A generation ago, the right side of the Australian intelligentsia could field Geoffrey Blainey, Les Murray, Simon Leys and John Hirst, among others. Now aged or deceased, such writers have no obvious rivals or replacements. Local conservatives write few serious books; when they do their themes are often crabbed, narrow and repetitive. To find evidence of this barrenness and philistinism you only have to open a local copy of the Spectator, unfortunately still trapped in the same covers as its British counterpart. It’s quite a juxtaposition.And more:
Read an issue back to front, and British biographers, authors and wry columnists give way to a parochial collection of geriatric former lawyers and think-tank spooks, writing endless variations on the same article about section 18C. Tanveer Ahmed, a former televised bingo referee and serial plagiarist fired from his prior journalistic positions for repeated indiscretions, has reinvented himself as what Edward Said called “a witness for the Western prosecution”. Daisy Cousens, now best known for an unusually erotic obituary of Bill Leak, was a sometime tennis reporter and self-described feminist who changed her spots to join the pseudo-alt-right. Chancers and careerists have a natural home in the Australian right-wing media: it’s the only place that will take them.
But what are these people really joining in on? Sometimes it’s hard to know. Simple, indeed remedial, tests of ideological consistency are being flunked. Catallaxy Files, which bills itself as “Australia’s leading libertarian and centre-right blog”, is suddenly rammed with pro-Trump posters and commenters enthused about his trade tariffs and border wall. These should be anathema to any libertarian, but the prospect of unalloyed racism is so intoxicating that these foundation principles are abandoned under the flimsiest pretext.
Conservatives should share the same set of misgivings about nuclear energy that makes them oppose renewables. After all, it is vastly expensive (in fact, now significantly more costly than renewables), requires enormous subsidy and tends to cost overruns. Citizens who think wind turbines are making them sick are unlikely to be less agitated by the presence of neighbourhood waste dumps. Yet somehow nuclear power enjoys significant support both inside the Coalition and the right-wing commentariat, even among those who do not believe in climate change. The primary point of difference seems to be not merely ideological but talismanic: renewable energy is effeminate, while nuclear power is masculine and robust, and has the welcome by-product of making environmentalists and left-wingers upset.
That last consideration cannot be underestimated. George Orwell said that Jonathan Swift was “driven into a sort of perverse Toryism by the follies of the progressive party of the moment”. Really, the local right has become a kind of anti-left. Instead of anti-Trump, Australian conservatives are anti-anti-Trump, saving their bile for protesters and the emotional, and are so excited by the prospect of their opponents’ humiliation they don’t know quite what to do with themselves.
* It's proof that I'm not the only person who reads Catallaxy only in order to be appalled. I might note a hilarious thing that happened this morning - Sinclair Davidson chose to delete one, presumably defamatory, line out of regular angry sad sack Tom's comment about Nikki Savva (widely despised for being a Turnbull supporter). I reckon that's a deletion rate of about one defamatory line per 10,000 in the comments threads, but whatever. Subsequently, regular commenter struth, wondering what Tom said, notes
...considering Tom’s usual level headed commenting style compared to someone like the political violence endorsing Monty,
I don't think he was trying to be funny, with that bit about "usual level headed commenting style".