The ABC has been radicalised

More from the ABC’s chief propagandist on the weekend, Stan Grant:

I have missed America.

I have missed that surge of anticipation and excitement getting off a long plane ride and walking through the terminal of LAX or JFK airport.

I have missed waiting in the immigration queue and hearing foreign languages all around me, the people of the world drawn to this place of dreams.

I have missed the immigration officer telling me to “have a nice day”; that familiar, comforting sound of the American accent, the backdrop of my childhood in front of a TV screen.

It has been a couple of years since I last visited the US and, with COVID restrictions, it may be a couple more until I return. For now America lives in my memory: hours spent wandering the Strand bookstore in New York; sampling guitars in the best guitar shops anywhere in the world; people watching at Venice Beach; dinner at Stamatis Greek restaurant in Queens.

That’s what America is right now: a memory. Perhaps that’s what it will remain. The mythical America is fading — if it ever even existed.

Demons and prophets

There has always been another America: a counter to the Reagan “shining city on a hill”. It is the America of slavery, genocide, poverty, segregation and lynching: it is an America that has never atoned for its original sin.

America has always been in a battle between its demons and the better angels of its nature.

Mythical America has always had its prophets: from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln or John F Kennedy.

Woodrow Wilson built the American century after World War I with a belief that America was a nation chosen to lead others to liberty and democracy.

A man with white hair stands a podium saying Office of the President Elect wearing a blue suit and tie.

American Eden was built on the belief in progress — go west, young man — and manifest destiny.

As historian Greg Grandin wrote: “No myth in American history has been more powerful, more invoked by more presidents, than that of pioneers advancing across an endless meridian.”

Barack Obama bought into the same idea that “a skinny kid with a funny name” could become the first black President of the United States. There was no black America or white America, he said, as if casting a vote could absolve the nation of centuries of brutality and oppression.

Joe Biden apparently still believes it, endlessly repeating that there are no “red states or blue states just the United States”. Really? After the events of the past two weeks, he still believes that?

Is it time to challenge the myth?

It is the price of office: never challenge the myth.

Greg Grandin’s book The End of the Myth reveals how, after World War II, “the frontier became a central metaphor to capture a vision of a new kind of world order”.

Yet America has also had its true prophets: those who see the country for what it is and challenge it to live up to its creed.

W.E.B. Du Bois, the African-American scholar, said that America’s true faith was its “whiteness” and that belief in whiteness assumed “ownership of the earth”.

Martin Luther King Junior gave his life to hold America to account; his civil rights campaign set against the backdrop of America’s war in Vietnam, “the bombs in Vietnam explode at home”, he said.

And James Baldwin wrote that Americans were “unable to look into their own mirror”. White America, he said, was “in the grip of a weird nostalgia, dreaming of a vanished state of security and order”.

Little wonder Donald Trump’s brand of white nationalism took him to the White House.

These American prophets told us the truth of the country — a truth lurking just beneath the surface and now so devastatingly revealed.

Will the end of Trump revive democracy?

Yet old myths die hard. Even now with Trump impeached for a second time, political pundits have filled the airwaves, rushing to revive the nation’s faded glory, as if the end of Trump will renew the promise of democracy.

They cannot see what is before their eyes: it is America that is broken. These pundits are still blinded by their “weird nostalgia” for a country that to so many Americans, did not and does not exist.

As Greg Grandin writes, this was what Dr King warned America against, a “constant fleeing forward” that allowed America to avoid “a true reckoning with its social problems, such as economic inequality, racism, crime and punishment and violence”.

Grandin asks if Trumpism is a “rupture, a wholly un-American movement” or “the realisation of a deep-rooted American form of extremism”.

The answer is that Donald Trump is an American President: a wholly American creation.

Trump is absolutely a product of America’s myth of progress and endless expansion: a 21st-century version of the robber barons of America’s 19th-century Gilded Age.

The difference now is that America is no longer on the rise. American horizons have narrowed and its global power and prestige is damaged. As Greg Grandin says, expansion can “no longer reconcile the contradictions” or “redirect the anger”.

Anger turning inward

America’s anger has turned inward, as Grandin says, it is “all-consuming and self-devouring”.

