[This is an addendum to GetUp! Fix Your Act Up]

Some pub discussion took exception to one of my main points in the preceding post where GetUp! label the Shooters Party as extreme. Namely where I say –

And I need some help in understanding exactly how a political party who’s primary goal is removal of legislation that unnecessarily restricts law abiding citizens can actually do anything that would qualify as extremist.

and where extremism is taken as per the cesspit of lies definition –

Extremism is any ideology or political act far outside the perceived political center of a society; or otherwise claimed to violate common moral standards. In democratic societies, individuals or groups that advocate the replacement of democracy with a authoritarian regime are usually branded extremists

I have had folks tell me that this anti-legislation, quasi-libertarian attitude of the Shooters Party is no different in essence to that of the Teabaggers, who genuinely do want to un-make society and rebuild it as a laissez-faire, dog-eat-dog, über utopia (for a judeo-christian white over-class, but that’s a trifling detail). Well, in extremis, perhaps yes. But one could also mount the case for NORML being extremists using that logic.

This is however a straw man. You cannot compare a movement who’s idea of government is little more than posse comitatus and who’s first moves in power would be purges of intellectuals (and all non-sporting and non-military elites1) with people who are simply against stupid laws that criminalise innocent citizens. Because that is how the Shooters Party began. When an entire segment of a society is turned into criminals overnight by the stroke of a bureaucratic pen without having said are done anything wrong, speaking up in protest is not extremism. It is a founding principle of democracy2.

It is worth revisiting an article on the party’s founder John Tingle from way back in 2005 –

“It is becoming more difficult. Laws governing firearms – I say governing rather than controlling because laws do not control firearms; they control people – are getting more restrictive and more difficult to comply with. My attempts to make them more reasonable have been largely unsuccessful. […]

As Tingle tells it, the party was born over a languid lunch with the former police minister Ted Pickering. Tingle, then a radio breakfast announcer with 2GB3, was badgering Pickering over proposed new gun laws.

“I said: ‘Look, Ted, if you bring in these laws shooters will go political.’ He replied: ‘No they won’t, they’re too disorganised, too inert, too lazy to get off their bums and do anything.’

“It was a pretty good lunch. We had a couple of bottles of French wine. Afterwards I went down and reserved the name, intending to ring him up the next morning and say: ‘See what you’ve done now.’

This conversation is of interest on two levels. Firstly, Tingle articulates the eternal existential angst of any enlightened free (wo)man – that all laws not directly protecting persons or property are restrictions that punish and constrain the innocent for no good reason; that the justification for such laws, without the decency of stating as such, is that the government considers all citizens to be potential criminals that cannot be trusted to act responsibility without the fear of punishment perpetually hanging over their heads;  and that ultimately such laws make not a shred of difference other than a temporary warm glow for one mob of concerned citizens or another – they never have and they never will4.

The laws that Tingle was bemoaning are no different in essence to parole conditions imposed on felons granted an early release from prison sentences for good behaviour – their freedom is only partial, they are not fully liberated and equal citizens under the conditions of their release.

Tingle was quite entitled to resent this imposition, to protest this imposition using established political means and, most importantly, to do so without being branded an extremist. As he says in the same article –

My job has been to represent the shooter; not the bloke with all his front teeth missing, the big beard, the red checked shirt and floppy hat carrying a gun, but people like judges and surgeons and abattoir workers and builders and women – law-abiding citizens.

He conveys a very important point that is lost amongst the hysteria – gun owners are just ordinary people, no better and no worse than you. Yet the picture that is painted of them is one of hog farms, moonshine and Deliverance. If that’s not villification, I’d like someone to explain to me what is?

No one likes to be branded a criminal when they have committed no harm. This is the perfect recipe for marginalising and fragmenting society5. Create an artificial divide and demonise the other. This process should be distasteful to anyone who claims to believe in democratic principles.

The second, and far more important, point of interest is that it shows precisely how much contempt law enforcement and security organisations have for basic civil liberties and individuals’ rights. Any opportunities made available to erode those rights and permit yet more invasion into personal lives, no matter how trivial, are immediately pounced upon and propagandised as deep concerns that are critical to ensuring safety and security to the public. In this instance, Pickering was capitalising on a spate of recent shootings6, and their ensuing public hysteria, to force through not only draconian gun restrictions and penalties for newly criminalised gun owners, but a taxation levy to pay for it all. One has to ask where all the recent carbon tax protesters were then? Why is one tax evil and another not?

