Passing Bull 256 –Unexpressed assumptions

Sometimes you see an argument or comment that is based on an assumption that is not express – what is elsewhere called an ‘inarticulate premise.’  In the press the other day, the following appeared:

The orthodoxy that Joe Biden’s executive team will make Australia comfortable is spectacularly wrong in one respect: the appointment of former secretary of state and presidential nominee John Kerry as special envoy for climate.

There is one certainty.  Kerry will create problems for Australia and the Morrison government as a consequence of his brief from the incoming president…..

It will be Kerry’s rhetoric, his symbolism and his close ties with Europe on climate change that will put inevitable pressures on the Morrison government.

The writer says that Kerry will create problems not just for the Morrison government but for Australia.  It follows that for this purpose at least, the writer sees the interests of the Morrison government being identical to those of the nation of Australia.  Kerry is far more in favour of real action on climate change than the Morrison government. The unexpressed assumption is that this will be bad for Australia because of the pressure Kerry will put on its government – in of course the name of the United States.  But what if you think that our governments of all colours have done badly on climate change and should do a lot more?  If you hold that view, the appointment of Kerry does more than give comfort – it is cause for celebration.  And recent events in New South Wales suggest that a real majority of Australians have that view.  The report merely records the prejudice of the writer and the paper.

Bloopers

‘I have spoken often about doing business responsibly, including about these failings, since earlier this year. I am determined we have a leadership position and hold ourselves accountable in this regard,’ he said.

ABC NEWS 26 November, 2020, Andy Penn, CEO Telstra.

Tripe.

Passing Bull 255 –American fallacies

More than 600,000 American soldiers died fighting the Civil War.  Most of those deaths occurred after or outside the battles.  More than 250,000 Americans have died during the current pandemic.  The number could reach that of the Civil War deaths of soldiers.  This tragedy reveals two related streaks of irrationality coming from American history – a preoccupation with ideology over sense and a cavalier attitude to science and experts.

The worst hit state is South Dakota.  Its unrepentant Governor says ‘My people are happy because they are free.’  Civil rights are not much good for you if you are dead.  Any law restricts freedom.  It is ridiculous to object to a law on that ground.  Saying that you do not want a law about masks because it violates your rights is in the same moral and intellectual plane as insisting on your freedom of movement by running a red light.  Where I live, people prefer sense to ideology.  If you go into a shop without a mask, you will not be served – and then you will be evicted.  We have that law for the same reason we have laws about red lights – to stop our conduct causing other people to die.

Many fear that climate change is far more dangerous to humanity as a whole than the pandemic.  A great many of American legislators are committed to the bible account of creation.  They look to be rejecting science, but that is just another way of saying that they reject or ignore the evidence.  Some bizarre notion of American exceptionalism or equality leads too many Americans to suspect experts.  Once you reject science and the experts on the history of the planet, you can do so on its future.  The result is the mad response to climate change by people who call themselves ‘conservatives.’  Then you get the same with the pandemic.  This queer reaction to science is often linked to a queer view of religion.  The so-called evangelicals have a lot to answer for on this – and Israel.  Religion has had an impact on politics that would not be tolerated here – or I think any other part of the western world.  And the American capacity to embrace falsehood goes back at least to the Declaration of Independence.  The remark that all men are created equal was a dreadful lie.  Their rationale for the rebellion was not much better.  They rebelled because the mother country was taxing them.  Tax is still a blot on their psyche.  Jefferson listed their complaints against England.  He managed to mention tax once, coming in at about number 20, after a lot of silly propaganda.  Even then he got it wrong.  He said that King George was responsible.  The whole point of the English Revolution was that only the parliament could levy taxes.

We all have our odd failings, but these are shockingly lethal.

Bloopers

The 45th US president restored law and order by defending police against militant racists and nominating black-letter lawyers to the Supreme Court.  He chipped away at left-wing orthodoxy in the public service and on campus by testing the limits of free speech.  He demanded equal treatment in America by telling free-riding allies to boost their military spending and pay their fair share for defence.  He called the bluff of bully states and withdrew U S money from the Paris agreement, which rewards totalitarian regimes with Western workers’ money.  He protected Americans from illiberal enemies by closing the border to terrorist-producing states…….[She concludes] With a party that supports formal inequality, racist governance and political censorship about to form government, the battle for the American Dream has only just begun.

