Politics

The Moral Case For Heckling Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison is morally responsible for one of the biggest crises facing the human race. We are morally responsible for making sure he doesn't forget that.

Scott Morrison with coal

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Yesterday, Scott Morrison wandered around a town devastated by a bushfire, and tried to find himself a photo opp. He wasn’t successful.

Instead, Scotty From Marketing was met by furious residents who refused to shake his hand and threw insults at his rapidly retreating back. “Who votes Liberal around here?” one asked. “Nobody.” Another resident, walking a goat on a leash, followed the Prime Minister to his car and reminded him of all the ways that he had let the town down.

In the aftermath of the fracas, just one more disaster for a Prime Minister besieged by them, the citizens were roundly applauded — not least of all by Liberal Minister Andrew Constance, who opined that Morrison had gotten “the welcome that he deserved.”

But then there were the same old corners of the political sphere, grumbling the same old criticisms. According to Australia’s most petulant digital conservatives — and a handful of centrist journalists — the residents of Cobargo were “abusing” the Prime Minister, reducing the public discourse in the process and hurting their “lefty” cause.

This is an old game by now. In the past, these grumblings from egg avatars on Twitter have been eventually taken up by Newscorp columnists and public figures, who in turn have bemoaned the way that politics has been dragged to the gutter.

Just remember Andrew Bolt reacting against the egg hurled at the PM last year, or Adam Hills throwing a tantrum when the same thing happened to Fraser Anning.

So no, none of this is new. Every time a conservative politician is heckled, or taken to task, or socked with an egg, this same old argument about civility rears back up. Of course, right-wingers are less interested in having that conversation when it’s left-leaning politicians being targeted — even when left-leaning politicians are getting murdered.

But as the years have gone on, and more and more politicians have been made to face the consequences of their actions, now even some in the so-called “sensible centre” have argued for this out-dated and broken notion of decorum.

Australia’s media class is littered with well-off white people ready to leap to defend climate science-denying politicians, and so every few months we must suffer through a conversation about how the only way to enforce real change is to be polite, quiet, and respectable.

That’s not true. There is an imbalance of power between the rich and influential climate-deniers and those many millions of us who accept the science. Climate-deniers litter the hallways of public office. They own multi-national companies. They engage in behind-the-scenes dealings that most of us are not privy to.

As a result, silence, politeness, decorum, and an upholding of the status quo is exactly what those in power want. They’re not threatened by how things are and how things have been — if they were, they’d have done something about the forthcoming apocalypse by now.

Silence, politeness, decorum and an upholding of the status quo is exactly what those in power want.

Exxon has known about the worst effects of climate change since at least the seventies, but has lobbied for a reliance on fossil fuels in the decades since. What could make the CEO of Exxon change his mind? Do you think it’s politeness?

Of course, there are always bad faith commentators who will read a call to heckle and disrupt politicians as a call for violence. That’s not what this is. There is a clear — and legal — distinction between refusing to shake Morrison’s hand and hurting him.

The residents of Cobargo didn’t break the law — far from it. We all know that. It’s only those who lean on this broken and useless idea of “civility” who pretend that their actions live even in the vicinity of criminality.

No: nobody is calling for violence. What a lot of people are calling for is the need to make the forthcoming months as disruptive and unpleasant for Scott Morrison as is possible. He should be heckled out of restaurants. He should have his photo ops disrupted and the usual machinery of his public life broken apart.

That is because the usual machinery of his public life is designed to underplay the horrors of the forthcoming environmental apocalypse. And underplaying the horrors of the forthcoming environmental apocalypse is an act of mass violence.

Even if you ignore even the most moderate predictions from scientists, it’s clear that things are getting worse. Bushfire season is getting longer. Animals are facing extinction. Systems of support — food, water, power — are being threatened. We have a matter of years — years, not decades — to get things under control. If we don’t, human civilisation as we know it will end. It is that simple.

Scott Morrison holds direct moral responsibility for that future extinction. He is working to make it happen, consciously or not. Why should some outdated notion of respect tied to his position of power allow him to duck the consequences of his actions?

Life should not be made easy for people who ensure significant harm to many millions of people, both born and unborn. Scott Morrison is morally responsible for one of the biggest crises facing the human race. We are morally responsible for making sure he doesn’t forget that.


Joseph Earp is a staff writer at Junkee. He tweets @Joseph_O_Earp.