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Calling on the Straights

The overthrow of Roe v Wade in America is just the start. And Australia’s Right, from the political figures connected by think tanks to the conspiracy-radicalised internet subculture, draws its ideas and strategies from the American Right.

It is incumbent upon us to watch that nation’s collapse as a warning, not just as a prequel to a dystopian blockbuster trilogy.

It is critical to avoid dismissing shocking concepts as fringe. What begins as an outlier idea moves to the centre of mainstream discussion in America and beyond. The “norm cascade” that Trump enabled has meant that it is not just, say, the creep in the office uttering something previously unutterable. People with great cultural capital are making unthinkable ideas “normal.” State politicians are beginning to ask for the death penalty for women who access abortions, and senior Republicans have begun discussing making abortion illegal nationwide when they next hold power.

The Texas attorney general has signalled his willingness to take a law making homosexuality illegal through to the Supreme Court should he have the chance. A Republican candidate in South Carolina’s primaries recently called for LGBTQI Americans to be pursued for treason, and executed. He received a quarter of the vote.

The Texas Republican Party platform, launched this Pride Month, named LGBTQI lives “an abnormal lifestyle choice.” Approximately 340 bills targeting LGBTQI existence have been introduced across America this year. The leader of the Christian Fascist organisation Protect Texas Kids tweeted, “Let’s start rounding up people who participate in Pride events,” and other figures on the Right have begun imagining a world where it is legal to hunt LGBTQI people.

Blue states are reacting by offering safe haven for safe reproductive healthcare. California is in the process of passing a sanctuary bill to allow families of trans youth sanctuary. Should the bill be signed, their own deeply Republican state will be blocked from extraditing the parents to face life sentence felony charges. These sanctuaries would also block Republican states’ custody orders to remove children of trans families from their parents.

Vigilante activity and abuse of LGBTQI individuals have surged. People have begun working out how to leave their lives behind to move state or are making sure to keep passports current.

The grotesque Westboro “Baptist Church” used to protest gleefully at dead soldier’s funerals because the degeneracy of America meant that they deserved to die. Now Jordan Peterson, one of the “thought” leaders of the Right, has said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is justified by Ukraine’s connection with the degenerate US. Echoing Putin’s own bigoted justification is shocking enough; the fringe, this shows too, has become mainstream.

The patriarchal and “traditional role” passions of the radical Right make women and children lightening rods to channel “moral” panic. They generate disinformation to suggest cis women are endangered by having trans women in their spaces. They abhor trans men for making women unavailable to them. Above all, they depict LGBTQI existence as a threat to children, since “won’t someone think of the children” is the most primal emotive persuasive strategy.

For this reason, schools have been the focus of much of the legislation and protest. Teachers are depicted as “groomers” and “perverts” for accepting a non-binary student’s pronouns or mentioning the existence of people who aren’t vanilla.

Christopher Rufo, the American who invented the CRT panic, where he depicted schools as teaching Critical Race Theory, found a wellspring of emotional energy into which to tap. Critical Race Theory is a law school concept where academics study the impact of laws that were designed to disadvantage Black people. It was never a school study. Labelling any study of history that aims to represent the balanced truth – rather than bowdlerised pap – as CRT, however, has given the Right a tool to make teachers’ lives a nightmare.

One Texas committee recommended teaching slavery in elementary school as “involuntary relocation.” Now Ohio is introducing a law to require teaching “both sides” of the Holocaust.

Groups of disinformation-radicalised parents and outsiders appear at school board meetings in threatening fashion to intimidate staff. Issues about sexuality and gender are Rufo’s new target. This whips up further the Trump base’s QAnon radicalisation; they believe children are being abducted, raped, murdered and/or farmed for youth-extending hormones. Now they are targeting their teachers as the key threat. Tucker Carlson, for example, asked why fathers aren’t beating up teachers for discussing anything connected with LGBTQI existence.

State school teachers, already exhausted by the pandemic and extreme underfunding, are leaving the profession. This suits the Republicans fine because the dismantling of public education is a key project of a number of their main funders. Often emerging from fossil fuel wealth, they want a tame Christian education that does not teach critical thinking or any curriculum that isn’t a mythologised version of life that reinforces “tradition.”

Any curriculum that includes the hard facts about our settler colonial nations’ histories is anathema to the Right, as is acknowledgment of diversity. Any curriculum that includes recognition that people who are not straight exist is debauched. Any curriculum that includes the scientific facts of the unfolding climate emergency is, unsurprisingly given the money behind this campaign, disgracefully woke.

Schools that emerge beyond the campaigns will teach a curriculum that celebrates White Christian Patriarchal Civilisation. Christian charter schools, home schools and private schools will suffice. If children from disadvantaged areas miss out, the Republicans don’t care. Augmented by outlawing abortion, they will create a homegrown underclass to do the worst jobs for the worst wages without the need for migrant workforces.

