When you tried to spit the venom out your words were not so clear… Review of Andrew Bolt’s ‘Worth Fighting For’

I read this so that you do not have to.

I would believe that Andrew Bolt has probably the largest audience of any commentator in Australia.  If not, he’d definitely be within the top five.  Worth Fighting For brings together a collection of his articles and blog posts over the past decade, spanning subjects such as people he hates, topics he hates, and movies he hates.  ‘Hateful’ would describe this book if I believed for a moment that Bolt was capable of feeling ordinary emotions.  This book makes me doubt that.  Bolt demonstrates that he is incapable of understanding beauty in the experiential sense: he is too cold, clinical, and robotic to grasp the affective dimension to the world around him.

Reviewing this book is extremely difficult.  There are so many questions left unanswered.  Why did this get published?  Who would buy this book?  Are there really people like Andrew Bolt wandering the Earth, with vast gaping voids where their souls are supposed to be?

As I note distressingly often in this blog, I’m conservative.  A book of essays by a conservative commentator should fill me with exuberant joy.  Instead, I was confronted with a book that filled me with eldritch terror.  Imagine being a person who reads this noise day in, day out.  Imagine being a person who reads this and thinks: ‘Yeah!  All terrorists are Muslims, so we should restrict migration.  Yeah!  Aborigines probably faked the Stolen Generations and what they really need to do is take responsibility for their dispossession.  Yeah!  Tim Flannery resorting to obnoxious overstatements do prove that global warming is a conspiracy!’

It’s a disturbing book.  I like to be confronted by new ideas, challenged by creative arguments, and disrupted by marginalised perspectives.  But this book made me feel gross.  Page after page of mundane, small-minded hatred oozes from the page, encouraging you to participate in its 30 seconds of hate.

And so many of the arguments are disingenuous.  Bolt’s trick is to present some ‘commonsense’ fact and then package it with prejudice.  You agree that extremism is a problem, so therefore you agree that there’s a problem with Islam.  You agree that there are garbage commentators on the ABC, so therefore you agree that the ABC is breaking the law by not having balance.  You agree that a left wing commentator over egged their rhetoric, so now you believe that climate scientists are like pilots destined for Bali who end up in Saudi Arabia…

There’s no elegance to the writing.  There’s no shades of meaning or entertainment of other people’s views.  It’s just a sledgehammer of text.  There’s no rhythm.  There’s no poetry.  Just clunky clunk clunk sentences, often with inhuman inflection.  Bolt writes like a robot trying to pass as human.

Bolt is incapable of understanding other people.  When he quotes somebody else, it is not to engage in debate but to showcase how stupid they are (or, in the rare case that he is quoting somebody with favour, it is just to note that he agrees).  The most bizarre example of this was when Bolt is discussing a letter written by Vincent Van Gough.  Bolt quotes slabs of it and scatters short interjections to indicate breaks in the text.  It’s like a serial killer’s note composed of magazine cuttings, but where the net result is the original magazine article and not some independent message to an audience.

There is no real reason for this book to exist.  It doesn’t add anything new to the debate, nor does it show how Bolt’s views have refined over time.  There’s no growth in this book.  On the contrary, it instead shows the paucity of Bolt’s thinking.  So often we see the same quotes deployed for a wide variety of work.  His characters are frozen in time, endlessly repeating snippets of ideas that show that they’re criminals (see, in particular, any Muslim characters presented in the book who say nothing but bombing Christian countries is morally laudable) or that Bolt is on the side of the angels (see, in particular, the use of Martin Luther King quotes, stripped of all political, anti-white bite).  Bolt’s writing is the embodiment of mayonnaise on white bread.

Perhaps the problem is that the book suggests some kind of authenticity.  Here, dear reader, see the best of Andrew Bolt’s writing and get to know him as a man.  This might be a mistaken expectation.  Should we believe that Bolt would reveal himself in his writing?  Is this a performance?  Is Bolt a shallow caricature of himself, played for outrage and contrarian controversy?  It would be more charitable to believe this than to believe Bolt is actually this shallow and vapid.  At times, there are hints of a real man lurking in the shadows of the text.  A man who was once an awkward child, growing up in Darwin, believing to his core that he was Dutch.  A man who, at age 17, finally visited Holland and realised that he wasn’t, in fact, Dutch.  A man who loved his dog.

But Bolt is really a character defined by what he isn’t, defined by what he opposes.  Bolt stands in for the man who is afraid of change, afraid of difference, incapable of introspection and self-analysis.  What is Bolt’s cultural identity except as defined by what it stands against — elites, environmentalists, Muslims?  There is no substance to his conservatism, but mere hostile reactions.

And, finally, there is Bolt’s grasp of art.  He has no grasp of art.   He is utterly cultureless.

I don’t understand why this book exists.  Read something joyful instead.  Read something that inspires you to be a better person.  Read something that challenges you to defend your views, or something that romances you into believing something new.  Leave this hatred in the remainders bin where it belongs.

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