Laura Tingle

Gosh I remember when dog whistles were called “subtext”.

Careful linguistic analysis really handicaps my ability to participate in this or that populist outrage. The question is not whether Australia is or isn’t “racist”. Because the adjective “racist” cannot be meaningful applied to the noun “Australia”. It is a vast and complex thing.

There is a finite set of nouns that can be usefully and objectively characterised in this way, starting out with nouns like “act”, “action”, “sentiment”, “policy”, “proposition”, but growing weaker the more complex and abstract the noun. Even describing a whole human being as “racist” or “a racist” becomes diluted by consideration of all the acts, sentiments and propositions of which they are the author. What if only some of them were racist? What if only one was? Does that still get them over the line? Who gets to draw the line and how good is the faith of this actor?

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