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Thus Spake Mungo: the silent majority revealed as a noisy minority

 

MungoThe best thing about the same sex marriage survey (apart, of course, from the entirely predictable numbers) is that it finally and conclusively disproves the myth of the silent majority – the conservative fantasy that somehow, somewhere, there is a great mass of Australians who are against all progressive change but have never actually said so.

The dwindling right wing rump has always assumed that it is and always will be the dominant paradigm, the custodians of the ideals of the real Australia – the reliable base from which campaigns against change can be launched in the certain knowledge that even when they fail they are still supported by the anonymous millions who make up those who may be a touch apathetic, but are still the true believers.

The strength of the survey result was not just in its decisive win for the progressives, but in its uniformity – all states and territories came out with comfortable wins, and only 17 of the 150 federal electorate dissented.

But last Wednesday this fragile illusion was blown away forever. The decisive majority vote for same sex marriage – an iconic issue if there ever was one – makes it incontrovertibly clear that the country is now firmly anchored in the centre, perhaps a little left of the centre.

The strength of the survey result was not just in its decisive win for the progressives, but in its uniformity – all states and territories came out with comfortable wins, and only 17 of the 150 federal electorate dissented. And those were far from those normally lauded by the right: 12 of them were in Sydney’s western suburbs, swamped (as Pauline Hanson would no doubt say) by Asians of various origins and creeds – recent arrivals who have held to their former beliefs and had not really had time to become part of the culture their many predecessors have embraced. Two were in similar suburbs around Melbourne and the other three nay-sayers were in the backblocks of Queensland – perhaps this is where the right should take refuge.

So the mother all battles in the long-running culture wars has resulted in a devastating defeat for the less than 40 per cent – the benchmark the warrior prince Tony Abbott set as a moral victory – who now claim the right to determine the real outcome in parliament. It brings back the fatuous remark of the hapless Liberal leader Billy Snedden who lost an election to Gough Whitlam in1974: ‘We didn’t win, but we didn’t lose.’

Snedden was rightly mocked and derided at the time, but he went a lot closer than Abbott and his raggle-taggle crusaders managed, despite a campaign which deliberately tried to drag the yes-no question into a debate about the rights of the child, religious privilege, freedom of speech and political correctness.

In Abbott’s own electorate the yes vote was one of the highest in the nation, which does not look good for his prospects as a future proselytizer. And it does not look good for the religious right and its constant demands for special treatment over the rest – the majority – of voters.

Assuming Lyle Shelton and his congregation prayed for victory last week, their prayers were obviously answered, and the answer was resounding: ‘Piss off.’ Their chosen deity flipped them the bird, and we’re not talking about the Paraclete here. Apart from the migrant surge, religion – and particularly aggressively evangelical religion – is on the decline: the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirms the trend in every census, and if there was any doubt the ABS nailed it down last week.

And attempts to salvage something from the ruin, such as the preposterous suggestion from James Paterson, a graduate from the secretive right wing paid lobby group the Institute of Public Affairs, that the commonwealth should legislate to override state anti-discrimination laws, is a measure of the their desperation. As for the idea that the flower arrangers and cake decorators should claim to be conscientious objectors, to save them from eternal damnation if they offer a posy or a lamington to a same sex wedding, it defies parody.

But there is no doubt that the hardliners will hang on by their carefully filed fingernails to make the process of implementing the popular will as difficult as possible for as long as possible, before voting against it anyway. This, says one of them, Eric Abetz, is entirely as it should be: democrats must resist the tyranny of the majority. He is deeply concerned to reach out to the 38.4 per cent of no voters; it is a pity he couldn’t care less about the 61.6 per cent of yes voters over recent months, or for that matter the more substantial minority of 49.6 who voted Labor in 2016. Democracy, it appears, is a subjective idea.

The only real vindication for those who criticised the cowardly and dishonest manipulation of the plebiscite saga is that they have been proved right – it was all a monumental waste of time, money, and most importantly emotional energy.

But note: even Abetz has finally admitted that there is a majority against him and his fellow zealots – let’s face it, he could hardly do anything else. However it would have been more honest to have accepted the endless opinion polling that showed for years that around 60 per cent or better favoured same sex marriage. In fact, the frenetic and divisive couple of years have changed exactly nothing. The only real vindication for those who criticised the cowardly and dishonest manipulation of the plebiscite saga is that they have been proved right – it was all a monumental waste of time, money, and most importantly emotional energy.

