The revolt against the elites

Spectator Australia

It’s always been hard to pin down who ‘the elites’ are why we are supposed reject them as un-Australian. A new book review by Tony Abbott offers some clues. It also hints at why attacks on ‘the elites’ are likely to backfire for conservatives.

In the Spectator Australia, Abbott reviews Nick Cater’s The Lucky Culture and the Rise of an Australian Ruling Class. He writes:

As Cater sees it, there’s a powerful new commentariat, dominant in the media, academia and public administration, that is every bit as condescending as the aristocracy he left behind in Britain. In contemporary Australia, the worst snobbery is not directed towards people of lower status, he says, but towards people of different opinions. He thinks that this ‘my opinion must be better than yours’ conceit is putting at risk the egalitarianism that’s at the heart of Australians’ sense of self.

What distinguishes this group from every other influential sector of society is its unshakeable conviction in its moral superiority. Everyone who disputes its thinking is not just wrong, but inferior. Critics of the politically correct consensus are not just bad thinkers but verge on being bad people, as those who are cautious about gay marriage are starting to discover.

Comparing the new commentariat to the British aristocracy makes it sound as if this is a problem of status. Like a bunch of obnoxious Old Etonians, the elites are snobs who consider their manners and way of life to be superior to those of ordinary people. But what made the snobbery of Britain’s upper class oppressive rather than ridiculous was that it was the snobbery of a ruling class. Without power, the snobbery of our elites would be no more threatening than the snobbery of a bunch of undergraduate hipsters.

As Abbott makes clear, Australia’s "politically correct critics don’t constitute an Australian ruling class at all." The elites chatter and provide commentary. But they have no power and they do not rule. They are not an Australian aristocracy.

This isn’t a battle over status, it’s a battle over moral authority. The elites seek to discipline those in power, not those beneath them in the socio-economic pecking order.

As conservatives see it, the elites are preaching a doctrine of original sin that undermines the nation’s confidence in itself. As Abbott writes: "Cater correctly identifies the cultural self-doubt verging on self-loathing that permeates much of our media and higher education."

Conservatives see talk of stolen generations and the dispossession of Australia’s first peoples as conjuring up a sense of collective guilt. Since our nation was founded in sin, we can never be proud of who we are. Instead, we must admit our unworthiness and repent.

So ‘the elites’ do not take the place of the aristocracy, they take the place of the clergy. Just as moralising preachers were attacked as do-gooders and wowsers, the elite are attacked as self-righteous kill joys. By constantly harping on about our sins against the environment, Indigenous Australians and the disadvantaged they try to manipulate us into seeking atonement through submission and obedience.

In his 1964 book The Lucky Country, Donald Horne observed that "there has long been opposition to religion and ‘bible bangers’ amongst Australians." For "many Australians religion becomes important only when it stops them from doing something they want to do." But at the same time, many Australians had a strong "urge to restrict the activities of other people."

When conservatives attack ‘the elites’ for their self-righteousness and moralising, they tap into Australians’ long standing opposition to anyone who insists desire and individual conscience should be disciplined by moral authority. As Horne put it: "the concept of evil is un-Australian: one must look for the good in people." No one should tell Australians what they should want.

This approach makes sense for libertarians who want to overturn the idea of moral authority and create a society based on enlightened self interest and self-actualisation. But philosophically, conservatism is founded on the belief that human nature contains evil as well as good. Conservatives believe that there are desires that should never be satisfied. That is why they have traditionally supported the idea of moral authority and the elitism that goes with it.

By attacking the moral authority of progressive ‘elites,’ conservatives may end up weakening the idea of moral authority and undermining their own cause. Their libertarian allies will be happy to see them do it.

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Tyler
Tyler
8 years ago

I just can’t take this nonsense seriously enough to fashion a considered response. The irony of a senior figure in Australia’s murdoch establishment railing against media elites and their pernicious influence on public discourse is just mindboggling

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago

This is classic Karl Rove stuff: accuse your opponents of doing what you’re doing to keep them on the defensive.

