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John Passant

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May 2011



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Nick Dyrenfurth – Murdoch’s man of the ‘left’

Nick Dyrenfurth is no leftist. He is a Murdoch caricature, an apologist for the status quo. He is a right winger who describes himself as left to embrace the mantle of progressive politics under the reality of reaction and in doing that besmirches the very concept of being left wing.

Dyrenfurth is as left-wing as Malcolm Turnbull. 

The dry prune of ideas that is Dyrenfurth wrote an ‘attack’ on the revolutionary left recently in Murdoch’s Australian called ‘The agony of the nihilist left brings progressives into disrepute’.

The irony of using the paper of reaction to attack the Left is lost on Dyrenfurth. He is Murdoch’s uncle Tom, (or should that be uncle Rupert?), part of what he calls the ‘sane’ left, the carrion comfort of capital.

Dyrenfurth supports extra-judicial killing. The little matter of trials and evidence and being convicted by your peers is not important to Dyrenfurth when the man executed is Osama bin Laden. Dyrenfurth lambasts Geoffrey Robinson, hardly a man of the revolutionary Left but a tireless campaigner for justice and human rights, for criticising the extra-judicial killing.

The fact that the assassination reduces American justice to the level of the terrorism bin Laden meted out seems to have escaped the great intellect that is Dyrenfurth.

Murdoch’s man of the ‘left’ attacks Guy Rundle for arguing that ‘Morally speaking, 9/11 was no worse than a B-52 run over Vietnam.’ His attack is specious, full of crocodile tears about Vietnam and Iraq. He hides behind the murder of up to three million Indochinese and over one million Iraqis with weasel words like foolhardy and ill judged actions by the US.

Criminal is a much better word to describe the 9/11 that the US unleashes every two weeks on Iraq. It is a much better word to describe the carpet bombing of Vietnam and Cambodia.

Dyrenfurth’s lies hit the big time with his characterisation of Antony Loewenstein as heaping  ‘paeans of praise’ on bin Laden. Loewenstein merely said that bin Laden had ‘profoundly changed the landscape of the world.’ Hardly praise; more a statement of fact as the US responded with the invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq and further curtailed civil liberties in its own country.

It wouldn’t be a Dyrenfurth article without some elision of anti-Zionism with anti-semitism and so Dyrenfurth adds to his lies by calling us Jew-haters. He offers, as usual, no evidence for this calumny, but evidence is not what this fake is about – he is a slanderer in the name of Labor.

As the support for Labor and its right wing policies sinks lower and lower Dyrenfurth’s arguments become shriller and shriller.

So he argues that in part Labor’s reversals are the result of social democracy’s success. Really? Maybe the fact that the capitalist workers’ party is becoming more and more capitalist and less and less worker in policies, people and links might be a better explanation.

Maybe the revulsion many people feel with the Malaysian solution, mandatory detention, the Northern Territory invasion, the moral cowardice that is the failure to tax the super profitable banks and miners, let alone the rich, the attacks on gays, single mums, the unemployed and disabled pensioners all might have something to do with it. Maybe the shift in wealth from labour to capital, the lengthening of the working day, the rat race of productivity increases might all help to explain dissatisfaction with social democracy. Even Labor’s attacks on public goods like hospitals, education and transport might be worthy of examination.

Not in Dyrenfurth world.

Dyrenfurth claims for himself the mantel of the sane left. Not only is he judge, jury and executioner, he is also apparently doctor too. ‘Physician, heal thyself’ never seemed more apt.

It is of course an old Stalinist technique to call those who disagree with you insane. In Stalin’s case he locked them up.

Sane is code for supporting imperialism. Dyrenfurth is a right wing member of the pro-war social democracy, the cheer squad for Western war around the world in the name of democracy. How goes that project in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt (until February this year…) The list goes on. And on. And on.

Dyrenfurth likes to talk about democracy but he is remarkably silent about the revolutions in the Arab world which have the potential to liberate the region from their dictators and US control and confront the apartheid state of Israel.

