It’s Not Enough To Be A Non-Fascist19 April 2018
Content warning: fascism, anti-Semitism, racism
Sorry guys, the title says it. It’s no longer enough to be a non-fascist. In fact, it’s never been enough to be non-fascist. If we want to keep our democracy, save the marketplace of ideas from internal decay and permit the endurance of liberal freedoms in all corners of society, we have to be anti-fascist.
Let me be clear: this does not mean punching conservatives or starting riots.
This means that citizens who hope to never see fascism arise again have to commit to preventing this possibility. Because it is a very, very real possibility.
I have been a Melbourne University student for three years now, and lived in Carlton for two of them. In this time alone, I have seen six different waves of fascist posterings. They included messages like “it’s okay to be white”, “no n*ggers, no dune coons, no sh*t skins”, signs in Google-Translated Chinese telling international students to go home, and others asserting that gays are 30 times more likely to be paedophiles.
The fact that people can confidently turn up at campus and distribute blatant neo-Nazi propaganda says something about our complacency in a multicultural democracy, and naiveté about fascism’s violent tendencies. These messages aren’t harmless: the neo-nazis involved have threatened to kill queer students, harassed women who dared rip down their propaganda and, in the most recent incident, spat on a Jewish student and promoted holocaust denial. The fact that this event can be publicly questioned is problematic, because this radically shifts the political centre. If revising the holocaust becomes thinkable by the new far-right, then what about previous far-right positions?
It is a subtle tactic of the far-right—pushing the boundaries of public discourse. By publicly broaching increasingly radical positions (like sterilising Muslims) formerly radical positions (like deporting Muslims) appear more moderate.
The aim of fascists is to become palatable —to capitalise on democratic complacency by allowing authoritarianism to be rationalised within liberalism. It means utilising free speech rights to promote fundamentally irrational and ahistorical narratives, from the New World Order and Jewish banking conspiracies to fearmongering over white genocide and cultural Marxism, all while appealing to “common sense”, pseudoscience and modern rationality. The overarching idea is to use liberalism against itself, slowly pushing societies into fascism.
Previous posters have embodied this practice. The idea that gays are more likely to assault children is not far from the idea that, by nature alone, children brought up by gay parents will be worse off than children from a nuclear family. The statistics cited (which have been repeatedly repudiated) actually come from a centre-right journal, Quadrant, by an evangelical professor at Murdoch University.
This tactic of inverting liberalism works both ways. Not only are fascists openly presenting their genocidal positions in some posters to attempt to radicalise conservative sceptics, they are also moderating their positions for public consumption.
The leaflets proclaiming “It’s okay to be white” reformulate white pride and white supremacy as an appeal to equality. If you can be proud to be gay, to be black, to be Asian, why can I not be proud to be white? Yet behind this slogan lies a slippery slope into reactionary racial politics. Besides the obvious objection that Australian pride, British pride and American pride are all alive and well, the posters prove further problematic by acting as a “gateway” to a narrative of racial conflict which runs something like this:
Why are you ashamed of being white? Is political correctness stopping you from feeling proud? Think of all that white people have done for the world—other races should be thankful! Really, they are bringing us down—we’ve given them so much and they still feel we owe them. And now we’re under attack, and the “elites” want you to be quiet and let the white race demise! Wouldn’t the world be better if it was just us whites?
Such proven untruths perpetuate discourses that turn societies against themselves. Without constant scrutiny, the most basic ideas can become a weapon against our society and our institutions. When anti-fascists are out shutting down these problematic ideas, they are stopping this narrative from developing.
It is fundamentally about the marketplace of ideas. Ideally, free discussion means debating ideas to find out what is true—contributing to a dialectic, a game of back-and-forth between opposing arguments who battle for power—the result being enlightenment and social progress. But a society progressing through the dialectics of free discussion cannot allow falsities to be accepted, or legitimise ideas which have no legitimacy—particularly fascist ones. Such a society must remember from where fascism derives and from which innocuous ideas it originates. This is Karl Popper’s paradox of tolerance—that for tolerant societies to survive, they must not tolerate the intolerant.
This is a call to action—when fascists are mobilising on campus, you have to shut them down. They cannot be left to themselves. An enduring liberal society requires the participation of its members. And if we never want fascism to dominate again, we have to actively make this impossible.