We’ve known for ages that there are pockets of political hatred in the electorate that fester away and erupt from time to time, pouring their purulent discharge over the political discourse, offending many with its stench. But how many of you can remember such an exhibition of hatred as we have seen recently?
For me it came to a head after Julia Gillard wept in parliament when introducing the final piece of legislation to enshrine the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Not long before, she had witnessed the situation of a 17 year-old boy Sandy, severely disabled with cerebral palsy, and that of a 12 year-old girl Sophie who has Down syndrome.
As she recounted these encounters, she was moved to tears – genuine tears. Tears of sadness at the plight of these children and their families, tears of relief that at long last the parliament of Australia was legislating a scheme that would support them not just now, but in the future when their carers were no longer able to care for them, and perhaps tears of regret that so few Coalition members were present to witness the introduction of this historic legislation, a bill they supported. As far as one could see, only the shadow minister and one other of the Coalition were in the House – for the others it seemed to be not important enough to warrant their presence.
Even some hard-nosed journalists acknowledged the genuineness of her tears, and some Opposition members, when questioned, did too.
But talkback radio was a different matter. One caller said they were ‘crocodile tears’, adding that Julia Gillard ‘couldn’t lie straight in bed’. Jon Faine reported on ABC Melbourne radio that two-thirds of the many text messages he received on this matter accused PM Gillard of faking her tears for affect, of using them to foster sympathy. Two-thirds! Another caller, appalled by such vicious, vitriolic, venomous comments asked why these people had such hate in their hearts, why, when people were ‘celebrating in the streets’ the advent of the NDIS, there were ‘craven, mean, petty-minded characters saying such awful things’, adding: ‘what’s inside the people who say these horrible things’. Indeed, what’s inside them?
This piece posits that this hatred is cultured, that it has been cultured ever since Tony Abbott became Opposition Leader, and all the more so after Julia Gillard outmanoeuvred him to gain the support of the Independents to form a minority Government. The evidence to support this proposition follows.
Abbott has always maintained that he should have been PM, that the Gillard Government is illegitimate, and that he would do everything in his power to bring it down, something he envisaged would be easy and swift, and The Lodge his by Christmas. That was two Christmases ago, and with each passing day his anger heightened and his campaign of vilification intensified.
Before any of you tell me that politics is a rough and tumble business, that conflict is at its very centre, that such hatred is the norm, reflect on when you have previously seen such intense
hatred. We all remember the unpleasant things that were said about some of John Howard’s policies, about some of his statements, about some of his ideological positions, about some of his reversals – ‘core and non core promises’ – even about his eyebrows, but can you recall such a level of hatred, such vitriolic hatred, being expressed? Older readers will remember some of Paul Keating’s colourful language, but can you recall him emitting hatred such as has been directed to Julia Gillard?
I have not witnessed such hatred as we now hear
in the language that Opposition members and some commentators use, and see
in the angrily contorted faces of Tony Abbott, Christopher Pyne, Joe Hockey, Julie Bishop and other Opposition members in parliament and in interviews.
I point the finger of blame for the genesis of the hatred we now see in politics, and in particular the hatred aimed at our Prime Minister Julia Gillard, directly at Tony Abbott, an attack dog from way back and more viciously so since the 2010 election.
I also blame his Coalition colleagues, particularly Christopher Pyne, Julie Bishop, George Brandis, Eric Abetz, Joe Hockey, Andrew Robb, Mathias Cormann, Sophie Mirabella, Bronwyn Bishop and Kelly O’Dwyer for echoing the Abbott hatred. I blame his sycophantic media shock jocks that spew venom from their radio and TV shows: Alan Jones, Ray Hadley, and Andrew Bolt, who not only echo the hatred, but add to it. I blame his many media supporters, who in a subtler way echo Abbott hatred, and who by their sins of omission fail to admonish Abbott for his hate, who fail to pull him up and question his behaviour, often preferring to congratulate him on the ‘success’ of his vitriolic conduct. I blame media proprietors and editors for fostering hatred through their pages, particularly their front pages.
How has the hatred come about?
