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Being better than Bronnie or driverless cars and terrorism

There’s going to be a trial of the driverless cars in South Australia.

Now, I just read that the driverless Google cars in the US have been in eleven accidents since they were put on the road. So what happens when the technology fails or gets hacked, and there’s a fatality? Let’s do a quick poll.

If driverless cars are involved in fatalities because of the technology, would you support taking them off the road until they’re safe?

Don’t answer straight away because we’re coming back to this later. Pause and think about it. Take your time while I relate my experience when I posted the following photo:

bishop witch jp

Someone took me to task, and said that we didn’t have to descend to “their” level and that we needed to be better than this. I found this an interesting comment, because I basically agree with it.

I don’t think it’s appropriate to make fun of people’s physical appearance, sexuality, age or lack of education in everyday life, so why should politics be any different? There’s enough to attack Gina Rinehart on, without resorting to the sort of personal attacks which liken her to a well-known muppett. And we can certainly laugh at what Christopher “The Fixer” Pyne says without mocking the way he says it. (Yes, yes I know. “Why does Christopher Pyne talk funny?” “So blind people can laugh at him too.” Nobody can accuse me of being too potically correct!)

Although sometimes it’s hard not give in to temptation, and, other times, we can enter a grey area. For example, if I complain about George Christensen wailing about his name being spelled wrong by Zaky Mallah, I’m not necessarily making a reference to those creatures that the Sea Shepherd tries to protect. Yeah, I know. It’s the sort of defence that works in a court of law, but to quote Mr Hockey “fails the sniff test”

Was the suggestion that I shouldn’t have posted the photo an example of too much political correctness, or had I crossed the line?

Well, I figure that there’s a general rule of thumb and that’s, “How would I feel if the shoe was on the other foot?” (Of course, for people with normally shaped feet the answer is always: “Pretty uncomfortable”!) If the person being spoken about was someone I admired would I feel that some line had been crossed? Would I be outraged?

Yes, that’s not a bad principle to apply. Can someone complain about the sexist abuse that Julia Gillard encountered if they’re just going to turn around and do the same to Bishop or Mirabella? The justification that they liked this person, but hated the other doesn’t stand up to any rational examination or fairness test.

Which brings me back to the “Ditch the Witch” photo.

I posted it without comment, only adding later that the irony was in the eye of the beholder. I wasn’t holding up the sign, nor was I standing in front of it. I certainly wasn’t suggesting that the sign referred to Mirabella or Bishop. Again, I suspect that doesn’t pass the “sniff test” and sounds like something my lawyer told me to say. I don’t recall noticing the sign and the two women before I posted the photo, your honour. In fact, I don’t recall posting the photo at all, owing to the fact that I just finished a bottle of Grange that I don’t recall being given as a gift.

However, if there’s something wrong with posting that photo now, then it’s because there’s something offensive with the photo itself not because I’ve doctored it or photo-shopped it or even commented.

Unless we can start to agree on some general principles that inform our decisions then we’re all just going to be bickering like children and just reacting emotionally to an event rather than looking at how it fits within the agreed values. So, for example, how did you respond to the question on driver-less cars, and would it have made a difference if I’d pointed out that the eleven accidents I referred to were all caused by other cars driven by humans according to Google? Even if you remain cynical about that, the fact remains that – even if it was partially the fault of the car’s technology – human error is responsible for deaths every day on the roads. Nobody ever suggests banning private drivers until we sort out how to prevent this.

Well, that’d just be unworkable, I hear people saying, and they’re right. Just like the person who told me that I shouldn’t have posted the “Ditch the Witch” photo. But the fact remains we’re prepared to tolerate deaths on the road all the time because we’re used to it. With something out of the ordinary – like a driver-less car – then it becomes an enormous concern. If driver-less cars are common, when the first fatality occurs, you’ll probably even have people deciding to take the train to work because of concern about the risk. If the principle you’re trying to apply here is one of the safety of the general public, what allows you to ignore that fact that it’s the nut holding the wheel that’s the cause of most deaths on the road.

