Triggering the lefties

Looking at the string of appalling statements from the rightwing commentariat in the last week or so, I have come to the conclusion that they must be involved in a private contest to “trigger the libs”, in the parlance of the Trumpist right, by making statements that will provoke social media outrage to be used either for mockery or claims of persecution as the occasion demands.

Chris Uhlmann’s entry in the competition, exposing firefighter Paul Parker as a One Nation voter, was explicitly designed to do this. It fell flat, but Uhlmann announced victory anyway.

His competitors seem to have drawn the lesson that lefties aren’t as easily triggered as they thought. To win the competition, they needed to say something that would appal any decent person, then denounce anyone who criticises them as a leftie.

Rather than nominate a single winner, I’ll give every player a prize for their success in triggering me as a typical leftie

  • Ickiest: Andrew Bolt (tag-teaming with Gerard Henderson)
  • Most bizarre: Miranda Devine, picking on 9 year old Quaden Bayles
  • Most appalling: Bettina Arndt (not even going to link)
  • Dishonourable mention: Mark Latham (ditto)

As far as I can tell, we haven’t yet heard from Joe Hildebrand and Prue McSween, who would normally be keen competitors.

21 thoughts on “Triggering the lefties

  1. Trigger Leftish outrage and hope the most unreasonable and unlikable examples rise to public attention? Or, in the case of some of those panel shows, trawl for the most egregious examples to bring to public attention, and present them as being typical.

  2. Later today I might find myself in a place that provides copies of the Brisbane Sunday Mail for their readers, and I’ll check out whether Peta Credlin and/or Peter Gleeson have entered the contest. The latter is hard to beat when it comes to sheer crassness.

  3. The RW commentariat don’t need to construct a rational argument, or win a sensible debate, they just need to produce content that compels focus and seems to require attention. By getting a hold of the media cycle, it doesn’t matter who is outraged, as long as they are compelled to look, and to spread the content. RW commentators demonstrably have enough followers that are rusted on, they can change the conversation away from any issue without seriously debating it. They change the conversation into a simple left vs right tribal war. It’s not about pedophilia, it’s about left vs right. It’s not about climate change, is about left vs right. The latter is their turf, where they are happy to fight.

    By dominating the media cycle and forcing their ideological opponents into reactive outrage, they stay in control of what everyone is thinking about (the culture war).
    I’m sure they benefit from the exposure generated by people who express outrage along with a link to the source.

    The most noteworthy thing this week was that bolt actually apologised. That is rarely (ever?) seen. I guess, despite what I said above, there is a limit somewhere to how far a RW opinion shaper can safely go without worrying about jeopardizing their own influence.

    Perhaps the most hapless tweet I saw was one from Ketan Joshi, where he implored his followers to *not* read a Chris Ullman article that he was providing a link to and exposure for in the very tweet.

  4. I find the suggestion that I might be easily triggered upsetting and ask that in future you preface posts like this with a trigger warning.

  5. Trigger warning – for shooting off at the mouth..

    “… it depends on what sort of dream a young person is ‘given’…^2

    Craig Kelly boosting Advance Australia’s national director Liz Storer…
    “…of what we believe is the truth”, because children were being indoctrinated by the left.”…

    “Liberal MP Craig Kelly backs Advance Australia’s climate change resources in classrooms

    “Mr Kelly, who represents the south Sydney seat of Hughes, said he “absolutely” supported the right-wing activist group in its attempt to distribute the resources to primary school children.

    “… by Advance Australia – which bills itself as a right-wing version of progressive lobby group GetUp – to develop materials on climate change targeted at children. The resources would include a “Smart Scientist’s Kit”, an e-book of “10 climate facts to expose the climate change hoax”, as well as an educational video and speaking tour by a “renowned climate scientist”. [ Ridd? ]

    “Advance Australia’s national director Liz Storer said the material was required to “give a counter-narrative of what we believe is the truth”, because children were being indoctrinated by the left.