From the moment of his defeat seventeen days after the 2010 election, the Leader of the Opposition labelled the Gillard Government as illegitimate – a ‘bastard’ government. He labelled Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership illegitimate, a ‘bastard’ Prime Ministership. He insisted minority government was unworkable and destined for failure, and relentlessly set about ‘proving’ it so, repeatedly insisting it was a ‘failed experiment’ almost as soon as it began. He created a seething environment of loathing of minority government.
This festering atmosphere of hatred was the ideal milieu that allowed, even fostered, the genesis of one of the most potent progenitors of hate – the use of LIAR as a label for PM Gillard. We all know how it came about: “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead”
, a clip replayed hundreds of time to underscore Abbott’s insistence that this PM is a liar. The other things she said during the 2010 election – that she was determined to put a price on carbon prior to introducing an emissions trading scheme – were given virtually no prominence. It was her ‘promise’ not to introduce what everyone insisted on calling a carbon tax, and her subsequent decision to introduce one temporarily as part of her negotiations with the Greens in forming minority government, with transition in a couple of years to a market-based emissions trading scheme that fuelled the ‘liar’ accusations. For the Coalition, it was simple: ‘She made a promise – she broke her promise – she is a liar.’ As if ‘liar’ was not potent enough, ‘untrustworthy’ was added. How many hundreds of times have you heard ‘liar’, ‘untrustworthy’, ‘broken promises’ used against our PM? It is a mantra that has assumed almost a religious fervour. It’s easy to envisage drum-beating, cymbal-clanging Coalition advocates chanting these words.
As if the Coalition’s attack on our PM’s integrity was not enough, Alan Jones entered the fray with his insulting interview of Julia Gillard on 2GB, first reprimanding her for being ten minutes late for a radio interview with someone as august as Jones, then insolently calling her ‘Ju-liar’. But Jones was not finished. He expressed his utter disdain for our nation’s leader when he said she should be placed in a hessian bag and taken out to sea. He demeans her day after day and his listeners lap it up. There’s more – Jones was a sponsor of carbon tax rallies in Canberra that sported placards with ‘Ditch the Witch’ and ‘Bob Brown’s Bitch’ emblazoned on them, placards in front of which Tony Abbott, Bronwyn Bishop, and Sophie Mirabella stood, placards they denied seeing!
What began as an accusation of lying rapidly escalated into a hate-filled exhibition of contempt, derision, and scorn. The vision of those placards, the remembrance of that appalling episode in our political history, has been etched into the memory of the electorate. Is it surprising then that such hatred still burns in the hearts and minds of so many, so deeply imprinted that it evoked venomous comments about Julia Gillard’s tears last week?
Alan Jones is not alone. His 2GB colleague Ray Hadley has a vicious tongue that he uses to lash our PM, and many others. This week’s Australian Story
on the ABC about this shock jock revealed that Hadley ‘encourages people to loathe’ – think of that: ’to loathe’
. Is it any surprise that hatred lives in the hearts and minds of his listeners?
Here on this blog we have a few visitors whose singular message is that Julia Gillard is an untrustworthy liar, something they tell us endlessly, no matter what the subject. The language they use, the derogatory labels they apply to her, and the venom and sarcasm with which they write of her bespeaks their loathing of our PM. They reflect the hatred that has been generated in the community by the Coalition and its media sycophants.
Hatred grows. The Coalition has added even more to the loathing of Julia Gillard. It was not enough to call her an untrustworthy liar who broke promises. If an aura of incompetence could be added, how much more loathsome she would seem to be. From the early days of the Gillard Government, Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Christopher Pyne, and their colleagues steadily built up an image of incompetence, poor decision-making, disorder, chaos, confusion, back-flips, dysfunction, an inability to govern, indeed an image of ‘a bad government, getting worse’, one that practises dirty, low politics. They have managed to do this even in the face of over 450 pieces of legislation already passed by the Gillard Government, much of it ground-breaking reform; even in the face of a Government that has successfully managed a $1.5 trillion economy through the greatest financial crisis in 70 years, an economy that is by far the best in the developed world, and acknowledged so with its three triple A ratings. All of this excellent achievement is negated by the spurious overlay of incompetence and chaos. The recent budget is portrayed by the Coalition as ‘an emergency’, as ‘chaotic’, loaded with ‘debt’ and ‘spin’. It is painted as unbelievable, its projected surplus as unattainable, and spending and savings figures as fictitious. Treasury’s estimates, and even its integrity, are queried. Gross incompetence is overlaid on everything the budget is proposing to achieve. Those who already hate our PM could only loathe her more as she goes about ‘wrecking the economy’, and those still with an open mind have any doubts amplified.