But at least they won, and now they can celebrate The losers will just have to suck it up, although they would probably prefer not to put it quite that way. Abbott himself appears to have gone quiet: he will not, he declaims virtuously, frustrate the will of the people. But as always there is a caveat: he has a few ideas to redraft the amending legislation as a kind of theocratic bill of rights. There is plenty of sniping, undermining and wrecking still to come.

But fortunately his humiliation – for that’s what it is – will probably be short-lived. His new career as an evangelist is proving satisfying and profitable. His overseas tours to address conventions of English flat-earthers and American homophobes never fail to excite the noisy minority in the media, and isn’t that what it’s all about? And the fundamentalist Christians insist they will fight on: Lyle Shelton predicts a war of attrition lasting years – probably centuries if necessary, whatever it take to drag Australia back to the middle ages.

But the numbers tell the story: the hard line conservatives lost. When a somewhat tipsy Christopher Pyne boasted couple of months ago that the moderates were in the winners’ circle there was much angst within the coalition. But if the sensible centre wasn’t in charge then, it certainly should be now. After all, the rest of the country is.

 


10 responses to “Thus Spake Mungo: the silent majority revealed as a noisy minority”

  1. Chris Condon says:

    I wonder if the ” Sensible Centre ” is what it was once viewed as?
    A more sober analysis , despite the ” Yes” Victory.He, is the undeniable fact that the ” Sensible Centre”( A Right Wing Term), is actually an EXPANDING , ” Extreme/ Reactionary Centre” Emboldened and NOT cowed into submission by a Progressive , Majority Success Story.

  2. So nice to see the odious “right” knocked askew for once… particularly Vichy Abetz and Smiler Paterson….but they never give up.
    http://shanewombat.blogspot.com.au/2017/11/and-there-was-weeping-and-gnashing-of.html

  3. john forrest says:

    nice to hear from you mungo pity we cant read you in the daily papers

  4. robot says:

    So many analytical blunders. First, conservatives not opposed to progressive change when it becomes the overriding will of the people. Second, the religious or some have more in common with the Left on many issues. Third, a majority opinion does not mean total support necessary, except under totalitarianism. Fourthly, the survey did not ask if the voter liked gays etc; it was a question of policy.

    • MAC089 says:

      “First, conservatives not opposed to progressive change when it becomes the overriding will of the people.” Perhaps, but the blinkered reactionary regressives currently in charge are another matter,

      • robot says:

        ‘blinkered reactionary’: tautology but I’ll admit to it, we’re most thus these days, myself in both directions different parts of life; regressive, socially, politically, any difference? economically, iphones only progress … would we want pre-whitlam? A question I guess for pre-whitlamites. I feel there’s sense to stemming change at the drop of every feelgood hat. Tofler defined this sort of accelerated change in technology and now we see it passing us before we can react, or even think about it. Too late for regression. We can’t keep up with now.

      • robot says:

        ‘blinkered reactionary’: tautology but I’ll admit to it; regressive, socially, politically, any difference? economically, iphones only progress … would we want pre-whitlam? A question I guess for pre-whitlamites. I feel there’s sense to stemming change at the drop of every feelgood hat. Tofler defined this sort of accelerated change in technology, it’s passing us before we can even think about it. Too late for regression. We can’t keep up with now.

  5. StanRyan says:

    Great work Mungo, they can indeed, all piss off!

  6. Daniel Flesch says:

    Good the stupid survey got the right result , but ….again while it was good to see the work of the SSM lobby and the celebrations at the result , wouldn’t it be even better if the same numbers and enthusiasm could now be directed to awareness and help of the miserable persecuted dehumanised asylum seekers in the hell-hole detention centres? People in their hundreds of thousands ridiculed the $100 million wasted on the SSM survey , but are seemingly unaware or unconcerned at the literally billions of bucks this rotten incarceration regime is costing . just to get the racist bogan vote.

  7. robot says:

    In the good old days Bob Ellis wrote beautifully crafted prose. Our national treasure could take one fact and create from that 300 pages of indisputable opinion. Not to be undone Mungo the 5th only needs a little maths to map his way through a whole piece. The semiotics of the word has overtaken its semantics. And journalism becomes a literary work, then religion as the acolytes throng at the gate. In the beginning there was the word and the word was chardonnay.

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