How about that Greg Norman? The golfer most famous for choking in big tournaments is suddenly a kind of de facto Australian ambassador, getting us the opportunity for an early phone call with Donald Trump because he’s close mates with the pussy-grabbing president-elect. He may have spent decades living in Florida but the “Great White Shark” is still an Aussie at heart! And good on Malcolm Turnbull for having a “warm” conversation very quickly with Trump. Fortunately, News Corp was there to fill us in on how it all happened.
Plucky Australia, using ingenuity and know-how, punching above its weight, getting in early with the new administration!
Forget all that stuff from before the election. The Prime Minister himself attacked Trump for his “loathsome” comments boasting about sexually assaulting women, but now it’s just two old businessmen forging a bond. Or there’s Christopher Pyne, who in March thought Donald Trump was “terrifying” and would lead the Republicans into the political wilderness but who is now enthusiastic about what he sees as immense opportunities for Australia in Trump’s promised defence build-up — apparently missing the memo that Trump isn’t particularly keen on building stuff outside the United States.
[New Malcolm radically changes his tune on the US]
If Trump was frantically signalling that all his campaign rhetoric targeting non-white males was a lie, that he’ll instead be a conventional Republican president who’ll cut taxes for corporations and the rich, and let what’s left of the American middle class and working class rot, such accommodation might be understandable. But Trump, it seems, looks set to govern as he campaigned. Let’s ignore for a moment the half-baked speculation about who will fill what cabinet posts — a new name for secretary of state seems to be floated every day. But he has appointed an anti-Semite as his chief strategist (who, incidentally, hates Asian tech CEOs as well) and his camp is openly discussing a national Muslim register. Trump has also confirmed that there will be a “wall” — as well as a fence, in parts — with Mexico.
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The strongest factual, rather than speculative, signal so far is that there will be continuity, not discontinuity, between Trump’s campaign and his administration.
The pandering of Turnbull, and News Corp, to the new administration thus takes on a very different hue to the ordinary task of making do with whoever is in charge in Washington, regardless of what you might think in private. Given what appears to be the continuity of Trump’s bigotry-as-policy, the result is a normalising of that bigotry, not merely in the US but elsewhere. The young men at Sydney University chanting “grab them by the pussy” on election day reflect how Trump has made open misogyny acceptable again (if it was ever unacceptable) — except that, since then, the Prime Minister and his ministers have fawned over Trump, as if to give his sexism the seal of approval. We’ve had our own problems with vilification of Muslims made more acceptable by the ascension of openly Islamophobic politicians like Pauline Hanson; how much further encouragement do bigots need when the Australian government warmly (“warm” is Turnbull’s word) greets the election of an open Islamophobe like Trump?
The media are also culpable in this process of normalising what should be utterly abnormal — and it’s not just News Corp, with their frothing over Turnbull’s phone call to Trump. “US President-elect Donald Trump has mentioned Australia in a series of tweets he posted on Wednesday,” a Fairfax article gleefully relayed yesterday. How awesome — the president-elect mentioning us! (He mentioned New Zealand too, and the New Zealand Herald ran a similar frothing piece). So much for the cultural cringe being finished — now we’re back to being thrilled when an American acknowledges our existence.
[Rundle: as Trump brings an anti-Semite into the White House, 18C review is DOA]
There’s a threshold issue of morality here, for politicians and the media. Trump is not normal. He peddles rhetoric that is, literally, fascistic. He has facilitated the return of anti-Semitism to the highest positions of power in the world. He boasts of sexually assaulting women, and now has a very real chance of shutting down abortion in the United States — remember, he has said he wants women who have abortions to be punished. He has promised to jail his opponent and encouraged talk of her assassination. And as every reader knows, that’s just a small sample of how he is outside any decent standards of a functioning democracy. We know all of this — his one virtue has been his honesty in making clear whom he intends to target if he gains power.
Treating this as in any way normal facilitates it. As long as Trump shows that there will be continuity between his campaign rhetoric and his administration policies, he should be subject to the same denunciation as he received before the election — there should be no clean slate or reset. There are no excuses for pandering to him or treating him as business-as-usual. And those who do should expect to be identified as facilitators of his hatred.