To add to this sorry scene, Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, and indeed the whole Coalition finance team, have been talking down the economy for years, no matter how destructive they know this talk to be. Demeaning PM Gillard and Treasurer Swan is their objective, whatever the cost to the economy. Is it any wonder that consumer and business confidence is wavering?
This loathing manifests itself in unexpected ways. Talkback callers insist they cannot bear to listen to her, that her voice is like fingernails scraping down a blackboard. Even pro-Government commentators like Mungo MacCallum and Mike Carlton have unkind things to say about her voice and delivery: ‘droning’, ‘school-marmish’, condescending, boring, repetitive, lacking ‘cut-through’. Yet, John Howard’s voice was hardly inspirational. Tony Abbott’s cackle is grating, his angry barking repulsive; Joe Hockey’s bellowing is jarring; Christopher Pyne’s yapping repugnant; George Brandis’ sarcasm sickening; Julie Bishop’s feline spite shrill; Sophie Mirabella’s nastiness nauseating, and Eric Abetz's whining repellant. But have you heard criticisms of their voices and delivery from the commentariat? No, it’s Julia’s voice that we are encouraged to despise, to loathe, to hate, along with her nose, her dress, and her posterior. Hate grows.
It should come as no surprise that vox pops comment includes: ‘I’ve stopped listening to her’ and ‘I don’t believe anything she says’, which enables journalist after journalist, commentator after commentator, to insist ‘that the people have stopped listening’, a nihilistic conclusion, based on little but ephemeral comment. How many poll questions have you seen that address this matter?
All of this hate would have limited penetration had it not been for a compliant media, that virtually everyone now acknowledges is set upon the destruction of the PM and the Gillard Government. The ideology of the Labor Government and its pursuit of fairness spread across the community don’t fit with the ideology of commerce and industry, which is aimed at profitability. Labor’s emphasis on fair work conditions, strong superannuation, good education even for the disadvantaged, and universal health care does not align well with the aspirations of the commercial world, which is focussed on cost cutting, profit, expansion and competitiveness. Any attempt to have the prosperous sectors pay a fairer share is resisted with multi-million dollar public campaigns, as we have seen. Any attempt to raise the salaries of the lowest paid is habitually greeted with ‘commerce and industry cannot afford more than a modest increase’ and ‘jobs will be lost and sent overseas’ and ‘competitiveness will be destroyed’. These sentiments are expressed through all forms of the media, all the more strongly when the Opposition berates every move the Government makes and promises to reverse it in government.
Clearly most of the Fourth Estate favours Coalition policies and is doing whatever it can to have the Coalition in government. This was all the more obvious when their own industry was threatened, as it was with the Finkelstein Inquiry, the Convergence Review and the subsequent moves by the Government, moves that were resisted almost to the level of apoplexy by News Limited’s chief executive, Kim Williams.
Watch him here in action on Lateline
So overwrought was he with the Government's proposals, that he portrayed the responsible minister, Stephen Conroy, as Stalin in one of his tabloids, a radical action he airily dismisses in his Lateline
The media contribution to the hatred and contempt of PM Gillard, her ministers and her Government, was yet again exhibited starkly in the Front Pages after the budget.
Illustration from Crikey.
Notice how the inevitability of the defeat of Labor is embedded in these headlines. This is another element of the media’s strategy. The message is: How could you vote for this loathsome Labor Government, with its inept PM and its incompetent Treasurer? No one else will be voting for it. It is finished, set for a massive defeat, singing its ‘Swan song’, hopeless. The implicit message is: don’t waste your vote; get onto the winner – the Coalition. Overlay this sentiment onto the already hate-acculturated electorate and a powerful message is transmitted – vote this awful Gillard Government OUT.