He nowhere mentions the backing the US currently gives to regimes murdering and repressing their populations. Nor does old Nick mention the massive support the US gave bin Laden in the 80s, support that effectively created Al-Qaeda. 

Dyrenfurth’s support for democracy is shallow.

The real left of course supports democracy, including its expansion into the workplace. Funny how the fake left never campaign for that.

Dyrenfurth finishes his article with a statement that seems to me to call for the physical elimination of the revolutionary left. Here is what he says:

No, let them [the revolutionary left – JP] stand with like minded nihilists, Jew-haters and other enemies of social-democracy, including a recently deceased jihadist unlikely to be enjoying a judenrein paradise of virgins. On behalf of the sane Left, good riddance to the lot of them.

I’ve read that quite a few times. To me he is saying that the fate that bin Laden suffered is what the revolutionary left should suffer. Extra-judicial killings are evidently OK if the target is someone Dyrenfurth disagrees with and lies about.

It says much about the degeneration of Labor that this intellectual lightweight, a man of lies and abuse, is one the leading academic heavy hitters in the ALP.

Unlike Dyrenfurth I don’t wish bin Laden style good riddance on those I disagree with.

I am witnessing the long slow death rattle of social democracy in Australia before my very eyes and Dyrenfurth is but a clear example of that. That is joy enough for me at the moment.

The Australian’s Cut and Paste in response does some free advertising for me. ‘You’re a progressive ’til you join the Oz’



Comment from Shane H
Time May 13, 2011 at 12:04 am

For what its worth – here’s my post from SMH site:

What a sad excuse for an argument – is this meant to be some defence of social democracy or Enlightenment values? The Left stands for more equality and more democracy. We condemn the WTC bombings as a crime against humanity, no one on the Left laments the loss of Bin Laden, but that doesn’t mean that his execution by a hit squad is legal or that we need to pretend the murder of civilians by drone attacks (or in Palestine) is consistent with the international law – its not America-hating to call the US government to follow the rule of law it claims to defend.

All this a long intro to Luke Foley who courgeously states what the Left denies – that Islamic Fundamentalism is “misogynist, racist & homophobic”. Who knew? I would condemn it without a doubt but does that mean I should support the ALP “left” in its defence of Israel’s Apartheid or US killing of 1000s of civilians as if its global wars, back to Vietnam, were merely “foolhardy”.

So you think that the ALP left is in decline due to its success in ending mass poverty and discrimination. Perhaps its time to have another look at the world – and ask about what values you really are defending here?

Comment from John
Time May 13, 2011 at 7:48 am

Thanks Shane. Great post.

Comment from Dave
Time May 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Thanks for that post John. I had read Dyrenfurth’s smear piece and had not picked up on the implications of what he was saying should be the fate of the far Left.

This would seem to place him proudly in the murderous tradition of the German social democratic leaders who unleashed the proto-fascist Stahlhelm on the left-wing workers in 1919 and approved the kidnapping and murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknicht.

Comment from Magpie
Time May 13, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Andrew Bolt quotes Nick Dyrenfurth with approval:

As the Spanish saying goes: “God creates them and they get together”.

Comment from Sol Salbe
Time May 13, 2011 at 1:29 pm

John, I thought that D’s item was one of the worst articles I’ve read for while. IMHO there are couple of aspects where your own desire to flay him on on the principles gets in the way of pointing out some troublesome factual issues. I simply don’t think he should get away with the rewriting of history. When he writes that the “American engagement in Indochina during the 1960s and 70s was foolhardy” he is no putting a social democratic or a left-wing view. Whitlam, Cairns, Uren, Calwell and Clyde Cameron used terms like”imperial” criminal and unjust war. Ironically Rupert Murdoch himself penned some editorials in the Australian which were far stronger than anything Dyrenfurth calls it here. He simply should not be allowed to get away with his pretences to be part of the social-democratic tradition,

The other aspect concerns the killing of OBL itself. It is one thing to support extra-judicial executions where capturing someone is not an option. I don;t support but I understand some of my FB friends that do It is another one to pretend, as Mr D does, that one unarmed woman lunging at a large number of the best equipped and trained killers in the world is a reason to execute somebody.