As Tyler observed, the premise is that an overclass of cultural snobs wields enormous power in Australia, so we should place our trust in ordinary people like Rupert Murdoch, Clive Palmer and Gina Rhinehart, who – and don’t giggle here, because this is seriously what the Right believes – are straight-talking underdogs representing real Australians against the powerful elites.

Australians will swallow a lot of bullshit, but Abbott and friends are really trying it on if they think the electorate is going to believe that a small group of rich people who routinely use their power to dictate the policy of an elected government are something other than an elite.

Martin
Martin
8 years ago
Reply to  Sancho

Gimme a break Sancho. The idea that all conservtives in Australia bow down for their daily observances in front of the Daily Tele, Clive and Gina demonstrates a ridiculous caricaturing of 50% of Australian voters.

Does that mean if you are a lefty you wear a beret and a black skivvie?

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  Martin

It’s not fifty percent on either side. Most Australians aren’t politically engaged and a big bunch of them are swinging voters.

But the groups driving the conservative movement have a clear and very ordinary Tory agenda of empowering the aristocracy and weakening popular government.

It’s just a quirk of history that, thanks to America’s influence in our era, the Right is obliged to frame the old hierarchies in the language of freedom and liberty. That’s how you get these over-lawyered talking points explaining why Rupert Murdoch is a working class hero and unionised dock workers are a snobby elite.

So the caricatures ring true where they appear. The modern equivalent of beret-wearing leftist intellectuals are still around, but they lurk on campus and have no power, while the Right’s caricatures get cabinet positions and routinely use their wealth to defeat the plans of democratically elected government.

Stephen Bounds
8 years ago

It occurs to me that there are some secular parallels here with the 16th century fights in England between the moral authorities of Protestantism and Catholicism. While there are vastly fewer beheadings in the current situation, there is definitely an attempt to establish the moral superiority of competing strands of intellectual thought.

Abbott makes this clear in his assertions of “Australians’ preference for facts over conjecture, actual experience over mere theory, and material progress over new class respectability”. In a way, the current battleground can best be summed up as the empirical versus the theoretical.

Theory is of course a far more powerful tool for correctly understanding the world. Unfortunately liberals, by appropriating science as a political tool to push their preferred policy outcome, have pushed conservatives to adopt an anti-theoretical approach. This is an easy and effective counter, particularly when science is becoming less than skeptical in its discovery and reporting process due to the need to “deliver results” for funding.

Clearly Abbott is playing to the popcorn stand. But there’s a kernel of truth to what he says. I believe that liberals, by claiming the scientific (read: “elite”) high ground, become ironically less willing to engage the other side in a genuine policy debate. This is not a development I am happy to see.

Poor Old Rafe
8 years ago

I have yet to read Tony Abbott on this topic, or Cater himself apart from a short piece, but there is at least a grain of truth in the charge that left-leaning intellectuals have become dangerously intolerant of criticism of their favorite ideas. An obvious case is the climate debate, as witness my dispatch from this site for holding an incorrect view.

john r walker
8 years ago

‘capital’ comes in a number of kinds of symbolic representation , it does not always equate to how much money you have . For a example the holder of a VC has a lot of symbolic capital that equals a highish degree of social status that is not based on income. As for theory Vs facts type dualisms :

Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.

Apocalypse Yearner
Apocalypse Yearner
8 years ago

And that’s the problem with Abbot. It never occurs to him and his minions that maybe some people simply don’t want their environment destroyed. They don’t want people like him dictating who they can or cannot marry, or which form of love is morally superior. It’s not about good vs evil, it’s simply about people trying to protect the things they love: their neighbours and their land.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago

As if on cue, Stephen provides us with a classic example of this inversion.

The thread shouldn’t get bogged down in an interminable argument over climate science, but consider this: over a million scientific papers are published each year, and the results of that research are implemented across societies, across the world. Our travel, eating, medicine, energy, dwellings and infrastructure are in a constant state of flux in responding to scientific evidence.

Yet, despite this deluge of influential data produced by researchers, only two fields of science provoke skepticism and outrage from the political Right: evolution and climatology.

