The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Russia and the USA: Competing Visions of History

Putin

When Vladimir Putin first came to power in 2000 he began to attract attention for all the wrong reasons. Various world leaders described him as ‘unsophisticated’, ‘crude’ and ‘breathtakingly ignorant’. It was noted that he had next to no understanding of history or politics and that, on some levels, he was basically a conspiracy theorist and holocaust denier. To be fair, his background as what amounts to a secret policeman probably wasn’t the best preparation for suddenly being rocketed to the leadership of one of the world’s key nations. Dragging people out of their beds at midnight in order to beat them with socks full of birdshot is an absorbing occupation, and doesn’t tend to leave much time for studying the finer points of world history or international diplomacy.

In the last decade Mr Putin has taken himself to school. References to Putin in various memoirs, interviews and Wikileaks revelations show us an arc of evolution for the Russian leader. Sure, he still believes that the Allies deliberately held back in WWII in order to sap Russian resources ahead of the coming peace, but it seems he now agrees that the holocaust took place and no longer believes that Americans are hiding aliens in Fort Knox or wherever. Let’s pause there a minute: Putin believes that the Allies, especially the USA, strategically held back on their assault of Germany so that Russia would be in a weaker position at the end of the war.

We in the West are far too quick to laugh at foreigners. We look at Chinese military parades and the blatant lies they tell through their media outlets, we see golden Kalashnikovs and Gaddafi’s Amazon bodyguard, we hear the bizarre proclamations of African leaders and see their funny costumes and we watch videos of Putin riding horses shirtless and pumping iron in the gym and our first and last reaction is to laugh and assume that they’re just crazy. They’re not.

If we were to set Russia’s history to music, the piece would be used exclusively for funerals. From its first appearance in recognisable form, Russia has been informed by its trauma. It’s aggressive imperial phase can be seen as a direct response to the horrors of Mongol invasion and extortion. Since then, their whole history can be seen as a process of squaring off against the greatest powers in the world and losing. The collapse of the USSR, its second (or third, depending on your definition) attempt at security through empire, is just the latest incident in what could be described as the longest, darkest, coldest winter in the world. For Russia, life is hard and every hand is turned against it.

So how crazy is it, then, to have a culture that worships strength of all kinds? Even to the extent of reacting positively to your shirtless Prime Minister knocking back vodka and doing chest flies? And just how crazy is it to have a foreign policy made up of equal parts of paranoia and bluster? And can we really, in light of their entire history, find it difficult to understand a historical world view that casts Russia in the light of a perpetual victim? It’s not really crazy at all. We in the West are plagued by similar historical delusions. Like the delusion that the war crimes in WWII lie exclusively in the Axis camp. Or the delusion that what the world fixates on when it watches us is our individual freedoms, rather than our power and aggression. We think of ourselves as a beacon of light, hope and freedom but, if we were to attempt to look at Western civilisation from the outside, we’d see a story of greed, exploitation and unending, savagely aggressive warfare. We have the same kind of delusions as Rome. We have winner’s delusions. Russia, for obvious reasons, does not.

Why should anybody care? We should care because we are currently watching the almost exact repetition of a cycle of history. It’s not hard to see our recent failure to enfold the new Russia into the international cool kids’ club as primarily a failure to understand their perspective. Our smug, superior dismissal of Putin’s ignorance and victim-philosophy can be taken as an analogue of the broader relationship. We failed because we don’t really understand the kinds of trauma they have experienced, or the kind of mentality and world view that they can create. We offended and alienated them even as we attempted to embrace them and, somewhat more egregiously, invited them to play a game with us without explaining any of the rules. We expected them to instantly start behaving like a world citizen whose security and wealth made compassion and restraint affordable. And then we had the gall to be perplexed when they did not.

