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Cultural Marxism: far-right conspiracy theory in Australia’s culture wars



As a conspiracy promoted by the far-right, Cultural Marxism has gained ground over the past quarter century. In its dominant iteration, the US-originating conspiracy holds that a small group of Marxist critical theorists have conspired to destroy Western civilisation by taking over key cultural institutions. Yet what does such a conspiracy look like in a transnational context – and how are such conspiracy theories adapted for local use? In this article, we trace Cultural Marxism’s use and function in Australia’s recent culture wars, asking when, where and in what contexts the conspiracy is invoked in the Australian political and media landscape. Our analysis examines the ways in which Cultural Marxism has moved from the ‘fringe’ to the ‘mainstream’, revealing the porous nature of divisions on the contemporary Australian right as well as differences between ‘old’ and ‘new’ right. We pay particular attention to the localised use of the conspiracy in the ‘Safe Schools’ controversy of 2016–2017, whereby Cultural Marxist tropes were imbued with local concerns about sexuality and gender issues. The article provides an important illustration and analysis of the ways in which transnational conspiracy theories and tropes of the far-right can be translated, adapted and used in different national contexts.
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Cultural Marxism: far-right conspiracy theory in
Australia’s culture wars
Rachel Busbridge , Benjamin Moffitt & Joshua Thorburn
To cite this article: Rachel Busbridge , Benjamin Moffitt & Joshua Thorburn (2020): Cultural
Marxism: far-right conspiracy theory in Australia’s culture wars, Social Identities, DOI:
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Published online: 29 Jun 2020.
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Cultural Marxism: far-right conspiracy theory in Australias
culture wars
Rachel Busbridge
, Benjamin Mott
and Joshua Thorburn
School of Arts, Australian Catholic University, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia;
RMIT University, Melbourne,
As a conspiracy promoted by the far-right, Cultural Marxism has
gained ground over the past quarter century. In its dominant
iteration, the US-originating conspiracy holds that a small group
of Marxist critical theorists have conspired to destroy Western
civilisation by taking over key cultural institutions. Yet what does
such a conspiracy look like in a transnational context and how
are such conspiracy theories adapted for local use? In this article,
we trace Cultural Marxisms use and function in Australias recent
culture wars, asking when,where and in what contexts the
conspiracy is invoked in the Australian political and media
landscape. Our analysis examines the ways in which Cultural
Marxism has moved from the fringeto the mainstream,
revealing the porous nature of divisions on the contemporary
Australian right as well as dierences between oldand new
right. We pay particular attention to the localised use of the
conspiracy in the Safe Schoolscontroversy of 20162017,
whereby Cultural Marxist tropes were imbued with local concerns
about sexuality and gender issues. The article provides an
important illustration and analysis of the ways in which
transnational conspiracy theories and tropes of the far-right can
be translated, adapted and used in dierent national contexts.
Received 11 December 2019
Accepted 22 June 2020
Cultural Marxism; conspiracy
theory; far-right;
transnationalism; culture
The rise of the far-right across many Western countries in recent years has brought
renewed scholarly attention to the roles of media and new media technologies in the dis-
semination, circulation and reception of ideas once considered beyond the pale. Indeed, a
rapidly changing media landscape, characterised by the ever-growing inuence of social
media and new digital technologies, is a popular explanation for this development. On the
one hand, the internet has presented greater opportunities not only for transnational pol-
itical exchange, but also the promotion and distribution of marginal or fringe content
(Barkun, 2017). On the other, far-right actors have often sought to harness these capacities
for networking, recruitment and mainstreaming in order to disseminate their messages
and ideological perspectives, as well as construct cross-border collective identities and
interpretive frames (Beirich, 2013; Caiani & Kroel, 2015). This transnationalising of far-
right politics through the creation of cross-national networks that facilitate exchange,
the ow of information and ties between groups and individuals (Vertovec, 2009) raises
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Rachel Busbridge
important questions that extend beyond far-right actors themselves to consider the cre-
ation of publics receptive to far-right messaging. In particular, while scholars recognise
[that] the internet [has] a privileged role in favouring far-right transnational exchanges
(Froio & Ganesh, 2019, p. 516), there is still much work to be done in exploring how far-
right ideas, ideologies, tropes and symbols spread and are taken up across dierent
national settings, as well as how they may gain relevance and palatability within main-
stream politics in dierent contexts.
This article focuses on the transnationalisation of a particular conspiracy theory: that of
Cultural Marxism, which was once the preserve of the very fringes of the American far-
right but has now seemingly gone both global (and to some extents, mainstream). Positing
a link between political correctness(see generally Hughes, 2010) and a sinister plot to
destroy Western civilisation, Cultural Marxism has found its most morbid contemporary
expression in the manifestoof Norwegian white supremacist terrorist Anders Breivik
(Jamin, 2014, p. 93) but has increasingly been taken up across the spectrum of right poli-
tics, establishing itself as something of a meta-theoryfor the contemporary Right lament-
ing the destructionof traditional values and institutions (Richardson, 2015, p. 202), and
having been invoked by far-right and conservative politicians and public gures in the
United Kingdom, Hungary and Australia (Richardson, 2015; Walker, 2019). While the US-
based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) noted with concern that the conspiracy
theory was catching on in the mainstreamin 2003 (Berkowitz, 2003), researchers have
only more recently begun to reckon with its inuence in any substantial detail (Jamin,
2014,2018; Mirrlees, 2018; Richardson, 2015). This lack of scholarly attention to the conspi-
racy theorys renewed appeal is particularly evident in the case of Australia, even as a
number of commentators have noted (with concern) that the discourse of Cultural
Marxism appears to be gaining traction for not just the extreme and far-right but also
right-wing culture warriors (Jamin, 2018; Soutphomasane, 2018; Wilson, 2015,2016).
In order to address this gap, this article seeks to map the emergence and dissemination
of the Cultural Marxist conspiracy theory in Australia. Given that it is comparatively recent,
Cultural Marxisms take up in Australian political and media discourse provides a pertinent
window into the dynamics of dissemination, circulation and reception of far-right ideas. Its
distinctive Anglo-American paleo-conservative intellectual heritage and European white
civilisational variants likewise aord a germane opportunity to examine the scope of
far-right transnational tropes as they nd expression within disparate national settings.
Our aim was to collate an understanding of when,where and in what contexts the conspi-
racy is invoked in the Australian political and media landscape, which required a broad
scope of investigation in which we reviewed social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter,
Reddit, Gab), mainstream newspapers, conservative political magazines, blogs, political
party websites and talkback radio for mentions of Cultural Marxism.
The investigation
was thus exploratory in nature, partly because there is so little scholarly material available
on Cultural Marxism in Australia, and partly because the rapidly changing nature of the
contemporary media landscape means that painting a systematic picture is time-bound
in any case. More so, there are methodological challenges in drawing a national picture
from otherwise international online digital media, particularly in the case of social
media, where ostensibly nationalgroups, handles or sites can be managed elsewhere
(Rogers, 2013). Social media moreover presents diculties with various content being
removed or banned as well as limited access to social media platform APIs.
Still, acknowledging these limitations, our research observed several notable ndings.
Signicantly, we found that although the increasing prevalence of the Cultural Marxism
conspiracy in Australia is entangled with the wider rise of the far-right, the most prominent
articulations have come from conservative right-wing actors within otherwise mainstream
media and political institutions. In particular, the culture war controversy surrounding the
Safe Schools anti-homophobia programme primarily led by News Corp outlets an
illustrative case we examine later in this article was fundamental in popularising and
nationalising the term for Australian audiences. We argue that this can be understood
in two main ways. First, our research suggests that far-right tropes and ideas gain reson-
ance beyond the fringes in the context of national controversies. Second, while the inter-
net and social media are often framed as the primary drivers of far-right
transnationalisation, we need to understand the relationship between mainstream news
media and online media as a symbiotic one, wherein the former have the capacity to
craft agendas and the latter to leverage discursive opportunities for popular mobilisation.
