Another instance of the operation of Murdoch’s ruperters1 has cropped up recently, and it is an instance of how they will use any subterfuge to try to push their far-right agenda2. This is all in support of the Coalition government, because it is they who endow NewsCorp directly with bags of cash3, or indirectly by crippling the National Broadband Network (NBN)4 and crippling the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) either by cutting its budget5, or by appointing sympathetic members to its board.
Last week, the Ramsay Centre’s negotiations with the Australian National University collapsed, when the Vice-Chancellor, Brian Schmidt, announced the decision to pull out of the negotiations. The Ramsay Centre wanted to establish a degree in ‘western civilisation’ at ANU, but Schmidt stated that ANU’s withdrawal was because the university had a “fundamentally different vision for the program than (sic) the Ramsay Centre, and that there was no prospect of us reaching agreement”6. In an interview, Schmidt stated that it was mostly because the Ramsay Centre wanted to influence the recruitment of staff. This was deemed to be incompatible with academic freedom and autonomy.
Now, back to the ruperters. After the ANU pulled out of the negotiations, there was an article in the Australian (a Murdoch ‘newspaper’) which supposedly interviewed a Catherine Priestley, a 22-year-old Sydney University Student who was “disappointed” that the ANU had pulled out of negotiations, and stated that the Ramsay Centre “were offering something different; adding something to the intellectual rigour of the university which is what we should be doing”. The article was headed by a photo with the name and the ‘missed opportunity’ line7. Why this was of interest to a Sydney University student was not made clear. However, when you read further, you find out this student is a member of the Young Liberals and contributes to The Spectator Australia, a very right wing magazine.
The student’s affiliations and her concern make sense only when you see who is on the board of the Ramsay Centre. These include: John Howard, former Liberal Prime Minister, enthusiast for the white blindfold version of Australian history and very conservative anglican; Tony Abbott, laughable former Liberal Prime Minister, obsessive sniper at his successor and ultraconservative catholic; Joe de Bruyn, President of the Shop Distributive an Allied Employees Association, member of the Labor Party and an ultraconservative catholic; and Julian Leeser, Liberal Member of parliament, who is jewish. The other members are mostly from the Ramsay Corporation8.
More than 100 Sydney University academics have signed an open letter opposing the involvement of that university with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation stating that the latter is simply all about European supremacism9. To say that western civilisation is not adequately taught in universities is simply ludicrous. Students at Australian universities study modern history, languages, ancient history, history of science, literature, art, among others. All these are mostly about western civilisation. What the reactionaries in the Ramsay Centre are all about is the perceived ‘culture wars’. They ‘know’ their culture is superior to all others and they want to make sure everyone is clear about this. This is just another manifestation of the narcissistic cultural attitudes that give rise to the white blindfold view of Australian history, mediated as it is by the certainty of those who adhere to conservative religious beliefs: Aboriginals should be thankful Europeans arrived in Australia, as we brought them closer to god and gave them mobile phones; the massacres and diseases which caused hundreds of thousands of deaths notwithstanding.
The conservative attitude which drives the Ramsay Centre reactionaries is a form of panic. It is panic at the rapidly changing world and its rapidly changing attitudes, particularly to religion. This panic is perfectly detailed in a wonderful article by Dirk Moses10. I cannot recommend that article highly enough.