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The Fight Against Antisemitism is the Fight for Total Liberation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/09/2021 - 8:02am in

In Confronting Antisemitism on the Left, Daniel Randall challenges socialists to confront antisemitism with the same vigor they have taken on other struggles against oppression.

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Socialists and Free Speech Revisited

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 27/09/2021 - 11:31pm in

How should socialists who support democratic rights approach current controversies regarding the practical application of the right to free speech? This review essay explores this question discussing David Renton’s recent book. 

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French Anti-Pass Demonstrations on the Eve of the Presidential Election

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/09/2021 - 11:15am in

The fragmentation of the left has led to an almost certain second-round dual between Macron and Le Pen in 2022, with grave implications for the future of an explicitly left mass movement.

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Saving western civilisation: The IPA’s Aussie Crusade

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/09/2021 - 3:00am in

You…see white homeless men on the street and that completely debunks [white-privilege theory].

Dr Bella d’Abrera, Institute of Public Affairs

Who or what is the Institute of Public Affairs—‘A feudalistic patriarchy, a trompe l’oeil of birds and flowers hiding a hardhead pile-driving agenda’, as journalist Elizabeth Farrelly has it? ‘The voice for freedom’, ‘An independent, non-profit…think tank, dedicated to…economic and political freedom’, as the IPA describes itself? Both, perhaps? No, its much-touted ‘freedom’ is widely recognised as being reserved for business, and the bigger the better. Clearly, it doesn’t matter to the IPA that untrammelled freedom for business inevitably curtails freedom for the rest.

‘Big business created the IPA’, says the group’s current executive director, John Roskam. In 1943, several prominent businessmen, reportedly prompted by the collapse of the right-wing United Australia Party, formed the IPA with the goal of influencing Australia’s post-war reconstruction in favour of business rather than labour. Key among the policies of today’s IPA are limited government, free markets, privatisation and deregulation, including the abolition of the minimum wage. As well, and no doubt influenced by its many lucrative fossil-fuel-company donors, the IPA denies the anthropogenic factor in climate change.

Among the IPA’s most generous donors is mining magnate Gina Rinehart, whose company reportedly provided more than a third of the IPA’s total income for 2016 and 2017. Other donors include ExxonMobil, Caltex, Shell, Esso, Telstra, Philip Morris and British American Tobacco. In the 1990s, tobacco companies funded IPA research designed to attack the science behind passive smoking.

This year will see the opening of the Liberal-aligned Robert Menzies Institute at the University of Melbourne. The institute’s board members include IPA chairman Geoffrey Hone and right-wing commentator Peta Credlin. The Morrison government has contributed $7 million of the $7.5 million in funding to date.

There is no doubt that the ‘hardhead pile-driving agenda’ of today’s IPA is radical neoliberalism. Several scholars describe the IPA’s ideological move in the late 1970s away from Keynesian economics towards neoliberalism, in line with similar shifts in the United Kingdom and United States. With the IPA’s help, says Damien Cahill, Australian finance, mining and monopoly capital neoliberalised the Australian state and economy.

As to its beguiling trompe l’oeil, the IPA’s florid displays of comforting Western cultural motifs  serve to divert the public eye from a dark neoliberal underbelly.

The ‘research’ of Bella d’Abrera

I don’t know if [climate activists] are saying the world is hotting up or cooling down at the moment, whatever it is.

Bella d’Abrera.

The work of IPA’s researcher Bella d’Abrera takes us further into the IPA’s agenda, as she is the director of the IPA’s Foundations of Western Civilisation Program. Although much has been written about the IPA, d’Abrera and her program are less familiar.   

The Foundations of Western Civilisation Program, according to the IPA website, was established in 2011 ‘to defend and extend Australians’ understanding of the influential, historical role of the West in…our society’. As program director, d’Abrera spends much of her time advocating for the IPA’s education policies, mainly in the form of lavish reports to institutions and near-daily interviews, presentations and opinion pieces for right-wing media outlets. D’Abrera is all over the internet, particularly Sky News. ‘The internet is a powerful tool’, she says, ‘which, in the right hands, can be employed for the glory of God’. More on that shortly.