The article begins with an overview of the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory, focusing
on its American origins and transnational articulations, before briey examining the con-
tours of far-right politics in Australia. Thereafter, we mapthe emergence and circulation
of the conspiracy in the Australian context, tracing its main proponents and various per-
mutations. While it remains relatively marginal, we observed a distinct increase in men-
tions of Cultural Marxism since 2016. The following section examines the contexts in
which the conspiracy is invoked, drawing attention to the dierences and similarities
across media platforms. We conclude by reecting on the value of our analysis, outlining
its implications for rethinking the distinctions between fringeand mainstreamin the
Australian media and political landscapes and perhaps beyond.
Conspiracy theory and Cultural Marxism
While typically considered in pejorative terms (Hofstadter, 1964), conspiracy theories can
in fact be quite revealing of the shifting dynamics of traditional structures of interpretation
as well as of the changing contours of Western media cultures (Birchall, 2001; Horn, 2008).
Our approach in this article is inspired by Michael Barkuns understanding of conspiracy
theories as forms of stigmatised knowledge, that is, claims not accepted by those insti-
tutions we rely upon for truth validationsuch as universities, government agencies, major
mainstream media and medical and scientic communities (Barkun, 2016, p. 1, 2). Conspi-
racy theories are dened in relation to their distance from an imagined or actual public, a
general distrust of authority and a suspicion of orthodoxies, making them, almost by
denition, fringe. For Barkun, however, it is important to recognise that the notion of stig-
matised knowledgeas an exclusively fringe phenomenon has been rendered increasingly
problematic. Technological and social-political developments since the early 1990s most
notably, the emergence of the internet and social media have signalled the erosion of
the boundaries between fringe and mainstream epistemic authorities by transforming
the role of traditional gatekeepers of knowledge and providing greater opportunities
for the dissemination of previously marginal ideas (Barkun, 2016, p. 3; and see generally
Dean, 1998). According to Barkun, this has made for a process of mainstreaming the
fringe, whereby there is greater public and political receptivity to conspiracy theories,
something that is particularly notable in American political culture (Barkun, 2016,p.4;
Dean, 1998). As phenomena then, conspiracy theories do not only potentially oer an
insight into the often hidden dimensions of political interpretation and action (Wilson,
2017), but also the shifting borders between fringeand mainstreamin contemporary
Cultural Marxism can be categorised in terms of what Barkun calls a global systemic
conspiracy, which theorises that some small and hidden group has plotted to cover up
the truecause of an event or alternatively advance their aims or goals in secret
through the inltration of public institutions and manipulation of an ignorant, herd-like
public(Barkun, 2003, p. 7; Barkun, 2016, pp. 12). Conspiracies of this ilk often lay out a
global explanation of history, and Cultural Marxism is no exception. Arguing that the
Frankfurt School was involved in a deliberate and covert plot to undermine Western civi-
lisation, the Cultural Marxist conspiracy oers a simple explanation for the progressive cul-
tural change many Western countries have experienced since the counter-cultural
revolution of the 1960s (Jay, 2011). One of the issues associated with the Cultural
Marxist conspiracy is that Cultural Marxism is a distinct philosophical approach associated
with some strands of the Frankfurt School, as well as ideas and inuences emanating from
the British New Left. However, proponents of the conspiracy do not regard Cultural
Marxism as a form of left-wing cultural criticism, but instead as a calculated plan orche-
strated by leftist intellectuals to destroy Western values, traditions and civilisation,
carried out since at least the 1930s (Berkowitz, 2003; Breitbart, 2011, pp. 105135). In
this article, we are exclusively concerned with the conspiratorial discourse of Cultural
Marxism, not as a descriptive term referring to Euro-Marxism, although we note that advo-
cates of the conspiracy theory conate the two.
Although the terminology is much older, current usage of Cultural Marxism can be
traced to the American ultraconservative literature of the early 1990s. While the conspiracy
had a number of early proponents, including political commentator and former presiden-
tial candidate Pat Buchanan, the American paleoconservative William S. Lind is widely
credited with popularising the concept and providing the most inuential account of it,
with his edited volume, Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology, being the
key citation since 2004 (Jamin, 2018, p. 5). For Lind, Cultural Marxism is traditional
Marxism translated from economic to cultural terms, spurred by the historical failure to
universally unite the proletariat (Lind, 2004, p. 4). The idea is that Cultural Marxists seek
to pave the way for revolution by destabilising and damaging traditional cultural values,
attachments and solidarities, taking what Antonio Gramsci called the long march
through the institutions, particularly those in the realms of culture and media. Rather
than the classless societyof classical Marxism, Cultural Marxism allegedly promotes a
radical egalitarian vision of an emptied-out, soulless multiculture, replacing the proletariat
of old with a new proletariatmade up of immigrants, multiculturalists, black nationalists,
secular humanists, feminists, homosexuals, sex educators and environmentalists. The
purpose of the Cultural Marxist project is to destroy and replace the traditional institutions
of Western civilisation, such as Christianity, national identity and the nuclear family,
through the use of politically correctideology and the portrayal of white men as evil
(Lind, 2004, p. 6). It is in this regard that Bill Berkowitz (2003) deems Cultural Marxism a
kind of political correctnesson steroids. Whereas political correctness became a point
of contention in the US college culture wars between progressives and conservatives
between 1990 and 1992 (Berman, 1992; Hughes, 2010), the discourse of Cultural
Marxism gives it a conspiratorial spin. For Buchanan, if Cultural Marxism is the ideology
imposed on the masses to institute a New World Order,political correctnessis the
tool whereby any criticism particularly conservative and right-wing of such a project
can be curbed (Jamin, 2014, pp. 9495).
As a conspiracy theory, Cultural Marxism is suciently exible that it can unify the
whole spectrum of far-right and right-wing ideologies, ranging from fundamentalist and
evangelical Christians to National Socialists to Zionist conspiracy theorists. Other articula-
tions of the conspiracy isolate particular categories of people as threatening social and cul-
tural order, often drawing on Islamophobic and antisemitic tropes common to other
conspiracy theories (Gordiejew, 2006; Zia-Ebrahimi, 2018). In his 2083 compendium,
Breivik invoked the Cultural Marxist thesis parallel to the Eurabiaconspiracy, which sup-
posedly uncovers a plot by Middle Eastern nations to Islamiseand ArabiseEuropean
countries to undermine existing political alignments. Cultural Marxism, from this perspec-
tive, employs multiculturalism, Islamic immigration and political correctness as a tool to
facilitate the replacement of Christianity with Islam in Europe an argument that has
received tacit approval from commentators including Buchanan (Jamin, 2014, p. 95) and
the Italian politician Mario Borghezio (BBC News, 2011). The conspiracy additionally has
potent antisemitic connotations, leading some to frame it within the antisemitic conspir-
atorial tradition(Byford & Billig, 2001). The term Cultural Marxism is indeed reminiscent of
Kulturbolshewismus (Cultural Bolshevism), an antisemitic epithet used by Nazi Germany to
denote the degeneracy of German society (Mirrlees, 2018). Many of the chapters in Linds
Political Correctness emphasise the Jewishness of the Frankfurt School who came to
America eeing Nazi persecution, with some authors hinting towards some sort of under-
lying Jewish world conspiracy; Lind, it must also be noted, has presented the theory at
Holocaust denial conferences (SPLC, 2002). The centrality of the Frankfurt School in the
conspiracy furthermore makes it amenable to more subtle expressions of antisemitism,
because it facilitated the naming of Jews by proper namesrather than as a group
(SPLC, 2002).
