Maybe Tony Abbott Is Just Trolling Us All

Feel that indignation rising? Scarcely able to form a coherent response to such a display of arrogance? Perfect. You're now the Hysterical Left.

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No, I’m serious.

There is a popular orthodoxy that runs thus: Somehow, the keys to the Lodge have fallen into the hands of a chauvinist flat-earther, a chancer with no coherent political views and a dangerously reductive worldview. The theory goes that this man has attained power either as a result of a) an Australian electorate that considered anything to be preferable to the soap opera that is Labor in 2013, or b) a majority of the populace being struck down with a sudden case of ethical myopia. A third possibility — that the majority of the populace know exactly what Tony Abbott is about and are way down with it — seems kinda ridiculous, but can’t be ruled out.


I know. Take your time. Re-read it if you have to.

Tony Abbott is to gaffes what I am to hitting snooze without even opening my eyes. He’s a natural, the chosen one. In case you missed it:

“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year…”Sydney Morning Herald, February 9, 2010

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.” Four Corners, March 15, 2010

[On homosexuality] “I’d probably feel a bit threatened”Sixty Minutes, March 5 2010

“The climate change argument is absolute crap.” — quoted in 7.30 Report, February 2, 2010.

His greatest hits all have one thing in common: they all show either ignorance of or contempt for a  cause célèbre of the leftist intelligentsia: to their priorities, to their worldview. He is the ultimate Straight White Man, claiming dominion over women’s bodies, their careers*, their reproductive rights. He insists that the LGBT community be denied equal standing in society on account of his own personal beliefs. He has generously offered himself up as the “Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs”, despite “an overwhelming swing away from the coalition” in significantly Indigenous electorates.

Yes, his unpleasant, retrograde views are his own and not cooked up by a focus group, but it’s probably time to stop acting like his knack for framing these views in the most inflammatory way possible is a mere coincidence, or the result of breathtaking intellectual feebleness.

Since the election, Abbott has maintained a dignified silence while diligently realising the worst fears of the left. Just to recap, in his first three days in office, Abbott has:

–      Shut down Professor Tim Flannery’s Climate Commission.

–      Abolished the science portfolio and split its duties between the Minister for Industry and the Minister for Education. (The sport portfolio remains intact.)

–      Merged AusAID with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

–      Sacked three department heads in the public service.

–      Created a ‘Bleeding Heart’ portfolio, delegating all the Labor-ish bits of governance — multicultural affairs, aged care, disability, housing, and migrant and refugee settlement (don’t laugh) — to Kevin Andrews.

–      Appointed himself as Minister for Womens Policies and Programs and Indigenous Affairs.

Let’s just dwell on that last one, shall we? Feel that indignation rising? Scarcely able to form a coherent response to such a display of arrogance? Perfect. Tony just trolled you.

Emanating from a right-wing archetype such as Abbott, such words and actions reduce intelligent, compassionate, reasonable commentators to blind rage. They provoke his opponents into behaving in the sort of shrill, self-righteous, elitist (see Jeff Sparrow in The Guardian for an excellent exposition of this point), hypocritical manner that the Murdoch press has long claimed to be characteristic of the left, creating a veritable paddock of straw men and straw women bleating from the wayside at those with the courage to travel the road of progress.

Moving away from that baroque metaphor, Abbott’s conduct is so infuriating — and so ingenious — because he simply doesn’t engage with criticism at the level of its articulation. The consistent objectification of females doesn’t suggest a pattern of misogyny; bragging about your hot daughters is nothing worse than daggy, an awkward articulation of loving pride, end of discussion. Without engagement, there’s no debate. And if there’s no debate, there’s no chance for reasonable rebuttal.

There’s just an impotent rage, a stream of invective, and all of a sudden, Tony Abbott is the victim.

That’s right, he’s your victim, because you’re not merely you, you’re The Left, a Latte Sipper with a Sense of Entitlement and no understanding of the Real Australia. You’re a Do-Gooder who would rather piss Taxpayers’ Money against the wall than offer Hard-Working Australians a Fair Go. You’re not angry because Abbott’s views offend your sense of fairness and make you ashamed to be Australian: you’re angry because Snivelling Outrage is the Default Position of The Left.

In the past, Abbott has expressed his belief that the office of Prime Minister would “raise him to a higher status“, to confer upon him its innate nobility. Possibly this was more out of hope than expectation — but if he is able to lower the quality of the debate that surrounds him while remaining silent himself, he will have realised his ambition by default: Statesman Tone, above the fray.

Edward Sharp-Paul is a freelance writer and drink-pourer from Melbourne. His words can be found at FasterLouder, Mess+Noise, Beat and The Brag. He also runs his mouth off under the cunning alias @e_sharppaul.