The 20 November mobilisation against the far right in Melbourne was a huge success. Over 1000 people attended to remind the Nazis that they always lose in Melbourne. I will write more in coming days. This is a simple photo essay / archive. If you want some commentary, please take a look at the threads I did on Twitter where each image is accompanied by a lengthy caption.
Despite record numbers of people being vaccinated, and the proven efficacy of vaccines, the Australian anti-vaxxer movement has not gone away. After a series of violent anti-health measure protests in Melbourne in September and October, the anti-vaxxers have continued to hold small rallies and marches, even after most restrictions have been lifted. The anti-vaxxer cause seems to be morphing. While opposition to vaccine mandates is still their central platform, the various factions involved in these mobilisations are now broadening their agenda to encompass a libertarian middle class concern for their so-called rights and freedoms that they supposedly lost during the pandemic.
This is very much aligned to a broader international phenomenon that has seen right-wing extremist political formations infiltrate the anti-vax milieu with explicit far right propaganda and talking points. Globally, we can identify an overlap between the anti-vaxxers and deluded QAnon conspiracists; increasingly, these individuals are being influenced by explicitly fascist sects such as the Proud Boys and other Nazi-adjacent gangs.
This is obvious in the supposedly secret chatrooms the fascists and the antivaxxers inhabit on Telegram, Gab, and Discord. In one recent chat, a Melbourne woman introduced quotes from Hitler into a discussion of the anti-vax protest movement and received several approving comments. The fascist threat in Australia is currently small, but the Nazi-aligned groups have latched onto the anti-vax movement, and they see it as a fertile recruitment ground.
Therefore, we must take the far right seriously. They are fed on a constant diet of misinformation about COVID, about the vaccines, and about a conspiracy of shadowy political forces using the pandemic as a cover for the real agenda: to somehow dismantle individual freedoms by making everyone wear masks and be injected with unknown substances to control their minds and actions.
This is complete nonsense: it is both unscientific with regards to the virus and the vaccine, and it is ideological nonsense because the capitalist state—as bad as it is—is not yet ready to abandon the cloak of electoral democracy to impose a dictatorship.
Ironically, it is the fascist wannabees at the core of the anti-vax movement itself that have such authoritarian tendencies. This is becoming more open and explicit, even as it shelters under the false flag of freedom. There is only a small gap between believing in shadowy conspiracy theories and being convinced by the anti-Semitic lie that vaccines are part of a Jewish plot to enslave the world. The fascists understand they need to broach the “J question” carefully, but they are using the cover of the anti-vax movement to introduce people to their racist ideas.
Alongside explicit fascist elements, the November 20 “freedom” rally organisers include the hard right group Reignite Democracy Australia (RDA) which has recently announced a merger with Craig Kelly and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP). This is an opportunistic electoral alliance, but it is a good fit for the far right because Craig Kelly continues to push Ivermectin (horse deworming paste) as a cure for COVID and this resonates with the anti-vaxxers.
As I have previously written, this coalition of crazies will boost the UAP’s electoral prospects. The anti-vaxxer and false freedom crowd are a Trojan horse for the right-wing electoral politics of Clive Palmer and Craig Kelly. The UAP is opposed to action on climate change and supports the expansion of Australia’s coal mining industry because that’s how Clive Palmer got his filthy riches. Craig Kelly is a homophobic and racist bigot: he voted against marriage equality and supports the Morrison government every step of the way. We know that the UAP will preference the coalition and so supporting this mob is ultimately a vote for Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce. Worse than this—as bad as another Morrison term would be—is that electoral success will allow the UAP/RDA group to claim a victory, and this will help them grow. This will strengthen the far right and provide more potential recruits for the fascists.
This reason alone should be enough for anybody concerned about Australia’s future ability to resist the rise of fascist violence to come to the counter-rally. However, if you need further convincing, here’s CARF’s top 10 reasons why we need to be there and bring ourfriends.
- We can’t let the far right normalise the idea of mass death due to covid!