There are also clear racial overtones to the Cultural Marxist conspiracy, which does
much to animate a supposedly imperilled Western civilisation. The transnational
project it hints towards is often animated in national terms, insofar as Cultural Marxism
is commonly presented as an internationalist conspiracy intended to undermine a natur-
alised organic national culture(Richardson, 2015, pp. 202203). This means that the con-
spiracy can quite easily slot into existing nationalist politics in a variety of locations,
particularly those that position themselves in resistance to a multicultural global elite
as seen in much recent nationalist and populist resistance to globalists. At the same
time, it does so in a way that neatly aligns with the transnational nationalism(Beirich,
2013) of the far-right and white nationalist movements in particular; with multiculturalism,
immigration and black nationalism amongst the litany of social ills, Western civilisation is
implicitly, if not explicitly, understood as white. The gender-based conservatism of the Cul-
tural Marxism discourse, namely the emphasis placed on the nuclear family, female dom-
esticity and heterosexual reproduction, additionally serves to underscore the biological
components of race-based thinking.
It is in this regard that the Cultural Marxist conspiracy can be understood as intimately
bound up with white nationalism, something which has been brought into clearer view
with its take-up amongst the alt-right (Cole, 2020; Nagle, 2017). In addition to an
impertinent disregard for politically correctdiscourse (see especially Penny, 2016), the alt-
right is also commonly associated with the far right white nationalist project of Richard
Spencer (see Wood, 2017), which seeks to build white ethno-State that compels all of
societys institutions to protect and promote the values of an idealised white European
culture(Mirrlees, 2018, p. 51). Tanner Mirrlees (2018, p. 50) argues that Cultural
Marxism has proven an instrument of intersectional hatefor the alt-right, particularly
as it has been articulated in relation to the Trumpian populist project associated with
Andrew Breitbart and the Breitbart news website, and by extension Steve Bannon and
the Trump presidential campaign and victory. Not only does it empower racist, homopho-
bic and misogynistic speech as a legitimate, if not revolutionary, response to the oppres-
sively-PC Democratic Media Complex(Breitbart, 2011), it also works to construct a
patriarchal, white and Christian supremacist notion of America by homogenising a
range of others as part of a single, undierentiated Cultural Marxist bloc. In this sense,
the alt-right have been able to harness Cultural Marxism as a potent mechanism of
social and political polarisation, while positioning political correctness as inherently
authoritarian and anti-democratic.
As both conspiratorial trope and thesis, the increasing popularity of Cultural Marxism
thus ought to be cause for concern, representing a seeming mainstreaming of far-right
ideas and ideals. Scholars have noted the impressive exibility of Cultural Marxist dis-
course, which is not only adaptable to a wide variety of right-wing politics but also
aorded a semblance of public decencyby its pseudo-intellectual talk of the Frankfurt
School and Gramsci (Jamin, 2018, p. 1). Yet what remains understudied is its discursive
limits. Cultural Marxism, after all, remains an American-originated conspiracy theory that
is closely aligned with paleo-conservatism, and more recently the alt-right. The question
that remains is how local conditions shape its circulation and reception within dierent
national settings. This is precisely what we are interested in exploring through mapping
Cultural Marxism in Australia.
Culture wars and the Australian right-wing landscape
There are several convergences and overlaps between the Australian and American politi-
cal landscapes, which means that many of the historical resonances and social undertones
of the Cultural Marxism discourse are not foreign to the Australian context. Indeed, Aus-
tralias culture wars that is, conicts between progressives and conservatives on ques-
tions of values, culture and identity have closely followed in the footsteps of the US
(George & Huynh, 2009). Like the US, Australia underwent a counter-culture revolution
in the 1960s and 1970s which questioned traditional authority structures in favour of pro-
gressive change relating to women, minorities and the role of religion, establishing culture
as a central site of political struggle. Equally, Australia has seen a conservative backlash to
these developments from the mid-1990s onwards (Kapferer & Morris, 2003), with promi-
nent Australian culture warriors often drawing inspiration from American culture war
tactics (Berman, 1992; Hughes, 2010). Political correctness has played an important role
in this backlash (Canberra Times, 1994; Coleman, 2000). Culture war disputes about gay
marriage, Aboriginal rights and the black armband view
of Australian history (Kapferer
& Morris, 2003, p. 100, 104), asylum seekers, climate change, education and health in Aus-
tralia have often been framed by the conservative charge that progressive and leftist views
are politically correctand therefore elite-driven, with the implication that they are funda-
mentally out of step with public concerns (Davis, 2018).
Australia has also not been exempt from the global rise of far-right and race-based
extremism that has occurred over the past ten years or so. Recent years have seen unpre-
cedented levels of public visibility and media attention aorded to contemporary Austra-
lian far-right activists and micro-parties, with a proliferation of groups like Reclaim
Australia, Rise Up Australia, the Australian Defence League, the United Patriots Front,
True Blue Crew and Antipodean Resistance (Markus, 2018; Safran, 2018). Much like
other far-right organisations that periodically appeared and disappeared from the Austra-
lian political landscape across the twentieth century, these groups frequently take their
inspiration from overseas, particularly America and Britain (Peucker & Smith, 2019). At
the same time, these groups have achieved practically no electoral success, and have
not been as visible in Australia as they have been in North America and Europe (Dean
et al., 2016).
As opposed to the traditionalfar-right represented by neo-Nazis and proto-fascists, the
new radical right concerned with nationalism, anti-immigration and the protection of
Western values has a fundamentally dierent relationship to mainstream politics that fore-
grounds resistance to the existing political establishment and populist reform (Dean et al.,
2016, p. 123; Guibernau, 2010). In Australia, the new far-right has increasingly adopted a
concerned citizens persona, which has coincided with greater interest and community
support (Dean et al., 2016, p. 137, 139) than their explicitly neo-Nazi forbearers. With
this shift in far-right priorities and tactics, the hijacking of extreme right politics by govern-
ing parties and leaders(Dean et al., 2016, p. 137), rather than suppressing fringe groups,
appears to have created a fertile context for them to enter and inuence the mainstream.
Certainly, in recent years there have been reports of attempts by far-right groups to inl-
trate mainstream political parties, such as the thwarted inltration of the New South Wales
Young Nationals branch by the alt-right Lads Societyin 2018 (Mann, 2018). The tacit sanc-
tioning of anti-immigration, anti-Islam and pro-nationalist views in an Australian public
discourse that has broadly lurched to the right has also seen the mainstream articulation
of certain far-right tropes, such as Pauline Hansonsits okay to be whitemotion, which
was only narrowly defeated in the Senate in 2018 (BBC News, 2018).
It is in this context that conspiracy theories like Cultural Marxism are quite revealing of
the blurring of fringe and mainstream in Australia. Conspiracy theories, of course, are not
new in Australian politics: Dennis McCormacksThe Grand Plan: The Asianisation of Aus-
traliareached peak popularity in the 1980s and 1990s,
while more recent years have seen
a proliferation of conspiracies concerning gun control, Islam and white genocide (Markus,
2018). However, these remain mostly marginal (and severely understudied). This is a key
point of distinction as compared to the US, which has a rich cultural tradition of conspira-
cism and conspiratorial politics emerging out of a history of government overreach and
secrecy (Dean, 1998), the state-sanctioning and promotion of conspiracy theories as pro-
paganda and a general public distrust of governmental activities and institutions (Olm-
stead, 2009). Certainly, much of the conspiratorial culture in the US has congealed
around the Cold War, McCarthyism and the Red Menace, which makes the trope of
Marxism somewhat organic to American conspiracy theorising. With a more embedded
socialist tradition making class conict more prominent across the countrys history
(McKnight, 2005), Marxism does not have the same conspiratorial resonances in Australia.