Several of d’Abrera’s glossy reports include data analyses of participant responses to brazenly biased agree/disagree-type questions—for example, ‘School students should be forced to apologise for their skin colour’; ‘Schools should make boys ashamed of being male’. D’Abrera, without the merest blush, declares the results: for example, 86 per cent of Australians do not want boys made to feel ashamed of being male. Among d’Abrera’s pet hates, including climate activism and un-Christian behaviour three bêtes noires stand out, namely, the notions of class, race and gender, which she views as apparitions of a fevered Marxist imagination. For her, they simply do not exist: ‘That we have a racism problem…is all complete lies. [Australia] is clearly not a racist country… It does not discriminate against you depending on your race or your gender’. Against all the evidence, Australia, according to d’Abrera, is free of racist, sexist and gender-related prejudice.

A major part of d’Abrera’s role is to reassure her audience that claims about Australian bigotry are woke-ish lies,  a deception carried out by humanities and social science departments in the universities. After surveying, for example, several hundred handbook entries for history subjects, d’Abrera concludes: ‘The left-wing leitmotifs of class, race, and gender have replaced the essential core subjects [in] the history of Western Civilisation’. Hence, she says, Western civilisation is reduced to ‘not much more than a story of white male patriarchy wielding power over and oppressing women, racial minorities and the poor’. The IPA’s Foundations of Western Civilisation Program declares:

‘The ancient Greek and Roman Empires and Medieval Christian Europe…produced…enduring achievements [that] have not been matched by any other civilisation,’ so presumably an IPA-approved history course would take a hierarchical view of cultural achievements and encourage students to uncritically place those of Western civilisation at the apex.

And, if you thought the so-called ‘history wars’ were history, I’m sorry to disappoint. They might be a rerun of the 2018 recap of the 2014 rehash of the 2000s’ replay of the 1990s’ war against the 1960s’ invention of ‘new history’, which opened up the field of historical subjects to people who were not white or male or landowners, but they continue in outpourings on Sky and sister media about ‘Marxist’ history departments. Who or what might be ‘Marxist’ in their terms is never seriously examined. The epithet is merely a slur.

But let’s return to d’Abrera’s  role within the IPA and ask just what her ideological agenda is. It might be noted that Roman Catholic values and neoliberalism cohabit in her work. What then of her scholarly bona fides in relation to her educational brief, and  what has been the effectiveness of her campaign to influence Australian education policy?

On the first question, noted scholars in the field are scathing. ‘D’Abrera’s take on 19th-century Britain’, says 19th-century specialist Joanne Wilkes, ‘is completely clueless’. D’Abrera, says historian Christopher Hilliard, ‘doesn’t seem to recognise the history of Western civilisation when she sees it’.  

‘It cannot be plausibly argued’, says Dirk Moses, ‘as d’Abrera does, that BA enrolments have declined because of a Marxist curriculum dominated by class, race, and gender themes’.  Sidestepping the ridicule thrown at her, however, like Joan of Arc d’Abrera soldiers on.

What might we infer from the scholarly criticism? First, does d’Abrera have the credentials to back up her claims? She holds a doctorate in European history (albeit there are no refereed papers), which is a good start. But why the myriad claims against academia, among them:

‘Our entire Christian heritage is…erased from our history’;

‘Today’s academics mostly believe there is nothing we can learn from the 2500 years of accumulated wisdom and knowledge passed down to us’;

‘Historians have embraced Marx’s template and applied it…re-writing the past from the point of view of class, gender, and race…[replacing] the traditional canon of historical subjects’.

D’Abrera’s survey of history subjects, says Hilliard, is ‘badly inaccurate’: ‘As she looked over the lists of history classes on offer, d’Abrera must have skipped over the units on the history of human rights and European traditions, the natural law tradition and free speech… She likewise glosses over the ones on the French Revolution and Tudor-Stuart England’Why does d’Abrera’s report skim over myriad history units unmistakeably bang on topic?

Perhaps it’s her dualistic lens. Perhaps her commitment to a Manichaean good-versus-evil outlook obscures what is right in front of her. When d’Abrera peruses subject lists, perhaps she can’t believe what she is seeing—actual history subjects—so instead she sees what she already believes is there, namely, Marxist propaganda.  

What is it that she believes in, then? Here is d’Abrera’s ideological position clearly stated: her struggle to save Western civilisation is a holy crusade against Satan:

‘I believe it is a spiritual battle, and the Devil can’t win. It’s that simple. Christ will win and he’s going to be victorious and I’m on his side’.

