Culture

How The Capitol Riots Highlighted Far-Right Extremism In Australia

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People all over the world have been trying to make sense of what led to the violent and incredibly disturbing MAGA riot at the US Capitol.

Here in Australia, journalists and writers have been reflecting on how our politics and media could have helped to spread right-wing extremism.

These conversations are really eye-opening; they’ve been a wake-up call about right-wing ideologies here, but more importantly, they’ve shown how those problems had a direct hand in stirring up the violence in the US.

What Happened At The US Capitol?

A massive swell of protestors stormed the US Capitol in an attempted coup after Trump encouraged the crowds to fight against the ceremonial counting of electoral votes that would confirm President-elect Biden’s win.

The riot led to the deaths of five people, including one Capitol police officer, and multiple people have since been charged with domestic terrorism.

The fallout from the attack has been huge.

Besides Trump finally being kicked off Twitter, he’s also become the first US President to ever be impeached twice, this time for his role in the violence.

But the situation has implications around the whole world, not just in the US.

Australia has a lot to answer for in terms of how right-wing extremism has been allowed to grow here.

Joshua Badge: “We feel that we are far away from the problems of other countries … But with the trend of, not just rising but flourishing, fascism and white supremacy, Australia’s not just kind of on the side-lines it’s really in the midst of it.”

That’s Joshua Badge, they wrote a great piece for Junkee about the way that fascism and white supremacy have been building in Australia’s mainstream for years.

What Does The Far-Right Look Like In Australia?

Joshua pointed out that issues like Indigenous deaths in custody, the Cronulla riots and Reclaim Australia rallies are all examples of white supremacist action.

And there are also some pretty stunning examples of these racist ideologies appearing more and more in mainstream politics, like the African Gangs myth that was pushed by Peter Dutton back in 2018, and a Senate motion that was put forward in the same year by Pauline Hanson.

JB: “The Australian Senate and the ruling Liberal-National coalition voted to affirm the white nationalist slogan “It’s ok to be white”. That ended up getting picked up on … the government backtracked away from it but the fact that it could be tabled in the houses of Australia’s Government and then voted for by much of its ruling party really signals that something is very, very wrong in our media and political culture.”

More recently, the acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack used the phrase “all lives matter” when he was being criticised for comparing the Capitol riots to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that happened last year.

That’s just the latest in a long list of examples of right-wing extremist rhetoric cropping up in our national dialogue, and the ramifications of that dialogue extend well beyond Australia.

Parts of Australian media spouted that Trump-supporting, right-wing rhetoric helped to embolden MAGA die-hards in the US.

This Gizmodo article looked at how Australian media figures, like Sky News commentators and columnist Miranda Devine, spread Trump’s “stolen votes” lie.

It pointed out that videos of Australian commentary repeating the lie that the US election was stolen from Trump got huge audiences online and helped to lay the groundwork for the attack on the Capitol building.

Joshua told me that it’s really time for us all to reflect on how these problems have taken hold at home, and what we’re going to do about it.

JB: “We don’t really have the luxury anymore of thinking that we have nothing to do with what’s happening in America, that we have nothing to do with rising fascism and white supremacy. These are things that have been in Australia since the beginning of our colony and things we need to address and if we don’t then they are most definitely going to get worse.”

The Takeaway

The riot in the US Capitol was a horrendous attack against American democracy but the ideologies that drove it aren’t unique to the US.

White supremacist beliefs have been thoroughly established here, and Australian politicians and media have helped fan the flames.

We really have to acknowledge what’s going on if we’re ever going to stop that spread.