GBS pwns IPA

March 11th, 2013

Anyone who has been around the left of Australian (or UK) politics long enough will be aware of the Fabian Society. It’s a group that’s earnest in the way only an organization founded in the late 19th century can be. It produces carefully researched papers on topics like education funding and housing policy, invariably worthwhile, but rarely fiery.

The Society takes its name from a Roman general who achieved victory over the seemingly invincible Hannibal, by avoiding pitched battle and wearing his opponent down: the idea was that socialism should be achieved by gradual reform through democratic processes, rather than through the revolutionary approach advocated by Marxism. This gradual approach was symbolised by the adoption, as a logo, of a tortoise (or maybe turtle), drawn by Walter Crane, the leading illustrator of children’s books in the late 19th century, and a society member. And, after 100+ years, even the most optimistic Fabians would concede that, if anything, the tortoise exaggerates the pace of movement towards socialism.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, this resolutely gradualist approach, the Fabian Society has always loomed large in the demonology of the nuttier sections of the political right, appearing as some sort of cross between the Illuminati and the United Nations. Here for example is Rose Martin of the Mises Society, warning that the tortoise is now going at the pace of a freeway.

The Institute of Public Affairs is the leading Australian representative of this kind of wingnuttery[1] (although it manages to get taken seriously by surprisingly many) so it’s unsurprising to see the IPA’s Julie Novak muttering darkly at Catallaxy[2] about this “shadowy group” (she’s a bit puzzled that Julia Gillard openly declares her membership). What’s interesting is her claim, with illustration that “The logo of the Society, of a wolf dressed up in sheep’s clothing, is all you need to know about how these people seek to achieve their objectives”

Huh? What happened to the tortoise? The answer it turns out, goes back to a joke played by George Bernard Shaw early in the 20th century

In 1910 Shaw commissioned a stained glass window to commemorate the founding of the Society. He never collected it, and it remained lost to view for much of the 20th century until it suddenly surfaced in 2005. It’s an elaborate example of Shaw’s wit. The Society members are represented in medieval garb and he gives the Society a coat of arms featuring the wolf in sheep’s clothing. As far as I can tell, this coat of arms appeared nowhere else until 2005, when the discovery of the window set off the conspiracy theorists on the right.

Given the echo chamber that is the wingnutosphere, the wolf in sheep’s clothing rapidly propagated from Prison Planet to New World Order sites and beyond. The only surprising thing is that it’s taken 7 years to reach the IPA. Someone should write a play about it.

fn1. IPA favorites like Monckton, Delingpole and Plimer push the full suite of Agenda 21 conspiracy theories, appearing on Prison Planet and similar sites.

fn2. Hat tip to a commenter who alerted me to this

  1. Sancho
    March 11th, 2013 at 11:33 | #1

    How surprising that a community of people who pine for the Middle Ages would fall for a prank set in 1910.

  2. Katz
    March 11th, 2013 at 11:40 | #2

    Ignorance, paranoia, humourlessness and failure to check facts committed at Catalepsy?

    I’m shocked. Shocked!

  3. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2013 at 12:30 | #3

    The Neocon right follow the iROB principle: Inflating Rate Of Bulldust.

    It’s all about the greed and lies used to rob ordinary workers. The Brisbane City Council has made a pay offer that is less than inflation. Thus it is a real pay cut. In addition, they have said since their workers are getting compensation from the federal government for inflation caused by carbon pricing, the BCC workers deserve no compensation for that inflation in their pay. Many other work conditions are also being downgraded including a new requirement to self-insure against extended illness rather than getting accumulated sick leave or workers’ comp. This is according to my sources.

    Disclaimer: I dont work for BCC. This information is in the public domain.

  4. rog
    March 11th, 2013 at 13:46 | #4

    Getting it wrong seems to be a successful business model, as Jeff Sparrow notes.

  5. paul walter
    March 11th, 2013 at 14:05 | #5

    Deleted – no need for personal attacks

  6. tgs
    March 11th, 2013 at 16:12 | #6

    Ikonoclast :Many other work conditions are also being downgraded including a new requirement to self-insure against extended illness rather than getting accumulated sick leave or workers’ comp. This is according to my sources.

    I’m not sure I follow this. Could you please elaborate?

  7. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2013 at 16:33 | #7


    I will do one link per post or I will run awry of the link police.

