31 August 2010

Old devils

This blog has long been down on Alby Schultz and Bill Heffernan. With this, the idea that they might make life hard for politicians with more guts and brains than they do would be genuinely astonishing unless you understood where they came from. The whole culture of modern political parties depends on bullying, now that policy is too hard. Civilised disagreements can only be had over impersonal matters; when ego fills the void where substantive issues were, folks are gonna get hurt and those who limp away shrieking are confused with those who give up in disgust.

Labor started it with the idea that caucus decisions could not be departed from, and the culture of the 'rat' for the freethinker who slipped the surly bonds of backroom fixers. The Liberals used to be a lot more subtle in a private school-fragging way until Howard instituted the full F├╝hrerprinzip. It's not just the majors: the Democrats did a nice line in passive-aggressive control learned in staffrooms across the country, and those Greens who came out of the various communist organisations love a good pogrom; they can't measure their own progress by trees saved etc., there must be self-criticism sessions for fifth columnists.

Peter Debnam was a big fan of tough dumb campaigning and look where it got him: John Hewson without the charisma. They don't see the link between poor campaigning and poor electoral outcomes. Schultz and Heffernan are frustrated that young Abbott is blowing their last chance, and even more so that he's not consulting them. They don't understand that they are making a Coalition government less likely, not more so; they don't understand why anyone would think that way.

Now you can see why election ad campaigns are so negative - bullying works internally, it has to work on those who are so wishy-washy they can't get involved. If anyone within that party had any misgivings whether or not they'd work, would they speak up? On what basis would anyone kybosh a dull and negative campaign? Who can you persuade that such campaigns don't work, and what proof would be accepted?

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