i just finished John Hirst’s piece in the Quarterly Essay titled ‘kangaroo court’ about the Family Court system. I’m not usually a person who gets worked up when reading polemics, there’s way too many of them around and I often wonder about the use of selective examples and emotional language and the independence and bias of the author.
Put it this way, if a writer is attempting to get to my heart and not my head, I get automatically suspicious. It’s one of the reasons why writers like Naomi Wolf leave me pretty cold whereas stats heavy authors like Lomborg engage my interest even if the stats themselves can be (and often is) abused.
My reaction generally to sad stories in polemics is, sure there’s one case of the system failing, but give me a well-sampled indepedently run study on actual overall indicators (with caveats and criticisms on sampling/research method). I find a lot more punch in an overall falling trend in adulthood literacy than in any single sad story of a child being kept away from school due to evil exploitative landowners (or whatever).
Nonetheless, John Hirst’s polemic complete with selective heart-tugging personal stories and an utter lack of statistical backup, got through enough of my defences that I found myself grinding my teeth at the sheer injustice of it all.
Fortunately, there are some reforms being put through now but the predictable stoush is on between men’s and women’s groups in what appears to be merely a larger scale version of what happens in custodial disputes all over the country.