The Cultural Marxist conspiracy would thus seem a pertinent indicator of transnational far-
right inuence.
Mapping Cultural Marxism in Australia
While the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory is only a relatively recent entry in Australian
right-wing politics, its popularisation has followed a comparable trajectory to elsewhere.
Like the US, where interest in Cultural Marxism has steadily grown since 2008, trending
upwards during the 2016 election campaign and spiking in the aftermath of Trumps
victory (Mirrlees, 2018, p. 55), the Cultural Marxism trope has become increasingly preva-
lent in Australia over the past few years, with 2016 marking a turning point. At the same
time, general interest in the conspiracy is comparatively far less in Australia than in the US,
with political correctness seemingly having more resonance for the Australian public: a
Google Trends data visualisation of the popularity of online search queries relating to Cul-
tural Marxismand political correctnessfrom January 2008 to August 2019 reects this.
Here, searches for Cultural Marxismreached a peak in September 2017, while searches
for Cultural Marxism meaningpeaked in February 2017, although across this period
searches for political correctnesswere consistently more popular. In the US, searches
for Cultural Marxismactually outnumbered searched for political correctnessin July
2018. A sub-regional breakdown of Australian search queries furthermore indicates that
while political correctness seems to be of national interest, Cultural Marxism is popular pri-
marily in the east coast states of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.
Australian print media tells a similar story. Using the Factiva Australian newspaper data-
base search function, 76 articles (including letters to the editor) were found to mention
Cultural Marxismbetween January 2000 and November 2018. News CorpsThe Australian
(29), Daily Telegraph (14) and Herald Sun (7) used the term most, followed by Fairfax/Nines
The Age (6). Other than a brief spike in 2011 in relation to the Breivik manifesto, the term
was scarcely used prior to 2016, but has increasingly been used thereafter by right-wing
columnists among others. Mark Latham, former leader of the Australian Labor Party and
current state leader of One Nation in NSW, and News Corp columnist Miranda Devine men-
tioned Cultural Marxism more than any other author, with 6 and 5 citations respectively.
While catering to a niche audience of more educated, traditionally conservative readers,
right-wing publications like The Spectator Australia and Quadrant have also seen an
increase in mentions of the Cultural Marxist conspiracy. In a notably early use of the
term in Australia, Cultural Marxism was described by Peter Coleman in an Quadrant
article from 2000, in which Coleman used an open letter by American religious conserva-
tive Paul Weyrich detailing the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory to attack political cor-
rectness in the Australian context. Many of the essays that followed in The Spectator
Australia and Quadrant that took up the Cultural Marxism trope reproduce Linds argu-
ments almost unchanged, but do not cite him directly, instead mentioning the Frankfurt
School and Gramscislong march through the institutionsquote as supporting evidence
for their argument. This style of reference was occasionally drawn upon in News Corp
papers. In February 2016, for example, the ABC political editor of the time, Chris
Uhlmann (2016), wrote in The Australian that Frankfurt School academics eeing Adolf
Hitlers Germany transmitted the intellectual virus [of Cultural Marxism] to the US and
set about systematically destroying the culture of the society that gave them sanctuary.
More often than not, however, Cultural Marxism was most frequently invoked in an
ohand, matter-of-fact way in News Corp articles, synonymously with political correctness.
On social media, posts referring to Cultural Marxism had the largest audience on Face-
book. For example, the following far-right Australian Facebook pages shared content that
mentioned Cultural Marxism: The Australian Tea Party (136,157 likes),
Australia –‘Love it,
or Leave(54,118 likes)
and Australian Liberty Alliance (57,524 likes), amongst others. Still,
many similar Australian far-right Facebook pages did not use the term. We identied a
handful of accounts mentioning Cultural Marxism on Twitter, which appeared to be the
second most popular social media platform for Australian right-wing content. These
included the far-right extremist and leader of the United Patriots Front Blair Cottrell
former Leader of the Australian Labor Party and current state leader
of One Nation in NSW Mark Latham (33,900 followers) and One Nation Senator Malcolm
Roberts (14,800 followers). On Reddit, only the inactive subreddit r/AltRightAus (190
members) and its oshoot r/apskeptic (54 members) hosted any Australian far-right pres-
ence. However, using (a web tool that allows users to search Reddits API
for comments and posts), Cultural Marxismwas found to have been mentioned in 430
comments in r/Australia. For comparison, political correctnesswas mentioned in 2,407
comments in r/Australia. We also explored Gab, a social media platform popular with
the American alt-right which functions as an alternative to Twitter, but there were few
active accounts focusing on Australian politics and only three posts mentioning the
term. Overall, Cultural Marxism was more frequently mentioned on far-right internet
blogs and newsand opinion sites than in general social media discourse, especially
those modelled after the alt-right such as XYZ and The Unshackled. Created at the peak
of Breitbart ascendancy in 2015 and 2016 respectively, both produce content that pro-
motes the Cultural Marxist conspiracy and are moderately popular, with XYZ having
13,395 likes on Facebook, while The Unshackled has 22,297.
Where Cultural Marxism has not been mentioned is also revealing. Our ndings suggest
that it has not gathered traction with the old guardof conservative right-wing commen-
tators and politicians. Despite traditionally holding a great deal of power as key voices of
conservative politics in Australia (Turner, 2009), we could nd no evidence of Cultural
Marxism being referred by popular talkback radio gures such as Sydney 2GBs shock
jock, Alan Jones. Many inuential right-wing newsprint commentators have also not
directly mentioned Cultural Marxism, even as they hold ideological stances, discuss
themes or make arguments which align with others who use the term. While prominent
conservative Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt has been credited with popularising the
concept in Australia by Zappone (2017), he has in fact only mentioned Cultural Marxism
once, quite surprisingly in a 2002 article commending the work ethic of Asian and
Jewish communities (Bolt, 2002). Other columnists like the Daily TelegraphsPiers
Akerman (2017) have referred to a Marxist-inspired agenda to destroy the Western struc-
ture of governmentbut never specically use the term Cultural Marxism. Whether
Akerman and others have simply never heard of the phrase, or instead have preferred
not to use it, is unclear. Moreover, we did not nd many examples of the conspiracy
being invoked by political gures in the major parties: the only mention we found in
this regard was from Cory Bernardi, at the time a Senator for the Liberal Party, who in
2013 wrote in his book The Conservative Revolution that cultural Marxism has been one
of the most corrosive inuences on society over the last century. The most notable and
sustained mention of the conspiracy has arguably been in the 2018 maiden speech of
Senator Fraser Anning, formerly of Pauline Hansons One Nation Party and Katters Austra-
lian Party, who mentioned Gramsci seven times in the speech, declared Cultural Marxism
not a throwaway line but a literal truthand spoke of the need for a nal solutionon
immigration (SBS News, 2018). Signicantly, while One Nation politicians like Malcolm
Roberts and particularly Mark Latham are amongst the conspiracys most vocal and pro-
minent proponents, party leader Hanson has not referred to Cultural Marxism in any
media, even as she has utilised other contemporary alt-right themes and language.
Localising a conspiracy?
