In my thankless trawl through Sunday's Murdoch fishwrap aka The Sunday Telegraph, I came across Tour de farce: our jetset MPs 'study' abroad by 'political writer' Linda Silmalis. The reverse block, spanning the top of two pages and shrieking the words Dicing with dictators; Trekking in Thailand; Chinese hot springs; Weekend in Vegas; Lunch in London, set the tone.
The opening paragraph read: "Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe is 'forward-thinking', the Islamist paramilitary organisation Hezbollah is 'not radical' and chickens in Thailand are scrawny. These are among the startling findings of $4.9 million in taxpayer -funded political study tours. Federal MPs spent the record sum in just 6 months of globetrotting to June 30 this year, visiting 31 countries to 'investigate' everything from the global financial crisis to Mekong River hill tribes and upmarket boutiques in Milan."
Well, thought I, if you had to select a useful finding from the above 3, it'd surely have to be the one about Hezbollah. Who, I wondered, was responsible for this statement of the refreshingly bleeding obvious? I read on to find that the 'offending' pollywaffle was Queensland Liberal MP for Herbert, Peter Lindsay, who "had learnt" - where is not disclosed by our crusading journalist - "that Hezbollah - the Lebanon-based Islamist organisation that calls for the destruction of Israel - was not the radical group some thought it was, and could be a force for good in the Middle East."
Note the Murdochese: Hezbollah is "paramilitary," but not parliamentary; "Lebanon-based," but not Lebanese. And don't you just love the gratuitous "calls for the destruction of Israel"?
Poor Peter Lindsay, he's crossed the party line here - that being that Hezbollah is a satanic, rocket-rattling, throat-slitting, blood-sucking, baby-shaking incarnation of our worst (Zionised) nightmares. And he's sure to pay the ultimate penalty, which is to be whisked off to Israel for a comprehensive Rambamming* on the first available plane, a journey which, you can be sure, will not elicit a flicker of interest in fearless Murdoch investigative journalists such as Ms Silmalis.
[* See my 29/3/09 post Rambamming Makes the Front Page]
PS: I've just perused Peter Lindsay's 'Master Report' on his 2009 study trip and can declare the Silmalis piece, at least in Lindsay's case, an exceptionally cheap shot. Lindsay's been to Lebanon, has spoken to a number of people there, and concluded sensibly that "Hezbollah is not the radical group that some think it is. Properly engaged, it can be a force for good in the Middle East." He's also concluded that "The new government of Israel needs to be much less heavy-handed and far better engaged in the diplomacy of the region," and that "Palestine is the 'cause' that unites Islam throughout the world. Fixing this single problem will take away much of the angst in the Islamic community." In the real world, these are all (under)statements of the bleeding obvious by a man with an open mind. In the Stalinist world of federal politics, however, they are heresies of the worst kind. Best of luck, Peter Lindsay.