Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Expressions of incredulity that Australia voted conservative

This is a completely unscientific survey. For those, like me, who like to know what’s been happening online since the May federal election, however, this will contain some insights. I started the survey on 13 July and it ran for about 10 days, ending on 23 July.

I have separated the tweets into categories, as is my wont, to make the piece more readable and easier to understand. On some days there were more tweets that caught my attention than on others, and this might have had something to do with the issues that were being discussed by people on the #auspol hashtag, which a lot of the tweets below contained. This survey is a lament, if you want to find a genre to classify it among similar kinds of articles. The overriding emotion was sadness and there was also a fair bit of confusion. If you want to read another, similar, account of political crisis, I can recommend Bret Easton Ellis’ brilliant ‘White’ which was published this year and which I reviewed on the blog early last week.

In his book, Ellis recounts a number of conversations that he had with different people following the election of Donald Trump in 2016. His book goes up to 2018, where the stories stop due to the requirements of publication. So the book finishes with a kind of study of futility as people responded in various ways to Trump’s election. Many of Ellis’ friends are progressives, but not all of them. For his progressive friends he had difficulty discussing politics because of the extreme polarisation that Trump embodies. Ellis’ boyfriend at the time was, basically, almost catatonic with frustration and despair and it looks like he stopped bathing or going out of their apartment.

You see some of the same kind of emotions expressed in what follows. This is by no means as rich in detail as the passages in Ellis’ book that deal with the election outcome and its aftermath. This is, to be frank, quite a poor version of the same thing. But I hesitate to apologise for this shortcoming, having at least gone to the trouble of finding tweets to classify. The categories I have used are:
  • General resignation and regret
  • Blaming Shorten
  • Link to current issues
  • Blaming Murdoch
  • Scapegoating Peter Dutton on account of his increased majority
General resignation and regret

At 9.12am on 13 July a Perth account with 111 followers tweeted, “Dumb Australians voting for a dump Australia. To [sic] many old self-centred, self-focussed neandertals [sic] in [sic] voted for stupidity.” Another account, one with 447 followers that is based in Melbourne, retweeted that tweet plus added this comment: “Why progressive politics (keep) losing, in a nutshell.”

On the same day at 9.37am an account with 296 followers tweeted, “We really do need to stop blaming the politicians. We elect these idiots. It is our fault. They win because their message has majority appeal. People would rather believe the lie than engage with the harsh truth.” I responded to this person with this: “Precisely. But then they start blaming the community for electing the ‘wrong’ people to power.”

On 17 July a Sydney account with 1654 followers tweeted, “Can we wind back to 18 May and rerun the election.”

On 19 July at 9.24pm an account with 4084 followers tweeted, “When will Australians start using their brains you reckon they have? Voting in a happy clapper is not demonstrating intelligence.”

Blaming Shorten

On one day in mid-July at 11.55am an account with 1679 followers tweeted, “People are going to rue the day they voted for the Liberal Party simply because they didn't like Bill Shorten.” This tweet included a retweet of a tweet from the same person that had gone up a minute earlier that said, “’[But] I just wonder if maybe what happens – at a deeper level sometimes – a country sometimes makes a judgment about people over time, and I just wonder if they just decided ‘we are not electing Bill Shorten’,’” This quote came with a link to a Guardian story by Amy Remeikis titled, “Alastair Campbell on the 'populist virus' and why Bill Shorten lost.”

Link to current issues

On 13 July at 9.06am an account with 373 followers tweeted, “And yet half of Australia voted for these monsters....shame on this govt.” This was in response to a tweet that had gone up five hours before that said, “Aged care funding for nursing homes cut by $1.2bn in federal budget.”

At 7.14pm on 13 July an account with 209 followers tweeted, “I do not recognise Australia right now. I'm finding it hard not to look at some ppl & wonder how they voted & how they feel now.” This tweet came with another tweet from an account with 139 followers that had tweeted, “WELL FANCY THAT! The only Journalistic Outlet to actually attempt to hold this #CorruptCoalition @LiberalAus accountable, get TAGGED as the ENEMY. Congratulations AUSTRALIA you nearly have what you voted for [:] a FASCIST Govt.” This had an image with it that showed a story headline from an ABC website. The journalist was Felicity Caldwell and the headline read, “ABC described as ‘enemies’ of the LNP at state convention.”

