The Downfall Of Pete Evans Isn’t Just Enjoyable To Watch, It’s Important
De-platforming Neo-Nazis isn’t cancel culture, it’s just culture.
A few years ago, I went to a wellness conference. Or, more accurately, a giant bin fire for lost souls to throw money into. Speaking at the bin fire was, of course, celebrity chef and glorified snake oil salesman, Pete Evans.
I’m not sure it’s legal to even say wellness in this country unless he’s within a one-kilometre radius and available for comment.
When I arrived Evans had already given his speech, which I’m sure was full of science and not at all batshit insane. Now, he was standing in the middle of the room, flanked by middle-aged women in pseudo-bohemian garb who looked at him like I look at hot chips and nice shoes.
I have no problem with middle-aged women in pseudo-bohemian garb. I expect that one day I’ll be one. What I do have a rather sizeable problem with is a rich con-man using his considerable platform to take advantage of vulnerable people and spread blatant, often dangerous lies.
In a few years, Evans has transitioned from benign TV food guy to the actual literal worst. I won’t catalogue his sins because someone else has already done it, but from those infamous activated almonds, to his anti-fluoride campaign, to advising new parents that on a scale of one to infanticide, bone broth beats breast milk, the carb-less jackass has been escalating for years.
I suspect the Australian Medical Association has a specific press release template ready to go as soon as he opens his mouth. But it seems no amount of facts, truths, or plain common sense will shut him the fuck up.
Since being booted from My Kitchen Rules earlier this year, Evans’ rantings have become so frequent and so nonsensical I wonder just how much Seven had to handle him during his ten seasons on the show.
But while losing his almost $1 million dollar MKR cash cow was no doubt a blow to his wallet as well as his ego, the protein-packed charlatan had so many ambassadorships, speaking gigs, cookbooks, and eponymous products it’s unlikely to have changed his lifestyle.
Until last Monday.
— This article includes neo-Nazi imagery. —
In recent years, and intensified by 2020, a confluence of strange bedfellows has been fostered online. Picture a Venn diagram with ‘Wellness Fanatics’ in one circle, ‘White Supremacists’ in the other, and ‘Truly Bonkers Conspiracy Theories But Like Really Really Bonkers’ in the middle.
Look, when and if you think about it — and I advise you don’t — it’s not actually that strange a union. Both groups in the diagram are obsessively individualistic and searching for solutions to perceived problems outside of mainstream society. It’s the perfect storm for conspiracy theories to fester and grow.
Just to be clear, this is an Australian celebrity posting a caterpillar in a MAGA hat changing into a butterfly adorned with the sonnenrad, the Nazi symbol used by the Christchurch killer. pic.twitter.com/xkojMkWMw4
— Jeff Sparrow (@Jeff_Sparrow) November 15, 2020
You know that linen-clad friend who believes COVID-19 is a man-made virus spread via 5G? And your Uncle Dave who started shaving his head and doesn’t believe COVID-19 exists at all? They’re both probably about seven Facebook posts away from full-blown Holocaust denial.
Pete got there on Monday, after posting a cartoon featuring a Nazi symbol on his Facebook page — the Sonnenrad, aka the black sun, an ancient symbol co-opted by Nazis (of which the Swastika is a variation), which routinely appears on neo-Nazi paraphernalia. Most prominently it featured on the cover of the 2019 Christchurch mosque shooter’s manifesto.
Evans suggested he was aware of the Sonnenrad’s significance, replying to a commentator who offered that context by saying he was ‘waiting for someone to notice’ what it was. However he later stated that he had to “actually google what Neo-Nazi meant”.
This was followed by the biggest non-apology since your boyfriend was “sorry you’re offended”. Evans stated: “Others see white supremacy of Nazism (which is something I definitely do not align with), others see the symbol on the butterfly as a pagan symbol.”
He’s now saying it’s like a Rorschach test. pic.twitter.com/RNFtkDh0uc
— Josh Taylor (@joshgnosis) November 15, 2020
Despite this, his sugarless gingerbread empire has come crashing down.
