Trump, Johnson and Morrison: Clown or horror show?

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Two of the three: Donald Trump and Scott Morrison (image via Twitter).

It’s tempting to compare of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison as the Three Stooges, but such thinking is a mistake, says Dr Martin Hirst.

THE BUMBLING TRIO seem to have a lot in common with Larry, Curly and Mo. However, characterising the US President the UK and Australian Prime Ministers as hapless comedic anti-heroes is a big mistake.

Yes, we can laugh at the Trump's obvious exaggerations, roll our eyes over Johnson’s boorish lad schtick and grimace over Morrison’s smirking arrogance, but we also have to take them seriously.

All three of them have the potential to do great harm: to their own nations and around the globe.

They are united in one aspect of their respective missions: they want to remake their countries in their own image and they’re also united by their obvious lack of compassion for the less fortunate among their citizens.

Most of us are familiar with Trump. He’s been President now for two-and-a-half years and he was in the public consciousness for years before that thanks to the global power of reality television.

It’s hard not to conclude that there are two sides to Trump — his deep-seated bigotry and his ignorance to the most basic of truths. This is a very dangerous combination when his base instincts are guided by an overwhelming narcissistic belief in his own genetic, intellectual, racial and sexual superiority.

This leads Trump to a calculus that pandering to the racist ignorance of his supporters, doubling down on his lies and blaming the "fake" and "failing" news media for problems of his own making is a winning strategy.

It seems that Boris Johnson has drawn similar conclusions across the Atlantic. Donald Trump has praised the new British Prime Minister’s crash or die-trying approach to Brexit and he’s made all sorts of impossible promises about new US-UK trade deals that will somehow materialise when Britain finally (if it ever does) withdraws from the European Union.

Johnson has promised that there will be a final reckoning in a couple of months, deal or no deal and he is blithely ignoring all of the doomsayers and their warnings of a crashed and tanked economy and predictions that the UK will run out of food, medicine and fuel within weeks of the leave date.

Johnson is widely caricatured as Trump’s English doppelganger and this is a comforting trope made easier to imagine because of their uncanny resemblance to fumbling obnoxious cartoon characters.

Johnson is also like Trump in other ways. He has made remarkably racist comments about black Britons and Muslims; he is a philanderer and he’s also recently been caught up in a heated, perhaps abusive, scene with his current girlfriend.

He also has a callous disregard for the truth and is full of elitist contempt for ordinary people. Like Trump, Johnson is an incompetent leader who famously hates to work too hard, doesn’t read briefing papers and who is insulting to those who dare to challenge his views publicly or in private.

It has to be said that Australia seems to have got off lightly in these stakes. Compared to Johnson and Trump, Scott Morrison perhaps doesn’t seem too bad, some might believe.

But they'd be wrong.

Morrison deserves to be placed firmly in the dangerous clown show picture I’m painting.

Like Johnson, Scott Morrison has made it clear that he is a fan of Donald Trump. The Australian PM regards Trump as someone who had a go to get a go and who is “very practical” and gets things done.

Like both Trump and Johnson, Morrison has hitched his political fortunes to the wagon of populist demagoguery. His most recent pronouncement that he doesn’t believe in “unfunded empathy” in relation to raising the rate of social security payments is straight from that playbook.

Hi flat-out refusal to even discuss raising the unemployment allowance, Newstart, is ample evidence of his phoney line that he cares about all Australians and the callous Christianity he subscribes to that adheres to the so-called prosperity gospel.

Morrison’s professed Christianity marks him as different from the sexual depravity of Trump and the dissolute hedonism of Johnson, but it leads to the same results in practical, policy and political terms: each of them is ruling on behalf of the wealthy, the shareholders, the rent-seekers and dividend takers.

What unites these three leaders is their unwavering focus on remaining in power and their willingness to gaslight entire populations to stay there.

United by the lies

We know about Trump’s incessant lies. According to the Washington Post Fact Checker site, Trump has told nearly 11,000 lies in 900 days. That’s a staggering number to comprehend.

Trump’s lies are blatant and most of them are easily discredited, but the lies of Morrison are sugar-coated by his self-professed prayerful Christianity.

Morrison says he cares about people on low incomes; he claims he wants to do something about Australia’s high suicide rate; he says he’s prayed for the detainees on Manus and Nauru; he wants us to believe he governs for all Australians, not just the wealthy donor class.

It’s all an act and his actions make a lie out of his profession of love and sympathy for the downtrodden.

While Trump’s lies are reflexive and born of his own deep self-belief that borders on narcissistic delusion, Morrison’s lies are expedient and partially-covered by his false prophecy.

On the other hand, Boris Johnson lies because he couldn’t care less. Johnson’s lies are convenient, and like Trump, the British Leader lies because it suits him.

Trump has already inflicted potentially irreparable damage on the United States through his incendiary racial rhetoric and through his quiet, unrelenting actions in dismantling social infrastructure. His ego-driven trade war with China has already sent the American economy into a nosedive and his bellicose attitudes to Venezuela and Iran are pushing towards becoming a hot war.

Trump’s embrace of dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un feeds his narcissistic delusions and his obsession with "the wall" feeds his angry white base.

Johnson is also embracing a racist cultural tide in the United Kingdom. His plans to push through a "no deal" Brexit in a few months’ time will likely bring Britain undone. Johnson’s approach is not to deal with the problems, but to fund a two-billion-pound propaganda blitz to further confuse and divide the population. Johnson has stirred into action the ugly elements of regressive British politics by openly embracing the Nigel Farage and his anti-Islam, anti-immigrant leave campaign.

Johnson, like Trump and Morrison, believes that a lack of policy and planning can be papered over with an advertising campaign and populist sloganeering.

Family ties

Morrison is willing to swim in this swamp for both historical reasons – his emotional refusal to let go of Australia’s white colonial roots; the ANZUS alliance and because the U.S. represents a military bulwark against China’s expansion in the Pacific – and because of his own inflated sense of worth. At a time when many world leaders treat Trump with caution and barely-disguised contempt, Morrison shamelessly attaches himself to Trump and his agenda.

It’s also a two-way street with Morrison and Trump. The U.S. President has publicly backed Australia’s tough border security rhetoric and has cited it as a model for his own racist border wall. Meanwhile, Morrison has pledged Australia’s support if the U.S. launches a war against Iran.

The U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo will be in Australia next week to meet with members of the Morrison Government and to make the final arrangements for the PM’s state visit to Washington DC later this year.

We should not be in any doubt, Morrison, Trump and Johnson need each other and feed off the political climate their conservative populism is generating.

We will see this in full flight soon when the C-PAC circus comes to town. C-PAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, will be in Sydney for the first time from 9-11 August.

The line-up of speakers is a who's who of deplorables. Our homegrown Trumpsters will be there, many of them from the Murdoch media stable, alongside several far-right members of the Federal Government and an assortment of Islamophobes, whiteness virtue signallers and grifters.

Morrison has already defended his colleagues who will attend it using the lame excuse of "freedom of expression". Trump’s Fox News amplifiers are coming; Boris Johnson’s new mate Nigel Farage will also be there fresh from his starring role in the Brexit dirty tricks campaign. Meantime, Tony Abbott, Mark Latham and Campbell Newman will be representing the nasty underbelly of Australia’s political elite.

The bottom line is that these "leaders" need each other. Their relationship to each other is both a political necessity for their survival and an indicator of their shared streak of self-righteous conservatism.

If they were just harmless buffoons like the Three Stooges, we’d have nothing to worry about. But they’re not harmless — they are putting the entire planet in harm’s way.

You can follow Dr Martin Hirst on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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