The view from Billinudgel

Making sense of CPAC
Why the Conservative Political Action Conference should not be dismissed lightly

Nigel Farage at CPAC in Sydney. Source: Twitter

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

The elite reactionaries gathered in their four-star 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 The French Revolution was a ghastly mistake, the Bill of Rights must be repealed.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 plush 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. Inviting a Muslim apostate no doubt let them think they had inclusion and balance.

And of course, there was some local input from the usual suspects. The veteran professionals of the lunar right – Mark Latham, Janet Albrechtsen, Ross Cameron and the rest – were 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 in with the baying mob.

Is the CPAC dangerous? Well, it can be. Right-wingers wielding wealth, power and influence can always be dangerous. Nigel Farage has done untold damage to the United Kingdom – 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 and their “victimhood” too much publicity 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. 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.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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