The small but growing prevalence of the Cultural Marxist conspiracy in Australia since 2016
cannot be read outside of the wider rise of the far-right, in particular the development of
an alt-right diasporaof sorts strongly inuenced by ideas, ideologies and digital content
originating in the US. Broadly speaking, our exploration of social media found that a
number of Australian groups on social media which adapted alt-right themes and tech-
niques to the Australian context, but that references to or sharing of content by Australian
(or at least purporting to be Australian [Workman & Hutcheon, 2019]) accounts on Cultural
Marxism often mirrored American sources. US-originated YouTube videos explaining the
Cultural Marxism conspiracy, for instance, were shared, as were some Cultural Marxist-
related memes. Likewise, Australian far-right blogs and news sites mentioning Cultural
Marxism mimic alt-right terminology and framing on a wide variety of issues, oering a
mix of local and American-based stories with broader transnational internet culture
wars and alt-right talking points featuring prominently. In laying out its cultural libertarian
and classic liberalaims, XYZ declares that they stand in opposition to cultural Marxism,
which seeks to bring about socialism by attacking political, cultural, social, and religious
norms and institutions dismantling our national identity and the foundations of
Western civilisation. While not explicitly using the term, The Unshackled similarly
announces that the Red Menaceis back in the form of the progressive left, social
justice warriors and the bearers of politician [sic] correctness and identity and victim
As is the case in North America and Western Europe (Jamin, 2018; Richardson, 2015),
references to Cultural Marxism in Australian sources were commonly discursively
entangled with appeals to (white) Western civilisation and anti-immigration politics,
with Islam featuring prominently. XYZs mission statement is a pertinent example, ani-
mated as it is by the claim that Islam, which posed an existential threat to Western civi-
lisation for 1300 years has reawakened and declared war on us.
It was not unusual
to come across the idea that Western civilisation is imperilled and caught between the
two threats of Cultural Marxism and Islam: a post by the Indel Brotherhood of Australia
ResistanceFacebook group, for instance, warns that Cultural Marxism and Islam grow
when good people say nothing; a tweet by Latham similarly states Trump 100%
correct: we must defend the virtues of western civilisation from radical Islam at one
extreme and cultural Marxism at the other. Indeed, the Cultural Marxist discourse
appeared to be fully embraced by a number of explicitly anti-Islam groups, such as Mel-
bournesQ Society.
We found numerous references to Cultural Marxism in the groups
newsletter, QWire. Here, Cultural Marxism was said to be taught by Left leaning academics
that rush to defend Islam against so-called Islamophobia”’. While less prominent, it is also
important to note that many sites, groups and pages popularising the Cultural Marxist
thesis produced antisemitic content, though this was more common on the very far
reaches of the white nationalist right. Many articles in XYZ, for instance, mention Jewish
globalist interests and the outlet has published pieces on Zionist conspiracies and
primers on Kabbalah and Talmudic Judaism.
We also found some points of distinction in Australian invocations of the conspiracy.
Specically, while Leftist inltration of education and LGBTQIA+ rights are common
themes in American discourse surrounding Cultural Marxism, these were far more promi-
nent in the Australia context, primarily in relation to the 2016 furore surrounding the Safe
Schools programme (Law, 2017). Founded in Victoria in 2010, the Safe Schools coalition
was a federally funded programme to reduce homophobia and transphobia, as well as
sexuality and gender identity related bullying, in schools. Despite receiving bipartisan
support for much of its run, in February 2016 The Australian newspaper ran a front-page
story headlined Activists push a taxpayer-funded gay manual in schoolsattacking the
programme, which was subsequently debated in parliament in a matter of hours (Law,
2017, p. 3). In the month following the initial story, The Australian published 27 almost
exclusively negative articles about the programme, including news pieces, opinion
pieces and editorials; over the next ve months, the newspaper averaged one negative
story per day on Safe Schools (Ward, 2019). From the very rst article in The Australian,
which revealedthat a co-author is Marxist activist Roz Ward(Ward, 2019, p. 222), the
spectre of Marxism has been an integral component of negative press, with a variety of
authors, commentators and ideologues accusing Safe Schools of being part of a wider
plot to impose the kind of society advocated by Marx and Engels,asDaily Telegraph
columnist Miranda Devine (2016) framed it. As manager of the Safe Schools coalition,
Wards political credentials as an actual Marxist have shaped negative reports of the pro-
gramme, amplied by a June 2016 controversy related to a Facebook post about replacing
the Australian ag with a red one. Ward was subsequently forced to stand down from her
academic position at La Trobe University, with the programme ocially ending in Decem-
ber 2017.
While it is likely that News Corp journalists and columnists like Devine came across the
term in American sources, Safe Schools aorded an opportunity to tailor the Cultural
Marxism conspiracy to the Australian context. Not all moralistic pieces against the Safe
Schools programme contained mentions of Cultural Marxism as noted, prominent com-
mentators like Akerman eschewed this language even as they wrote about the Marxist
agenda’–but many did. Writing for The Daily Telegraph (April 8, 2018), Devine describes
the Safe Schools programme as only one example of cultural Marxist inltration of edu-
cation from preschool through university,deeming it a sinister programme designed to
reshape society by destroy the traditional nuclear family. In the memorably titled
Dumb, Sodomy and the Cash,QuadrantsMerv Bendle described Ward as sexuality com-
missar for Australian schools, and at the core of coalition of organisations seeking to radi-
cally subvert the most intimate areas of social and personal relationships in the name of
Marxism and [LGBTQIA + ] ideology(Bendle, 2016).
Indeed, many mentions of Cultural Marxism we found were linked to Safe Schools, par-
ticularly for conservative right-wing Christian commentators and political gures. Annings
account of the Cultural Marxist silent revolutionin his maiden speech explicitly targeted
the so-called safe schoolsand other gender uiditygarbage, for instance (SBS News,
2018). Latham (2017) has invoked Safe Schools on multiple occasions, deeming it the latest
proliferationof Cultural Marxism in the education system. The notion that Safe Schools
was part of a broader plot to transform Australian society was made explicit in an
image produced by the Australian Conservatives, of which Bernardi was former leader.
The Rainbow Trojan Horse, which was widely exchanged on social media by those
against Safe Schools and those mocking them, depicted a horse rolling on the wheels
of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Australian Greens, being led by gures
holding ags bearing the terms fake news,political correctness,Safe Schoolsand
thought policeand shields decorated with the logos of the Australian Human Rights
Commission, GetUp! (a progressive campaign organisation), the publicly-funded Austra-
lian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and SBS, the national foreign-language, multicultural
media broadcaster (Ward, 2019, p. 225).
The importance of the primarily News Corp-led moral panic (Law, 2017) surrounding
the Safe Schools programme in popularising the Cultural Marxist trope in Australia
cannot be discounted. Even as we found that far- and alt-right content was often anti-
immigration and anti-Islam, Safe Schools has formed a nodal point for the promotion of
the trope, if not conspiracy, in the Australian context, with the targeting of left-wing aca-
demics, feminists, LGBTQIA+ activists and political correctness part and parcel of its many
invocations. Our ndings are revealing of a split of sorts, where conservative print media
mostly emphasised Cultural Marxism in connection to education curricula and traditional
Christian views on sexuality and gender identity, while alt-right attitudes towards sexuality
at times dier dramatically (Nagle, 2017, pp. 86100), with opposition towards LGBTQIA+
communities often motivated by reactionary distaste towards feminists and social justice
warriorson the left rather than by conservative social values. At the same time, we found
evidence that alt- and far-righters in Australia were increasingly linking Cultural Marxism to
dierent so-called social engineeringpolicies of the ALP and the Greens, particularly
those related to LGBTQIA+ rights like Safe Schools. This far-right expansion of ideological
targets, from exclusive focus on immigration and Islam towards gender and sexuality,
which has also been noted by other researchers, can be productively read in terms of
the new discursive opportunities presented by the heightened public discourse surround-
ing the Safe Schools programme (Peucker et al., 2019).
Conclusion: from culture warriors to cultural Marxists
Writing about the PC scarein the early 1990s, David Bennett (1993,, p. 436) asks how an
internationally syndicated scandal, mainly brewed and bottled in the US academy(see
Berman, 1992) came to be the object of a widespread panic in the Australian media.
