As conservative commentary in the media strives to cripple democracy, voices challenging the Right wing are becoming louder, writes Dr Tim Dunlop.
AUSTRALIA’S RIGHT-WING commentariat is having quite a moment in the wake of the election of Giorgia Meloni, the candidate for the far-right Brothers of Italy Party. (If you have any doubts about the party’s neo-fascist bona fides, maybe read this or this.)
To justify their enthusiasm or schadenfreude or whatever it is, local conservatives must make the case that Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia) can in no way be considered fascist and this claim in turn relies on the right-wing trope that the original fascists themselves– Hitler and Mussolini, no less – were actually socialists and therefore of the Left.
No really, this is a thing.
The fact that Meloni is a woman adds another element to their dissembling and they get to throw a total misreading of feminism into the mix, using the syllogistic logic that she is a woman and therefore a feminist. Ugh. (And how disappointing was it to see Hillary Clinton fall into this trap, too: “The election of the first woman prime minister in a country always represents a break with the past, and that is certainly a good thing.”)
Anyway, in this mindset, right-wing commentators get to perform the almost perfect double whammy. They get to line up with the likes of Meloni – she’s really just a regular traditional conservative, a nice Catholic girl – while simultaneously bashing/baiting those on the Left for not appreciating her alleged feminist characteristics.
Here are some examples from the last few days:
This is your brain on Murdoch: the normalisation of far-right tropes in the name of owning the Left. Let’s not forget the Peter van Onselen piece The Australian published a few years back arguing that Nazis were socialists, or Chris Uhlmann’s piece recycling arguments about cultural Marxism. It all leads to the most hilarious, convoluted, dangerous and partial view of politics, and it can pass muster because it (largely) comes from those to whom the main pillars of the Australian media give a platform.
In the catallaxy that is Twitter, more sensible views emerge and challenge the nonsense. In the mainstream, such views risk becoming the house style.
It is a reminder again about the nature of the political moment we are going through in Australia, with the emergence of an increasingly powerful crossbench thanks to the rise of community Independents whose politics is rooted in discussion and engagement, the kitchen-table conversation methodology developed by Mary Crooks at the Victorian Women’s Trust and brought to political fruition, initially, by Cathy McGowan in Indi.
While other democracies (Sweden, Italy and the U.S. to name the obvious ones) seem to have no mechanisms for countering the rise of a right-wing populism that easily shades over into fascism, a form of community engagement has arisen in Australia’s conservative heartland that is acting as a powerful prophylactic against the fascist tendency.
Instead of throwing their support and rhetorical energy behind the neo-fascists in Italy, our right-wing commentators might be well advised to laud the community credentials of this new third force that is helping to reshape our politics in a much more democratic – and sane – direction. Our homegrown democrats are worthy of much more attention than the recycled fascist philosophies of Fratelli d'Italia.
That these commentators are instead blabbing on about Giorgia Meloni or trying to remake Opposition Leader Peter Dutton as a likeable, conservative everyman (exactly as they did with Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison), tells you everything you need to know about their political sensibilities and why the outsiders must continue to push back hard against the insiders.
This article was originally published on the Future of Everything under the title 'Extremism always comes wrapped in centrism'.
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