Not everyone, it seems, turns to The Australian for its breaking news and sparkling commentary. This newspaper, along with others in the News Corp stable, purportedly is being used as a tool to recruit right-wing extremists.
Source: Nick Cater, News Corp
Quiet people turn a deaf ear to ‘woke’ invective
This startling revelation comes courtesy of The Saturday Paper, a weekly chronicle of the latest conspiratorial delusions enveloping what passes for the intellectual left. Now The Saturday Paper could not be accused of publishing inflammatory news, or indeed any news at all, preferring what it calls “narrative journalism”. Ordinary journalists assemble facts and let readers draw the conclusion two plus two is four. Narrative journalists link tweets, rumours and assumptions with non-sequiturs and declare the answer is five.
The Saturday Paper’s page one headline, “Murdoch media fuels far-right recruitment”, introduced a story that could become a classic of the genre. Former Australian reporter turned narrative journalist Rick Morton revealed a team of Victorian academics had proved beyond doubt news and commentary in publications such as this “emboldens” extremists seeking “permission” to commit acts of unspeakable depravity.
“I think the word ‘embolden’ is a really good word,” says Debra Smith, a research fellow at Footscray Technical College, or Victoria University as it now called. Smith claims newspaper accounts critical of the Safe Schools campaign and offences committed by “so-called” African crime gangs offer “discursive opportunities” to whip up hatred. The discursive opportunity offered by Smith’s speculative findings emboldened The Saturday Paper to stick this nonsense on page one.
The evidence being somewhat thin, Morton was obliged to embellish his account with a report from the US alleging the perpetrator of the recent mass shooting in El Paso had lifted phrases from Donald Trump’s Facebook page to compose a rambling manifesto.
The word “invasion,” for example, is common to both texts, along with the words “the”, “but” and “and”, presumably.
Conspiracy theories about the rise of the right are becoming ever more fanciful and the language in which they are expressed ever less temperate. Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI assistant director no less, attacked Trump in a TV interview last week for announcing flags would be flown at half-mast until August 8 as a mark of respect for the victims of two mass shootings.
“That’s 8/8,” said Figliuzzi. “The numbers eight and eight are very significant in the neo-Nazi and white supremacist movement … The letter H is the eighth letter in the alphabet. So, for them it stands for ‘Heil Hitler’.” The conviction that America’s 45th president is on the verge of becoming America’s first fuhrer is no longer confined to the fruitcake fringe.
Tony Blair’s former media adviser, Alastair Campbell, accused Trump of “doing that stuff” Hitler did on the ABC’s Q&A last month. “I’m not saying he’s going to go out and kill six million people. I’m saying the seeds of fascism are being sown.” The exaggerated rhetoric betrays a sense of despair on the progressive left that its message is not cutting through. The gospel of wokeness remains unappealing to most of the voting population, whose concerns are of a more practical kind.
The haste to adopt conspiracy theories to explain the right’s success is a sign of a strengthening paranoia among the people who depend on The Saturday Paper to reinforce their prejudices.
The rate of rhetorical inflation means to be described as a mere conservative is almost a term of endearment. The left’s real enemies occupy a sliding scale from hard right to far right to extreme right. Beyond that one steps into the domain of fascism, an increasingly crowded place these days as the entry bar slips lower.
Titania McGrath, the fictional creation of comedian Andrew Doyle and pseudonymous author of the book Woke: A Guide to Social Justice, rejoices that the word “Nazi” has been broadened to include “anybody who voted for Brexit, has ever considered supporting the Conservative party or refuses to take The Guardian seriously”. As a consequence, she writes, “there are now more Nazis living in modern Britain than even existed in 1930s Germany”.
Kristina Keneally would struggle to recognise this as satire, judging by her semantically extreme claims about a conservative gathering in Sydney on the weekend.
Keneally, under the cover of parliamentary privilege, described the Conservative Political Action Conference as a forum for extremists that included “numerous guests having long records of attacks on women, on gay and lesbian people, on Islam as well as having links to anti-Semitism”.
“The event marks the normalisation of the extreme right wing in Australia,” she claimed later on Twitter. Her remarks were enthusiastically received by the woke press, which these days includes The Australian Financial Review, which happily reported Keneally’s inaccurate claims about the institutions backing the conference without bothering to check. Her invective helped ensure the event was sold out, although she might have been disappointed had she joined the practical middle-class Australians arriving for Saturday night’s gala dinner, none of whom was wearing an Australian flag cape.
They were people who might have been seen entering polling booths in Cranebrook, Croydon Hills or Chermside, who in May marked the party they once favoured last on the ballot paper.
They were people who hired babysitters for the night and drank mineral water, mindful of the drive home. They were the quiet people, diverse in gender, ethnicity and age, who despair at the direction Labor has taken, take offence at Keneally’s implicit slur and draw delight from an evening in a public place where they don’t have to censor their thoughts. Those on the left of the cultural divide have good reason to fear such people have become emboldened, but not for the exaggerated reasons given by Keneally. They are emboldened by the elite’s contempt for the values they hold dear. They have simply had enough of being called prejudiced, hateful or narrow-minded.
For a Labor Party that desperately needs friends, this is hardly the way to achieve it.
Nick Cater is executive director of the Menzies Research Centre, which played no role in organising the CPAC.