Monday, 26 January 2015

Quo vadis, Abbott Agonistes?

Quo vadis, Abbott Agonistes?

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After his latest absurd decision to knight Prince Philip,
the political destruction of Tony Abbott in the coming months is almost
a certainty, writes Michael Galvin.

Within hours of Abbott making the Queen's husband a knight, some online media polls were showing 90% of people thought the whole idea was so ridiculous it must be some kind of pathetic joke.

Which it is, of course. But no joke Abbott plays is without an
element of malice and this one is no different. It is a calculated
insult, with more than one loser. In this case, it appals me that
attention has been be taken away from those far more deserving
Australians who gained Order of Australia awards — people like Rosemary Crowley from South Australia, for instance.

Most politicians – indeed, most people – would be alarmed and
challenged by such a reaction to their behaviour. But not Abbott. He
delights in being in an iconoclastic and beleaguered minority. He is as
incapable of caring about the ridicule of the majority as an ISIS
terrorist is of caring about what others think of the morality of
beheading innocent hostages. Indeed, such ridicule validates and affirms
his sense of self-identity. Like Evelyn Waugh,
even if Waugh could not conceive of this weird bunyip caricature of
himself, Abbott delights in being out of step with the mores of his

Nevertheless, he can still count. And he is rat-cunning enough to know his support is slipping where it counts — inside the party room.

And so it has begun. After 15 months of the Abbott horror show, the
MSM is now regularly criticising Abbott, and a kind of ritual has
emerged since Christmas:

  1. Abbott opens his mouth and says or does something (usually stupid);
  2. sundry critical columns appear in the Fairfax press, the Guardian, or the ABC;
  3. hundreds of negative comments pour forth in response.
It is interesting that the online comments supporting Abbott
have dropped right off in recent months. I would estimate the ratio of
anti to pro Abbott comments in such (non-Murdoch) MSM forums is now
about 9:1. And the comments that convey extreme distaste and contempt
for the man make up an increasing proportion of that 90%.

ASU NSW and ACT branch secretary Sally McManus seems to think PM Abbott has given up (Image via Facebook)

So what happens now? How long can the situation continue where a
political leader is relentlessly ridiculed and dismissed as a fool? And
how long is it until many people simply tire of abusing him and turn

In recent days, I think this criticism fatigue is starting to set in.
Will the point be reached when people are no longer angry at Abbott,
rather, they are just tired of him? Where they have reached the point
where they just want Abbott to go away, to disappear, to be out of their
face? There must be a limit to how often someone can summon the energy
to say that Abbott has hit a new low.

But Abbott Agonistes is no ordinary politician. He will not suffer
through this long, slow crucifixion like Rudd and Gillard did, albeit in
their different ways.

It is conceivable, on some bizarre level, that he will actually enjoy
it. As outlined above, and unlike most mature people, Abbott will never
be able to see that it is his fault. When he departs the political
scene, it will be the public that did not live up to his expectations,
not the other way round. It will be just as he blamed the faults of the
Church for leaving the priesthood — the church let him down, he wasn't the problem. Isolation vindicates him; general consensus unnerves him.

The political destruction of Abbott in the coming months is much to
be hoped for and almost a certainty. But because he is like no ordinary
politician, it will be a fascinating and very unique spectacle to watch.
But at this stage of the process, before he departs the scene, three
points can be made.

Firstly, Abbott has damaged the fabric of our society. His behaviour
towards Julia Gillard was full of contempt, cruelty and hatred. And
deliberate lies. Many people were also hurt or offended by him, not as
individuals but as supporters of hers, or as ordinary people trying to
be decent citizens. The anger coming out now at Abbott is a sign of just
how damaging he was – and how many people felt its effects – even if
not fully aware at the time of how hurtful it was to them personally.

Abbott's ascensiuon to the top job was built on hatred, say Michael Galvin.

Secondly, admiration for competent government during 2007-2013 can
only increase. The Federal Government held together during those years,
despite its own enormous internal tensions and relentless attacks from
Abbott and co. Under circumstances far less difficult, Abbott's
Government has been spectacularly inept and incompetent by comparison.

Thirdly, admiration for Julia Gillard personally can only increase.
Unlike Abbott, she must have felt every stinging blow. To say that she
showed grace under pressure is the understatement of the century, and
more obvious by the day.

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