Is SloMo a liar or a bullshitter?
All bullshitters are liars, but very few liars are bullshitters. In Scott Morrison it’s possible we find a rare, maybe even unique example of a perverse hybrid, the bare-faced liar cross-dressing as a bullshit artist.
Or words. Words are good too.
In 1986, the splendidly named Harry Frankfurt, professor emeritus of philosophy at Princeton University, published the prescient and revelatory essay, On Bullshit.
Being a galaxy-brained philosophy guy, Harry’s essay was full of confusing thinky words and intellectular egg head stuff. But I shall dumberise the best bits for you.
Liars, Harry wrote, care very much about the truth – so much, that they will say and do anything to stop you learning it, because the truth is a clear and present danger to them.
Bullshitters care not a single fuck for the trifling inconveniences of reality. Their only concern is whether you believe them when they urinate volubly into the hot tub and invite you to enjoy the healthful benefits of a rejuvenating mineral spa.
Seekers after an escape route from the truth tend to fall into either camp. But in the Prime Minister I suspect we have a feckless cove who long ago smirked fuckity-bye-bye to sweet vérité, clicking his heels as he performed a backflip through the open window of her boudoir, only to wake in fright years later, afeared that the endless twitching of his knob in the dark is a convulsive recoil away from the serrated kitchen knife of payback.
Here is a man in whom resides the liar’s careful weighing of every word lest one reckless slip bring down upon his head, every crashing slab and stone in a whole teetering tower of deceit.
And yet we have seen too that he can be a roistering motherfucking Falstaff of the gleeful bullshitter’s arts. Behold, in his naked shamelessness at now preferencing lockdowns as the only workable response to Covid outbreaks, after traducing the Labor premiers for ever having contemplated them, the champion bullshitter’s zero fucks principle.
How then to parse this uncommon duality?
I suspect the answer lies in another duality; the question of whether the defining feature the Morrison government is corruption or incompetence.
Because adorable little taco girl, this is not simply a soft-vs-crunchy conundrum. I will cede the point that this government is both jaw-droppingly corrupt and catastro-fucking-muntedly incompetent, but that’s akin to conceding that water is a little bit damp and Matt ‘Sooty’ Canavan somewhat ridiculous.
Jo Dyer captures the essence of it in a cracking good essay over at The Shot, a wafer thin slice of which I’ll steal here:
In this Government, not a single Minister has been held accountable for anything at all. Not one. For anything. A few may have retired hurt to the backbench for a while but they always return revived and rejuvenated. Some of the things for which Ministers should be held accountable (but weren’t) and for which one might expect to see lasting consequences (but haven’t): Brother Stewie ripping us off for internet connections, listing his parents as company directors for an organisation unknown to them, and masquerading as an official Government representative on a private business trip to China. Michaelia Cash refusing to talk to the police when they investigated her office over leaks to the media and then lying about it. Sussan Ley using taxpayer dollars to get her flying hours up to keep her pilot’s license and buying herself an apartment in the Gold Coast along the way. Bridget McKenzie, Senator Sports Rorts herself, now apparently in charge of a Bush Fire Relief Fund busily dispensing money to areas unaffected by the bushfires. Angus Taylor, where to start? A man whose list of scandals is so great, I had to add this extra clause to capture the last and actually least egregious, the monumental self-own that was his skirmish with Clover Moore. Christian Porter, an accused rapist, who moved on Witness K and Bernard Collaery, a whistleblower hero and the lawyer approved by the Inspector-General of Intelligence, fought to try them in secret, and then destroyed the Family Court. Porter’s wing-man, Alan Tudge sleeping with a staff member while promoting himself as a family man and, pre-election, flinging $666,000,000 of taxpayers’ money around in marginal seats for ill-conceived carparks.
Ms Dyer continues in this vein, threatening to fill up the entire internet with their shenanigans, but we’ll stop there because the rorty car park scandal is one of those "Porque no los dos?" moments; the straight up theft by the LNP of more than six hundred million dollars from the public treasury, in broad daylight, or perhaps early evening, given that Morrison signed off on the grand theft rorto at 7.15pm, April 10, 2019, the night before he called the election.
It was quite the heist.
The Auditor General pointed out that most of the car parks were in Melbourne, even though “the majority of the most congested roads in Australia are located in Sydney”. And even within Melbourne, the projects were clustered in “the city’s south-east, not the more congested north-west.”
No, wholesome bunny meme lady, it’s not, unless what you do find clustered in Melbourne’s south-east is a whole bunch of marginal Coalition seats you’d like to make less marginal, and a couple of marginal Labor seats you’d like to make… your own, trousering them like a lazy six hundred million dollarydoos.
That’s the corruption part.
But of course this being a Scott Morrison production, he couldn’t even do that right. Of the 47 promised car parks, only two have been built. As Nadine von Cohen drolly observed of the vaccine program, this government couldn’t roll out a yoga mat.
And there’s your incompetence.
Circling back to whether SloMo is a liar or a bullshitter, look at the way he responds to questions about these two spectacular omni-shambles.
Even now, eighteen months into the pandemic, shitting the bed in the back of a failbus stuck in the drive-thru of Engadine Maccas, he’s still possessed of a breathtaking capacity to bullshit his way out of responsibility for the literal death and economic destruction wrought by his incompetence. He doesn’t care that he’s lying. He doesn’t care that you know. He just has to convince a certain number of tradies that Albo will force them to give up their utes for battery powered poofter cars and he’ll be right.
But when anybody asks anything about the car park scandal, like say, ‘Where’s the colour-coded spreadsheet with all the marginal electorates your staffers drew up to decide where to spend the money?” … Well, the smirk gets a little rubbery. The eyes narrow. And the dissembling, the snivelling and the stonewalling starts.
The lies too.
Simple lies at first, like claiming at a difficult presser that he can’t hear the question, before hurrying on to fill up the dangerously empty airspace with bluster and word porridge.
And then more ambitious lies. Like claiming “Australians are getting are more car parks,” and “Australians are the winners,” before fleeing the microphones and the cameras.
Those aren’t the carefree words of a bullshitter.
Those are the words of a man who knows what he’s done and is terrified that one day he might have to testify. They are the words of a man who cares very much about the truth – so much so that he will say and do anything to stop you learning it, because the truth is a clear and present danger to him.
Catastro-fucking-muntedly-incompetent…brand new phrase for our mine site workshop!
Love ya work, true wordsmith
Guy Rundle had a good bit in Crikey today, that you can get a sense of when I quoth it's title and sub-head in full: "COVID-19 and the normalisation of abject and unmitigated failure
This government's failure of leadership during the pandemic is the result of the Coalition's indifference to its citizens' lives and health."
I like Grey's Law here: "Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice." But it's hard not to suspect the presence of actual malice too.
There's also the limitless smaller failings. Why out-source the covid vaccine rollout to one of the big consulting firms, that have never done that sort of thing before, when there's a whole actual public health infrastructure already on the ground that could have done it? Why spend another 600Mil on a gas power station that the experts say is unnecessary, in a place that doesn't have a gas supply? Why indeed...