Have you heard of a frightbat?
Until yesterday I hadn’t but then my social media feed started lighting up with the term; it was trending on Twitter by last night.
A “frightbat” is a term coined by journalist Tim Blair who is seeking to search “for this nation’s most unhinged hysteric”. In a blog titled “Crown our crazy queen” Blair asks readers to vote for “Australia’s craziest left-wing frightbat”.
The contenders for the title include Jane Caro, Clementine Ford, Margo Kingston, Van Badham, Anne Summers and Jenna Price.
These are his words:
“They shriek, they rage, they cheer, they despair, they exult, they scream, they laugh, they cry! There’s never a non-emotional moment in the lives of Australia’s left-wing ladies’ auxiliary, whose psychosocial behavioural disorders are becoming ever more dramatic following Tony Abbott’s election.
Only one of them, however, can reign as our solitary monarch of madness. Only one can stand above all others, wailing and howling, while the rest look on and ask: “Where’s the Ritalin?””
The contenders have to be commended for the enthusiasm with which they have embraced the poll. No doubt fuelled by their uncontrolled emotions, many of them have been campaigning for votes in the fervent hope they will be crowned Australia’s “craziest left-wing frightbat”. Anne Summers doesn’t want to be beaten by any baby “frightbats”, Clementine Ford urged her followers to make it happen, Margo Kingston appealed to her fellow Queenslanders’ allegiance to bring the crown home and cartoons have been created depicting these mythical frightbats. Their collective reaction has been good-humoured. I don’t blame them for making the award their own.
— Brendan Maclean (@macleanbrendan) June 17, 2014
But it doesn’t mean it’s not astonishingly sexist and intolerable. Of course the convenient, and insidious, component of Blair’s argument is that by saying that I prove his point. I’m merely being hysterical and emotional. Rather than consider that there might be some merit in my argument, or the many legitimate arguments of the frightbats, it’s easier to dismiss them as unhinged and off their medication.
Are they intelligent, informed, educated professionals? No of course not. They’re the ‘left-wing ladies’ auxiliary’. Could their issues with Tony Abbott be about genuine policy concerns? No of course not. They have a psychosocial behavioural disorder. Nothing they say or do is valid because they are crazy frightbats. Isn’t that a handy way to win an argument?
It is gas lighting at its most damning; you turn the problem onto the other person in a bid to avoid your own problem. Two nights ago Hillary Clinton made a strong statement about sexism in politics. Play the policy, argue the point, hold the person to account but leave gender out of it. If you can’t, that’s truly frightening.