The faculty for human hope is a renewable resource. In this way, it is not at all like coal. The faculty for human hope is also an enfeebling poison and, in this way, it might be mined by Adani. Hope led me last night to watch ABC television’s Q&A. I had hoped that a leadership crisis of historic idiocy would knock some focus into the policy class, perhaps a sense of civil service into Tony Jones.

No. And, no.

Among the panellists last night, none had been inside the Liberal Party room last week. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that just one at a desk of five non-Lib federal politicians would be up to a hopeful challenge. There were moments of sense, but none of these lasted longer than the passage of a synapse to a junction of human despair.

The first of an all-Queensland panel to pick sense up, then maul it badly, was Bob Katter. When asked to describe the mania that seized Canberra last week, he answered well. “A bunch of careerists competing for class captain,” he said. He then went on to be Bob Katter, i.e. a chap whose life struggle has been to defend himself against the threat of reason. I imagine the mind of the Member for Kennedy as a battleground in which a true understanding of political economy is beaten down daily by faith. His true understanding is that the Australian people are unjustly forced to serve the ruling class. His false faith is that the category “the Australian people” includes only broad-hatted primary producers who are doing it very tough. All others are “elites”.

Perhaps it’s noxious hope, but I genuinely believe that there was a time in which Katter could have been redeemed to reason. So much of what he says is nearly rousing, and then it all dissolves in a saucer of identity politics and unreason left to sour in the far north Queensland sun. First, he is for banks not run for profit but committed to the project of sustaining everyday life. Next, he is misusing the experience of centuries-long Jewish diaspora to make a case for Israel and against the suggestion that his Senator Fraser Anning meant anything at all unpleasant by the use of the phrase “Final Solution”.

The panel then discussed the referent for the phrase “Final Solution”, and Katter elected to call it “that F word”, as though its utterance was never permissible, except in public by one’s own political protégé. Next, Pauline Hanson did something rather shrewd: she said she had never heard the term before, and she said this quite deliberately.

Let’s be real, here, Pauline: of course you’ve heard the term before. A girl doesn’t dance with paleo-conservatism for more than two decades and not receive her share of openly Nazi correspondence. Moreover, there is no hard-right populist of the present unaware that Trump’s appeal is built by, not despite, his apparent ignorance. He’s no fancy pants technocrat like that silvertail Clinton! He’s a real guy denied real education, just like us.

This is, of course, nonsense. Trump received his degree in economics at an Ivy League scion. While Pauline Hanson did not, she is now as aware as any counterfeit Of-the-People populist of the utility of ignorance. Conservatives have used and openly recommended this technique for decades.

That this cynical moment is misread as genuine naivety — and “I’ve never heard of the Final Solution” is today making headlines — is incredible. It is incredible that the knowledge working class continues to scoff so ignorantly at purposely ignorant others. They scoff right back. They scoff, and they assume power.

To watch Q&A, last night or any night, is to learn nothing of great interest directly. It is, however, to indirectly learn that the political and economic projects of the past 40 years have made a mess not only of the lives of the many, but of the minds of television hosts. There were so many opportunities for host Tony Jones to translate what has been said by panellists for viewers seeking a broad understanding. He took not one. Even when Larissa Waters began, surprisingly, to utter the truth that racism was a virus most effectively spread by the political class in its interest alone, he said nothing. Just some palaver about joining us on Facebook for more “democracy in action”, etc.

Look. In short, you missed news of nothing you did not already know. Bob Katter and George Christensen are very keen on killing crocs. Larissa Waters just wants to enrol all crocs into an anti-bullying program. Pauline Hanson is not a naïf and hasn’t been for years. Cathy O’Toole delivered the message that the ALP both will and won’t support environmental devastation and is interested in ending racism, a thing for which it also has no real concern. Everybody promises jobs. And growth. And we, if we watch closely enough, all know one thing for certain: there’s a crisis in politics much bigger than a spill. Liberal democracy is very unwell.

Did you catch Q&A last night? What did you think? Email us at [email protected] and let us know.

Peter Fray

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