Genuflecting Before the Zeitgeist

jacob rees-moggRecently, standout Tory backbencher and British conservative cult hero Jacob Rees-Mogg (left) was interviewed by BBC personality Jo Coburn, “JoCo” to her sycophants.  Rees-Mogg has become somewhat of a celebrity in spite, perhaps, perversely, because of, his extreme social conservatism, leavened by sublime communication skills, spine and urbane authenticity. 

Though a mere backbencher, Rees-Mogg has been installed as the bookies’ favourite to be the next Tory leader.  The focus of the BBC interview was the former investment banker’s strong Catholicity and in particular his traditional Catholic views on marriage and abortion.

While deftly batting away leadership questions, Rees-Mogg nonetheless took offence at JoCo’s implication that folks with old fashioned views – she naturally made reference to Rees-Mogg’s (delightful, in my view) nickname of “member for the 18th century” – are beyond the political pale.  JoCo also suggested, somewhat nastily, that Rees-Mogg would feel, at best, uncomfortable with his gay colleague Ruth Davidson’s impending motherhood.  He replied that he loved babies – he has six children – what a joy they are, and good on you Ruth!  (Not a view held by all in those fair northern isles these days, it would seem).   Forty-love Jacob, serving for the match.

Then Rees-Mogg went so far as to accuse her, on air, of bigotry.  She rationalised.  The BBC management rationalised.

Astonishingly, the UK Catholic Bishops – or at least two of them – roused themselves sufficiently to enter the fray, supporting publicly the social conservative facing on-air, in-your-face liberal intolerance.  Catholic bishops in the UK, and most other places, are normally unrousable in these circumstances, but on this occasion they spoke out and took to the BBC with vigour.

The question posed by JoCo, ultimately, was whether someone with “eighteenth century” views on hot button moral questions could today seriously aspire to lead a “conservative” party.  Actually not an unreasonable question, even if impertinently posed.

This antipodean contratemps may not indeed be a million miles from the position of Australia’s own Catholic conservative parliamentary rump – aka Tony Abbott – removed forcibly from office by a cabal of secularist liberals with the “right views” on the matters discussed by Rees-Mogg and JoCo.  Jacob said at least once that the Tories were a “broad church”, a favourite image of John Howard’s when the Liberal Party in Australia was, indeed, a broad church and able to govern successfully with the two factions largely under control.

Can Catholic conservatives, that is Catholics with orthodox views on moral questions, hope to aspire to positions of influence, let alone leadership?  Yes, Abbott was replaced by a “catholic”.  Some of the other senior members of the Black Handed wets, like Christopher Pyne, are “Catholic” as well.  But what I am referring to here are Catholics who, first, accept the old orthodoxies of the faith – all of them – and who, second, do not see religion, even their own, as a merely private affair that actually need not inform their behavior in the public square or their votes in the parliament.  There are “catholics” everywhere in politics.  For goodness sake, I understand that mad Daniel Andrews is one.  Pelosi.  Biden.  Yesm, that Biden who officiates at homosexual weddings.  The late Ted Kennedy, Mr Chappaquiddick himself.

It is the holding of old fashioned views that would seem to preclude holders of those views from high office, not just the nominal Catholicism.  Ask Bill English, former NZ Prime Minister and orthodox Catholic.  Even Bill claimed that he had “modified” his view of same sex marriage after its relatively non-controversial implementation across the Ditch.  The tugging of the forelock towards the zeitgeist is seen as necessary these days to tick that box and to remain politically acceptable.

How much was Abbott’s Catholicism a ticking time bomb for his leadership, which one might argue he achieved only by accident in 2009 due to that other guy’s incompetence?  Who knows?  But JoCo certainly would think it likely.

The Rees-Mogg kerfuffle touches more broadly questions of the place of social conservatism in the public square, including in Australia.  This is way more important than the mere political aspirations of would-be leadership aspirants, and touches deeply matters of free speech and freedom of thought in these times of turbocharged culture wars.

Recently we saw the de-sponsoring of Christian footballer Israel Folau who (when asked specifically for his views on the matter) had said that he believed that homosexuals go to hell.  Without debating the finer points of his theology here, and there is much to be said on the matter, Folau was vilified by the usual suspects.  More than this, his financial position was impacted.  He lost a sponsorship for his expressed views, and was hauled before the rugby powers that be, and, one would guess, was subject to a little pep talk.  A bit of re-education, even.  All very corporate.

Libertarians, as always, ask the so-what question.  The company sponsoring Folau is free to sponsor him.  Folau is free to express his views.  The company is free to end sponsorship because of his views.  Then – boom – customers are free to turn on the sponsoring company if they disapprove.  The big question is about process, not outcomes.  If everyone acts freely, then what is the problem?

All very good, very easy.  It all works.  But does it?