  8. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2013 at 16:36 | #8

    OMG!!! I did one link and it’s in moderation. This is too much!

    try the above with the http bit in front, you know h t t p : / /

    but without the spaces. The things we have to do to get past dumb automation! Kind of lets you know why human staff beat machines every time when it comes to actually thinking, judging and using discretion.

  9. G Walker
    March 11th, 2013 at 17:18 | #9

    Interesting article but to confirm your expertise I read your 2007 article which proclaimed”the Liberal Party will never again win a federal election.
    Should I therefore put my money on Labor or perhaps the Greens for the forthcoming Election

  10. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2013 at 17:31 | #10

    h t t p : / /

    spaces put in the first bit to avoid link police

  11. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2013 at 17:32 | #11

    h t t p://

    spaces put in the first bit to avoid link police

  12. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2013 at 17:36 | #12

    All of this pressure for wage restraint! Where is the pressure for profit restraint???

    It makes me very angry this TILTED playing field.

    Note: I am not a BCC employee. But I support all unionists in their struggle against exploitative and parasitic managers and “owners”; t6hese people who think immoral, rigged laws give them the right to own most of the wealth. Capitalists are fascists!

  13. John Quiggin
    March 11th, 2013 at 17:36 | #13

    @G Walker

    I rather doubt you did read it, given the misleading quote you’ve taken from it. But hard to tell whether you are lying on your own behalf or repeating lies you’ve read at Catallaxy.

  14. tgs
    March 11th, 2013 at 17:42 | #14

    Ikonoclast :@tgs
    I will do one link per post or I will run awry of the link police.

    Sorry, I’m still not sure I follow.

    I am aware that the Newman government is currently reviewing (or has recently finished reviewing?) the QLD worker’s comp scheme.

    I am also aware that many interest groups have claimed that this means that the scheme is under existential threat. I have not seen any evidence to support these claims though I have not been following the issue closely so it wouldn’t be hard for me to miss.

    Regardless, I don’t see what that has to do with the BCC in particular? Or were you speaking more broadly with that comment.

    I also don’t understand your point re: sick leave. I assume you are not claiming that the BCC is attempting to refuse its employees any sick leave whatsoever. Do you mean that they aren’t allowing workers to accumulate sick leave over periods longer than 1 year or something similar?

  15. tgs
    March 11th, 2013 at 17:43 | #15

    Apologies, Ikonoclast. My above respose (currently awaiting moderation) was written while your links posted in comments #10-#12 were still awaiting moderation.

    I’ll have a look at those links now.

  16. ratee
    March 11th, 2013 at 17:59 | #16

    I love stories where a secret society accidentally reveals it’s super secret, sneaky nature in a famous stailed glass window!!!! Ah ha proof its all true we are being governed by 8 foot tall shape shifting reptiles from below the earths surface – or from outer space – both are true.

  17. Nick
    March 11th, 2013 at 18:41 | #17

    Hmm, let’s see…100 year old stained-glass window…or recently finding out that Rupert Murdoch was on the board of Philip Morris for 12 years (and that News Corp is full to the brim with ex-Philip Morris executives), while also being simultaneously on the board of the Cato Institute…

  18. Anthony
    March 11th, 2013 at 18:46 | #18

    “The Society takes its name from a Roman general who achieved victory over the seemingly invincible Hannibal,”

    Damn. I always thought they were named after that pop singer who sang “Who wants to be a teenager in love”. Or was that Dion and the Belmonts?

  19. sunshine
    March 11th, 2013 at 19:01 | #19

    i heard on the radio of some interesting research being done (in usa i think ) on personality traits and political persuasions ,. conservatives are more easity startled (more jumpy) and more afraid of the future etc . doesnt seem surprising . sorry no link- i sholud have googled it .
    im not sure it is, or has been ,a good idea for progressives to negotiate with them in good faith . their power is where most wealth is , the mindset of the electorate has shifted right (a long way) , and, most of the media is on side . here and in the usa they now prefer to discredit the political system rathen than compromise . on any panel discussion setting the conservative will almost invariably simply spout the retoric most sympathetic to their cause, while all other pannelists mostly do not (unless they are politicians). also on such panels there is rarely anyone as far left as the conservative is to the right .
    people say howard got unfair personal criticism , but gillard got it in the mainstream media and right from the start , howard did not . where was the huge media organisation working all along for regime change against howard ?
    labor wins on policy but thats not enough .