All nations are an invention: they are sustained by their own mythology. It has been so easy to believe in a mythical America that oversaw the post-war economic boom, gave us the computer age and put people on the moon.

Mythical America has drawn the world’s poor, huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.

If I close my eyes, that is the America I can still just about believe in. It is the America I miss — the America that lives in my memory or my fantasy.

I can visit that America on holiday while too many Americans exist in the nation off the tourist map: the urban wastelands, small towns, overgrown weeds, shuttered factories and rusted out cars.

Greg Grandin says America could believe it was exceptional, that it had escaped history; now it finds itself “trapped by history … prisoners of the past”.

With Donald Trump, he says, “America finds itself at the end of its myth”.

Fair enough. James Baldwin is an excellent writer and polemicist, part of the American literary canon. Greg Grandin is a long term critique of US meddling and defacto colonialism in Latin America, quite rightly.

American liberalism has a very mixed history. The crushing of the indigenous American population, slavery and foreign misadventures are often subsumed by a democratic progress that is, yes, largely white. If that’s what you want to focus on. I can only add the observation that America is, after all, an Anglo country, so being white is hard to avoid.

But is that all that it is? Of course not. It is a mess of reformation and counter-reformation that has left enormous scars across history in what should be seen on the broadest canvas as a march of progress. I hesitate to use Hegelian dialectal history to explain America but it is at least a useful analogy. America has oscillated between the rapacity described by Baldwin and Grandin and making great contributions to the cause of humanity. Large parts of American society did try (though largely fail) to mitigate the annihilation of its indigenous peoples in its great western push. It had one of the most violent civil wars in history to rid itself of slavery.  It has often sought to build and enforce enlightenment institutions in its geopolitical wake: birthing the UN, destroying Nazism, Communism and nationalist Asian colonialism, installing largely free-market economies and democratic regimes.

In the history of empires, it has been remarkably successful and progressive and established a regime so powerful that every dictator on earth is trying to occupy its hegemonic position.

That is, America is not just its mistakes or, perhaps to put it in historical context, it is not just a colonial power intent of profiteering on the back of those that were considered morally or racially inferior. That is a preposterous reduction that is disproven by this very conversation, which is only possible, in the end, because the American empire does enshrine at its core the principles of freedom and that all men are born equal. The best critics of the long history of American racial and class conflict are in America and they have progressed it over time via appalling mistakes, great leaps forward and the occasional outburst of extreme violence.

We are passing through another of those contests right now. Recent decades in America have seen both progress and reaction. One can’t simply dismiss the election of Barack Obama and Kamala Harris as if they are meaningless for racial progress. Moreover, obsessing over race hides a basic truth about the Obama Administration. That although it progressed the American health care system of the working poor (which included many blacks) it failed utterly to hold Wall St to account for its pre-GFC treason and very clearly helped contribute to the anger manifest in US working classes today. That failure was appropriated by a populist right that does now include some white supremacism.

Likewise, the Biden Administration and its black Vice-President, who is now in the box seat to rule the country in four years, is an obvious repudiation of Stan’s claim that America is all about “whiteness” with the “myth” of American exceptionalism dead.

Moreover, for the point of this post, this is only the latest in a series of one-sided, anti-American rants from Grant and other analysts at an increasingly radicalised ABC. The US has made a turn for the better, with its democracy booting an angry mob from power, and its institutions holding up to enforce their exit, electing instead a multi-coloured government preaching unity, with the class policies to match, yet the ABC has radicalised entirely in the opposite direction.

And, we must add that at the same time, these same commentators and journalists have embraced a truly desperate push for Australia to kowtow to the Chinese Communist Party based upon little more than economic ignorance and geopolitical naivety, while systematically editing out counter-balancing expert views. Even though such a surrender would intrinsically end our ability to ever have conversations such as these, not to mention utterly destroy the very American-backed liberalism that allows us to critique our imperial betters and push forward racial, class or any other form of progress in the first place.

What other conclusions can we draw than that the ABC has slumped into the grip of a radical worldview far outside of the norms of political discourse? This point-of-view appears to be some kind of whacko amalgam of post-structuralist theory and identity politics, Labor partisanship, anti-Murdoch hysteria, globalism and pro-China business interests that has no clue what side of the bread it is buttered upon.