Some fields, particularly pharmaceutical development, have been subject to consistent and well-founded criticism for decades regarding their dodgy and dangerous research in pursuit of profit, but attracted no interest from the born-again science skeptics who will argue about climate and natural selection til they’re blue in the face.

Apparently science is reliable and trustworthy except where it produces results that offend conservative institutions, in which case it’s a clearly politicised and corrupt endeavour that has been captured by global communism and nihilist misanthropes.

Neocons have done a fine job of framing scientific data as an attack on the aristocracy, and an even finer job of portraying their defence of the ruling class as a resistance movement against the “elites”.

Stephen Bounds
8 years ago
Reply to  Sancho

@Sancho: It’s natural for vested interests to pay more attention to research that could work against their preferred outcome. The fact that “a million papers” go unscrutinised by the conservative political movement simply means that they are having little impact on the public policy debate.

My objection is that there are a group of people who want to have their cake and eat it too. The cry of “How dare you question us – we are scientists!” looks rather hollow when you provide a really good example of how the scientific method can easily be twisted to provide – at best – questionable results.

So to my mind, skepticism should be the default response to any scientific research. A pet hate of mine is the breathless reporting of marginally significant papers in the media, since it both undermines public confidence in research in the long run and allows people far greater scope to get away with misleading or outright fraudulent research.

As soon as scientists venture outside of experimentation and hypothesis testing to recommending a particular policy outcome, their objectivity can no longer be reasonably defended regardless of whether it comes from a private corporation or a publicly-funded research institution.

(Indeed, I would argue that to ever claim objectivity is pretty dodgy for much the same reason as the View from Nowhere with journalism, but that’s a separate debate.)

Elitism therefore comes in when “my science is better than your science”. And the hypocrisy of pretending that one form of science is somehow magically able to be free from bias makes it an easy target for anti-science rhetoric from people like Abbott.

TimT
8 years ago

Hmmm, well, as I see it the conception of ‘original sin’ is almost entirely one possessed by conservatives. Both sides of politics, the right and the left, attempt to claim moral authority, but claims of moral authority on the left tend to be almost entirely lacking any acknowledgment of personal flaws. This, I’d argue, is where you will find the basis of the right-wing critic of left-wing elitism – and also the origin of libertarian desires for small government – although, sadly, acknowledgment of human imperfection doesn’t always seem to feature strongly in libertarian thought.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  TimT

Which flaws does conservatism own up to?

TimT
8 years ago
Reply to  Sancho

Personal flaws – particularly the tendency of those in power to become corrupt, complacent, mendacious, etc.

The modern left has its roots in a utopian movement – communism – with a belief in the perfectibility of mankind and the institutions of mankind. Most on the left have abandoned this utopianism, though IMO you still see its influence in various types of left politics.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  TimT

Yet the Australian conservative movement is overwhelmingly monarchist, largely Catholic, and in its “libertarian” form, furious that the wealthy must negotiate with democratically-elected government instead of ruling directly.

So, for the Right, supporting hereditary dictators, infallible religious authorities and the aristocracy now demonstrates a healthy skepticism of power!

The times will suit Nick Cater.

TimT
8 years ago
Reply to  Sancho

That’s a pretty misleading characterisation of conservatives and libertarians there Sancho. It is perfectly possible to support the monarchy AND democracy. And so on.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  TimT

Sure, sure, Head on over to Free Republic or The Agitator and explain that America should submit to monarchy. See how the libertarians like that.

Or complain about American and Australian libertarianism being different, as if the idea of a lone foreigner having complete, constitutional power over a nation isn’t really an issue of freedom libertarians should consider.

You’re cool with the Catholicism, though?

john r walker
8 years ago

Two pragmatic reasons for being skeptical about ‘experts’ claims of need for more regulation :

a) Advocating new regulations often equals money , status and employment for experts , unstated self interest is so common.
And
b) regulation attracts and creates opportunities for, cheats fraud.