Worst of all was the smug assumption that the general population would just bend over and take it in their usual complacent subservience and what few pockets of resistance there were would be too apathetic to bother complaining. A similar tawdry drama is occurring even now – some politicians have (yet again) floated the idea of mandatory ISP data retention7. This has had both ASIO and the AFP ejaculating in their trousers at the prospect of being able to sift through the panty drawers of the entire ‘net using population. Yet on the topic of examples where someone’s browser cache has been of any use in policing and prosecution they are mute. That’s because there aren’t any. But it can’t hurt to let them sniff around surreptitiously anyway, just in case. Y’know, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide, as any despot can tell you. How asleep the Australian public is on this one hasn’t been really tested yet, but it’s looking good for the panty sniffers.

So let’s just have a thought experiment for a moment. Let us assume that not all gun owners are inbred hillbillies just waiting for your next family picnic so they can go berserk with semi-automatic assault rifles, and that they are in fact just ordinary folks like your doctor or your newsagent or your next door neighbour. Isn’t what is being done to them, no matter how distasteful it may seem to some people, a civil liberties issue? And at the end of the day, is it fair to say that one of the core activist themes of GetUp! is civil liberties? And what are the criteria for, ultimately, deciding which civil liberties are worth defending and which are not?

This is deep grey mud that no one particularly wants to either discuss or really think about. Yet, unconsciously, decisions are made, and as far as their civil liberties go, gun owners have been fed to the authoritarian wolves and the few voices that protest have been branded maniacs by the very same people that claim to be the guardians of our rights and liberties. Well, let’s just quote one of the liberal left’s favourite poster children here, Noam Chomsky. Though this quote is about speech, it is just as applicable to any other basic kind of freedom –

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.

If people and organisations like GetUp! are going to be selective about what civil rights they choose to support and which they condemn, then they are no longer civil libertarians: they are focus group ideologues. It’s not a convenience store. The much maligned Americans understand this, and it is one of the few areas where they can genuinely claim to be a world benchmark. This is why you see the ACLU defending Westboro Baptist and the KKK. It’s called being consistent and having integrity. Those that wrinkle their noses and wring their hands at this only show why they have neither.

GetUp!, by spamming close to half a million Australians last week warning them not to vote for the Shooters Party and equating them to One Nation and Fred Nile, have shown they have none either. They have shown that they love the sport of demonisation and scapegoating just as much as Fred Nile and Pauline Hanson. What a conundrum. The slanderer is that which they hate. Projection anyone?

And it may well be that this spam, to people who may not necessarily know better and consider GetUp! authoritative, influenced the vote enough to have cost the Shooters an upper house seat. And who would be the most direct beneficiary of this? Why, Fred Nile probably. Thanks guys. Y’know if you spent even a few minutes researching the target of your hatred, you could have probably realised that you have more commonalities than differences with the Shooters Party. But hey, never let reality interfere with the perception of doing the right thing. Propaganda, at the end of the day, is everything.

I despair that GetUp! is the best that we can offer as a civil watchdog. The hypocrisy and populist nonsense is simply nauseating.

1 – You don’t have to look far for evidence of this. Just search for their opinions on climate change as an example.

2 – Of course I have to include an obligatory quote from Thomas Jefferson: “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.”

3 – While Tingle did do talk back radio on Sydney’s 2GB, it has to be noted that this was *before* the station decided there was a healthy profit to be made out of maniac right Glen Beck clones and it is unlikely he’d share any common ground with them.

4 – No one wants to actually look at the year-on-year data that gun crime, with illegal and unlicensed weapons, keeps rising as restrictions on licensed users get tighter and tighter. Imagine if doctors applied the same methodology – “That toe nail has grown in again – we’re going to have to amputate your leg”. The same perverted logic is the only logic permitted in the debate.

5 – It is amazing watching those that label themselves as “liberals” crying into their milk at how much of a disaster the last half century has been for them. The causes are many, but far from least of which is this habit of playing various guilt cards (racism, sexism etc.) against entirely innocent people – like gun owners who must hate children. This is where virtually all of the resentment has been born – and these “liberals” would rather die than admit that their problems are largely self-inflicted.

6 – Primarily current world spree killing record holder Martin Bryant.

7 –  In case there are folks that don’t consider this to be a biggie – it is. It will allow the creation of a unique dossier on everyone that can then be selectively edited to suit any purpose. Think slapped together circumstantial evidence can’t affect you? Ask Muhamed Haneef.