On 14 July at 9.59pm an account with 63 followers tweeted, “The French proletariat on a national holiday sing 'anticapitalista!' In the streets. Australians drown their brain in piss and elect pentecostal [sic] evangelical morons to government. Such a contrast.” The link was to the French national day, 14 July.

On 15 July at 8.10pm an account with 191 followers tweeted, “Retirees have also remember [sic] that they believed the lies #SloMo and Palmer spread before the election. Seems all the bad things the Government promised Labor would do, have been done by our Penticostal [sic] PM. You voted for this shit.” The tweet referred to the government’s announcement the day before about the deemed rate of interest for part-pensioners, earned on savings, which is used to calculate their payments as the pension is paid in full only to people with no savings. The government calculates the amount of money to pay to such people by assuming a certain return from investments, but this was considered by experts to be unreasonable since real interest rates have gone down in recent months due to the Reserve Bank’s cutting of the cash rate to a record low. Returns from term deposits had gone down as well in this climate of low interest rates.

On 15 July at 10.11pm an account with 90 followers tweeted, “Just because the nation was ready for change doesn’t mean the government they so ignorantly re-elected was ready to change a god damn thing in respect to indigenous recognition! @ScottMorrisonMP has made himself very clear.” This tweet related to the issue of the Voice to Parliament that had been requested by the Referendum Council in 2017.

On 19 July at around 7pm an account I follow with around 39,100 followers retweeted a tweet from the ABC’s ‘The Drum’ program that had gone up at 6.33pm, that said, “’It's disgraceful. The policies are woefully inadequate. They are not in line with what the experts recommend they need to be. It's terribly unfair the next generation of people are going to be left feeling the true impact of climate change.’ (2/2) @AnikaMolesworth.” The guy I followed added with his own tweet, “And yet the population continues to vote for these policies and the myopic politicians who peddle them.”

Blaming Murdoch

On 13 July at 6.25pm a Gold Coast account with 922 followers tweeted, “"The simple truth is that we are being outgunned by the brute power of billionaires. And the same can be said for democracy." Extremely familiar, Sally! Eg: #Murdoch's #LNP #IPA strategy to ‘Kill Bill’ & outright #lies about #Labor policies pre-election!”

The same day at 6.49pm an account with 56 followers tweeted, “These #Murdoch stooges will never be satisfied until they get a PM they can bend to their every will. What they did to Turnbull, they will do to Morrison. They want Spud, already a useful idiot for corporate media.”

Scapegoating Peter Dutton on account of his increased majority

At 6.55pm a Melbourne account with 1058 followers tweeted, “’When something's before the courts, like when ppl take Peter Dutton to court, you...respect legal processes.’ Set in his ways: flogging a dead horse on Dutton, over whom ppl were so outraged they re-elected him, + the govt, w a bigger majority.” The tweet came with a link to a blogpost by Tim Blair on the Daily Telegraph website.

On 18 July at 5.27am an account with 15,503 followers tweeted, “The principles & values of a democracy are not the principles & values of this Govt. This has been clear to anyone looking for sometime [sic]. Just think how they won re-election - anything but democratic.”

This tweet came in response to a series of tweets that started on 25 July at 4.25pm when John Lyons, the ABC’s executive head of news, tweeted, “AFP/HOME AFFAIRS: Timeline of a remarkable week. Monday June 3 an official from Home Affairs Dept calls 2GB’s Ben Fordham demanding to know a source; Tuesday June 4 AFP raid @annikasmethurst home; Wed June 5 AFP raid ABC; Thurs June 6 AFP was planning to raid News Corp Sydney HQ.” In response to this, journalist (and now academic) Peter Greste tweeted on 16 July at 7.11am, “How did one of the wold’s great liberal democracies come to this? Is this REALLY the kind of state we want to live in?”

The tweets were in relation to a pair of raids by the Australian Federal Police targeting journalists that had caused a great deal of commentary in public by journalists and citizens. Peter Dutton is the minister for home affairs, the organisation that oversees the AFP. The problem with a lot of the commentary that appeared in the wake of the raids is that accusing the government for the actions of the AFP is actually more than a bit paranoid. There was no indication that the government knew about the raids before they took place and, in fact, after they had taken place the prime minister said publicly that his government supports a free media. And to suggest that there was anything undemocratic about the government’s election was just laughable.

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