itself.) And I appreciate you are completely sincere in wanting to end that time, and I commend you. But I also urge you, given that you have the energy to write and post on anti-racism, that you diagnose the problem as much as you can.
        Racism is not simple. It will not be overcome by shaming individuals or encouraging others to be more “human” or whatever. Just asking people to be better never effing works. So, diagnose the problem, and then think if what you are doing is part of a positive solution.
        Overt and vulgar hate-speech is a tiny part of the problem of racism. But, so much energy is poured into countering that. The idea that if we stop people from saying hateful things, there will be no more hateful thought and action is just wrong. We don’t make the world a better place by representing it better. We get better representations of the world when the world itself is good.
        Again, I appreciate that you have taken the time and I am not saying that you have not achieved anything. But, you have energy and intelligence and I ask you to think how you could achieve more.
        In solidarity.

        • We lack both the clout and the access to platforms which would even begin to let us tackle the enormous institutional factors which serve to nurture discrimination. There are many quality writers with more resources than those we have who have examined issues like intersectionality.

          At the moment however, despite people like yourself, Celeste Liddle, Clementine Ford, Waleed Aly and many others in both traditional and electronic media, there is still an out-and-proud racist populist party with a critical presence in our Senate. We could not have envisaged that in the days of Hawke and Fraser.

          When the Nazis invaded Crete in May 1941, there were virtually no fighters left on the island. The remains of the Greek forces had fled to join partisan groups or the Allied forces. Only elderly women and men remained with pitchforks and shovels to beat back the invaders.

          We only have pitchforks and shovels. We do our best.

  2. Sure. I still don’t think class insults, so common, are the only weapons you have.
    Set them aside. Work on solidarity with the people you despise. Revolution is not going to come from commentators, several of which you have listed are quite conservative in their thinking and believe that telling people simply “be better” is a solution.
    Work on showing me the true enemy. Which is not even a person, but a complex of events that demands this behaviour. Don’t give me “I’m not powerful”. Become powerful through collective action and the pursuit of the real problem. Which, again, is not a few “bogans” or “hillbillies” or whatever else people call them on the internet. The problem is not even a person. It is decades of policy and bad thinking. When you stop fighting people and face the true horror that this is not, actual, intentional but a product of history without a human heart, you might get somewhere.
    People keep telling me that working people, of whose class I am, aren’t really the ones pursuing this racism. Maybe that’s true. Build on that. Get a grassroots group of people in service to the investment class. Get angry together. Don’t blame people who are as powerless as you feel for a problem they didn’t create.
    “Calling out” people is easy. And fun. Describing a problem is boring and difficult. If we are talking Nazis here, remember what Arendt said about them. She described “the banality of evil”. How easy it was for people to fall into line and consider their extreme racism part of the everyday. Just as evil is banal, so is good. It’s not exciting. It’s not a pleasure. The more you enjoy insulting someone, as a general rule, the less effective that action will be.

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