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Newsletter 376

Published February 8, 2021

Marjorie Taylor Greene was elected to the US House of Representatives despite her unconditional belief in every conspiracy theory, no matter how crazy. The Californian fires were started by Jewish space lasers? Nothing funny about that. The high school massacres either didn’t happen, or were orchestrated by Nancy Pelosi and the Clintons as a way of defaming gun owners? Sounds reasonable.

Any business that had an employee making such claims, and more, would have sacked her long ago. Yet in today’s Republican Party the looniest of looney ideas can be aired with impunity. To put a stop to it would be to risk offending Conspiracy Meister Trump and having him target you during the next pre-selection, or simply to expose oneself to routine threats of murder or mob violence from loyal party members.

The result is a party heading towards civil war and a historic split. With the exception of a few hardheads who have spoken up against the slide into Trumpian madness, the Republican ranks are composed of members who are too cowardly, too opportunistic and amoral to stand up for the most basic principles; and those who have a cynical – and utterly sinister – disregard for anything but power. In the case of Margory Taylor Greene, one sees a remarkable combination of stupidity, stubbornness and sadism. The Democrats are happy to portray Marge as the new Face of the Republican Party, and she will be glad to comply with this flatteringrole. Like most wild animals she can smell fear. In this case that means the weak, vacillating nature of leader, Kevin McCarthy, who is terrified of alienating Trump’s mob. Any attempt to ask her to tone it down is bound to fail. Every tiny provocation will lead to a new barrage of inflammatory, bizarre tweets. She’s already getting more media coverage than Kev and obviously enjoys the attention. She is, in fact, setting the agenda, like a mad horse pulling a cart while her so-called leader tugs helplessly on the reins.

Here in Australia, as usual, politics looks like a chldren’s TV version of what we see in the United States. Where America has a set of full-on extremists hankering for blood and violence, the Coalition has a bunch of buffoons such as Craig Kelly and George Christensen spouting tee-hee nonsense about the pandemic and climate change in willful contradiction of scientific and medical evidence. In America there is an extraordinary sense of danger in what is unfolding. In Australia, it’s a lame comedy routine.

For incomprehensible reasons Craig Kelly has been preserved from being ousted by his local party apparatus over two successive elections, first by Malcolm Turnbull and then Scummo. Feeling empowered by these escapes he has carried on a relentless campaign of disinformation, rightwing ratbaggery and childish attention-seeking. He has aligned himself with the Trump style of politics and blatantly contradicted his own party’s policies and statements whenever it suited him.

Last week, when Scummo finally decided to reprimand Kelly and call him into line, he fell into a cringing heap and promised to be a good boy. Marjorie Taylor Greene he ain’t. Meanwhile Scummo, after months of pretending everything was fine and nobody had any case to answer, quickly informed the press about what a strong, dynamic leader he had shown himself to be.

I know it’s a recurrent theme in these newsletters but the sheer vileness and hypocrisy of our Dear Leader always leaves me breathless. Everything he does is a stunt. His entire political strategy is based on the idea that nobody will remember today’s evil deeds and incompetence if you give them a snow job tomorrow. No minister is ever accountable for their actions, no matter how disreputable, but when he is finally forced to rebuke one vainglorious nitwit who has been allowed to blow his trumpet for years, it’s a chance to pose as a Big Man.

The pandemic may not be helpful to Opposition parties, but as Scummo plans an early election to take advantage of the times the Labor Party really has to make a bigger effort. Albo is sinking under the waves of ineffectuality and it’s clear that a new leader will be required to take the Party to the next election. Meanwhile the party has tied itself in knots again over climate policy. Rather than fighting to perserve the coal industry they should simply admit it’s dying a natural death and promote new jobs in the renewables sector. Labor has already lost the working class popular vote which is going increasingly to the right-wing fringe. Their only hope lies with middle-class Australians who have genuine concerns about their future in the light of Scummo’s relentlessly short-term thinking.

The Herald art column is becoming increasingly messed around by space issues with the Saturday supplement, and this is playing havoc with my regular filings as well. They now have two columns on hold and are running a piece on 2020: The Year in Review, which I’ll post as a blog this week while keeping the others on ice. As a bonus I’m adding a rather frivolous piece on swimming pools in Australian art that was published in the Herald about a week ago. The great worry is that the weekend paper will remain in its reduced state in the post-COVID era, turning space shortages and delayed articles into a permanent rather than temporary problem.

This week’s movie is The Nest, a slightly mixed-up family drama that features Jude Law as an ambitious finance whiz who allows his fantasies of extreme wealth to overpower his sense of reality. Much of the action centres around an old house which may or may not be haunted.

The film is set in the 1980s, when the finance industry was allowed to escape its shackles, resulting in the private wealth and public disillusionment of the present day. That’s the real horror story in the making, but I suspect that after three decades we’re still in the early chapters.