In the new movie adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairytale ‘Hansel and Gretel’, the siblings survive the horrors of the house full of lollies and grow up to become fanatical witch hunters, seeking the evil creatures out and destroying them wherever they may lurk.
‘We kill witches. What do you do?’ asks Hansel in the movie trailer, his American accent slightly at odds with the medieval eastern European backdrop, as he goes about demonstrating his and his sister’s hobby with perhaps a little more enthusiasm for blood, gore, sadism and dismemberment than is strictly necessary, or indeed healthy. The script doesn’t appear to offer much in the way of intellectual enlightenment or human insights other than informing us repeatedly that witches are ugly and despicable creatures that should be done away with as violently and as theatrically as possible. Guilty until proven innocent; not that there’s much likelihood of the latter.
A bit like drug-taking sportspeople. Or retirees with around a million bucks in their superannuation portfolio. Or bosses who won’t automatically give you a part-time job when you come back from producing a sprog. Or people who live in the wrong postcode. Or live cattle exporters. Or bosses who think you’re useless. Or people who say nasty things about your social origins or political opinions. Or celibate priests. Or mining moguls. Or shock jocks. Or journalists who don’t work for Fairfax or the ABC…
The list goes on and on. The strategy of the modern Labor party is to personify an issue and then demonise those who are opposed to it. Loudly, and with as much hullabaloo as possible. Thus, we get Nicola Roxon wanting to change laws not for legal reasons but so ‘bad people’ will know ‘what behaviour is expected of them’. In New Zealand our Prime Minister refers to the ‘hated’ WorkChoices policies of her predecessors, that ‘did so much damage’. We get Jason Clare with his Torquemada-esque title of ‘Justice Minister’ promoting his own horror flick — The Blackest Day in Australian Sport — and declaring untold numbers of hard-working Aussie sportsmen and women guilty of doping without any proof. Sounding like a character straight out of The Crucible, a leading NRL coach laments ‘They want us to confess to something — I am racking my head what we have got to confess to.’ We get a debate about improving education standards conducted via the ridiculous Mandela-like personification of ‘Gonski’ and the sneaky slogan ‘igiveagonski’. Dare to ‘notgiveagonski’ and, ipso facto, you are guilty of not caring about our kids’ education. Bad person!
And then there’s the man dubbed by Eurohorror magazine as the World’s Greatest Witch Hunter portraying middle-class Australians who have played by the rules and accumulated enough super to ensure they won’t be a burden on the public purse in their old age as class enemies and thieves who are greedily stealing the national wealth and deserve to be punished by being immersed in a boiling vat of hot new taxes.
And that’s before we get onto the branding of a certain national leader as a ‘hater of women’.
Of course, lovers of moral equivalence and balanced reporting would be quick to point out that, as usual, I am being grotesquely one-sided. Indeed, that as a writer I am a repeat offender myself when it comes to demonising those on the Left. Surely the paragraphs above prove it?
No. Portraying individuals as inept, stupid, incompetent, foolish, ideologically driven, blinkered, mistaken, hypocritical or moronic is not the same as portraying them as morally wrong. For the Left, it’s always goodies versus baddies. The presumption of those on the Left, be it in politics, the media, or among the latte-sippers of Annandale and thereabouts, is that there is a moral component to all political decision-making, as opposed to an intellectual one. Climate change deniers or sceptics, by refusing to ‘believe’ in the modern dogma, are evil and should be fervently denounced.
Big business is intrinsically morally corrupt, and requires constant government supervision simply to ‘protect’ its ‘victims’, i.e. workers. People employed on the public purse are inherently doing ‘good’, whereas those employed in private enterprise, small business or even trades are greedy and simply looking out for themselves. Farmers and cattle exporters who unknowingly allow poor practices in overseas abattoirs are vile individuals who deserve to feel the full wrath of the lynch-mob.
By and large, the Left believe their opponents are plain bad, whereas the Right suspect their opponents are plain stupid.
So to many on the Right the carbon tax is bad not because it’s ‘immoral’ (although there was that promise) but because it’s dumb: it won’t reduce global emissions one jot, but it will damage our competitiveness and productivity. Unions are bad not because they are all corrupt (although some clearly have been) but because it is insanely stupid to put unnecessary and excessive constraints on wealth creation. Unrestrained bureaucracy and ever-increasing welfare entitlements are moronic for the same reason. Anything that hinders productivity and growth in Australia will simply allow it to flourish among our competitors, leaving us poorer in the long run. Not evil. Just stupid.
But by shoehorning a moral component into any political argument, the Left instantly galvanises its supporters and removes the requirement for proper debate. Witness Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury’s knee-jerk response to the ‘Tony goes troppo’ suggestion: a leaked discussion paper on the benefits of an economic zone to the north. Instinctively, this western Sydney Labor MP denounced it on moral grounds; that it would ‘force’ people in his electorate to relocate from their homes to some imagined hell-hole up north.
No mention of how such an idea might actually tie in with Labor’s ‘Asian century’, or genuinely ‘close the gap’ for indigenous Australians. All we got was big bad business wrenching happy Penrith families asunder, in some bizarre Dickensian replay of the evils of the industrial revolution.
The assumptions behind his statements are extraordinary, and display a lack of understanding of how economies (and countries) grow that is startling from an Assistant Treasurer. Businesses seeking to improve their bottom line are inherently bad. Businesses exist for the benefit of the workers. Businesses that relocate themselves are immoral.
Disappointingly, Tony Abbott himself walked away from discussion about the proposal, not because he failed to see any merit in it but rather because he is clearly adopting a ‘small target’ strategy as Labor trip over themselves in a seemingly never-ending farce of mishaps and backflips.
So we never got the discussion of the issues that we deserve. Clearly, anyone hoping for a genuine ‘battle of ideas’ in the next eight months is going to be sorely disappointed.
Instead, expect a whole lot more good versus evil. And any number of witch hunts.
Rowan Dean is associate editor of The Spectator Australia.