So now we see a Russia that has given up on its brief experiment with global citizenship. The walls are going back up and they are once again securing their border and hinterlands as a buffer designed to desperately hold on to security in a hostile world. It’s the aftermath of Genghis Khan all over again, the cold war 2.0, the realisation of every gloomy dream of persecution the Russian polity has ever had. And while a significant portion of the blame for this rests on their own inability to see past this, a good part of it also belongs to us.

Maybe we’re happy to just let Russia wall itself off again, to search for its living in those parts of the world made up solely of countries we advise our citizens to avoid, but it’s not a good sign for the future. Our inability to understand the wounded national soul of Russia is a symptom of a broader failing which, left unaddressed, will taint our attempts to engage with Cuba, the Arab world and the bulk of East Asia. Because Russia doesn’t have a monopoly on the losing side of history, and nor is it unique in its wariness and resentment of the West.

 

 

De-Radicalisation Case Study No 2

Recently, the de-radicalisation handbook went out to the nation’s schools. In order to provide teachers with a better understanding of the warning signs of radicalisation, the book contained a single case study involving Karen, who becomes an alternative music fan and treehugger. It occured to me that more might be required to help this important work along, so I have provided another case study, thus doubling the effectiveness of the booklet.

Tony (half his real name)

Tony Abbott

Tony grew up in a loving family on Sydney’s affluent Northern Beaches. Then, upon leaving school, he went to uni at a well-known centre for establishment indoctrination. He got involved in violent sports and student politics, and began hanging around with right wing conservatives. At the foreign training camp he was attending, some alumni were known to have mocked poor people for fun and committed sex acts on dead pigs.

Eventually, Tony became fully immersed in the world of right wing politics and entrenched himself in a safe Liberal seat where he took his religious jihad out on the hapless Australian people. Tony eventually became Prime Minister and during his time in office spent every waking hour attempting to strike terror into the hearts of the people. He said at the time that he felt like a soldier for the righteous, and that he was trying to do the right thing for society. Tony became completely cut off from reality and, just after he left office, some de-radicalisation brochures that he had inspired were published.

We Don’t Seem To Know A Damn Thing About Defence

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I have a bit of a reputation as a party animal, and last week I confirmed it by spending an evening combing through the public submissions for the 2015 Defence White Paper.

This can be quite an informative exercise as industry groups, town corporations and academics across a range of disciplines tend to chime in on what they think should constitute our defence priorities over the next five years. But I don’t just do it for the education  – the vast majority of those sorts of submissions are written by the same people who contribute to the various policy and defence think tanks that I follow (like I said – party animal). No, what I read the submissions for is the pure comedy gold that happens when you ask a bunch of ordinary people to describe what they see as a coherent and future-proof defence policy.

While I applaud the participation of these people as a positive step towards increasing community participation in the business of government, I applaud it even more as a way to break up some rather dry reading with moments of hilarity, incredulity and downright insanity. Here’s a list of a few of my favourites.

  1. An infantry division should be deployed to defend the Hume Highway near some town in Queensland. One paragraph of this submission is dedicated to the strategic importance of the Hume at this particular point, and the rest of the dozen or so pages are an outline of the local businesses that would be ‘willing to support’ an influx of 10,000 new customers in uniform. The submission makes no comment as to where we are going to get enough soldiers to form multiple divisions.
  2. New Zealand isn’t pulling its weight, so we should pull their weight for them. Possibly by invading them.
  3. Something about nuclear missiles and ‘tracking satellites’ replacing all conventional forces. It was hard to spot a thesis in this one, possibly because a tinfoil hat may have been worn while this particular submission was being written.
  4. A complement of beachable concrete submarines filled with petrol should be built in order to guarantee our fuel supply in the event of an invasion. It’s unclear where the fuel to fill them is to come from, but on the plus side, it’s pointed out that a concrete tube full of petrol would make a useful seaborne battering ram.
  5. The Marrickville Peace Group suggests that we void our treaties with the USA because they keep getting us into wars. No comment is made on how we are to organise the defence of our trade routes all by ourselves, but much detail is provided about joint Australian and US military exercises, presumably on the assumption that the authors of the Defence White Paper are unlikely to be aware of them.

