Vow And Declare is seen in his box following his victory in Tuesday's Melbourne Cup, at Danny O'Brien Racing's stables in Melbourne, Wednesday, November 6, 2019. (AAP Image/Vince Caligiuri) NO ARCHIVING
Vow And Declare is seen in his box following his victory in Tuesday's Melbourne Cup, at Danny O'Brien Racing's stables in Melbourne, Wednesday, November 6, 2019. (AAP Image/Vince Caligiuri) NO ARCHIVING

This isn’t racism — it’s the Far Left at its worst

The most sensible and important thing anyone on the progressive side of politics has said in a long while was Barack Obama's invocation against the judgmental and doctrinaire rhetoric of modern-day activists.

In a terrific interview last month, the two-term former president took aim at what he described as the "call-out culture" that has infected progressive discourse, where Left-wingers - especially on social media - are quick to throw around tags of racism, homophobia and general bigotry towards those with whom they disagree.

Specifically, Obama sought to demolish the concept of "wokeness", the state of being so politically enlightened that you regard all others with contempt, if not hatred.

"This idea of purity and you're never compromised and you're always politically 'woke' and all that stuff," he said, "You should get over that quickly."

"The world is messy; there are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids and share certain things with you."

Vow And Declare, ridden by Craig Williams, won this year’s Melbourne Cup. Picture: Reg Ryan/Getty
Vow And Declare, ridden by Craig Williams, won this year’s Melbourne Cup. Picture: Reg Ryan/Getty

Obama's words have as much relevance in Australia as they do in the US, where the binary nature of modern debate now seeks to divide the world into two irreconcilable camps - the wholly enlightened versus the irretrievably prejudiced.

I have no doubt this is one of the key reasons Labor's vote has collapsed among working-class people, as the perception exists - rightly or wrongly - that the party is obsessed with politically-correct undergraduate issues that have no bearing on the day-to-day lives of blue-collar folks.

We saw Exhibit A this week for exactly what Obama was talking about involving, of all things, a horse race.

The victory of Vow and Declare in Tuesday's Melbourne Cup was regarded by many as an Australian success story in that a plucky nag with humble owners beat a field dominated by international horses owned by oil barons and European multi-millionaires.

RELATED: Melbourne Cup produced the hero we needed with Vow and Declare

ABC journalist Osman Faruqi saw it differently. He saw something sinister and dark in the celebration of this Australian victory.

"On Sunrise this morning, one of the guests literally said the Melbourne Cup result was good because the winning horse 'grew here, not flew here'," he wrote on Twitter.

"The culture is so racism-poisoned that we're being xenophobic about racehorses."

Controversy was stirred this week after a commentator used the phrase “grew here not flew here” to describe Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare. Picture: AAP/Vince Caligiuri
Controversy was stirred this week after a commentator used the phrase “grew here not flew here” to describe Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare. Picture: AAP/Vince Caligiuri

This hilariously stupid observation sought to conflate post-September 11 sentiment on everything from the Cronulla riots to the Tampa and "Children Overboard" affair into the wholly innocuous celebration of an unexpected result in a horse race.

It is the precise brand of nonsense identified by Obama - and it's killing the Left.

Of the many rejoinders to Faruqi's tweet, none were stronger, blunter or more sweetly executed than that penned by Martin Pakula, who happens to be a member of Labor's Right faction and Racing Minister in the Victorian Labor Government.

RELATED: Vow and Declare wins, protest upheld

"Being happy that a local horse beat the overseas horses is apparently racist now," Pakula wrote. "We have actually gone through the looking glass, jumped the shark and entered the twilight zone."

Not so, replied Faruqi, who fired back on Twitter, saying the term "we grew here, you flew here" was "a notorious racial slur popularised in one of the nation's worst modern race riots". (As an aside, I like the use of the words "one of the worst" in Faruqi's reply, as it suggests there have been heaps of other modern race riots in Australia, all of them presumably covered up by the authorities.)

This Twitter exchange continued on for most of Wednesday, enlightening no one, infuriating many and (to Obama's point) giving the supporters of Faruqi a chance to strut their "wokeness" by denouncing Pakula as an apologist for bigots, bogans and boors.

You could not find a better example of the fruitlessly unshiftable nature of modern discourse. Despite his best efforts, it was impossible for Pakula to make his point, as he was resolutely denounced as a friend of the prejudiced for refusing to agree with this ABC poseur.

RELATED: Vow and Declare was the horse no one wanted. Now he's a Melbourne Cup champion

People such as Osman Faruqi need to recognise a simple truth: With their smug purity and their generalised slurs against normal folks who are simply having a good time, they do more to drive people toward the conservative side of politics than a year's worth of Andrew Bolt columns.

Consider the two most dramatic protests in Australia during the past 12 months - the Extinction Rebellion protests demanding action on climate change and the Dominion protests against animal cruelty.

Both are stellar examples of how the hysterical and militant tactics of the politically obsessed can turn normal people off an otherwise-palatable political cause.

Who knew a racehorse would stir up xenophobia debates? Picture: AAP/Vince Caligiuri
Who knew a racehorse would stir up xenophobia debates? Picture: AAP/Vince Caligiuri

One of the most depressing scenes in Melbourne last week outside that mining conference saw an innocent passer-by bailed up and berated simply because he was wearing a suit.

He wasn't even attending the conference, he was walking past, but he got a gob full anyway, adorned as he was in the official uniform of the ruling class, even though he may have been a schoolteacher, a lay priest, even a well-dressed anarchist.

With the Dominion folks, their defining moment came with the targeting and eventual closure of an organic goat cheese farm in Gippsland, its genial hippy owners harassed to their wit's end for the apparent crime of enslaving their goats to make feta cheese.

It is not so much in the field of protests but in day-to-day discussions - what was once the polite exchange of ideas - where the risks are now greater. Just ask cartoonist Michael Leunig, who has spent much of the past month being denounced as a misogynist for drawing a playful cartoon on the theme of technology addiction in which a new mother was looking at her mobile rather than her baby.

As federal Labor MP Claire O'Neill said in a fine speech to the John Curtin Research Centre last week: "Not everyone with a concern about the immigration rate is a bigot.

Not everyone with a hesitation about changing gender roles is sexist. Not every social change is inarguably a good one. If Australians feel they can't question assumptions and positions in conversation with us, they will find someone else to talk to about it."

@penbo