And so it is with terrorism. It’s not something that’s part of the normal daily occurrences in this country, like fatalities from car smashes or domestic violence or workplace accidents. Most of these wouldn’t even make it to the “news”, unless they involve a high profile person, or have some particularly graphic footage. But terrorism! It’s new. It’s unusual. It’s like a driver-less car. Gee, somebody left the country and may have joined IS – that’s worth a front page story; drunk driver kills a pedestrian, put it in that little gap on page 23.

Personally, I suspect I’m more at risk of violence from one of the Reclaim Australia supporters than from a terrorist. (Mm, why do I suddenly imagine a Reclaim Australia supporter reading this and shouting, “That’s bullshit! If I could get my hands on that smug little @*#! I’d show him.”) But it’s the unusual that grabs our attention, just like in those nature documentaries where you see antelopes happily grazing near lions, but stampeded by the sight of a jeep. Just like in the USA, after those planes crashed into those buildings, nearly all Americans thought that something had to be done, while after every gun massacre many will argue that it’s just the price you pay for “freedom”.

So we can divert billions of dollars to keep us safe from attack – security services, jet planes that don’t work and submarines to spy on the terrorists sneaking in by boat – providing the attack is from something alien, something new, something unusual. Industrial safety? Can’t afford any more there! Domestic violence? We’re spending nearly as much on an awareness campaign as we ripped out of the support systems in last year’s budget. Car accidents? We’re building more roads, isn’t that going to help?

Daniel Kahneman, writer of Thinking Fast And Slow, makes the point that we frequently instinctively make a decision and then use our rational minds to justify it. As a country, however, one would hope that we should have a set of principles that guide us, so that it isn’t just a case of: they thought of it, therefore we must oppose it.

Yep, it’s nice when we have some general principles that make us stop and think about our actions. I mean, there used to be the Geneva Convention and the Magna Carta, but they’re so last millennium in Abbott’s Australia!



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  1. trishcorry

    Excellent article. The first time I attacked Credlin, I used the excuse that she was anti woman because she was the mastermind behind Abbott’s attacks on Gillard. A well known Australian feminist said a few words to me and she said feminism includes all women. She said that The buck stops with Abbott in choosing what he says and how he behaves. She was correct. I’d let my hatred for the Libs blind my judgement. I retracted the comment and apologised. Since that day I speak up if any woman in politics is being ridiculed regardless of party and its not always a pleasant issue to argue over.

  2. Glenn K

    I’m still bothered by the “sniff test”. Deeply bothered. What does this mean? are we supposed to sniff Bronwyn Bishop? really? where? is it a reference to the fact her behavior stinks or she stinks? heaven forbid someone has to sniff her. The mere visualization of that has me gagging for fresh air.
    I would have thought the “pub test” would be a better reference. Typical of the lapdogs in the MSM, no-one has sought to explain what a “sniff test” is.
    How horrifying to “sniff” BB…..

  3. kizhmet

    Thought provoking article Rossleigh. Bravo!

    Discussing driverless cars with my mum a while back. I recall mum saying there would be fewer accidents. I had to sleep on the notion to understand the concept of fewer drivers breaking the road rules ergo fewer accidents and deaths. I tried to imagine what it would be like driving in an environment where every single vehicle obeyed the rules and confess I was unsuccessful. A bit like envisaging political allegiances (of all persuasions) and MSM that didn’t make attacks against opposing political ideologies personal.

    Principles and politics are, by their nature, diametrically opposed concepts for most.

  4. i have a nugget of pure green

    Hi Trish,

    Why limit “speaking up” to a woman suffering ridicule? Is that not of itself sexist in that it implies by exclusion that it is ok to ridicule a man?

    If the desired standard is egality, then by its very nature, the sex of the individual must be irrelevant.

    Also, is not ridicule part of the nature of politics? To what extent does complicity in being ridiculed arise from voluntarily entering or remaining in that particular arena or being guilty of contributing to abuse of another?