Now, this isn’t just an exercise in being snide ignorance. I don’t need the internet for that – I mainly do my snideness in the real world. Which might explain why neither one of my two friends is currently speaking to me. The thing is, these people aren’t especially ignorant. From what I can tell, they’re fairly representative of the average level of defence knowledge of all kinds of intelligent and well-educated citizens of Australia. Time and time again I find myself confronted with exactly the same misapprehensions. Like the mistaken belief that the ability to indefinitely hold off a massive amphibious invasion of Australia is at all relevant to our defence structure. Or the belief that the threat to our North means a threat of invasion, rather than a threat of regional instability. Or the idea that our degree of interoperability with the USA is undertaken for any reason other than sheer, absolute necessity.

It seems odd to me that a country so rightly willing to celebrate its military is, on the whole, so woefully ignorant about it. The recent debates on submarine and surface combatants are a good example. What debate, you say? Exactly. Outside of think tanks and specialist forums, hardly any strategic discussions have appeared in the public discourse. There’s been a lot of politicking, but next to no discussion of the issue on its merits. Which is worrying.

There seems to be a perception in this country that defence doesn’t matter, either because we’d be screwed instantly or because the Yanks will save us or both. This is ridiculous. We have a highly trained, highly skilled, well-equipped defence force that needs to be carefully steered in order to maximise its effectiveness. On top of this, the idea that defence policy is measured solely on the basis of some hypothetical invasion is sheer foolishness. Defence is a layered and complex issue, with far reaching ramifications that touch on everything from climate change to humanitarian relief to the regional balance of power.

Which leads me to conclude that there are two potential alternatives moving forward if we want to be better pleased with our defence policy.

  1. The Australian people finds some way to educate itself to the point where it can discuss defence without proposing the invasion of New Zealand or concrete submarines.
  2. The Australian people just give up on the idea and leave it all to the experts.

I, personally, would be very sad to see option two come into effect.

Cory Bernardi Wants To Protect Us From Dead Infant Grifters

Cory Bernardi

Last night, ‘hard-of-thinking’ politics attained new depths. The long time frontrunner for the Cognitive Dysfunction in Politics Award,  Cory Bernardi, decided to clear up any misapprehensions the public might have had about tragically drowned toddlers and their refugee status. In a typically eloquent and closely-reasoned ‘speech’, Bernardi set us straight by pointing out that the family of Aylan Kurdi were basically grifters, hell-bent on fraudulently obtaining dental treatment from Canada.

Bernardi stated that the Kurdi family couldn’t possibly be refugees because they had lived in Turkey for three years and were in “no danger” and “in no persecution”. I’m not sure how someone can be “in persecution”, but I think I know what he means. He’s pointing out that a Kurdish family who has fled the wartorn town of Kobani could not possibly be anything but perfectly happy and safe in a country that has absolutely no record of persecuting or oppressing Kurds. Like Turkey. No, wait – sorry… I always get confused on that one. No, Turkey is the one that does persecute Kurds. He must have been thinking of Kurdistan. No… that’s wrong too. Kurdistan isn’t a country. It’s a Turkish shelling target. Help me out here: what’s a country that doesn’t persecute or oppress Kurds? Oh yeah – Canada! And according to Senator Bernardi, they’ve got pretty good dental too.

So, leaving aside the fact that the only place a Kurd is likely to be less safe than Turkey is in a trench 700 meters from ISIS territory, and that the Kurdi family had been so happy and safe in Turkey that they had made three previous attempts to leave and that they had extended family in Canada who were willing to sponsor them – leaving all that aside, Bernardi has hit the nail on the head. They obviously had no reason to try for Canada except fraudulent fluoride thievery and country shopping.