Mr Denmore
Mr Denmore
8 years ago

“Unfortunately liberals, by appropriating science as a political tool to push their preferred policy outcome, have pushed conservatives to adopt an anti-theoretical approach.

I see. The truth is politically inconvenient. So we’ll take the other side.

Stephen Bounds
8 years ago
Reply to  Mr Denmore

That’s a very journalistic misinterpretation of what I said :)

This is what I see happening:
(a) Liberals find a scientist to say “the evidence shows X, and therefore we should do Y”. This is a conflation of science and policy.
(b) Conservatives say, “we think that given X, we should do Z instead”.
(c) Liberals say “but the scientist says we should do Y, and SCIENCE!”
(d) Conservatives seek to discredit the science, since without X, the argument to do Y is destroyed. This is much easier if X is essentially unobservable in everyday life.

My point is that the argument on whether Y or Z is better should be separate from whether X is true or not. But when scientists put their weight behind Y (and when politicians treat X as a justification for Y), then inevitably X becomes a target as well.

Net result: People get confused, science’s reputation gets damaged, everyone loses. I would much rather that scientists spent more time building consensus on the facts rather than what to do about them.

I know that this is hard when you may have a strongly-held personal viewpoint, but it’s counterproductive in the long term: you can be a trusted authority, or a strong advocate, but it’s very hard to do both.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Bounds

That’s a fair summary of the climate change debate, right up to the part where you suggest that scientists are political actors.

What’s actually happening is that professional scientists, producing robust data, now have to fend off politically-motivated attacks on their integrity. In doing so they’re accused of being partisan.

“Our results indicate that 2+2 = 4.”

“That undermines the myths we rely on for popular support! 2+2 = 5!”

“Here is the data. It is predictive, accurate, and indicates that 2+2 = 4.”

“Liars! Communists! “You’ll say anything for money! You want big government to put everyone in concentration camps!”

“Hang on a minute! That’s a scurrilous and unwarranted attack. Debate the data, but don’t attack researchers personally.”

“Political! You’re political! Why are you so political if you don’t have an agenda? Why don’t you stick to science? Huh? Communist!”

Stephen Bounds
8 years ago
Reply to  Sancho

Hi Sancho,

Firstly, I don’t want to focus on climate change. My point is aimed at any topic, not just CC. Actually, I regret labelling the two sides as liberal and conservative, this does happen both ways. Also, I’m not suggesting stage (d) is edifying. That part of the climate change debate is a bad, bad, outcome.

However, when scientists start prescribing a solution as well as presenting research findings, this is a misstep. Climate change research is presented as a package with the solution: “CO2 emissions are rising, therefore we need to reduce them.” Well, no. That’s a policy response.

“CO2 emissions are rising and our models predict the following will happen”, sure. “CO2 emissions are rising and the outcomes of the following options have been modeled”, OK.

But to say we “need” to do something *is* imposing a value judgement. Pretending that it’s not is very similar to claiming that your values are unimpeachable.

Tel
Tel
8 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Bounds

I would much rather that scientists spent more time building consensus on the facts rather than what to do about them.

Facts and consensus are at best only tangentially related.

You can inform people of facts, but that doesn’t build consensus especially when the next guy is informing them of different facts. Ultimately science is about observation, experiment, modelling and prediction… and nothing more than that. In other words, science has nothing to do with consensus.

Individual scientists may feel concerned about consensus, they may feel vulnerable, they may feel the need to be published… but that’s only because scientists are human, nothing to do with science itself.

desipis
8 years ago
Reply to  Tel

Ultimately science is about observation, experiment, modelling and prediction

This scientific process is generally quite persuasive about what the truth is. So over time you would normally expect the distribution of scientists’ views on a given issue to converge. Naturally there would be times where the direction of scientific study produces misleading results, which produce convergence away from the truth. However, it would then undergo a correction after novel experimentation restoring the long term trends towards a truth-centred consensus.

