Politics Opinion

Political vultures like Hanson manipulating far-right protesters

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Far-right protesters such as Riccardo Bosi (left) and Monica Smit (right) have been manipulated by Pauline Hanson (Image by Dan Jensen)

Riccardo Bosi has been telling the anti-lockdown movement a bunch of hysterical, bloodthirsty bullshit for a while now. 

I worry that his followers are taking him at face value, so let me recap some of his "highlights". Bosi threatens to hang judges, doctors, politicians and the media at every opportunity he’s given, whether at a rally or on a protest livestream.  He reckons that every Freemason in Australia “is guilty of sedition, at least”

He says the appropriate punishment for anyone who works with ASIO is the death penalty. He talks about public executions for people who’ve pretended that the "hoax" pandemic is real, naming a few specific celebrities as deserving. Reckons Ita Buttrose should be hanged.

This guy is supposed to be a political candidate.

The theme of town square-style public executions comes up a lot. He thieves his style from Q-pilled American pollies like Marjorie Taylor Greene, so Bosi has a real "Roman empire in decay" vibe about him.  If Riccardo was in charge of the Circus Maximus he’d be the one pitting Christians against lions to entertain starving people. Except he’s not in charge of anything, and I think that’s Bosi’s real problem. 

He just wants an office and a little Australian Electoral Commission funding.

Did you know that the collective noun for a group of vultures in a tree, looking for prey, is a "committee"?  Bosi is only one vulture cynically picking votes out of anti-lockdown rubes. There’s a whole committee of them.

The danger for the committee is not just that the rubes might actually do something about all this talk.  The specific problem is that they might do something before the Federal Election. That’s scary for a vulture. It might land them in legal or electoral hot water.

Consequently, they’re performing a kind of sad tightrope walk. (Picture a vulture hobbling along a thin branch.) The tightrope walk is this: you engage a delusional fringe movement you don’t believe in to whip up political capital, but you also try to temper its momentum so it doesn’t hurt anyone in the next few months.  Even by Canberran political standards this is pathetic; they are, in the words of comedian Stewart Lee, “trapped between two different forms of cowardice”.

Aside from Bosi’s Australia One party, the committee includes Rod Culleton’s Great Australia Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, One Nation, and, most financially, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.

Palmer’s way of keeping the movement tame enough to promote him while also not hurting anyone is by showering it with money.  He’s spent a record amount on online political advertising, again, but is also helping fund the anti-lockdown movement directly.  In the words of anti-lockdown movement organisers on the ground, UAP have reported paying for speakers, food and drink for the Canberra convoy, entire stages and sound systems, and more.  Having anointed a group of anti-lockdown influencers who were willing to be co-opted, like Simeon Boikov, he and Craig Kelly have effectively tamed a portion of the movement.

Reignite Democracy Australia, the anti-lockdown group led by Monica Smit, have posted a UAP candidate – and are now setting up a project to have hundreds, or thousands, of people out in electorates across Australia recommending ‘pro-freedom’ candidates to conspiracists.  They’re recruiting now. (Presumably UAP will feature strongly in their recommendations.)

There’s only so much co-opting the political vultures can do but it’s worked so far. UAP’s strategy in Canberra, when the threat of storming Parliament House started to look imminent, was to give the movement a theatrical taste of ‘power’. They recruited Graham Hood and a select group of other conspiracists to go into Parliament and hand a list of anti-vax, anti-lockdown demands to Scott Morrison’s office’s security. 

Afterward, Hood suddenly and conspicuously started telling the movement that they should get ready to "come back" on 29 March for the federal budget. What? Come back? Who’s leaving? Weren’t they all supposed to camp continuously until all their stupid demands were met?

The message was clear enough: all this stuff might get Craig Kelly in trouble. Wave your red ensigns and talk about hangings all you like, no worries, but you can’t get Craig Kelly in trouble.

Another very visible instance of vulture co-opting happened during the attempted truckie’s strike of 2021.  The movement spent days hyping up a mass truck blockade on the Gold Coast Highway. Jingoism went mad – truckies occupy a space alongside farmers, ANZACs and Ned Kelly in the mind of certain Aussies – and threats of Australia-wide food shortages were getting conspiracists hot and bothered.  One Nation helped to hype this blockade up.

In the end, a couple of trucks came. Enough to shut a highway down. But One Nation couldn’t have that, because they’d helped to hype it up and blocking a major highway might get them in trouble in Canberra. 

So within minutes, Pauline Hanson rocked up to do the old vulture tightrope walk. She stroked the ego of one TikTok truckie (that’s a thing now) who’d become the darling of the "strike", put him in a video, and convinced him and his mates to clear out their trucks within half an hour.  As long as Pauline’s okay!  Phew.

In these ways, aside from the canvassing at rally speeches and online, vultures buzz around the movement and keep it in check. I think the movement would have gone a lot harder by now if they hadn’t willingly rolled over for all these Canberran vultures with their money and promises, but they did so they’ve been tame enough thus far.

But the movement is quickly detaching from reality in 2022, and noticeably so since the Convoy to Canberra. "Sov cit" snake oil salesmen have stepped to the fore with their pseudo-legal alt-reality. The talk of hanging politicians has come to the forefront. Suddenly all of Canberran politics is one big paedophile cabal, ripe for a hanging. The attacks and harassment on clinics and schools continue. Brisbane anti-lockdown group "People’s Revolution" is recruiting people for "action cells" of some sort, and the action they intend to take isn’t clear.

Bosi’s terrible at calming the bloodlust, because bloodlust is his whole brand.  He stands up at rallies wearing full desert camo and a beret, looking like a Dad’s army extra, talking about hangings to thousands of rubes who love dress-ups. They eat it up. He told them the other day that a plane flying over was a message for them from Donald Trump. They loved it. Bosi has been working up to this theatre act for years, and now he’s perfected it; or perhaps circumstances in 2022 have just become surreal enough to take one man’s protracted public breakdown seriously.

His paltry effort at walking the tightrope was telling them the other day in Canberra about an instance from history where people, after a failed revolution, started committing murder-suicides with their entire families. He mumbled something about how they should build a movement that doesn’t do that.  That’s the most calming talk he’s ever attempted. Thanks, Riccardo. Very reasonable. That’ll temper all the public execution talk.

He also said to 10,000 conspiracists in Canberra that if they didn’t get five million people outside Parliament within a fortnight they’d be “fucked”. Now obviously, that didn’t happen. But what does that kind of futile talk do, peppered among the talk of hangings, to the fringe of the fringe listening to him in that crowd?  When do some among them begin to finally snap? Could it happen after the election, when all this Palmer money and vulture attention is suddenly, cruelly withdrawn?  That’s what worries me.

That doesn’t worry the committee. As long as they get to pick off a few votes in May.

Tom Tanuki is an online satirist, social justice commentator, writer and comedian. He has worked in anti-racist political comedy, most notably through his satirical group the Million Flag Patriots and anti-racist group Yelling At Racist Dogs (Y.A.R.D.). You can follow Tom on Twitter @tom_tanuki.

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