Faking It for Political Correctness

Faking It for Political Correctness, by Tim Blair.

Cricket was long a playground for the gifted bluffer, who by standing his ground and appearing unconcerned might sometimes convince an umpire that he somehow hadn’t hit the ball directly into the hands of a fieldsman. Similarly, a fielding team’s feigned excitement might persuade an umpire that a batsman who’d swung and missed actually struck the ball with the very centre of his bat.

At senior levels, cricket now permits video reviews. The bluff is becoming increasingly redundant.

But that is not to say it is disappearing altogether. Bluffing has simply shifted to other pursuits. Former Australian Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs, for example, has lately raised the art of the bluff to entirely new levels. We’ve all seen her appearances before various Senate committees and all read the detailed accounts of her mistaken and inaccurate claims. Yet Triggs stepped down from her role still insisting she was absolutely in the right throughout her entire ridiculous presidency.

During a valedictory interview on the ABC, Triggs said of evidence that she had been a little imprecise when answering Senate inquiries: “To a high degree the allegations are false.” Is that not the most beautiful legalistic evasion you’ve ever heard? …

The key to successful bluffing is consistency, which is why soccer players who dive for penalties and fake agonising pain only to instantly recover the moment the penalty is awarded are so widely mocked. Behaving consistently, they wouldn’t be taking a free shot at goal. They’d be in a trauma ward preparing for surgery to repair a compound leg fracture.

In 2014, I inadvertently created a consistency test for Australia’s screechy feminist community by publishing an online poll asking readers to vote for the nation’s “craziest left-wing frightbat”. Reaction was wonderfully hysterical. In the manner of a soccer player’s penalty play-acting, feminists dived for the ground in fits of pain. Apparently the word frightbat represented the gravest attack ever made against our delicate sisterhood.

Twitter erupted with demands I be fired from my job at the Daily Telegraph. The ABC actually ran a grimly serious news item on the poll. Multiple complaints, several from ABC staffers, were sent to the Australian Press Council. And then there were several of the nominated frightbats themselves, wailing and howling like common Euro kicky-ball exponents who’d just been gently nudged by a goalkeeper.

Probably the finest response came from Fairfax columnist and journalism lecturer Jenna Price. “I got the phone call about 6pm on Tuesday night,” she wrote. “‘Mum,’ said the voice. ‘Mum, are you OK?’” This breathless account ran beneath the headline: “What It’s Like to Be Called a Frightbat”. …

Given the language frequently used on social media by these characters, it was a little difficult to believe that a literally meaningless term like frightbat had caused genuine offence. I suspected my frightbat friends were bluffing, just as a fielding cricket team will attempt to bluff an umpire with a dodgy appeal; it seemed they were using a false premise in order to remove an opponent from the field of play.

So the next year, on the anniversary of the first frightbat poll, I ran another one. The format was identical, and several previous nominees were again featured. This time the response was … silence. They knew they’d had their chance in 2014. All of that feigned outrage didn’t work, and now they’d given up.