When the ruling class feels strong and the political leadership of the labour movement is corrupt to the core, a political paralysis descends on the parliamentary wing of the working class intelligentsia.
The constant chattering about the so-called “chattering classes” deafens us to the hardline surge now underway in Australian public life.
One of the worst offenders is the new enfante terrible in the Murdoch stable – imported stable bully-boy Brendan O’Neill. He is a serial offender when it comes to to trash-mouthing the so-called chattering classes. In harness with the dreadful Bolter, O’Neill is gung-ho for intellectual-bashing, public sector trashing, culture wars scorched-earth pollicy-wielding plonker.
O’Neill is even described as an “ex-Trotskyist” on The Australian’s website. Fuck-that-for-a-fucking-joke. The Murdoch mandarins love to dress up their tame spouters as ex-lefities. It plays to their prejudice and their perceived audience. It also silences any idea that the op-ed pages are not Foxified – that is “fair and balanced”.
But the chattering class thesis deserves a little more attention. A strange line is being run by Michael Thompson writing in The Weekend Australian recently.
There is a “new” class whose identity and political machinations are largely hidden from the working class. They call themselves “progressives”, while conservatives call them “inner-city elites” or the “political elite”. However, for the most part, I will call them the “chattering class” as they love nothing better than sitting down to good food or a cafe latte and chattering away about politics. It’s their religion and sport rolled into one.
This is the classic trope of anti-intellectual anti-progressive stereotypes trolled out constantly in the conservative columns that barricade News Limited’s own ivory towers of ideo-drivel and class warfare. What’s not so surprising – given the ideological climate that’s emerging in Australia – is that Michael Thompson is (like O’Neill) described as an ex-leftie himself.
Isn’t it interesting that the Murdoch media does not – ever – give space to real Trotskyists.
Thompson’s rhetoric is a melange of ideas – some of which I think he’s right about – arranged in a spiteful narrative of alleged gross self-interest and elitism, that set’s out the case for a “real” working class consciousness.
“You’re so vain you probably think this [essay’s] about you, don’t you?” The chattering class consider themselves morally superior to other classes; Michael Warby [of the Institute of Public Affairs] calls it their “moral vanity”. As one of their number, the late Age columnist Pamela Bone put it this way: “It is usually the educated middle-classes who are more imbued with notions of justice and equality than any other group.”
They stereotype the working class as racists, sexists, environmental vandals (“deniers”), homophobes and neo-Nazis, as depicted in most Australian-made movies, such as Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Romper Stomper. A seething mass of nasty little prejudices, genetically predisposed to bark like junk-yard dogs on hearing the “dog whistle” of any populist demagogue, such as Pauline Hanson.
This is amazing vitriol and it’s mostly nonsense too.
Thompson’s right that the Labour leadership has abandoned the working class, but he blames the people I would call “grey collar intellectuals” – journalists, progressive academics and broadly the public sector. His demagoguery is aimed fairly and squarely at important public institutions and any display of critical intellectual thinking that might damage the economic interests of capitalism.
Centred in Thompson’s sights (no surprises here) is the alleged left-wing bias of mainstream journalists.
In large part, this dog whistling is the job of chattering-class broadcasters, journalists and commentators in the so-called “quality media”, who would have us believe their views largely reflect public opinion, notwithstanding that on most cultural (and many economic) issues they are invariably to the left of centre.
This is a tired old argument that really doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny. Even the 7.30 program on the ABC this week aired a piece on industrial relations reform that fit snugly into Tony Abbott’s agenda. There was no hint of left-wiing bias at all in the story which gave employers a free run to defame workers as the lazy cause of Australia’s economic woes. The debate is couched in terms of productivity, which is code for clawing back from workers a share of value that will boost profits.
A quick glance at The Australian’s roster of in-house columnists should be enough to disabuse any sane person of the notion that the MSM is dominated by folk who are to the “left of centre”. It’s just not true.
This is a reasonable segue into the current non-debate about industrial relations and “workplace reform”.
Just take a look at these headlines – but remember they don’t always reflect the content of the piece. This selection is from The Australian, but they are no different across the MSM. The line is being set – once again and without any real evidence – the unions and workers are to blame for the economic mess.