I guess like me you've been more than a little shocked at the Republican "insurrection" in the United States. But for me it has been a double shock. Not only am I shocked, but I'm shocked that I'm shocked.
US politics has been strongly heading in this direction for quite some time. So it should have been easily foreseeable, but I was heavily discounting the possibility that it would actually occur.
What we saw at the Capitol on January 6 was an opposite, but not even close to equal, reaction to left-wing trends that have accelerated over the last 12 years ago, starting around the time of the election of Barack Obama.
These trends are:
- An increasing tendency for governments and courts to ignore well-established conventions and change the law in extra-democratic ways rather than wait for the legislature to act
- The rampaging of cultural studies, post-modernism, relativism, intersectionalism and now cancel culture through the institutions
- Intimidation of whole populations via often violent demonstrations
- Deterioration of the media into mainly left-wing echo chambers coupled with the rise of hyper-partisan social media
- NGO and corporate political activism
- A refusal to accept that in a Democracy your side sometimes loses, but you have to accept the decision.
The common theme in all these themes is to use power, rather than persuasion, to get what you want.
While we have seen left-wing mobs supporting all of the above, what we saw last Thursday our time was a right-wing mob deciding that if it works so well for the left, then it might work for them.
That it didn't, says something about popular culture as well as the different nature of left and right –conservatives are distinctly less-inclined to violence.
But one should be careful not to exaggerate how terrible the event was.
The crowd was enormous. Click and watch the cameras pan the crowd. The speech was long and rambling, but not inflammatory by the standards of any Western politicians I can think of.
He didn't urge people to break into the Capitol, he told them to walk peacefully down. 300,000 walking past the seat of government would be a powerful, conventional demonstration of popular support, particularly given that DC is in the middle of a record cold snap. Demonstrations outside Australia's parliament houses are a regular occurrence.
You may not believe me, so either take five hours to watch the entire speech, or skim the transcript. Once you've done that ask yourself whether it was any more inflammatory than, say, Gough Whitlam's speech on the steps of parliament house where he said "Well may we say 'God save the Queen, because nothing will save the Governor-General'", before branding PM Malcolm Fraser "Kerr's Cur".
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