The World

Dec 22, 2016

Who killed the liberal dream? (Spoiler: it wasn’t ‘fake news’)

At what fucking point are we going to concede that “people just need to be better and read less fake news” is an irrational centrist dream, and no kind of solution at all? Helen Razer asks the question.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

Women For Trump sign

“The centre is not holding,” wrote Ross Douthat in the New York Times in July. He is one of thousands of commentators who have lived since the time of Yeats to pillage a famous poem, and one of millions to notice this year that faith in the centre of politics had evaporated. That vote shares for centrist parties in the West are diminishing as fast as ultra-nationalists can claim them is a terrible fact. Douthat’s solution to this state — wait and say “may this cup of crisis pass from us, and soon” — is a terrible, and terribly common, fantasy.

Douthat offers a “reality check” to readers and reminds them that things aren’t that bad. Certainly, not so bad as to warrant the mainstreaming of radical, racist isolationism. Very concisely, he expresses a centrist frustration with the rise that buoys Trump, Le Pen, Hanson, etc. In short, these people are maniacs, and if we wait long enough, quote enough Joan Didion and remind people that things aren’t bad enough to justify their bad electoral behaviour, the maniacs will be returned to the asylum.

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25 thoughts on “Who killed the liberal dream? (Spoiler: it wasn’t ‘fake news’)

  1. Robert Ollington

    I can’t say that I disagree with anything in this article, but neither can I work out what your actual point was. Was it that the centre needs to be more to the right? You have a lot of advice for what the centre should stop doing, but not a lot of constructive advice.

    1. Helen Razer

      My point is that the focus must shift to equal distribution of material wealth. That the centre is done.That radical alternatives are now seen by many people as viable ones, given the diminished or dangerous circumstances in which they live, and the rational fear of greater unemployment.
      I thought that I was clear that the centre is dead, and that the radical alternative that people will accept, the one that is not racist, is leftism. I apologise if this was not clear.

      1. David

        Equal distribution of material wealth sounds like a terrible idea. Why shouldn’t some people have more wealth than others? How could equal distribution of material wealth ever be successfully implemented in practice? Sounds like a scary communist idea. And the idea of leftism brings to mind some awful Marxist ideas, identity politics and the left’s ridiculously flawed social justice agenda and their over emphasis on racism. Seems as though everything is racist these days, even facts. Surely we don’t need more of that? It’s divisive.

        1. Helen Razer

          Marxism is the opposite of identity politics.

          1. AR

            … possibly, but mendacious morons are always mendacious morons, looking for the easy option.

      2. Susan Anderson

        But the centre is not centre, perhaps they never were but their representatives in the media are, if not members of the 1%, then definitely members of the 3%, they are hopelessly compromised and wouldn’t know a low income earner if they pushed a whole family of them aside to get to the fucking Prada sale. They come from upper middle class families and a lovely activist free uni education and got into media via family connections. And so they preach shit to the great unwashed about what a tower if moral virtue Turnbull is and defend to the death his right to those millions he inherited because its so crass to be jealous of the uber successful. They push the shit lie that the fascist faction in the Liberal party are only 30% of the parliamentary party even though time and time again the fascists win the party room vote, the only party in the world where the minority always wins. These so called centrists better watch out because if the social contract in this country completely fails the mobs will not be able to distinguish them as centrists and they will be strung up alongside the right wing arseholes they have assiduously promoted all of their lives.

  2. Paul Townsend

    Helen, you are one of the rare voices making any sense these days.

    1. Helen Razer

      Goodness, that’s a worry 🙂

  3. Dred Layfet

    The problem is that we have not had real political leaders since Whitlam, Hawke and Keating. For all their faults they had big visions and knew how to communicate them.
    These days politicians seem small minded and often have both eyes on benefiting themselves.

    1. Draco Houston

      Those people founded the world that is falling apart and rotting before our very eyes. Big visions my arse.

  4. Darryl Coulthard

    Pretty much spot on I think.

  5. James O'Neill

    There is another insidious factor at work here. Those shouting loudest about “fake news” are themselves the biggest purveyors of that news; the mainstream media. For so long they have used their enormous power to influence public opinion by peddling BS (Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction anyone) or equally as common, refusing to report what actually happened. Of the latter there are countless examples but one I have been reminded of is the assassination of Martin Luther King by agencies of the state (Pepper, 2016) which in its details is a classic illustration of what is wrong with the msm.
    Thankfully there has been an alternative media developing (and yes I know it has more than its share of BS) and it is this phenomenon that has led to the attacks on “fake news”. Be warned people, those attacks are a prelude to censorship of the alternative media. The media oligarchs and their big capital owners do not take kindly to their influence being diminished.

