If there’s one thing that defines the totalitarian right, it’s an overwhelming sense of entitlement. Being born into a country, into a class/caste/sect or into a particularly coloured skin (othering criteria being whatever is the most self-serving and/or to coincide with established totalitarian tradition) entitles you to a whole heap of opportunities that The Others aren’t.
One of the most basic demands of the totalitarian right is that entitlements are beyond criticism, often followed by the paradoxical expectation that the totalitarian right-winger is a free-thinker. A participant in a absolutely free market of ideas. Right-wing totalitarianism could hardly be seen as having prowess if it wasn’t seen to perform in such a light.
But it doesn’t perform. Genetic fallacy, hasty induction, argument from tradition, argument from authority, argumentum ad baculum – and that’s just some of the fallacies. Don’t get me started on the cognitive biases (particularly the out-group ones) or the flakiness of the objectification of the identity of Others. Right-wing totalitarianism is rife with shoddy thinking.
Usually when one calls a racist person, or a racist idea, racist, they to varying extent allude to these kinds of intellectual short-comings or at least to the sordid psychological motivations behind them. Not always, but usually.
Occasionally, “that’s just racist” is used to shut people up. It happens to scientists studying the human genome for example, who have no such motivation and who’s only crime is to make some anti-science bigot feel insecure.
But the average right wing totalitarian is far from being your average geneticist. Usually they are looking a convenient Other to blame for their own failures or lack of opportunity and let’s face it, geneticists aren’t people you could call failures or deprived of opportunity.
The right-wing totalitarian is mediocre in all but the grandeur of its delusions.
Take the faux-egalitarianism of Pauline Hanson. The ‘One Nation’ dream – that we could all be unified and high achieving if it weren’t for those darn Asians/Muslims/Insert-Other-Here and their pesky dog.
The economic argument against immigration was vapid (even without the bogus statistics Hanson cooked up) in not realising the role immigrants play in a growing economy and the cultural arguments weren’t much better. The Aussie Dream needed special protection, or at any rate, a particular subset of Australian culture, caught in stasis and not flowing along dynamically like the rest, needed its stasis maintained and its (imaginary) cultural dominance assured.
But more than this, the totalitarian-right Hansonites wouldn’t brook being called racists. They were supposedly being oppressed by political correctness, merely by being criticised, yet expected their distortions of fact to be recognised merely as honest criticism of multicultural Australia multiculturalism (the reality of multicultural Australia being something else they were in denial about.)
Or put more simply (as simple as such contortions get), you shouldn’t express your right to free expression by criticising their distortions, because it oppresses their right to free expression to speak truth to power by speaking distortions. Breaking this rule made you un-Australian (and it is at about this point that Howard followed through after Hanson did the dirty work for him), un-patriotic or what-not.
Maybe I can distill this somewhat further. “Don’t point to me being stupid and call my stupid, stupid, because your the one who’s stupid! Whaaaa!”
I honestly don’t think the totalitarian right deserves better representation. Insulting? Sure. Unfaithful? Don’t think so.
So imagine this mind-set and the comfort it enjoyed under the days of Howard and Bush Jr. Out-groups were routinely demonised, stupidity was protected from criticism on the grounds that criticism was “political correctness gone mad”, and the totalitarian-right mind aroused with crypto-nationalist jingoism, faux-patriotism, flag-waving idiocy and the flattery of traditional narratives that had either gone well beyond their use-by date, or never really existed to begin with (Iraq-9/11, Founding Fathers and God in the Pledge of Allegiance, false popular history of “In God We Trust” on currency in the US, de-contextualised readings of founding documents, delusions based on Terra nullius, the peaceful colonisation of Australia, the cultural homogeneity of Australia etc.)
Not that the totalitarian right got what it wanted, and not that the new political zeitgeist is free of these kinds of things, but the last two years have seen this relatively comforting atmosphere stripped from the right wing.
Naturally, they are hopping mad about it. They haven’t become mad though – that would be a misrepresentation. Rather, they were always mad and now without Howard and Bush’s particular brand of nationalist sedative, they have resumed climbing the walls just like they used to for most of the 20th century.
John Quiggin commented that now the culture wars were essentially over, the left could spend the time to extend the wars and push the right into further obscurity and foaming at the mouth. Or, it could just get on with business. I think suspect that the left have done the latter, but all the same the totalitarian right has still descended further into obscure lunacy of its own volition – all it took was for the left to get on with business and conspiracy mindedness enslaved to delusions of cultural entitlement did the rest.
The bellicose has got so much worse.
The election of President Obama signalled the death of something that deserved to die – the political motivation to exclude non-whites from the presidency. This, the end of the hegemony of political racism, and certain articulated points of political philosophy expounded by Obama, are what’s being celebrated by Americans en masse.
Naturally, the right has on frequent occasions in its rhetorical attacks on Obama, pulled out the old straw-man and pretended that it’s grappling with something as frail as itself – “Americans voted for Obama because he’s black! The racists!”, the shrill cries tell you. Never mind that Obama had a political philosophy that he brought to the election. Never mind the fact that the African Americans that are being labelled racist for their support of a black man, voted strongly for democrat presidential candidates such as Clinton, Gore and Kerry.