If Victoria has managed to eradicate the virus, at  huge cost, it’s because there wasn’t much virus around in the first place.

The Australian, 10 November, 2020, Jennifer Oriel then Adam Creighton

As silly as the Americans referred to above.  And just as dangerous.

Passing Bull 254 –Public interest and privacy

Some years ago, the BBC put on a tough interview with Boris Johnson.  As I recall it, the interviewer finished by calling his subject a ‘nasty piece of work.’  The subject was not amused.  I can almost see the steam rising.  But a critical function of the fourth estate is to check up on the other estates.  The BBC just happens to do that job better than most others.  The English Prime Minister is now gunning for the BBC.  You can draw your own conclusion about the connection between the two events.

Before I comment on the Four Corners program on the Canberra bubble, I must confess to three sources of bias. 

First, I like the ABC but I don’t like the federal government.  I acted for the ABC as a barrister and then as a solicitor for about a quarter of a century.  At times, I took instruction from Sally Neighbour, who was I think the producer of this program.  Otherwise I took instruction from Judith Walker, the in-house solicitor in Sydney.  Judith was as fine a civil servant as I have met.  Her position was very difficult because she was always subject to heavy political pressure from politicians of either side.  It could get very ugly – as they say in the NRL. (She and I both survived that frightful phase when John Howard stacked the board with preposterous puppets.)  I was happy to represent a public body that in my view performed well in a job that we badly need to see well done.  And my partners and I would be greatly amused to hear the firm that I was a partner of described as ‘left-wing,’ or some other such silly label.

As to the government, I find this Prime Minister to be determinedly unimpressive.  Queen Victoria said she felt that Gladstone performed as if he were addressing a public meeting when he spoke with her.  Whenever I hear our present Prime Minister, I feel like a fifth grade student in a geography class at Box Hill State School.  As to the MPs referred to in the program, they fall to be assessed by such of their conduct as is common ground.  On that evidence alone, the best I could say of either is that he is a nasty piece of work.  As to party politics, I will have none of it.  I vote at both federal and state elections based on my assessment of the candidates.  Their party is irrelevant to me – and let’s face it, neither of them stands for much anyway.

The second ground of my bias or prejudice is that I have raised two daughters and I know something of the demons out there that women have to deal with – and I hold very strong views about people who abuse power for personal advantage of any kind.  The crime of rape is after all the grossest form of abuse of power.

The third ground is that I am one of the few people in this country to profess respect for Malcolm Turnbull.  I hold him in much higher regard than most politicians on either side – including his two successors.  In my view, this nation has been badly let down by its politicians, and I very much regret that this man was assassinated by his own party, twice – because too many of them simply refuse to grow up and act decently on the challenges to the environment on climate and other grounds.

Now for the Four Corners program.  I will assume that you have watched it.

All the women were for me entirely credible.  The complainants in these cases – and I have acted on each side in such matters – have no interest in going public like this.  Such a step requires at least two things.  The person sees what they think that decency requires of them in their assessment of the public interest.  Then they find the courage to do what they see as their duty.  All the probabilities are against any fabrication.  The late Peter O’Callaghan, QC dealt with complaints against his church for many years.  He told me that in that time he only saw one bogus claim – and that one was hilarious.  A large part of the problem of this foetid culture in Canberra is that people are too scared to come out.  As one journalist who knows the scene says, ‘speaking out puts a target on your back.’

The evidence of the women was consistent with all the other evidence.  The problem of people living together in what is called the Canberra bubble is as well documented as the failure of the Liberal Party to get more women into parliament and government.

And the people against whom the allegations were made, in particular Mr Porter, chose not to respond to them after being given many opportunities to do so.  Instead, they used their influence to try to destroy evidence and to prevent publication.  On that ground alone, the subject of the program was obviously one of public interest.  Here you have members of parliament, including the Attorney-General, using their influence to try to remove evidence of the public conduct of one of them and to stop the public broadcaster informing the public of what happened.

You do not have to be a lawyer to see the result when evidence of misconduct is uncontradicted.  And we know that it was misconduct precisely because those responsible for it did not want us to know about it.

One critical item involved Mr Porter being seen in a well-known public bar in Canberra behaving with a woman who was not his wife, but who was on the staff of a minister, in such a way as to attract public attention – to the extent that a journalist watching it decided to take a photo of it.  This was the evidence that Mr Porter and his parliamentary supporter, Mr Tudge, tried to suppress.  As it happens, Mr Tudge has also had an affair with a staffer.  But Mr Porter’s friends in the press, especially The Australian, say that this was not a matter of public interest.

