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“Family values” and fascist-leaning politics

The radical right, and in particular, Murdoch’s News Corp, are laundering the dirty ideas of the people deploying fascistic politics to make them seem normal “conservative” thought.

News Corp’s James Morrow recently said the quiet part out loud. In his News Corp column Fascist label for Italys PM misses the message” [paywalled] on the 28th September, he advised that “successful politicians on the right” around the world can offer Coalition politicians a game-plan for how to “cut through.” This would be less concerning if the politicians he used as models were not Italy’s Giorgia Meloni and Florida’s Ron De Santis.

Morrow disdained the label “fascist” for Meloni. He asserted that using it in her case is “to strip the word of any meaning and turns it into an epithet for anything more conservative than the most bland centre-right politics.” Whether the label itself fits her ideology, Morrow continues the radical right’s tendency to normalise the extremity of their position as merely right of centre. In this way most formerly centre-right Australians (and defeated Liberal politicians) become labelled left. The more progressive citizenry then become “socialists.” Thus is the neutered ABC denoted as activist left by the right. This constant effort to centre the Overton Window over their increasingly radical position aims to naturalise their ideology for the electorate.

Disguising this drift towards authoritarian politics as “normal” rather than a lurch towards fascism should frighten us all. We must resist the lure of that numbing repetition.

Morrow selected a number of positions held by Meloni (and De Santis) to celebrate as goals for Australian politicians. In particular, he selected: family, national identity, religious identity and gender identity.

Meloni and De Santis want national identity to be as close to monotone as possible: patriotic and uncritically supportive of a mythical nation that never existed in the way their nostalgia recreates it. In this lens, religious identity is intricately tied to that mythical national identity. Their nations are white Christian nations, they assert, whatever other versions of history will say. Anyone with a contrary story should remain invisible. There is little ambiguity in the fascist politics evoked by these dogwhistle terms.

Morrow wrote of targeting “high migration.” He is surrounded in Australian “conservative” politics by figures who proudly espouse western chauvinism and spruik elements of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy. More strident voices in this tribe, even on moderated Twitter, are discussing plans such as “when it is time to repatriate people en masse from Europe.”

In attempting to strip the “fascist” label from Meloni, Morrow aims Australian politicians at the European “traditionalists.” This, he believes, is the “bread and butter” politics that can “cut through” for families at home hoping for rescue from their children who need, apparently, to be deprogramed from “activist rot.”

His emphasis on “family” – and gender – is part of the Eastern European “traditionalist” ideology. Putin and Orban, like Meloni, both put defence of the family at the forefront of their missions. That aspect of their politics is at the core of De Santis’s repressive policies. De Santis is recorded as overtly copying these from Orban. The European “traditionalists” have worked with the “family values” religious right movement from America since the 1990s; it is not difficult for De Santis to bring them together.

To fight for “the family” sounds anodyne but is freighted with threat for many.

“Family values” for Meloni and De Santis, for Putin and Pence, means “traditional” sex roles with no deviation. Men are to be returned to their leadership of the home and the country (for all that the occasional woman manages to share power). Women are intended to abandon the civic space; their presence there is loathed as “feminism.” Abortion (and contraception) is targeted because it is seen as enabling women’s civic and sexual autonomy. It also entails the destruction of European seed for a faction that believes that Western civilisation is doomed and set to be overrun in the “Great Replacement” panic.

The greatest target for all these men, and Meloni, is gender and sexual fluidity. Just as the Third Reich aimed to purify the “sexually aberrant” from the Aryan people, these modern politicians target LGBTQI people more broadly, with the tiny trans community used as a vulnerable wedge to begin the campaign.

Selecting the targeted outsider to unify the mythologised nation is, again, classic fascist politics. While stripping women of reproductive autonomy, and the right to enter the civic space, is a threat to be feared, the implied violence (legal and physical) against the LGBTQI communities is far more concerning in the near-term. Putin uses the language of ridding Ukraine of its perverted western liberalism as part of his justification for war in the same year that American politicians have introduced over 240 hundred bills limiting the LGBTQI community. The Texan Attorney-General has said he would be “comfortable” allowing the Supreme Court to adjudicate his state’s defunct rule making homosexuality illegal. Preachers in America are demanding the right to execute, or have executed, LGBTQI people. There is no coexistence possible.