The size and scale of the anti-vaccine and COVID denying rallies are a significant leap forward for the forces opposed to essential health measures. Their efforts are helping to normalise a situation where we all accept mass deaths due to COVID for the sake of some misguided sense of individual freedom. The pandemic has shown us otherwise, that in fact we are all connected and that it is necessary for us to collectively participate in public health measures to free ourselves from the impacts of the virus.
- We need to make it clear that these demonstrations involve dangerous far right and fascist forces!
It is important to counter demonstrate and to explain to a wider audience that these mobilisations involve a variety of far-right and fascist forces. In Melbourne one of the most prominent known figures has been AVI Yemeni, the self-declared “biggest Jewish Nazi in the world.” Other figures include Harrison McClean who is well known for his antisemitic conspiracy theories.
- Far right politics should be opposed through protest!
We need to counter-mobilise to discredit conspiratorial anti-vax ideas, highlight the involvement of the far-right, and put forward our own arguments: that vaccines are about social solidarity, and covid-19 is a serious threat to people’s health and lives. We need to counter them in numbers and energy, and argue their ideas are grossly wrong and extremely right wing.
- We cannot let the far right grow!
The far right and fascists have mobilized around the issue of opposing vaccines and health measures to recuperate their forces here in Melbourne and worldwide. They’re using these protests as a chance to grow and organise themselves. This is a dangerous development and ignoring them will not make them go away. If we want to make sure that these forces can’t grow we need to highlight their politics for what they really are, and show them that the majority of public opinion is against them.
- It is important to break the vaccine hesitant from the serious COVID deniers and the fascists.
Not only have previous anti-vaccine demonstrations bolstered ideas hostile to social solidarity, but they have opened yet another opportunity for hardened far-right and fascist organisations to capitalise on the fears and anxiety provoked by misinformation and hostile media reporting of public health measures. These demonstrations only offer fertile soil for them to pedal their bigoted conspiracy theories amongst a crowd open to these ideas. However, as most of the rally goers are not fascists themselves, they can be broken away if confronted and made aware of the sort of fascistic company they’re keeping. We need to counter-mobilise to discredit their ideas, disrupt the far-right’s ability to recruit and publicly push for a pro-health agenda.
- Vaccines and masks are a health and safety issue
Workers need to take vaccines and masks seriously to keep themselves safe at work. Selfish anti-vaxxers put themselves and their workmates at risk of infection, or worse. The far right is hostile to trade unions and workers’ organisations because they support capitalism—the Proud Boys even make this explicit in their propaganda—and therefore we have to insist that workers have the right, and the responsibility, to protect themselves by being vaccinated and wearing a mask when appropriate.
The pandemic is a union issue, and one that the workers’ movement more broadly must address. Capitalism doesn’t care about workers’ health because it puts profits above saving lives. We need to mobilise to counter this anti-worker and anti-human rhetoric and to encourage the trade union movement to take up the fight for COVID-safe workplaces.
- Show solidarity with healthcare workers!
Health care workers are on the frontline in the effort to keep all of us safe. Not only do doctors and nurses work tirelessly at testing and vaccination sites, they also staff the ICU wards where many COVID patients end up. We have already seen anti-vax protestors attacking health workers in other parts of the world and these dangerous far right mobilisations will encourage similar outrages in Australia.
- Solidarity with teachers: Schools are not yet safe
We know that children are at risk of both infection from and transmitting the COVID virus. There is ample evidence from international studies that schools are likely to be sites of infection and transmission. This puts students, teachers, and families at risk. We are campaigning for safety measures in schools and supporting teachers who want to take action to highlight their concerns about returning to work while it is not safe to do so. We acknowledge the difficulties that parents face with learning from home, but this requires the proper support measures from governments, not blanket orders that schools re-open without adequate safety protocols in place.
- COVID-19 is a virus caused by Capitalism
The ultimate cause of the pandemic is global capitalism. The virus spread from the wild because of food scarcity in China forcing people to kill and eat animals already at risk because of encroachments on their habitat for farming, logging and extractive industries. The spread of the virus around the world was also facilitated by global travel that was not properly or quickly regulated to prevent cross-border infection.
