When you’re having a debate with someone and they start to abandon facts, you can almost guarantee you’re right. Or if they respond to your evidence with a personal insult, you can also be fairly assured that you are, in fact, correct. This is never more so than in political debate. It seems that the Liberal Party and their supporters have abandoned any semblance of civilised discussion, and are instead invoking the ‘bullshit my way through this’ technique whenever they are questioned.
We’ve seen this method used regularly by Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, when talking down the government’s economic credibility. An example of this is Hockey saying that the Australian economy is ‘flat-lining’. When asked about the use of the words ‘flat-lining’ by Barrie Cassidy on Insiders, Hockey blustered his way through a very odd explanation of how below-trend growth could possibly be called ‘flat-lining’. Cassidy, to his credit, did call Hockey out on his blatant mistruth, and also pointed out that Abbott too had been dishonest about the Australian economy by saying that it wasn’t growing. But Hockey and Abbott couldn’t care less that what they say is in complete denial of facts. The Australian economy has, as Cassidy pointed out, been growing continuously for 21 years. Not flat-lining at all.
Another Liberal front-bencher who has trouble winning an argument without a visit to Bullshit Mountain is Malcolm Turnbull. A few days ago, Turnbull got up on his moral high-horse at the Woodford Folk Festival and criticized the declining standard of debate in politics. He rightfully included himself in the problem, and went on to say politicians are increasingly being:
‘drawn into more and more negativity, more and more of the game of politics… as opposed to the responsibility of dealing with the big issues of our time’.
It’s a very fair point to make. He then says that due to the ‘instantaneous news cycle’, it has
‘never been easier to get away with telling lies’.
Hockey and Abbott are great examples of this. In our current media environment, most of the time politicians can pretty much say whatever they like and can be confident they’ll get away with it. Turnbull also said:
‘it’s never been easier to get away with the glib one liner’.
A glib one liner hey? Now where might I find an example of someone using a glib one liner to end a debate that they area obviously losing? How about Turnbull’s effort on Twitter the day after his Woodford appearance?
Turnbull is quite rare amongst his political colleagues on Social Media in that he actually does engage and respond when asked questions about policy. On this occasion, some Twitter users, including @markjs1 were having a discussion with Turnbull about his criticisms of the National Broadband Network. It’s clearly been Abbott’s plan for Turnbull, as Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband, to destroy the government’s NBN Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) policy and to promote the opposition’s alternative Fibre to the Node broadband plans. After a few technical back and forths about which broadband infrastructure was better for the country, Turnbull delivered this Tweet:
“I argue against FTTP where it is not cost effective. Where it can be deployed quickly and relatively cheaply then it is worth doing”
To which @markjs1 responded:
”NBN IS ‘cost effective” …& U know it …will return 7.1% on money borrowed at 3% + a hugely valuable asset”
Turnbull then immaturely responded:
”@markjs1 so if you believe that I guess you believe Santa brought you your presents on a sleigh with reindeers, right?”
Up to this point, Turnbull had been holding his own in the discussion by showing that he understood the technical differences between his proposal and the government’s NBN and he was doing a good job of explaining his views. But when faced with the refutation of his comment about the NBN’s ‘cost effectiveness’, he chose not to engage as an adult, and instead pulled out a ‘glib one liner’, which left the Twitter audience none the wiser about what he really thought about the cost effectiveness of the NBN. Argument lost.
When the Liberal opposition frontbenchers behave in this way, it is no wonder that their supporters feel they too can argue against facts, and use their own, or repeated mistruths in political discussions. A recent comment on my blog is a great illustration of the type of rhetoric that the government is up against.
“The usual rantings of the entitlement society left wing. Gillard is the worst PM since Whitlam, and her failed policies have increased Australia’s debt by many billions. Pink bats, NBN, illegals arriving by the boatload, the lies of the global warming scam – all propped up by the marxist greens. Hardly a success.”
It’s really difficult to respond to a comment like this. When someone is in complete denial of facts, and is living on Bullshit Mountain, there’s no point trying to have a respectful discussion with them. When the leader of the opposition is constantly calling asylum seekers ‘illegals’, when the Shadow Treasurer paints the best performing economy in the developed world as a debt catastrophe and climate change deniers are given mainstream media credibility, it’s no wonder Liberal supporters feel justified in living in a deluded fact-free world.
I should note that I am indebted to Jon Stewart for locating Bullshit Mountain for me on the political map. It’s an interesting geographical feature – found in Australia as well as the United States.