The radical right, and in particular, Murdoch’s News Corp, are laundering the dirty ideas of the people deploying fascistic politics to make them seem normal “conservative” thought.
News Corp’s James Morrow recently said the quiet part out loud. In his News Corp column “Fascist label for Italy’s PM misses the message” on the 28th September, he advised that “successful politicians on the right” around the world can offer Coalition politicians a game-plan for how to “cut through.” This would be less concerning if the politicians he used as models were not Italy’s Giorgia Meloni and Florida’s Ron De Santis.
Morrow disdained the label “fascist” for Meloni. He asserted that using it in her case is “to strip the word of any meaning and turns it into an epithet for anything more conservative than the most bland centre-right politics.” Whether the label itself fits her ideology, Morrow continues the radical right’s tendency to normalise the extremity of their position as merely right of centre. In this way most formerly centre-right Australians (and defeated Liberal politicians) become labelled left. The more progressive citizenry then become “socialists.” Thus is the neutered ABC denoted as activist left by the right. This constant effort to centre the Overton Window over their increasingly radical position aims to naturalise their ideology for the electorate.
Disguising this drift towards authoritarian politics as “normal” rather than a lurch towards fascism should frighten us all. We must resist the lure of that numbing repetition.
Morrow selected a number of positions held by Meloni (and De Santis) to celebrate as goals for Australian politicians. In particular, he selected: family, national identity, religious identity and gender identity.
Meloni and De Santis want national identity to be as close to monotone as possible: patriotic and uncritically supportive of a mythical nation that never existed in the way their nostalgia recreates it. In this lens, religious identity is intricately tied to that mythical national identity. Their nations are white Christian nations, they assert, whatever other versions of history will say. Anyone with a contrary story should remain invisible. There is little ambiguity in the fascist politics evoked by these dogwhistle terms.
Morrow wrote of targeting “high migration.” He is surrounded in Australian “conservative” politics by figures who proudly espouse western chauvinism and spruik elements of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy. More strident voices in this tribe, even on moderated Twitter, are discussing plans such as “when it is time to repatriate people en masse from Europe.”
In attempting to strip the “fascist” label from Meloni, Morrow aims Australian politicians at the European “traditionalists.” This, he believes, is the “bread and butter” politics that can “cut through” for families at home hoping for rescue from their children who need, apparently, to be deprogramed from “activist rot.”
His emphasis on “family” – and gender – is part of the Eastern European “traditionalist” ideology. Putin and Orban, like Meloni, both put defence of the family at the forefront of their missions. That aspect of their politics is at the core of De Santis’s repressive policies. De Santis is recorded as overtly copying these from Orban. The European “traditionalists” have worked with the “family values” religious right movement from America since the 1990s; it is not difficult for De Santis to bring them together.
To fight for “the family” sounds anodyne but is freighted with threat for many.
“Family values” for Meloni and De Santis, for Putin and Pence, means “traditional” sex roles with no deviation. Men are to be returned to their leadership of the home and the country (for all that the occasional woman manages to share power). Women are intended to abandon the civic space; their presence there is loathed as “feminism.” Abortion (and contraception) is targeted because it is seen as enabling women’s civic and sexual autonomy. It also entails the destruction of European seed for a faction that believes that Western civilisation is doomed and set to be overrun in the “Great Replacement” panic.
The greatest target for all these men, and Meloni, is gender and sexual fluidity. Just as the Third Reich aimed to purify the “sexually aberrant” from the Aryan people, these modern politicians target LGBTQI people more broadly, with the tiny trans community used as a vulnerable wedge to begin the campaign.
Selecting the targeted outsider to unify the mythologised nation is, again, classic fascist politics. While stripping women of reproductive autonomy, and the right to enter the civic space, is a threat to be feared, the implied violence (legal and physical) against the LGBTQI communities is far more concerning in the near-term. Putin uses the language of ridding Ukraine of its perverted western liberalism as part of his justification for war in the same year that American politicians have introduced over 240 hundred bills limiting the LGBTQI community. The Texan Attorney-General has said he would be “comfortable” allowing the Supreme Court to adjudicate his state’s defunct rule making homosexuality illegal. Preachers in America are demanding the right to execute, or have executed, LGBTQI people. There is no coexistence possible.
Morrow is not, to be clear, advocating that “conservative” politicians in Australia become fascist or make erasing LGBTQI Australians part of their platform. What he has said here, however, is that the way for Australian “conservative” politicians to “cut through” is to adopt the strategies deployed by their considerably more extreme international counterparts.
Morrow quoted Meloni bemoaning: “why is the family an enemy? Why is the family so frightening?” The family is neither an enemy nor frightening, except in the besieged mindset embraced by the radical right. The deployment of the word “family” to mean that women must cede equality and, more urgently, that LGBTQI people must be erased is indeed frightening.
Losing solid gold Liberal seats to progressive candidates underlines that the Liberal Party has already absorbed far too many talking points, policies and strategies from the increasingly radical and religious international right. It is to be hoped that taking Morrow’s advice would continue this political decline.