Mr Denmore
Mr Denmore
8 years ago

Mr Bounds, you are confusing the problem with the policy response. There’s room for a debate about how we respond to climate change. But a desperate media, needing any form of conflict to attract eyeballs, conflates disagreement over the policy response to a faked up dispute about the actual science. As Sancho says, the conservatives want the scientists to say that 2+2=5, because it’s just damned inconvenient for 4 to be the answer.

As to Cater’s argument about university educated “elites” are running the media, the Murdochracy really does seem to have jumped the shark, vaulted the octopus and hurdled the sperm whale. Anyone with eyes can see that the Murdoch media is running a partisan agenda under which it will say anything – anything – to push its barrow, irrespective of the truth of the statements.

As a journalist of nearly 30 years standing, I find the lack of respect by those newspapers for the truth is truly gobsmacking. And now, to turn it around and paint their opponents as snobbish elites with no understanding of the common man or woman really tops it off.

But they keep getting away with it. The template has been made. And once Nick Cater shuffles off, they’ll bring in another superficial Pommy hack writing to His Master’s Voice.

Stephen Bounds
8 years ago
Reply to  Mr Denmore

Mr Denmore, you won’t get a lot of disagreement from me about the Murdoch media.

But I think we are mixing up three distinct things that are, in my view, undermining the role of science in public discourse:

(a) The increased number of retractions and falsification in research papers. Even if by volume this is a small proportion of papers, these can seriously distort policy responses and the perceived trustworthiness of research. See, for example, the 90% debt-ratio Excel spreadsheet slip-up, and the paper linking autism to vaccinations.
(b) The very poor job being done by mainstream media in correctly evaluating claims and counter-claims in research and scientific debate; a.k.a not engaging in sensationalism for the easy headline, or false equivalence. Science journalism is trying to address this but it is still a niche category at present.
(c) The conflation of outcomes of scientific research with an “appropriate” policy response. This is tricky but is essential; until positive results can be confirmed in the real world as well as the lab, and affirmed by the electorate, theory and particularly models of a theory need to be carefully disclaimed in public discourse. Statements like “the science is in” as a way to shut down debate on a new policy are foolhardy and unnecessary.

Now, how much each of these factors is a real problem could probably be the subject of a scientific study in itself. But I believe policy responses should be humble in their recognition of our always limited knowledge. The alternative is to alienate and prevent debate.

Pedro
Pedro
8 years ago

“By attacking the moral authority of progressive ‘elites,’ conservatives may end up weakening the idea of moral authority and undermining their own cause. Their libertarian allies will be happy to see them do it.”

Yes, I think that’s correct. Only, the libertarian ideal is also founded in a claim to moral authority. The absense of moral authority will lead to immorality, not libertarian levels of freedom. Mind you, the worst immorality has historically been practiced by those claiming to serve a greater good, so maybe it’s just a merry-go-round of hypocrisy and humbug.

“Unfortunately liberals, by appropriating science as a political tool to push their preferred policy outcome, have pushed conservatives to adopt an anti-theoretical approach.”

They have? I must have missed it.

derrida derider
derrida derider
8 years ago

It is terrible the way politically correct latte-sipping soi-disant intellectuals run Australia. The Australian is so dominated by them that God-fearing conservatives like Mr Abbott can never get any coverage. That “A Current Affair” is wholly devoted to showing interviews with Noam Chomsky and George Monbiot means authentic battlers in the western suburbs just never get to question the dominant socialist paradigm. And as for the baleful influence of French critical theory on the operations of our mining magnates like Ms Rinehart and Mr Palmer – well it’s a wonder we have any industry left at all.

john r walker
8 years ago

recently went to a meeting/debate that turned out to be a Greens campaign launch.
The greens candidate was very morally clear that the environment was under threat and that therefore the only answer is a zero growth economy .

Nobody forced Labor to appease these types, the greens are hardly likely to vote for Mr Abbott. Labor should have dealt with them as ruthlessly as the Libs dealt with the Hanson fringe.

There are plenty of conservatives that accept the science on climate (and evolution and gay marrage , simply question how a carbon scheme with a price that could be as low as 1 or 2 Euros is anything other than pointless symbolic merde.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  john r walker

But where is their influence?

