If Joe Hildebrand Wants To Fight Elitism He’ll Have To Destroy Himself First


The columnist rails against inner city elitists, setting the facts and context aside in his quest to troll the Greens and other leftists. But if we can ignore the inaccuracies in his work, an interesting question arises. What must the columnist think of himself, asks Michael Brull.

“I… like fascists… conjure up absolute goals and destroy anyone… yearn for oppression… In the meantime, poor people just have to suffer…” – Joe Hildebrand, in his shocking new op-ed.

Last week, the Daily Telegraph threw its weight behind ALP MP Anthony Albanese in the upcoming election. “Save Our Albo”, they cried, from the treacherous Greens communist threatening our beloved capitalism.

That probably didn’t help Albanese that much. Inner city leftists are probably not too concerned by the editorial opinions of the Tele. If red-baiting has any effect, it’s most likely to convince Grayndler voters that Greens candidate Jim Casey might actually want some meaningful change.

As my colleagues at New Matilda showed, the ABC and Fairfax last week joined the campaign. They claimed that Casey had announced that Tony Abbott’s election was preferable to Shorten’s. This was bullshit. In fact, Casey had said he preferred to see social movements on the streets with reactionary politicians in parliaments, rather than progressive politicians but no social movements. In the latter case, it “doesn’t matter how many good MPs you’ve got”. Even if they’re “of the calibre” of the two next to him, Lee Rhiannon and Adam Bandt. Because if they “don’t have those social forces behind them, there’s very little they can really do”.

Supporting a labour movement in the streets – even while explicitly explaining that his priority wasn’t who was elected – became support for the election of Tony Abbott. At the time of writing, only 887 people have viewed the video. As the speech was given two years ago, it seems that few of those who have read the attacks on Casey have taken the time to watch the less than seven minute speech. It is also unlikely that those who have written articles attacking Casey have taken the time to watch the video: certainly, none of the media outlets have corrected their false claims about Casey’s speech.

Jim Casey. IMAGE: Thom Mitchell.
Jim Casey. IMAGE: Thom Mitchell.

The false claims have turned into dogma, and indignant articles have started popping up, expressing outrage that a Greens candidate would want Abbott elected. Fairfax centrist-in-chief Peter Hartcher, whose journalism is mostly writing out what important people think, reported that Casey’s radicalism made the Greens unelectable. Hartcher recoiled in horror: “Preferring a prime minister with antithetical views to your own as an opportunity for disorder in the streets? This is fringe stuff from campus politics in the Cold War.”


A Man Of Which People, Exactly?

The Save Our Albo campaign continued with one of the laziest hacks at the Tele, the eminently fatigable Joe Hildebrand. Hildebrand’s style involves being glib, factually dubious, and including lots of bad jokes. There is usually some sort of dig at the left, as he presents himself as in touch with real people, unlike the other crazies out there.

He got in early on Saturday and reaffirmed his brand with the headline: “Why the Greens are rotten to the core”. Get it? Because Greens can refer to vegetables. What a zinger!

The thesis of the article is that the Greens “wish to destroy” all the achievements of successive Labor governments, such as “free health care, free education, a welfare safety net and a solid minimum wage.” This is because of Labor’s determination to shield the disadvantaged. The Greens, on the other hand, are “ideologues”. “Like fascists”. Yes, he actually said that the Greens are like fascists. They “conjure up absolute goals and destroy anyone who fails to meet them”.

This is a rather strange definition of fascism. Wanting to achieve something, and (not literally) destroying those who get in your way. Isn’t that kind of like Kevin Rudd’s campaign to overthrow Julia Gillard and become Prime Minister again? Or Tony Abbott’s ousting of Malcolm Turnbull to fight action on climate change? Or Tony Abbott’s present campaign to get revenge on Turnbull for overthrowing him? When you really think about it, it seems there’s fascism everywhere. It’s a marvel we still even have a democracy with so much fascism going around.

Hildebrand goes on to identify the deepest problem with Greens style fascism: they “yearn for oppression”, as it might “bring about the longed for revolution.” And they are “ruthlessly self-interested”. How does he know? He progresses to the central proof of Greens fascism: “incredibly the Greens want Abbott back. Or at least one does.” Then he truncated the Casey quote to make it seem really unhinged: “I would prefer to see Tony Abbott returned as prime minister with a Labor movement that was growing.”

Really? A Greens candidate, then speaking at a Greens conference, would prefer to see Abbott elected, so that the ALP could grow? Does that make sense to anyone? If he’s just talking about the ALP and Coalition, then why would he prefer to see the ALP growing, rather than elected? And why wouldn’t he want the Greens elected?