Highlighting this radicalisation, are more sensible views in the wider press. The AFR’s Jacob Graeber made a thoroughly refreshing class war argument on the weekend:

The broader reality – away from the dismaying scenes in Washington under siege – means Biden has an opportunity to reset the country…Biden is already starting the process of mapping out his main agenda; getting the pandemic under control and bolstering the economy with more fiscal support.

…Those are just the opening measures. Biden’s first 100 days in office will likely see a heavy debate about a major infrastructure proposal, much of it to deliver new energy jobs and electrification of the nation’s transport fleets.

Within hours of his inauguration this coming week, Biden will announce that the US is rejoining the Paris climate accords. A flood of executive orders will rescind much of Trump’s deregulation agenda, from drilling in Alaska to vehicle emissions and even the kinds of light bulbs Americans should use.

Trade and alliance building will dominate the new administration’s focus, and tax reform will lurk in the background as he pushes ahead with plans to increase the top individual tax rate to 39.6 per cent from 37 per cent, as well as lifting the corporate rate to 28 per cent from 21 per cent.

Many of those plans were looking shaky at the start of this month, but the Georgia Senate wins means the Democrats now have the numbers to push ahead.

…If he plays the politics deftly, Biden may even pick up support from Trump voters in disaffected communities that have been crushed by the hard-edges of American capitalism and globalisation.

Poor working class urban and rural people are united across the political divide by the desire for more infrastructure, $US2000 emergency cheques and $US15 an hour minimum wages, says [Alex] Tureman [a Democrat and co-founder with Joe Hockey of Bondi Partners].

“I’m not saying it’s going to work out, but the ingredients are there,” he says.

Exactly. Class wars is what this is all about, not the culture or race wars that have occupied the ABC radicals. The Biden Administration does have the policies to address it with minimum wage hikes, infrastructure and MMT spending bombs. How much he can push through the senate is now the open question.

It is an encouraging sign that even the ‘trickle-down’ AFR can do a volte-face on the underpinning class wars that have brought America to this impasse.

There is more promising discussion from Labor at Nine’s metropolitan dailies, which have emerged in recent years as Australia’s best centrist publications. Dennis Glover is a Labor speechwriter and novelist:

…democracies everywhere need to heed the lessons. First, there must be no leniency. Had Hitler faced the full force of the law, he would not have been around to take power when the German state was shaken by the Great Depression of 1929.

Second, the conditions in which extremists flourish must be addressed. As happened in Germany between 1914 and 1933, democracy is most at risk when prolonged periods of inequality and economic discontent are followed by sudden and devastating shocks. In an America in which blue collar living standards have been declining for decades, creating the discontented army that now worships Trump, how well can democracy negotiate yet another global financial crisis?

…The redistribution of income is no longer a left-wing cause, it is a democratic imperative.

The article is replete with Hitler alarmism but its basic point is well made. The left created Donald Trump when it abandoned working people. America has elected Joe Biden to begin the swing back.

These are the voices that Labor and the radicalised ABC need to publish and listen to. Their merciless attachment to the CCP, commitment to mass immigration, and obsession with fighting culture wars only align them with the very forces that destroy working people, ripening the conditions for populist demagogues.

David Llewellyn-Smith
Latest posts by David Llewellyn-Smith (see all)


  1. Old Stan fits the ABC’s obsession with all things racial to a tee. (Very) part indigenous, academic leanings, and definitely anti western.

    • If you want to see some anti Australian-ness watch the Miriam Margoyles Almost Australian show. The part where she met an Aboriginal politician with lots of non-indigenous ancestry was hilarious. Miriam genuinely looked confused that this was the aboriginal politician she was supposed to be meeting. The other bits of the show say immigrants good, legacy Australians bad. But she is a jewish lesbian so her opinions are more important than ours.

      I get that nowadays you don’t to be full or even 25% aboriginal ancestry to be “Aboriginal” but I do dislike how someone with an obvious surfeit of anglo ancestry announces themselves as a proud [insert clan name] woman without acknowledging other aspects of their ancestry. People of mixed ancestry could straddle both worlds but increasingly wish to switch one off.