First imported in 1991 with syndicated articles from Dinesh DSouza and David Segal in
The Australian, PC panic was subsequently laced with local avour for domestic consump-
tionby conservative pundits in the corporate press before panning out to the television
and publishing industries, nally landing in debates about politics and public policy
(Bennett, 1993, p. 437). Some two and a half decades later, the Cultural Marxist panic
raises the same concerns of leftist teachers impressing their ideologies on impressionable
young students but the alleged threat is much larger, with the added layer of a sinister
global plot carried out by invasive, treacherous gures colluding to destroy Western
civilisation. Our research is suggestive of a similar dynamic driving the discourse forward
today: a US originated theory nds itself exported along the Coca-Cola trade routes to
English-language media markets, where its political exchange value can be realised in
various local symbolic forms(Bennett, 1993, p. 436). At the time, Bennett (1993, p. 444)
urged that taking Australian media attacks on PC seriouslyentailed recognition of the
medias own support for an apolitical pedagogy but for direct political action in the
reform of the humanities. What might it look like to take seriously the moral panic sur-
rounding Cultural Marxism led by certain outlets of the national press? The PC panic
extended well into the 1990s as Bennett predicted and then some, becoming in fact a
mainstay in Australias culture wars. For the time being, at least, Cultural Marxism may
have perhaps faded from popular view along with the Safe Schools controversy, but we
are yet to grasp its potential legacies.
It is notoriously dicult to measure the inuence of the fringe on the mainstream, not
least because the because the mainstreamitself is a social and political construct.
Approaching the fringe, too, in overly broad terms can gloss over the ideological distinc-
tions and struggles that take place within it, aording the appearance of unity where there
is none. In Australia, the idea of mainstream Australiahas been so hijacked and appro-
priated by political elites and the media that its representativeness can be called into
serious question (Soutphomasane, 2018, p. 47). Likewise, there is clear evidence of a
contest within the Australian far-right political fringe, with the newand oldfar-right in
competition for ideological dominance (Dean et al., 2016, pp. 134135). Through the
lens of the Cultural Marxist conspiracy, however, it is possible to discern a relationship
of empowerment between mainstream and fringe, whereby certain talking points and
tropes are able to be transmitted, taken up and adapted by mainstreamgures, thus
giving credence and visibility to ideologies that would have previously been constrained
to the margins. Here, it is not enough to panic and point the nger at the obviousthreats
to liberal democracy in the contemporary political milieu the alt-right, the far right, and
the extreme right but also to pay close attention to the role of ostensibly mainstream
political and media gures who are arguably just as, if not more responsible in giving such
views the sheen of respectability and normality. In a time in which conspiracy theories
seem to have increased appeal from QAnon to Pizzagate to the Eurabia conspiracy
this task is arguably more urgent than ever.
1. Relevant data was catalogued in this process, including quotes, follower counts, number of
likes/retweets, dates, views and URLs.
2. Coined by conservative historian Georey Blainey in 1993 and popularised by former Prime
Minister John Howard, the black armband viewof history supposedly adopts an overtly
and unnecessarily negative view of Australian history, in particular the treatment of Aboriginal
peoples; its corollary is often deemed the white blindfold.
3. This is not to say concerns shared by the far and extreme right have not found electoral voice.
Pauline Hansons One Nation, a populist radical right party (Mott, 2017), has had some elec-
toral success in the 1990s and 2010s, and has consistently expressed a nativist and racist ideol-
ogy. More so, a number of scholars have charged the centre-right Liberal Party with
mainstreamingOne Nations policies by adopting the partys messaging (Kapferer &
Morris, 2003).
4. This conspiracy theory was even tabled in Parliament in 1996; see Adjournment: Immigration
Asianisation, Parliament of Australia, 28 October 1996.
5. All gures were recorded on October 7, 2019, unless otherwise noted.
6. This gure was collected on October 18, 2018. This page appears to have been removed or
deleted subsequently.
7. This gure was collected on October 4, 2018. Cottrells Twitter account has since been
8. It is noteworthy that this only comes at the very end of the mission statement with no mention
of Islam prior, however.
9. The Q Societys electoral wing, the Australian Liberty Alliance (later renamed Yellow Vest Aus-
tralia), was launched in 2015, but has had no electoral success.
10. See:
Disclosure statement
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... Anti-genderists do not just undermine the scholarly legitimacy of gender studies scholars, whom they portray as ideology-driven activists blinded by "cultural Marxism" (Jamin 2018;Busbridge et al. 2020); they also aim to build academic credentials for their own claims. Gender is deemed ideological and unscientific, whereas a commonsense view of sex differences as being self-evident and biologically grounded is said to be scientific. ...
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... Though Jews as such are almost never mentioned in attacks on "gender ideology," genderists, and especially sexual minorities, are consistently Judaized in anti-gender discourse, that is, described in a language strongly reminiscent of conspiratorial antisemitism. The link becomes most obvious when Soros and Butler are mentioned, or when the term "Cultural Marxism," notorious for its antisemitic subtext, is employed (Jamin 2019; Busbridge et al. 2020). The discursive pattern linking gender to Jews in right-wing discourse is quite complex. ...
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... Diese ,moralistic violence' (Michalski 2019) behauptet Normverletzungen im Sinne der Verletzung von ,Reinheitsnormen', die in der Benachteiligung der Eigengruppe sowie der Nichtbeachtung angeblich naturgegebener Hierarchien und Superioritätsansprüche wirksam würden (Fischer 2014, S. 188;VandenBerg 2021). Das Narrativ von der Verteidigung der ,weißen Rasse' wird dabei ebenso als Legitimation aufgerufen wie die Beschwörung der Gefahren eines ,Kultur-Marxismus' (Busbridge et al. 2020). Die Bandbreite rechtsterroristischer Handlungsmodi und Organisationsstrukturen ist ebenso groß wie die potenziellen Zielgruppen entsprechend den nationalen Kontexten und historischen Konstellationen vielfältig. ...
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Zusammenfassung Der Beitrag entwickelt anhand zahlreicher Beispiele rechtsterroristischer Gewalt eine Systematisierung instrumenteller Zielsetzungen rechtsterroristischen Handelns. Dabei ruft er zunächst als zentrale weltanschauliche Referenz den völkischen Nationalismus auf, dem biopolitische Paradigmen inhärent sind, denen mittels rechtsterroristischer Gewalt Geltung verschafft werden soll. Dieses ist für eine Vielzahl rechtsterroristischer Gewalttaten zentral, denen es um die Aufrechterhaltung rassistischer, sexistischer und heteronormativer Gesellschaftsverhältnisse geht. Regelmäßig ist solche Gewalt auch als Botschaftsverbrechen zu verstehen, wobei ganz unterschiedliche Modi der Kommunikation beobachtbar sind. Rechtsterroristische Gewalt – sofern sie nicht parastaatlich verfasst ist – hat nicht die direkte Schwächung der Kampffähigkeit des Gegners zum Ziel, sondern zielt auf Bestrafung, Einschüchterung und Vertreibung ausgewählter sozialer Gruppen und Individuen sowie in manchen Fällen auf das strategische Moment der Zuspitzung gesellschaftlicher Konflikte, wie im abschließenden Teil des Beitrages an zahlreichen Beispielen gezeigt wird.
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Many have argued that certain statues or monuments are objectionable, and thus ought to be removed. Even if their arguments are compelling, a major obstacle is the apparent historical value of those commemorations. Preservation in some form seems to be the best way to respect the value of commemorations as connections to the past or opportunities to learn important historical lessons. Against this, I argue that we have exaggerated the historical value of objectionable commemorations. Sometimes commemorations connect to biased or distorted versions of history, if not mere myths. We can also learn historical lessons through what I call repudiatory honouring: the honouring of certain victims or resistors that can only make sense if the oppressor(s) or target(s) of resistance are deemed unjust, where no part of the original objectionable commemorations is preserved. This type of commemorative practice can even help to overcome some of the obstacles objectionable commemorations pose against properly connecting to the past.