Hildebrand takes the opportunity to smugly mock this out-of-touch radical: “Those who are actually in the Labor movement disagree”. Hildebrand’s posturing started early in the article, as he explained that the “intellectual Left” doesn’t understand how to appeal to the “underprivileged demographic”; the “working poor” are “foreign to them”.

So, is Hildebrand that much more in touch than Casey?

It is true that Casey is campaigning in a seat in the inner west, which is often associated with intellectuals and trendy leftists. Yet that is also where Hildebrand lives. Casey has been a firefighter since 1997. His Greens profile notes: “For the past seven years, Jim has led the NSW branch of the Fire Brigades Employees’ Union. During his time as State Secretary, the FBEU has seen significant wins, including stopping the NSW Government’s policy of temporary closure of local fire stations and defending workers compensation for firefighters injured on the job.”

That’s right. Casey was fighting for compensation for injured firefighters while Hildebrand was working for the Daily Telegraph and Channel 10. And Hildebrand thinks he is in a position to distinguish Casey from those who are actually in the labour movement?

To be fair, in Hildebrand’s rendition, he did say “Labor” movement. Yet it takes considerable chutzpah to write in the Daily Telegraph that a leading trade unionist doesn’t care about the poor and workers like you do.

I don’t know what Hildebrand earns from the Tele or Channel 10. But if radio hosts at the ABC can get six figure salaries, Hildebrand is probably doing pretty well for himself. Hildebrand’s presumably generous earnings don’t mean that he doesn’t get to have an opinion. They just make it a little silly when he engages in some more-in-touch-than-thou posturing against a firefighting trade unionist.

Hildebrand goes on to identify some other evils of the Greens. They are “also believed to be doing secret deals with the Coalition to effectively run dead in marginal seats targeted by the Liberals — a.k.a. giving ‘open preferences’. In exchange the Libs would preference the Greens in key inner-city seats to knock off ALP candidates.” Note that term of art: “believed”. Practically anyone can believe anything. What does that prove? Nothing. The ALP has called the Greens a “cancer” and more over this allegation, but there is zero evidence so far that it is actually true.

Hildebrand concludes that this is the “true agenda of the lunatic Left”. Help the Liberals win, and knock off ALP MPs. This is based entirely on a false quote, and what some people “believe” but haven’t proven. Meanwhile, “poor people just have to suffer while waiting for the revolution”. Presumably, Hildebrand believes that when Shorten is elected, with Albo by his side, the first thing they’ll do is fight for the poor. But not the Greens. They don’t care about poor people like Shorten and Hildebrand.


When Being Wrong Feels So Right

US presidential Republican candidate, Donald Trump. (IMAGE: Michael Vadon, Flickr)
US presidential Republican candidate, Donald Trump. (IMAGE: Michael Vadon, Flickr)

I’ll just briefly flag some more of Hildebrand’s nonsense. He claims that the Greens blocked Rudd’s emissions trading scheme, which led to the end of his prime ministership, and in a convoluted way, also brought Tony Abbott to power and got the carbon tax repealed. Apparently, the ALP played no role in the public turning on it.

In fact, the evidence shows that the Greens repeatedly requested, and even begged the ALP to negotiate on its ETS policy. The ALP only ever agreed to talk, but not to negotiate. And they never planned to. Penny Wong more or less openly announced that locking in a target of 5 percent cuts by 2020 was non-negotiable. Under the ALP scheme, according to ALP modelling, Australian emissions wouldn’t have even started to diminish before 2033.

Hildebrand also claims that “It is well known that Donald Trump’s support base consists largely of the uneducated and working-class”. It is well known is another Hildebrand term, roughly equivalent to “I believe without evidence”. In fact, US political data analyst Nate Silver observed less than two weeks ago that “As compared with most Americans, Trump’s voters are better off. The median household income of a Trump voter so far in the primaries is about $72,000”. The median household income is about $56,000. Only 12 per cent of Trump voters earn less than $30,000.

Which brings me to the quote at the start of this article. Technically, that’s not really what Hildebrand wrote. It turns out that it’s not hard to make someone look crazy if you selectively quote what they say, dismiss the context, and ignore their actual arguments. It’s depressing that this is how the election campaign is starting, because it’s likely that lies about the Greens are only going to get worse.



Michael Brull writes twice a week for New Matilda. He has written for a range of other publications, including Overland, Crikey, ABC's Drum, the Guardian and elsewhere. His writings can be followed at his public Facebook page (click on the icon below right).