Basically I don’t think you let him get away with items on the factual level.

Comment from Terrance
Time May 13, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Very interesting piece John. A couple of points.

The ‘left’ is pretty hard to define these days. Is Chris Bowen a member of the same ‘left’ as Bob Brown or you or Gillard and so on. It’s a term that means different things to different people and the problem that is raised is that those who identify as ‘left’ don’t like be attacked by others who claim the same label as their own.

As to the substantive issue, there are many who identify as ‘left’ who also hold strong views about the conflict with terrorist organisation who attack the west. This view could be presented thus: why should me or my family be killed at our workplace or on a plane by people with a grievance against the same people we oppose?

There would have been many in the WTC or London tube or Madrid railway etc who genuinely oppose Bush, Blair and the foreign policies of their governments. So Al Qaeda is seen as an organisation that has stepped beyond and murdered many innocent people.

This does not make Cambodia or Vietnam or any other action acceptable. However, I for one can understand (if not agree with) a view that posits that one cannot compare conflicts, suffering and pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Was the Armenian genocide lesser than the Holocaust or Pol Pot’s genocide? Depends if you are Armenian or a Cambodian intellectual is the answer.

Were Nixon’s crimes against humanity better, worse or the same as Stalin or Blair or Putin and so on.

When an accused goes to court, they are judged on the crime they committed, it is not judged against other people’s crimes. You robbed an old lady, but this bloke assaulted her too, so your crime is not as serious. You get the drift.

In short, I suggest the view of Dyrenfurth is one shared by many in the loosely called ‘left’ because it touches on this very issue; that 9/11 is not to be compared or contrasted with other atrocities and then rated on a scale of some device. Bin Laden, to many, was a war criminal and he died in a war conflict. That does not excuse, exonerate or diminish other war crimes perpetrated by the likes of the US and others. It should be judged on its merits.

Comment from Magpie
Time May 13, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Hi Terrance,

While I find a lot of what you say reasonable, I wonder if you have tried to apply these words to Mr. Dyrenfurth:

“When an accused goes to court, they are judged on the crime they committed, it is not judged against other people’s crimes.”

For instance, when has John defended bin Laden or celebrated the 9/11 attacks?

I can’t remember this ever happening, thus I consider Mr. Dyrenfurth blanket accusation against, “our left” (as I guess Mr. Dyrenfurth would have it) at least grossly offensive and unjust.

Actually, I’d find them offensive and unjust and suspiciously so, if I might add.

Comment from John
Time May 13, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Do you think my interpretation of his final comments is reasonable? Obviously I think so, but I might be a little different to everyone else.

Comment from Magpie
Time May 14, 2011 at 10:45 am


I don’t know if you are asking this to me. In case you are:

I believe Dyrenfurth somewhat claims allegiance or at least affinity to the Euston Manifesto of British academics (for one, he mentions Norman Geras).

While Geras (one of the initial signatories of the Manifesto) has personally adopted positions that are frankly repugnant (his stubborn support for Tony Blair being a conspicuous one) there are valuable things in the Manifesto and I do find some of it reasonable: commitment to democracy, for instance.

Having said that, after re-reading Dyrenfurth’s article, Terrance’s comment and my reply to him, I found my opinion ratified: Dyrenfurth’s article is offensive and unjust.

As I said, I can’t remember you ever supporting bin Laden or the 9/11 terrorist attacks, for example. Another example: I haven’t seen you ever making any anti-Semitic statements (and I can see the three pictures at the heading of your blog).

Regarding Antony Loewenstein, another character gratuitously insulted by Dyrenfurth, I have read many of his pieces and found them balanced, even if at times I disagree with him.

More importantly, so far the impression I have is that we all here have a commitment to democracy.

So, that’s my position. And, to answer your question (if it was directed to me): yes, I do find your interpretation reasonable.

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Comment from John
Time May 14, 2011 at 11:54 am

Thanks Magpie. It was written in response to Dave’s comment, but thanks for your comments in support.

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