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Right-wing American film and music imports pose danger

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Sound of Freedom has been widely championed by QAnon conspiracy theorists the world over (Screenshot via YouTube)

Australia has its own share of homegrown Right-wing extremism without importing conservative propaganda and conspiracy theories from America, writes John Card.

THE  STAUNCHEST proponents of the Australian cultural scene have long held that the big mistake we, as a nation, have been repeating over and over again for the past hundred years has been to merely tail what the rest of the English-speaking world does.

That diagnosis of our cultural malaise was just as correct 200 years ago when we were blindly aping our sneering British overseers, as it has been ever since the end of the Second World War right up until the present, where now we're just uncritically following the United States along.

You might have noticed that over the past year, we've been settling back into an almost pre-COVID attitude towards the cinema. Once again, eager moviegoers are filling theatre seats for the latest American cultural imports, whether it be another interminable piece of superhero schlock or a forgettable turn-off-your-brain action thriller. And lest we forget the insipid Barbie/Oppenheimer double-feature being touted as the first proper post-pandemic “cinema event” of late.   

The fact that consumers in this country are still clamouring for hand-me-down American releases is a problem of its own and a symptom of the fact that Aussie artists, authors and filmmakers, and every other type of creative professional, are so under-represented even in our own country, in large part, simply because of how terminally under-funded arts programs are Down Under.

However, the Australian cultural landscape is about to be blighted by an entirely different problem caused by the fact our entertainment industry largely relies on scraping the bottom of the rest of the world's barrel. 

Right now, Australian cinemas have seen the release of Sound of Freedom. The thing that makes this movie particularly problematic is that it also represents all the most fetid elements of America's political culture that their Trump-loving reactionary Right-wing also wants to export around the world.   

Sound of Freedom markets itself as a crime-thriller based on true events about an organisation that rescues kidnapped and trafficked children. In actuality, it's mostly made-up hogwash with some real peoples' names flimsily attached.

The whole thing was written and shot back when the QAnon conspiracy theory was just coming into vogue among the American hard-Right, but the movie's release was delayed five years until the “Q Movement” was deep within the average conservative voter's conscience. Since its release over there on 4 July, prominent QAnon influencers and internet personalities in the U.S. have been championing the movie for the conspiracist worldview it peddles.  

The movie's plot is ripped straight from the insane fantasies of the most diehard Trump fans' delusions. Democrat politicians like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are secretly funnelling money to Central American cartels so that they'll abduct innocent U.S. children for use in depraved rituals and only the most heavily armed and psychotically paranoid red-blooded patriots can stop it.

It's two straight hours of QAnon made for the silver screen that even ends with leading man, Jim Caviezel, dropping character entirely and monologuing directly to camera about how important it is you share the message of the film with others. 

Since the film first came out, it's been the darling of the conservative press circuit. Quadrupally-indited former President Donald Trump threw alleged participants of the 6 January Capitol riot a swanky premiere of the movie at his Bedminster resort. Caviezel himself has done a number of interviews promoting the film, often during which he denounces the supposed “adrenochrome harvesting of children”, explicitly affirming the most insane elements of the QAnon theory with a straight face.

And online conservatives have whipped up a frenzy on social media by essentially gaslighting themselves into believing that all cinema owners of America are in on a conspiracy to stop Republicans from watching the film by fiddling with their own air conditioners.   

This sort of egregious behaviour – over some dumb movie, no less – might sound almost innocuously absurd on the face of it. But make no mistake, this film is willfully enabling all the worst behaviours the conspiracist hard-Right-wing is capable of.

Now, by early September, Sound of Freedom will have been screened and promoted all over Australia and it's not hard to imagine that all our own conservative media grifters and whatever shady financial interests-that-be that are bankrolling the movie's distribution here will be trying their utmost to whip up support for their QAnon story among as much this country's own Right-wing as possible.

Hyping up these far-Right media products is a tried-and-tested tactic of big-money conservative lobbyists and Republican donors over in the States. They've been buying every GOP congressman's tepid autobiography straight onto bestseller lists for years to lend their increasingly fringe political views an air of popular legitimacy and preserve the myth of the “silent majority”.

Twice now, earlier this year, Right-wing groups have astroturfed forgettable country songs onto the Billboard charts — Jason Aldean's seemingly pro-lynching dog-whistle, Try That in a Small Town and “Trump-voter anthem”, Rich Men North of Richmond. Now that the voter base of conservatism in far too much of the West is so heavily invested in the pseudo-folklore of QAnon, they're going all-in on backing the entertainment products that will pander to them and reinforce that delusional worldview like Sound of Freedom.

The reason that conservative groups are doing all this goes well beyond just wanting to make a few more ticket sales. The reactionary Right has a fundamental interest in shifting the Overton Window, or the idea of what is politically acceptable to talk about, as far to the right as possible. Just like when they brought a bunch of pretty outspoken racists out on stage at Sydney CPAC a week ago, conservatives have absolutely no problem with saying the most vile things possible to shift the standards of normal political discourse.      

Make no mistake, these “entertainment” products that tell their audience that their political opponents are all stealing children and that glorify political violence are dangerous. If you let these ideas fester in the minds of this country's already fairly deranged Right-wingers, people will get hurt.

It might be all fun and games when it's just your estranged baby boomer uncle ranting about “Masonic adrenochrome cabals” or whatever on Facebook, but how long until the type of person to rail against the Left online feels emboldened enough to bring a weapon to something like a Rainbow Storytime event to “rescue” some children?        

For all they like to complain about “the woke Left's culture war”, conservatives love inventing stories to be angry about. And right now, our cinemas are showing the latest reactionary-bait blockbuster nationwide.

Be aware of what this film is and why you shouldn't support its release. Be prepared to have to hear all the latest conspiracy theories the Right wing is all too eager to import from the U.S., but don't entertain them. Our home-grown movie industry might be underdeveloped right now, but we do have our own political issues to pay attention to in this country and we definitely don't have to go importing the worst of America's anytime soon.   

John David Card is a writer, historian and anarchist activist.

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