Indeed God himself has called d’Abrera to fight: ‘We should be…fighting…that’s why I’ve been created, that’s my job… I’ve got to do it otherwise when I meet my Creator and he goes, “Look, I gave you those talents and you didn’t defend me”, I want to be able to say I did my best’.

Clearly, d’Abrera’s Manichaean version of Catholicism skews her view of history and the world. Similarly, it skews her view of the current draft national curriculum, which she also long and loudly opposes as ‘hostile to Christianity’. D’Abrera owns her religious views as entirely personal; and there is no suggestion that the IPA endorses them.

D’Abrera relates her religious views to those of her father, Bernard: ‘my father always told me despair is one of the tools the Devil will use on you, and you have to just resist that’. Interestingly,  Bernard d’Abrera was an avowed creationist, and, like his daughter, known for his amateurish views. An apparently gifted photographer, Bernard self-published photographic books on butterflies. His accompanying commentaries, however, were derided by lepidopterists as anti-science. Entomologist Arthur Shapiro described d’Abrera’s work as ‘peppered with anti-evolutionary flapdoodle’.

Bella d’Abrera seems genuinely distressed about what she sees as the imminent collapse of the Western tradition, which she appears to conflate largely with Christendom. But the problem is expressed in the shallowest terms: ‘We’ve rejected Christianity and we’ve invented a new religion in its place, which is wokeism…and therefore teaching Christianity again is too much of a threat to the new religion’. Wokeism, says d’Abrera, ‘has demonised what we know to be good and true, the idea…of truth…of family… It’s demonised everything which keeps society… functioning as best as it can given our…lack of perfection’. Resist despair, however, says d’Abrera, ‘that’s the Devil telling you that he’s won’. ‘Christ will win, his victory is guaranteed… It is a battle for the soul of civilisation at the moment’.

All the same, even if pigs flew and Christian orthodoxy regained some of its once-upon-a-time medieval hold on the university, today that orthodoxy would be merely a hollow neoliberal imitation. Over the past half century, neoliberalism has all but erased the potential for the survival of any value other than that promoted by  the capitalist market—an amoral competitive individualism and a consumer culture that have undone the family and community that d’Abrera celebrates. D’Abrera’s Christian code of ethics has long been under attack, but not from woke-ish Marxists holed up in the universities.

Like a liturgical mantle,  d’Abrera’s Christian values and the IPA’s vociferous defence of a tradition under attack deflect attention from the neoliberal reality ushered in with the backing of just such think tanks as the IPA. As a  conservative Christian soldier, d’Abrera pins IPA neoliberal education policy to a particular ancient Greco-Roman and Christian past Whether educational policymakers or observers are taking any notice remains to be seen.

Towards Inanition: Diminishing the Humanities, Communications and Arts at Our Peril

Baden Offord

Reason, rationality, calculation and measurement need to be transformed by empathy, compassion, imagination, dialogue, creativity and importantly the questioning of authority and power.

Right Campaigns to End Abortion in America

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/07/2021 - 10:27am in

White Evangelical churches, which are the driving force of the anti-abortion movement, are also a core constituency of the Republican Party and the most fervent supporters of former president Trump.

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Why Have the Republicans Gone Off the Deep End? Is it All Because of Trump?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/06/2021 - 1:31am in

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The social and economic crisis of capitalism has radicalized sections of the middle class. It has also driven sections of smaller corporate capital in a more desperate right wing direction.

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Book Review: Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right by Cynthia Miller-Idriss

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 26/05/2021 - 8:41pm in

In Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right, Cynthia Miller-Idriss explores the places where the far right recruit young people in communities across the US and around the world. From university campuses and Mixed Martial Arts gyms to clothing stores, online forums and YouTube lifestyle channels, the book examines the physical and virtual spaces in which hate is cultivated and young people are mobilised to join violent hate groups. Katherine Williams recommends this accessible and important work to readers who want to broaden their understandings of the intersections between place, space and far-right mobilisation.

Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right. Cynthia Miller-Idriss. Princeton University Press. 2020.

Find this book (affiliate link): amazon-logo

Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right by Cynthia Miller-Idriss lends its voice to important debates surrounding far-right mobilisation, in this case giving readers an insight into the online and offline places and spaces in which young people encounter extremist messages. The analysis offered in the book is timely; as the author outlines in the Introduction, recent hate-fuelled attacks by white supremacists in both the US and countries such as Germany, Norway and New Zealand have consolidated the growing realisation that the far right is experiencing a resurgence. The book offers readers a new way of thinking about the far right and critically interrogates the ‘imagined territories, sacred geographies, and cultural spaces’ in which the far right operates and recruits new adherents.