The Liberals are following the Republican example: marginalise and expel moderates, then try to build a base of reactionaries who want to recreate the 1950s.

I’m fascinated to see how it will play out in a country with compulsory polling.

john r walker
8 years ago
Reply to  Sancho

It will provably pan out at the long term average: %47 to %53. As for the caricature of the Libs…if it makes you feel better… go at it.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  john r walker

A point isn’t a trend. Abbott will likely win this election while avoiding a campaign on outright neoconservatism, but let’s see how Tea Party he gets in the first term.

As for a caricature, I wish it were. Where are the moderate Coalition voices on climate change? Who will dare to suggest anything less than the most punitive treatment of refugees? Who’s learned lessons from the last two wars and will refuse another?

The health minister who tried to ban birth control is on his way to the Lodge, but apparently it’s a caricature to suggest that extremism is rising in the Liberal Party.

I think a few of you are in for a shock before 2017.

Pedro
Pedro
8 years ago
Reply to  john r walker

Wow Sancho, an effectively bipartisan policy on illegal boat arrivals is evidence that the Libs are reaching for their feathered headresses and warpaint!

And climate change, the Libs currently have a stupid policy on direct action, which they have because they claim to want to be seen to do something about a problem of uncertain scope that Australia cannot meaningfully affect and which everyone who actually matters is basically ignoring. While labor has an even more stupid policy combining direct action and a tax and couples that with an fetish for claiming to be an international light on the AGW hill. I’d say the moderate party is the one with the less stupid policy that avoids the embarrassing hubris, which would be the Libs.

john r walker
8 years ago
Reply to  john r walker

Pedro
Sadly its a bit hard to say what Labor is really about anymore, but it certainly is not about reality.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  Sancho

Yes. Feathers and war paint. That’s what I said.

Nice the way the skeptics’ arguments have…evolved. Now climate change is a vague “problem of uncertain scope that Australia cannot meaningfully affect” and any action is just expensive symbolism.

Remember when you guys were convinced the climate wasn’t changing at all? Then absolutely sure it was due to solar wobbles. Then methane. Then volcanoes. And don’t forget urban heat islands, water vapor, ozone or the other dozen misinformed brainfarts that, for a few months at a time, the conservative movement bought into as a complete explanation for climate change.

Turns out climatologists produce better science than right-wing bloggers and industry lobbyists, so let’s stick with parties that don’t take advice on science policy from creationists.

john r walker
8 years ago
Reply to  Sancho

Sancho
“you guys” … ? Science, especially the life /deep time sciences has been a life long passion. Take a stress pill.

Mr Denmore
Mr Denmore
8 years ago

I have to rush home now. Today Tonight has an interview with Habermas.

John C
John C
8 years ago

Don’t trust them, trust us.

Frank Knight
Frank Knight
8 years ago

Stephen Bounds has some odd ideas about science, in my opinion. His thought-bubble that poorly thought-out papers will lead to disrespect for the scientific method (paraphrasing here) is a familiar one but wrong. Science is tougher than that. A well-known parable: Lord Kelvin gave Charles Darwin heartburn by ‘proving’ that the Earth must be less than 100 million years old, since it had to be gradually cooling down. Physics trumps Evolution, okay? Then along came Radioactivity and the awareness that Earth has a radio-active core and trumped Lord Kelvin. Science is self-correcting.

It may be that global warming, for example, is caused by us being systematically zapped by Martians. In the meantime, however, science is obliged to stick to the best data available.

murph the surf.
murph the surf.
8 years ago

“Conservatives believe that there are desires that should never be satisfied. That is why they have traditionally supported the idea of moral authority and the elitism that goes with it.”
Isn’t this idea of big C conservative a little bit too broad a brush stroke?
I think in an interview many years ago Abbott expressed the idea conservatives liked things the way they are and as long as they weren’t broken the systems and processes had evolved over time to reflect the product of previous experience.
This may establish a certain permanence in social strata with change more difficult but elitism and being established in a position aren’t always identical .

nottrampis
8 years ago

DD that is almost the comment of the year!

