1. “[We are] bringing in uneducated people from cultures … alien to our own.”
2. “We should not be shy about rebutting this project to make Australia an Islamic country.”
3. “[Islam’s] most prominent practitioners often seem at odds with Australian society.”
4. “Many people worry that there are abuses occurring against women and girls in some Muslim organisations such as schools that are still being covered up.”
5. “I call upon all true Australians to rise up and join in the effort to stem the destructive surge of Islamic perfidy now threatening our nation.”
6. “[T]he root cause of much of the world’s entrenched misogyny in 2015 is Islam.”
Amid the reporting of another alleged terrorist plot in Melbourne last week, the political right launched several volleys of innuendo, abuse, and slur calculated to embolden the fascist organisations that are at the heart of organising another round of “Reclaim Australia” rallies.
All six of the above quotes (there were more) appeared in Australia’s two largest-selling newspapers over the four days 19-23 April. Five are from Melbourne’s Herald Sun and one from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph (see the end of this article for citations).
One comes from a letter published, alongside five others of the same ilk, under the title “Dire threat to lifestyle”. We are told that the letters published reflect a broad cross-section of readers’ views submitted to the editors each day, and therefore are indicative of some public mood. There’s more to it, particularly on this day, when the editors chose to publish a very narrow set of ultra-reactionary rants, some by known far-right fringe dwellers.
One example is the reverend Bob Payne, whose opinions provide us with quote number five. He describes Reclaim Australia as “intelligent, positive”. He has other published opinions. Writing in the Melbourne Herald in 1982, he said: “In terms of moral contamination, I see homosexuality today as akin to the leprosy of yesterday.” According to Fairfax journalist Lorna Edwards, who quoted Payne in a 2005 piece, he called “for the segregation of ‘sodomites’ in Victoria”.
The fascists promoting Reclaim Australia seek legitimacy for their bile-laden views. They want to be portrayed as average Joe Punters with valid concerns. “I’m not racist because I refute sharia law. I’m not racist because I refute the oppression of women”, pleads another letter writer, Tony Taggart, who is worried that “Our Christian culture is now being used against us by skilful Muslim manipulators who ... will not rest until their culture dominates the world.”
“Islam is not a race” has become their mantra. It’s like listening to the anti-Semite with that all-powerful defence: “I’m a Christian, and Christianity is a Semitic religion, so you see I can’t possibly be anti-Semitic …” Or alternatively the “I’ve got nothing against Jews per se. I’m simply concerned about the conspiracy by which they control global finance and the secret world government. I mean, there’s nothing anti-Semitic about being pro-democracy, surely.” Next we’ll be told that, because there is in fact only one race, the human race, racism itself is impossible – our common humanity cynically deployed as a divisive weapon. It then truly will be open season.
The Herald Sun editors want to reassure their readers that anti-Islam views are reasonable and mainstream. That’s why they publish such letters. But letters from fringe dwellers aren’t the main issue. The “respectable” and educated columnists are leading the way in this vile campaigning. Tim Blair’s piece, “A black and white way of dealing with bullies”, published in the Daily Telegraph on 20 April (fittingly: it's Hitler's birthday), can only be described as proto-fascist.
It is an allegory that embeds racist tropes in almost every sentence: allusion to Muslim or immigrant hordes, their stupidity and repulsiveness, their sponging off the rest of us, their gang violence and calculated aggression against an otherwise harmonious indigenous (if not pure) society etc.
In case there is any confusion that what follows is actually just innocent reminiscence about a backyard bird squabble, it should be pointed out that the article was published directly beneath another piece in which Blair advocated the physical assault of US Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Garry Trudeau (“and his worthless kind”) because Trudeau argued against satirising or ridiculing oppressed groups.
“Kookaburras and magpies generally get along reasonably well … The same cannot be said for magpies and your common myna, a disgusting introduced species … Mynas are smaller and more stupid than magpies, but they make up for their deficiencies by sheer weight of numbers. Once I left a batch of bread chunks out for a friendly magpie who was enjoying his feast when three mynas turned up and bullied him out of it.
“The magpie … decided to take revenge … The furious creature leapt from the antenna, took a couple of flaps to set its course, then folded its wings completely against its sides. Now it was more bullet than bird, and it was aimed straight at the ignorant pack of bread-stealing mynas. The collision, when it came, was awesome …
“Magpies better not try that these days … they’d probably be charged with hate crimes against immigrants.”
This allegorical rendering of “smash the foreigners” is a clear incitement, and startling even for a Murdoch rag. Alongside the other inflammatory pieces, you can’t but conclude that the respectable right really would like to see fascism become reputable again.
1. “I blame our politicians for endangering Australians’ lives”, Andrew Bolt, Sunday Herald Sun, 19 April.
2. “It’s time to face up to the Muslim fault line”, Peter Kurti, Daily Telegraph, 21 April.
3. “Hidden profits from halal certificates should be exposed and stopped”, Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun, 21 April.
4. “Run ban claims illustrates lowly position of women and girls in Islamic faith”, Susie O’Brien, Herald Sun, 23 April.
5. “Dire threat to lifestyle”, letters, Herald Sun, 23 April.
6. “The City of Greater Dandenong’s hijab high jinks is asking us to celebrate repression”, Rita Panahi, Herald Sun, 19 April.