MUNGO MACCALLUM. A conference of moaners in Sydney

The Conservative Political Action Conference held in Sydney last weekend should not be dismissed lightly. It must be dismissed heavily, so here goes.

The elite reactionaries gathered in their luxury hotel not to celebrate, but to moan. The parade of paranoid plutocrats complained that their traditional privileges were being challenged – their  hitherto untrammelled power was under threat.

It was against the God-given order – as the old hymn correctly noted, The rich man at his castle, the poor man at his gate; He made them high and lowly, he ordered their estate.

Even the blasphemous Charles Darwin acknowledged the survival of the fittest, and clearly they were the fittest, or at least the fattest. It was time to strike back.  The French Revolution was a ghastly mistake, the Bill of Rights must be repealed.

And that was why they called for action; one day in their five star surroundings was christened, hilariously, a boot camp. And the boot was put in, especially to Kristina Keneally who dared to denounce the hoard of racists, bigots, homophobes and gun toters as undesirable. “Send her back”, they parroted Trumpishly,.

This was Olympic level stupidity, given the fact that she was actually born in their own incubator, the United States. Shameless hypocrisy or pig ignorance? Probably both.

The discourse, such as it was, was dominated by imports, almost exclusively from America and Britain, overwhelmingly white, Christian and middle aged. A token Muslim apostate was brought in to provide what they called inclusion and balance –  Raheem Kassam was among the most rabid.

And of course, there was some local input too – the usual suspects. The veteran professionals of the lunar right, Mark Latham, Janet Albrechtsen, Ross Cameron and the rest were obviously there, as predictable and tedious as ever, but they have been irrelevant to serious debate for many years. The ambitious demagogues of the coalition, Craig Kelly and Amanda Stoker, didn’t matter either.

But Tony Abbott, for all his failings, was a prime minister and John Anderson, formerly regarded as a decent person, was deputy prime minister. Now they have shed their dignity by throwing themselves into the ranks of the nutters, baying with the mob.

Is the CPAC dangerous? Well, it can be. Crazed rightwingers wielding wealth, power and influence can always be dangerous. Nigel Farage has done untold damage to Great Britain – indeed, to the whole of Europe – and he hasn’t finished yet. But while they are confined to whingeing and whining in their chosen refuges for the demented, we can leave them to fulminate to each other in relative obscurity. Giving them too much publicity, the offering the victimhood they crave, is clearly a mistake. But they cannot be ignored altogether – as a fellow rightist, Andrew Hastie, has pointed out recently, neglecting the symptoms of infection risks gangrene and sepsis. But the answer is not to ban it, but to expose it as the Pythonesque grotesquerie it is. Laughter is the best antiseptic, and the one the zealots most hate. So ridicule is required. And fortunately it is very easy find.

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Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

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