    “NSW Liberal Environment Minister Matt Kean told The Sun-Herald the materials should not be allowed in schools. “Let kids be educated in line with the science and stop these vested interests trying to pollute the curriculum,” he said. [ punny from enviro minister ]
    https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/liberal-mp-craig-kelly-backs-advance-australia-s-climate-change-resources-in-classrooms-20200221-p54366.html

    ^2 
    “Dare to dream! Since when do we need courage to dream? In China, it depends on what sort of dream a young person is ‘given’. Our dreams are so textured by the minds of our masters that it can sometimes seem as if there is no true dream left in the human imagination.”
    https://aeon.co/essays/why-my-generation-forgot-to-rebel-against-china-s-overlords

    Glad you didn’t polluted your blog JQ, by not limking.

  6. Someone else noticing and asking a question as…

    “What determines the balance between intelligence signaling and virtue signaling?

    ” It seems that if you get too much of one type of signaling versus the other, things can go horribly wrong. … We’re seeing this more and more in Western societies, in places like journalism, academia, government, education, and even business. But what’s causing this?

    “One theory is that Twitter with its character limit, and social media and shorter attention spans in general, have made it much easier to do virtue signaling relative to intelligence signaling. But this seems too simplistic and there has to be more to it, even if it is part of the explanation.

    “Another idea is that intelligence is valued more when a society feels threatened by an outside force, for which they need competent people to protect themselves from.. ..”

    https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/vA2Gd2PQjNk68ngFu/what-determines-the-balance-between-intelligence-signaling

  7. I like the idea that it’s the *right* who want children to hear a diversity of voices in the school curriculum. I can’t wait for the broadening of religious studies to include compulsory coverage of Islam, Hinduism etc under “religious studies”. But equally, the theory of the ever-expanding earth (instead of gravity), phlogiston, Maui pulling Te Wai Pounamu out of the sea rather than that silly nonsense about continental drift, and so on. Somehow though I expect the only mythology to be covered will be brought to you by our sponsors, BP and Monsanto.

  8. KT2, I suspect it predates twitter by quite a long time. Back in the day there was a lot of viral nonsense on BBSen, and of course once we got newsgroups there was everything from alt.fan.pastafarianism to nz.sockwear with the expected level of weirdness even in some of the more reasonable-sounding groups. Once self-hosted forums were more accessible we got dedicated flat-earth fora, just to dip a toe in the shallow end.

    But then, I vaguely recall our ancestors carving ridiculous things into stone tablets at various times, and the printing press just allowed them to spam nonsense more easily… from The Bible to Captain Ahab and the Greate White Wail.

    One of those ancestors was heard to boast “a lie travels around the world before the truth has got out of bed”. Or perhaps complained about that.

  9. Substitious: I believe real things that others assume are make-believe.

    (via reddit, of all places)

  10. Australian commentators really are crap. Apart from Gittins and Laurie Oakes (now gone) I don’t follow any. They are about 85% right wing and 15% left, each as predictable as a stopped clock and not especially well written. There are no genuine free thinkers or probing realists there. Definitely no wit or erudition.

    Hence, no triggering because no attention paid.

  11. “They change the conversation into a simple left vs right tribal war. It’s not about pedophilia, it’s about left vs right. It’s not about climate change, is about left vs right. The latter is their turf, where they are happy to fight.”

    This – “where they are happy to fight” – could be seen to imply there was some rigour to their arguments. There is not. What they do is merely relentless repetitive propaganda. In a country like Australia where the fix is in – thank Keating for the media fix… and Hawke for the continuing voting system fix – such propaganda is all they need to do in aid of their paymasters’ cause to win just enough in dumb marginal voter land. The cause being to have any governing shambles also serve the oligarchy. They continue to be most successful.

  12. How effective is the “owning the libs” strategy? It’s a tricky Zen move, relying on the opposition to play the game. If they sensibly decline, like Greta Thunberg vs Trump, the ploy fails, except within the tribe.

    The best advice I’ve seen in responding to outrageous lies: NEVER start by repeating the lie before refuting it. ALWAYS start by reasserting the truth being challenged. This runs against our desire for novelty and engagement. But the true audience is not the liars: you aren’t debating them in any real sense.

  13. Trigger warning, I googled “ andrew bolt apology” and got a long list of Andrew Bolt’s apologies. Then I realised that it’s all about Andrew Bolt maintaining the public’s attention and not really about making an apology.

