Real Freedom News – A Symptom But Not The Illness

One of my favourite characters in literature is the Scarlet Pimpernel, the elusive hero of a series of novels about the French Revolution, a mischievous fellow who somehow is always half a step in front of the Jacobins in his efforts to rescue worthy people from Madame Guillotine, much to the annoyance of the zealots.

To that extent, I find the concerted attempts (as reported the Age yesterday) to unmask the authors of the anonymous Liberal Party insider blog ‘Real Freedom News’ highly amusing. Whoever is the author(s?) of this blog obviously is irritating a lot of Victorian Liberals, as well as amusing a whole lot more. They are, in their own blogosphere manner, a parochial Victorian right wing form of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

This blog is in itself quite fascinating. From early 2021 til last October, it aired to public view many insider issues around the Victorian Liberal Party, including machinations of the Admin Committee (the strange term for the State Executive), and the personalities and private lives of many of the parliamentarians, candidates, and prominent activists.

The existence of that blog even caused Liberal Party HQ to be subject to a workplace safety inspection, given some of the concerns which were raised within it.

As someone who sees himself very much as an outsider rather than an insider, I do not know the truth about anything that has been written in that blog, although I do find it highly plausible (just like Agent Mulder, I want to believe!). But what I do know is that the emergence of such a blog is not in itself the malaise, but merely a symptom.

In most political parties, there are far more sinners than saints, and I doubt that there would be any blameless people in any of the divides now facing the Liberal Party. Blogs like this have emerged before – prior to the 2010 State Election, a couple of employees at Liberal HQ were discovered to be the authors of an anonymous blog attacking the then Opposition Leader Ted Ballieau.

Telegenic but shallow on policy, Ballieau was not exactly a success when he become Premier, and his first action was to settle factional scores by blacklisting a large number of people from jobs in the offices of his ministers, a feat of micromanagement which crippled his government.

Now, there is a giant existentialist crisis facing the Liberals in Victoria. The volunteer arm of the Party barely exists outside of the federal seats of Higgins, Goldstein and Kooyong, seats which it lost last May.

In recent years, there has been a divide between the more socially progressively minded (forgive the use of two adverbs in a row) Liberals and those who are not only socially conservative, but religiously inspired. There were accusations not too long ago of Mormons and members of various protestant churches (I find it hard to tell the difference between pentecostalists and evangelists, so I don’t know how to describe those people) being stacked into the Victoria Liberals.

These issues continue to spill over into the public, whether it is news about branch stacking allegations involving conservatives, or about the views of prospective MPs who belong to very conservative churches.

I believe that these issues, given that they involve different views of the direction that the Liberals should go, are more serious than any since the old divide between the economic ‘Wets’ and ‘Dries’ of the 1980s. Everyone is an economic Dry now. I doubt that social policy divides, particularly as Liberal philosophy encourages individual liberty and tolerance, is something which can result in easy agreement when some people are committed to particular illiberal religious teachings.

But this is by-the-by.

Where blogs like Real Freedom News and its predecessors emerge, it is because the authors feel that they are not listened to internally, and that they hence need to air their grievances publicly.

The commentary in Real Freedom News has frequently spoken of dodgy machinations around parliamentary preselections, and selective action by party authorities on alleged branch stacking (ie only taking action against factional foes rather than allies).

When people make such accusations see the light of day outside of a (no longer smoke filled) room of faceless men (and women), it is because they are concerned, and feel that they are not being heard when they raise their legitimate concerns.

When insiders talk to me about their own concerns and frustrations in the management (or is it cat herding) of the Victorian Liberals, they do feel frustrated at matters where they feel injustices have occurred and have not been addressed, or have been wilfully overlooked.

It is therefore no surprise to me that Real Freedom News has found such a wide audience.

Published by Ernest Zanatta

Narrow minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant from Footscray.

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