July 26, 2003


Australia’s conservative government remains popular, despite all the “lies” that led to war in Iraq. Hugh Mackay blames this on a population that has become:

... disengaged from the political, social and economic agenda ... we have taken our eye off the big picture. We don't want to know. We've shifted our gaze to the things we can understand and control - the minutiae of our personal lives ... we prefer TV programs about backyards to news and current affairs ... we have become more self-absorbed; we are obsessed with the idea of security ... we're more prejudiced and, correspondingly, less interested in information that might challenge those prejudices ... we have been destabilised by too many changes coming too quickly; we're tired of "issues", disappointed in our leaders and disturbed by our own sense of powerlessness ... we have taken refuge in the celebration of our ordinariness, our normality, our domesticity ... we're scared, so we've switched off.

Switched off what, Hugh? The television? The lights? The oven? Is that why we’re scared -- because all of us have left the oven on? Best that we all check, then. Mine seems to be OK.

The status of Gary Sauer-Thompson’s oven is unclear, although his mind is currently a little overheated. Yours may become so too, if you attempt to work out how someone with Gary’s literary skills became a university lecturer and published author. This apparent impossibility is known as The Sauer-Thompson Paradox. Pray for his students. Weep for his editors.

Who’s editing SBS news these days? An arch-sceptic, apparently. The Special Broadcasting Service is not yet convinced about recent events in Iraq:

Photographs of what are said to be the dead bodies of Saddam Hussein's two sons Uday and Qusay have been released by the United states.

Maybe I’ll send the news director an Achewood t-shirt.

Posted by Tim Blair at July 26, 2003 10:55 PM

It's always nice to see that somebodys else's liberal asscaps can be even more whiny, self-absorbed, condescending and deslusional than our liberals here in the U.S.

Thanks, Mr. Blair, for you continuing efforts. And good luck with your domestic asscaps.

Posted by: Whaq at July 26, 2003 at 11:31 PM

I don't know why people are always complaining about the apathy of the populace. Being super-politically engaged is usually a bad thing. The Nazis were very politically engaged. As were the Bolsheviks. Personally I'm happy that middle Americans, and apparently middle Australians, just like to lead a quiet life. It is one of their supreme virtues.

Posted by: Anne at July 27, 2003 at 12:26 AM

Uh, maybe people in Australia are into lame-ass things like "fun" and "entertainment" and "their own lives" because they're, I dunno, "content."

Right after 9/11, everyone in the States was into Hugh's type of "important" stuff. As the Onion said, "America longs to care about stupid shit again." Thanks to Bush, Blair, Howard, et al, we're free again to incessantly argue our uninformed opinions about Kobe Bryant. Hugh and his ilk can't see why that's a good sign.

Posted by: Dave S. at July 27, 2003 at 12:29 AM

The liberal media tend to be elitists who consider the masses to be easily led sheep. That's why they go into a condescending snit whenever those sheep refuse to be herded in the direction they want them to go. It never enters the brains of people like Hugh Mackey that people may have consciously reached different opinions...it has to be a matter of the people being too self-absorbed, distracted, or uninformed to listen. This has become a tired old act here in the US where the liberal media is becoming increasingly frustrated with an American herd that tends to wander wherever it damn well pleases.

Posted by: Randy R. at July 27, 2003 at 12:39 AM

Go to Streams to see what are purported to be pictures of my vacation in Taos, apparently taken by me. None of which can be confirmed.

Posted by: wallace at July 27, 2003 at 03:05 AM

I think the central contradiction in the McKay piece is apparent in his statements "we have taken our eye off the big picture" and "two-thirds of Australians believe they were misled over the reasons for the invasion of Iraq, the Prime Minister's standing with voters remains strong". It is precisely because Australians haven't taken their eyes off the big picture that they don't particularly care about the immediate justification for the war (assuming the Aussie public is thinking along the same lines as the American).

Having lost the debate on the appropriateness of 'the Battle of Iraq' as a part of the larger war, the left is now directing its criticism at details such as African uranium and has itself lost sight of the big picture.

And having lost the debate in this instance, there is the inevitable trashing of the public: "If you don't agree with us, it must be because you're all moronic sheep."

Posted by: Brian O'Connell at July 27, 2003 at 03:07 AM

"what are said to be the dead bodies"

Local radio used the phrase "purported to be"

Posted by: Ken Summers at July 27, 2003 at 06:50 AM

I think its safe to say that what the Australian public has switched off is Hugh Mackay.

The Left media has become completely disconnected with the rest of the Australian population, and articles like this just show that they are either too conceited or thick-headed to realise it.

The galling thing is that they choose to blame the other side (i.e. the public), then consider that there may, just possibly, be something wrong with them.

Posted by: wv at July 27, 2003 at 08:26 AM

Essentially the today's left wing not only thinks it is right, but thinks that it is smarter and/or better informed and educated than anyone that thinks differently. There is a strange kind of elitism to all of this. A roundabout method of sticking their fingers in the eye of the masses. Have you noticed of late how little effort acedemic types put into real life issues like a livable minimum wage or housing for the working poor. The reason why is that they don't care any more. There is little prestige for today's leftist in helping working people in Western countries, unless those working people are dependent on the left. There is also the contemporary leftist/liberal belief, somewhat obfuscated by politics, that the working poor deserve their lot in life because they are dirty and uneducated.

