Friday, 11 January 2019

Fanning The Flames.

F.Anning Discontent: Far-Right politicians like Fraser Anning (above right) are highly-skilled at exploiting racially charged narratives, such as Melbourne's "African Gangs" controversy, to broaden the appeal of Conservative Australia’s anti-immigrant crusade.

FRASER ANNING is one of those political figures who populate the periphery of politics in liberal-democratic states. Opportunistic, scornful of political norms, hard to frighten or shame, the Fraser Annings of this world are frighteningly well-adapted to the politics of cultural resentment and fear. Had the Independent Senator for Queensland been born in late-Nineteenth Century Italy or Germany – instead of mid-Twentieth Century Australia – he  would, almost certainly, have been drawn to Benito Mussolini’s Fascisti or Adolf Hitler’s Nazis.

As it is, he has won notoriety as the sometime ally of leading right-wing Australian politicians Pauline Hanson and Bob Katter. It says something about the man that his current status as an “independent” is largely attributable to even these far-from-moderate parliamentarians finding Anning’s views too extreme – even for them. (Hardly surprising when, in his maiden speech to the Australian Senate, Anning talked about a “final solution” to Australia’s “immigration problem”!)

Anning’s latest provocation was to attend (at the Australian taxpayers’ expense) a United Patriots Front (UPF) rally held in the Melbourne seaside suburb of St Kilda. The UPF is at the extreme end of an ongoing campaign by Australian conservatives (up to and including the ruling Liberal Party) to secure more rigorous policing of the so-called “African Gangs” said to be terrorising Melbourne citizens. The African “gangsters” singled out for particular condemnation by the Right are almost all refugees and/or the children of refugees from war-torn South Sudan.

United Patriots Front leader, Blair Cottrell, addresses anti-immigrant rally at St Kilda Beach, Melbourne, 5 January 2019.

The Right’s fixation on Victoria’s tiny Sudanese community is largely explicable in terms of the extraordinary lengths to which the state’s left-leaning government has gone to minimise the impact (or even the existence) of the “African Gang” problem.

Just how strongly the Left felt about the issue was demonstrated by the noisy protest which took place outside the offices and studios of Channel 7 Melbourne in July 2018. The protesters were incensed by Channel 7’s current affairs show, Sunday Night’s, alleged “race-baiting” coverage of the issue.

The item’s promo was certainly provocative:

“Barely a week goes by when they’re not in the news. African gangs running riot, terrorising, wreaking havoc. Police are hesitant to admit there’s even a problem. The latest attack was just days ago, so what can be done?”

The Left’s response played directly into the Australian Right’s deeply embedded narrative of a culturally-deracinated cosmopolitan elite hellbent on dissolving Australia’s European heritage in a multicultural melting-pot. So powerful is this “progressive” elite said to be that it has the power to suppress coverage of anything which runs counter to the multicultural ideal – even when this activity involves “African gangs running riot, terrorising, wreaking havoc”.

Far-Right politicians like Anning are highly-skilled at exploiting this narrative to broaden the appeal of Conservative Australia’s anti-immigrant crusade. Their job is made easier when even the Right’s bette noir, the publicly-owned (and allegedly left-wing) Australian Broadcasting Corporation, acknowledges that “the Sudanese offender rate is six times higher than their population share”.

Last weekend’s UPF St Kilda rally – itself inspired by the Victorian Police’s decision to prevent UPF leader, Blair Cottrell, from recording the activity of Sudanese youths on the beach – provided Anning with a brown-shirted opportunity to promote his anti-immigrant message by doing little more than simply turning-up.

Cottrell and Anning would have known that, from the moment it was announced on social media, the rally would attract large numbers of left-wing “anti-fascists”, journalists and police. Inevitably, the news media would make a bee-line for the right-wing Queensland Senator and, equally inevitably, he would be ready with a sound-bite:

“There was no racist rally,” Anning informed the news media. “There were decent Australian people who demonstrated their dislike for what the Australian government has done which has allowed these people to come into this country and then bash people at random on the beaches, in their homes.”