Never mind the facts. That’s been part of the totalitarian right epistemology for a long time now – acknowledge the confirmatory and ignore exceptions to the delusion, even when the exceptions are the rule and the delusions its exception. The David Irvings and Keith Windschuttles of the culture wars have made good friends of the political right through their ability to dismiss evidence that contradicts the favoured narrative, even if the standards change from book to book.
In The Killing of History (1994), Windschuttle railed against literary theorists/critical theorists and associated professions for turning history into an art that tells fanciful, flattering histories. Yet, in The Fabrication of Aboriginal History (2002), Windschuttle invoked the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (the hard version I might add – hardly something compatible with his 1994 stance) to argue that because Aborigines in Tasmania had no word for compassion, they lacked the quality. Jumping from literal determinism to logical positivism, Windschuttle then (famously) dismissed the testimony of first hand witnesses on the grounds that their observations can’t be objective.
Windschuttle clearly selects his method to suit the conclusion, failing to apply this criteria evenly. This fact was ignored by the likes of Andrew Bolt and John Howard, who uncritically promoted Windschuttle’s work to their respective (and overlapping) totalitarian-right audiences.
So with the election of the Rudd Government, and the subsequent getting on with the business of an apology to the stolen generations, totalitarian-right deniers of history had Howard’s salve removed from their sore, wounded minds. No pro-active antagonism was needed. The right-wing of the Australian blogosphere lit up with lunatic “I’m not sorry” posts. The right media went into overdrive about how white Australia was being guilted, when it was never about the guilt of non-Aboriginal Australians.
Heaven forbid that anyone ride roughshod over feigned, confected concerns by doing something sensible!
Returning to favoured territory, right-wing Australian Facebook groups are popping up to protest against immigration and integration, pushing it seems, ever more demented arguments. The group F**k Off We’re Full writes (amongst other things);
“This idea of Australia being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Australians, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle.
This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.”
(Mark Jahn, 2009)
And those millions of people who struggled for freedom just happened to be from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and fought despite being subjected to all sorts of bigotry at the time (Irish, Greek and Italian Catholics, Aborigines etc.)! To think that they made these efforts to create an Australia where Australians who have never seen the likes of this kind of struggle can pretend to be cultural bouncers is preposterous.
Keeping in mind that this guy is still basically just a kid at age nineteen and giving him some wiggle room, this is still a pretty silly line of reasoning. Multiculturalism doesn’t alter our standing in international law/geopolitics at least not to our detriment (Australia and Canada are world leaders in articulating multiculturalism as a political philosophy) and this rubbish about diluting our national identity is just ideological purism that ignores the reality of Australia’s cultural history. Australia isn’t, nor has it ever been at any point so culturally homogeneous as to have a single identity to begin with. Not before nor after white Australians turned up (closely followed by Chinese, Irish, Greeks, Italians and so on.)
If we were that culturally homogeneous to begin with, and cultural purity had been maintained, you can kiss your kebabs goodbye. Pretty much everything in Australian gastronomy would be a narrow variation on this monstrosity (thanks Scott.) For that alone, I’ve ample reason to be thankful for Australia’s rich, multicultural heritage.
As for Jahn’s comments on South Australian driver’s licenses and un-obscured faces, and a governmental abstinence on Christmas lights being put up in Sydney (not a ban on the private practice), these are both Church-State issues, not issues of multiculturalism. Arguably, South Australia was wrong to issue a driver’s license with a photo of an obscured face on religious grounds (creating a special religious right for a sub-group as opposed to infringing upon a general religious right held by all South Australians.) As for NSW voluntarily staying on its side of the church-state divide (states don’t have a church-state separation), it has probably done the right thing (by not giving special rights to Christian practitioners of gaudy decorative rites.)
If you believed Jahn, this is all just the new fashionable multicultural bogey man as opposed to church-state civics going as far back as the Enlightenment. But then, he’s barely just an adult – he doesn’t go back that far himself. A lot of the 19,000-plus members (plus the other 3000 that have joined while this post was being written) on his group on the other hand, probably can’t pull the same defense (although I think a number of them got on to argue a counterpoint and others still didn’t necessarily read too far into it*.)
Facts rarely count in these kinds of circumstances. All the same, this is the safe end of the right-wing cultural xenophobia phenomena. Paranoid, fact-avoiding straw-man representations of multiculturalism should be the least of people’s worries (unless of course you are a history or civics teacher, or the concerned parent of a student studying these subjects) when it comes to what totalitarian right-mindedness has been up to of late.
Facebook hot-air groups, when not organising vigilantism (which Jahn’s group isn’t) are just that – hot air. People letting of steam and letting their uglier side show in the process. Same thing that happens when some blokes loosen their belt after a long day – you can afford to ignore this stuff to some extent.
Tim Blair’s News Ltd blog, known for being somewhat milder that his independent blog, has been host to a lot nastier discussion participants than anyone you’ll see on Jahn’s group. Although the clown who put this travesty against production standards of a party promotional video on Jahn’s group could probably go the pace. Darrin Hodges of the same APP that has ties with the particularly violent British National Party being the person in question, posting the video four months ago.