Infections could have been quickly brought under control in many places if governments had acted faster with public health measures. The hesitancy to do this was the result of pressure from business leaders who were more concerned about how profits would be affected by an economic slowdown. This is well-documented in Australia. The failure to prevent the Ruby Princess cruise ship from discharging infected passengers in Sydney led to the first big national outbreak. The Morrison government refused to act quickly with purpose-built quarantine facilities, and this allowed the virus to escape again from so-called ‘hotel quarantine’. The government was forced to introduce Jobkeeper only after it was embarrassed by the ACTU and the scheme was ended prematurely which led to thousands of people being left without income for many months. The pressure to reopen the economy while the virus is still at large and not under control is also driven by the demands of the bosses. It is workers who will pay for the ultimate cost.
- Who’s streets? Our streets
We need to mobilise on November 20 to protest against the far right and to show that there is opposition to their false promise of freedom and their anti-science conspiracy theories. In addition, progressive forces need to return to the streets to reconnect with supporters and rebuilt lost momentum. The political and economic crises that mark the period of capitalist decline were not put on pause during the pandemic.
Attacks on working class organisations continue; wages and conditions are still under threat as the capitalist class seeks to claw back its lost profits and margins. The global recession is not over and this has led to an increase in imperialist tensions between the USA and China. Australia is caught up in this new cold war. The COP26 climate conference has done nothing to save the planet from global warming; instead, it has merely launched a corporate greenwashing exercise based on meaningless slogans such as “zero emissions by 2050”.
As the pandemic recedes from public consciousness, the left will need to reclaim the streets and rebuild to once again bring 10s of 1000s of people onto the street to demand action to halt the climate emergency, to say “No war with China,” and to fight for workers’ rights.
Stopping the far-right and fascists is just the first step.
The first large mobilisation of climate activists in Melbourne took place on Saturday 6 November. After an 18 month absence from the streets due to COVID restrictions, Students for Climate Action joined in the global protests against the greenwashing occurring at the COP26 conference in Glasgow.
Speakers pointed out that the Glasgow conference was a COPOUT and climate criminals like Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison were able to spin the lie that they would reach net zero by 2050.
Net zero is a con. It is simply a process for ignoring the rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by pretending that they can be ‘offset’ by gerrymandering the figures, under reporting emissions, and maintaining the lie that it is our lifestyle – rather than their polluting industries – is the main cause of global warming and environmental collapse.
We were on the streets to show that it is our action that can stop climate destruction and that system change – the end of capitalism – is the only chance we have to save the planet.
On Saturday 6 June 2020, over 30,000 people marched in Melbourne in solidarity with people all around the world calling for an end to racialised policing and the murder of people of colour in police custody.
The catalyst for the protests was the murder of George Floyd by four police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Floyd was strangled when an officer kept a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The murder, and many more like it over many years, sparked the biggest civil disobedience in America in nearly 50 years. The response from Trump was to doubledown on the violence.
Australia is not immune. Our own record of Black deaths in custody is appalling. More than 430 deaths since a Royal Commission into the issue was initiated in 1991.
The turnout in Melbourne was really inspring and the government did everything in its power to stop people from attending, warning (for example) that it gathering was a breach of the #COVID-19 regulations on crowd numbers.
As you will see in the photogallery, most people were wearing masks.
There is a pandemic of racist police violence and the march in Melbourne was one small part of a global rebellion against it.
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This is an edited version of the original posted on Independent Australia on 13 November 2019
Has lying become the new normal for our elected officials? Dr Martin Hirst argues that events of this week prove it has.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
There’s an old joke about politicians and porkies and it goes like this:
Q: How can you tell if a politician is lying?
A: Their lips are moving.
Once upon a time, we could laugh at a corny joke like that because it was implicitly understood that most politicians were sometimes a little loose with the truth. We knew that they tended to exaggerate their good points and over-egg their opponents’ alleged defects, but we could live with it.
Lying on this level was tolerable because we trusted most politicians to be honest when it came to the big stuff, like budgets and defence spending and taking us into a war halfway around the world.
There was a general acceptance that politicians were genuine, capable and straightforward. We might have voted for the other team, but the consensus was that whoever was in government would generally do a good job and look after the country. We believed in the quaint notion of national stewardship.
