Hot on the heels of Christian Kerr's smearing of Greens senator Lee Rhiannon as a natural born Stalinist, and BDS as her anti-Semitic devil-child, came a February 1 hatchet job on the NSW branch of the Greens by the Australian's chief political correspondent Matthew Franklin: Greens 'riven by branch warfare'.
Kerr's Back in the USSR theme was revived, with Franklin quoting supposed "revelations" that the NSW Greens are "run by a 'cadre' of Leninist-style ideologues whose activities are making it appear to be populated by 'lunatics'."
Franklin's "revelations" were conveniently drawn from an article in the latest issue of The Monthly magazine by Sally Neighbour, curiously described merely as a "journalist."
Is the reader supposed to have forgotten that Sally Neighbour, far from being a genuinely independent journalist, is actually a News Limited employee?
So, since we're dealing here with a case of churnalistic incest, with Franklin simply paraphrasing Neighbour, why not bypass the monkey and proceed straight to the organ grinder herself?
But first, a general observation: Does anyone really believe that the Australian would be so obsessed with Lee Rhiannon but for her support for the Palestinians?
Does anyone remember its repeated lashings of Labor's Julia Irwin?
For any Australian politician to speak out forthrightly and honestly in defence of the Palestinian people is to cross the Australian's reddest line - its near automatic, knee-jerk editorial support for apartheid Israel. It is not, therefore, the Greens per se that get the Australian going, rather it's the prospect that, in seriously embracing the BDS campaign, the Greens may one day arrive at a clear and principled, anti-Zionist position on the Middle East conflict.
Let us proceed then to Neighbour's Monthly feature article Divided we fall.
After a sketch of party history, she sets out her thesis:
"To... achieve... the success he aspires to, Brown needs to run a formidably tight and disciplined political ship, steered by a dedicated, professional party organisation, with the absolute support of its members and branches. Which brings us to their real dilemma. For like all political parties, the Greens are bedevilled by factional rifts, personal animosities and turf wars, which have intensified as the party has grown and have recently erupted in an acrimonious contest for the heart, soul and future of the party."
You can see where all this is coming from. Rather than a rigorous, disinterested and objective assessment of party travails and prospects, we're essentially getting the Bob Brown version.
Brown seems to me to be afraid of the Murdoch press (See my 5/4/11 post Murdoch Spooks Bob Brown on Palestine), and happy to talk to its churnalists in an effort to appease and reassure the beast, even if to the detriment of any of his colleagues courageous enough to cross the rag's red line on criticism of Israel. As for Sally Neighbour and the Australian, the prospect of the BDS campaign gaining traction in Australia's rising third political force is a major concern. The language says it all:
"Nine days after the Christmas drinks in Canberra, a far more toxic atmosphere prevails as the NSW Greens assemble for their bi-monthly meeting of the State delegates Council (SDC)... It's been a tortuous year for the party in New South Wales, with festering tensions brought to a head by an ugly bunfight over BDS... The fracas has culminated in a motion condemning 3 state Greens MPs who failed to support the policy, MLCs Cate Faehrmann, Jan Barham and Jeremy Buckingham. The motion states: 'MPs who do not support the position and policy of the SDC, thus being in violation of the NSW Greens Constitution, will be asked to resign their seat in parliament'. Tempers erupt as the motion is moved, its backers arguing the renegade MPs should be punished for splitting the party, opponents condemning it as an outrageous bid to deny the MPs a conscience vote."
Given that Neighbour wasn't actually there (the Greens couldn't possibly be that stupid), the question arises: who can have been her source for the dynamics of this meeting? Then there's the absence from the above account of the motion's context. That the "renegade" trio chose, in effect, to climb into bed with the likes of MLCs David Clarke (Liberal right), Fred Nile (Christan Democrats) and Eric Roozendaaal (Labor right) when they voted for Clarke's motion viciously smearing BDS at the behest of the Israel lobby (two of whose representatives were present in the visitors gallery) and undermined the informed and principled positions taken at the time by fellow Greens MLCs John Kaye and David Shoebridge, was the context for the SDC motion, but Neighbour deliberately leaves it out at this point. Only much further along in the piece, does she make reference to it, but then only in passing:
"[W]hen Liberal MLC David Clarke moved a motion opposing BDS and the Max Brenner protests, Faehrmann and Barham spoke in qualified support of it."
That Faehrmann's "qualified support" of Clarke's disgusting motion was born of complete ignorance of the issue, part regurgitation of the Australian's editorial line that the protests were 'counterproductive' and part Israel lobby line that a certain chant heard at them is anti-Semitic, is, of course, of no interest to Neighbour and is misconstrued in her article as some kind of free-thinking and courageous "speaking out."
By way of introducing Lee Rhiannon into the 'discussion', Neighbour trots out the sinister "Leninist cadre" line already featured by Franklin.
Typically, such nonsense is always attributed to unnamed individuals who speak "off the record," presumably because they're in mortal fear of a 2 pm knock on the door by the KGB. The existence of a cowed and quivering Greens opposition is suggested by "another" (oh really?) who is alleged to have said:
"They are stuck in an old rut which is all about running the show, controlling the structure, maintaining a code of silence. This old guard, this control clique, has done a lot of damage to the Green brand in NSW'. They're jokingly referred to as 'the Eastern Bloc - because they live in the eastern suburbs, and they're all communists'."
OK, now that the reader has been softened up, it's time for Neighbour to finger the supposed Leninist cadre's Svengali:
"The lightning rod for much of this critique (!) is Lee Rhiannon... Rhiannon's membership of the Socialist Party of Australia in the 1970s and 1980s... has been well reported... Rhiannon is routinely held up in media commentary about the 'watermelons' (red on the inside) dragging the Greens leftwards..."
Well reported? But only in the Australian.
Routinely held up in media commentary about the 'watermelons'? But only in the Australian.
Did I not mention incest?
Further along, on the subject of BDS and Marrickville Council, Neighbour has former Greens MLC Ian Cohen screaming that "[Marrickville] made us look like lunatics, dealing with an international issue on local and state government level." But don't expect Neighbour to ask Cohen the obvious: Did he also consider the MLCs who used the Legislative Council as a platform to condemn BDS lunatics? Similarly, while Neighbour quotes Max Phillips, a staffer of Jeremy Buckingham, complaining that BDS is not a "core issue" for the Greens, she doesn't bother asking him whether he thinks condemning BDS in state parliament should be seen as "core" business for that body.
"Right at the heart of this contest [between the NSW Greens' 'old' and 'new' guards] is a profound disjunct over what should be the ultimate aim of the Greens. For Brown and his supporters, it is self-evident: attaining power by being elected, where possible into government, in order to implement their policies. But for others the primal purpose is staying faithful to the grassroots origins and philosophy, without which the Greens would have no support and no future - even if it's at the cost of attaining power."
Or, to put it another way, between those who put power before principle and those who put principle before power. And the most reliable litmus test for sorting out the two is, of course, Palestine.
Brown's mob, it seems, have made their bed, and it speaks volumes for them that they're prepared to share it with the likes of Rupert Murdoch and his stable of court reporters at the Australian, and politicians such as David Clarke, Fred Nile and Eric Roozendaal.