On the internets, nobody knows that you’re a dog – or, for that matter, a Liberal.
On its own merits, the site would have made no impact whatsoever. The blogosphere circulates snark as naturally as the heart circulates blood, and an anonymous blog fulminating about the vileness and moronity of Red Ted would have disappeared amongst the zillions of anonymous blogs fulminating about the vileness and moronity of just about anyone you care to name.
Hewhostandsfornothing became blogtastic only because it was produced by Mr Baillieu’s own staff.
So did its authors intend to be caught? Presumably not since they could have issued a press release and generated the same amount of fuss, while retaining a modicum of dignity.
The blog seems, in other words, to have been created primarily for their own amusement. One suspects this episode reflects a deeper structural problem faced by the Liberal Party in opposition.
With the conservatives a million miles from government, personal ambition won’t get many people taking jobs in the party machine. In a different era, young rightwingers on the up-and-up might have vacillated between business and politics. But if you want to make a career, well, the Liberal Party scarcely provides an attractive alternative right at the moment.
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At the same time, with Rudd Labor so socially and economically conservative, political principle doesn’t provide much of a spur, either. Traditional Liberals might not enjoy having the ALP in power but they don’t harbour the same kind of burning rage against Kevin Rudd that led young Tories to become conservative activists during the Whitlam years.
That’s the problem for the party. Those most capable of sustaining themselves stuffing envelopes and working phones during the long, barren years in opposition are the political Kool Aid drinkers, the ideologues who read the 17-part Quadrant series on how Aborigines oppress whites, and know that global warming isn’t happening and that the Iraq war proceeds triumphantly – the kinds of people, in other words, who think that a traditional old money conservative like Ted Baillieu is actually some kind of crypto communist.
Such ideas aren’t going to win elections. But that’s not necessarily important to the ultra-right cadre. John Howard initiated the Culture Wars as an electoral ploy. This is the blowback: a generation of rightwing activists for whom changing the political climate as a whole matters much more than changing the seats in parliament.
Baillieu has sacked the bloggers themselves and there will presumably be a broader purge. But where, exactly, is he going to find the party activists to replace them?
Jeff Sparrow is the editor of Overland.