If I may say so, what happens in public is not private.  That would be a contradiction in terms.  And it is not private when it involves the conduct of people who are all on my pay-roll.  And it is in the public interest for us to be informed of conduct by our members of parliament that reflects on their capacity properly to represent us – to the extent that the then Prime Minister had to warn them and formulate some kind of precept to deal with an issue which was known to have been festering for a long time.  It is simply worse when one of those involved in the misconduct is the First Law Officer – the person charged with enforcing the law – and who is given to lecturing us about family values. 

And we hardly needed ASIO to warn us of the danger to the public weal of those in power over us engaging in misconduct that leaves them susceptible to the power of our enemies.  If Messrs Porter and Tudge react like this when approached by the ABC, what will they be like when agents of the secret service of China or Russia come knocking on their door? 

It is terrifying to think of what people may have tried on Kennedy or Trump because of their wanton womanising.  Clinton was no better.  The days when what was called adultery were kept in club are long gone.  If an elected representative behaves in a way that leads his wife unable to trust him to keep his word, how does he expect us to trust him?  Do they all not see that we are all just fed up with this perpetual hypocrisy?

There might be an argument in a court of law about what lawyers call similar fact evidence, but this was not a court of law. In my view, this was first rate journalism, and that is evidenced by the reaction to it by those inquired of. 

The denials made by people like those at The Australian go to show their prejudice against the ABC.  In truth, as a friend of mine remarked, they hate the ABC.  And this will get worse.  Now that the ABC has people of the calibre of Laura Tingle, David Speers and Annabel Crabb, the advantage of the ABC will really grate.  They are far ahead of the rest of them.  And when did you last see investigative journalism like this in the rest of the press?  How many parliamentary inquiries or royal commissions have been launched because of Four Corners?  Who else has this facility?  Can you imagine a world in which we did not have the ABC by which we can gauge the rest – to their never ending chagrin?

What now for Mr Porter?  He comes across as having little or no judgment, a pampered pretty boy who is used to getting what he wants by throwing his weight around, a lightweight Antipodean version of Donald Trump in board-shorts and thongs – and we know what his leader thinks of thongs.  Mr Porter has a serene smirk that bespeaks a slovenly conscience trampled under a rampant ego and id.  His ineptness about that silly notion of religious freedom was not one off.  He is a serial dill.  Mr Porter is not at the stage yet where the Australian press uses the term ‘disgraced’, but he is hovering over another favourite sobriquet of theirs – dead meat.  He and his frisky and pesky pal are headed for oblivion, and that will be a blessing for us all – especially our women

And his watery reference to legal action was further evidence of his lack of judgment and tendency to bully.  The prospects of such action being taken and going to judgment well for him are about the same as my prospects of beating his father’s best high jump.

I congratulate the ABC and in particular its Chair and Sally Neighbour and Louise Milligan for staring down our government and doing their job so well.  Ita Buttrose knows all about male bullies.  She was a good choice by this Prime Minister and we should take care to see that the recriminations do not imperil the Chair.  Their capacity to indulge in purges of the ABC is another reason why I do not trust or respect this government.

And the government?  When the High Court found that this infection had reached it, our Chief Justice said ‘We’re ashamed….’I was moved by this integrity and decency.  We never get it from the other arms of government.  We just get more banal mediocrity, and, Heaven help us, ‘not on my watch’.

As for the folk at The Australian, it is hard to know whether their jealousy of the ABC is driven by contract or torment.  I watch Four Corners about once a year and I have never seen Q and A.  But the people at The Australian look to be addicts.  The Jewish Sabbath sees a motley of Liberal Party staffers and apologists, Looney Tunes from the IPA, and the most dolorous Catholic in Christendom all join hands for an orgy of ABC bashing.  They divide their time between putting down the ABC and boosting up Donald Trump.  Perhaps the wind brought their sore affliction over the water from their ugly sister in America – although it would have to come the long way.  It is fair to say that the warped minds of people like Credlin, Kenny and Henderson are notorious among people in what they are pleased to call the elites – but their bone crushing predictability must leave them all at risk of boring each other in their own little bubble to death.  They are all a shirtfront to sense and decency.  And the hate mail that they get from their followers which they publish is deeply disturbing.  It has been years since any person of sense, of any political stance, took that paper seriously.