    Next week Andrew Bolt will be tearing into somebody else, then apologising for the manner in which he did so while taking a swipe at a third party etc etc.

    It’s all about Bolt.

  14. On this occasion Arndt was in a class of her own. But as a trigger it didn’t work because it was so extreme. It’s like if you see someone having a rant in the street. You avert your eyes and move away with maybe a twinge of sympathy for a person who has lost it.

  15. @ Historyintime

    I would add Jack Waterford (P&I) to that list, Like both of your nominations he has swum in the waters.

  16. Moz of Yarramulla
    Yes, humans will be humans.
    And “we got dedicated flat-earth fora, just to dip a toe in the shallow end.”

    From the Department of Truth is Stanger than Fiction… Today in smh..

    “Daredevil dies in homemade rocket disaster on mission to prove Earth is flat”
    https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/daredevil-dies-in-homemade-rocket-disaster-on-mission-to-prove-earth-is-flat-20200224-p543le.html

    James Wimberley
    “But the true audience is not the liars: you aren’t debating them in any real sense.” +1

  17. The best advice I’ve seen in responding to outrageous lies: NEVER start by repeating the lie before refuting it. ALWAYS start by reasserting the truth being challenged. This runs against our desire for novelty and engagement. But the true audience is not the liars: you aren’t debating them in any real sense.

    Somewhat related advice is this: when responding to somebody who is ‘playing the man and not the ball’, respond by playing the ball.

  18. KT: I did see that reported elsewhere. Hard not to smile.

    I’ve had media training and done a few hostile interviews, and the thing that was hammered into me was: make your point. Keep making your point. Don’t be distracted.

    You see that when politicians just keep repeating their talking points rather than answering the questions, but you mostly notice it when they do it badly. If the victim knows their stuff it can flow really nicely, you get a question (usually a leading question or a bad assumption one), but the reply is nicely done to both stand alone as well as answering the question without repeating any falsehoods contained therein. “carbon dioxide makes plants grow”… “one consequence of a warming climate is that plants can’t absorb carbon dioxide as well, and at about 50 degrees phorosynthesis has pretty much stopped, then at about 60 degrees essential chemicals like chlorophyll actually break down and the leaves of the plant die”. That it addresses the “question”{sic} while being truthful and not repeating the lie. Now keep doing that for an hour while only repeating any given fact once 🙂

    In some ways that’s easier for academics and activists because we tend to know our stuff in much greater detail than the non subject matter expert who’s asking questions. But in other ways harder, because we’re playing to their audience. Making the interviewer look stupid generally backfires.

  19. ? “who would normally be keen competitors.”?

    “In his speech, Mike Burgess mentions “right wing” six times. He does not mention left wing at all”
    https://www.asio.gov.au/director-generals-annual-threat-assessment.html

    Peter Dutton
    @PeterDutton_MP
    Dec 10, 2011

    “You dirty lefties are too easy. Enjoy your weekend.”

    https://mobile.twitter.com/PeterDutton_MP/status/145274421270163457?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/live/2020/feb/25/kristina-keneally-calls-for-bettina-arndt-to-be-stripped-of-australia-day-honour-politics-live?page=with:block-5e545a438f08e13324749781#liveblog-navigation

  20. Arndt and Latham aren’t at all representative of right-wing media coverage of the recent murder-suicide in Brisbane, or of the subsequent outpouring of right-wing opinion bloviation. The Murdoch tabloids such as The Courier-Mail love their crime stories, particularly violent ones with gory details. News articles with simplistic, moralistic narratives, in which the perpetrator can simply be dismissed as an “evil monster”, backed up with opinion pieces calling for a tough-on-crime approach, have been, as ever, the order of the day.

    The right-wing media (along with an increasingly tabloid and crime-obsessed ABC) is a friend of those on the left who want to portray an image of escalating death and violence—despite the fact that the homicide rate has fallen by about 50% since the beginning of the 1990s (the intimate partner homicide rate fell by about 60% between 1989/90 and 2015/16, the latest year for which data appears available).

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