The level of hypocrisy in the Australian political landscape has sunk to an all time low since Abbott & Co. took to using Karl Rove's faux shock and horror routine, writes Bob Ellis.
IT PROBABLY comes from the Karl Rove book of tactics. And it involves a pretence of shock, and a public declaration that there has never been anything like it, ever before. Last week it was when it was discovered that Bill Shorten had professed his loyalty to Julia Gillard three days after that loyalty had grown wobbly.
Peacock, Howard, Costello, Turnbull and Abbott had done this before him, Beazley, Latham, Rudd and Gillard. They had said they were “a hundred per cent” behind their leader Howard, Peacock, Howard, Downer, Nelson, Turnbull, Crean, Beazley, Beazley and Beazley.
But we were told, last week, hand on heart – by Abbott, Pyne, Bolt, Reith, PVO, David Speers – that this had never happened before. Never ever. Shock horror. What a unique villain he is.
Last week, also, we heard the appearance of Zaky Mallah on Q&A was appalling, unprecedented, and grounds for selling off or starving the ABC. Not because of what he said on the show, but what he had written when he was nineteen, and had served his time for, that he would like to kill some men from ASIO. It was unprecedented, we were told, that such a man should be on Q&A, and that he had not been frisked for weapons before he was let in.
But Alan Jones had also, lately, been on Q&A. And he had threatened the life of Julia Gillard. He had said she should be towed out to sea and, in a sugar bag, thrown over the side. (See IA’s story on Jones’ history of bullying and offensive behavior). Steve Ciobo had been on the show on the same night. And he had to be reprimanded on Lateline for using the phrase “slit Julia Gillard’s throat”. (See IA’s story here). Chopper had been on the show after saying he had slit the belly of a friend, and had written about it in his book.
It is to be presumed that had Norman Mailer, who stabbed his wife, appeared on the show, there would have been no complaint. Or Roman Polanski. Or George W Bush, who illegally killed with firebombing and street-fighting a hundred thousand people in Iraq.
It was a near-run thing with Zaky. What he said was unexceptionable:
“it’s people like you, and the things you say, that make young Muslims want to join ISIS."
But he had threatened to kill someone, not meaning it, thirteen years ago, and a few weeks ago had expressed his lust – "gang bang" is not rape, it’s consensual, and frequent in the motel rooms of football stars – for a couple of female journalists whom he named.
Part of the trick is to quickly conceal what was actually said, and go into other details: how he was let in, what else he had said. With Peter Slipper it went quickly from his rorting of money – of which he was proven guiltless – and his office harassment of a male, of which he was proven guiltless, to what he had said – “cunts in brine” – in a private communication to a friend. For this vivid phrase he was hounded from office, made mad and ruined. The word “cunts” was shown to be a new word in the world, though it was old as Chaucer and a staple of English, Irish and American literature. And Australian drama also, as in the first words of Don’s Party, “G’day, cuntface”.
The feigned shock is the trick. And then the concealment of what was actually said, or done.
Let us imagine Malcolm Tucker was a real person – and I have met one of the men, John McTernan, he was based on — and he was accused, accurately, of violent threat and bad language, and told he could never, ever appear on Q&A. How stupid that would be.
Zaky Mallah, meanwhile, remains at large. He drinks coffee in Lakemba. He advises disaffected young Muslims not to join Daesh. No warrant is out for his arrest, no ASIO agent follows him, and photographs him, or records his phone calls. He has served the cause, he has provided the Karl Rove Moment, and he is no longer of interest to his persecutors.
It is as though he had never been.
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