Inner-city Melburnians were suitably shocked at this eruption of right-wing extremism on their favourite beach. But, in small-town Australia, in the Bush, Anning’s words would have struck a very different note.

In this setting, Anning, scion of a Queensland farming family notorious for its bloody appropriations of Aboriginal land, could be confident of loud choruses of approval. It’s what the Left knows, but cannot understand. That racism is as Australian as Cricket at the MCG. As welcome as a cold tinny on an incendiary afternoon at St Kilda Beach.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 11 January 2019.

Friday, 4 January 2019

2019 - If We Get Lucky.

Sweet Dream Scenario:  As Vice-President Mike Pence is being sworn-in as the 46th President of the United States - following Trump's sudden resignation - he suffers a massive heart attack and dies. His constitutionally designated successor is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. By a strange twist of fate, the United States of America gets its first female president after all.

PREDICTING THE FUTURE is a mug’s game. If it could be done, then gambling would be impossible and stockmarkets would crash. Not that these and a host of equally strong objections ever prevented professional seers from giving us the benefit of their prognostications. Some of them, by the simple law of averages, will be correct. Most, however, will not. This is because, as a wise woman once said: “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

In that spirit, allow me to describe the coming year as it might look – if we get lucky.

If we get lucky, then Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller will present a report which damns President Donald Trump in ways unanticipated in even his worst nightmares. Republican and Democratic legislators, alike, conclude that his continuing occupation of the White House has become untenable.

Congressional leaders privately inform the President that there is more than enough support in both the House and the Senate to secure his impeachment. The President reaches for his cell-phone – only to discover that the Deep State has prevailed upon Twitter to shut down his account. Realising that the jig is up, the President resigns.

As Vice-President Mike Pence is being sworn-in as the 46th President of the United States he suffers a massive heart attack and dies. His constitutionally designated successor is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. By a strange twist of fate, the United States of America gets its first female president after all.

If we get lucky, then the House of Commons decisively rejects Theresa May’s Brexit Deal. Defeated and exhausted, the Prime Minister advises the Queen to dissolve Parliament and call an early General Election. May then resigns.

A Special Conference of the Labour Party votes decisively in favour of making a Second Brexit Referendum the centrepiece of its election manifesto.

With the Conservatives torn by all manner of political and personal conflicts, Labour cruises to a landslide victory. For the first time in forty years, the United Kingdom has a socialist prime minister and an unashamedly left-wing government. The Second Referendum records upwards of 60 percent of Britons opting to remain in the European Union.

If we get lucky, then the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, negotiates a general peace settlement and mutual defence pact involving Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. The Kurds secure regional autonomy within the Syrian state, guaranteed by the Russian Federation.

If we get lucky, then the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, fearful that President Xi Jinping is about to launch a massive purge of senior party cadres, deposes him. A hastily-summoned National People’s Congress, in a climate of unprecedented independence, elects a moderate reformer as Xi’s successor.

If we get lucky, then the National Party responds to a sharp decline in public support by jettisoning its current leader, Simon Bridges, and replacing him with Judith Collins. The choice of Collins is itself a reaction to the rapid rise of the right-wing populist New Conservative Party. Collins, it is hoped, will staunch the flow of National support to the NCP.

Appalled by this dramatic shift to the far-right, thousands of moderate National Party supporters swing in behind NZ First and Labour, lifting their combined support to nearly 60 percent of voters.

The Coalition Government, buoyed by this sudden shift in its fortunes, decides to reject the Tax Working Group’s recommendation favouring the imposition of a Capital Gains Tax. The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is persuaded by Winston Peters that such a tax would turn every farmer, small business owner and landlord in the country into her personal enemy. Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, resigns in protest. Jacinda replaces him with David Parker.

If we get really lucky, then the leadership changes in the USA, the UK and China produce a sudden and radical shift in the global approach to anthropogenic global warming. Rather than relying on yet another international conference, the leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council meet in secret and thrash out a concrete plan for keeping the planet’s remaining reserves of oil and gas in the ground while they co-ordinate a planet-wide “Green New Deal”.

According to the wise, the only sure thing about luck is that it changes.

I’m counting on that being true.

Happy 2019!

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 4 January 2019.