The six principal chapters of the book explore a range of contexts in which young people engage with the far right, reminding readers that we cannot fully understand the dynamics of this engagement without attempting to also understand the complex intersections between place, space, belonging and identity. Human beings form deep emotional attachments to places and spaces, and the far right is not exceptional in this regard. However, as Miller-Idriss points out, the ‘geographies’ of white supremacism are often entangled with deeper global and national histories of imperialism, colonialism, segregation and apartheid, as well as imbued with biological, and sometimes even ecological, essentialist notions of belonging, as the book explores.

Chapter One unpacks how the emotions and ideologies associated with particular spaces and places and the concept of a ‘Homeland’ underpin, in this context, white supremacist ideas surrounding territoriality, belonging and the construction of racialised national myths. Chapter Two demonstrates how political speech, conspiracy theories and the mainstreaming of extremist aesthetics have helped to normalise and mainstream far-right ideas. Chapter Three explores the marketisation of extremist ideas and how, for example, far-right cookery shows on YouTube are reaching diverse and receptive new audiences. Chapter Four investigates how Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) clubs have become a fertile recruiting ground: physical strength and normative masculine ideals have long been valorised by the far right.

Chapter Five explores how the far right attempts to disrupt and discredit mainstream intellectual spaces such as college campuses while simultaneously disseminating their own ideas and ideologies. Chapter Six unpacks how online spaces have been weaponised by the far right; this process continues to evolve as individuals ‘migrate’ across different platforms in response to bans, with emerging platforms broadening and deepening online forms of communication. In addition to the timely and accessible analysis presented throughout Hate in the Homeland, the in-depth bibliography will no doubt prove a comprehensive resource to readers seeking to broaden their understandings of the activities of the far right in the US and elsewhere.

A question arises: what does ‘far right’ mean, exactly? As Miller-Idriss notes, to date, no single term has captured the diverse range of ideologies at play. There remains no consensus between scholars and practitioners regarding terminology, but ‘far right’ is typically used as an umbrella term that covers both the radical right and extreme right and it remains the broadest and most practical term for the purposes of the discussion at hand. The key distinction between the ‘radical right’ and ‘extreme right’ concerns their attitude to democracy: the former tends to operate, however loosely, within democratic institutions, and the latter do not. Of course, this is an imperfect typology and somewhat oversimplified for the purpose of this review. Invariably, there are overlaps between the two and definitions can vary on a country-to-country basis, most notably in Germany where far-right groups can face monitoring by the security services if they are deemed ‘hostile’ to the constitution.

Running in parallel to this is the question of what the far right believe. Miller-Idriss outlines four overlapping categories that will help readers to make sense of the core beliefs at the heart of far-right ideology: anti-government and anti-democratic practices and ideals; exclusionary and dehumanising ideologies; existential demographic threats and dystopian conspiracy theories; and acceleration, destabilisation and apocalyptic fantasies. Knowing the difference between the extreme right and the mainstream conservative right, for example, can be a challenge, particularly given the mainstreaming of anti-government and anti-elite political rhetoric and the electoral successes of figures such as erstwhile US President Donald Trump. As Miller-Idriss explains in relation to the first category, the far right is a ‘fluid spectrum’ of groups and individuals who believe in versions of anti-government and anti-democratic ideas, practices and beliefs in more or less extreme ways. In this way, Hate in the Homeland provides readers with an accessible insight into the ideology that underpins far-right mobilisation.

Hate in the Homeland is an important contribution to our understandings of the places and spaces in which young people encounter extremist messages. The author does an excellent job of guiding readers through what can be a tricky epistemological terrain, providing a comprehensive, accessible and thoughtful overview of what the far right is, what they believe and the places and spaces they inhabit. The book will undoubtedly prove very useful to scholars working in the field as well as readers unfamiliar with the topic.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. The LSE RB blog may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon affiliate link. This is entirely independent of the coverage of the book on LSE Review of Books.

 


Political lessons the left should learn from Donald Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/04/2021 - 8:38am in

The issues that gave rise to Trump still exist, and so far, they aren’t being adequately addressed by the Biden administration. Meanwhile, the Trump wing continues its domination of the Republican Party. The country is still deep in the woods.

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