The estimable Michael Sexton has raised these very questions in the media, in a piece on the implications on religious freedom of the passage of legislation giving to OK to same sex “marriage” and on the forthcoming publication (we assume) of the Ruddock Committee’s consideration of these matters.  It is one thing to be concerned about churches, and the offence taken (apparently) by homosexuals at churches actually teaching their principles AND living by them, for example by repeating the thousands-of-years-old teaching that homosexual acts are sinful.  The “offence” taken at this by homosexuals, many of whom would not believe in a Deity, is perplexing.  More relevant, maybe, is their claim of discrimination when they are denied jobs in religious organisations like schools.  But what about the “free speech” of others who object (say) to same sex marriage, on religious or even non-religious grounds?  Say, because homosexual acts and the attendant lifestyle spread disease.

Sexton’s take on Folau’s situation is a bit like the libertarian’s.  Sad or not, he states, these days sports people are sponsored and, sad or not, they had better tone down any views they might have that might clash with those of the sponsor.  (This is all a bit ironic since, in reality, perhaps save for Alan Joyce, the CEOs of most companies couldn’t give a rat’s about gay rights.  They just like being popular with the ruling ideas of the age, viz social liberalism and secularism.  They just want to let the world know they are hip to the scene.  We call this “virtue signalling”, and its hold on all manner of organization is mighty powerful.

The Folau matter is merely one instance of many thousands across the Western world, seemingly growing by the day, where disagreeing with a majority view or an “official” on a hot button issue.  One finds scholars losing their jobs for questioning the rotten “science” at the heart of climatology (as we used to call it at school).  One finds teachers in the UK being bullied in staff rooms, sometimes forced from their jobs, for questioning educational orthodoxies.  We had an Australian archbishop hauled before a human rights body for having his Catholic schools teach the Bible on sexual matters.  We are accused of “hate speech” when we audibly state our beliefs that someone things might offend someone.  People lose face, lose income, lose jobs, lose careers, get bullied on social media, and on and on.

As I have argued before, we are at war.  (Or at least I am).  And libertarian soothing noises about “free” processes that deliver decidedly queasy outcomes fail to staunch the bleeding wounds of our decidedly illiberal body politic, let alone to advance our position on so many cultural fronts.  Smart alec JoCo, alas, might be on to something.  For the sake of Britain, one might hope she is wrong about Rees-Mogg specifically.  But about the power of the zeitgeist, and the fear (not of God) it apparently puts into the minds of participants in the public square, JoCo speaks wisely, if unintentionally.

14 thoughts on “Genuflecting Before the Zeitgeist

  • brian.doak@bigpond.com says:

    So many genuflecturers to the zeitgeist Paul Collits as you say, a regretful situation otherwise described as ‘easily influenced people getting on the bandwagon’and injuring many in the reckless ride.
    The support for same sex marriage was so, and the consequences for that lapse is well outlined by Augusto Zimmerman in the related opinion on ‘Gay Marriage: After the Honeymoon’. Read him on educating the zeitgeist in the current Quadrant.

  • lloveday says:

    “…homosexual acts and the attendant lifestyle spread disease”
    Being born with an attraction for members of the same sex does not mean you have to engage in sexual acts with them anymore than someone born with kleptomaniac tendencies has to steal; indeed the law punishes kleptomaniacs for not controlling their natural urges just as Australian law punished those engaging in homosexual acts as recently as 1997, and more than 70 countries still do, including most Commonwealth of Nations countries.
    I am naturally inclined to violence (my biological father was killed in the last of his many pub brawls) but I suppress my natural instinct because of education, formal and self-taught, and fear of retaliation, particularly by the law.

    • Warty says:

      I’m in complete agreement with you, LBLoveday, but we are an interesting diverse lot, with some demonstrating traits that should unquestionably be retrained, and then some that are deemed merely eccentric: I have more than my fair share of the latter, many inherited by my decidedly strange grandmother, but that’s another story.
      The point is that the conservative narrative is that we once used to live in a recognisable culture, with its accepted customs, speech mannerisms, ways of social interaction and mores . . . very much past tense.
      I don’t need to tell you that most of these traditions were challenged by those younger versions of ourselves, not all of us, but a significant number of baby boomers, myself included. We managed to destroy the zeitgeist of our parents’ generation and all those that went before, and are now seeing the consequences.
      People like Rees Mogg and Tony Abbott, because of their public profile, have to pick their battles in order to make any headway at all, whilst the rest of us are reduced to tilting at windmills On the other hand there are those who argue that the progressives have overreached and the conservative backlash has begun. There are those who will point to Russia, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, perhaps Austria and that swathe of red states in America who voted in the enigma that is Trump. The Left tend to argue that these countries are demonstrating a frightening rise in intolerance with their crack down liberal bureaucracies and human rights based judiciaries; whilst those on the right notice the resurgence of national pride and religious practice. There is often an intolerance shown towards homosexuality in some of these former Eastern Block countries. The irony is that should Sweden become subject to Sharia, which is more than likely, things would become considerably worse for homosexuals, something the Left consistently overlook.