These people are basically con artists, cleverly contriving to be born in future war-zones as members of persecuted ethnic minorities in order to scam first world countries out of dentistry. It’s obvious, when you think about it. I can’t believe how stupid we’ve been all this time. I mean, here we were, thinking that a dead child on a beach might be some kind of tragic symbol for the plight of refugees fleeing from an internal conflict that we encouraged and are now considering escalating, but we couldn’t be more wrong. Apparently, a drowned child is simultaneously an advertisement for “Stop the Boats” and the grim harbinger of a flood of fake refos who are not our problem or responsibility in any way.

Thanks for clearing that up Cory! Where would we be without you? You know what, why don’t we find out? Why don’t we just locate and identify everyone who voted for you and swap you and them on a one for one basis with the people who are living in squalor in refugee camps, tunnels and train stations from Calais to Suruc. Then we’ll see where we are.

I’m willing to bet it’ll be a better, kinder and far less embarrassing place than where we are right now.

‘Free Kim Davis’ Is The Worst Voucher Ever

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For those of you who don’t know, Kim Davis is the County Clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky, who has been refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Recently, the Supreme Court quite reasonably ordered her to “do her damn job” (not a quote, but it should be) and, when she still refused to do so, Davis was jailed for contempt. Of court, that is. Unfortunately, contempt of gays and lesbians isn’t yet a criminal offence.

Davis, who we should remember is a tiny functionary in a very small county, has become unreasonably famous for her continued failure to fulfil her functions as a County Clerk. She has repeatedly cited her religious beliefs as grounds for refusal, being apparently unbothered about breaking the oath she swore to her God to fulfil her duty as a County Clerk. Despite her flagrant breach of promise with The Lord, American Christians of the conservative, fundamentalist and batshit crazy variety have flocked to her banner, starting the hashtag #FreeKimDavis. In one of Twitter’s few moments of joy, the hashtag was quickly inundated with trolls. Some Twitterzens commented that a coupon for a free Kim Davis was possibly the worst deal ever. Others worried that she might turn gay in jail, thus making a highly unwelcome addition to the community. There’s a whole hilarious list of them here.

Davis and her supporters clearly think that she’s a prisoner of conscience, a martyr for Jesus and a shining beacon of rectitude for the rectally retentive. I, however, think that she’s a grandstanding idiot. I mean, let’s unpack this ‘prisoner of conscience’ thing. Generally, if you swear an oath to do a job and then find that the job requires you to do stuff you don’t like, you resign. What you don’t do is paralyse a branch of local government by refusing to issue gay marriage licenses, and then any marriage licenses at all. Especially not when you’re on the government payroll and the people’s lives you’re disrupting are paying you to mess up what should be one of the happiest moments of their lives. And, incidentally, also paying for you to employ your son to do the same.

Okay, so maybe she’s trying to change the law. In the States, some fundamental changes to the law can be made by taking the government to court. Thing is, though, she’s been to every conceivable level of court in the land and each and every one of them has come back with an answer that would have been obvious to anybody possessing enough brain cells to power an amoeba. The answer was that government functionaries, and especially elected ones, are required to act in accordance with the law. Duh. Double duh, because not only has she failed in her duty as an official, a public servant and a human being, she has failed to make a legal argument that had any chance whatsoever of succeeding. If an interpretation of the constitution produces a ruling you don’t like, you challenge that interpretation. What you don’t do is launch a dozen legal actions that can be summed up with the words, “But I don’t wanna!”.

So her continued refusal to do her duty is simply churlish. She’s not Daniel in the lion’s den. She’s a moron in a holding cell. And while I don’t really want anybody to rot in jail for their beliefs, I agree with Twitter. A free Kim Davis would be the worst coupon ever.

Stop the Boats: The World Tour

David Pope Cartoon – The Canberra Times

Australia, my favourite country on the entire planet, has long been an example to the world. The miracle of our meteoric rise to prosperity, our egalitarian ethos, standard of living, progressive and enlightened social policies and our commitment to diversity have long been the envy of countries around the world. And now, so I’m told, we have become a world leader and exemplar on the issues of border protection and immigration control.