What makes believers in COVID-19-related conspiratorial stories different from the usual conspiracy theorists? To date, evidence on conspiratorial beliefs about COVID-19 is scant and it focuses on only a few countries. Moreover, it overlooks political and ideological factors, which might well help in the endeavour of halting misperceptions about the pandemic and understanding their political consequences. This research note examines the role of these explanatory factors (placement on the left-right scale, authoritarianism, freedom, and support for the incumbent party) in relation to conspiracy theories in general and COVID-19-related conspiratorial beliefs in particular. To do so, it uses a new case study: Spain. Relying on a large online survey (N = 3760), we find that right-wing individuals are more prone to embrace COVID-19-specific than general conspiracies. We also find that people that value security over freedom are more prone to falling for pandemic misbeliefs. Those holding more general conspiratorial beliefs stand out for their defence of freedom above anything else, as well as for their rebellion against authority, including the ruling party. This suggests that the pandemic has roused a new sort of conspiratorial believer: a conservative niche that might become attractive to emerging far-right parties.
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This article analyzes the history, production, circulation, and political uses of the alt-right's discourse about cultural Marxism in the context of the right-wing populist Trump presidency, the rise of fascist movements in the United States and worldwide, and the politics of intersectional hate.
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This chapter presents selected findings from a large multi-method study on the narratives and networks of far-right movements in Victoria, Australia. Drawing on a systematic analysis of the textual content of 12 far-right groups’ Facebook pages, it presents a heuristic typology differentiating between three clusters of far-right groups: anti-Islam, cultural superiority and racial superiority groups. The chapter offers empirical evidence on how certain mobilisation themes, present to a varying degree across all far-right groups, shift over time. While there was a consistent decrease in the prevalence of anti-Islam messaging between 2015 and 2017, issues around crime and violence as well as gender and sexuality have gained prominence in anti-Islam and cultural superiority type groups. This is also attributed to the way in which many far-right groups strategically respond to new discursive opportunities, afforded to them by heightened public discourses, for example, on same-sex marriage or alleged ‘gang crimes’ in Victoria.
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The introduction gives a short overview of the various far-right groups and actions in Australia over the past decades, arguing that far-right movements have not been as visible in Australia as they have been in Europe and North America. The contemporary era, however, has witnessed a rising moral panic around the place of Islam in Australia, which has created a fertile environment for the emergence of new far-right groups. The resurgence of an emboldened far-right in Australia has been a development that has taken communities and policymakers by surprise. Australian scholarship was also ill-prepared, with research on the Australian far-right remaining conceptually and empirically underdeveloped. This introduction outlines how the individual chapters seek to address these academic knowledge gaps and contribute to making sense of the far-right in Australia.
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In Digital Methods, Richard Rogers proposes a methodological outlook for social and cultural scholarly research on the Web that seeks to move Internet research beyond the study of online culture. It is not a toolkit for Internet research, or operating instructions for a software package; it deals with broader questions. How can we study social media to learn something about society rather than about social media use? Rogers proposes repurposing Web-native techniques for research into cultural change and societal conditions. We can learn to reapply such “methods of the medium” as crawling and crowd sourcing, PageRank and similar algorithms, tag clouds and other visualizations; we can learn how they handle hits, likes, tags, date stamps, and other Web-native objects. By “thinking along” with devices and the objects they handle, digital research methods can follow the evolving methods of the medium. Rogers uses this new methodological outlook to examine such topics as the findings of inquiries into 9/11 search results, the recognition of climate change skeptics by climate-change-related Web sites, and the censorship of the Iranian Web. With Digital Methods, Rogers introduces a new vision and method for Internet research and at the same time applies them to the Web's objects of study, from tiny particles (hyperlinks) to large masses (social media).
Right-wing populist movements and related political parties are gaining ground in many EU member states. This unique, interdisciplinary book provides an overall picture of the dynamics and development of these parties across Europe and beyond. Combining theory with in-depth case studies, it offers a comparative analysis of the policies and rhetoric of existing and emerging parties including the British BNP, the Hungarian Jobbik and the Danish Folkeparti. The case studies qualitatively and quantitatively analyse right-wing populist groups in the following countries: Austria, Germany, Britain, France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Hungary, Belgium, Ukraine, Estonia, and Latvia, with one essay exclusively focused on the US. This timely and socially relevant collection is essential reading for scholars, students and practitioners wanting to understand the recent rise of populist right wing parties at local, countrywide and regional levels.
Pat Buchanan’s infamous speech to the 1992 Republican convention (Buchanan), has often been understood as a defining moment in the US culture wars (Hartman). The speech’s central claim that “there is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America” oriented around the idea that the US was a nation divided between two opposing values systems. On one side were Democrat defenders of “abortion on demand” and “homosexual rights” and on the other those who, like then Republican presidential candidate George Bush, stood by the “Judeo-Christian values and beliefs upon which this nation was built.”Buchanan’s speech helped popularise the idea that the US was riven by fundamental cultural divides, an idea that became a media staple but was hotly contested by scholars.The year before Buchanan’s speech, James Davison Hunter’s Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America advanced a “culture wars thesis” based in claims of a growing “political and social hostility rooted in different systems of moral understanding” (Hunter 42). Hunter cited increasing polarisation in debates on “abortion, child care, funding for the arts, affirmative action and quotas, gay rights, values in public education, or multiculturalism” (Hunter 42) and claimed that the defining religious divides in the US were no longer between religions but within them. In the intense scholarly debate that followed its publication, as Irene Taviss Thomson has summarised, little empirical evidence emerged of any real divide.Yet this lack of empirical evidence does not mean that talk of culture wars can be easily dismissed. The culture wars, as I have argued elsewhere (Davis), were and are a media product designed to sharpen social divides for electoral gain. No doubt because of the usefulness of this product, culture wars discourse remains a persistent feature of public debate across the west. The symbolic discourse that positions the culture wars and its supposedly intractable differences as real, I argue, deserves consideration in its own right.In what follows, I analyse the use of culture wars discourse in two defining documents. The first, Pat Buchanan’s 1992 “culture wars” speech, reputedly put the culture wars front and centre of US politics. The second, Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos’s 2016 article in Breitbart News, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right” (Bokhari and Yiannopoulos), sought to define its moment by affirming the arrival of a new political movement, the “alt-right”, as a force in US politics. With its homage to Buchanan and written in the belief that “politics is downstream from culture” the article sought to position the alt-right as an inheritor of Buchanan’s legacy and to mark a new defining moment in an ongoing culture war.This self-referential framing, I argue, belies deep differences between Buchanan’s rhetoric and that of Bokhari and Yiannopoulos. Buchanan’s defence of American values, while spectacularly adversarial, is at base democratic, whereas, despite its culturalist posturing, one project of “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right” is to reinstate biological notions of race and gender difference in the political agenda.Culture Wars ThenBuchanan’s speech came after decades of sniping. The emergence of the “counterculture” of the 1960s helped create a basis for the idea that US politics was defined by an irreducible clash of values (Thomson). Buchanan played a direct role in fostering such divides. As he famously wrote in a 1971 memo to then President Richard Nixon in which he suggested exploiting racial divides, if we “cut … the country in half, my view is that we would have far the larger half.” But the language of Buchanan’s 1992 speech, while incendiary, is nevertheless democratic in