  • Jody says:

    Here’s a bit of an insight into the Left’s march through the institutions from yet another insider:


  • Keith Kennelly says:

    Our biggest weapons are three: unemployment of graduates with fake degrees, unfunding the idiots promulgating the fallacies in the fake degrees, extra funding for those promulgating real degrees.


  • Keith Kennelly says:


    Here is what others are saying, besides me.
    It is no longer the left and right. It is more a case of the march through our society of the managerial elite.

    See James Burnham.
    There was an article in here recently which stated exactly that. I noticed you didn’t comment and presume you ignored the content because it doesn’t support, or outright challenges, your left/right view if things.

    • Warty says:

      Jody is not incorrect in talking about ‘the Left’s march through the institutions’. The original expression was ‘Gramsci’s slow march through the institutions’, which is a reference to the Critical Theory form of Marxism that emerged from the Frankfurt School back in the mid 1930s. Most of these people could see where Germany was heading and many fled to America and infiltrated the universities there. Another term used is that of ‘Cultural Marxism’ . . . same thing.
      The managerial elites, the term you prefer, were very much influenced by the same ‘progressive’ ideology and it is not one that emanated from the Right.

  • Keith Kennelly says:

    Hang on Warty.

    I’ve not said anything about Gramsci. Of course he said what he said and it was correct, it was the left strategy.

    My view and others is that while the left started it as part of their totalitarian strategy , along with Political Correctness and the bastardisation of language, the Managerial elites, the new totalitarians, have in the process of surplanting the left, adopted the same processes and procedures.

    The managerial elites fester across both the left and right. They are interchangeable.

    Jody has difficulty with those concepts.

    Read Burnham and you’ll see that truth.


    • Warty says:

      No, you did not say anything about Gramsci, though Jody correctly mentioned the Left’s march through the institutions. The corporate world has erroneously capitulated to what they think is ‘public opinion’ mistaking the twitter-sphere and the megaphone wielders to be the majority viewpoint. There is something utterly insidious about virtue seeking and it usually coincides with a tendency to side with bullies and, quite frankly, the ignorant.
      Forty years ago one might have said the business community was largely conservative, and considered themselves so. Nowadays I don’t think they know what they are, perhaps because they have abandoned principle.
      Though I use the terms, I am hesitant to cling to ideas of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’, though, for sake of argument I avoid making an issue of it when the terms are used. I would like to consider myself a conservative along the lines of an Edmund Burke or more particularly a Roger Scruton, in that I would defend those cultural aspects that have served us so well for centuries, and that changes that are seriously considered should be done so in the light of reason.

      • Keith Kennelly says:


        Much of the establishment corporate world is dominated by the managerial elites. They haven’t capitulated to public megaphone opinion.

        Many actually belief in the crap they promote.

        It is in the interests of the managerial elites to promulgate the opinion they have ‘capitulated’.

        Just as it in the interest of the same elites to promulgate the outdated idea of a socialist / conservative capitalist right wing divide.

        That just creates the confusion they enables them to maintain their positions.

        It’s the old story if you don’t identify the enemy, which is what they are relying on, they’ll destroy you.

        The elites and socialists are both our enemy. Both are totalitarian.

        One way to divide the business world is those businesses run by entrepreneurs and those business run by employees, including boards, that are universally University educate. These are managerial elitists and do things only in their own interests. Virtue signalling is part of that.

        Trump isn’t one of them nor are people like me and from what you’ve said, also you.

        But ham predicted the demise of the managerial elites when the working person and the entrepeunial class got together to oust them.

        That’s happening in the US.

        Jody expresses and/or endorses the attitudes of the managerial elites.


  • Keith Kennelly says:


    It looks very much like the instigation of the allegations about Trump and Russia, and spy planting, and lying by Comey and Clapper and the idiot drunken loose lips by Downer are about to be proven to be traced through the FBI back through to the Obama White House.

    The Trump White House is about to order a Dept of Justise investigation into the Hillary investigation and, get this, the Mueller investigation.

    Trump is going on the offensive.

  • talldad says:

    Israel Folau expressed his theology a little more carefully and a lot more logically than anyone has reported since.

    His logic goes like this:
    a) the Bible declares homosexual behaviour to be a sin (along with many other behaviours and attitudes)
    b) the Bible calls people to repent of their sin and change their behaviour
    c) the Bible sets forth the consequence of refusing to repent: you go to hell after you die (ie. you get perfect justice)
    d) therefore, he answered the specific question: if homosexuals continue with their homosexual behaviour they will go to hell

    You mention Mr Alan Joyce as a prominent proponent and promoter of the homosexual lifestyle. His company was the major sponsor of the rugby and Israel Folau.

    So Mr Joyce actually persuaded the company to uphold his personal political views (such action should be ultra vires or a matter of indifference to the business of selling airline tickets) and withdraw its sponsorship.

    So Mr Joyce has in fact politicised a business which has no business doing partisan politics.

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