And while I try not to take pleasure in the misfortune of others, I make an exception for Neo-Nazis and DJs. The fallout from the cartoon has been so poetic I’ve had an opera score in my head for days.
His upcoming stint on Ten’s I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Outta Here? Axed.
His contract with publisher Pan McMillan? Terminated.
His cookbooks and homewares range? Pulled by most stockists including Dymocks, Booktopia, David Jones, Big W, Kmart and Target.
His range of food products? Removed from the shelves of both Coles and Woolworths.
— Pan Macmillan Aus (@MacmillanAus) November 16, 2020
We are in the process of removing his books from our website and have advised our stores to return their stock as offered by the publisher. Thank you
— @dymocksbooks (@Dymocksbooks) November 16, 2020
The keto conspirator has been effectively cancelled. And while I believe cancel culture can be problematic, once someone goes full alt-right, I’m all for it. I didn’t grow up hearing about the horrible things that happened to my grandparents in 1940s Poland to sit idly by while some unlearned narcissist disseminates hatred and lies, such as his response to a criticism of the cartoon post: ‘You may wish to have another look about the true history about Germany.’
And besides, de-platforming Nazis isn’t cancel culture, it’s just culture. Or it was.
Why? Because the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party, led by Adolf Hitler from 1921 to 1945, committed one of the greatest atrocities of modern history, killing an estimated 15 million people, and the world collectively vowed: “never again”. Because since then even casual flirtations with Nazi ideology, such as our friend Pete’s cartoon, have been publicly censured by world leaders. It’s not about pushing them into the margins, it’s about telling everyone else such views won’t be tolerated.
That’s been our culture for some seventy years. But something has changed.
The rise of the far-right in recent years is a product of a rapidly changing world. Economic inequality, the growth of the working poor, unprecedented access to information and the toxic fringes of social media are combining to bring old tensions over land, resources and religion to the surface and radicalise a new generation of bigots.
And instead of condemnation, our leaders have met displays of violent racism and Nazism around the world with vague quasi-dismissals, deference to “free speech”, mass gaslighting and tacit approval.
In an election debate, lame-duck Donald Trump told white supremacists to “stand back and stand by”. Earlier in his Fanta-hued reign, when a white supremacist drove his car into a peaceful demonstration against a Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman, Trump refused to condemn the Nazis, blathering: “I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it… you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.”
And we all know how he’s stoked racial fires during the Black Lives Matter movement, calling peaceful protesters “troublemakers” and not only condoning the actions of a St.Louis, Missouri couple who PULLED GUNS ON PEACEFUL PROTESTERS but — and this blows my tiny, Australian mind — inviting them to speak at the Republican Convention.
In Australia, our elected leaders have also been toxic, condemning local Black Lives Matter protests as “irrelevant” and an “American import” rather than listen to the very relevant and home-grown demands from First Nations people and their supporters about Black deaths in custody, institutionalised racism and the criminally unclosed gap.
They have proliferated racist and unverified accusations against “African Gangs” terrorising the streets of Melbourne; worn burqas to Question Time to demonstrate the apparently huge security threat posed by Muslim women; used taxpayer funds to attend a Neo-Nazi rally, and; waged an anti-refugee campaign so cruel that Donald Trump, a man who has kept children in literal cages, praised as inspirational.
These are the global conditions in which people like Pete Evans and the Australian-grown Christchurch terrorist, who on paper couldn’t be less alike, are being nurtured, encouraged even. Is this our new culture?
Some people have armchair-diagnosed Evans with various mental disorders, in which case I hope he gets help and soon. Others say he doesn’t even believe his own bullshit, it’s all a show to sell more $15 thousand “subtle-energy revitalisation platforms” which are actually things that exist. I think it’s probably a little from column a, a little from column b, and a lot from too many late nights going down the insidious rabbit hole that is the internet.
Whatever is really driving Pete Evans, I hope it drives him directly into the sun he’s so fond of staring at.
Nadine von Cohen is a Sydney-based writer. She can usually be found on Twitter, swearing in capitals and refusing to punctuate.