The upside is that they are the best boosters that the ABC has ever had.  The downside is that while Rupert Murdoch lives, Donald Trump could happen here.  And they would see that as a big win.

A mare and her foal are in peace munching the long grass in my paddocks and reducing my fuel load.  Later I will stroll along the ridge toward the cemetery, trusting that the Almighty does not see that as teasing Him, and I will be gazed at by cows munching soulfully on their cud.  Then I will take in the view of a railway viaduct on one side and a lake on the other, each in its own valley.  And then, it being Saturday, I will go the village to collect the papers – and then count the orchestrated sprays of the ABC by Murdoch’s minions – and hope that my uptake of sanity survives the day.

Thank Heaven for the simple goodness of nature.

Passing Bull 253 –AFR Loading

An AFR editorial about Trump on 31 October 2020 showed leanings and aversions that keep appearing – disgust at anything ‘Left’ and closeness to big business.

In 2016, Mr Trump offered a weary and disappointed US middle and working class a self-contained America that kept out migrants and unfair trade, and kept away from the wars of others.  There were annoying kernels of truth in his complaints……Foreign allies piously calling for America’s global leadership also happily freeloaded under Washington’s huge defence budget burden.  The identity politics of left progressives still too easily sneers at common people and veers into censorship…..The Democratic response to the Trump presidency has been a shift to the wacky left…. Mr Biden, though too old for the job, offers the better hope of return to some form of normality.  President Biden, braked by a narrow Republican majority in the Senate, would be the only good result for America and the world.

A lot of that is in the language you see in another newspaper – identity politics, left progressives and the wacky left – but are these demons breathing so hard in the editor’s ear that his distrust of the ‘left’ is such that he thinks a divided country would best be served by a divided government, and that the interests of America and the world would best be served by Mr Biden having to put up for four years what Mr Obama had to put up with for eight years from Mitch McConnell?  And might it not seem just a little presumptuous for an Australian newspaper to say how Americans should structure their government?  By putting a brake on their president?

Bloopers

Judging by Biden’s first speech as effectively president elect, one of the chief dangers we will face from a Biden presidency is drowning in schmalz, slightly mangled.

The Australian, 9 November, 2020.

Passing Bull 252 – Fluffy tropes

Some people get by saying nothing pompously.  In The Australian today, Paul Kelly begins his front page column this way.

Annastacia Palaszczuk has proven the power of closed borders and the curse of pandemic protectionism.  In this first state election of the COVID-19 crisis, Palaszczuk has shown how the virus has elevated strongarm populist premiers as the new giant killers roaming the land.

The results of elections are caused by all sorts of things.  They may or may not evidence sentiments in the electorate.  We will never know.  It is impossible to say what sentiments were the most significant.  That is one reason that we don’t trust polls.  Yet Mr Kelly can isolate one cause not just as evidence but proof.  There is a very big difference between the two – that we might hope a political diagnostician might have firmly in mind.

But what on earth is ‘pandemic protectionism’ and why is it a ‘curse’?

Let us put to one side tropes like ‘strongarm’ and ‘giant killers roaming the land’.  They are just silly.  But what does populist mean there?  It is not meant as a compliment.  The word ‘Trumpian’ gets a run in the next paragraph.  It looks to be an essential part of the ‘curse’.  As I follow it, in the two party system, people vote for the party that they think will best serve their interests.  The winner can say that it is the more popular party of the two.  A clear majority thought that the winning party would serve their interests better than the other party.  It is a fair inference that the pandemic was a significant factor in their thinking.  Experience suggests that incumbents are favoured in times of crisis.  But what here takes the successful party from popular to populist?

The thoughtless use of clichés as labels is the bane of our press.

Bloopers

Apollo said in a statement it was ‘firmly committed to transparency’. It added: ‘Leon has communicated directly with our investors on this issue and we remain in open dialogue.’

Financial Times, 23 October, 2020

What matters is that I act with integrity and honour.  That means I need to act in the best interests of ASIC and its vital purpose to build a fair, honest and efficient financial system for all Australians….I only took this position to serve the Australian community and to work to improve the corporate and financial system that should also serve it.  If I in any way impede that purpose, the right thing for me to do is to step aside until such time that I can.