David Walker
8 years ago
Reply to  nottrampis

Seconding the nomination.

murph the surf.
murph the surf.
8 years ago
Reply to  David Walker

No, the comment is elitism encapsulated.
Plus an extra dose of glib and smug to top it off.
Baleful is the right adjective though – all that education in Marcusian self development just leads to envy and drives urges to appropriate , treating the economy as nothing more than a magic pudding.

john r walker
8 years ago

“Marcusian self development just leads to envy and drives urges to appropriate , treating the economy as nothing more than a magic pudding.”
Love it.

Labor has been the elected government for five years and have made a cock up-debacle all of their own making. Nobody forced them to choose Rudd nobody forced them to put a haircut like Conroy into a position of major policy and on and on and on.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago

These comments belong in a version of reality in which there was no global financial crisis and the appointment of unpopular ministers is Labor’s sole achievement.

When we’re talking about the magic pudding economy, let’s have some recollection of how the Howard government treated revenue, and think about the state Australia would be in if Abbott’s austerity plan had been implemented.

I suppose the Greeks and Spaniards and Irish just lack some intrinsic national character that led them into economic ruin instead of Australia’s prosperity.

Mr Denmore
Mr Denmore
8 years ago

Agreed, notrampis. DD gets my vote.

nottrampis
8 years ago

The comment means this easily makes Around the Traps this Friday with a special mention to read DD’s comment

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago

Paul Sparrow has a related piece up at the Drum. Some good points:

[S]imply note that a book decrying elitism has received the stamp of approval from the most powerful media mogul of all time, a man with a personal wealth exceeding $8 billion.

Back in 2002, Professor David Flint published a book called The Twilight of the Elites, in which he put forward the startling proposition that the defeat of the republican movement represented a blow to privilege everywhere.

Once the Queen of England has been reinvented as an anti-elitist, you might have thought that the theory had reached a level of preposterousness beyond which the culture war could not possibly extend.

john r walker
8 years ago

Who are the ‘Elites’ that are the subject of this thread?

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  john r walker

Well, which groups do you think are most commonly labelled as elites by right-wing commentators?

john r walker
8 years ago
Reply to  Sancho

I don’t spend time listening to the likes of Allen Jones (nor his left equivalents ) , have a low tolerance for mediocre . Hence the question.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  john r walker

Ah, well. Let’s ask the experts.

I have basic fluency with right-wing apologetics, but my threshold for cognitive dissonance is quite low, so you may have to fill in some gaps yourself.

According to the IPA’s core audience, the elites include:

– Everyone in any way affiliated with the Labor Party, including people who vote Labor ever
– Anyone connected to tertiary education, especially academics
– Anyone not working class, because the elites hate blue collar success
– Scientists
– K-12 teachers
– Historians
– Baby boomers
– Generation X
– Generation Y
– Women
– Homosexuals
– People who have sex on first dates
– The publishing industry
– Screenwriters and TV producers

That’s many of the elites, but obviously not exhaustive. Importantly, the following is a partial list of people and groups who definitely not elites:
– The British Royal family
– The Vatican
– Rupert Murdoch
– Gina Rinehart
– Anyone writing for News Ltd except Philip Adams
– Know-it-all academics in their ivory towers, living off the back of hard-working taxpayers, who also work for the IPA
– Working class people in trade unions
– Investment bankers
– Anyone in the military
– Christians, as long as they worship Supply Side Jesus only

If you can see some contradictions there, say “job creators”, “latte sippers”, “gay agenda”, ” and “communism” over and over until it makes sense.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  john r walker

Obviously, blue collar workers in trade unions are part of the snobby elite. That was an editing error.

When determining whether working class people are elites, remember that it’s good to admire their tattoos and Commodores, but bad to accept their capacity for independent thinking.

E.g., it’s elitist to dislike barbed wire bicep tattoos, but also elitist to think that someone with a barbed wire bicep tattoo is capable of voting for a leader. That sort of executive decision should be left to the upper class, which has a greater understanding of important matters – in a completely egalitarian, non-elitist way, of course

This is what I mean by cognitive dissonance.

