You may be aware that I regard the term ‘conservative’ as being as vacuous – empty, at best – as ‘left’ or ‘right’. It is at least open to serial abuse. I simply have no idea what those terms might denote in Australia now. You might say the same for ‘socialist’. Since England followed Germany into the Welfare State in and after 1909, and we followed them, we – in common now with all of Western Europe – embrace a form of government that Americans would regard as ‘socialist,’ but which we regard as the minimum of government intervention in our lives that is consistent with what we call ‘civilisation.’ A denial of compulsory Medicare in the U S now may be seen as a repudiation of socialism. Here it would be public political suicide. What then is left of the term ‘socialism’ here? And if the denial of Medicare were to be made by a self-styled conservative here or there, what do they think that the label ‘conservative’ may denote?
This is how Professor Simon Blackburn sees it in The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.
Originally in Burke an ideology of caution in departing from the historical roots of a society, or changing its inherited traditions and institutions. In this ‘organic’ form, it includes allegiance to tradition, community, hierarchies of rank, benevolent paternalism, and a properly subservient underclass. By contrast, conservatism can be taken to imply a laissez-faire ideology of untrammelled individualism that puts the emphasis on personal responsibility, free markets, law and order, and a minimal role for government, with neither community, nor tradition, nor benevolence entering more than marginally. The two strands are not easy to reconcile, either in theory or in practice.
It is hard to apply any of that here. Politics now is defined by what people are against, rather than what they are for. If we take Cory Bernardi and Tony Abbott as examples of people here who call themselves – fairly or otherwise – ‘conservatives’, they appear to be against the following: the ABC; any kind of sense about climate change, and on a bad day, any form of expertise at all (a quality that is intrinsically alien to them); the republic; common sense about freedom of speech; anything remotely connected to organised labour; anything remotely opposed to organised primary production and marketing; a sensible federal anti-corruption body; any restriction on their God-given right to award public money for party political purposes; abolishing plastic bags; any failure to ban thongs at naturalization ceremonies; any application of the Sermon on the Mount to any political issue, but above all, to applying any of that teaching to refugees; and any celebration of the end of Empire or of Gongs. Such is the blindness of their tribal devotion on high that they idolise the Queen and the Pope in simultaneous and equal measure even though the Queen could be disqualified from holding the Crown if she took communion from the Church of Rome. Now, that is what I call getting the most out of your history.
You can therefore imagine my surprise when I read:
Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has attacked Australia’s domestic intelligence chief for using the term ‘rightwing’ while warning of the growing threat of rightwing extremism, saying it offended conservatives……
But the comments appear to have caused offence among some sections of the Liberal party. Fierravanti-Wells confronted Burgess during a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, complaining of the use of the word ‘right’.
She said: “I am concerned about this and concerned about the use of terminology of ‘right’. ‘Right’ is associated with conservatism in this country and there are many people of conservative background who take exception with being charred [sic] with the same brush.
‘I think that you do understand that your comments, particularly when you refer to them solely as ‘right wing’, has the potential to offend a lot of Australians.’
Let us put to one side the rape of the English language. This is such awful bullshit that further comment may be otiose. Can you imagine the affront that a genuine conservative – if there is any such thing in our land – might feel if compared to this lady or to a commentator on Sky After Dark or The Australian?
And is the lady now discovering that the use of these terms reflects badly not just on the intelligence of the speaker, but on their courtesy? People use the term ‘Left’ commonly as one of abuse. But if they are against the Left, does not that man that they are attached to the Right? If you revile ‘the love media’ – and some of these soi disant conservatives say that they do – where does that leave you with ‘the hate media’? As when the First Lady Melania trump anointed Rush Limbaugh with the Medal of Freedom before an awed congress and a nauseated world? And if a member of the National Party advocates that government undertake the marketing of primary production and a celebration of patriotism, will they bask in the union of Nationalism and Socialism? After all, at least since the fascism of Sparta two and a half millennia ago, those regimes have been veritable models of corruption.
Well, of course any such ascription would be as mindless as it is vulgar. But at least this lady now has some insight that when it comes to applying labels to Australian politics, there is now a two way street in vulgarity and mindlessness. And, for that matter, sheer pettiness.
Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, defended the attack on Friday by saying, ‘It was time to take this action so that we could disrupt this plot, deter further aggression from Qassim Suleimani and the Iranian regime, as well as to attempt to de-escalate the situation.’
The New York Times, 6 January, 2020
Interesting exercise in de-escalation – murdering a top man. Could Pompeo be as thick as he looks?
With standards such as these it came as a shock when Woman’s Day was rapped over the nuckles by the media watchdog last week for publishing a headline about Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, which it said was ‘blatantly incorrect’.
Dr Megan Le Masurier, a media academic from the University of Sydney, says when she saw the reports she was stumped.
‘When I read this story I just thought you could pick any copy of New Idea or Woman’s Day any week and they are doing headlines like this,’ Le Masurier, a former ACP magazine editor herself, says.
‘This is not journalism; it was never meant to be journalism. And I’ve got a term for it: ‘fabulous reportage’.
‘The way it works is they get the pictures in and then they make shit up. It’s just fantasy and all they’re trying to do is get clicks or sales in a dying market.’
So why did the press council, which usually takes aim at articles in the Herald Sun or the Sydney Morning Herald, sit in judgment of a Woman’s Day cover story which said the royal family had confirmed Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s marriage was over?
The short answer is someone – not the royal family – complained about the article, and the council saw merit in the complaint and investigated because the magazine’s owner, Bauer Media, is a member of the press council.
The Guardian, 26 February, 2020
The good doctor may have been stumped, but so am I. If the Press Council were not required to rule on issues from sources that specialise in purveying tripe, or, if you prefer, made up shit, they may not have much jurisdiction left at all.