IT IS often said that military commanders re-fight the last war, sending their cannon fodder over the top without pausing to consider if the current enemy bears comparison with the previously vanquished. The assertion is not entirely true, of course, and perhaps less so for generals than the broader population. Between the Great War and the next, for example, Italian theorist Giulio Douhet formulated his doctrine of aerial bombardment and saw it adopted well nigh universally. Same with Kurt Student, whose parachute-borne assault on Crete bore not the slightest resemblance to any action seen two-plus decades earlier on the Western Front. But set aside the quibbles and, as a broader guide to our species’ psychological circuitry, the maxim holds true. In moments of peril and uncertainty, the comfort of the familiar will always be the most seductive option.
You can see the appeal of that oh-so-easy mindset in your morning paper, especially if you are one of Fairfax’s surviving readers. Indeed, with brothel creeper Craig Thomson now the soiled banner to which the hapless Gillard must rally her troops, her ink-stained quislings’ blind compulsion to find solace in what they know best is proving irresistible. Consider Laura Tingle, who is re-kindling the rage of her girlhood and ranting on Twitter about an elected representative’s right to remain in office until the electorate turfs him out. Almost four decades on from November 11, 1975, with Saint Gough in an old folks’ home and intimate exposure to hubby Alan Ramsey’s domestic drool having done its immense harm, a menopausal Tingle is back on the ramparts, so blind with partisan fury she notices no difference between a government denied Supply and one whose survival hangs on a former union chieftain who supplied his sordid needs with members dues. It’s not much of a government, as even Tingle must notice in her more lucid moments, but dammit, it is her government, and so long as Fairfax gives Tingle permission to render herself and her employer a laughingstock, that will be where her perceptions begin and end.
In the Age, something even more remarkable, courtesy of associate editor Shaun Carney. Read the selection below and wonder if Carney, too, has been sleeping with Ramsey:
… if the government is going to go down, it might at least go down swinging. The dismissive taunting of Monday's protesters by minister Anthony Albanese in Parliament - the self-titled ''convoy of no confidence'' he re-labelled as a ''convoy of no consequence'' - was remarkable because of its aggressive, assertive nature. … the government should have juiced up its approach long ago. Until Albanese launched into the rag-tag bunch of truckies on Monday, Labor seemed to want everyone to believe that its only detractors were inside the Coalition party room. The only saving grace of the Thomson affair is that it gives government MPs a single point from which to dig in and defend themselves.
So, an MP mocks citizens who peacefully protest government policy and Carney raises his little fist and calls for more of the same, apparently oblivious to his many readers – well, former readers – who share the Canberra protesters’ reservations. How could he do it, transcribe the dialogue of current events with such a tin ear? Again, blame the urge to dilute consistency with the dribble of party loyalty. Carney spent his formative years reporting on the mobs who denounced John Howard. Their cause was his, but now that Howard is gone and Carney’s team in power, his perception of the foe remains unchanged. It was Labor’s opponents then, and it is Labor’s opponents’ now. If Ruddock had denounced so-called advocates for asylum seekers in the terms Albanese directed at truck drivers, Carney would have been the first to see a divisive ugliness eating at the soul of Australian democracy. Now, at long last, his government’s critics are getting what they deserve, and three cheers for Albanese, Honourable Member for Arrogance, who puts the boot in.
Georges Santayana was a little off the mark when he observed that those who neglect history will be sentenced to repeat it. For the likes of Carney and Tingle, a subjective eye to history frames their perceptions. As for being sentenced to repeat it, that is no punishment but a badge of honour.