Category Archives: politics

On Bullshit

Philosopher Harry Frankfurt, in his 2005 work On Bullshit, presents a definition of, and perhaps an example of, bullshit. Not to be outdone, noted vacuole Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Flapdoodle: Handy Pull Quotes for the Working Thinkpiece Writer, shows how you can have a successful career based on nothing at all, as long as your flapdoodle provides handy pull quotes for the working thinkpiece writer. Well-known pronunciation shibboleth Thomas Pinker, in his book How to Have Perhaps Even More Influence than Gladwell by Writing a Large Book which No-one has even Read, has conclusively demonstrated how to have perhaps even more influence than Gladwell by writing a large book which no-one has even read.

The reader, in her 2017 work Milking It: How I Got Sick of Blog Posts Which Flog One Idea to Death, may observe that she has grown sick of blog posts which flog one idea to death. The present author’s work in progress, The Use of a List of Imaginary Books as a Vehicle for Satire is an Established Literary Technique Dating Back to Rabelais (at Least), argues that, on the contrary, the use of a list of imaginary books a a vehicle for satire is an established literary technique dating back to Rabelais (at least).

He also admits that the abandoned draft of his blog post “An earnest and depressing argument that if the Trump administration shows anything, it is that the language of political journalism has become a desperate manipulation of clichés and idées reçues in a hopeless attempt to avoid dwelling on an atrocious reality” is an earnest and depressing argument that if the Trump administration shows anything, it is that the language of political journalism has become nothing but a desperate manipulation of clichés and idées reçues in a hopeless attempt to avoid dwelling on an atrocious reality. It’s not a fun read.

The deep state

The deep state never sleeps.

The deep state is in a perpetual struggle with the shallow state.

The deep state is in an uneasy truce with the pelagic state.

The deep state denies the existence of the abyssal state.

The deep state, like the imaginary politics of science fiction writers and futurists, is radically univocal. Unlike the state proper and the historical events in which the latter has its being, it is not subject to varying interpretations.

The deep state has its own calendar of deep state holidays. The observance of these is carried out in public but go unnoticed, parades of unmarked black SUVs blending with freeway traffic, gifts exchanged by dead drops in failing suburbs, tag phrases inserted into the speeches of dignitaries, composite virtual dinners which consist of the food items on scores of plates scattered around the globe.

The deep state lives in a mound of old Tom Clancy paperbacks.

Uttering the name of the deep state is a phatic speech act or magical ritual which reassures both the speaker and auditor that they are at least capable of pretending to have not been completely overwhelmed by political events.

Deep libertarianism denies the validity of the deep state and relies upon the power of the deep market, which is also known as Nature.

The deep state resents the distancing use of quotation marks. Every time it is referred to as ‘the “deep state”’ the name and station of the perpetrator is noted in a ledger by agents of the deep state.

The deep state, like certain gods, is immanent. No woman or man can know that their least gesture did not form a part of the deep state’s hidden intentions.

Auch du bist liberal

liberal

I don’t know the political context of this poster – “You, too, are liberal” – which I first saw in Lewis Blackwell’s Twentieth Century Type (1992) as an example of the Swiss International Style. But it’s been on my mind since last year. I could feel myself turning into the kind of lefty who has a comfortable job and kids and acts online like they start each day with a cup of smoking hot bourgeois liberal blood, which is one of the reasons I got off Twitter. I know that liberalism as a political philosophy is based on horrors which its own history has carefully airbrushed away, but I also know that personally I’d shit my pants if I was ever made to live in a political system which wasn’t liberal in the broader sense, which is easy for a white dude to say but it’s still true, and that it’s our job to reform it and to defend the parts worth keeping from the Right, to whom we’re all just one enemy. The poster is by Karl Gerstner, who passed away on the first of January this year, I just found out. It’s a brilliant design.

The other image that’s been on my mind is from Blue Velvet and is about how fucking uneasy the Shitposter-In-Chief makes me feel about my own compulsive use of Twitter-

frank_booth

-even though I miss it like hell.