  20. Simon Musgrave
    March 11th, 2013 at 20:26 | #20

    Another piece of data which the IPA will no doubt be ignoring:

  21. John Quiggin
    March 11th, 2013 at 20:41 | #21


    IIRC, the pop singer went on to star in some (non-bubblegum) movies, such as North to Alaska with John Wayne. But such putative feats of memory are useless in the age of Wikipedia

  22. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2013 at 20:49 | #22

    Question to ponder. Is capitalism inherently fascistic?

  23. rog
    March 11th, 2013 at 21:04 | #23

    @G Walker As the Liberals federally and in most states operate in a coalition with the Nationals it’s a fair bet that they will not be able to form a government on their own.

  24. John Quiggin
    March 11th, 2013 at 21:29 | #24


    My actual prediction was of a merger between the Libs and Nats, which turned out to be based too heavily on a Qld viewpoint. Merger took place in Qld, but not in other states, or federally. We ended up with the odd result that the leader of the National Party in the federal parliament isn’t actually a member of the National Party.

  25. Jim Rose
    March 11th, 2013 at 21:53 | #25

    @John Quiggin the Libs and Nats win more votes by not merging. some people vote for either the Libs or Nats but second preference Labor.

  26. rog
    March 11th, 2013 at 23:19 | #26

    @Jim Rose …which then means that neither Libs nor Nats have sufficient policy or support to govern.

  27. tgs
    March 12th, 2013 at 11:26 | #27

    Ikonoclast :h t t p://
    spaces put in the first bit to avoid link police

    After having read your links I’m still not sure that what you are claiming is occurring. The only further information was:

    •Removal of Sick Leave / Income Protection Insurance conditions
    •Removal of Schedule 4 Policies and Procedures from the new agreement
    •Reduced Organisational Design and Change Management procedures

    As I’m not familiar with the agreement being negotiated I can’t really fathom what these relativelty vague points mean.

    Any context you could provide would be appreciated.

  28. tgs
    March 12th, 2013 at 11:26 | #28

    Woops, I’m pretty bad at html tags apparently.

  29. Ikonoclast
    March 12th, 2013 at 12:25 | #29


    TGS, do you think removing conditions and giving pay rises below inflation are vague? It’s darn obvious I should think.

  30. March 12th, 2013 at 12:33 | #30


    About the linking websites which triggers moderation, I think replying count as one link if you use the reply button on any specific comment. For example, the first example below will count as 1 link and the second will not.



    So, if that’s the case, hitting the reply button and linking another website will automatically go to moderation due to 2 links provided.

  31. Ikonoclast
    March 12th, 2013 at 12:45 | #31

    A rhetorical question for all. What is the logical end point of removing all conditions and continually reducing real wages for workers? The logical end point is slavery. Obviously, it can’t come to that (or can it?).

    Thus at some point the process must stop. It will have to be when the working class and lower middle class rebel, go on general strike and overthrow the capitalist bosses. There is no other way. Otherwise they will be reduced to bare subsistence and even to starvation.

  32. paul walter
    March 12th, 2013 at 13:57 | #32

    What, for mentioning Kym Novak?@paul walter

  33. Scott
    March 12th, 2013 at 21:55 | #33

    Yes, but it’s not the socialist tortise they have to worry about but the communist hare or indeed the capitalistic gerbil and the Fascist duck or the anarchistic cat and the libertarian owl. Where do they get these people and where do I get a tin foil hat too?

  34. tgs
    March 13th, 2013 at 09:02 | #34

    Ikonoclast :@tgs
    TGS, do you think removing conditions and giving pay rises below inflation are vague? It’s darn obvious I should think.

    No, what I’m saying is that your first post made certain claims about what BCC is trying to achieve in its EBA negotiations with its workers. You claimed the following:

    a) a nominal pay increase which is less than inflation (i.e. real pay cut)
    b) a new requirement to self-insure against extended illness rather than getting accumulated sick leave or workers’ comp.

    Now a) is very straight forward but I still don’t know what you mean by b). I queried it and you posted a bunch of links to a union website that provided very little further information.

    Could you please explain exactly what point b) means in practice?

  35. March 16th, 2013 at 14:15 | #35

    I view something really interesting about your site so I bookmarked . Why Choose an Article Writing Company Instead of Hiring a Wr

Comments are closed.