Something critical is happening in Victoria and has been happening for some time – growing extremism, a more active far right and, now, open death threats to politicians. We know from the experience of the United States and Britain that death threats to politicians ultimately turn into the murder of politicians; we know from American experience that growing extremism leads to violence and anti-democratic rebellion.
The same disease works in other states, but it is in Melbourne that some particularly pustular tumors have been exposed.
To prevent us from tracing the same path to greater extremism and more political violence as is seen in the United States and Britain, understanding what is happening is crucial.
The first step is to reject the stereotype of all protesters being part of some monolith. The argument of Labor trolls like Van Badham that every single protester against the Andrews government is fascist or Nazi is both self-serving (if you don’t vote Labor, you’re a fascist) and self-defeating; it guarantees no rational engagement with the motives of protesters and therefore no way to address the causes of growing extremism. In fact it is carelessly irresponsible to demonize all protesters in this way.
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It is the very diversity of the protest movement that must be recognized, reflecting the ideological fragmentation and consumerism caused by decades of neoliberalism. And that diversity is deeply appealing to those who want to reap the discontent that is the unifying feature of different protesters.
What is happening in Victoria, and to a lesser extent elsewhere, is a deliberate effort by different groups to reap and monetize the discontent and anti-government sentiments of anti-lockdown / anti-vax / anti-Andrews / anti-waddya got moves.
The far-right and white supremacist groups are working hard to cultivate, prepare and recruit from the ranks of protesters. The same phenomenon has been observed elsewhere. Confinements and confusion about vaccines are an ideal opportunity for fascist groups to circulate conspiracy theories, anti-Semitic propaganda and calls for violent action in the name of freedom.
The Liberal Party also aims to exploit the movement. Much criticism has been leveled at right-wing Victorian liberal politicians for joining the protests and for failing to condemn death threats, links to fascism and violent rhetoric, but that somewhat misses the point that they are engaged in the same process as fascist groups – trying to cultivate and prepare protesters for their own political purposes.
Victoria’s tragedy is that the self-discontent and anger that swirl within the ranks of protesters is partly the result of the complete absence of an effective opposition party. Daniel Andrews and his scandalously plagued government – branch-stacking, abuse of taxpayers, links to Crown, the wrath of red shirts – should be easy meat for any opposition worthy of the name after the 2020 COVID expert, but the Victorians liberals are completely. worthless, and is now actually trying to ride on the back of a more authentic and effective source of opposition to Andrews.
It is not limited to the Victorian liberals. Scott Morrison is keen to exploit the protest movement as well. After a few pro forma a condemnation of violence this morning, Morrison went on to express his main point: “For the last two years, governments have been telling Australians what to do. Now, there has been a need for that as we go through the pandemic; the time now is to start reversing all this back. ”
It would be generous to call that a dog whistle – in fact there is an explicit call to protesters that Morrison understands them and agrees with how they feel, even if he has to offer some symbolic criticism of the more extreme among them.
Other political parties are seeking to exploit it, including Craig Kelly, who inexplicably appeared for a Sydney MP to address Melbourne protest rallies over the weekend as his current leader Clive Palmer looks more explicitly at anti-vaccine sentiments within the community.
The other group seeking to exploit discontent is News Corp and a growing crowd of online activists who have effectively monetized the clashes of protesters and the dissatisfied. News Corp has persistently demonized Andrews for failing to apply anything close to the same standards when the NSW government did exactly the same things, while internet activists pose as citizen journalists filming and commenting on protests.
Both seek to create a virtuous income circle in which they exploit, encourage and energize the dissatisfied in action, then cover that action and support it, and use it to expand their reach and potential sources of income, with a wider audience in turn encouraged in. further action.
All those who seek to exploit the protest movement believe in it is not monolith, but contains a wide range of ordinary people who may be prepared to become fascists, Liberal voters or Sky News viewers and Herald Sun. readers.
There is a lot of anger and energy to exploit. Understanding how the exploitative business model works is a first step in addressing it.