Australia’s prime minister has a pants-shitting problem

Did the right-wing leader really poo all over himself at a suburban McDonald’s in 1997? Search your heart and you will know it’s true.

Twenty-two years ago, the man who is now prime minister of Australia shit his pants in a suburban McDonald’s.

Let me explain.

Australia just held national elections. To the surprise of polling companies, betting agencies, the politics-hot take industrial complex, and themselves, the conservative Liberal Party was returned for a third term in government. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a right-wing goon who oversaw Australia’s offshore prison camps for asylum seekers and once waved a lump of coal around in parliament to mock concerns about climate change, was credited with the unexpected victory.

After taking power 10 months ago, becoming Australia’s fifth prime minister in six years, Morrison relentlessly campaigned against removing tax concessions for the wealthy, acknowledging the coming ecological apocalypse, or ending the ongoing colonial destruction project against First Nations people. He did this while cultivating a persona in line with a rich person’s idea of how a not-rich person behaves, mainly by talking loudly about how much he loves football, referring to himself in the third person by the nickname “ScoMo,” and wearing a series of caps.

Before politics, Morrison was an ad man. He won a supposedly unwinnable election by turning it into a one-man marketing exercise. But while he constructed and maintained a simulacrum of himself that could thrive in the world’s steady descent into neofascist hell, another version of “ScoMo” metastasized on the internet. One in which a younger Scott Morrison, driving back from a football game one night in 1997, explosively shit his pants at a McDonald’s in the southern Sydney suburb of Engadine.

The true origins of the Engadine Maccas 1997 meme (“Maccas” being Australian for McDonald’s) are shrouded in mystery, but the first written record appeared on Twitter the day Morrison became prime minister: August 24, 2018.

Things went quiet until March, when Google Trends recorded a spike in searches that quickly spiraled into something bigger. A mythology developed. Google reviews of Engadine McDonald’s have exploded, with hundreds of people claiming to have witnessed Morrison filling his dacks (Australian for pants).

By the time the election was announced in April, Engadine Maccas 1997 had breached Twitter and spilled out into the real world. Government ministers were asked about it on the radio. Former politicians gleefully filled out the mythology. Media outlets filed Freedom of Information requests. Several plaques have been erected in the carpark and men’s toilet of the infamous McDonald’s where Morrison supposedly filled his dacks. The day before the election, a sitting senator posted a thread spelling out “ENGADINE MACCAS” with the first letter of every tweet. She was comfortably re-elected.

In a country in which old men call politicians “dickhead” in the supermarket and deputy prime ministers threaten to kill Johnny Depp’s dogs, it would be easy to assume Engadine Maccas 1997 took off because Australians have a blanket contempt for their elected representatives.

That’s not necessarily true. Bob Hawke, who was prime minister for eight years in the ‘80s and ‘90s, was mobbed by fans everywhere he went until his death last week. Hawke was held in such affection by the public that watching him sculling a beer at the cricket became a national pastime. When Morrison tried to bond with a pubload of people during the campaign, they began chanting: “He’s no Bob Hawke!”

Engadine Maccas 1997 has resonated because it pins something vital about Morrison’s character. A marketing executive disguised as a sitcom dad, fakeness oozes from him. He ends every press conference and radio interview with the phrase “let’s go Sharks,” a reference to the football team based in his electorate. “If you have a go in this country, you will get a go. There is a fair go for those who have a go,” he declared in his first appearance as prime minister. “We have come to have a go and we will get a fair go.” Go ahead and read that aloud.

It’s not a coincidence that Engadine Maccas 1997 takes founding elements of Morrison’s Regular Guy shtick and turns them against him. The football game he was driving home from in 1997, the night he blasted the back of his trousers into brown oblivion? His beloved Cronulla Sharks got their asses kicked.

Something similar happened in Britain a few years back. We have no way of knowing for sure if former British prime minister David Cameron really did stick his dick in a dead pig’s mouth as part of a ruling-class fratboy ritual in his Oxford days. What’s important is that it feels like it could be true. It’s an anecdote that speaks to larger truths — of inherited privilege, of warped rich-guy culture, of Cameron’s fundamental offness as a human being.

In its own own dank, idiotic way, Engadine Maccas 1997 is a political stand. It’s an expression of contempt for someone whose political career has been built on contempt toward others. It’s an attempt to claw a tiny amount of power back from someone who uses their position to crush; who lies ceaselessly. It’s an acknowledgement that we live in a world in which bullshit on the internet can decide elections and wind back civil rights, so we may as well have fun while we can. It’s a concession that the pervading hideousness of our present and future needs the occasional goddamn mood lightener if we’re going to stay alive and sane.

The next three years — at least — will be immensely painful for Australians who don’t fit into Morrison’s vision. They’ve found one small, dipshit way to cope with that pain.

David Cameron stuck his dick in a dead pig’s mouth. Ted Cruz is the Zodiac killer. Donald Trump likes getting pissed on by sex workers. Scott Morrison shat himself at Engadine Maccas in 1997.

Alex McKinnon is a writer and journalist in Sydney, Australia.