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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

conservative vitriol « Previous | |Next »
September 29, 2003

Have you notice the increase in the emotional vitriol of the conservative voices in The Australian of late? They go way beyond public debate and political reality to become something else. Two examples.

The first is by Ross Terrill, whom we last meet here. His big concern then was that Australia should take a leadership role in international affairs. In this article the concern is the "Left cultural gatekeepers" and the "isolation of inferiority." Terrill says:

'In Australia, there appears on the Left an isolation of inferiority that thinks Australia is not worthy of a leadership role. Make every Aborigine content, say the gatekeepers, or keep our mouth shut in international affairs. Ditch the British constitutional link, or crawl in shame before Asians... John Howard resisted "inferiority" isolationism.'

The phrase "the left" ignores the diverse voices on the left, since Terrill's Left cultural gatekeepers stands for academics and the ABC----the public broadcaster. Hardly one and the same. Terrill then claims that the Left cultural gatekeepers are caught up in an illusion. He says:

"The Australian not-so-very-intelligentsia is in the grip of an illusion. The Labor Party opposed the Iraq war because it said one more UN resolution was needed to give a green light. The head of the Centre for International and Public Law at a leading university with a straight face equates domestic law (of a democracy) with international law (presumably enforced by the UN). Such people would have Australia march down the impeccably multilateral path of the "no more war" Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, whose futility led directly to the failure to deter Japan and Germany and hence to World War II."

Note the easy slide from the Left cultural gatekeepers to the Australian not-so-very-intelligentsia to the Australian Labor Party to create a monolithic enemy. Also note the equation of Iraq with Germany and Japan and the invasion of Iraq with WW11. The "argument" is then rounded off with abuse with phrases like an out-of-date academic Left, the self-righteous Left and the identification of the Australian Left cultural gatekeepers with the New York Times!

This junk is just so bad, in the light of this and this and this. It is the very junkiness of Terrill's text that is need of interpretation. The junkiness that stands out because Terrill is a research associate in East Asian studies at Harvard University. and knows about argument and public debate. His political polemic--- for that's all it is---comes across as if Terrill is being paid to be a political hack doing a hatchet job on the Australian left for the US Republicans. His text is then being used by the Murdoch Press in Australia to attack the popular conception of the Howard Government as a lackey of the imperial presidency in Washington.

The other example is Christopher Pearson, the Adelaide conservative whom we last meet here. Pearson currently suffers from an identity crisis as he cannot make up his mind whether he is a neocon or a paleocon. His vitriol in The Weekend Australian (no link) is directed at Carmen Lawrence who is having a tilt at the ALP Presidency. Lawrence carries political baggage aplenty for the ALP, but Pearson's language is emotionally supercharged. A sample.

Lawrence as the Queen of Labor follies is a potential rat; she is full of shrill cant; has an ungovernable sense of outrage; her posturing is beyond caricature; and by stumbling into a unreconstructed Trotskyte parallel universe --no, I'm not making any of this up, it's that bad----Lawrence is almost (singlehandedly) responsible for Labor's failure to ensure that the Howard Government was a one-term government.

Again it's the junkiness that stands out. It is so over the top in emotional violence---Larewnce deserves to be crucified--- that Pearson comes across as doing a hatchet job on behalf of the bruvvers in the NSW Right. They hate the new middle class grass roots membership of the ALP because of the challenge they present to their power, patronage, authoritarianism and One Nation policies. And Lawrence, as the frontrunner, says she will use the ALP presidency to represent their voice. But why should Pearson care? He should be welcoming the conflict in Labor ranks, as it will insure the re-election of the Howard Government.

Two examples of emotional vitriol from conservatives writing in The Australian. They show the eruption of the conservative political unconscious. It's not a pretty sight and it goes way beyond the standard hocus pocus. It makes a mockery of their appeal to be defending civilised values of liberal democracy. The Australian is becoming more and more like Fox Television.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:42 AM | | Comments (0)