But that’s all changed
Lying is the new default position for many politicians. So much so that Scott Morrison has earned the nickname “Liar from the Shire”, at least on social media. Nobody in the MSM has yet had the courage to put this to his face or commit it to the page. We can no longer have an innocent laugh about the truth-defying qualities of our pollies.
In my view, Barnaby Joyce has this week hit the bottom of the lying barrel with a widely quoted statement, made initially on Sky News (of course), claiming that two victims of the fires on the NSW north coast were probably Greens voters:
“I acknowledge that the two people who died were most likely people who voted for the Green party so I am not going to start attacking them, that’s the last thing I want to do.”
See what happened here? Joyce has learned the not-so-subtle art of indirect inference in order to cover his tracks. There is no way he would actually know how the fire victims – Vivian Chaplain and George Nole – actually voted but by couching his statement in terms of probability, he can essentially get away with it.
But, more importantly, there was a bigger, more sinister lie embedded in Joyce’s interview with Sky (which of course became a lead story in the rest of the MSM). He basically blamed the Greens for the lack of hazard reduction backburning over winter.
This alarming claim was, of course, quickly picked up by the Murdoch media and noted intellectual and New York-based columnist Miranda Devine was among the first (but not the last) to repeat this lie as fact and use it as the basis for an anti-Greens opinion piece.
Of course they are. The Greens are not in a position nationally or at a State level to impose any anti backburn policy. Nor do they actually have an anti-hazard reduction policy in any council area where there is an overlap between them holding any power on council and where the fires occurred.
Barnaby’s goal was not to stick to the facts but to make an outrageous and half-credible claim and then let the sympathetic Greek chorus in the Murdoch media amplify and solidify the lie into something that susceptible voters are more likely to accept.
I’ve been consciously participating in Australian politics since I first voted in 1974 and I can’t recall any campaign period that’s been more shambolic than this one.
Already, fourteen (yes, 14) candidates have been disendorsed by their parties and one, the bankrupt former One Nation senator, Rod Culleton, has been referred to police over his ineligibility to stand.
Most have been struck down since nominations closed a week ago, so they’ll still be on the ballot paper.
What an omnishambles wrapped in a clusterf*ck and dipped in glitter-infused turds!
I don’t think even 1975 came close to being this bad and that was a bitter campaign on both sides that eventually saw Malcolm Fraser elected and Whitlam vanquished.
The Murdoch press played a role then in demonising the ALP and helping Fraser win. The Murdoch papers and Sky News are playing a similar role today – as they have in almost every election since the late 1960s – this time, though, their preferred Prime Minister is looking like a cooked goose.
As a rule, I don’t mind election campaigns but this one already feels like stale pizza sitting in the bottom of the fridge. I’m hungry, but I really don’t want to eat it.
So, we got through the first couple of the of five election campaign weeks relatively unscathed. Good Friday provided a respite day even though we still got footage of a smirking Prime Minister bothering God and small children.
Bill Shorten went to Luna Park in Melbourne, an apt metaphor for the swings and round-abouts of campaigning and the roller-coaster ride of chaos that has characterised federal politics over the last four years.
The ‘circus’ analogy gets over-used, but if it’s OK for Michelle Grattan to double-down on it, who am I to be picky.
We may have had a short break from the campaign over Easter, but are we any closer to having a clear front-runner for the only poll that counts on 18 May?
Well, I thought it was pretty clear from the last gazillion Newspoll results that the ALP was going to win the election in a canter.
However, Michelle Grattan (no, I’m not picking on her) reckons it was a “scratchy” first week for Shorten because of a small gaffe on superannuation and because he’s “vulnerable” on Labor’s ambitious carbon emission reduction policies.
Well, I’m Okay with that because at least the ALP has some policies to quibble about. The Liberals, on the other hand, are in such confusion they don’t even know what their own policies are – like on electric cars, for example.
But some scribes even reckon Morrison is somehow making a comeback.
That’s like saying a man on life-support in a palliative care ward is going to make a full recovery.
