Don’t Fall For Peter Dutton’s Grift: People Fighting Over Culture Wars Is What He Wants

OPINION: This week one of the members of Australia’s leading duopoly, Woolworths, announced it would not be selling merchandise for ‘Australia Day’ this year due to a lack of demand. This resulted in what should have been a pretty banal announcement becoming the biggest news stories of the week when Opposition Leader Peter Dutton responded by calling for a boycott of the supermarket. The real thing you should be boycotting is him.

Every year we do this.

After Australians pack up their Christmas trees and recover from the New Year’s hangovers, we prepare for our next favourite Aussie tradition: watching society erupt into outrage over January 26.

And it is pot-stirring bad-faith actors like Peter Dutton and the Murdoch media who are holding the reigns as they steer us into division and fury.

And you know what? It’s all a filthy grift.

Their behaviour (IMO) is some of the finest con-artistry we’ve seen since the invention of snake oil.

Why does Peter Dutton want culture wars?

Dutton’s whining and calls for a boycott have nothing to do with what he believes is “un-Australian” or “against the national spirit”, and everything to do with keeping him in power.

At the end of the day Dutton would call koalas un-Australian if it fit with his political narrative, and served him in his only goal: maintaining political relevance.

Is this really about Dutton finding a cheap bucket hat?

In a discussion with PEDESTRIAN.TV, Australian political historian and author Frank Bongiorno explained why Dutton is happy to spread anger about Woolworths’ product range.

“It plugs into a longer standing set of controversies about Australia Day,” explained the ANU professor.

“It intersects with a whole range of issues around history and identity, I think. And for Peter Dutton at the moment, I mean he’s clearly a political entrepreneur, of course, so he’s looking for ways of mobilising support.

“I think he’d see it as one, among a number of opportunities, that have arisen to arouse anger against the government and to mobilise support for the Liberal Party.”

Ultimately, culture wars are pointless, petty, and a political wild-goose chase.

Think about it. If tomorrow Woolies decided to sell Southern Cross flip flops and Union Jack plastered stubby holders, would that silence Dutton and the Murdoch press who complained so loudly?

No. Dutton isn’t about to post a picture of him wearing an Australian flag thong with a green and gold stubby holder on January 26. He doesn’t want that (nobody does).

What they want is YOU to be OUTRAGED.

How does outrage media work?

Ever heard the saying “Any publicity is good publicity”? Well it’s sorta like that.

Political players and media giants know that if they can get their target demographics furious about an issue, they will continue to be able to profit off them. And that ‘profit’ can be votes, or subscriptions to Sky News.

Comedian, journalist, and academic Sami Shah spoke to PEDESTRIAN.TV on if Dutton had any ulterior motives for starting this culture war. “Ulterior motives require the ability to reflect internally,” he quipped back.

“He’s hoping that if enough people get angry at Woolies or school teachers or women or minorities or whoever he needs them to be angry at today, they’ll forget the unmitigated incompetence that was the last decade of Liberal governance, and his own malign corruption and lust for cruelty, and let him use the toilet in Kirribilli for a few years,” Shah wittily explained.

Remember when Dutton started a culture war against “African gangs in Melbourne”? Source: Guardian.

And in the political arena, anything that Dutton can do to spread doubt in the Albanese government makes him look good by comparison (in his head).

That is why the when he was on 2GB to complain about Woolworths, his was rock-hard ready to slam Albanese for convincing companies to follow his “woke agenda“.

But here’s the big problem.

The great trick about outrage media is that it doesn’t matter who you get outraged at.

If you are angry, they’ve got you.

If you are mad at Woolworths, Dutton is happy because that means you align with him.

But if you are mad at him, that means he’s brought you down to his level of division, meaning he can call you out for being “woke” and label you the enemy of Australia.

“Political figures are no different from a prank-influencer on TikTok in that they both rely on outrage for relevance,” Shah analogised.

It all works in his favour — which he desperately needs.

Because bottom line is, ever since the results of the 2022 Australian Federal Election where the Liberals lost in a landslide, Dutton’s leadership of the conservative party has always been a joke.

Entering Dutton’s head

Dutton, a career politician, of course wants the top job of PM. That’s why he challenged Malcolm Turnbull for it in 2018.

And back then his party took a look at his shining record (and head) and basically went: “Absolutely not, even Scott Morrison is better than the alternative.”

Then when Morrison lost the 2022 election and went to the backbench, the options were between Josh Frydenberg and Dutton.

Dutto and Frydo. (Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

But when Frydenberg lost his seat, Dutton was the only choice and became Opposition Leader.

And every political analyst and their dog thought: “Yeah nah, they’re ditching him before the next election.”

Because no matter what glasses he starts wearing, or how hard his wife insists he is “not a monster”, the ex-Queensland cop who sat out of the 2008 Apology just isn’t PM material in modern Australia.

Sure hope this wasn’t in her vows.

And rather than become someone who modern Australia could vote for, Dutton has decided it is easier to just try and de-modernise Australia.

He needs to try every trick he can to bring Australia to his level — and that means starting culture wars about national identity.

“As soon as you start talking about national identity, it slides pretty quickly into issues around national security and national interest. That’s what it’s all about,” explained Bongiorno, sharing that this tactic has been historically successful for the Liberals, especially in the John Howard era.

“When political parties and political leaders get into it, you can bet it’s all about harvesting votes. I mean, that’s what they’re there for.”

Twenty years ago the enemy of conservatives was political correctness. Now, the word is “woke”.

So how do we avoid falling victim to outrage media?

The only way to beat a culture war, like any other war, is to be a conscientious objector.

Powerful forces want you to be outraged. Whether it’s at a price-gouging supermarket, or at a man who doesn’t let people call him Voldemort, it doesn’t matter who.

It is all a grift that only aims to bring out the worst qualities in everyone.

You’ve probably seen people getting angry about the Woolworths issue on Facebook. And in your well-deserved anger, you might have been tempted to get in the comments and correct some people with uninformed views.

Don’t fall for the trap. The only way to win is not to fight.

The only way to beat a bully is to ignore them.

Peter Dutton, your boycott begins now.