      1. Nudiefish

        How did this piece escape my attention when it first came out? It is absolutely smack on. Everybody walking around scratching their arse in puzzlement about the way politics is heading. It is not a puzzle; it is the inevitable conclusion of treating voters like a dumb commodity. “Exclusively looking after your base” means that whoever isn’t your base gets shafted.

  6. Peter Hannigan

    Great article. I suspect getting all the various varieties of pigs (insert name of privileged elites of choice here) to remove their snouts from the trough (access to wealth through distorted and corrupt markets) enough so that others (say the bottom 60% of society) can share (have a decent standard of living and a meaningful life) may be the ongoing theme for the next 50 years.

    1. Draco Houston

      An easy way to remove snouts from the trough is the kick the trough over and let the slop fall to the ground.

      1. John Hall

        Very sharp Helen. We just need someone to lead from Canberra – we only have fake politicians at the moment. Turnball is more of a puppet than a leader being manipulated by the hard right of the party. Heil H (anson).

  7. Dog's Breakfast

    An insightful analysis of a year that saw the west, at least, turn a nasty corner.
    Sure, this too shall pass, (he said, knowingly gratingly) but perhaps only after the revolution.

    Capital is the problem, not the solution. A desperate man clinging to a vine to stop himself going over a cliff will quite reasonably grab anything.

    At least I can no longer look at my fellow (wo)man as deluded, just beaten senseless.

    Thanks Helen, wonderful write up.

  8. Viki Wright Rivett

    Helen, you are a wonderfully brilliant commie nutter. Consider yourself sent a Christmas card.
    It seeme to me that if the ownership of money were to be levelled out a bit, if competition were not seen as a virtue, and if civility were to be taught at schools from age 5 that an authentic centre may form again, and hold.


    1. Frank Dennis

      This article has an optimistic outlook unlike others I have read, at least of those I can remember from the last few weeks. There are many articles which are essentially asking the same question “WTF is happening ??? This one I think is at least offering a way forward following one of my most liked maxims- “a problem well defined is a problem solved” – A variation of Just Follow the money ! Who is getting it and who isn’t!!
      Aggressively and resolutely attack neo liberalism and its failed ideology – Support the State and redefine public good as for the people by the people and restore appropriate levels of state owned and run services. Distribute wealth more fairly following democratic socialist principles supporting diversity and community/cooperative based solutions, with equitable progressive taxation and social/environmental policies funded and directed by representative government, with open and transparent processes designed to ensure just distribution of the wealth being generated. Offer people hope of a better life – and not just empty platitudes as they get now!!
      Let’s hope for a better New Year. The inequality in the world is palpable and undeniable by any objective measure – the effects of poverty are almost certainly relative to where you live but it is there in all countries. There is an increasing callousness towards our fellow humans and a lack of willingness to share – an insatiable greed by the 1% moneyed class and their surrogates, who foster fear and blame and violence as distracters from what they are doing. It is causing increasing disillusionment and alienation for significant and growing numbers of people who feel left behind.

      There are two fairly well defined paths to barbarism – on the extreme right and the extreme left – those on the right (they like to say righteous) path are seemingly in the ascendency, feeding from a deep, dark space and finding a receptive audience –It is hard to identify extreme left any more. This pathway is best illustrated in Europe in the 1930’s and the parallels seem to me to be undeniable- weak centrists positions such as those in the Weimar Republic in the 30’s in Germany in response to growing inequality in economic outcomes fed extremism. Today this weakness in centrist politics (exemplified by Clinton, Turnbull and Shorten types) – is having the same chilling effect.

      Kevin Rudd in an interview on the ABC 7.30 Report this week when asked to sum up what is going on and what was there to worry about said, amongst other things, “when people were polled recently on what is their preferred form of government, 25% rejected democracy in favour of some form of dictatorship!” This is in Australia 2016! Merry Xmas

  9. Frank Chalmers

    Brilliant. If there were worthwhile arguments about ‘enforced’ silences due to political correctness, though there aren’t, it’d be about what isn’t said about inequality and maiming, murderous capitalism. Maybe our looming polarisations – oh no, really? – can flush (!) the ugly Bernardi-style solutions as well as better explanations out into the open. Which leaves open whether enough humans are capable of responding to that, in a constructive enough way, for that to matter. And Xmas is the last time of year I’d want to ponder that.

    1. Northy

      ‘If there were worthwhile arguments about ‘enforced’ silences due to political correctness, though there aren’t, it’d be about what isn’t said about inequality and maiming, murderous capitalism’.

      Well said, Frank! So we have racists and homophobes screaming that they can’t be racist or homophobic without being called racist or homophobic, but it’s quite OK to rip someone down and call them a dirty socialist/commie for suggesting capitalism and the unequal distribution of wealth is not ideal.

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