Features Australia

The moral scolds are now in charge

The world of ‘Bridgerton’ is an apt metaphor

24 July 2021

9:00 AM

24 July 2021

9:00 AM

I am in charge of streaming in our household. Someone has to be. Let face it, there is a dizzying array of options. It’s quite a challenge to sift through the various possibilities to ensure those two hours or so in the evening are not completely wasted.

And let’s also face it, there is absolutely no point persevering with free-to-air TV, apart from the occasional game of football. We would sometimes turn on the 7 o’clock ABC news, but given the very short space of time before one of us declared ‘that’s not news’, we now don’t bother.

(I was in the car the other day and the ABC news service – or should that be ‘news’ service – had some woman from a small town outside Wangaratta telling me that she fully supported Dan Andrews Lockdown 5.0, even though there had never been any Covid cases anywhere near the town. I guess someone in the ABC newsroom knew her.)

But let me get back to streaming.  The series Bridgerton was being heavily promoted on Netflix and I thought I would give it a try. (I hasten to add that I watched an episode or two by myself as a sort of pilot.) Given the blurb – ‘The eight close-knit siblings of the Bridgerton family look for love and happiness in London high society’ – I should have known better.

Of course, if you are into a bit of bodice-ripping, historical buildings, fancy costumes and extravagant parties, this series could be your thing. But the reason I persisted (at least for a short while) was the extraordinary premise of the series. You see, the series is colour-blind.

Queen Anne is black, as is one of the high-ranking aristocrats. And none of the characters takes the least bit of notice about anyone’s skin colour. So 2020! – even though the series is actually set in the early nineteenth century, in Regency England.

But here’s the curious thing: while everyone is completely relaxed about skin colour, they are constantly worked up about the most minor breaches of the strict social conventions that apparently applied. At one stage, a single woman – or should that be lady – is caught unchaperoned with a chap in the garden (there could have been some kissing) and the fear is that she will be ruined. No suitable gentleman will deign to marry her; her life could be over.

So how does that work? Everyone is as cool as Bob Marley when it comes to skin colour, but the most minor deviation from any one of the complex and absurd rules governing ‘high society’ and it’s kaput.

On second thoughts, I realised that Bridgerton is actually an accurate metaphor for today’s society – at least among its educated members.

Obligatory tolerance of certain individual characteristics and actions juxtaposed with strict rules about other patterns of conduct and the public airing of views. Is it really surprising that society is now full of scolds from the Left telling us what to think, what to say and how to behave?

It’s a point made by Ed West at Unherd where he argues that the period from the 1960s until recently, where free thinking and open debate prevailed, was actually an aberration. We are now returning to a society in which censorious bullies are in charge.

West gives the example of the Black Lives Matter movement. ‘In 2020, almost all the major institutions in the US, aside from the actual President, were loudly vocal along with corporations, charities and NGOs in their support for the BLM protests. Parts of the media were sympathetic to the point of actively playing down some of the violence, the phrase “mostly peaceful protests” becoming an example of American journalism’s Pravda-like bias.’

Of course, there are very many topics that can be added to the list of obligatory opinions, with penalties for any deviations from the Left’s agreed positions. Climate change is real; climate science is settled; the world must achieve net zero emissions by 2050, if not earlier; the wealthy must pay more tax; tax competition is a race to the bottom; minimum wages should be much higher; immigration should be unrestricted; developed economies should accept many more refugees; gender is a social construct and the list goes on.

Ed West makes the point that the Left once had to rely on moral relativism to make its arguments. ‘Relativism is a position you employ when you’re weak, to be abandoned when you win. On a wide range of issues, including race and gender, the Right has been more relativist for some time. Before the 1968 revolution those outside of power (the Left) argued for moral relativism, those in power (the Right) argued for moral absolutism. Now it is the opposite.’

This situation has been made much worse by Covid, with very substantial chunks of the population accepting the tyrannical dictates of governments and the media complaining about anyone who even questions the imposed restrictions.

Take, for example, the Age’s Chip Le Grand. He declared on Twitter that ‘Peta Credlin is back interrogating Daniel Andrews at a press conference today. Yes, she works as a broadcaster and is employed by a media company but she is not a journalist, she is a partisan, political operative. Mr Andrews is within his rights to tell her to bugger off’.

Wow. Given that journalism is not a regulated profession, anyone can call themselves a journalist, Chip. But the key point here is that anyone who refuses to join the Left-endorsed position – in this case, that the work of the Dan Andrews’ government in controlling the spread of Covid has been outstanding – must be ridiculed and marginalised.

And don’t even get me on to the whole LGBTI+ tangle. An application to allow the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Alliance to exclude ‘biological men’ from lesbian events has been rejected by the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. Excluding trans-women would carry a ‘significant risk’ of breaching the legislation, according to her, even though the aim of the events was to allow ‘same-sex attracted lesbians’ to mingle.

It’s sad to think that we may have to look back at the past fifty or so years as a deviation during which liberty, free will and open debate thrived.

The moral bullies from the Left are now firmly in charge and plenty of the population is cowered.

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