  2. ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

    The redistribution of income is no longer a left-wing cause, it is a democratic imperative.

    Well said.

    Are there any here that disputes that “Real” democracy will always produce a degree of redistribution and a welfare state?

    • Yep, it’s kinda the whole point of democracy, eg French Revolution, but that seems to have been forgotten.

  3. The left created Donald Trump when it abandoned working people. ” – Yes it did.
    “America has elected Joe Biden to begin the swing back.” – I disagree with that. America’ didn’t elect Biden, the entrenched ‘ruling class’ appointed him ( and Harris). Just as the European Ruling Class conspired to make sure Le Pen was not allowed a place that their table, the token acceptable face of Macron was installed. Likewise, ,Biden.
    Biden wasn’t elected by anyone, as such – he was appointed as the acceptable alternative to Trump.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Are wealthy and privileged members of the establishment with their entitled to rule mentality really “Left” just because they say they are?
      This Dems v Republicans schtick is little more than a Conservative v Progressive factional battle within American Plutocracy.
      Same goes for here with privileged jet setting tossers like Stan claiming to be progressive and a “left” thought leader without giving a single fk about the working class.
      There is no such thing as a Plutocratic “Left”

      • No war but the class war. Oh how I yearn for the simpler times when the left knew what they were supposed to be. PJ O’Rourke was one of my conservative influences at university for the witty way he skewered a lot of leftist politics in practice.

    • I agree Biden is there to put a respectable face on the looting by the oligarchy. He will do nothing for the working class for the 3-6 months he lasts before being replaced by Kamala. Kamala being loathed by the working class and unable to win a single delegate in the democratic primaries, but that is quality American democracy for you.

  4. Luca BiasonMEMBER

    Cannot recall ever witnessing an equivalent to the Pentagon Papers or Watergate in Beijing…you know, very trivial and meaningless stuff for our lives like having full and complete separation of powers, thus asserting the Supreme Court as the ultimate guardian of constitutional rights and liberties, instead of fully integrated political-legal systems…

  5. I wonder what will happen to the number of undocumented migrants coming into the USA via Mexico in the next few months. Hopefully that doesn’t sink the higher minimum wage plan.

    • The USA has massive inequality because it runs such a big immigration program. The whole idea is that recent immigrants have migrated with nothing. Of course there will be another push as the minimum wage is still much higher than in other parts of the Americas (Mexico and further south).

      When I worked in NYC our shoe shine guy at the bank (literally he had a pass and could walk all the floors of investment banking but wasn’t an employee (I used to think he could make a fortune in insider trading) was from somewhere in central America (Guatemala from memory).

      He would get $5 per shine (like $3 for the shine and you’d tip $2 so round it to a 5 spot). After a few years he was replaced by his cousin* as he’d made enough from just shining bankers shoes to move back home and get a house etc. Crazy right but there a plenty that will undercut that minimum wage if given the chance …

      * he literally handed the gig on to his cousin who flew in and back then no questions asked!! Guys were great at their job and had just the right amount of banter.

    • It wont matter, those migrants are highly likely vote democrat in any case. Document 10m+ people and secure at least 7m+ as future voters and you don’t need to deliver any real improvement to the health or wealth of those individuals or the American’s there before them in order to retain your very comfortable office.

  6. “A multi-coloured government preaching unity” Come on DLS? What ever happened to assessing words vs action. That call for unity is so far nothing but a few shallow soundbites, with multiple individuals surrounding the president very open about the fact they seek no such unity. The US has been amongst the epicenter’s of the very culture wars you so despise and the party that holds them nearest and dearest was just elected? And what, they are going to put those toys away to play a nice game of centrist politics with a piece by piece closing of class gaps?

    Oh and as far as MSH is concerned “which have emerged in recent years as Australia’s best centrist publication” Seriously?

    Those pages are equally obsessed with the culture wars, intl commentary is often little more that a repost of hyper partisan US content and the comment section is little different from, same fact free partisan tribal warfare with just a hint of extra arrogance, the kind you would expect from someone lecturing on the ignorance of middle class USA from the comfort of their $2.5m surrey hills terrace home. Like all good providers of media and entertainment, they have their market and they play to it and to it only.

    • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

      Not a culture war ROFLMAO:

      Time Magazine is owned by Marc Benioff, who was raised in a…

      “White American Christianity needs to be honest about its history of white supremacy,” writes Carey Wallace”

      Vox was founded and is owned by Ezra Klein, who was born to a…

      Before the Civil War, white women had little economic or political power, with one big exception: They could buy and sell enslaved people.

      Why understanding white women’s centuries-long link to white supremacy is crucial for addressing racism in America

      Whiteness is at the core of the insurrection

      The editor of Atlantic is Jeffrey Goldberg Martin Baron, who was born to a…

      A Christian Insurrection: Many of those who mobbed the Capitol on Wednesday claimed to be enacting God’s will.

      The editor of the Washington Post is Martin Baron, who was born to a…

      Hillary Clinton: Trump should be impeached. But that alone won’t remove white supremacy from America

      But for sure – this is a Class war.

      And then for no reason at all, the German people voted for….

      • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

        This is the culture of the ABC – progressive, secular, atheist.

        If you aren’t an active participant in your culture and the institutions that are the source of your culture, which in the case of those who founded the Anglo nations of the west is predominantly Christianity, then you are just an unaffiliated barbarian, floating along in the cultural flotsam and jetsam of those who make a more concerted effort to promote THEIR values.

        Your views and values are going to be easily shaped and molded by the unceasing propoganda of those who control our social narrative – they will be sourced from the owners of our newspapers and the editors who decide on the tone and direction of the narrative we get fed.

        The underlying culture of a nation matters far less than the culture of the elites and those in charge. They get to decide what we see, hear and think. The ABC haven’t been radicalised, they are now just full of cultureless secular atheists, who have gained empoyment because their values reflect the globalist values that our elites want to promulgate – ‘it is who we are now’.

        What nation and society wakes up one day and say’s to itself, “Let’s invite all these competing people and cultures, some of whom are incredibly hostile and incompatible with our own, into our society in order to compete against us and use the social captial we created for our benefit, in order to perpatuate their own values.” None EVER.

        Yet the founder of the most influential think tank in Australia pushing and promoting ideas of MultiCult and how it would result in a social Paradise, retired back to Israel to bath in his own cultural values – something he had worked consistently to ensure that existing Australians who resided here prior to his arrival, would never again be allowed to enjoy, and indeed, if they ever called for or lamented its lose, they would be called rac!st.

        Culture matters.

  7. Great article DLS. Cuts straight to the truth of the matter. Stan’s writing is fairly pompous and, I feel, not even seeking the truth.

  8. What an arse.

    Does 500,000 deaths in a brutal 4 year civil war that left half the country wrecked and the other half mortgaged to the hilt with Greenbacks and bad debt not count as at least a down payment on its original sin?

    And then there’s the countless millions of Americans that arrived in the New World as indentured servants who worked for years as semi-slaves to pay for their trip to America. And the millions of Americans who arrived after slavery was abolished and who never had anything to do with that evil.

    The problem with the Woke Left narrative that I really can’t stand – apart from them being sanctimonious virtue signalling hypocrite who are full of shit – is that their views come from like the back of a Weetbix packet.

    I guess their knowledge has to be confined to 160 characters or less….

    • The left is pathologically incapable of first considering and discussing, in an objective sense, who are “we” are and the possibility that not all of “we” are the same.

  9. Hitler would never gained control of Germany IF UK and France had stood up to his bluff move re-occupying the Sudetenland. He got away with it because of the appeasement policies and weak kneed “do nothing” response. The result was a huge rise in domestic popularity and acceptance whereas if the UK and France had kicked him out he would have suffered a humiliating political defeat and probably disappeared into the mist. Hitler himself later admitted the re-occupation was a gamble and bluff at the time but it paid off in spades.!!!

  10. Issues that affect the well being of workers has been eradicated from nearly all MSM in America. Instead the ‘left’ focusses entirely on identity politics and the ‘right’ on religion and extreme libertarianism. Neither of the two political parties that America oscillates between in a repulsive charade of democracy give a damn about the poor or working classes beyond superficial tokenism to win votes. Also interestingly Trump increased his support with females and all races apart from ‘whites’ in the recent election.

