There is a social media practice, recently unleashed into the real world, sometimes called virtue signalling, which is really just a re-branded bien pensantism.
How a leisurely Sunday afternoon read two weeks ago confirmed that the bien pensant left is the biggest asset of the far right, and more destructive of Western ideals than anyone cares to admit.
The reading session started out with Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan’s scathing condemnation of the Brisbane Writers Festival (BWF).
I’ve not read Flanagan’s novels, but I am aware they have been well-received by critics, and he’s won awards for some of them. His prose as a commentator certainly turned out to be smooth, and his arguments impeccable.
The following is an edited excerpt from a letter in which I was putting forward my position on why social media deserve to be censored; an about face on my long-time opinion that censorship is always wrong.
Painful though I think it is, I don’t think Australia is really a liberal democratic society anymore. I think we are closer to an oligarchy, moved in that direction since the 1990s, and still moving there. Not as bad as the USA, but heading in the same direction.
Nor do I believe we have an environment anymore in which voices of reason and authority can effectively counter voices of hate, mischief, or mayhem. The old argument about a marketplace of ideas is dead and ridiculous in the era of social media and anonymous user accounts.
What anonymity on social media platforms has done is enable the most scurrilous hate campaigns because there is no consequence. The coarseness of such behaviour, over time, has begun to legitimise it even for people whose identity is known, like the current US president. It is a devaluation of all that might have been considered liberal democratic, putting us back at the political chicanery of the mid-18th century.
The night was awful. Nightmarish. I didn’t attempt to sleep until close to midnight. The sounds around me of old men in pain or discomfort were psychologically disturbing.
I could understand why. I think some of my humanity was stripped away by my experience in the evening, when I insisted on taking a shower. This meant being assisted into the shower, with nurse Breena holding my piss bag and tubes, while I wheeled the drip stand, holding two big three liter fluid bags that were constantly flushing my bladder.
There’s a strange kind of intimacy between a shattered man and any woman standing in for mother, helping him to peel off a blood-soaked hospital gown, paying no attention to his penis, sprouting the obscene catheter tube branching out into three–the input, the output, and the capped channel used to inflate and deflate the saline-filled balloon in the bladder that keeps the whole thing in place.
When Tom Switzer has something to say, he deserves to be read with a healthy dose of skepticism. No Left ideologue could have invented a more stereotypical reactionary: Sydney’s North Shore; private school; Sydney University; conservative think tanks; climate change denier; and obligatory ‘other side’ presenter for the ABC radio’s Between the Lines.
Switzer, like many others, claims to be a conservative when really he is a reactionary. The difference seems to be lost in uncritical repetition of self-representations. It has never been conservative tradition to oppose progressive reforms, including welfare measures. Traditional conservatism merely opposes revolutionary change, seen as too rapid to gauge harmful impacts on established institutions and practices. That is, today, much more nearly the ideological position of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) than of the Coalition–the peculiar post-war alliance between the horribly misnamed Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia.
Barnaby Joyce can’t help himself: in his own words he convicts himself as an adulterer, liar, and hypocrite. And still he has the nerve to ask people to ignore this chain of serious failings, and to continue to entrust him with the second-highest public service office in the country.
It is timely to remind all politicians that they are public servants, not divine right princes and princesses. They have a duty to the nation, not merely to party politics and their own bank accounts. They should be held to higher standards than Wayne and Cheryl Citizen.
Joyce is either an incredibly simple-minded man who believes his own lies, or he thinks of the public as simple-minded and gullible. The third option is that he’s following a strategy of deceit designed by his co-conspirator in this matter: Vikki Campion. She is trained in this sort of propagandizing, and she is certainly the only real friend Joyce has at the moment.
The flash of ‘to the barricades’ anger I encountered recently, when I casually disparaged Jane Austen’s work as not great literature, in what I thought was not that serious a conversation, made me re-examine how I came to make my remark, and why the anger I encountered knocked me back on my cognitive haunches.
It is true that another impetus for delving into this subject is my recent preoccupation with literary critique more generally, but my focus here is Austen, my prejudices about her writing, and how they clash with orthodox views.
As with all of James Ellroy’s fiction since the 1990s, I am infatuated with the book. With the prose and the characters. Unlike Ellroy’s previous fiction, this one exposes something new, hinting at something that was never Ellroy before. Or maybe it is a change in my perceptions, seeing something that isn’t there, or was always there.
What I think connects me with Ellroy’s fiction most of all is an old-fashioned idea of passion. The kind that drives courtship and romance, but also anger and violence. It is the id unleashed to dramatic effect, where the base expectation is of chaste and civilised containment in an orderly, ordered society. Writing for The Telegraph, Chris Harvey relayed some of Ellroy’s thoughts on this powerful driver of life and dramatic tension:
Continue reading “Perfidia (2014)”
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
– apocryphal, Ernest Hemingway
The Lloyd Hopkins trilogy is not Lee Earle ‘James’ Ellroy’s first work, nor his best. But I can see that he sat his typewriter and bled to produce it. Perhaps he just didn’t bleed quite enough. It seems that Hopkins is Ellroy’s fictional alter ego: tall, energetic, nervy, intuitive. A genius cop who breaks all the rules. A womaniser who ruins his marriage that way. A dark past that hovers over him.