Politics Opinion

Scott Morrison's ego is killing democracy

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The vanity of our Prime Minister along with a complicit mainstream media have destroyed the fabric of democracy, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.

MILLIONS OF WORDS have been written about Prime Minister Scott Morrison, including a few from me, in what I think is an effort to come to grips with his unrelenting awfulness. Decent people don’t get half the attention. They must make do with praise and admiration rather than bookloads of complex analysis.

There’s something about unrelenting awfulness that compels us to description and naming. It’s an attempt, I think, to relieve the uncomfortable emotions aroused by mastering them with language. And indeed, language is the only weapon we have against the awfulness, assuming we aren’t contemplating a physical response.

Whether or not Morrison reads any of these words is impossible to ascertain, however, what is clear is that they make no difference to him. They may even make him worse — it’s hard to tell. Given that he appears to have several of the characteristics attributable to the narcissistic personality he may be delighted to receive the attention, no matter that it’s negative. 

I imagine that Morrison has always been driven by the desire to see how much he can get away with. There are people who are compulsively anti-authoritarian yet paradoxically become authoritarians — Scott may be one of them.

This would in part explain why he is determined to undermine as many of our democratic institutions as possible, with his animosity towards the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) being the current example of this ambition. Morrison abhors the concept of accountability, particularly the kind demanded by democratic institutions.

At the same time, he professes a profound belief in a Pentecostal religious cult that, conveniently for him, preferences the importance of God’s laws over those made by man. ICAC and other institutions are therefore a personal affront, psychologically and spiritually.

Driven by anti-authoritarian instincts validated by complementary religious belief and in pursuit of his barely disguised desire to be an autocratic leader, the Prime Minister is engaged in the project of dismantling the institutions of democracy that, awkwardly, require accountability. Like former U.S. President Donald Trump, Scott’s plan is to retain the appearance of democracy by peopling its emptied shell with members of his own ideological tribe.

For example, it is his stated goal to establish some kind of federal body that conceptually oversees parliamentarians, a body that in practice has no teeth at all, but can be shown to exist, its existence used to prove democratic intentions. In much the same way, Parliament, the heart of the democratic project, now sits so rarely it is of limited use as a tool of accountability. However, nobody can deny that it and the Westminster system it represents exist — ergo, democracy.  

Through the enactment of this plan, democracy eventually becomes a meaningless concept. What we are left with is the simulacrum of democracy. All we have left is the performance. It is a coup from the inside, bloodless and not requiring the military. Unless you’re well engaged with politics, you might not even notice.

A coup such as this one requires a complicit media to act as the propaganda arm of the Government. The population must be reassured that all is well and the necessary safeguards are apparently in place. Government and media, in a symbiotic relationship, control the narrative.

It’s sometimes assumed that the majority of the Australian media is gullible, hoodwinked by Morrison into unquestioningly publishing his spin. In fact, Morrison does not and cannot control the media barons and can be brought entirely undone by Rupert Murdoch, for example, while being unable to exercise any control over the billionaire’s News Corp empire. Murdoch picks governments and Murdoch can withdraw his favours. Scott is his servant, not the other way around and should Scott cease to be of use, he will go.

When the interests of media barons are indistinguishable from those of a government dedicated to destroying democracy in the pursuit of authoritarian populism, you have the perfect storm. In Australia today, we have that perfect storm and Scott Morrison is its perfect political leader.

Which is not to say that Morrison will inevitably be returned to government. His precursor, Donald Trump, was not. However, the Republican Party he led bears little resemblance to that of earlier Republican presidencies and a similar observation can be made about the Liberal Party in Australia.

In seeking to destroy institutions, both Trump and Morrison have been instrumental in destroying the fabric of the Parties that gave them power. The Liberal National Coalition has within its ranks representatives of the hard Right that seek to emulate Trumpian Republicans. How powerful this faction is and how profound its effect on the Party remains to be seen.

This is a long game. The destruction of democracy won’t be achieved overnight. Yes, an election may be lost, but that offers an opportunity for powerfully destructive opposition, leading to victory next time. While you, the vanquished, wait it out, you’ve left the victors with a mess it will take decades to clean up.

Dr Jennifer Wilson is an IA columnist, a psychotherapist and an academic. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep.

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