Australian PM Anthony Albanese is a Midwit. By Samuel Mullins.
Albo is apparently entirely sincere about everything. There is no sense from anyone who knows him or has worked with him that he’s anything other than a genuinely good guy who means well.
I don’t think he’s a liar or corrupt. I don’t think he’s especially wishy-washy and unprincipled. I really do think he’s sincere. He was sincere about “acting on climate”, he was sincere about “fighting Tories”, he’s sincere about the Voice.
I just don’t think he has ever thought any of these or other issues through in any meaningful way. There’s no overarching narrative, no great project. Just the fashionable cause of the moment, the cause the generally trendy upper-middle-class inner city punters want him to care about. There’s no depth, just shibboleths.
But there’s still this thing that nags at you when you look across Albo’s career and when you hear him speak. You sense the shallowness, the presentism, the empty conviction meshed with sincerity. It nags at you when you see the famous election campaign footage of him forgetting the RBA cash rate; it’s not that he didn’t know the particular number, it’s the way he looks like a deer in headlights, short circuiting behind the eyes; the way you can almost see the talking points running through his head like a Star Wars opening crawl as he’s hoping and ultimately failing to locate the number.
You sense it when he’s asked an unexpected or difficult question in a press conference and across his face flashes not the blustering of a Morrison or aggressiveness of a Rudd but a sort of bewilderment that someone might think about an issue differently to him. …
No, what brings Albo’s Albo-ness into focus is one simple observation. It’s the Albo thesis that, as I tossed all these disparate Albo stories and biographical details together in a stew, really brought the dish together. It’s what allows Albo to be ever-changing but always sincere, never troubled by the contradictions and pushing ever forward with the progressive concern of the moment. I hope it’s the key to unlock Albo for you too.
It’s this: Albo is a midwit.
The pejorative descriptor ‘midwit’ emerged online in the past few years to refer to someone who is of above average intelligence but not too far above average. They’re often well credentialed, often successful; but they’re always a step or two behind the truly exceptional. They’re in the middle. Mid. As Urban Dictionary puts it:
“Midwits are truly cursed to be neither blissfully dumb nor reap the benefit of being of superior intelligence or a genius. They can grasp general concepts, but are less capable of digging deeper, understanding nuance, or adapting quickly to complex problems, leading to an entire middle class of perpetually unhappy, often vaguely angry people.”
American writer Auron Macintyre describes how midwits are good at latching on to the headline versions of ideas, but don’t tend to be able to think these ideas through with any rigour. They are, however, faintly aware that they’re not as smart as half the population, so take any and every opportunity to display their savviness and smartness. Because their intelligence alone isn’t ever going to catapult them into the highest levels of power and success, status is the currency of the midwit.
This makes them extremely adept at absorbing the ever-updating forms of language and talking points of progressive ideology. They are the types of people who can seamlessly integrate an idea like the Voice to Parliament into their worldview as The Vital Act of Racial Reconciliation of Our Time without understanding it or having ever really heard of it until five minutes ago, but are less able or willing to consider the serious hard decisions that need to be made to actually address chronic underemployment, undereducation, and violence in Aboriginal communities.
Again, to be clear, midwits are not stupid, they’re often successful and productive members of society. Macintyre says, in a more balanced economy with different social incentives, midwits would be the small business owners running restaurants or shops or building companies or something (like, I dunno, a NSW Labor Party official).
But in our society, with an oversupply of university educated upper middle class strivers who end up in education, the media, NGOs, and the public sector, they end up swarming middle management positions in big institutions and having an outsized influence on the polity.
Midwits love big institutions. Oh, man, how they love them. Bureaucratic institutions are the perfect vehicles to legitimise their half-thought ideas. Bureaucratic institutions are extremely responsive to fashionable social and political trends, and the leaders of bureaucracies jump at any chance to send the right social signals without having to do anything practical that affects the bottom line. This is both flattering to midwits whose smart savviness is affirmed when big corporations agree with them and helps boost their influence and power within institutions. When the symbol is what matters, not the thing itself, the midwit can reign supreme.
Very perceptive. We live in the age of midwits. They have learned to band together and use their greater numbers to override and expel the more talented, and the technology of the times suits them. To say nothing of the burgeoning bureaucracies.