TimT
8 years ago
Reply to  john r walker

It would be interesting to see an attempted demographic breakdown of the ‘elites’. I’m not sure if Cater does this in his book, or if it’s just a series of practical observations from his day to day work.

But – it has the ring of truth, because there are a core group of people who the name ‘elites’ does fit. I’m thinking people who tend to be middle class or upper middle class, media savvy, university educated, coming from a diversity of backgrounds but tending to live in the cultural capitals – ie, the city centres or inner-city suburbs in places like Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney. They can be quite ambitious, and social climbing, and often have meritocratic views. They tend to be left leaning, and a sizeable minority of them are Greens supporters. Lots of them have had a blog or two and a twitter account or two. In a word – us.

I know plenty of people who fall into this category; hundreds of them are my friends on facebook; they work in the arts and the media and politics. I remember many anguished conversations online from others I knew during the years John Howard was Prime Minister, to the effect: ‘We don’t know anyone who would vote for the Liberals! Why does John Howard keep getting elected.’

Ergo, these people are an effective class apart, and ‘elites’ wouldn’t seem to be too misleading a term for them.

Sancho
Sancho
8 years ago
Reply to  TimT

[T]here are a core group of people who the name ‘elites’ does fit. I’m thinking people who tend to be middle class or upper middle class, media savvy, university educated, coming from a diversity of backgrounds but tending to live in the cultural capitals…They can be quite ambitious, and social climbing, and often have meritocratic views. They tend to be left leaning, and a sizeable minority of them are Greens supporters.

That’s simply a description of an Australian demographic combination that certainly exists, but isn’t some consistent, unified “elite”.

That’s an element that goes missing in all this: when Cater and friends talk about the “elites”, they’re not simply gurning at separate categories of individuals they disagree with, but alluding to that evergreen conservative paranoia about a progressive cabal secretly waging war on goodly society.

It’s not enough to observe that environmentalists, social progressives and intellectuals frequently oppose right-wing ideas. No, it has to be that we’re secretly and knowingly part of a coordinated plot to destroy the west with [insert whatever conservatives are most fearful of in any given era].

Tyler
Tyler
8 years ago

Even the focus on tertiary educated professionals is dubious, i know a lot of lawyer/finance/engineer types and they tend more towards the lazy libertarian right than anything.

One question i find interesting is why thinly rebadged anti-semitism still plays such a serious role in modern political discourse. Next we’ll be hearing of academic wicca circles stealing the blood of god-fearing catholic children

Gummo Trotsky
Gummo Trotsky
8 years ago

For me, the most revealing part of Abbott’s review is the quote from Cater in the last paragraph:

… outside the inner clique that dominates politics, academia and the media, the Australian spirit remains strong. It’s not… the spirit of the frontier but the spirit of the front bar: pragmatic, personable and above all generous.

As long as you’re one of the regulars.

Gummo Trotsky
Gummo Trotsky
8 years ago
Reply to  Gummo Trotsky

perhaps I should have said – as long as you don’t piss off the regulars.

TimT
8 years ago
Reply to  Gummo Trotsky

It’s interesting how, in his writing at least, Abbott instinctively uses macho metaphors and anecdotes. (I remember reading another piece of his in The Spectator where he uses another ‘one of the boys’ anecdotes about playing cricket at uni.) It remains to be seen if the electorate will take to this enthusiastically.

nottrampis
8 years ago

As promised with a HUGE ask to read DD’s comment.

nottrampis
8 years ago

I hadn’t noticed poor old Rafe’s ( what an accurate description and epithet) comment.

I asked Sinclair over at Catallaxy to man up and state whether he thought there had been a structural break in rising world temperatures.

He deleted my comment and then said I could only comment under my name.

Rafe is showing no self awareness at all but is showing what projection is.

Fyodor
8 years ago
Reply to  nottrampis

I asked Sinclair over at Catallaxy to man up and state whether he thought there had been a structural break in rising world temperatures.

Shirley, that should be mann up.