Thanks to Tim Blair…

Just on ten years ago my then blog got a boost thanks to Tim Blair: see I’ve been Timmed. One outcome of that was my long-running but now former sparring partner Kevin from Louisiana. He was quite a Tim Blair fan but lamented the 2008 shift to the Murdoch tabloids: The Death of Tim Blair.

These days I often read Tim over lunch of a Monday when he shares intellectual space with Andrew Bolt in the Daily Terror. This habit may not be good for my digestion, I fear, though I do tend to skim as both are more than a bit predictable. BTW, I don’t buy the paper, as City Diggers supplies it for free.

Yesterday after an Assange/Triggs spray, TB went on to provide a very handy list of institutions and people.  I suspect he wasn’t recommending them after all, but it was kind of him nonetheless to give us pointers to some of the most enlightened folk out there, along with an occasional crazy. Any I am not already familiar with I must check out.

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon has called for the formation of a new government-run cult-busting operation….

The new operation could look at busting groups with extreme policies and secret internal structures that indoctrinate their members with outlandish philosophies.

Following the formation of Xenophon’s new task force directed at smashing cult-like organisations, police anticipate numerous prosecutions of: Greens politicians, Friends of the ABC, the Australia Institute, editors of the Guardian, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Sustainable Population Party, anti-mining group Lock the Gate, the Refugee Council of Australia, the Human Rights Commission, the Clean Ocean Foundation, all members of Toyota Prius ownership clubs, Socialist Alternative, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Press Council, The Australian Natural Therapists Association, editors of Green Left Weekly, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Ecotourism Australia (and anyone running any organisation with an “eco”prefix), staff and publishers at Mamamia, Greenpeace Australia, The Australia Council for the Arts, GetUp!, anyone on Twitter who has used the phrase “social justice” approvingly, the Arts Law Centre of Australia, the Wilderness Society, the Australian Republican Movement, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Solidarity, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Screen Australia, the United Nations Association of Australia, the Australian Progressives, People for Nuclear Disarmament, the Clean Energy Council, the Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, Occupy, the Australian Network of Environmental Defenders Offices, the Alternative Technology Association, Vegan Australia, the National Union of Students, Architects for Peace, Destroy the Joint, the Atheist Foundation of Australia, the Australian Egalitarian Movement, the Climate Council, Ausdance National, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the Australian National University, World Vision Australia, everybody who has ever corrected the mispronunciation of “quinoa”, Amnesty International Australia, Australian Marriage Equality, the Public Transport Users Association, the United Nations Refugee Agency Australia, editors and columnists at Fairfax’s Daily Life lady pages, the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, ArtsHub, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Australia Day Council, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Friends of the Earth Australia — and, of course, every single member of the Nick Xenophon Team.

One of TB’s more outlandish performances in recent years was this in 2014:

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Par for the course at The Terror. Naturally some actual Lakemba residents – that is people who have been there longer than 24 hours – responded. See Dear Tim Blair & the Daily Telegraph and Comment: Enough fear mongering, let’s give Lakemba a fair go.

Welcome to Lakemba – the seething hot-bed of radical Islam and anti-woman, anti-infidel hatred.

That’s the picture portrayed by Daily Telegraph columnist Tim Blair, in his divisive and offensive feelpinion titled “Inside Sydney’s Muslim Land”.

It’s an insidious emotive piece, instructive for its glaring factual omissions, which misrepresent a vibrant, multifaith and multicultural community.

Lakemba may be only 30 minutes from the centre of Sydney, yet it is remarkably distinct from the rest of the city. You can walk the length of crowded Haldon St and not hear a single phrase in English. On this main shopping strip the ethnic mix seems similar to what you’d find in any Arabic city. Australia may be multicultural, but Haldon St is a monoculture.

It goes on to depict an enclave teeming with malevolence and fundamentalism; a bricolage of things all just too decidedly foreign – yes, in Lakemba we have signs written in squiggle, women who walk round in bedsheets, and there are shops which sell burgers made from dromedaries…

If I wanted to portray an entire community as angry, aggressive, radical Muslims, I’d certainly ignore the fact that the largest ethnic group within that community were Bangladeshis – the vast majority of whom follow a moderate, Sufist form of Islam. I’d certainly not mention the Christian Samoan community, or the Chinese, Indian or Greek shopkeepers running businesses on a street apparently only home to hate-peddling Islamic bookstores…

In fact, it’s striking how little resemblance Mr Blair’s cursory overview of Lakemba bears to the suburb I call home.

In my Lakemba, I walk to a cafe where the barista is an Algerian with a weathered face and dry sense of humour. Asked how he is, he assures me he ‘can’t complain’ in a voice that hints that should I scratch deeper, he’d happily share with me a litany of woes. Mention football though, and all that changes. His eye’s come alight – the Fennec Foxes (the Algerian national side) did all of Africa proud in the recent World Cup, pushing eventual champions Germany to extra-time. He regales me with stories of Porto’s 1987 European Cup winning side – and the night the mighty Bayern Munich succumbed to the sublime backheel of the great striker, Mustapha Rabah Madjer – also Algerian.

I compare Mr Blair’s dystopic nightmare of angry young radical Muslim men with the block of twelve units I live in. Next door is a softly-spoken young Jordanian guy studying nursing, and working nights in a kitchen to make ends meet…

Downstairs lives a Greek woman – she works as a receptionist and raises her son by herself. Elsewhere in the building live an Indian family, a young Lebanese plumber, and Indonesian, Chinese and Filipino families.

Why is it that our pictures of Lakemba are so different, Mr Blair? What is the agenda that drives you to misrepresent this community?

I’d love to believe this was just lazy or sloppy journalism, but coming as it does from a vastly experienced, senior columnist, amid a climate of increasingly shrill anti-Islamic rhetoric, I have profound misgivings….

Related: Media Watch 27 June 2016.

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