One of Australia’s more influential group blogs has decided to call it a day. The collective known as The Dead Roo will cease operation at the end of this month. Edited by Kieran Bennet and Rebecca Leighton with several other contributors, the Roo had a healthy audience of 100,000 hits a month and was a solid contributor to the Australian blogosphere from a leftist and Green perspective. Their natural political bias attracted the ire of many on the right of Australian politics and in their final post they discussed the difficulties of dealing with persistent criticism saying “trolls of any description suck the fun out of writing.”
The individual singled out by The Dead Roo as a major cause of angst was the Queensland right wing blogger Iain Hall. Hall is a provocative writer, open in his contempt of left-wing views and values and is always prepared to mount a thoughtful defence of his own ideas. On 8 November, Hall linked to the Daily Mail story about a hairdresser who was sued for refusing to hire a Muslim woman in a headscarf.
The story is about Bushra Noah who is suing Sarah Desrosiers, a London salon owner, for alleged discrimination at a job interview and claims she was wrongly turned down for a job she was capable of doing because of she wears a headscarf. Desrosiers does not deny this but says that Noah’s appearance would not have suited the “urban, funky, punky” image she is trying to create for the store. The case will go before the Central London Employment Tribunal in January.
Hall frames the story as the fault of the anti-discrimination laws having impact on “ordinary people” such as Desrosiers and is an example of a “Muslim activist” (Noah) attempting to change society to suit their own agenda. Yet the story does bring out a problem in attitudes. Desrosiers was keen to take on Noah after a discussion on the telephone and seeing her CV. It was only when confronted by the sight of Noah in a hijab that she changed her mind. Hall sees this as a problem of leftist anti-discrimination laws that stultifies small business. The reality is far more complex than a simple opposition of ordinary people (us) against Muslim activists (them).
Retired academic John Ray covers similar ground in his “Political Correctness Watch” blog whose subtitle “The creeping dictatorship of the Left” announces clearly its policing intentions. Ray rails daily against anti-discrimination laws, feminism, “do-gooders”, “liberals”, multi-culturalism, moral relativism, postmodernism and “mindless tolerance”. Ray is remorseless in his quest to point out idiocies that occur from time to time in bureaucratic entities, but seems fancifully convinced that every act of official stupidity is part of some giant global left-wing conspiracy.
But Ray’s gloomy influence is miniscule compared to Tim Blair. Daily Telegraph journalist Blair is also of the belief that great leftist forces are at loose destroying our society but at least his columns are leavened with humour. Blair serves his community well by being quick to point out inconsistencies in the arguments around human-induced global warming. However he is also gravely irresponsible, given his large readership (around 14,000 readers every day) if he believes the arguments he is opposed to are without merit. Blair allows his readers to feel good about themselves if they refuse to take the climate crisis seriously. Blair gleefully cultivates a sense of self-serving inertia that may seem superficially attractive but is ultimately a very corrosive and dangerous force for denialism.
Hall, Ray and Blair are all examples of Right Wing Death Beast (RWDB) blogs. Some on the right such JF Beck have enthusiastically accepted the nomenclature and use the label proudly. Tim Blair himself claims to be the first to use the phrase in 2003. Writers such as Blair, Beck and the rest are an important part of the blogosphere and act as a useful brake on the left-wing views that researchers such Axel Bruns and others have noticed dominate on-line opinion. Hall writes provocatively in the comments to the Dead Roo’s final post: “It is all well and good to desire the company of the likeminded but really in the discussion of politics that is very often very unproductive. Sadly the more rabid the writers here have lacked the courage to truly engage with their political opposites which is why the discussion here has hardly got off the ground in so many posts. Those with the intestinal fortitude to defend their leftist views are always welcome at my blog.”