Nationalistic Political Correctness

The decision to ban the Australian flag and items bearing its likeness is a curious one. It is apparently for Sydney and only on the 25th of January. Presumably organisers of the Big Day Out have determined this is an efficient ‘politically incorrect’ method to determine the likelihood of violence since the Cronulla riots over a year ago.

I cannot determine what exactly the organisational structure of the Big Day Out, the website is woeful, so I am not sure if it is purely private or not. From a neo-liberal point of view, the organisers have a greater responsibility to the patrons of the event than to adhere to vague and often conflicting nationalist demands. One of the problems of nationalism is that it is a pretty diffuse brand. The flag is a unitary symbol or logo of nationalism but some use that ‘logo’ in negative ways.

A good example of the erosion of a flag’s meaning is the Eureka Flag. It was Australia’s first flag of liberty, but use by ultra-nationalists and the Builder’s Labourer’s Federation made the flag repugnant to many Australians. A flag of liberty became equated with nationalist violence and industrial strikes.

The Australian Flag also suffers a crisis of confidence. As was pointed out indirectly: this wouldn’t happen in the US, a stronger flag would not have this issue. Aesthetically the Blue Ensign is a pleasing flag, it is well balanced with the blue, red and white being time tested colours. The problem is that nationalism has unitary demands and the Australian flag breaks that by having another nation’s flag on the Australian flag. This gets ridiculed during cricket matches in England when the chant breaks out from English cricket supporters that “our flag’s on your flag’.

Ethnic nationalism has fallen from favour, and rightly so, it is an inefficient form of organisation that perpetuates political inequality. Consequently the only way current nationalists can solve the contradiction of the Australian Flag is to appeal to a western or British heritage. The newness of Australia has largely robbed Australian conservatives of perpetuity which is why I am not surprised to see nationalists – which both major parties are – get upset at the Australian flag being used to determine the likelihood of threat to an event’s patrons.

The other issue the Australian flag faces is that it is facing both public and private competition. Australian vexillology at the national level has moved toward pluralism. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were elevated through section 5 of the Flag Act to ‘flags of Australia’. Additionally there have been private competitions, such as those sponsored by Ausflag, to replace the Blue Ensign with another unitary flag. There is also competition from flag entrepreneurs: Brendan Jones is now selling his designs directly. However, until the Blue Ensign loses its government mandated monopoly that it has held since 1953 it will be hard to displace.

So we are left with a weak flag that has been used as a symbol for the intimidation of patrons at a prior event. I don’t see either of those conditions changing in a week. From a politically correct point of view the problem is many nationalists who are not violent and genuinely do see the Blue Ensign as a positive symbol of Australianiaty are being discriminated against. This is similar to the arguments over airport screening for terror in relation to those from high risk countries or ethnicity.

In my opinion it ultimately becomes the organisers decision, nationalism can’t trump that, no matter how unpopular the decision. This does raise issues of how much an event can dictate to an individual – for instance I don’t consider a flag dangerous. It would not be enough for me to actively boycott the Big Day Out but it would be sufficient for me to lose interest in the event. As Your New Reality wrote:

The ban is going to cause more trouble than it’s worth. The easier option would have been to simply have security guards at the Big Day Out keep an eye on those they think are going to make trouble.

I do hope that 2GB’s IT department got the funding for that upgrade of the switch board for EOY 2006. They will probably need it.

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9 Responses to Nationalistic Political Correctness

  1. derrida derider says:

    The BDO was originally organised by JJJ – the ABC’s youth radio station. But I think its private now (though JJJ still promotes it) – in any case it’s apparently very profitable and doesn’t need taxpayer’s money.

    And its not only the Blue Ensign they banned – other nations’ flags and the Southern Cross were also on the Index Prohibitorum. But I understand they’ve backed off anyway – they’re no longer banning flags but are still asking people not to wear them as gang colours (which they were). It’s all a bit of a storm in a teacup IMO.

  2. Stormin_Norman says:

    BDO has never been organised by JJJ.

  3. Oz says:

    It’s just a massive kneejerk reaction, especially from Robb saying the BDO should be cancelled instead.

    I don’t necessarily they need a ban but I did actually feel a sense of ultra-nationalism last year when I went and felt really uncomfortable despite being a regular music festival goer.

    Last year at the Big Day Out, they did have Australia First members handing out leaflets in front of the gates and there were a number of people wearing shirts saying ‘Aussie Pride’.

    I wouldn’t lose interest in the event because of discouraging the flag. I’d lose interest because of an increasingly mediocre lineup that isn’t worth $120. Plenty of alternatives like the V Festival or going to sideshows.

  4. Bill Posters says:

    The BDO was originally organised by JJJ – the ABC’s youth radio station. But I think its private now (though JJJ still promotes it) – in any case it’s apparently very profitable and doesn’t need taxpayer’s money.

    Nope, it’s always been a private event.

  5. Patrick says:

    I think you guys need to get outta Sydney – I don’t remember any such attitude 10 years ago and there wasn’t any last year when I went in Melbourne.

    That Andrew G post says exactly the same thing from a much greater well of experience than mine.

  6. wbb says:

    Ah yes, the big dog-whistling issues. Howard’s all over it. And Iemma and Rudd haven’t the smarts to do anything other than resort to the usual me-tooism that’s about all the ALP can manage these days.

    Banning the flag? I reckon they should encourage the head-bangers to bring their flags along. And then burn them on stage.

  7. Ken Lovell says:

    There’s a thread over at blogocracy where rampant irrational jingoism is exposed in all its glory – hilarious but also scary. Howard’s and Iemma’s pompous responses to the non-story demonstrate how much they rate racism as a source of political advantage.

    One interesting aspect is the repeated argument that the BDO organisers should allow trouble-makers in and then make sure they’ve got adequate ‘security’ (by which I assume people mean bouncers). Personally I would prefer them to be pro-active, which presumably they were trying to be on the basis of ugly incidents last year, rather than wait for the fights to start and then risk provoking a mini-riot, but I suspect the latter is exactly what the racists would love.

  8. lloyd says:

    AndrewG Summed it up pretty well after last year’s gig….

    Faaaaast forward to Sydney. The big one. Close to sixty thousand people on baking concrete, on Australia day making their way past sniffer dogs to get in and listen to some bands. I had a quick walk around the crowd, with my friend Adam Zammit, and eve though it was early, already you could tell it was going to be a weird one. There were more Australian flags that day than I’ve ever seen before, and all of them being draped around the shoulders, Dio style, of yobby looking shirtless drunk blokes in their early twenties, who were hanging in packs of about ten at a time.
    The crowd was much different this year than to previous years.
    I have been taken to task in earlier posts on what I’m about to speak of, so let me preface it by saying this:
    I love my job, I am blessed to do it, I work hard to keep doing the best job that I can, and never expect as standard or take the privileges and luxuries that come with my job for granted, never ever. I also realise that my job is in the public eye, and people will have mixed reactions when they see me. Some will say nice things, some won’t. Some will ask me to sign their tits, some will crash tackle me on to concrete. There was a lot of weirdness going on at Sydney BDO. For the first time ever I was hesitant to walk around. I’ve never not been able to just walk around a BDO before, checking out bands. Sydney was different.
    The main thing I got from the crowd was that there was a large, dare I say it, “Cronulla”

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