Posted by: mark at July 27, 2003 at 09:34 AM

Maybe Australians have finally woken up to the fact that lefties are whiny, snivelling dickwads who think someone else is responsible for every bit of shit that happens to them. Maybe they're pissed off with having to work two or three days a week to support people who are too lazy to support themselves. Maybe they're sick of rule-happy governments sticking their well-fed beaks into every aspect of their lives.
Or maybe we've all been brainwashed by Lawsie, Stan Zemarnek and the Parrot, who are going to stage a putsch and wrest control of the country from those pink-tinged Liberals; who cares, I'm going to the pub to watch "Backyard Blitz".

Posted by: Habib Bickford at July 27, 2003 at 12:15 PM

don't you really hate people who are convinced that voters don't vote their way, or answer poll questions in ways that agree with them, because society and modern life are too distracting to allow them to think straight?

Yes yes, if only we were as enlightened as you, our dear friends, we would surely agree and do everything your way, for surely no enlightened and thoughtful and well-informed soul could ever disagree with your perfect reasoning. So sad that the rest of us are so prejudiced and ill-informed, or simply too tired, frightened, dismayed and/or oppressed to vote your way or think your way.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at July 27, 2003 at 04:05 PM

Hugh is right.

Last night I watched the Wallabies/All Black Test. I drank beer and did not once think of Iraq, the government, refugees or Lesbians.

Once I thought the beer was a bit warm, so I swapped it for a colder one.

After the game I thought about how much I hate the All Blacks, I may have even sneered.

I did feel some sympathy for John Howard. Imagine how he must have felt with the Wallabies being beated by the sheep rooters on his birthday.

To make him feel better I will vote for him at the next election, just like I did at the last one.

It makes me feel safe, warm and secure to know that will cause Hugh pain.

Posted by: Gilly at July 27, 2003 at 11:07 PM

Well, Gilly, I'm obviously more politically aware and less complacent than you. On Saturday night I thought of unilateral invasions; of total subjugation of the local populace; of our own Information Minister, Eddie Jones, putting an optimistic spin on a clearly hopeless situation; of our country's leaders witnessing the attack, yet powerless to help; I thought of refugees arriving on our shores, apparently fleeing a desperate economy, but in reality as "sleepers", waiting to be called as support for the next attack on their enemies; and I thought of lesbians... in pairs... no, maybe that was another night.

Posted by: The at July 28, 2003 at 09:24 AM

There was a piece in the Inquirer section Saturday's "Weekend Australian" (no URL that I could find, sorry) that covered the same topic as Hugh Mackay's SMH article.

Anyone want to jump on The Australian as "left-wing elite"? :-)

Anyway, the gist of both articles seems to be that the public are not overly concerned with Government lies at the moment. Surely a point of concern, right?

Posted by: Geoff at July 28, 2003 at 09:37 AM

I love lamentations of this sort by left wingers who, frustrated that "the people" don't see or think like them, use every adjective to explain public opinion but the one they believe most truly--namely that the people are stupid.

Posted by: S.A. Smith at July 28, 2003 at 10:04 AM

Observation # 1: The people are stupid because we are not a communist state.

Observation # 2: If we were a communist state, the people would be noble participants in the struggle of life, dignified thinkers toiling away morning to night while the left-wing scribblers administrated the country and handed out the arts grants.

Conclusion: I'd rather be stupid.

Posted by: pooh at July 28, 2003 at 11:54 AM

...we have taken our eye off the big picture...we prefer TV programs about backyards to news and current affairs ... we have become more self-absorbed...we have taken refuge in the celebration of our ordinariness, our normality, our domesticity ... we're scared, so we've switched off...

Speak for yourself, Hugh. I certainly don't feel disengaged or uninformed. Why do you think you have the right to speak for the Australian population en masse. Who is this 'we', and why do you think you can speak on 'we's behalf? Replace the 'we' with 'me', and your article will be much closer to the truth.

Posted by: TimT at July 28, 2003 at 12:56 PM

Just in from academia (Berkeley): new research says that conservative ideologies, like virtually all belief systems, develop in part because they satisfy some psychological needs, but that "does not mean that conservatism is pathological or that conservative beliefs are necessarily false, irrational, or unprincipled."

So now you know. Conservative views are not 'necessarily' false, irrational, or unprincipled.

But they probably are. Sanctimonious cough. How's the weather down your way?

Posted by: pooh at July 28, 2003 at 02:07 PM

govts are a little like young children. both of them learn that they can get a long way by twisting the truth to suit their immediate needs. and both will continue to do it until caught, and suitably punished.

anyone old enough to recall the days when anyone charged with power was also made responsible if seen to be expedient with the truth? wasn't that long ago.

gotta go drop a whole bunch of hi-tech weaponry on dirt-poor people and end terrorism FOREVER! hasta luego y'all. should be back for dinner.