America’s problems are not the same as our problems. These escalating campaigns that are right now stripping millions of Americans of equality and bodily autonomy are minority positions inflicted upon the majority after decades of strategising to break the flawed democratic processes underpinning the American republic.

In Australia, the Right faces different challenges to impose minority rule. It sees its best chance to regain power and reinstate the steps it had been taking to break our democracy in culture wars. These “moral” panics are distractions meant to disguise the fact that the Right can’t win on a platform of tax cuts for the rich and deregulation.

The new campaign to attack schools for being “woke” as signalled by Dutton, Sky News and the IPA’s Class Action campaign signal their intent to replicate the American crippling of schools and silencing of teachers. The IPA, like the American equivalents, is largely funded by fossil fuel figures who naturally do not want students taught to understand climate science. The harnessing of traditionalists scared of change, combined with radical Religious Right Christian Nationalist bodies, offers the LNP a new base that might offer electoral success.

Australian women and our allies have already marched on Australian streets to decry the Dobbs decision in the US Supreme Court. We must all be ready, particularly the straight majority, to stand up to any efforts to expand the attacks on our reproductive autonomy into the broader range of bodily autonomy.

Trans identity, weaponised by Morrison, is a wedge to expand into an extensive attack on LGBTQI Australians. Dutton has signalled his readiness to follow culture war politics as far as it will take him.

We must stand up alongside our targeted compatriots. We unite and defend, or we will all be trapped in the Right’s patriarchal nostalgia, and stripped of our equality.


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  1. Andrew J. Smith

    Interesting, in the US apparently those making the most noise and complaints round cultural agitprop of ‘woke’, gay marriage, CRT, LGBT, school curricula, teaching etc. have had little if any connection with the education system for a generation or more….. confected existential crisis.

    Locally, a rusted on Lib member relative tried presenting the old female – male biology axis till one asked if it actually kept him up at night? Response was an embarrassed no.

  2. leefe

    As soon as Trump (under Mitch McConnell’s guidiance) started stacking SCOTUS with his evangelist hypocrites, there were warnings that overturning Roe v Wade and other civil rights decisions was the prime agenda. The mainstream dismissed those warnings as fear-mongering. Yet look where we are now.

    Never assume that RWNJs are not going to take the most extreme points of their agendas and ram them down our unwilling throats. That is exactly what they want. To them, there was nothing dark about the Dark Ages.

  3. pierre wilkinson

    Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes has already started down that particular rabbit hole, blaming Marxist teachers for the lack of support from young Australians and supporting veiled denouncements of trans and LGBTQI people as well as questioning the severity of climate change. She also wants to limit the access of young people to the internet.
    and so it begins…
    at least we have put a dampener on the Pentecostal invasion of parliament… for now

  4. Phil Lohrey

    This is a highly informed and very scary article for Australian democracy and human rights if the Murdoch media gives Dutton’s culture wars the putsch given to the extreme right in the USA.

  5. RoadKillCafe

    As with all previous great and mighty civilisations, constructs, world powers, yet another shows increasingly the rot at its heart, the viciousness and hate and greed, the perversion of what is called democracy. All in the pursuit of power. Where does albo stand, where does labor stand, have they ingested a little of the kool aid?

    Acceptable for many australians to live in tents, in cars, on the street, whilst we subsidise multi nationals to dig up our resources, profit goes os, fuck you they say. Is that the way?

    Vilify those that are different, follow along the American way, preach violence.

    What an absolute sickening world we have created, we want to be well and truly disgusted with ourselves.

  6. New England Cocky

    It is time to remove the American influence from Australian media by what ever means are appropriate because the News Ltd stable no longer acts as the Fourth Estate but rathyer as the propaganda machine for the Liarbral and Nazonal$ parties of self-serving politicians.

  7. Michael Taylor

    A timely warning, Lucy, and not one to be taken lightly.

    One just has to see the cancerous influence of Fox News in the USA to know that anything horrible is possible.

  8. wam

    The men who believe their successful sperm creates life, will legislate to protect it.
    A miscarriage will invoke a murder investigation and heaven help a women who rode a bike, had a car accident, had a drink, did drugs or had a root within a few days of a god’s abortion. Only joking the last will be ok.
    Sadly, Lucy, there are many millions of women in the US, and here, who support SCOTUS. Is it too much to hope that some of them will eventually realise they are not considered equal in religion, politics nor law?

  9. Fred

    NEC The need to remove the “American influence” is global not just in Oz. It’s interesting to see the parallels in the expected lack of change in direction the post BJ era.

    The RWNJs and their providers/masters seem incapable of change. What’s the life expectancy of a media empire owner given that at 91 he is 14 years past the average and how long will it take for the “successor” to rise to the same level of power as “dad”.

