Meanjin #metoo cover is the punchline to an identity politics joke

June 07, 2018

The Conservative Party always fights against political correctness but it's always amusing when the leftists pushing it, end up with egg on their face.

An opinion piece by Chris Kenny in The Weekend Australian didn't disappoint:

I got caught out last week writing a satirical piece for the weekend paper about how a university might actually reject western civilisation.

The issue about the Australian National University and the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation had been bubbling around but I never thought for a moment the ANU would or could actually say no.

But between submitting the piece on Thursday and publication on Saturday, this had actually come to pass. Truth is sillier than satire.

And so it is again this week. How could you possibly satirise what has transpired at Meanjin magazine this week? When the uber-woke, green Left attack themselves isn’t it entertaining and revealing enough just to look on?

Meanjin is a part-publicly funded literary magazine that complained loudly a couple of years ago about losing its Australia Council funding. (Given their vast numbers in academia, media, unions and the public sector, why is it that the Left always need public funding? Surely someone could turn a buck feeding their prejudices!)

This magazine is edited by former Fairfax and Crikey journalist Jonathan Green, who was once a leading opinionista at the ABC and still hosts programs regularly on Radio National. His politics are, well, very ABC. Whatever is a fashionable cause, he supports, and he is apologetic about most everything, from electricity to maleness and industry to European settlement.

Anyway he demonstrated these tendencies in a striking cover design for Meanjin’s latest edition by striking out his magazine’s name and converting it to a #metoo hashtag. Cutting edge, no? What happened next is, as I indicated, beyond satire. So let’s allow Green to relay it himself. Here he is on the Meanjin blog — without us striking out any words:

“As Amy McQuire and others have pointed out, there is a problem with the cover of Meanjin’s winter edition.
‘Given the destruction of land, cultures and language is fundamentally tied to violence against Aboriginal women … it feels weird to see Meanjin crossed out in this way.’

This blindness to the subtext of obliterating the word Meanjin with the hashtag #MeToo was mine. I wanted to give the most arresting treatment I could to what I consider to be a significant and thoughtful essay on one of the most important social movements of our time, one element in a body of work that I’m proud to present to readers.

I was wrong to do it.

Meanjin is the Turrbal word for the land consumed by what became Brisbane. It has been the title of this magazine since its foundation in 1940.

To put it simply, the word is more than just the name of a magazine, and it shouldn’t have been mine to obliterate in a design flourish.

Compounding that error was the complex story of the #MeToo movement, a movement created a decade ago by American woman of colour Tarana Burke. As she explained to Ebony magazine it was a grassroots movement designed to provide ‘empowerment through empathy’ to survivors of sexual abuse, assault, exploitation, and harassment in underprivileged communities who typically don’t have access to rape crisis centers or counselors.

‘It made my heart swell to see women using this idea’ she tweeted, as the more recent #MeToo groundswell grew.

That said, in an Australian context, where violence against Indigenous women should be a source of national soul searching, anger and concern, the casual obliteration of a proud Indigenous word with the hashtag of a movement dominated latterly by white women was a gesture of unthinking clumsiness.

I regret it. It’s a reminder of my privilege to not see what now seems so obvious. It’s a reminder that the human stocks of this magazine could be enhanced by a broader range of backgrounds and mindsets in the editorial process.

Meanjin is a constant publisher of Indigenous voices and concerns. This is work of the greatest importance to us as a publication, a publication that does what it can to place Indigenous thoughts and history at the heart of the national cultural conversation.

I should, therefore, have known better. We work with words: the power of this erasure should not have been lost on us.”

If this apologia wasn’t risible enough, you will enjoy reading some of the contributor backlash that helped to trigger (and I use that word advisedly) it. See the Twitter statement below from Anna Spargo-Ryan and the often offensive - and apparently banned - Clementine Ford.

Now, a couple of points. As The Daily Telegraph’s Tim Blair has pointed out, Meanjin is a word in English letters, formed from an unwritten indigenous language. So the visual form of the word itself has no ancient traditional heritage or significance.

And it is just a word. A place name; like Canberra, Wagga Wagga or Noosa. Heaven help anyone who puts a line through those words. Indeed, I am told there is an old joke in literary circles that Meanjin was actually Aboriginal for “rejected by the New Yorker”. Boom, boom.

But that is about where this episode belongs — as a punchline, a silly little joke about how identity politics and the chronic desire to be offended has forced the incessantly offended Left to apologise for using one fashionable cause to scribble over a word that might relate to another.

Perhaps the ANU was right and we don’t need a contest of ideas at our universities to ensure that rationality prevails after all. Instead, we can just watch the nonsensical ideas consume themselves from the tail.

Either that or someone should make a racial discrimination complaint about Green to the Australian Human Right Commission under Section 18 C.

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