Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Avoiding America’s fate requires our politicians and media to lift their game

That people in the US are sending pipe bombs to critics or opponents of Donald Trump and media outlets is another of those moments we’ve seen so many of in the US since 2015: astonishing and yet unsurprising, a new low and yet simply another waypoint on a downward slope that shows no signs of bottoming out. Trump denounced the terrorism, but we know that next week, tomorrow, tonight, he’ll be back to attacking the media as traitors, lauding people who assault journalists, beaming as rally crowds chant “lock her up”, smearing and vilifying opponents and critics.

Each new outrage achieves the goal of those who perpetrate it, of expanding the window not of what is legitimate or appropriate in the conduct of politics, but of what is conceivable. Each time, the boundaries are reset, further and further toward government-endorsed violence, harassment and abuse. Fascism doesn’t happen quickly. You don’t wake to find yourself in a fascist state; you move there, bit by bit, as what surprises and outrages us as a society shifts to the point where it’s no longer surprising that critics of a leader might be targeted by terrorism, that media companies and journalists should be threatened and attacked, that the modern equivalent of brownshirt gangs attack anti-Trump protesters.

From the relative safety of Australia we can look on with horror at America’s slide into fascism. It’s not a case of there but for the grace of god go us. Over the last 30 years, Australia has made deliberate choices — like Medicare, and award-based minimum wages and a progressive tax system — about its economy that have prevented the worst capitalist excesses fueling the angry populism of many Western countries. But there are forces within our media that see an opportunity in exploiting the less developed forms of malignant politics we have in our own polity, malignancies created by a specific kind of resentment, that of white men.

Thus, the Seven network now has an extended history of deliberately giving a platform to extremist voices, frequently amplifying Pauline Hanson’s racism, trying to legitimise violent fascist Blair Cottrell, proposing that that bete noir of old white men, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, be made to “face her critics”. And Sky News, which has also hosted Cottrell, is, in effect, a stream of far-right lies and vitriol all evening. Sky only reaches a tiny number of like-minded old male viewers, but its impact is magnified by the extent to which conservative MPs take it not as the white male privilege porn that it is, but an actual reflection of the real world.

Seven, Sky and Fairfax-owned 2GB — another circle of old white males rage-wanking over their perceived loss of privilege — all play the same trick on their audiences that Trump, the Brexit crowd, News Corp and other right-wing media in the US and the UK all play: they purport to side with those who have failed to benefit from neoliberalism and the political corruption it has engendered, while pushing neoliberal economic policies and the interests of corporations and the powerful. It’s an old trick much beloved of politicians of both parties in the American south, distracting your victims with racism and bigotry while you get on with exploiting them economically.

Kerry Stokes, the Murdochs, Jones and Hadley, Trump, Boris Johnson, Pauline Hanson, Marine Le Pen in France — these are all members of the elite exploiting resentment toward the elite, often while promoting or themselves doing the very things that alienate the electorate. Witness that tribune of the people Alan Jones, who smites the powerful hip and thigh on behalf of the ordinary Australian, using his influence to look after his racing industry mates.

We’re lucky to have only in miniature form the kind of frightening cancer that is rapidly consuming American politics. But in the absence of politicians willing to deliver a political and economic system that voters believe works for them, not for the powerful, we have the conditions, and the media, that will take us down the US path. If Labor ends up winning next year, it may be the political class’ last opportunity to head off that kind of fate and convince voters that they can deliver for them.

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  1. Keith Antonysen

    October 28, 2018 at 5:55 am

    In the US, Republicans are seeking to dis-endorse people they believe will vote against them in the mid-term elections, and the numbers are in the hundreds of thousands.

    Happily, the Abbott experiment did not last. His crash-and-burn first budget was a disaster. Stupid ‘Captain Calls’ ensure the LNP were doing poorly in the pre-polls. Pre-polls have continued, with Wentworth providing an extreme rebuke to the LNP.

    Morrison has not been able to provide any confidence, and Liberal stocks are becoming worse, if anything. As with the NBN, the NDIS has not developed into a functioning agency. NDIS has just been delivered a blow through funding being taken away to help farmers in dire need of support. There is no doubt that farmers need support, but so do people with disabilities.

    The upshot is that the LNP is on the way out, presently having little chance of being elected. There appears to be very deep rift lines between the mad extreme right of the LNP and the more moderate Parliamentarians. A split in the Party is certainly a strong possibility.

    Morrison refused to communicate with the Australian public when he was Immigration Minister. It appears the same is happening now within the LNP. Scullion found out from news reports that Abbott was made an envoy for Aboriginals, for example.

  2. Chris

    October 27, 2018 at 8:17 am

    When is a bomb not a bomb or a weapon? Our Curly Headed Munster of Defenc, and by implication all his cabinet and LNP mates, are manufacturing weapons and selling them in our name, like gunrunners, to rotten regimes.

    Will little Pinee become another war criminal like his previous leaders ?

    While you are there, how about this?


  3. Mike

    October 26, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    Where is the evidence that bombs were sent by Trump supporters?

    Clinton and Obama dropped many bombs on innocent people while they were in power. Maybe the relatives of the victims are just returning the favor.

    I doubt it however. More like a stunt pulled within their own supporters to gain some sympathy.

    One thing is for sure though. While the bombs that Clinton and Obama received were fake, the bombs they dropped were very real.

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