The Australian: An Editorial on Liberal Democracy Under Assault

By The Australian

This weekend’s The Australian featured a lead editorial by the newspaper which hit the nail on the head with regard to the threat to liberal democracy unfolding in the social media age.

The paper highlighted the “morphing of race protests into an assault on democracy.”

“HBO Max pulls Gone With the Wind from its streaming service. Cranks are burning and composting JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Winston Churchill’s statue is defaced. A staff hissy fit over an opinion article at The New York Times forces an editor to quit.

“The intolerable killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has lit fires for all manner of intolerances, under the banners of racial equality and identity politics. While calling for compassion and tolerance, activists intimidate and destroy.

“In another week in the creep of the “woke” state, where social media police drop a knee on freedoms and thoughts are cancelled as easily as a swipe and delete, ordinary people could think the world is off kilter.

“Never mind that we are in a cook-off between great powers, economies are shrinking and the coronavirus is sweeping the globe; someone, somewhere is threatened by an opinion that’s different, outraged by a historical relic, triggered by works of art, films, books and their creators. Control + alt + delete is a pathology.”

Police stand guard at the statue of Captain Cook in Hyde Park, Sydney, during a protest rally in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement on June 12, 2020.

The editorial went on to argue:

“As we’re seeing in the rush to topple monuments, cancel culture shows a profound failure to understand history, where horror and glory are intertwined, often in the same person, and great civilisations have atrocious failings, including near universal slavery.

“The revival of unironic cheer squads for socialism among Gen Z, who drop “Nazi” as a weapon like grandparents dropped acid, is dispiriting.

“They clearly know nothing of communism and the bastard symbiosis between Nazis and Stalinists.”

And the editorial concludes by highlighting the reaction of many citizens rejecting the destruction of democracy by those who simply wish to trample it.

“Amid the tumult, this time of the Great Awokening, there are signs people are pushing back against the tide of despair and rage, of dismal forgetting and fracturing. One is in the sheer ridiculousness of these excesses.

“Frankly, the mainstream, as opposed to vice-chancellors and chief executives, will never give a damn about activist pieties.

“On many measures, the world has never been a better or safer place, although COVID-19 has shocked us out of any complacency about risks to health and harmony.

“Our enduring values are from the Enlightenment, where science, technology and reason prevailed.

“That legacy is not completely lost, nor faith in democracy.

“But we need running repairs, emphasising open inquiry, civil debate, the virtues of liberalism in all its manifestations, and the power of individuals to promote that reform.

“The zealots of the Zeitgeist — mad, bad and dangerous to know, as Lord Byron’s lover once described him — are prone to overreach and hubris.

“Like other despots, they can still be toppled by evidence, reality, reason and informed democratic consent.”