Terminal

This isn’t a culture war: although it’s become a long-exhausted joke, the phrase implies some kind of commitment to values above mere partisan loyalty. With the exception of a few idiots, the Liberals and the News Limited hacks are not fighting to impose their personal morality, or that of their own communities, on the rest of the electorate. (I’m sure Tony Abbott has not cut off social contact with his sister, as an earlier form of conservative would have done. Some of my best friends are, etc.)

This isn’t even about ideology, it’s about the end. Complete exhaustion of the ability to articulate a political program which is not about brutality. Battles which are not tactical moves but the clonic twitches in the limbs of an organism which has already undergone brain death.

It isn’t an accident that one of the focuses of this is the bullying of queer kids in school. It seems too obvious to put into words. If you grew up here, you know this. A political system whose only successful policy on either side is the torture of people who can’t vote either side out of office is reduced here to the elements at the core of white male Australian identity: indifference to suffering, contempt for difference, panic fear of tenderness, the schoolyard taunt. The last pathetic tatters to which an idiotic culture clings as it dissolves.

Don’t pay the journalists who peddle this stuff the compliment of reading them, and don’t link to or screen-cap their gibberish, even to mock at it. They’re well-paid careerists who’ve found comfortable posts in the dying print leviathans of the last century, like the bone-eating worms which mysteriously find their way to whale carcasses on the ocean floor. But look, even the worms have courage and perhaps even personalities.

Why The Left Should

Why The Left Should Applaud Brexit
A Tankie Writes

Why The Left Should Shout Huzzah For People Who Literally Want To Stab Them To Death
A blog post in 10,000 words, by V. I. Rationalist

Why The Left Should Have Done The Same Kind Of Degree That I Did

Why The Left Should Read My Blog Posts In Good Faith And Understand Exactly Why They Are Very Wrong

Why The Left Should Do Something That’s Quite Implausible, Psychologically Speaking, And Would  Startle The Shit Out Of Everyone If It Actually Happened, Except Me, Who Would Nod Sagely

Why The Left Should Cease Their Infighting and Unite Against the Common Enemy: My Balls

Rise of Trump shows that I, some Australian Blogger, am Correct

The seemingly-unstoppable ascendancy of orange-haired real estate mogul, businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump in the contest to decide the next Republican presidential candidate has lead many to ask whether this is the rise of a new form of American fascism. But before we ask whether Trump really is another Hitler, we should consider a more important question. How does this alarming scenario afford me, and other commentators, none of whom are experts and many of whom are on different continents, an opportunity to be correct?

There is no doubt that Trump’s confounding of the GOP establishment is alarming, but I would like to position myself as being far more calm and mature than those who believe this is the birth of a hitherto-unseen and poisonous form of American nationalism. Now, I’m not a professional historian. I have no especial qualifications in the theory of fascism and other related forms of totalitarian dictatorship as these were manifested in the course of the twentieth century, and, statistically speaking, neither do you. But we shouldn’t lose our heads simply because the conservative party of the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth appears to be having its collective lunch stolen by a blowhard tycoon who is backed by throngs of shrieking, violent racists and who stands to have a long shot at the leadership of the United States.

Let’s consider the significant differences between Trump and Hitler. Hitler, as any schoolchild knows, drew considerable support from the ranks of restive, unemployed and impoverished Germans whose nation had been wracked by punitive war reparations, hyperinflation and needlessly sarcastic musical satirists. Trump’s supporters, by contrast, although they are restive, underemployed and financially, on a global scale, somewhat inconvenienced, show little or no interest in cabaret, with the exception of Wayne Newton. Moreover, as citizens of the United States of America, they come from a completely different country to Hitler’s followers.

Hitler was a painter manqué and former soldier from an unremarkable family whose amoral ideology and extreme racial intolerance brought about the most brutal war of annihilation and genocide in world history; Trump is the heir to a New York City real estate fortune and has shown no particular inclination toward the visual arts. Trump is a serial divorcée with a decades-long reputation for sleaziness who has made highly inappropriate comments about the desirability of his own daughter; Hitler, although he is widely believed by almost everyone to have had a heinously fucked-up sexuality, was childless.