  11. kierans777MEMBER

    > Trump is absolutely a product of America’s myth of progress and endless expansion:

    Until the resources run out, like they’re doing today. You can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet after all. Something the world is unwilling to accept.

    > it failed utterly to hold Wall St to account for its pre-GFC treason and very clearly helped contribute to the anger manifest in US working classes today. That failure was appropriated by a populist right that does now include some white supremacism.

    Absolutely. The worst mistake Obama made was bailing out the banks.

    > These are the voices that Labor and the radicalised ABC need to publish and listen to. Their merciless attachment to the CCP, commitment to mass immigration, and obsession with fighting culture wars only align them with the very forces that destroy working people, ripening the conditions for populist demagogues.

    Hear hear 👏

  12. Hi David, you make good points here, thanks. It prompts good discussion. But please stop the ‘ABC bashing’. Stan is one contractor who gives his own opinion. It too is supposed to stimulate discussion. But it does not represent the view of the organisation. ABC is a valuable public broadcaster that helps provide some national cohesion. Look at the US if you want to see media without a non-commercial media outlet.
    There are enough ideological ABC bashers, without thoughtful people joining the attack.

    • The ABC now doesn’t allow platform for any alternative to globalism. It doesn’t want to contribute to helping Australia having a chance to improve – by allowing all necessary topics to be discussed honestly, fairly and logically.

      • Hi Curlew.
        Pardon me if I set you straight on something. ‘THE ABC’ does not have an attitude. ’The ABC’ is made up of many different production units – from Rural, through Children’s, Education , Religion, The Arts, and News snd Current Affairs – which stretches from Four Corners through to regional radio news.

        There are many different reporters trying their best.
        Since an enormous political and ideological pounding which has knocked the stuffing out of a lot of the organisation, compounded by the effects of digital disruption, it faces many pressures.
        The board sets policies – but it does not set ‘attitudes’.
        Further, every news and current affairs report is composed under a hefty set of Editorial Policies which demand fairness, objectivity etc. these are breached sometimes, nothing’s perfect, but there are consequences if it happens.
        It suits ideological opponents of public broadcasting to keep labelling ‘The ABC’ as though it’s one organism with an editorial attitude, but it is far from reality.
        I agree with the criticism that since the axing of Lateline and departure of Kerry O’Brien there’s been a lack of robust challenging ideas in the content. I mourn that. But it’s not an organisational ‘attitude’.
        You can blame huge budget cuts and maybe some poor senior appointments.

        • the ABC is infested with social engineering zealots.
          so, tragically almost everything that comes out of it has a progressive bent.

          • Hi Patrick. I’m not sure how to address this comment. ‘Infested’, ‘zealots’… are very value laden terms.
            I’m aware of a cultural shift among the young in society at large, maybe some of the story choices reflect that.
            All I can really say is if you have a constructive comment you can write to the organisation. Eg. Be great to see more rigorous and challenging discussion that canvasses a broad spectrum of views …
            All I urge is that if you have a suggestion or critique that it’s offered in a constructive way.

          • “I’m aware of a cultural shift among the young in society at large, maybe some of the story choices reflect that.”
            Righto. ABC trendies with their fingers on the pulse of the nation…
            Can’t wait for the Breakfast special with Virginia and Michael.

          • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

            The ABC and young Australians are now the barbarian foot soldiers of our new elite, steeped in the values that they like to see instilled in their prized cattle.

  13. rob barrattMEMBER

    So true
    Trump was only possible through the effects of America losing it’s manufacturing core. Rustbelt cities that used to be mining, steel and automotive giants. Billy Joel nailed it back in 82 with his song “Allentown”.
    The ABC is unable to talk about anything like Trump in the light of working class despair in case someone might be seen as having made a PI statement. It has morphed into a lightweight kindergarten that has lost any gravitas.

  14. UK Variant of the Chinese Virus

    Old mate Stan’s probably never been further west than the Hudson and never further east than West Hollywood.

    Seems like he has not much idea about the US.