Watching the Convoy Of No Confidence roll into Canberra this week - very quickly, considering the tiny size of the protest - one thinks that these people are nuts. They're not sure what they want, there's no coherent narrative, other than demands for an election which should apparently be a referendum of the grab bag of issues they're screeching about. To call these protesters nuts seems a throwaway line, but I've been observing the state of the hysterical right in this country lately, and wondering...is there some form of collective mental illness going on here? All contact with rational thought seems to have been lost. Consider these symptoms:
Delusions - the right are determined to believe things that are demonstrably untrue; like that the country is being run by Labor in close alliance with the Greens. How I wish this were the case. And how far it is from being true. Does the Malaysian solution sound like something Bob Brown thought up? How about 5% emissions reductions targets, maintaining troops in Afghanistan, the ban on same-sex marriage...nope, not Greens policies. If the Greens are running the country, they're doing so in an odd roundabout kind of way that completely contradicts everything they stand for.
Black and White Thinking - you'll never hear a right-winger say "you may have a point there, but I still hold my original belief based on...". No, that would be logical and fair. The right never concede anything. They refuse to admit any Labor or Greens initiative is ever worthwhile, or that the Liberal party ever makes mistakes. There are no nuances. One side is all good and the other side is all bad. But completely good or bad isn't the behaviour of people, but silent movie stereotypes. I'll admit John Howard performed well on the gun control issue. Tony Abbott encourages volunteerism through his own examples. You'd never see such concessions from the right. It's all heroes and villains.
Lack of Empathy - live animal exports? Mistreatment at Indonesian abattoirs? Not important. Animals are for meat, they say; the service of humans. Better that thousands of cattle suffer than a few cattle ranchers have to find alternative livelihoods. Even if you enjoy steak and sleep well at night, their lack of compassion can still shock. The plight of desperate people who have fled war zones and risked their lives to come here on rickety overcrowded boats seeking asylum is dismissed; those people are illegals, queue jumpers, and if they are locked up for years, transferred to countries with terrible human rights records, or drown on the way, well they should have thought of that before they came here.
Catastrophising - This is the worst government we've ever had. Australia has lost its way. We're in terrible shape. The cost of living has spiralled out of control, we've never been so badly off, no wonder crime is out of control and we're all poor and terrified. It doesn't matter that we came through the GFC largely unscathed, that CPI is not spiralling anywhere and all types of violent crime are down - Australia is rooned and Joolyar rooned it. If by any chance things aren't so bad, well that's thanks to John Howard setting us up so well.
Faulty Logic - once it would have been a pretty serious thing to make death threats against members of parliament. Not anymore. One of the country's most prominent shock jocks declares that the Prime Minister and the leader of the Greens should be drowned in sacks. Joe Hockey listens to an attendee at a town hall meeting declare that he wants to shoot the federal cabinet, and responds not that he understands but violence isn't acceptable, but just that he understands. He understands, you see, because people are angry. When the right are angry, it's apparently okay to threaten to carry on like violent psychopaths.
Taken together, I'm not sure if it's enough to be classified as a mental illness. But it's not a pretty picture. The first step in getting help is admitting you've got a problem, but as we've seen that's beyond the capabilities of those on the shrieking far right. They'll never admit they're wrong. We could ignore them, but they are having a ridiculously disproportionate influence on the political narrative - ordinary people are coming to share their distorted beliefs. What can we do? I fear we may be in real trouble here.
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