Last week, for the second time, former Labor leader Mark Latham appeared on The Convict Report, aka The Dingoes, an Australian ‘alt-right’ podcast.
It’s part of the network of podcasts hosted by The Right Stuff, a major international far right hub. That’s the same website whose major players have been recently doxxed by the left, and whose unmasking as promoters of fascist ideology has, in some cases brought suitably ruinous consequences.
In previous episodes, the pseudonymous hosts of the show have aligned themselves with Richard Spencer and other alt-right figures.
The Dingoes attempt to produce the same edgy fare as The Right Stuff flagships like The Daily Shoah, but they sound a little too much like chinless Young Liberal nerds to bring any real menace. It’s significant, though, that Latham is prepared to go on their show more than once.
Apparently, a show with previous episode titles like ‘I never want to see your race again’, which regularly spouts casual anti-Semitism and undergraduate race theory, and which has open fascist links, is not beyond the pale for a Sky News commentator. Despite the fact that disclaimers were offered about opinions not necessarily aligning, Latham was happy to be there.
“I saw some [expletive] lefty saying I’d lost all credibility by appearing on the Dingoes. I saw that as a very good sign,” he said. “I took it as a badge of honour”. He also expressed common cause with his alt-right hosts. “We’re howling right across the universe at the moment, the outsider rebellion.”
It’s also significant that Latham’s main purpose seemed to be to praise Cory Bernardi’s decision to break away from the Liberals and form his own party. “He’s found that in the modern Liberal party there’s no place for a serious libertarian like him. The Liberal party has become fundamentally anti-freedom and timid.”
Latham praised Bernardi in terms of many of the senator’s own expressed dissatisfactions, and was happy to use a buzz phrase — “cultural Marxism” — that has crossed over from the far right to the vocabulary of more mainstream conservatives.
Late last month, in the Daily Telegraph, Latham had issued a 10-point ‘Outsiders manifesto’ for Australia, which also touched on many of Bernardi’s obsessions: the Human Rights Commission, “social engineering” and “man-bashing” in schools, the promotion of “western civilisation”, and “pushing back against the spread of radical Islam — the greatest human rights threat to our society”, Latham wrote.
Speaking of Islam, Bernardi appeared on Friday night, along with George Christensen (who has wavered over his LNP membership), as a speaker for a $150 (Dh551) a plate dinner for The Q Society.
That’s the secretive Australian group that describes Islam as a “totalitarian ideology”, once hosted a visit far right Dutch populist Geert Wilders, and opposed the construction of the Bendigo Mosque.
Bernardi also has other, perhaps even stranger connections. In particular, he has a long relationship with a group called the Sydney Traditionalist Forum. They describe themselves as “the first explicitly paleoconservative-leaning association in Australia, and “the only local group that embraces the political currents of contemporary dissident reaction”.
Their purpose is to provide “a forum where ideas once understood to be common sense can be exchanged, debated and discussed, unfettered and ungagged by modern liberal thought-control”.
That forum has been extensively used to promote the wisdom of Bernardi — he has frequently appeared as the ‘Quote of the Week’ on the website, and his collected works have been extensively discussed there.
Their convener, Edwin Dyga, introduced Bernardi at a dinner for Australian conservative magazine, ‘Quadrant’.
Perhaps he was returning a favour: Bernardi introduced a documentary screening at a ‘SydneyTrads’ event in 2013 . (The film, Agenda, is a lurid retelling of the “cultural Marxism” fable).
Their website is otherwise full of would-be highbrow, reactionary essays against feminism, equality, and the alleged evils of the Frankfurt School.
Their events include European reactionaries, and acknowledged sources for the alt-right, like French philosopher Alain De Benoist, who has also appeared at conferences organised by American alt-right doyen, Richard Spencer.
Australian Politics Live podcast Alexander Reid Ross is an anti-fascist researcher, lecturer at Portland State University, and author of the new book, ‘Against The Fascist Creep’.
In his opinion, based on looking at their published materials, the Sydney Trads are “an alt-right style umbrella group” which mixes elements of the neoreactionary movement, paleoconservatism, traditionalist Christianity, and the European New Right in its publications and events. It may be small, but he points out that the alt-right used to be too.
Bernardi’s sponsorship of their events can only be interpreted as an attempt to support their growth.
Ross says that while the alt-right proper is distinguished by beliefs like the necessity of a white ethnostate, one which Bernardi has never expressed, the “positions and semiotics of this party put it unequivocally on the radical right”.
He expressed the opinion that, “there’s Islamophobia, misogyny, and interestingly a rejection of the mainstream media, where he sees them as largely liberal or on the left.”
Also important according to Ross is the vociferous rejection of mainstream conservatism, which has powered the momentum of populist leaders like Trump and Marine Le Pen, but is also crucial to fascist movements.
From my current perch in the United States, I have seen many Australians express voluminous concern about the ascent of Donald Trump. To a large extent, this is appropriate.
For better or worse, Australia’s fate is tied to the United States, and trends in Australia are not unrelated to what’s happening in the US.
The far right has made their own efforts international in scope; we should respond in kind. But there is a lot to worry about at home. The links between the far right and figures like Latham and Bernardi — who have mainstream platforms — suggest that there are few barriers between fascist currents and the heart of Australia’s political process. Their positions are similar in nature to radical right-wing populists elsewhere.
Bernardi may never win government, but governments may have to make deals with him or One Nation, or go after their radicalised supporters. As we have seen over the last 20 years, that’s a recipe for dragging the whole system right.
— Guardian News & Media Ltd
Jason Wilson is an Australian-born writer living in Portland, Oregon.