It has been pointed out by our esteemed Prime Minister that the recent tragic death of Syrian child Aylan Kurdi is a sad but telling endorsement of our government’s policies designed to ‘stop the boats’. Apparently, if European powers were to emulate our magnificent maritime border control strategies, children like Aylan Kurdi would now be happy, safe and content somewhere else. It’s uncertain where “somewhere else” is, but who really cares? The essence of the policy is that whatever happens to these people, it doesn’t happen anywhere where we can see it.

Sure, some fringe radical publications like The New York Times might take exception to our actions, calling them inhumane, draconian and questionably legal, but there’s no accounting for the odd loony yelling at the world in isolation, is there? I mean, really – it’s not like anyone even reads it, right? It’s not a respectable media outlet. No, when it comes to journalistic respectability, Ray Hadley and Alan Jones beat The New York Times hands down.

Clearly, the best way to save the lives of refugees is to ensure that they are unable to leave the war zones that their homes have become by any means that might be considered illegal. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all, because that clause in the UN Refugee Convention about not penalising people for paperless travel, or for the means they choose to travel by when seeking asylum clearly doesn’t apply to us. I’m not exactly sure why it doesn’t apply, but the architects and administrators of our border protection policies assure me that refoulement, mandatory detention, de-facto punitive deportation and internment and all the other delightfully kind and generous things that we do for asylum seekers are perfectly legal. And I’m happy to take their word for it because nobody likes a queue-jumper. Especially when they’re jumping a queue that doesn’t exist. The cheek of it!

So now it’s time to take our dog and pony show on the road and really show these backward, primitive countries with their foolish ideas about “humanity” and “obeying international law” what can really be achieved when we all get behind the simple and elegant idea that if we can’t see it, it didn’t happen. Tony Abbott, with a breathtaking show of class, logic and appropriateness, has co-opted the death of a toddler in order to better plug our unique brand of humanitarian, life-saving, tow-them-somewhere-else-to-die brand of absolute compliance with our international obligations.

Yes, Australia, this is a proud day for all of us. History will remember this as the time when Australia showed the world exactly how we deal with human suffering, desperate pleas for help and all that other left-wing, bleeding-heart garbage. So let’s rise to our feet, people, and be upstanding for the long, slow clap that our fearless political leaders so richly deserve.

It’s Not the Border Force, Tony. It’s You.

Our illustrious first subject, Tony Abbott, released a statement yesterday saying that people who demean the Australian Border Force should be “a little ashamed of themselves”. Just a little. Well, it should please the PM to know that I am always a little ashamed of myself, especially after the weekend.

But back to the Australian Special Chuck Norris Medal Force, or whatever it’s called.

Mr Abbott said it wasn’t fair to ‘pillory’ the Australian Kung Fu Cobras because they’re there when we need them. “They do their job on our borders, on our airports, in the seas, to our north,” he said, proving once and for all that an inability to communicate effectively in English is contagious.

Thing is, though – it is fair. It is definitely fair to ‘pillory’ this organisation if we look at the nature of its recent failings in context,  the context being this government’s failure to communicate with the public in a meaningful, sensible or comprehensible way – a failure so consistent that it is impossible to believe that it’s anything but deliberate. When we look at the inspired zealotry of the offending press release from the Australian Shadow Eagle Fists Of Immigrant Doom, we can clearly see the stamp of Mr Abbott’s radical Messianism all over it.

If you think about it, Customs and Immigration officials are generally ordinary Australians, and I can’t see a situation where being crow-barred into a military uniform and being told to pretend you’re on Windward Post at Gitmo would be anything but deeply repugnant to an ordinary Australian. It’s just not what we do. So, just like any cultural change, Abbott’s people would have had to find and convert managers who would be willing to sell the idea of the Australian First Strike Angry Bird Apocalypse to its rank and file.

And thus, we find the genesis of the kind of idiot flunky able to think it a good idea to imply that the Australian Ballistic Harpoon Waffen would be stopping and searching dirty foreigners in the street. This is a debacle that has the fingerprints of Abbott brand radicalism all over it.

