No one has ever accused ABC’s Q&A program of providing a platform for intelligent, nuanced debate on national issues. Still, Monday’s Q&A, filmed at Brisbane’s Powerhouse, was particularly noteworthy for its utter vacuousness. Ordinarily, given his proclivity for insane conspiratorial thinking and extraordinary lack of policy knowledge, it would be easy to blame One Nation guest Malcolm Roberts for substantially bringing down the overall standard of the panel’s discussion. But host Virginia Trioli mercifully proved adept at cutting him off before he was able to speak on Monday. So who then is to blame for Q&A’s disastrous Monday show? Our critical gaze must fall to LNP Senator and aspiring man child James McGrath. Perhaps no other panel member managed to so skilfully speak for minute after grating minute without saying anything at all!
Anyone watching McGrath’s Q&A appearance on Monday night would have been struck by the Senator’s total and complete lack of substance. An utter lightweight, at points he seemed to be on the verge of disintegrating into the studio’s cool autumn air. When he wasn’t shouting over the audience’s boos or shamefully refusing to address allegations he threatened environment minister Melissa Price’s job over her ambivalence towards the Adani coal mine, he was making the Liberal Party’s electoral pitch to women by angrily inviting people to violently target Greens Senator Larissa Waters’ home. In between bouts of blubbering fury and pathetic self-pity, McGrath showed himself to be astoundingly intellectually ordinary. Apparently a man of little to no imagination or creativity, he appeared able only to mechanically regurgitate the party line whenever placed under even a modicum of pressure. Baited easily, he repeatedly walked into traps set for him by other panellists. At one point, McGrath apparently decided that a particularly electorally popular hill to die on was the defence of Peter Dutton’s well-earned reputation as a tolerant non-racist. The productive exchange that followed with Waters did nothing but endear McGrath and his party to voters. Viewers would be forgiven for thinking back to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, who famously lamented that life was but a tale “told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Here was an idiot, full of sound and fury, saying nothing.
Ultimately, we are left with a conundrum trying to understand this tragedy for Australia. Perhaps the Senator is really just a post-Modernist disciple of Derrida’s deconstruction theory, trying to demonstrate to us the inherent slipperiness of all language. If this is the case, we probably owe him our admiration and respect. But somehow I doubt this. It is much more likely that Senator James McGrath is an absolutely vapid moron with all the intelligence of a goldfish or a raving cannibal subject to kuru (a very rare, incurable and invariably fatal neurodegenerative disorder caused by the consumption of infected human brains). How could we collectively be subjected to so much stupidity on such a huge scale? This brings us to a fundamental philosophical question: How can we ontologically understand James McGrath’s existence? His existence clearly has profound metaphysical implications. Scientists recently received plaudits for using the Event Horizon Telescope to image a super massive black hole for the first time. They were able to picture the phenomenon, one of the most secretive entities in the cosmos, at the centre of a galaxy some 55 million light-years away. But why did we waste so many resources looking so far away when McGrath himself seemingly proves the existence of cosmic abysses so deep and dense that not even light can escape? James McGrath is proof that space-time can disappear forever into the maw of a black hole, into swirling entities furiously consuming everything around them.
He is truly a behemoth of nothingness, a testimony to the metaphysical notion that emptiness can be all-enveloping. He is the human manifestation of how we feel when we see the ancient, beautiful Notre Dame cathedral consumed by flames, subsumed by oblivion. James McGrath is unfortunately not up for re-election in 2019, and so we face a few more years of this. Unlucky for us, it seems.