Politics

The view from Billinudgel

The right reverts to form after Christchurch
Insisting that both sides are to blame does nothing to arrest far-right extremism

It didn’t take long for the cultural warriors of the right to revert to form.

Having caught their breath over the weekend, they were back to their dog-whistling best: of course the Christchurch tragedy was an unforgiveable atrocity, but … And then followed the usual lines about how Jihadists are the real terrorists, the extremes of the left are just as culpable as the extremes of the right, and the usual self-serving sophistry.

Let’s be clear about this: there is absolutely no moral equivalence between the Greens’ Mehreen Faruqi calling out the relentless dog-whistling of Peter Dutton and the independent senator Fraser Anning blaming the victims of a white supremacist mass murderer.

The killer was, as such killers almost always are, a creature of the right – every extremism-related killing in the US in 2018 had links to the far right. Indeed it is hard to remember a comparable recent example of left-wing terrorism in the West. Within Australia, the most violent actions from the left have involved street brawling between Anitfa activists and neo-Nazis, as well as the vandalism of statues of Captain Cook.

Tony Abbott said in 2017 that Islamophobia hasn’t killed anyone – well, those words were as wrong then as they are now. It is legitimate to deplore tribalism, as Scott Morrison has done – although he is yet to prove that he is ready to stop covertly encouraging it. But to insist that both sides are equally to blame for the problem is simply a lie.

Most absurd is the implicit attempt to conflate Jihadist terrorism with the left, as if Islamofascists are somehow in alliance with the Greens. Give us a break. But the muddle-headed wombats of the right will not let up, and they have been given a priceless gift in Fraser Anning.

By clambering all over each other to denounce him they are trying to virtue signal that they, of course, are not like that; they are in the mainstream, the sensible centre. Typical was Janet Albrechtsen, piously positioning herself as a member of the centre right. Planet Janet may not be as far out of the solar system as Anning, but she is a long way from the sun.

The centre right is the Liberal moderate group – including Julie Bishop, Julia Banks, Craig Laundy and Christopher Pyne – the very people Albrechtsen and her ilk hounded as deluded do-gooders and conspired to drive out parliament. Pretending that she is not of the hard-line right is both silly and mendacious. And it indicates that nothing will really change – Anning will be scapegoated, but for the Murdoch tribe it will be business as usual, and not only Muslims will suffer for it.

And finally, a word of caution for the magnificent Jacinda Ardern: trying to expunge the name of the killer is unlikely to work. I have told this story before, but it is more relevant than ever. Some 2000 years ago an arsonist burnt down the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, one the seven wonders of the ancient world, in a quest to make his name remembered for ever. The authorities of the time decreed that it should never be mentioned, but Herostratos has never been forgotten.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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