The Politics    Friday, August 19, 2022

Posting through it

By Rachel Withers

Image of a “distracted boyfriend” meme sending up Scott Morrison, via Twitter

Image via Twitter

Morrison fails to grasp that people are laughing at him, not with him

Scott Morrison was “feeling amused”, according to last night’s Facebook status, as he jumped on board with the social-media memes sending up his secret portfolios. “It’s been fun joining in on all the memes,” the former PM wrote, sharing his own Photoshopped effort, after spending several hours commenting on others. “As Aussies we can always have a chuckle at ourselves.have a good evening.” In case it wasn’t clear from that poorly punctuated post, this was all “ScoMo”, with a spokesperson confirming today that “he did all the posts himself”. Speaking this morning, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the scandal was no laughing matter, adding that he was “surprised” by Morrison’s response. (Indeed, Labor MPs seem to have refrained from engaging with the gags, as Crikey noted.) Liberal deputy Sussan Ley defended the jokes, telling 2GB that “taking the mickey out of yourself” is a “great Australian tradition”. Morrison, she insisted, had already “reflected on” his actions and put out a long (rambling) statement, adding that Albanese should move on. On the contrary, it’s clear that Morrison hasn’t reflected on this at all, that he doesn’t give a flying fuck about what he has done, or how many Australians feel about it. Because despite the many memes, we are not amused.

It was jarring to see Morrison go straight from “I’m sorry you feel that way” non-apologies to laughing at memes about his secret power grab. “I understand the offence that some of my colleagues, particularly, have felt about this,” he said during Wednesday’s bizarro press conference. “I understand that and I have apologised to them.” Who needs a working relationship with their aggrieved colleagues when they have memes, right? It was clear from the outset that Morrison wasn’t sorry at all, swinging wildly from self-pity to self-aggrandisement, from gaslighting to boasting about the “40,000 lives saved” (a questionable claim). Perhaps he might start taking this seriously when he faces a possible censure motion in the House of Representatives next month, with the Greens having written to the Speaker yesterday to ask to have Morrison’s actions referred to the privileges committee. Probably not.

It’s no surprise that Morrison – ever the relatable Aussie larrikin – wants to get in on the jokes. (Although one might wonder what happened to his belief that social media is the domain of “the evil one”, as Guardian Australia’s Josh Butler reminds us with the meme of the day.) The former PM is clearly lapping up the attention of his Facebook followers, who, like Trump fans, think he can do no wrong. Morrison has been enjoying the praise, as Trump does, for a meme that is objectively unfunny. (Seriously, where is the joke?) But what he fails to grasp (or wilfully ignores – it’s really not clear) is that the majority of people shitposting about this scandal are not laughing with him, but at him. As with his attempts to get in on the Engadine Maccas gag, Morrison taking part doesn’t change the fact that most of these jokes are being made at his expense. What’s more, as Richard Flanagan writes, the humour is a coping mechanism, “not unlike the nervous laughter that accompanies those who walk away alive from a car smash”.

Australians are still collectively processing the bullet we dodged in May, when we turfed out a guy who we thought was a lazy, lying, blame-shifting sexist, but who turned out to be an actual megalomaniac. As one of the most incisive tweets about all this says, “Scott’s actions were consistent only with those of a leader who has fascist inclinations. What saved us was that he was a lazy, stupid and incompetent fascist.” There were already warning signs of his need for control, Guardian Australia reports today, with his penchant for secrecy and centralising power, from his “committee of one” to a “shadow public service”. What he did here could have had serious consequences. As Samantha Maiden reports, Morrison’s demand for a “direct command and control structure” in the health portfolio may have led to clashes between the miliary leader in charge of the vaccine rollout and the health minister. (And let’s not dwell on what might have happened had there been a terrorist attack, as Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil noted earlier this week.)

Sometimes humour is the best way to make a political point: “Relatable Aussie Larrikin Has A Laugh At Himself For Hilariously Undermining Nation’s Democracy,” writes The Betoota Advocate today. In attempting to get in on the joke, Morrison is only making more of a fool of himself, reminding us of what a totally unserious, yet totally unfunny, genuinely dangerous man he is.

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.


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