Passing Bull 203 – The strange and quick collapse of conservatives


The conservative parties in the U S and the U K – Republicans and Tories – have collapsed, morally and intellectually, in about three years – since the U K voted to leave Europe and the U S elected Donald Trump.  The U K is about to consummate its collapse by appointing – that is the word – Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

The Spectator is a venerable weekly paper that has been solidly conservative and represented the Tory line.  It is now in sharp descent and on its way down to the level of its Australian version, which is as inane as it is vulgar.  The Weekend Australian printed an opinion piece from The Spectator that included the following.

For those capable of looking beyond Brexit, the potential of a Trump-Boris alliance is arguably Britain’s biggest hope.

Boris isn’t by nature a pushover, which is one of the reasons he and Trump will get along.  And he seems to understand the President’s mentality: play nice, and Donald returns the favour.

The two men have a chemistry that goes beyond their unusual hairstyles.  Both grasp that a profound shift is taking place in politics, one that has propelled people like them to power.

They also sense, in the way that macho beasts often do, a certain destiny in each other.  Trump is possibly the last great Anglophile president; recall his delight as he visited Buckingham Palace last month.  Trump likes Britain, Brexit and Boris; it’s that simple.

Boris, for his part, was born in New York and gave up his American passport only for tax reasons – something Trump can understand.  He’s a Churchill enthusiast, therefore an Atlanticist in outlook.  He’s always preferred America’s stress on national unity to the fragmented federalism of the EU.

Trump and Boris will see each other being attacked by the same kinds of people for the same reasons: offending political correctness, not paying attention to detail, lacking the gravitas high office demands.  Yet both men draw crowds and inspire loyalty.  Trump and Boris are seen by their supporters as leaders who can shake up a failed system.

Apart from the reference to the ‘profound shift’ in politics, it is very hard to detect one proposition that is not just pure moonshine, but nauseating moonshine.  But even if you agreed with everything said, it is impossible to dream of any meaning of the word ‘conservative’ that is consistent with it.  Trump and Johnson don’t want to conserve the status quo – they want to wreck it.  It is sufficient to mention three things.  First, The Spectator urges appeasement (‘play nice’) of this ‘macho beast’ – ask Mrs May about that policy (yes, the ‘foolish’ Mrs May).  Secondly, The Spectator sees an English reliance on Europe being replaced by a reliance on the U S; people of this ilk like the word ‘vassal’; being in service to Donald Trump is not a pretty or safe sight.  Thirdly, The Spectator says both men ‘draw crowds and inspire loyalty.’  Has anyone offered a better description of a ‘populist’, the exact reverse of a ‘conservative’?

To whom can rational conservatives turn?  Or has the word now lost all meaning?


Instead of changing the channel or reading a different newspaper, Richard Di Natale was caught during the last election saying that he wanted sections of Sky and News Corp shut down…..The sacking of Israel Folau is bigger than a legal biff about a contract and a code of conduct.  Folau was sacked for sinning against the new moral code.  It is a totemic clash of religions, between old ones such as Christianity (but it could be Islam next) and the new religion promulgated by a new secular class that wants to stop a man from posting different moral judgments drawn from a centuries-old code of conduct called the Bible.

Janet Albrechtsen, The Weekend Australian, 13-14 July, 2019

Well now, where to start?  A politician was ‘caught’ saying he wanted parts of the press shut down.  Goodness, gracious, me!  People who work for Mr Murdoch want the ABC shut down and they regularly attack it.  And with this government, they are having success.  The government is strangling the ABC.

As part of the Murdoch campaign, Albrechtsen attacks the ABC in the same piece.  ‘If the ABC is the media arm that spreads the new religion, Rugby Australia’s Raelene Castle has become its self-appointed priestess.’  This is prize-winning bullshit.  As these journalists do, she says the ABC is tax-payer funded.  News Corp is also funded by public money.  The ABC does not I think trade – in the legal sense – but the two corporations have something in common.  They have stakeholders and if they set out to annoy or offend those stakeholders, there will be consequences.  How would the Murdoch press react if the ABC refused to sack an announcer (or if News Corp refused to sack a journalist) for saying that because of their faith they believe that: Sharia law should be adopted throughout Australia; Burmese Buddhists should hound Muslims out of the country; or Australians should be encouraged to make deductible donations to the Church of Scientology – so that it too could become taxpayer-funded?  And what if the employer said it was powerless to act because the offender was merely exercising their freedom of religion?

And why not just change the channel – or read a different newspaper? Just think of the load that would take off the shoulders of Mr Henderson if he was not doomed to maintain his watch on the Antichrist.

Then there is Mr Folau again.  May I say that when I ran a statutory tribunal, we decided cases within six weeks of the reference and usually after a hearing concluded in one morning?  I see no reason why the Folau case could not be disposed of in that time and at a cost of less than $2OK.  Only God knows where the $3M figure comes from.

But we are told that’s not what this case is about.  The writer rewrites history in a fact free zone.  This, we are told, is ‘a totemic clash of religions’.  To get there, she makes one religion up.  This is astounding bullshit.  Fortunately, and the paper should be congratulated, two other pieces, this time on the Op Ed page, makes plain at least some of the bullshit.

Peter Van Onselen says:

It’s the once all-powerful religious types claiming victimhood against one of the groupings in society they long victimised, the gay and lesbian community….Poor Israel Folau had his freedom of religion curtailed apparently because his employer has an expectation that its employees adhere to a code of conduct.  The extent to which he isn’t oppressed could hardly have been better demonstrated than via the fast and lucrative flow of donations that came his way when the Australian Christian Lobby decided to get involved.

The intervention of the ACL will do as much for religion in this country as the sight of its Prime Minister offering government comfort to 20,000 cheering Hillsong members at a floodlit night-time parade.  The ACL is apparently against a charter human rights.  I don’t know if freedom of religion is a human right or a divine right.  The Folau campaign is publicly funded, but are donations to it tax deductible?

Katrina Grace Kelly (quel nom!) says:

Ironically, and just as an aside, it has been terrifically amusing of late to observe those usually demanding legal change to make it easier to dismiss workers vociferously demanding legal change that will make it harder to dismiss workers – by virtue of their support for a high-profile footballer, recently sacked.  (Emphasis added.)

It does rather look like people are invoking freedom of religion to destroy freedom of contract.  Put differently, it is novel that people claiming to be ‘conservatives’ – that word again – want a statutory tribunal to be able to relieve a person of the burden of a contact from which he has derived great profit but which he now finds in part unsuited to his needs.  Roscoe Pound is good on this.

Equity in America shows the same influence [protecting private rights].  The Puritan has always been a consistent and thorough-going opponent of equity.  It runs counter to all his ideas. For one thing, it helps fools who have made bad bargains, whereas he believes that fools should be allowed and required to act freely and then be held for the consequences of their folly.  For another thing, it acts directly upon the person.  It coerces the individual free will.

That is very Boston – and very IPA.  We can imagine a statutory intervention into freedom of contract attracting all kinds of epithets – including the dreaded ‘S’ word.

And it is a little hard to take seriously a claim of victimhood by a church in a nation whose head of state must be a communicant member of that church.

But why let mere facts stop a good dream?  It’s that simple.

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