The Weekend Australian, 24-25 October, 2020

Passing Bull 251 – Comparing cases and playing the man

‘We may have made some mistakes financially, but your lot trashed the whole economy.’  This is standard fare in politics.  Playing the man – the Latin is ad hominem – is not meeting the argument.  It is a recognised fallacy.  But comparing one case to another may be revealing, and not just as showing hypocrisy on the part of the person putting an argument.  Comparing cases, and distinguishing them, is part of the lifeblood of debate and it is essential to the process of the common law.

This came to mind as I read a biography of Von Karajan by Richard Osborne.  Karajan had joined the Nazi Party and had to be cleared by the De-Nazification Tribunal.  Furtwangler faced a similar issue.  Both were attacked – in my view unfairly.

Karajan had said he made a mistake in joining the party. I don’t know why – he might have been unemployable if his ‘patriotism’ had been put in issue.  Eight million Germans signed up.  That was not in itself a crime.  Mr Osborne points out that David Oistrakh joined the Communist Party.  Does that mean he supported the crimes of Stalin?

Way back to the time when pioneering British socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb excused the mass murder of the kulaks, the peasant landowners in Stalin’s Russia, on grounds of a pressing need for greater agricultural efficiency in the Soviet Union, there has been a long history of toleration – even on occasion justification – of ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalin’s acts of genocide that would be unthinkable in the case of Hitler’s.

That is an illuminating comparison.  As is the reference to the ‘raucous’ support of Hitler given by Karl Böhm, ‘the shrewd lawyer with the peasant’s instinct for survival.’  ‘Anyone who does not say a big YES to our Führer’s action and give it their hundred per cent support does not deserve to be called a German.’  Neither Karajan nor Furtwangler got even close to that, and if you looked hard enough you might find something unseemly in the dressing table of the ensainted Elizabeth Schwarzkopf.

Edmund Burke said ‘I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people.’  The Nazis claimed to do just that.  Robert Jackson (later a U S Supreme Court Justice) said at Nuremberg:

We should also make clear that we have no purpose to incriminate the whole German people…..If the German populace had willingly accepted the Nazi programme, no storm troopers would have been needed….The German no less than the non-German world has accounts to settle with these defendants.

Mr Osborne tells us that Yehudi Menuhin shared this view. 

In 1949, a tour of Chicago by Furtwangler had to be called off in the face of death threats.  The President of the Chicago group issued a most dignified statement.

….I was confident however in my belief that all of us who have made great sacrifices to bring the war to a victorious conclusion had done so in the hope that our victory would above all else bring about a world attitude of tolerance.  To find that this attitude of tolerance has not yet been realised and accepted by many people , including even some outstanding artists, is tragic evidence of the fact that our victory as yet has not been complete.

The whole catastrophe started with an ascription of guilt to a whole people.  Guilt by association is the first refuge of the coward.  And we may want to reconsider our views on moral cowardice in view of the moral landslide now on show in the Republican Party.

Bloopers

Apollo said in a statement it was ‘firmly committed to transparency.’  It added: ‘Leon has communicated directly with our investors on this issue and we remain in open dialogue.’

Financial Times, 23 October, 2020

Passing Bull 250 – Inanity writ large – and worse

One Australian newspaper today posted two comments on the re-election of Jacinda Ardern.  One was from the Economist.  From a respectable newspaper, the comment was both sensible and gracious.  That from the I P A was the direct opposite of both those qualities.  It starts this way.

Nobody skewered Barack Obama during his presidency like legendary comedian Dennis Miller.  ‘It’s not all that dramatic with me and Obama,’ Miller once told his audience.  ‘It’s not racist, it’s not classist, it’s not ideological.  It’s just that he is an inept civil servant.  He’s the guy at the toll booth who’s constantly giving out the wrong change.’

The same could be said about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.  She’s a brilliant politician, but has been a grossly incompetent administrator.

That was the beginning.  We know that the IPA people cannot tolerate Democrats in the U S or anyone to do with Labor here in Australasia or the UK.  We also know that where a lightweight says that he is not being A, B or C, there is every chance that he is certainly being at least B or C.  And these comments about Obama are certainly premised on both class and ideology – in spades.  We can be as certain of that as we can be that those remarks are as tasteless as they are both revealing and inane.  It is a beautiful instance of my rule of thumb that if someone gets up the nose of people at the Murdoch press or the IPA, they are doing some good.  The revelation comes from the derision of anything Democrat or Labor.  Not many presidents get ranked with toll booth attendants.  A former IPA person who works for Murdoch said the other day that it would be a tragedy if Gladys Berejiklian lost office, and Daniel Andrews did not.  The non sequitur is painful, but the ideological antipathy is palpable.  The article concludes.