It’s not the poor bastards who suddenly have to work in the Australian Murder Death Kill Falcon Brigade who we’re angry at. They’re just doing their jobs, be it “on the airport” or “in the seas”, and we’re grateful to them, except when they throw away our foodstuffs and cause hours of crap television.

What we’re angry at, Mr Abbott, is you. It’s your insistence on using inflammatory and divisive language. Your repeated willingness to compromise  our civil liberties in order to meet shadowy and virtually non-existent threats. Your destruction of our global reputation through continual showboating on matters of national security. Your inability to attract people capable of drafting legislation that isn’t clumsy, inelegant, redundant and heavy-handed. And, more than anything, it’s the fact that all of this useless activity is undertaken at the expense of running our country – a country, I might add, that we all rather like.

So yes, Mr Prime Minister, we should be ashamed of ourselves. But what we should be ashamed of is not our criticism of the Australian Black Taipan Super Strike Force. We should be ashamed of ourselves because we chose you to lead us.

Australian Border Force. Nuff Said.

It was with an unpleasant mixture of consternation and embarrassment that I heard of the combination of Customs and Immigration into a single paramilitary unit called the ‘Australian Border Force’. I saw the press conference: a bunch of civil servants shuffling uncomfortably in faux military uniforms, wearing every medal they were able to muster and, most likely, wondering how the Customs strike was going. And that’s the thing – on the very day that the ABF was announced, one of its critical, frontline arms was on strike. For me, this kind of set the tone. I knew, from that moment, that this whole humiliating experiment in misdirected aggression was going to be a farce from day one.

My prediction, unsurprisingly, was borne out yesterday. The official version of the story is that a ‘junior staffer’ released a poorly drafted press release about OPERATION FORTITUDE that gave the impression that random visa checks were going to happen tonight on the streets of Melbourne’s CBD. At first I thought, “I can believe that – it’s a credible story and it’s been released with a speed that suggests truthfulness.” But then it occurred to me that in a newly-minted unit, there are going to be a lot of people sitting around who do not yet have very much to do. Which means that it’s unlikely that an elementary mistake like this could be made, and very likely that there would be people on hand to spin the aftermath with breathtaking speed. It also occurred to me that OP FORTITUDE was a World War II operation in which a phantom army was created with the intention of deceiving the Germans. Hmmm… creating a false army. Is someone, somewhere, trying to tell us that those within the ranks think it’s as ridiculous as we do?

Because a fake army is what this is. Mr Abbott has touted manning increases in this newly formed Stasi… I mean, Border Force, but most of these increases are putative and the modest increases that have already taken place can all be accounted for by increased manning to handle the transition. So, apart from some snazzy fascistic uniforms, and a tendency to wear dad’s medals at press conferences, our border protection capacity would not appear to have increased by one single whit. I can confidently say this even though I have absolutely no idea how much a ‘whit’ is. Because it doesn’t matter – the net increase in capability is zero.

I try to be balanced – I really do. Mr Abbott is a public servant of long standing, with a proven commitment to civic duty and a sincere personal and professional investment in our national interests. Okay, so maybe he’s incapable of coherent speech on most occasions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s stupid. Really. I just said that. Everything I know about the man points to the fact that he cannot possibly be the gigantic idiot that he is portrayed to be in the press, and I work very hard to preserve this knowledge in my own mind. But he’s not helping. Stunts like this Australian Border Force nonsense are wearing away at my self-restraint. I’m sorry, but what in the name of reason was he thinking? On what planet was this blustering, tokenistic, shambolic and utterly stupid gesture going to make our country better or safer in any way whatsoever? How in God’s name was a ten million dollar re-branding job going to help a pair of organisations that are routinely underfunded, undermanned and generally ignored by the country at large? And I say in God’s name because, with this PM, God, apparently, is never very far away.