I hope young Mark doesn’t get roped in. But I digress.
“Blair’s Winged Monkeys” they have been called, such is their notoriety. They can’t get away with posting on Tim’s new blog, corkers like they used to. It has to be frustrating for some.
Recently, some in the same circle, particularly the bloggers from A Western Heart (which I won’t link to for reasons that may become obvious) were dropped from Tim’s blogroll. Coincidentally only a very short period after it was revealed at GrodsCorp that one of the A Western Heart bloggers had advocated for the assassination of US President Obama. (Hi CIA! I like your President – but this guy! Woo!)
Dangerous polemic. After all, it only takes one loon with a gun to take it seriously.
In the US, gun purchases have gone through the roof since Obama took office. Channelling one of the the very revisionist narratives I mentioned earlier (or perhaps a ghost writer) Chuck Norris tells us that…
“John Adams declared that, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.” Yet we’ve bastardized the First Amendment, reinterpreted America’s religious history and secularized our society until we ooze skepticism and circumvent religion on every level of public and private life.”
(Chuck Norris, 2009)
… and he goes on to say (cited by Charles M. Blow – thanks Bron), “How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?” And… “Thousands of cell groups will be united around the country in solidarity over the concerns for our nation. You can host or attend a viewing party by going to Glenn’s website. My wife Gena and I will be hosting one from our Texas ranch, in which we’ve invited many family members, friends and law enforcement to join us. It’s our way of saying “We’re united, we’re tired of the corruption, and we’re not going to take it anymore!”
Of course, the corruption and oppression they speak of is largely a figment of their imaginative, paranoid contortions. The second amendment is the strongest case they have against Obama and secularism (and secularists don’t all agree with gun control anyway), the first amendment rights – especially where the establishment clause is involved (where the like of World Net Daily and Chuck Norris agitate in direct contradiction to the constitution) – is something they just have plain upside down. And Obama hasn’t even done anything to do with second amendment rights yet!
And don’t you just like how he calls his groups “cell groups”? What a good resistance fighter Chuck is.
There are other “cell groups” out there not happy with Obama. Ones that should make your flesh crawl.
Enter the disturbing story of the late James Cummings.
James Cummings was a man shot dead by his wife Amber last year, after what she has described (along with witnesses) as a period of sexual, physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her husband, which she is pleading led her to a moment of insanity. I’m not going to comment on the murder charge against Mrs Cummings. The trial isn’t over and it’s incidental to what I do want to focus on.
Thanks to [Censored], who leaked government documents on the investigation, it has come to light that James Cummings was in possession of thorium-232, which although the most stable (and common) radioisotope of thorium (and being non-fissile not suitable for a nuclear weapon), still an isotope suitable for use in a dirty bomb. Depleted uranium was also found (which is also non-fissile, but does not present a substantive radiation risk – despite pseudoscience to the contrary) along with components for a detonator/explosive and instructions on how to acquire and use other economically significant (and available) radioisotopes (of cesium, strontium and cobalt) to manufacture a dirty bomb.
So what profile did this guy fit? Was he a Muslim? Nope. Was he poor and disaffected? Nope, he was comfortably middle class. That’s why you don’t hear about him in the news.
He was a white guy in his twenties with a trust fund and links to right-wing, white supremacist groups in the US. Heck, he even collected NAZI cutlery!
According to his wife, allegedly he was rather pissed off when Obama beat out John McCain for the presidency. Which for an alleged wife abusing/bashing rapist, must have been pretty angry for his wife to take notice!
There is this Popper quote that I keep revisiting. Indeed, I cited it when arguing that the odious Nick Griffin of the British National Party, should have been let into the country after being invited through the buffoonery of the Australian Protectionist Party. It goes…
“If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.” – Emphasis added.
– Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945)
Despite Nick Griffin’s argument that “When the crunch comes, power is the product of force and will, not of rational debate” (which is more about the Will to Power and the BNP’s ressentiment), I think Griffin and his ilk can and has been countered by rational debate. The British National Party, for all its bellicose, is politically impotent. Reasoned appeal to the public has easily kept their lunacy in check.
Nick Griffin, the perennially stupid Australian Protectionist Party and thoughtless Facebook xenophobia groups fall short of Popper’s cut-off criteria, I think. Let them say silly things and exercise your right to free speech by pointing out their errors of fact, logical fallacies and cognitive biases. Exercise your right to be outraged, exercise your right to oppose them and exercise your right to laugh at them.
But somewhere between the clownesque Chuck Norris and evil James Cummings there is a line. A line where the totalitarian right-wing that seeks special entitlement for race and creed is willing to be truly destructive. A line where the growing discontent becomes malcontent and where society is right to enact intolerance, to take away the rights that others would use to deprive us of ours.
I think managing this line, or preventing such conflicts before they begin, would be served by a greater focus on the growing right-wing discontent.
* I think perhaps there is also reason to assume that totalitarian righ-wing popularism is tapping into something deeper and more significant with people than the politics and lack of thought would otherwise indicate. Un-articulated frustrations of a hard life perhaps.