The only hope for New Zealand now is that, whatever horrifying plans that Labour has in store, Ardern is just as hopeless at actually implementing them in her second term as she was in her first.

What can you say?  It’s not that they prefer Trump to Obama and Morrison to Ardern, it’s that their inanity leaves them with no sense of grace at all.  We are left with the question that that Boston attorney – counsel for the U S army – asked of Senator Joseph McCarthy.  ‘Have you no sense of decency at all at long last?’

You will see that this is number 250 in this series on contemporary bullshit.  It’s sad that this entry is so gross.

Bloopers

Pence’s polished, reasoned and compelling performance would certainly reassure any viewer remotely inclined to support Trump that this is a substantial administration on the right policy track.

The Australian, 9 October, 2020, Greg Sheridan

The US left hates the history and institutions of America itself.

The Australian, 14 October, 2020, Greg Sheridan

Q E D.

Passing Bull 249 – Mixed waffle

Trump is a hot but threatening politician, exuding a primitive albeit vicious power.  Biden, by contrast, is a cool politician, a decent man, but, compared with Trump, he looks weak, even fragile.  This election is a civil war over what constitutes virtue.

The Australian, 2 September, 2020, Paul Kelly

The last politician I can think of who used the word ‘virtue’ in a political context was Robespierre – and he did not meet a good end.  But if this election is between a man who is decent and one who is not, ‘virtue’ could know only one winner.  You might get more sense from Superman.

‘Our position is that our participation agreement includes a non-disparagement clause,’ the minutes say. ‘A reactive media statement will be prepared if required.’

The Guardian, 9 September, 2020

It is not surprising that they got caught.

Thales, whose roots stretch back more than a century, had come up with a statement of its purpose. ‘It is a statement that took six months to write,’ Mr Caine wrote on LinkedIn, adding there had also been six months of consultations with nearly half of the group’s 83,000 employees. The result was just seven words: ‘Building a future we can all trust.’  Staring at them, I thought, bingo! Thales had pulled off a trifecta in the corporate twaddle stakes. A group that makes everything from train ticket systems to drone software had spent hours of company time on a statement so devoid of meaning that it could have come from untold other firms.

Conservative MP Desmond Swayne claimed this week that Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick were engaged in ‘project fear’.

Financial Times, 30 September, 2020

What if there is something to be afraid of?

Here and there – Views of Trump

Protocol precludes psychiatrists from expressing views on a person whom they have not consulted with.  Here are some views that might throw some light on Donald Trump.

Erich Fromm was a distinguished psychoanalyst who wrote the kind of books we can follow in comfort.  Here are some of his views.

The most dangerous result of narcissistic attachment is the distortion of judgment.  The object of narcissistic attachment is thought to be valuable…not on the basis of an objective value judgment but because it is me or mine.  Narcissistic value judgment is prejudiced and biased……

From Caligula and Nero to Stalin and Hitler we see their need to find believers, to transform reality so that it fits their narcissism, and to destroy all critics, is so intense and so desperate precisely because it is an attempt to prevent the outbreak of insanity.  Paradoxically, the element of insanity in such leaders makes them also successful.  It gives them that certainty and freedom from doubt which is so impressive to the average person.

(This is so true.  It is as if their hero can fly – just like Icarus.  You see it in lawyers.  The most brash of them know no fear and they have invisible lines of attraction to clients of the same temperament.)

Concerning the pathology of group narcissism, the most obvious and frequent symptom, as in the case of individual narcissism, is a lack of objectivity and rational judgment.  If one examines the judgment of the poor whites regarding blacks, or of the Nazis in regard to Jews, one can easily recognise the distorted character of their respective judgments.  Little straws of truth are put together, but the whole which is thus formed consists of falsehoods and fabrications.  If political actions are based on narcissistic self-glorifications, the lack of objectivity often leads to dis-astrous consequences.

Hannah Arendt was a political philosopher.  She was fearfully bright.  She wrote a book about totalitarianism.

