The War on ‘Democracy’

Crikey reported during the week that Gerard Henderson was threatening to sue UWA Press over their triple-titled The War on Democracy/Conservative Opinion in the Australian Press/A Savage Journey to the Heart of the Conservative Dream. But it’s in the bookshops, and that’s where it should stay, so that it can sink under the weight of its own silliness.

The authors, Niall Lucy, author of A Derrida Dictionary, and Steve Mickler, begin with a Humpty-Dumptyish definition of ‘democracy’:

As an idea and an ideal, then democracy acknowledges that between the many different interests in a society there are unequal relations of power, and so it acts to give power to those interests which on their own are less equal than others.

That’s hardly how most people would define democracy, which is about giving people political power, not equalising power more generally (in practice a broader equalisation of power has been a consequence of democracy, but it is not ‘democracy’ in itself). What Lucy and Mickler mean is closer to social democracy, or social justice. I can’t see any intellectual value in conflating separate concepts; the authors are confused, or perhaps they are trying to use the term as a polemical device to disassociate conservatives from something everyone believes to be A Good Thing.

‘Democracy’ is not the only eccentric definition. The first ‘conservative’ to be attacked is Luke Slattery, who I think would probably put himself somewhere on the left, and certainly would not be seen by anyone on the right as a ‘conservative’. But he gets labelled a ‘conservative’ because he is against postmodernism.

Ironically, this is because Lucy and Mickler seem to follow the logic of their own criticism of how conservatives construct the left:
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Do personal political attacks work?

In the Victorian state election campaign, Labor has been running some grubby ads attacking Liberal leader Ted Baillieu because a real estate firm he was involved with, Baillieu Knight Frank, sold schools closed during the Kennett era (Baillieu’s response is here). Baillieu wasn’t even in Parliament at the time, and the issue is so far as I can see completely irrelevant to how he would operate as Premier.

Perhaps one reason the parties are resorting to personal attacks (the Liberals are focusing on Steve Bracks’ broken promises, thought at least this refers to his record as Labor leader) is that their actual policies are hard to tell apart, if you delete the partisan references. Take these announcements in the last couple of days:

Continue reading “Do personal political attacks work?”