At the time of writing, it’s been a couple of hours since the scale of the swing to the Libs in Queensland became apparent, and to my mind, I reckon the Libs will be returned with a minority government. Not what I wanted, but I’ll learn to live with it. I don’t reckon Western Australia or the Northern Territory will swing it back to Labor. South Australia certainly won’t.
Either way, even if we don’t wind up with a Morrison government, there are a number of things about political discussion I’d like to see changing.
No More Petty Silver Linings
So Tony Abbott has lost his seat. Great. I guess. Is this going to influence policy terribly much? Because if it doesn’t change things for the better, it’s just a symbolic victory. Which is to say it’s not an actual victory.
When Howard lost his seat, I felt non-plussed, and now I’m clearer as to why; change was already overdetermined owing to swings in other seats, rendering Howard’s loss an irrelevancy. Nipple-twiddling over his political demise was pointless and childish.
Whatever you earn in the form of a morale boost is lost on alienating people who aren’t interested in political blood sport.
I regret my past involvement in similar episodes of pettiness.
Less preaching to the choir
This applies mainly to partisan outlets, or at least those with a bit of a leaning. The choir are going to believe what they want, dismissing what they don’t want to hear and exaggerating the importance of confirmatory news. These people don’t want to be informed, can’t be meaningfully informed beyond a certain point, so what’s the point of trying?
Okay, maybe to some extent outlets have to do this as a part of their business model, but if it could be kept to an minimum, that’d be great.
The accusation of “pandering” that gets thrown around by alt-right types isn’t entirely without merit. Sure, they often deploy it when its not true, and even when true, it’s usually a disingenuous means of dismissing information and argument out of hand.
That doesn’t mean that pandering doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t mean that alt-right are the only ones with a problem with it.
When pandering comes in the form of the uncritical and rote use of theory-heavy (and often co-opted) lexicon – “hey woke people, you know I’m one of you because I use the words” – it’s alienating. Nobody much wants to spend time learning to talk like one of the cool kids. They want you to get to your point with a bit of economy.
You’d think, for example, with the way some authors write, that the assumptions of Queer Theory were un-contentious a priori truths, necessary for the welfare and liberation of gays, lesbians, intersex and trans people. It’s almost as if some authors don’t realize that activism for gays, lesbians, intersex and trans people predates Queer Theory by decades, or that Queer Theory has actually elicited honest disagreement from progressive activists over the years.
The uncritical use of the folk versions of this kind of lexicon carries with it the (usually unexamined) implication that all of the disagreements have been settled, and material differences resolved, and pandering to the people who insist on this – effectively an erasure of movement history – can get downright toxic. Orwellian, even.
The average punter may not know the particular movement history, or even how to find it, but at the very least this kind of thing does tend to generate a gut-feel that undermines trust.
(I’m wondering if in the same vein as the term “scientism”, we need a word for the over-extension of concepts from literary criticism – but that’d just be more cant, wouldn’t it?)
Less gimmicky bs
I’m not going to nab a picture of it, because it’s too damn tacky for even me to post; that picture of the ABC politics team photoshopped as The Avengers. Gimme a fucking break, please, ABC. I take you seriously. Please do the same.
Letting News Ltd. die a quiet death
News Ltd. has slid into irrelevance. So once all the analysis of their decline is over, we won’t need to talk about them so much in future, right?
What’s the point of gloating? There are newer sources of misinformation out there that are shaping up to be much more dangerous than News Ltd is ever likely to be again – dangerous both to our everyday lives, and to our democratic institutions.
Trying to get one-up on your racist uncle at Christmas isn’t worth it, and prosecuting a grudge in the media for much the same reason is even worse. The public doesn’t need the importance of discredited news outlets being artificially inflated at the expense of more salient issues.
I suspect the public are pretty sick of this kind of thing, even, if not especially, from the parties and political poles they voted against. It’s bad enough when it comes from the floor, or the comments section, but when it’s journalists on Twitter, or tribal wankers writing in literary journals, it’s no favour to the public interest either.
So you lost? Who are we going to blame this time? Women, for provoking angry men simply by existing? Jews for not shutting up about antisemitism in the ranks? A lack of absolute ideological loyalty from allies, voters, volunteers and party members who never owed you that kind of loyalty to begin with? People who asked awkward questions at meetings and public forums that they were very well entitled to ask? People who didn’t see your glorious leader as some charismatic saviour?
All these and more, even when your losses could very well have been overdetermined by things like gerrymandering and voter suppression?
”Too many party members lack my moral clarity and sense of purpose, otherwise we would have made the right choices and our destiny would have been assured!”
No really, fuck off.
Take the loss and stop looking for ways to frame it on ideological or tribal impurities. At the very least, please consider getting out of the way of others on your team who aren’t such raving egoists.
Morose, misanthropic ideating
No, next-to-nobody likes Scott Morrison. Please, no whining that Australians love Scott Morrison. If a service station hotdog won a culinary event when the alternative was a shit sandwich, you wouldn’t conclude that people love service station hotdogs.
This isn’t to call Bill Shorten or anyone else a shit sandwich. What it is, is to say that it’s a fair observation to make that no Australian politicians are widely loved. So let’s not pretend that’s an issue in play, please.
Maybe Labor could do with replacing Bill Shorten. Maybe the Australian public could become better judges of character. Maybe the Australian public could curb its appetite for lively reality-tv-like characters.
Whatever the case, hyperventilating about the shortcomings of the Australian public, to the extent of peddling obvious falsehoods, isn’t going to do anyone any favours, least of all yourself – you’re harder to take seriously that way.
This is a non-exhaustive list, of course. But damn, political discussion would be a whole lot less alienating – at least from my perspective – if the above weren’t as common as they are.