  10. Terence Mills

    The alarming thing in the US is that the Republican base insist on denying the truth and believing their own alternative facts.

    When President Biden reported that a ten year old rape victim had bee denied a termination due to anti abortion laws introduced in her home state of Ohio :

    “This isn’t some imagined horror. It is already happening. Just last week, it was reported that a 10-year-old girl was a rape victim — 10 years old — and she was forced to have to travel out of state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life.”

    The Republicans denied that this had occurred and insisted it was fake news : even after the rapist was charged and admitted the rape they continued to deny that it had occurred.

    We have those on the Right in Australia (and on SKY News) who constantly seek to propagate lies and ignore inconvenient truths.

  11. Malcolm Ansell

    This is the best condensation of this burgeoning Right versus Normal, that I have seen for a long while!
    Until the Murdoch influence is vastly reduced, the US, UK, and AU has no chance of heading this anti societal/environmental insanity off.
    Turnbull and Rudd had the right idea last year with their Petition against the Murdoch press perverse influence over the countries it operates in!
    It’s going to be really hard to ameliorate the influx of funding from Resources and Industry Magnates, into the organs spreading ‘Entertainment’, Lies, and propaganda.
    So, we have 2 options – to actually go hard at doing something about this, or sit quietly by, watching with increasing discomfort as our world moves towards our extinction event -Lemming like,
    We must keep in mind the huge obstacles posed by taking action – even, that only 40% of the worlds countries have any semblance of a so called ‘Democratic’ governing system – the rest are Dictatorships/Family/Autocratic systems, used to using their populations as the meat in their Avarice and Greed sandwich, therefore, having no interest at all in the well being of their populations.
    Money, Power, and Religiosity at work again!

  12. A Commentator

    I have 4 observations
    1. We focus more on the domestic politics of the USA than is healthy in an independent country.
    It is form of cultural cringe.
    2. Anyone with a mobile phone can access any media outlet and political commentary in the world. Never before have people been able to access so much information diversity or express (and test) their political opinions
    3. I think we are observing the death throes of the traditional media, and that is a reason for some of the over excited commentary. It is a scream for relevance.
    4. The greatest single risk to the lives of millions of people is the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine. Yet that has significantly dropped off the radar. Maybe Putin is right about one thing- western democracies have a short attention span.

  13. Michael Taylor


    Oh FFS you expect every article by every writer to be about that murderous thug Putin.

    Might I suggest you put a piece together and submit it for publication.

    In the meantime we will keep writing about that and/or other local or overseas issues.

  14. A Commentator

    I thought this would meet your approval.
    It’s reasonably on topic, or at least 3 of the 4 points relate to comments made on the thread!
    And I’m afraid the fact is that Roe vs Wade won’t result in worldwide catastrophe, recession, war or famine.
    I think it’s a fine subject for discussion in the US.
    Here it comes under the general left heading – “at least there’s one subject we all agree on – the US is f**”ed”
    I’m not entirely on board with that view
    But thank you for your offer! I’ll think about it while I’m heading on my summer vacation, in a few days!

  15. Consume Less

    I’m waiting for AC’s article on Putin with bated breath.

  16. Lucy Hamilton

    Thanks Phil Lohrey and Malcolm Ansell for conveying your appreciation for the piece. Valued.

    AC, my chosen role is to convey not what is happening in America alone but why it is a problem for Australia. Consider yourself warned that when you see my name, such a focus is likely to follow. (Putin has a substantial role in the radicalisation of the Right, and I have addressed the borderless internet – and thinktank – Right in other articles, Fred. You’ll note here that Orban and Putin get a shout-out as a substantial part of the problem. Also see my piece on the Coalition’s Man Problem on this site for a version of placing it in a global context.)

    It’s a moment in history where too few of us take our civic responsibility to pay attention to those with power seriously. Too many “products” compete for our attention. The new financial paradigm makes for too much awful journalism. Some of the Americans sitting in the waiting room of reproductive health clinics as the SCOTUS Dodds decision came down preventing their abortion were shocked to discover that this was even a looming threat. They hadn’t heard about the leaked decision and didn’t know their rights were that moment being taken away and they’d be sent home still pregnant.

    Our Right – through thinktanks and internet radicalisation etc – is a copycat of America’s. We have a chance to prevent our radicalised Right getting hold of our politics in a way that America has probably lost. In this globalised moment where stochastic terrorists of the Right present their motivations in a collection of memes gathered from around the world, we have to be understanding the gambits of our own Right politicians in their international context.

    The punishment for not getting together to oppose the Right’s radicalisation is not only a decline into authoritarianism, but the full weight of the climate emergency unmitigated by the nation’s aid to those suffering.

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