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John Saffran And Other Extremists!

Ok, I guess you could call this a book review. I mean, it’s Sunday and that’s the day you all sit down to your lattes and the entertainment guide. But I don’t normally do book reviews so who knows how this’ll all turn out.

Anyway, I just finished reading John Safran’s new book, “Depends What You Mean By Extremist” and I thought that I should lend it to someone else to read. Unfortunately, I bought the kindle edition, so when a friend of mine told me that she’d like to read it, I was reluctant to lend her my iPad. You may remember John Safran from such things as “Race Relations” and “John Safran vs God” and, if you do, you’re probably wondering why he’s writing books instead of making films where he allows himself to be crucified. While reading it, I couldn’t help but think that the whole thing would have made quite an interesting series, but having said that, I suspect that he may not have found people quite so accessible if he’d turned up with a camera crew.

Safran certainly assembles an interesting collection of “extremists” from Avi to Hamsa to Blair Cottrell to Daniel Nalliah, there are people with strange ideas on all sides of the political spectrum. His approach doesn’t resemble the so-called objective journalism that we’ve come to know and love from people like Tracey Grimshaw and Miranda Devine; he’s more like a Hunter S. Thompson, inserting himself into the scenes and giving the reader the sense of someone who’s trying to work it out as they go along, rather than the god-like impartial observer.

While Safran manages to move between empathy and irony so that we’re never quite sure whether we should laugh at the idiocy or feel a sense of pity that people can be so deluded, he certainly can’t be accused of political correctness, whether he’s wondering why immigrants like Daniel Nalliah are starting anti-immigrant parties or talking about the Jewish nature of his suburb.

As a result, the reader may feel conflicting emotions about Safran’s ideas and conclusions. However, because he never presents himself as the all-knowing, Bolt-like expert on everything, his speculations are more part of an interesting journey than an epiphany about how we deal with extremism. For example, I’m really pleased that I now know the difference between structural and non-structural violence.

Or as Safran puts it:

“He was not a fan of my article about the Brisbane Golden Dawn rally. He reflects on my story with a snort. He felt it was a smart-arsed effort to equate far-right violence with left-wing violence, when the two couldn’t be more different. He says far-right violence is a form of ‘structural violence’ (that is, part of State, corporate and systemic violence), and left-wing violence isn’t. And furthermore, my ‘comedic’ story contributed to this ‘structural violence’ by equating the two.”

So, while I’m sure that not all left wingers would believe that violence is sometimes ok because it’s not part of the system, Safran manages to capture the inherent problem with all extremists: When we do it, it’s ok because we have a very good reason but when they do it, the act itself is unjustifiable and must be condemned.

By contrasting left and right, Muslim and Christian, Safran manages to give everyone plenty to think about. And by think, I mean, just that. The daily headlines scream at us trying to engage our emotions. We need to get very, very angry about politicians, welfare recipients, asylum seekers or the latest target. We’re rarely encouraged to actually consider anything other than how we should feel. Just as Trump refers to people who disagree with him or criticise his actions as “haters”, the media are constantly asking us to see things in terms of our feelings. You can’t have a different viewpoint without it being equated with emotions; you can’t have a different lifestyle choice without it leading us to grow angry about it.

Yep, Safran’s book is certainly worth a read.

Mm, I guess this has turned into a book review. When I read this morning’s paper, I was planning to write a satiric piece on Turnbull’s latest abuse of anybody who questions coal’s long-term economic future, calling them “delusional”, which is pretty funny coming from a man pretending that he’s actually the Liberal leader. Still with such people as Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan, Craig Kelly, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison as part of the government, he should be an expert on “delusional”. I’ve recently read something about how Blockbuster* laughed Netflix out of the office when they tried to sell the company for $50 million, telling them that people like to go into the video store and they weren’t going to pay that much for a company that would never be any more than a sideline. I don’t know why that comes to mind now…

*Blockbuster was a chain of stores that used to have a product called “videos” and people would rent these and put them into a machine called a VCR which would then play them on the TV. Later, they moved to renting DVDs which wouldn’t play on DVD players owing to the fact that the previous renter had accidently left scratches in them.

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  1. diannaart

    Thank you, Rossleigh.

    I have been following John Safran’s career since ABC’s “Race around the World”.

    I have yet to read this latest book, however, have every intention of so doing.

    Safran’s first book was a crime investigation,” Murder in Mississippi” and, as you described above, his style of writing is ironic, honest and free of arrogance. His open and relaxed approach to people, means we learn much more than from a confrontational or adversarial style of investigation. John allows the reader to draw their own conclusions.

    He is either very brave or very foolish – maybe a mixture of both… maybe… his acute intelligent suggests he knows exactly what he is getting into, so I would consider him far braver than foolish.


  2. Glenn Barry

    From his days in Race around the World – John Saffran’s streak at the wailing wall whilst painted in St Kilda colours was the grandest statement I have ever seen on religion

  3. Rossleigh

    Not to mention one the most extreme demonstrations of loyality to a football team…

  4. will

    It’s quite humorous. Making Safran take shots with the right wingers and threatening him at the same time. And the hypocrisies of some of these people is stunning. Good old straya

  5. helvityni

    Rossleigh, you can have Miranda, if I can keep Saffran, I love funny blokes; at school and Uni I always dated the funniest boys. Girlfriends aimed for the best-looking ones; I saw myself as the winner…with my interesting odd-balls….

  6. Rossleigh

    No deal, helvityni, but I’ll make you a counter offer. You can keep Safran providing you take Miranda as well…

  7. helvityni

    Joseph, loved your story about the Girl in the Blue Dress, beautifully told; I think I know why she is crying,the good-looking boyfriend left her for a cute little blondie, the new it girl on the block…

  8. helvityni

    Sorry,Rossleigh, no can do, the price is much too high…

  9. leighton8

    Rossleigh … good deal …. for YOU that is ….

  10. Joseph Carli

    Thank you , helvityni..I can sympathise with the bloke in Guy de Maupassant’s short story..: “Regret”..

    The Unloved.

    Who will give them kisses, sweet kisses,
    Essences distilled from secret sentences.
    With touching fingers palpitating the heart.
    And..and desire..ahh! DESIRE!..that wicked
    Wily, wonderful want! That demands attendance
    At just about twilight.
    When everyone else but thee is in a clutching embrace.
    And then, late at night,
    When all the bedroom lights turn off,
    Leaving thee with no company…but the cold, dark press of night!
    And unshakeable echoes of regrettable vanity.

  11. Max Gross

    Just one thing: fascists have no sense of humour

  12. wam

    He is our fry and can switch between bricks and bouquets.
    Loved his religious extremists who in the march for charlie felt it vital to airbrush out merkel.
    Iran showed equal fear of women by airbrushing in a head covering for maryam mirzakhami
    topped by the saudis gaol a woman for driving.
    wonder where ‘she’s in good shape’ or ‘grab the pussy’ fits in extremism?

    drool at the thought of safran interviewing trump.(or norman)

    ps I still have the image of his normal, back to front, inside out normal, and inside out back to front but the christians were horrified by his piece on knickers

    pps dick rowe and the publishers who said no to jk rowling

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