I’m really not sure how they reach such fanciful conclusions.
Ah well, I suppose anything is possible inside the Canberra “bubble”.
So how is Morrison going to stage this political miracle?
Well he is, after all, Scott the “disruptor” according the Katharine Murphy writing in The Guardian:
Scott Morrison’s strategy is to run over the top of the trench firing bullets every which way, in an effort to disrupt Shorten’s rhythm.
Well, he has to, doesn’t he?
Morrison has no choice but to act like a demented and stupid-brave World War One sapper high on the fumes of battle. There is nothing else there.
The Liberal Party has been totally devoid of ideas, imagination, initiative and innovation ever since Peta Credlin and Tony Abbott were running the country after trashing the joint in the 2013 election.
Turnbull had nothing in 2016 and only just hung on because Labor started from a long way behind after the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd omnishambles and the deceitful ‘carbon tax’ campaigning masterminded by the discredited Credlin.
Three years later and Morrison has had a chance to prove to the Australian public that he’s an empty vessel. Well, not exactly empty, he’s actually full to overflowing with bombastic populism, smug ego and meaningless fury.
Let’s take the electric cars policy as an example.
The COALition began the campaign bagging Labor’s pledge to have 50 per cent of all new car sales converted to electric vehicles by 2030. That’s a whopping decade away and its only half of the average 1.1 million new cars sold each year, according to industry figures.
So that’s 500,000 electric vehicles added to the national fleet, on average from 2030 onwards.
It is an ambitious policy given that there are less than 10,000 electric vehicles currently on Australian roads, including about 4000 Tesla models. This is about 0.3 per cent of the total number of cars on the road.
So, it seems that the Liberals might have been right to poke holes in Labor’s policy. The only problem was, the COALition had an almost identical policy on the books.
Morrison and his ministerial colleagues looked stupid when they were warning Australian petrol-heads that Bill Shorten was coming for their petrol utes and big-engined cars, in a bid to wreck their enjoyment of the traditional Aussie weekend pursuits, like boat and caravan towing and driving illegally off the beaten track through national parks.
Morrison looked stupid, but then Peter Dutton and Angus Taylor stepped up and gave Scotty their beers.
Peter Dutton is on a knife-edge margin in his Queensland electorate of Dickson, so he made the excellent decision to attack his Labor opponent for not living in the electorate.
Fair enough, if you conveniently forget that Dutton owns several luxurious multi-million dollar properties outside of Dickson himself.
But the attack focused on Ali France’s disability. She has a prosthetic leg because of a horrific car accident. She lives close to Dickson in a home she spent over $100,000 on to modify in order to make it convenient for her.
So what did Dutton do? Well, he’s well-known for his sensitivity to less-fortunate people and promised us when challenging Turnbull that we would see more of his engaging human side.
Thanks Peter, you’re doing well.
He said – in an engaging and human way – that Ms France was milking her disability in order to win the sympathy vote in Dickson. His grovelling apology was equally engaging and human.
I guess we should also not be surprised that this story was first run in The Australian. The Murdoch media is going all out to help the coalition.
Senior kool-aid dispenser Piers Akerman was photographed out on a door-knocking campaign walk with Tony Abbott in Warringah. He looked really happy to be there just standing “in the background”, but the candid snap confirmed what we have been saying all along.
The Liberal Party is a subsidiary of NewsCorpse.
And what about poor old Angus Taylor. Taylor is the Energy Minister in Morrison’s government and he has previous form as a nasty, spiteful dickhead. He was famously sacked by British Tory knob, Boris Johnson, while he was mayor of London.
In that instance Taylor was accused of making insensitive racist comments. He’s right at home in the modern Liberal Party where he has languished for the last five years.
Taylor must have been thinking that the Liberal campaign could do with a boost in the past week, so he thought it the right time to grab the headlines with a poorly-timed and ill-conceived threat of legal action against two independent journalists over their retweet of a now infamous Twitter thread on the minister’s involvement in the snowballing water scandal that brewing away nicely in the background.
There is no better way to draw the spotlight onto yourself and your possibly dodgy dealings than issuing threatening legal letters to journalists who don’t have a lot to lose.
