Hearing political operators chat among themselves about their opponents, both in their own and other parties, is probably one of the most dispiriting experiences possible even to the most deeply cynical of us.
In the Labor Party it often features vulgar nicknames for factional opponents, scatological attacks, derision, contempt and denial that anyone could have acted on a principled basis; while among Liberals it includes all of the above laced with monumental servings of sexism.
Having witnessed both varieties of discourse the blog believes there is one significant difference – right wing parties tend to combine it with a fair measure of hypocrisy and a tendency to have glass jaws.
The glass jaws are most in evidence when anyone criticises them or their party. The best recent example is the reaction to Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents’ dinner. The blog’s friend Tony Jaques summed it up in an email when he said: “I enjoyed watching Jake Tapper who said that if the Republicans are concerned about insults and offensive comments about women they have what he called a ‘backlog’ to deal with before they worry about a comedian.”
The blog had had a quick look at the reactions of Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers to the ‘controversy’ and couldn’t help but think that even when backed by a team of writers it is hard to come up with satire and comedy which does complete justice to current US politics. Colbert and Myers were terrific as usual but both faced that difficult task where reality is more absurd than even absurdist comedy.
Ironically, probably the best quick description of the glass-jawed right wingers who rail against those they disagree with is a term they invented themselves – snowflakes. This, for the very few who may not know, refers to people who melt in the face of a bit of criticism. In right wing parlance it refers to women and others who object to being objectified and denigrated for reasons of sexuality, race or just being a bit different.
Yet the real snowflakes are the right wing particularly judging by the contrast between their ferocious assaults on Michelle Woolf; Yassmin Abdel-Magied who was triply guilty of being a Muslim, a woman and someone who challenged Anzackery; the ABC for describing Tony Abbott as ‘destructive’; and, their outraged attitude to criticisms of them, theirs and the ‘values’ they uphold.
The major difference between the easily offended rightists, compared to allegedly overly-sensitive left wingers, is that the right wingers are backed by huge media networks (the Murdoch empire for instance) which magnify incidents and give it the sort of media attention normally devoted to major wars. But the more profound difference is that those on the left who object to vilification are generally motivated by genuine grievance whereas for the right it is just another tactical ploy in the ongoing culture wars and their drive to silence dissenting voices.
The blog, has to admit however, that while the identity politics the right hates are actually a vitally important as part of addressing centuries of prejudice and persecution, it ought not become the primary political priority and be elevated above the significance of the class war which has been waged against workers (male and female), the unemployed and the poor throughout the US, the UK and Australia since the Thatcher and Reagan years. Indeed, right wingers must be beside themselves with joy as they see progressives arguing about the minutiae of identity when banks are ripping off millions and, for the first time since the end of WWII ordinary people in the UK, the US and Australia are going backwards economically and inequality is worsening.
In the US Trump won for a number of reasons – active disenfranchisement practices to keep minorities in Republican governed States from voting; an unpopular Democrat candidate; poor Democrat organisation; the Comey intervention – but an additional factor was that Democrats were able to be framed as talking about things which were not important to working class voters. Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are examples of how an alternative strategy can be pursued to harness votes from the groups who have missed out without ignoring identity issues.
Back in Australia we are reeling from the shock that an official body has found that the ABC is unbalanced for describing Tony Abbott as ‘the most destructive politician of his generation’. ACMA Chair, Nerida O’Loughlin, said the finding was based on the fact that:
“The impartiality provisions in the ABC’s own code require it to demonstrate balance and fair treatment when presenting news, and avoid conveying a prejudgement”.
We can joyfully await Liberals and other right wingers using it as a club with which to beat the ABC even though a majority of the current Liberal Party room would probably agree with the destructive description. But that’s the joy of the current right wing approach to criticism – you can be a snowflake one day, a cynic another day and a hypocrite the next – and never once consider that you have been inconsistent.