08 March, 2014

A post about floccinaucinihilipilification

There is a certain anti-intellectualism about Australia. There is also a certain anti-intellectualism about politics. When you put the two together, suddenly it seems like anyone who knows how to spell their own name is some out-of-touch elitist who doesn’t understand the everyday concerns of ordinary people like you, who still wonder why the moon follows them around at night. You only have to be smart enough to construct an argument about how being smart doesn’t make you so smart and everything else will follow.

We have quite a history of mocking people who like to use big words.

In 1993, Paul Keating caused quite a stir when he implied the then Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad was a recalcitrant. The controversy was party because of the undiplomatic language, and partly because thousands of people had to find out what recalcitrant meant. The word has since been used by both sides of politics without any further comment.

In 2000, Kim Beazley was mocked for describing John Howard’s roads policy as a boondoggle.

And no mention of Kevin Rudd is complete without the phrase “programmatic specificity,” which, among other things, became a major punchline in one of Julie Bishop’s increasingly regular and increasingly cringeworthy comedy routines.

If war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography, perhaps politics is God’s way of expanding Australians’ vocabulary.

Cut to this week, and Malcolm Turnbull talking about “neoconrovianism,” which apparently isn’t a description of Karl Rove’s political philosophy.

Surely by any Australian standards, this is enough to have Mr Turnbull dismissed as a prize wanker.

But wait. Something is different. Where is all the mockery from the media and the opposition? After all, this doublespeak is coming from the same man who claimed in 2009 that had no idea what programmatic specificity meant, even though the meaning should be clear to a Rhodes Scholar.

What changed? Why is this different?

We report, you decide…


  1. Turnbull did know what programmatic specificity meant, he lamented someone didn't ask Rudd to explain it and make a goose of himself attempting to do so.

    1. From the link:
      'Mr Turnbull admitted he personally had ``no idea what (programmatic specificity) means''.'

      I accept the possibility he was lying.

  2. Harry Truman was crucified by the American press when he mentioned Soviet hegemony since using such a word went against his hometown image. Twenty years earlier Warren Harding was a hero for talking about "normalcy".