This week, Mr Denmore began a superb piece Damned Lies and Journalism
with a Tweet from Rupert Murdoch: “Oz polls show nothing can save this miserable govt. Election can not come soon enough. People decided and tuned out months ago. – Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) May 19, 2013
”. Is there any more convincing evidence of the genesis of this message? Is there any more powerful progenitor?
Reflecting the language of the Fourth Estate, particularly the Murdoch press, Mr Denmore’s first paragraph reads: “'The nation is drowning in debt. The federal government has lost control of public finances. The NBN is a disaster. Business is struggling because union thugs are destroying productivity growth. We are being overwhelmed with illegal boat arrivals. Refugees are living on welfare and bleeding us dry.'”
Note how these themes, although gross misrepresentations and distortions of the facts, accentuate the ‘incompetence’ line. Here is his piece in full
The strategy adopted by the Coalition and echoed by a largely compliant and supportive Fourth Estate, and by many in business and industry, is not new or unique. In Germany in the early thirties of the last century, the Nazi Party used the prevailing anti-Semitic sentiment to ‘blame’ the Jews for the loss of the First World War, (the ‘stab in the back’ myth)
and for the poverty, the hyperinflation, and the unemployment that beset the republic at that time. Hatred and loathing of Jews was thereby accentuated. This was heightened by institutionalized persecution of Jews and Jewish businesses
, which were subject to increasing vilification and restrictions. So much loathing of this group of people was generated that the obscenities of the Holocaust were able to take place under the nose of the German people with scarcely a murmur of protest. Therein was the terrible toll of hatred.
Joseph Goebbels oversaw that propaganda campaign. Here are some of his sayings. Read them and reflect.
The background to his campaign against Jewish people is encapsulated here: “A Jew is for me an object of disgust. I feel like vomiting when I see one. Christ could not possibly have been a Jew. It is not necessary to prove that scientifically - it is a fact.”
The basis of his propaganda strategy is captured by: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
and “The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed."
Goebbels went on to say: “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
Reflect on: ‘the truth is the greatest enemy of the State’.
Reflect now on two other statements Goebbels made: “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”
and “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”
I need add no comment for these statements to be understood; nor need I spell out any comparison with what we are witnessing in this country day after day. It is all too obvious. Note though that I am NOT labeling the Coalition as ‘Nazi’; I am simply drawing attention to the striking parallel between the Goebbels propaganda strategy of the Nazi era and what we are seeing unfold here before our very eyes. And I am drawing attention to the toll that this strategy brings in its wake.
The thesis of this piece is that there has been a carefully orchestrated campaign by the Coalition and much of the media to establish a culture of loathing and hatred of PM Gillard and her Government. The panoply of lies, broken promises, incompetence, chaos, ineptitude, mismanagement, an economy being wrecked by profligate spending and overwhelming debt leading to an aura of hopelessness, has been etched into the image of a Government in terminal decline, moribund, and needing to be put down. I place this evidence before you and invite you to reach your own conclusions.
For the genesis of this campaign of hatred I point the finger at Tony Abbott and his media managers, for the dissemination and accentuation of it I point the finger at Coalition members, at the Fourth Estate, and at vested interests in commerce and industry.
This is no trivial matter. Our nation will suffer an awful toll. Look at the venomous hatred that infects our community now, hatred that promises to become overwhelming and even more toxic in the months ahead, and be afraid. This hatred threatens to be our national ‘grapes of wrath’.
Here is the woman the haters long to loathe.
What do you think? If you wish to ‘Disseminate this post’, it will be sent to the following parliamentarians: Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Anthony Albanese, Bronwyn Bishop, Julie Bishop, George Brandis, Greg Combet, Stephen Conroy, Mathias Cormann, Craig Emerson, Josh Frydenberg, Joe Hockey, Greg Hunt, Barnaby Joyce, Christine Milne, Sophie Mirabella, Robert Oakeshott, Kelly O'Dwyer, Christopher Pyne, Andrew Robb, Bill Shorten, Arthur Sinodinos, Wayne Swan, Warren Truss, Malcolm Turnbull, Andrew Wilkie, Tony Windsor, Penny Wong and Nick Xenophon.