    It is perhaps more that the general tone of politics has descended to such a low that ridicule of the nature evidenced by the above photo occurs at all, for which both parties bear some responsibility, but the methods employed by Mr Abbott and colleagues has sharply accelerated this degeneration.

    What then also if the subject is entirely deserving of ridicule as Ms Bishop has demonstrated through the low point she has brought to the dignity of the Speaker of the House of Representatives?

    The extension of compassion is a fine and humane quality, but what do you do when the person you deal with has none, nor morality, nor ethics?

  5. David Bruce

    As one author of the comment you referred to, I appreciate your article very much! As for the sniff test, society, organizations and fish, start rotting from the “head”. As PM of Australia, there is an awesome responsibility to lead our society by creating a vision of the future our kids will inherit. When the head is rotten, no vision is possible!

  6. Peter F

    Thanks for your article. On the question of the photo, I would ask people to consider : Has this photo EVER been more appropriate?

  7. Sir ScotchMistery

    I’ve got a whole raft of views on driver-less cars,some of which revolve around being part of a group involved briefly in looking at the ethics of the driver-less car, but that’s a whole other discussion for this point.

    The point which is seriously not moot in this discussion is the double standards applied almost across the board, by Australians.

    Think back to how vile we thought the whole issue of the sign behind Abbott; (“ditch the witch” was the slogan). Another 3 worder, or 6 flagger these days for dear leader. Then along comes a reprise, over the beast in the chair, and the progressive side are now doing the same thing to her, as noted by Rossleigh in the article.

    Problematically, in the midst of being so precious, we need to look at our reaction to the executions in Indonesia recently. Australia got all hot and bothered over those, but failed to display the same anger (and what there was appeared confected and confused), over the state murder of several Balinese Muslims, who had been responsible for the bombing in Bali. No outcry then.

    We can’t expect to be taken seriously over any of these issues, if we don’t as a group, maintain a level purview of the death penalty itself, as an issue, rather than the death penalty applied to Australians. Calls to boycott Bali fell on the deaf ears of those without the intellect to understand that there are a thousand reasons not to go to Bali, not the least of which is the number of Australians one has to put up with, whilst visiting the place. The truth of that issue, is that the people who visit Bali, and get blown up by extremists, or ripped off in markets, or screwed up over drugs, are not possessed of the depth of intellect required to find somewhere else. They are going “because the Jones’s went last year”.

    Indonesia actually read the public sentiment quite well when you think about it. Both of those executed were of Asian extraction, and they (correctly) decided that the outrage would be far less than if they had given young Scott Rush the bullet. They considered, and then relied our national racism, to get that one through to the keeper, and numbers on Bali didn’t suffer.

    For the record, I reckon it would be cool if people who went to Bali from Australia, just stayed there. That would be fair punishment for Indonesia for rocking our boat.

  8. trishcorry

    @I have a nugget of pure Green – . The context was feminism, particularly the attacks Gillard received as a female Prime Minister. I have the same problem when people make sexist comments about men, or ridicule them for their looks. For example Clive and fat jokes.

  9. Harquebus

    Gluttons who eat more than their share deserve ridicule. Gina and Clive are fair game.

  10. kerri

    I suppose the LNP thinking on Domestic Violence works something like this?
    Whilst a woman is being beaten to death by her partner because she cant afford to leave and there is nowhere really to go, she can at least recognise that what she is going through is definitely Domestic Violence because the LNP Govt has spent so much money on awareness that she is well informed and with her last breath can recognise the abuse she is being dealt!
    Way to go Tones!

  11. gangey1959

    Make you think really.
    In terms of the image above mr abbott once described himself as the “ideological love-child of John Howard and Bronwyn Bishop”.
    So who is the “bitch” ?
    As for the car, if it’s built here (fat chance of that now, ay tony) I want ten.

    PS . Little johnny and bronny doing the horizontal bop ?????
    That’s NASTY

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