Even were it not for all these serious distinctions between Hitler and Trump, the most vital difference is one of timing. Hitler happened in the olden days and was ultimately defeated in a series of events which, calamitous though they were, are progressively disappearing from living memory, and which ultimately serve as a reassurance to people like me that our comfortable lives have been safeguarded by a long historical process which we were fortunate enough to end up on the winning side of. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is happening right now, and any suggestion that he is quite a bit like Hitler has to be fought against with every instinct and fibre of our being, lest that reassuring sense of comfort be disturbed.

Besides, Trump, even though he is a notorious career racist who retweets praise from actual Nazis, has been endorsed by America’s most well-known member of the Ku Klux Klan and seems to have a lock on the candidacy, is not a seasoned political operator like Ted Cruz, a wily Republican vampire about whom I first heard three weeks ago. It may be too soon to say for sure, but if I repeat the phrase “the GOP establishment” enough times and with an appropriate sense of measured conviction, signs are that events will show that this armchair observer is right.

Five Fantasies about Tony Abbott

The fantasy about distributism

Abbott’s relationship with B A Santamaria, still a compulsory mention in every op-ed about his political character, implying that he represented some strain of mainstream Australian conservatism which opposes free-market neoliberalism. Look, I like G K Chesterton as much as the next guy (if I were to meet Abbott, my first question would be, “do you like Chesterton?” and my second would be “what do you think of his anti-semitism?”) but this idea is as much a fantasy as The Man Who Was Thursday. The last positive traces of distributism in Australian political life were probably the soldier’s settlement schemes of the twentieth century: intended (by Santamaria and others) to breed a race of stout yeomen capable of resisting the corruptions of modern life, actually resulting in some of eastern Sydney’s drearier tract housing.

In reality, there’s no Australian conservative movement of any significance which opposes capitalism. (This is why I don’t like to call them ‘Tories’: Australian conservatism starts with Locke, and any attempt to pretend otherwise is just cosplay.)

The fantasy about social conservatism

Speaking of B A Santamaria, much of his later career was devoted to plaintively challenging the huge, progressive shift in the ability of the state to police sexual behaviour which took place in the last two decades of the twentieth century. This rout of social conservatism was so dramatic that we’re still in the swirling confusion after the battle, and the stupider members of the right are still running around with Cory Bernardi, unaware that they’ve lost.

All that Abbott could do in this field was shore up Howard’s rearguard action against marriage equality, which is doomed anyway, as eventually we’ll need to recognise marriages ratified by other jurisdictions. There’s no suggestion that the LNP at a State level are going to change anything in this regard.

There’s a really interesting story to tell about how mainstream conservatism came to a rapprochement with the decriminalisation of homosexuality, a reform which up until the 80s they (and a large part of the ALP) had been firmly against, but a conservative tradition as unreflective as Australia’s is unlikely to tell it.

The fantasy about the boats

The fantasy about what’s actually happening under the veil of operational secrecy; the fantasy that the Dickensian legal trickery of extraterritorial detention won’t eventually fall apart at the seams; the fantasy (from the nice left) that all of this is somehow a radical degeneration of Australian law and morality, rather than a continuation of its traditional racialised brutality.

The fantasy about an Oxford education

The English, when they speak of Oxford, talk mostly about class. Australians, of either political persuasion, talk about brains, despite the fact that the Rhodes Scholarship has no particular academic entry standard above what’s normally required. It’s rather touching. One thinks of the Rhodes Scholar as a stock comic character in such nostalgic entertainments as Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson, and wonders what Max would have made of Tony.

The fantasy about ‘economic management’

Here’s a scary thought: Abbott and Hockey weren’t exceptional, the remnants of an otherwise competent and sane conservative party at the end of some dreadful process of Faulknerian decline. They were perfectly representative Libs, running on nothing but half-inarticulate social prejudices and Baden-Powellish ‘character’. Turnbull had to get rid of them before they completely wrecked the fantasy of the Liberals (also based on half-inarticulate social prejudices) as the party of (stop laughing up the back there) fiscal responsibility and (look here) reform.