The answer to these questions leads unavoidably to a conclusion I’m unwilling to come to. The Australian Border Force is a stupid idea, with a stupid name and, apparently, is staffed by people too stupid to understand their own powers or the English language. Which means that the minds that came up with it are equally stupid, and Mr Abbott’s was one of them.

What’s in a name? Well, usually, the conceptual vision of the creator of whatever’s being named. In this case, the name says it all. Australian Border Force. Vague, mindlessly and needlessly aggressive, writing cheques that reality cannot cash. Remind you of anyone?

Trump And The Problem With Democracy

A lot of people think that the stuff Donald Trump says is insane. They comfort themselves with the fact of this perceived looniness and the idea that his supporters will eventually find out he’s insane and fall away from his campaign.

They’re wrong.

Trump isn’t insane. He’s not even mildly crazy. The stuff that comes out of his mouth is not at all out of step with the opinions of many ordinary people. Let’s chew on that one for a second. The stuff that comes out of his mouth is not at all out of step with the opinions of many ordinary people. This is a bloody terrifying thought and one that most Liberals are keen to disprove or dismiss, but the fact remains. In just the same way that Tea Party gibberish has a widespread, broad-base appeal, so does the kind of hateful guff spewing out of Trump’s hatch.

Why? How? I mean, seriously, how? Well, it’s simple. It is a sad fact that a significant proportion of the human population suffers from a type of cognitive dysfunction commonly known as ‘stupidity’. And that an even more significant proportion labours under the impression that wilful ignorance leads to rational decision making. There is a long, long list of examples of both these conditions, far too extensive to go into here, but the general trend is that there is always, at any given time, a huge section of the population willing to believe anything that supports their inherent prejudices.

Which is fine. Really. It is, generally speaking, a matter of no importance whatsoever if an ordinary person believes that they have been abducted by aliens, texted by God, victimised by Mexicans or boat people or disadvantaged by being white. Such opinions and beliefs, while being mind-bogglingly stupid, don’t really matter for the most part, because the people who hold these opinions are generally too busy working, raising families and watching prime time TV to do anything about them. But when you combine this kind of cognitive dysfunction with an election cycle, enfranchisement and an unscrupulous cowboy willing to exploit feelings of this kind for his own personal aggrandisement, we end up with a very dangerous situation indeed. A situation that, in fact, exposes one of democracy’s greatest flaws.

In the words of the late, great Terry Pratchett, “The problem with democracy is that everyone gets a say.”

We need to wake up to the fact that a potential majority of the group ‘everyone’ believes that the world is crap because immigrants, that the best way to pursue international diplomacy is to continually bluster and make threats and that the best thing to do with the poor, the vulnerable and the funny-looking is to build a giant wall and put them on the other side of it. Because this is the general level of political sophistication of that portion of the population that is usually sneeringly dismissed as ‘ordinary people’.

This is the height of foolishness. We cannot continue to pretend that racist, sexist, intolerant and xenophobic belief sets are ‘fringe’. They’re mainstream. Just because the upper middle class and the intelligentsia can no longer bring themselves to criticise foreigners under any circumstances, this doesn’t mean that racism, bigotry and general pig-ignorant stupidity have been vanquished from the world. This swing to Trumpism exposes one of the most dangerous vulnerabilities of the progressive society – the fact that we have left a huge portion of the population behind. We say and do liberal, progressive things in our little political echo chambers, but the reality is that most people simply haven’t got it yet. Most people, as we can see, exist somewhere on the Trump spectrum, because the smug, self-congratulatory narrative of progressivism never even bothered to try to explain itself to ‘ordinary people’. We have a lamentable habit of assuming that propositions relating to humanity, tolerance and equality are axiomatic. They’re not.

And at some time in the near future, assuming they can read, those ‘ordinary people’ are going to vote.