It has always been true that the mob will greet deeds of violence with the admiring remark: ‘It may be mean but it is very clever.’  The disturbing factor in the success of totalitarianism is rather the true selflessness of its adherents…..the amazing fact is that neither is he [the follower] likely to waiver when the monster begins to devour its  own children and not even if he becomes a victim of persecution himself….

The temporary alliance between the elite and the mob rested largely on this genuine delight with which the former watched the latter destroy respectability…The object…was always to reveal official history as a joke, to demonstrate a sphere of secret influences of which the visible, traceable and known historical reality was only the outward façade erected explicitly to fool the people….the difference between truth and falsehood may cease to be objective and become a mere matter of power and cleverness, of pressure and infinite repetition.  Not Stalin’s and Hitler’s skill in the art of lying but the fact that they were able to organise the masses into a collective unit to back up their lies with impressive magnificence, exerted the fascination.

Practically speaking, the totalitarian ruler proceeds like a man who persistently insults another man until everybody knows that the latter is his enemy, so that he can, with some plausibility, go and kill him in self-defence.  This certainly is a little crude, but it works – as everybody will know who has ever watched how certain successful careerists eliminate competitors.

This last is the most deadly.  It is the response to Black Lives Matter of Trump and his tame followers in the press in this country.  The sad truth is that people who go to extremes drive sensible people to do the same – in a reaction that they later blush for.  I saw this in the early 80’s acting for Norm Gallagher and the BLF.  They were so extreme that they drove judges to make remarks that they should not have made – like ‘What would your clients know about the reaction of reasonable people?’ – and they drove a state Labor government to enact a privative law that made Menzies’ bills on the Communist Party read like Psalm 23.  On any view, Trump and his tamed props in Congress are extreme, and they are waiting on the Democrats to take the bait.

Wouldn’t that be deplorable?

The result is sadly nigh on inevitable – the triumph of the mob.

Passing Bull 248 – The almost crowd

Many of our commentators thrive on equivocation – and a coyness about what they may or may not stand for.  They often set up a straw man.  You get stuff like the following.  We were right to protect our sovereignty over illegal boat people if necessary by armed force.  The response of Germany was a dangerous over-reaction.  The climate may fluctuate, but the reaction of progressives is alarmist and a threat to the economy.  We are not against gay people, but we saw no need for legislation about same sex marriage.  The police in the U S may have problems, but Black Lives Matter has become an over-reaction that threatens law and order. The issue with Cofid has been blown out of proportion, and the lockdown is an unnecessary blight.  This is just another case of ‘experts’ undermining our freedom.  Cathy Freeman is a star but she brought politics into sport with that flag.  The opposition to Goodes was not racist and he too over-reacted.  We take as our guide the equivocations of the Jesuits in the witch hunts after Guy Fawkes.

There is no restraint or moderation.

In The Weekend Australian, 5 to 6 September, 2020, Terry McCrann said of Cofid:

Of these deaths [Cofid] 650 were in the Stasi state formerly known as Victoria.  And of those 505 were in aged care…..

On the health cost-benefit alone, the costs have and will far outweigh the direct virus benefits.  Then add on the monumental economic and financial costs, and we are still living through the greatest public policy failure in this country’s entire history.

In the column next to that one, Alan Kohler said:

Research …published this week clearly shows that the fewer deaths a country has, the better its economy does and vice versa.  For example, Britain has had 630 deaths per million population and its economy shrank 22 per cent in the June quarter..; Australia has had 27 deaths per million, and the economy shrank 7 per cent, among the least in the world….Pressure on Victoria to open up anyway, and on other states to end border restrictions are pointlessly political and at odds with both evidence and local politics.  Any state that has rising case numbers will go back into lockdown, no matter what Scott Morison says.

In the next weekend, a commentator refers to Biden’s reference to Trump as a ‘climate arsonist.’  That obviously over the top response is labelled feral, unhinged, unscientific, irrational, blatantly false and insane.  And the same commentator says that Trump’s ‘meandering statements’ are tested ‘against a literal standard not applied to other politicians.’

Stand by for an avalanche of bull about the U S Supreme Court.

Bloopers

Another commentator describes an American as ‘the most brilliant younger Catholic now writing.’  What is the significance of the professed faith of the American?  Perhaps it is the reason why ‘he mainly interrogates culture as more important than politics.’