The lunatic right who make bankers seem sane

There are a lot of things for which Andrew Bolt will one day be held to account, in this world or the next. The standout for me, though, is the remarkable job he and fellow frothy-mouth Alan Jones have done of making an investment banker seem like a reasonable guy.

Malcolm Turnbull’s career should have been shot to pieces the day Lehman Brothers collapsed, bringing down the North Atlantic financial system and millions of lives with it. Bankers are now so hated in the US that the over-inflated talking heads on Fox News spend a decent proportion of their time insisting that the 1 percent have become a persecuted minority.

But in the Bolt-Jones antipodean version of Bullshit Mountain, even being part of the 1 percent won’t save you from the charge of being a closet socialist.

The war being waged on Turnbull by Bolt and Jones is reminiscent of high McCarthyism, a world in which frenzied heresy hunting extended even into the upper echelons of the political establishment.

It would be easy enough to dismiss the extreme right commentariat as marginal and deranged. But the fact is that both Bolt and Jones are close associates of Tony Abbott and among the most influential journalists (for want of a better word) in the country.

Even though most people regard them with contempt, they play a crucial role in shaping the national debate. By putting the view of the extreme right so forcefully, they drag the whole discussion to the right.

The clearest example of how this works is the amount of time the left spends defending the self-evident notion that climate change is a result of carbon emissions, rather than debating how to deal with it. The ferocious campaign by the denialists is part of the reason that so many on the left were prepared to accept the lousy and counterproductive carbon tax as the best that could be hoped for.

As for Malcolm Turnbull, he is given points by Labor supporters just because he doesn’t come across as a semi-fascist Neanderthal and appears willing to engage in a logical debate. The fact remains, though, that he is on the right of the Liberal Party when it comes to economic issues – his endorsement of the budget is wholehearted and entirely in accordance with his reactionary banker philosophy.

There is nothing wrong with the left taking on pond scum like Bolt and Jones. But the real problem in Australian politics is not the influence of the lunar right; it’s the failure of the left to provide an alternative that challenges the right in substance as well as form.