Given Mr Taylor’s propensity to launch his lawyers at anyone suggesting he acted with impropriety we are making no comment on the water sales issue, but we can’t help but think that firing off a defamation threat in the middle of an election campaign is a distraction Scott Morrison could do without.
As an aside, we can note that the other senior COALition figure allegedly in the centre of the water sales scandal is the delightful family man and member for New England, Barnaby Joyce.
It’s a short week this week with the Easter Monday and ANZAC Day holidays. Both Morrison and Shorten have said they won’t officially campaign on those two days, but we can be sure that their faces will grace the nightly news and dominate the front pages because it’s much easier for the journalists to just follow the leaders than attempt to cover actual policies.
Burn of the campaign – so far
The false war over electric cars made for some interesting door stops and prompted several car manufacturers to publicly critique the COALition’s scare-mongering.
My favourite burn moment of the campaign so far has been the start of a television advertising campaign for the global launch of the all-electric Hyundai Kona, a compact SUV that will retail for around $37,500.
This is an affordable and smart-looking option for people wanting to go into the EV market.
It may not be deliberate, but the Hyundai advert feels like a giant FU to the Liberals this week.
It’s quite funny to think that the COALition might get run down by a fleet of electric cars.
In the wake of the Christchurch massacre, Scott Morrison has called for an end to “toxic tribalism”, but this doesn’t mean he won’t exploit it in the federal election.
Two things are fairly certain in the wake of the Christchurch massacre and the NSW state election: Scott Morrison will not let go of his commitment to toxic white nationalism and the Coalition will preference One Nation and other racist factions above Labor and the Greens in the federal election.
The third predictable leg of this tripod of tribalism is that most of the news media and commentariat will go along with Morrison’s decisions and ideology because they treat politics as a game of appearances rather than a matter of real consequences for real people.
Perhaps we all thought that the shock of a self-confessed “eco-fascist” who was groomed into murderous violence by his connections to Australia’s home-grown white supremacists would shift the political debate decisively.
It hasn’t. Maybe it did for a few too short days and hours, but by the end of last week it was back to the same old same old, just as I predicted in IA on Thursday last week.
Just six days after Christchurch I wrote that “normal transmissions” would be resumed quickly and that Morrison would lead the way by:
…returning to the rhetoric of border security and community safety as quickly as possible and spinning the Christchurch attacks into the Government’s re-election strategy. The media plays along with this because that is the game they know well and are most comfortable with. But there’s also another reason that the news media plays along — journalists share the broad world view of the Government.
Unfortunately, that is precisely what has happened.
It has taken less than two-weeks after the worst terrorist attack in our region since 88 Australians died in the Bali bombings of October 2002, for the COALition to work out how to adjust its rhetoric and get its re-election strategy back on track. The key shift has only been in the messaging, not in the policy direction and not in Morrison’s intent.
For all his bluster in the interview with Waleed Aly, in which he sought to re-frame the now infamous 2010 cabinet discussion, Morrison is a leopard who cannot and will not change his spots.
The Prime Minister stands accused of seeking to inflame divisions by using Australia’s Muslim community as a political punching bag in order to connect to voters still stuck in the racist dialectic of Australia being a white, European country.
In the interview he attempted to deflect criticism by claiming that he had merely been “addressing” the issue. This mealy-mouthed response dodged the central question about whether Morrison was seeking to inflame the issue or calm it down and it was delivered with all the shouty arrogance that we’ve come to expect from this hollow tin barrel of a man.
That Morrison is his own aggressive and endless echo chamber on legs is not the issue. As Katherine Murphy wrote in The Guardian over the weekend, we already know this about the Prime Minister; he will be judged on his record, not on some cardboard cut-out reinvention of a person with empathy.
Like most things with Morrison his empathy is as fake as his glad-handing and his smiling jocular public persona. He is indeed a shallow pond, full of scum and toxic algea blooms.
In this vein we can confidently say that Morrison’s new-found concerns with “tribalism” is just as fake and transactional. He is not interested in healing wounds in our national psyche, he is still intent on stoking division for political gain. Invoking “tribalism” is just a slight modification of his earlier very explicit anti-Muslim dog-whistling. That is why I am so disappointed that the commentariat Press Gallery opinion writers have fallen for it.
