“Labor, the party of the working class, has officially become the party of choice for intellectuals,” claimed The Australian last Thursday. Sorry, which “official” said this?
No, it wasn’t a Labor party official announcing a change in their funding source. Nor some mythical official spokesperson for “intellectuals” — could there ever be such a central organisation? No, the “official” is just the journalist who wrote the story, or his sub-editor.
In one way this is like that common mis-use of the word “literally”. As in: “Kevin Rudd was literally torn apart in Parliament this afternoon.” But there’s also some lovely propaganda at work — either because the journo thought it’d make it more dramatic, or because (heaven forbid!) The Australian is continuing its pro-Coalition stance.
First, “intellectual”. Standard right-wing name-calling, part of the cluster of words they’ve created which usually includes “latte” and “chardonnay”. They’ve successfully made a word meaning “one who tries to use his or her intellect to work, study, reflect, speculate, or ask and answer questions about a wide variety of different ideas” into a bad thing. Yes, how dare someone think!
But read the full article. The word “intellectual” is freely interchanged with “tertiary degree-holder” and “university-educated”. That includes nurses, teachers, accountants, naturopaths (yes, you can get a Bachelor of Naturopathy now, don’t get me started!) and “sport tourism managers”. Intellectuals, according to The Australian.
Now the story actually has an important core. The key swinging voters who might affect this election are very different from the parties’ traditional members.
The Liberals, originally the party of business, is now kept in power by blue-collar conservatives: “Howard’s battlers” who’ve bought into the scare campaigns about non-whites and non-Christians. They used to vote Labor before they changed from being employees into self-employed contractors and bought overly-large houses at Kellyville. Suddenly they’re fascinated with interest rates — though they haven’t yet figured out they’re set by the Reserve Bank in response to the global economy, not John Howard personally.
Meanwhile the “doctor’s wives” demographic, who once voted Liberal because their husbands and fellow tennis club members did, now drift to Labor thanks to issues like climate change and concentration camps for vulnerable refugees. They’ve vote for the Democrats (except the Democrats have imploded), or perhaps The Greens (if they washed).
This is an important news story, with serious implications for all political parties and how they run their campaigns. But The Australian just couldn’t help clouding it with propaganda. Neither could I.