Gerard Henderson has previously noted that the Sydney Writers Festival, which was held back in April, is a hall of mirrors. Indeed, organisers did not bother to invite a single conservative this year.
The saddest case here is of Clive James, who is certainly one of the wittiest writers and thinkers ever to have emerged from Sydney, but has never been invited to the writers festival in his home town. Sad to report, James is now seriously ill and might never manage to attend.
But stand by now folks, a few months have passed, so it must be time for another Sydney Festival where the Left can gather for canapes. This time it’s the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, which is to be held at the Sydney Opera House in October.
The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is never quite so blatant as to simply exclude all conservatives, but what it does every year is invite only one prominent person of a conservative persuasion for a solo presentation, so that dozens of lefties – the kind of group-thinkers who you can find writing for The Drum every week – can swarm around them in a buzz of disapprobrium.
In 2009, the token conservative was Cardinal George Pell; in 2010, it was Tom Switzer; while in 2011, it’s going to be American, Marc Thiessen, who argues that a certain level of coercion is fair enough when trying to extract information from terrorists.
Claims by the Festival that any of the items – with the possible exception of Thiessen’s – are likely to be provocative to the Left are laughable.
For example, the session: “Are some Aboriginals more Aboriginal than others” would have been provocative, had they invited Andrew Bolt or Bess Price – but rest assured, they have invited this bloke, this woman and this woman instead.
Likewise, “Gays and Lesbians do not belong in the Classroom” would have been dangerous had it been presented by someone with this genuine belief, such as, well, a radical Muslim cleric…
“All women are sluts” would have been a great topic if the presenter was Shane Warne – but rather than stories about all-night romps in Barbados, we get three ultra-predictable lefties who are going to be talking about reclaiming the word for the sisterhood.
The speaker on the subject: “Environmentalists should give up on sustainability” might have been interesting if it was, say, a prominent miner, or a pro-nuclear advocate, but it turns out the speaker is a former adviser to Senators Bob Brown and Natasha Stott Despoja.
They’ve even invited someone to talk about why Communism is a good thing – and presumably recounting tales of the good life in North Korea – but none of this is anything you would not hear some twerp muttering to themselves down at your local university campus.
So exactly how dangerous are these conversations really going to be?