Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Own goals and cheapshots


The "No Carbon Tax" protest rally (or #noCTrally for those of us on twitter) was held today in Canberra (and allegedly across the country, but the focus was on those bused in to the capital).

I'm not going into the politics of the debate itself, except to say I obviously disagree with it, and I feel that it's another appropriation of Tea Party methods, and the Republican-esque milking of it by the Liberal party is a sad reflection on the states of politics in Australia at the moment. I don't think it's ever a good sign that someone who could potentially have been PM (as we're constantly reminded) stands in support of a crowd that carries signs claiming the current PM is a bitch, liar, communist or fascist, or where sections of the crowd are apparently making anti-semitic comments and tying them to the carbon tax.

There are echoes of the billionaire RSPT rally in this, and I think it's equally as (in)valid as a reflection of the Australian public.

What I want to talk about, though, is the problem of a lot of the comments in response to the rally today, and maybe it speaks to the state of politics on both sides at the moment.

It didn't take a genius to see the mean age at the rally was probably about 60 (I'm really not joking about this - the fact a 70-year-old woman had to be treated by a doctor on site is an indication this was not your typical protest rally). Numerous comments were made about this, and on a purely "news" level, it's important to note.

And then, people who were clearly in opposition to the rally (me included), started to make jokes about the age of the protestors. It was humorous at first, Ben Pobjie (@benpobjie) making a commenting that the government was spreading rumours of "Midsomer Murders" being on to dissipate the crowd, several people noting (something based in fact) that most of these people were likely to be dead by the time any impact of climate change was felt (or possibly before the policy itself was even implemented). I myself tweeted, '"attention #noCTrally: your demands have been met, the BBC is filming new episodes of the Bill, you can all go home." *disperses*"' (retreated by a few people - someone cleverly pointed out that ITV actually made the Bill, but I digress). @ABCNewsIntern (an account I generally find hilarious, and a real minor celebrity on twitter) started with an hilarious comment, 'This week, "No Carbon Tax" rally. Next week, "Increase the Pension (Don't Make Me Eat Dogfood)" rally. Same people.' - and then proceeded to post over ten tweets of retirement denialism (you kind of have to see the stream to see what I mean).

A few of these tweets, particularly those above, made me stop. I suddenly thought - how does this look? We are sitting here and lamenting the disgusting personal attacks of this crowd (which is a fair call), and at the same time we're attacking this crowd based on their age. And they're voters. I mean, they're idiots (I will happily argue with you on this if you disagree), but apart from the suggestion that some may actually never feel the effects of climate change, age shouldn't really be a factor.

The science holds up, and the logic of the argument for a tax and/or a carbon trade system holds up economically. So why play the man? It cheapens the argument.

More than that, it plays into people's expectations of the left, and of twitter itself as a medium: that we're all out of touch greenies, that we're latte drinking young professionals who live in the city, that we're only interested in ourselves (the irony of this is ridiculous given the protestors today) and are not interested in those people on lower wages or (specifically here) pensions and can afford to pay for our idealism where "average australians" can't. It's also harder, and a touch hypocritical to then slam the crowd for making personal attacks on Gillard, Bob Brown (who responded magnificently to some in the crowd's suggestions that Gillard was his "bitch" with this letter), Garnaut, et al.

It's a small (perhaps petty) point, but I think one that should be made. Australian politics, I would like to think, or at least hope, is better than Tea Party protests and a bitter twitter stream response. Even if it's for a larf. See also suggesting that Christopher Pyne is gay for a joke, as rightly slammed by Mark Colvin (@colvinius) when it appeared on the "Q and A" on screen stream.

Which, I suppose, brings me to something else that my tweet stream seemed to go a little crazy over today:

Now, there are many reasons to hate McCain, and many reasons he would have been a horrible President. This is not one of them. It's a tweet from August 2009, at a time when America was largely apathetic towards Qadhafi. I think an "interesting meeting with an interesting man" is diplomatic speak for "that man is a fucking basket case". And lets face it, if you asked Obama about Qadhafi on the record a month ago, you would have got a similar response. It's called diplomacy. And if we're going to pin the US for supporting Qadhafi through hands-off diplomacy over the years, the Democrats are just as guilty as the Republicans. It's just a cheapshot.

The left seems to have taken to heart the long spouted accusation that they/we just don't "want it enough" to fight dirty. That our politics has got a stage where that's what we have to do to move anything, we have to wonder what kind of political system we, the people, are really encouraging as voters.

For further reading/listening, listen to the Life Raft Debate segment from "Save the Day", a This American Life episode, where Jon Smith argues that the dumbing down of education to maintain waning student attention is analogous to the current state of political debate.


  1. I think (...and I see that's my RT you've posted there) that you're reading a little too much into the McCain thing. I retweeted it because it was funny, for the most part, for that bland tweet from two years ago to make McCain look so wrong-footed in the present context. It shouldn't be taken any more seriously than that, although I'm sure some are doing so.

  2. Oh I know (we discussed it at the time), and I'm not targeting you - I'm more commenting on the fact it really did swamp my stream. I don't think most were retweeting it just for interest's sake - if you follow the tweets at the time after it being retweeted, most were condemning him for what was said.
    It's more that your retweet was the most readily available to me - I can remove your tag if you'd like!