 

Cecil the Lion

About four days ago, a story broke on RT, Reuters and AP about a well-loved lion having been hunted and killed. The vast majority of the world, including me, ignored it. Two days later, a dentist and bow-hunter from the US called Walter Palmer stepped forward to air his concerns that he ‘might’ have been the killer of this animal. Clearly, Dr Palmer (do you call dentists ‘Dr’? Everyone else is just calling him ‘bastard’) was not at all familiar with the internet and was therefore unaware that hunting creates a larger and more sustained reaction than child murder, one punch kills and mass shootings combined.

A great many posts wished for Palmer’s dentistry business to go bust and for Palmer himself to be immolated, driven to suicide, hunted by lions or killed by PETA activists. His clinic’s Yelp profile, FB page, address and telephone numbers, both business and personal, were released. Netizens all over the world bewailed the death of Cecil the Lion and condemned Walter Palmer for cowardice, malice and general evilness. His practice was shut down and he was inundated with angry calls and death threats. When a FB page called ‘Cecil the Lion’ put up a post asking for people to direct their outrage not at Palmer but at the law that continues to allow hunting, it drew about 667 responses, very much along the lines of these below.

“Regrets killing him,more like he is cacking himself of what will happen to him,now it’s world wide,hope someone shoots him”

Worthless piece of shit, hope you get hunted outside your practice u fucking c*nt!!!!!!!

HERE IS THE BUSINESS ADDRESS OF THIS WANKER. PLEASE REPOST AND RUIN HIS LIVELIHOOD

Which seems to be a fair summation of the world’s opinion of game hunting in general and Palmer in particular. Apart from the Zimbabwean government, of course. They seem to think big game hunting is an essential funding source for the upkeep of Hwange National Park. But there’s always a few loonies out there to ruin it for everyone.

In any case, I’m disgusted, appalled and ashamed at this disgusting episode. I’m also a bit sad about Cecil, and confused as to why killing for trophies is still done in this day and age, but mostly I’m disgusted, appalled and ashamed of the baying lynch mob that has gathered around Walter Palmer.

Firstly, I’m willing to bet that more than 99 percent of these keyboard warriors had never even heard of Cecil a week ago. I certainly hadn’t. Another thing that most of these people would never have heard of is Palmer’s 2 children. I wonder what kind of time they’re having now, and whether the netizens of the world believe that they deserve it, having committed the dread crime of being the offspring of such an egregious criminal? Some netizens have even suggested that a fit punishment would be to hunt and kill these vile offspring to show Palmer ‘how it feels’. There’s also the fact that Palmer runs a sizeable dental practice – do his partners and employees also deserve to suffer from the taint of his association? Probably, but we’ll never know because the mob decided before any of these questions could be examined.

Okay, internet – I get it. Hunting is wrong. Fine. But how on Earth did I miss the memo that said applying sanctions to a man by the means of mob rule was okay? And why are people not more outraged about other stuff? Like Dylann Roof? Or the man who was in the news yesterday for organising the commission of at least 500 sex offences against his own daughter? I suspect it’s because hunting is a ‘safe’ one. Whether you are genuinely outraged or not, if you get on television and cry about the death of a lion and rail against the cowardly practice of hunting dangerous animals at night, you will get a surge in popularity because practically everybody out there is loudly feeling the same way via Twitter. This is something we can all join in on – an outrage that doesn’t raise uncomfortable questions of race, gender or sexuality, that doesn’t seem to target any significant cultural group – it’s a good, old fashioned pecking party directed at one man. And splashing all over every innocent individual that man knows. But we wont worry about that – can’t think, pecking.

If we were really serious about stopping hunting, rather than having a hatestravaganza on someone who can’t kick back, our rage would be focussed on the people who routinely issue permits to kill big game animals for sport. We would be trying to put enough pressure on them to change their ways and find some other means of funding their wildlife reserves. But we’re not. Which means that it can’t possibly be big-game hunting that we’re actually concerned with. What we seem most concerned with, in this instance, is finding safe and popular targets for frenzied outpourings of hate. Which, if you think about it,  is a kind of hunting in itself.