28 Jul 2015

Why we can't rely on the Far Right to just go away

In follow up to this post:

I found some good commentary by Jason Wilson in The Guardian re the protests... 

“Reclaim Australia’s ongoing series of rallies – the last just over a week ago – have been widely received as the work of fringe-dwelling “extremists”. This in turn has led some to argue that direct, public opposition to their rallies is counterproductive, and left to their own devices they will wither away. This analysis has some intuitive appeal.”

Yes it does. As you can read in my previous post I found considerable lure in that idea even as I also felt it didn’t quite work, somehow.
Wilson puts his finger I what I lack the eloquence to pinpoint:

“So why not ignore them and let their tiny numbers speak for themselves? Let them keep shrinking until they no longer justify coverage – after all, it wasn’t so much the Reclaim rallies themselves that were newsworthy, but the drama of conflict. The problem with this as a strategy is that it is based on a common sense idea about the relationship between “mainstream” and “fringe” politics that is too rarely questioned…. 

Most importantly, the idea of a fringe distant from the mainstream obscures the complex ideological and organisational links between movements like Reclaim and mainstream politics. In this case, those ideological links are manifest in the existence of an actual Senate Inquiry into Halal certification, in the presence of a government backbencher at a Reclaim Australia rally, and in the refusal of the government to issue even mild criticisms of the Reclaim movement. These examples show the problem with the centrist/extremist model. It allows us to pretend that the fascist currents in Australian political life are safely confined to some easily-recognised fringe actors. In fact, they flow through major political parties, and into the parliament.

Groups like Reclaim Australia are useful to powerful rightwing actors because their demands make slightly milder proposals sound reasonable, and over time this allows the whole political debate to be moved right. If you want to see the way this works in practice, note that 20 years after One Nation’s heyday, on the weekend we saw a brutal, expensive, punitive and irrational Hansonist refugee policy effectively institutionalised as bipartisan political commonsense. Initially, Howard used Hanson to make himself sound moderate. Later, he and his successors strategically adapted elements of her xenophobic line on immigration as the ALP vacillated in its position on refugees. This was especially crucial in 2001, as Labor floundered in the face of a manufactured refugee crisis.
Tony Abbott ruthlessly exploited the issue and Labor’s confusion in his successful run at the prime ministership. Finally, Labor has been forced to endorse most of what Abbott’s government has been saying in the belief that they need to simply neutralise an issue they can’t win on.”

 And therein is one of the continuing modern tragedies of Australian politics….

While millions of politically disinterested Australians would never truck with the Far Right… they nonetheless remain blissfully unaware that this lunatic fringe has already informed mainstream conservative policy and the centrist opposition has now also ceded that ground.

Decades from now, with the benefit of perspective, this will be decried for the farce it is.

Right now opportunism, gutlessness and a largely non-analytical mass media has let the Far Right get away with it.

Counter-protesting is literally all that remains.

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