There’s a group of broken progressives for whom ‘conservative’ and ‘stupid’ are synonymous. For them, people are only conservative for defective reasons: they’re racists, misogynists, poorly educated, or just devoid morality. In fairness, it’s the same contempt that most ordinary people have for the radical, unwashed left.
But there is a point at which we ascribe to conservatism that which we should ascribe to stupidity. The Bolt Report — hosted by known racist Andrew Bolt — invited known racist Gary Johns to discuss politics. Lo and behold, he said something racist:
A lot of poor women in this country, a large proportion of whom are Aboriginal, are used as cash cows, right? They are kept pregnant and producing children for cash.
It’s my understanding that the segment was prerecorded and not live. The producers of The Bolt Report had the opportunity, it seems, to prevent the statement going to air. They failed. When they then promoted the statement on social media, it was clear something very sinister was going on.[tweet https://twitter.com/theboltreport10/status/620030290153467904]
This isn’t innocent, good faith contribution to public debate. This is vandalism. The way to pull in an audience is to outrage the Left, and we end up locked into a fruitless discussion about Andrew Bolt’s and Gary John’s views about welfare.
This sort of thing does not belong on a national broadcast. It does not belong in public debate.
We see this again with the marriage equality debate. Homophobia hiding under the guise of ‘conservatism’ results in media companies trying to stir public discussions by debating homophobes. Thus Gerard Henderson’s surprise:
Kumi Taguchi was in the presenter’s chair. Ms Taguchi is an evident supporter of what is termed gay marriage. Soon Kumi Taguchi agreed with Fairfax Media’s Kate McClymont who agreed with ABC’s Emma Alberici who agreed with News Corp’s Ian McPhedran who agreed with Kumi who agreed with Emma who agreed with Kate who agreed with herself.
Gerard’s complaint, at its core, is that the ABC didn’t invite a homophobe to participate in the discussion. Bizarre. It is terrible enough that Indigenous Australians have to put up with Andrew Bolt and Gary Johns being malicious, now Gerard wants homosexual Australians to tolerate more vicious ‘debate’ at their expense.
The problem with Australian conservatism is groupthink — the very same crime alleged of the ABC. How routinely we see the same assertions, opinions, and intuitions paraded around News Corp and the Coalition. Australian conservatism is a closed shop for those who sing the same terrible hymns and chant the same horrible slogans.
There were a lot of valid reasons to criticise the ABC over the Zaky Mallah stunt. There were a lot of valid reasons to criticise the report from the Human Rights Commission into immigration detention. And so on and so forth. But Australia’s conservatives barely scratched the surface of those complaints because they were too busy jeering in tune. We all know why Chris Kenny, Andrew Bolt, Janet Albrechtsen, et al. were criticising the ABC: News Corp hates competing against a publicly funded broadcaster. The flimsiness of their arguments belied their infirm footing. In the end, we saw very little productive conversation about the ABC because everybody was too busy exercising pointless phantoms.
1947, Tory MP Quintin Hogg wrote The Case for Conservatism. In it, he demonstrated that there was a tension at the core of conservatism: it must both defend liberty from socialist types, and defend authority from antisocial, corporate types. The way to do this was through culture: God, King, and Country. Modern conservatism should have been about salvaging these ideals in a secular, multicultural age; instead, it turned into a shelter for rogues like Gary Johns and Andrew Bolt. When writing about the 1968 protests in France, Roger Scruton echoes Hogg’s sentiment: the protesters lacked the ‘culture’ to resist the populist left rhetoric.
In Australia, we have to rescue conservatism from the conservatives for the same reasons identified by Hogg and Scruton. We have a generation of public conservatives who lack the culture to defend both liberty and authority. Instead of cultivating a public space, we get offensive nonsense broadcast to us on an hourly basis. Gary John’s comments about Indigenous women being ‘cash cows’ should be a wake up call to conservatives. Instead, it was used to advertise a conservative chat show. Contemporary conservatism is cultureless garbage.
Ultimately, the problem is that the majority of public conservatives are bankrolled by unsavoury types whom Hogg would have us admonish, or are openly partisan through links to the Coalition. For all its wrong-headed faults, at least progressive Australia comes in a variety of different colours; Australian conservatism has reduced to the Coles and Woolworths of atrocious behaviour.