13 November 2020

Liam Hogan: “Courts are premodern entities surrounding power. The monarchs of old régime Europe had them; most famously at Versailles and at Madrid, but they seem to have been a common habit everywhere where power centralised, and existed around the Sultan in Istanbul, around Mughal princes, at the Forbidden City in Beijing, and around the Emperor and Shogun of Japan. The cultures of Australian State and Federal government, containing as well their press galleries and lobby groups, are a new-old democratic form of ‘court’, with everything that implies. The personal role of the monarch has simply been abolished in our case and replaced with the symbolic sovereign of ‘the election’, an arbitrary absolute presence that demands complete obedience, even reverence. In the gigantic-kitsch New Parliament House in Canberra the court even finds its own bakufu in which all the arms of State (elected, public service, press, military) can gather, physically-symbolically. … The culture of courts was and is marked by intrigue, powerful charismatic leaders-behind-the-scenes, small constantly forming and re-forming groups, favourites, juntas, camarillas, ostentatious displays of virtue and shaming, and a ‘spill’ culture of sudden shocking changes. In societies where politics is genuinely conducted at a level of secrecy and many-levels-of-intrigue, conspiratorial and magic thinking takes hold with the public at large. Does this sound familiar?”