Let’s return for a moment to Katherine Murphy’s Saturday column. Most of it was pretty good. She rightly saw through Morrison’s attempt to bluster and bully Waleed Aly and his pathetic plea to be given a second chance. “Don’t pre-judge me,” he pleaded, and Murphy skewered him with precision:
You cannot outrun your record as a public figure, because you are still that public figure, and your identity is the sum of your record.
But there is also a problem in Murphy’s analysis. When Morrison talks about trying to end “tribalism” as he did early last week, Murphy agrees with him.
Now, Morrison, prime minister of Australia, believes there is too much tribalism, and the current excess of tribalism is corrosive to social cohesion…
He’s absolutely correct; I applaud this sentiment.
This is disturbing, but not surprising. By conceding this point to Morrison, Katherine Murphy reveals, again, that there is far too much ideological agreement between supposedly independent journalists and government figures. Instead of critical distance and critique the political agenda of the government is endorsed.
Importantly, it also allows Morrison to continue setting the agenda. Funnily enough – though it’s not at all funny – this is precisely what happened.
“Tribalism” is junk science
The idea that Australia is riven by tribal division has now become the media narrative, even though in terms of sociology and political science it is, at best, a nebulous concept that displaces other important categories of analysis, such as class, economic division, ethnicity and gender.
“Tribalism” is an appealing trope of pop psychology and by invoking it Morrison is only after one result – to signal to One Nation voters and supporters of the conservative fringe that he is still on their side.
This is what he is reported to have said in a speech to the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, just days after Christchurch:
“I see every Australian as an individual, not part of some tribal group to be traded off against another.”
While denouncing racism and “tribalism”, Morrison also said the community needed to be free to hold “legitimate policy debates” on issues such as migrant intake and border security without the conversations being “hijacked” by accusations of intolerance or racial hatred. This betrays Morrison’s true intentions. He is signalling to the hardcore racist rump that they are free to continue their slander of Muslims because both “tribes” are as bad as each other. And, it was confirmed by further remarks in the same speech reported in the Nine newspapers:
“This is true of the left and the right, and even more so from those shouting from the fringes to a mainstream of quiet Australians that just want to get on with their lives.”
This is the same “both sides” language that Donald Trump deployed after white supremacists marched through Charlottesville and Heather Heyer was murdered by a maniac Nazi in August 2017. Even conservative US commentator Christopher Chantrill correctly describes nationalism of figures like Trump and Morrison as “fake tribalism”.
Patriotism is when the ruling class keeps tribal feeling in reserve, to crank it up only when it is necessary to send a generation of young men onto the killing fields against an enemy. Nationalism is when the ruling class loses control of the narrative to some yahoo like Trump.
Morrison is using “tribalism” to the same effect. The use of both-sides are bad rhetoric is an attempt by the PM to place himself in the middle ground and the mainstream media amplify it because they are in synch with the ideology behind it.
After Gladys: To boldly go where racists have gone before
The re-election of the Berejiklian government in NSW on 23 March will only embolden Morrison to continue down this path.
In the Waleed Aly interview he refused to commit to putting the racist fringe elements last on the Liberals’ preference allocation. This was a “wait and see” decision and, now that it’s clear that One Nation has a sizeable base in NSW, the wait is over.
Liberal Party strategists know that the coalition needs to harvest the seven to 10 per cent of voters who are willing to cast a ballot for out-and-out racism if it is to have any chance at all of winning the federal election in May.
When asked about preference deals with One Nation on Sunday’s Insiders, Liberal senator Arthur Sinodonis also refused to commit to putting them last. He managed to get around the question by saying that he personally would “repudiate” the racists but didn’t go so far as saying he wouldn’t accept their preferences.
Morrison knows his only option is to continue to play the race card, he is carefully recrafting the message post-Christchurch, but the message has not changed.
I have no doubt that the COALition will do preference deals with One Nation, Morrison cannot even come close to winning the election without them.