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The emotional-inversion trap. How the Left uses language to demonise the Right.

By Keith Borholm - posted Monday, 1 October 2018

The political Left continues to lecture liberals and libertarians alike on the need for quotas for women in the parliamentary wing of the conservative side of politics. In decrying the lack of female representation, Labor and the Greens push a distorted narrative – that gender inequality is a symptom of conservative politics. This kind of distortion is classic Saul Alinsky: if you want to win the argument, infuse the narrative with emotional language that pits one group against another. In his book, Rules for Radicals, Alinsky puts it this way: 'Pick the target, freeze it, personalise it, and polarise it'. By playing this card, Labor hopes to herd women into a confused homogenous grievance group where emotion becomes inversely proportional to wisdom: that is, if you can get this group to 'feel', then they're less likely to 'think'.

With Liberal women fleeing en masse after the leadership tussle, the Left's tactic seems to have worked. Four Liberal women resigned en masse, alleging bullying. Worse still, Julie Bishop, once known for her steely and pragmatic approach to politics, also fell afoul of Labor's emotional inversion trap proclaiming, in what I can only presume was a 'road to Damascus' moment, that 'it's unacceptable that less than twenty-five percent of Liberal Party MP's are women, and bullying has no place in modern Australia'. I'm sure she's realised, in hindsight, that she's been conned.

But this isn't about just women and bullying. It's about how the Left has appropriated words and phrases such as gender bias, equality, inequality, top end of town, looking after the rich, etc., in order to control the high ground of Australian political discourse.


Members of the Left have become masters of manipulating language: using it, in effect, to make their policies seem reasonable and fair, whilst at the same time colouring all conservative policies as heartless, and by extension, conservatives themselves as spurious. An insidious tactic in the Left's playbook is to insert an apocalyptic tone into every conservative utterance and policy. The hope is to elicit an unfavourable emotional response from voters. Evidence of this was on full display during the recent debate on corporate tax reform, when Shorten attacked the measure as a handout to the rich, particularly bankers who have a history of ripping off the ordinary hard-working men and women of Australia. In this instance, Shorten links the rich with conservatives while identifying the Left with 'ordinary hard-working Australian men and women'. The implication? Conservative politicians only care about their wealthy mates, leaving the Left to care for everyone else.

To gain a political edge during the gay marriage debate, Tanya Plibersek tossed the term 'human rights' into the discussion. Plibersek knew that some on the conservative side viewed human rights as code for anti-free speech. By associating gay rights with human rights, the Left managed to corner conservatives into a position where they had little, if any, wiggle room. The implication, in this instance, was that anyone who disagreed with gay marriage rights must also then disagree with human rights.

Conservatives need to wake up to the fact that words and phrases can have an emotional impact and can foster confusion in voters' decision-making. Pejorative idioms like 'middle-aged white men' and 'Stepford wife' are used by the Left to malign conservatives – yet conservatives fail to push back. Words such as misogynist, racist, homophobe, Islamophobe, and xenophobe are flung at 'right wing' Australians who call for stronger borders or regard assimilation by other cultural groups as problematic. Again, no push-back.

The phrases and words expressed above, along with terms like gender identity, gender neutrality, transgenderism, LGBTQ and social justice, can all be found in the Left's lexicon and are used for no other purpose than to divide. And, of course, only Labor and the Greens care about children, health, education, the environment, climate change, domestic violence and pensioners. This is classic Stalin-esque use of language.

Make no mistake, the West is in the midst of a civil war, a war raging between postmodernist progressives and enlightened conservatives. In essence, it's a war between the individual's right to own and express his or her own thoughts, and the Foucauldian Left's desire to paint the individual as an enemy of the state whose thoughts need to be subordinated to some higher organising principle of fairness for all – a principle that exists only in Communist fairy tales.

Conservatives must fight back against this insidious power-play by the Left and provide voters with a vision of the future that is anchored by personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional Australian values such as 'a fair-go', and a strong national border.

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Article edited by Margaret-Ann Williams.
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About the Author

Keith Borholm is a lecturer and strategy consultant. He holds a BA (International Politics) and MBA from the University of South Australia. A classical liberal with an interest in Western philosophy, he sees the rise of socialist ideals and identity politics as a threat to western liberal principles and values.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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