Posted by: chico o'farrill at July 28, 2003 at 03:59 PM

Firstly, must say I'm glad that a number of in-bred Americans have taken to ranting on this site. Hey seppo, get out of your mum's bed for a moment- in this country the 'liberals' are like you- right wing and stupid. Us condescending lefty "asscaps" (what IS an asscap, something you wear to avoid your brain toppling out?) are called pinkos, bleeding hearts, or the ultimate insult being lobbed about at the moment- an intellectual.
Genuine liberals in this country are represented by no party on the political spectrum, and within the party of that name they keep their heads down and say zilch.
I would primarily critique old Hugh on the basis that as far as I can tell being an intellectual has always been a point of scorn and ridicule in this country.
Sure, it is not unreasonable to suggest that academics, writers et al are one step removed from the day to day problems of "average" Australians. But where do you stop that- do you completely invert logic so that the more simplistic, less thought out, less educated a viewpoint, the more kudos it automatically attracts?
I might say having read a few of these blogs, that you deliverance country types sure have a chip about lesbians. Perhaps Berkely should have included penile inadequacy among the potential criteria leading to chronic conservatism?
Sorry, let you get back to mum....

Posted by: inbredredneck at July 28, 2003 at 05:01 PM

Wow, inbred, you seem, like, really intellectual.

Posted by: gaius at July 28, 2003 at 05:18 PM

Inbred, I've got Camille Paglia on the phone. She wants a few words with you about lesbians, academics and conservatives.

Posted by: pooh at July 28, 2003 at 05:35 PM

Certainlty has all the hallmarks- no reasoned argument, no logic, resorts immediately to personal abuse- sure that "inbredredneck" is not a nom de' plume for "David Marr" or "Phillip Adams"?

Posted by: Habib Bickford at July 28, 2003 at 05:36 PM


Being an intellectual you would have read some Douglas Adam's, bit of Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy maybe?

Well you remind me of Marvin the Paranoid Android, "Here I am, brain the size of a planet, it hurts just to think down to your level"

I would just like to thank you for taking the time to come down from your lofty heights to grace us with your presence and let us know how we should lead our miserable lives.

Where would we be without you? Does it get tiring being correct all the time? I hope the burden is not to great for you to bear. You must have copped some of that scorn and ridicule being the intellectual that you are. Has it scarred you? I mean having a naughty stupid heartless conservative government and Prime Minister.

And those nasty right wingers calling you rude names, "pinko, lefty, intellectual" they're brutes.

Have any of them called you a hippy scum? What about a dole bludging rent-a-crowd loser? What about plain old f#@kwit?

Posted by: Gilly at July 28, 2003 at 05:41 PM

No Gilly, i have a shaved head, so i dont get hippy. In fact i probably look like one of your heroes, minus the swastika tatooed on my arse.

And hitchikers guide, really, that's your idea of intellectual?? Small wonder you frequent this site. Bet you're still a virgin and watch star trek re-runs too (mum doesn't count).

Interestingly I didn't claim to be an intellectual, I just pointed out that we are currently in the process of slamming our intellectual classes, and that this country needs them.

And seriously, what DO you guys have such an issue with lesbians for? Anytime one of you feeble pissants reaches for the insult bucket you come out with lesbians- the topic could be war, greens, people who stayed at school past year 9, whatever your bugbear and it comes back to lesbians.

I'm not PC, I'd love nothing more than to kick back and watch a pair of ladies indulge themselves while putting down a fine ale- and on that i'm sure most males here agree with me- but at the same time you are all a bit obsessed when it comes to using them as a lefty catch-all.

Then again, what's to be expected given the unimaginative brownshirt rubbish most of you spew on policy questions.

Posted by: inbredredneck at July 29, 2003 at 12:32 PM

Yeah, pooh, I saw that item about conservatives and their psychological motivations as well. Two responses came to mind:

1) Are you guys so scared to admit that sometimes conservatives are sensible? What's wrong with trying to keep what's good about our way of life? Would you prefer that we swapped our 'archaic' democracy for something more progressive like, so, a totalitarian dictatorship?

2) While we're on the subject of psychological motivations, let me ask you - what are the psychological motivations behind progressive left-wing ideology? Arrogance? Pretentiousness? A need to impose your view of the world on others?

Posted by: TimT at July 29, 2003 at 01:35 PM

...desire for...a free market moderate at the extremes; competition to be genuine in order to encourage entrepreneurship on an individual level- by creating level playing fields in education, equal opportunity, and the removal of irrelevant considerations from employment and other gateway decision making processes; respect for human rights especially fundamental ones; a willingness to open dialogues with people such as aborigines, near neighbours, the islamic world rather than single mindedly shunting them; the quality of a society to be judged by how it looks after its most vulnerable as well as its GDP and other indicia; a recognition that power is not just a government function so that corporate entities might effectively exercise power, and do so in an undemocratic way.... etc etc.....

Posted by: inbredredneck at July 29, 2003 at 05:54 PM



Me? I personally am further to the right of Genghis Khan. I thought 'sanctimonious cough' was enough to alert readers to my sarcasm directed at the Berkeley researchers.

So your points one and two I quite agree with.

Posted by: pooh at July 30, 2003 at 04:43 PM