“These phones are amazing, aren’t they? I’ve got an application here that can throw grenades into people’s dreams…”
Or so goes the line uttered by one of Britain’s greatest fictional political spin doctors, Malcolm Tucker. The farce of modern politics has become indistinguishable from works of satire. What was once considered an exaggeration of the political class is now a flattering portrait of a severely disease-ridden disaster, unfit for anything other than soft lights and a blurred filter.
Politics is more-or-less a three-way fight between our two major parties and the press gallery. No one seems to be particularly interested in doing any hard work for the nation, so everyone contents themselves by squabbling over social issues. Meanwhile, the public is stuck watching this mess play out, shouting at the screen as if this were a football match instead of an embarrassing display starring the people paid to run the country.
Taxpayers have divided into two camps: those who have been so badly damaged by policy that they have given up politics entirely, and the rest who fill the seats of the Colosseum waiting for the next gladiator to strut onto the sand. It is an arms race, where the spectacle has to be bigger and more shocking to keep the crowds coming back.
No one is going to stand here and pretend that this is a recent development.
Thousands of years of global political history tell us that the manipulation of public emotion is the favourite weapon of power. It ebbs and wanes in severity, but never ceases. When organised into a coherent insurgency, we call it ‘propaganda’. The rest of the time, it passes as petty gossip and opportunistic slaughter. That is not to say that we should feel particularly sorry for politicians – it is a weapon that they chose to play with and invariably got their fingers cut to bits.
The political disaster climaxing around the world today started ten years ago with the rise of identity politics. Disgraced by world wars, socialism shaved a few weird looking sheep and dressed up as Post Modernism before embedding itself inside universities and the public service. Remember, in the din of antiquity, when the term ‘politically correct’ surfaced? That was the beginning of a parallel legal system known as ‘social justice’. It is a veneer, spread over society, poorly defined by a privileged minority who attack anyone who disagrees with their rules as ‘out of touch’.
It was no accident that ‘political correctness’ tied itself to the political landscape with its name. For the most part, the notion was widely mocked by society, which found the pedantic avoidance of ‘offence’ not only ridiculous but completely mental – to borrow a perfectly acceptable phrase from the eighties. Life is offensive, and the new cult of political perfection existed solely to tarnish ideological opponents, using its fabricated halo as an election slogan.
Being ‘politically correct’ was a slur in the common tongue – a synonym for insincerity. That’s probably why it re-branded itself as ‘woke’ in the early 2000s, hoping for a fresh start. I’m not sure it worked considering ‘woke’ has become code for, ‘extremely gullible idiot children’.
‘Woke’ is only a small piece of the witch-hunting landscape. It joins ‘cancel culture’, ‘me too’, ‘social justice’, ‘climate change’, ‘critical race theory’, and a myriad of other seemingly disconnected movements that have all spawned from the sinister resurgence of socialism. Very few commentators bother to ask why? Why have universities and bureaucracies gone out of their way to create an impassable forest of social faux pas?
Socialism is all about destabilising the social structure of civilisation so that it cracks apart, falling into groups that political leaders can set against each other. Carnage has always been the soul of revolution. It doesn’t matter if it is morally consistent or ethically sound – so long as it is loud and violent.
The left knew exactly what they were doing, the right were stupid enough to think that they could play the game, and the press cheered on – monetising the clickbait.
Politicians that were entrusted with protecting society did nothing while social media companies and media pressure groups destroyed private business and ordinary people with the crime of failing to bow to the daily whim of the mob. Whether it was Folau and his religious beliefs or a retail worker earning minimum wage posting something on their private Facebook account – politicians were happy to wade in with the rest of the press pack and see if they could earn election points by demonising free thought. What was done to stop online anonymous packs defaming businesses for political favour? Nothing. What was done when mega-corporates broke workplace law and basic standards by incorporating racist training into their business? It was endorsed.
The power to remove inconvenient people on a rumour was too tempting for either side of politics to rein in – until their own heads found the executioner’s block. With big names who thought themselves untouchable in jeopardy, panic broke out. Suddenly everyone cares about the rule of law and the court of social opinion is a barbaric relic of the Medieval zealots. The trouble is, fighting against the witch-burning frenzy is a lot harder when it has been allowed to go on for so long that the country looks like Caesar’s funeral pyre, raging at the heart of Rome with disgruntled plebs tossing bits of furniture on the fire if only to see the flames climb higher.
This is one fight that cannot be won from a place of inconsistency.
The reason events spiralled out of control regarding Christian Porter was because everyone, including the Liberal Party, spent years playing it fast and loose with the mob. The Liberals remain terrified of criticism when it comes to women, after refusing to shoe-horn in unsuitable female quotas. This angered the woke. Any whiff of a ‘me too’ incident has to be buried, without trial and often without an actual police complaint. Junior names that the public don’t know are vanished on the quiet while the person holding one of the highest offices in the land insists that no one should lose their job on accusation alone.
Does he believe that?
One might ask the SAS soldiers and their commanders who were not extended the same courtesy. Men who risked their lives for Australia in one of the world’s most dangerous places were dragged through the press by their own government and dismissed before the investigation had begun. Does the government want to talk about what happened to the presumption of innocence and a military trial – or were they simply too keen to save political face on the world stage by throwing potentially innocent men to the wolves?
You reap what you sow in this market place and no one, not even the political party you’d like to protect, has its paws clean when it comes to abusing social pressure.
For better or worse, Christian Porter and Bill Shorten are now parallel examples. Both were the subject of sexual misconduct, both were exonerated in some form by the law, and both are viewed with continued suspicion by a section of the Australian community.
It is possible that, with Labor and Liberal digging themselves into equally unwinnable positions, they may call a truce and fall back onto the political safety of the law. They have learned the hard way that social justice is no substitute for actual justice – something ordinary people have been telling them from the start.
But do we really stand by the absoluteness of the law? Of course not. The Court of Appeals exists to handle miscarriages of justice. Our legal system makes mistakes. Innocent people are charged and the guilty walk free. The same public figures who defied the sanctity of the law to fight for George Pell are willing to rest on the law for Christian Porter and question it for Bill Shorten.
Sometimes the truth lives on only in the whispers of the mob. Lindy Chamberlain lived her whole life as a victim of social justice while George Floyd was deified despite beating a pregnant woman in his search for cash and drugs.
The freedom of public opinion is the last recourse for injustice. We must be careful that we do not erase it when over-correcting for the bad behaviour of social politics.