Morrow is not, to be clear, advocating that “conservative” politicians in Australia become fascist or make erasing LGBTQI Australians part of their platform. What he has said here, however, is that the way for Australian “conservative” politicians to “cut through” is to adopt the strategies deployed by their considerably more extreme international counterparts.

Morrow quoted Meloni bemoaning: why is the family an enemy? Why is the family so frightening?” The family is neither an enemy nor frightening, except in the besieged mindset embraced by the radical right. The deployment of the word “family” to mean that women must cede equality and, more urgently, that LGBTQI people must be erased is indeed frightening.

Losing solid gold Liberal seats to progressive candidates underlines that the Liberal Party has already absorbed far too many talking points, policies and strategies from the increasingly radical and religious international right. It is to be hoped that taking Morrow’s advice would continue this political decline.

This was first published in Pearls and Irritations as News Corp is normalising fascistic politics

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  1. Andrew James Smith

    ‘Family values’ is one of the most overused and glib tropes of ‘conservatives’ for electoral benefit, but hardly project the same values amongst the same conservative elites.

    Interesting link with how in Soviet times the Kremlin knew the importance of accessing & using Christian groups, real or astroturfed, while in more recent times many Anglo, European and other conservatives look up to Putin’s Russia for similar i.e. projecting white Christian nationalist conservative authoritarian persona, policies and media messaging; a la US GOP, Evangelicals, Fox News etc. & Oz LNP.

    While Putin’s main EU ally Hungarian PM Orban does similar identitarian PR, it exemplifies the base contradictions in Hungary etc. & Trumpers; a swarthy looking population (plus unpublicised immigration), no one attends church, divorce/separation rates are 60-70% and patriotic solution to national issues is emigration….

    Meanwhile Australian, UK and US radical ‘conservatives’, Fox News-(K)GB News, The Spectator, SpikedOnline etc. are attracted to Hungary’s and Orban’s supposed ‘family values’

    Abbott has presented not only at the Koch linked Heritage Foundation, as have Truss, Sunak et al. but our former PM has also presented at the ‘Alliance Defending Freedom’ which merited an article by SPLC.

    Mainstream media in Oz and UK seem unable or unwilling to acknowledge the imported US influences impacting their respective societies whther the ‘trickle down effect’, nativism etc. for the 1-10%?

  2. Gav

    If I lived in Italy or Florida, Meloni or de Santos would get my vote. They are offering people a right to choice as mandates for the experimental concoction with no long-term safety data are gone. If people want to roll the dice and take another jab they can.
    That kind of choice is not indictative of fascism.
    If you want to see control freaks in action look no further than Dan Andrews, Brad Hazzard, NT’s Michael Gunner and all the Board members of the TGA, ATAGI, AMA and AHPRA to name a few.
    If a Royal Commission is ever initiated into Australia’s response to the COVID-19 intervention, the general public are going to be shocked. I look forward to the day an Aussie lawyer mirrors what Croatian lawyer Mislav Kolakusic (Member of European Parliament Covid Committee) said about the EU’s purchase of ‘unproven’ Covid vaccines as equating to the “biggest corruption scandal in the history of mankind.”
    A person claiming the right to their body sovereignty is not political.
    A politician saying people have a choice in the matter of what goes into their body is not fascist.

  3. leefe


    You, like everyone else, have the right to chooose what goes into your body. What you do not have the right to do is to use that choice to endanger other, more vulnerable, people.
    So, don’t use vaccines. But keep riight away from anyone you might infect with whatever virus or bacteria you may be carrying as a result of not using those vaccines. That is what mandates are about: people in jobs which require close, extended contact with other people have a responsibility to do their utmost not to pass on potentially damaging diseases to those people.

    As the saying goes: Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.

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