News Corp tied into extreme right wing CPACOct 8, 2022
Last week a group of Neo Nazis performed their salute while protesting a youth Queer event in Melbourne’s Moonee Ponds. The police stood by, allowing the intimidation as an exercise in free speech, despite the fact that Victoria has made displaying the swastika illegal.
Around the same time, CPAC Australia took place in Sydney to an audience of about 900 people. Apart from China, the primary threat is seen as a First Nations’ voice to Parliament. With no actual policy platform on the hard right apart from holding power, the speakers took turns trashing such usual international right “woke” targets as Queer visibility and the more honest teaching of history.
These were both fringe events, but they reflect the degree to which the borderless nation of the hard right is trying to make Australia over into another dystopia like those devouring the US and UK.
The right in the UK has long touted the “war on woke” as its primary PR campaign; it is intended to disguise the Tories’ policies of tax and regulation cuts to suit the rich, aiming to provoke the impoverished masses to vote for their own suffering. Now that Truss and Kwarteng have made those policies overt, the party will need to drown the pain in louder resentment and loathing.
In the UK, the right has achieved a powerful victory in harnessing secular women to disseminate the wedge issue of its hatred of LGBTQI people. Too many British women are proudly victimising the fewer than 1% of people who identify as trans. The hard right demands its sex divisions and roles “traditional,” and women have been convinced that it is socially acceptable, or even mandatory as a feminist, to abuse trans people as mentally ill and requiring conversion, celebrating “traditional” sex definitions themselves. In the US, this trend tends to emerge from the religious right where its ultimate aim of erasing all LGBTQI people is manifest. The fact that history and anthropology will tell us the narrowness of our own understanding of gender, desire and sex roles is irrelevant to this new eternal truth.
In Britain too, the call to have a more accurate history taught in schools has been the target of ire from nostalgic “patriots” who prefer their imperial history expurgated.
In America, this resistance to accurate history teaching has been mislabelled “Critical Race Theory.” The name of this university analysis of how government systems entrench old prejudices was appropriated by a radical right activist to apply to mythical school teaching. The resultant “moral” panic (like that around the mythical threat posed by trans people) is used to foment large protests and violence. The label has been adopted by the right’s campaigners across the anglosphere.
American school board meetings and Queer events over Pride Month were both besieged by militia proudly boasting the Christian Nationalist label. Some even promote themselves as Christian Fascist.
The international trends of this community pervade Australia via social media and communication apps. This week Melbourne is set to “welcome” between five and several hundred people for a four day Mission to Melbourne from the “freedom” conspiracy theory set. Protests will no doubt be bolstered by a local contingent of anti-vaxxers, anti-Dans and white supremacists. It remains to be seen whether they will join Victorian Liberal candidate Moira Deeming and her expelled mentor Bernie Finn in their anti-abortion rally on Saturday.
It is also seeped into the Australian civic space by News Corp and The Spectator. Throughout their pages and broadcasts, the terms “woke,” “woman with penises” and “Critical Race Theory” are strewn.
Earlier this month, UK writer Brendan O’Neill argued in The Australian that it was impossible to truly support the women of Iran while we were confused about gender in the west. He saw it as a sign the “West has lost the moral plot.” Actually both Iranian women and trans people are victims of religious authoritarianism, even if British women don’t understand whose tool they have become.
Further, O’Neill refuses to understand the degree of persecution suffered by women who choose to be hijabis in the west. This prevents him understanding how some women in the west wish to be free to wear the hijab without constant fear of bigoted attacks, just as a substantial number in Iran wish to be free to choose not to wear it. The key here is freedom. The prejudice of religious men in Iran against women is echoed by the prejudice of cultural Christians in the west who choose to see Islam’s adherents as a threat.
A refusal to think in reductive binaries, O’Neill states, means “we will never be able to empathise with Iran’s brave dissenters.” Hollow assertions commonly replace logical and informed arguments in these opinion pages.
People who argue for the First Nations voice to parliament are called, in the Murdoch papers, “race hustlers” and “identity warriors” and “race baiters.” The Australian Christian Lobby’s Martyn Isles had the chutzpah to quote Martin Luther King Jr in depicting the voice as a form of racial segregation that King would reject: “For, as King reminded us, a nation segregated by race is a blatant denial of the unity that we are all offered in Christ.” He fears the Indigenous voice would be the “woke” voice and mark us as “irredeemably segregated.”
In his article Why Labor is scared to debate Aboriginal Voice published in the HeraldSun on 4 September, Andrew Bolt moves to the overtly misleading by describing it as a “racist and dishonest plan for an Aboriginal-only parliament.” To refer to the discussion paper released on the voice in planning, it is clearly an advisory body that will consult with politicians and public servants as they devise legislation that will affect First Nations people and communities in Australia. A purely advisory body has become a fear-mongering project on the hard right, promoted as something that will override parliament. This project was dominant at Australia’s CPAC event in Sydney.
American bodies like CPAC and Turning Points (the Australian offshoot of which was responsible for bringing out Nigel Farage to speak at various events here) are a part of the problem. Social media and communication apps are part of the problem. The right wing media such as News Corp and The Spectator is part of the problem.
All these warriors on “woke” spread disinformation to prevent the focus on the issues that threaten all of us. While they aim to create insuperable divisions and even foster stochastic terrorism, we fail to address the climate emergency with adequate urgency. While they support the power of their fossil fuel funders, the public is distracted into oppressing minority groups, or defending them from attacks.
As the right drums up loathing for “victimhood appropriators” and fear of the fascist left in order to gain and hold power, their complete absence of substance illustrates there is nothing they would do with that power but to reward their friends.
The question for Australia is whether the hard right can drum up enough resentment and tribal thinking to regain power.