its emphasis on delineating rival political platforms. Much culture wars discourse focuses on the embodied politics of gender, sexuality and race. A principal target of Buchanan’s speech was abortion, which since the Roe versus Wade judgement of 1973 that legalised part-term abortion in the US has been a defining culture wars issue. At the “top” of Democrat candidate Bill Clinton’s agenda, Buchanan claimed, is “unrestricted abortion on demand.” Buchanan singled out Hillary Clinton for special attack:friends, this is radical feminism. The agenda Clinton & Clinton would impose on America–abortion on demand … homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat … is not the kind of change America wants.Buchanan then pledges to support George Bush, who had beaten him for the Republican nomination, and Bush’s stance “against the amoral idea that gay and lesbian couples should have the same standing in law as married men and women.” He also supports Bush on “right-to-life, and for voluntary prayer in the public schools.” Buchanan’s language here references essentialist ideas of morality and contrasts them against the supposed immorality of his opponents but is ultimately predicated in the democratic languages of law-making and rights and the adversarial language of electoral politics. Through these contrasts the speech builds to its famous centrepiece:my friends, this election is about much more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe. It is about what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.Buchanan, here, sharpens and maps the contrasts he has been working with onto differences in identity. Politics, here, is not about the distribution of resources but is about identity, values and a commensurate difference in belief systems. On one side are righteous Americans, on the other a culture of immorality that threatens the proper religious basis of the nation. Notably, the speech makes no direct mention of race. It instead uses code. Evoking the LA riots that took place earlier that year, Buchanan sides with the troopers who broke up the riots.they walked up a dark street, where the mob had looted and burned every building but one, a convalescent home for the aged. The mob was heading in, to ransack and loot the apartments of the terrified old men and women. When the troopers arrived, M-16s at the ready, the mob threatened and cursed, but the mob retreated. It had met the one thing that could stop it: force, rooted in justice, backed by courage … and as they took back the streets of LA, block by block, so we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country. God bless you, and God bless America.Unsaid here is that the “mob” were black and reacting against the injustice of the beating of a black man, Rodney King, by police. The implication is that to “take back our culture … take back our country” is to vanquish the restive black enemy within. By using code Buchanan is able to avoid possible charges of racism, positioning the rioters not as racially different but as culturally different; their deficit is not genetic but patriotic.Culture Wars NowSince the 1990s culture wars discourse has become entrenched as a media staple. Supposedly intractable values divides between “conservatives” and “liberals” play out incessantly across a conservative media sphere that spans outlets (Fox News), platforms (Breitbart News), broadcasters (Rush Limbaugh), and commentators such as Ann Coulter, in debate over issues ranging from gun control, LGBTQI rights, American history and sex education and prayer in schools. This discourse, crystalised in divisive terms such as “cultural Marxist,” “social justice warrior” and “snowflake”, is increasingly generated by online bulletin boards such as the 4chan/pol/(politically incorrect) and /b/-Random boards, which function as a crucible for trolling and meme-making (Phillips) that routinely targets minorities, women and especially feminists. As Angela Nagle has said (24), Gamergate, the 2014 episode in which female game reviewers and designers critical of sexism in the gaming industry were targeted with organised trolling, played a pivotal role in “uniting different online groups and spreading the tactics of chan culture to the broad online right.” Other conduits for extremist discourse to the mainstream include sites such as the white supremacist Daily Stormer, alt-right sites, and “men’s rights” sites such as Return of Kings. The self-described aim of this discourse, as the white nationalist Jared Swift has said, has been to move the “Overton window” of what constitutes acceptable public discourse far to the right (in Daniels).The emergence of this diverse conservative media sphere provided opportunities for new celebrities willing to parse older forms of culture wars discourse with new forms of online extremism and to announce themselves as ringmasters of whatever circus might result. One such person is Milo Yiannopoulos. Quick to read the opportunities in Gamergate, he announced himself a sudden convert to the gaming cause (which he had previously dismissed) and helped turn the controversy into a rallying point for a nascent alt-right (Yiannopoulos). In 2014 Yiannopoulos was recruited by Breitbart News as a senior editor. Breitbart’s founder, Andrew Breitbart, is perhaps most famous for his dictum that “politics is downstream from culture”, an apt motto for a culture war.In 2016 Yiannopoulos, working with Bokhari, another Breitbart staffer, published, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right”, which, written with Andrew Breitbart’s dictum in mind, sought to announce the radicalism of a new antiestablishment conservative political force and yet to make it palatable for a mainstream audience. The article claims the “paleoconservative movement that rallied around the presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan” as one of the origins of the alt-right. Donald Trump is praised as “perhaps the first truly cultural candidate for President since Buchanan.” The rest, they argue, is little more than harmless online mischief. The alt-right, they claim, is a fun-loving “movement born out of the youthful, subversive, underground edges of the internet,” made up of people who are “dangerously bright.” Similarly, the “manosphere” of “men’s rights” sites, infamous for misogyny, are praised as “one of the alt-right’s most distinctive constituencies” and positioned as harmless alongside an endorsement of masculinist author Jack Donovan’s “wistful” laments for “the loss of manliness that accompanies modern, globalized societies.” Mass trolling and the harassment of opponents by “the alt-right’s meme team” is characterised as “undeniably hysterical” and justifiable in pursuit of lulz.The sexism and racism found on bulletin boards such as 4 chan, for Bokhari and Yiannopoulos, is no less harmless. Young people, they claim, are drawn to the alt right not because of ideology but because “it seems fresh, daring and funny” contrasted against the “authoritarian instincts of the progressive left. With no personal memories or experience of racism, they “have trouble believing it’s actually real … they don’t believe that the memes they post on/pol/ are actually racist. In fact, they know they’re not—they do it because it gets a reaction.”For all these efforts to style the alt-right as mere carnivalesque paleoconservatism, though, there is a fundamental difference between Buchanan’s speech and “An Establishment Conservative’s guide to the Alt-Right.” Certainly, Bokhari and Yiannopoulos hit the same culture wars touchstones as Buchanan: race, sexuality and gender issues. But whereas Buchanan’s speech instances the “new racism” (Ansell) in its use of code to avoid charges of biological racism, Yiannopoulos and Bokhari are more direct. The article presents as an exemplary instance of how to fight a culture war but epitomises a new turn in the culture wars from culture to biologism. The alt-right is positioned as unashamedly Eurocentric and having little to do with racism. Yiannopoulos and Bokhari also seek to distance the alt-right from the “Stormfront set” and “1488ers” (“1488” is code for neo-Nazi). Yet even as they do so, they embrace “human biodiversity” ideology (biological racism), ethnic separatism and the building of walls to keep different racial groups apart. “An Establishment Conservative’s guide to the alt-right” was written in secret consultation with leading white supremacist figures (Bernstein) and namechecks the openly white supremacist Richard Spencer who is given credit for helping found “the media empire of the modern-day alternative right.”Spencer has argued that “Race is something between a breed and an actual species” and a process of “peaceful ethnic cleansing” should take place by which non-white Americans leave (Nagle 59). He is an admirer of the Italian ‘superfascist’ and notorious racist Julius Evola, who Yiannopoulos and Bokhari also namecheck. They also excuse race hate sites such as VDARE and American Renaissance as home to “an eclectic mix of renegades who objected to the established political consensus in some form or another.” It is mere happenstance, according to Yiannopoulos and Bokhari, that the “natural conservatives” drawn to the alt-right are “mostly white, mostly male middle-American radicals, who are unapologetically embracing a new identity politics that prioritises the interests of their own demographic.” Yet as they also say,while eschewing bigotry on a personal level, the movement is frightened by the prospect of demographic displacement represented by immigration. Border walls are a much safer option. The alt-right’s intellectuals would also argue that culture is inseparable from race. The alt-right believe that some degree of separation between peoples is necessary for a culture to be preserved.“Demographic displacement” here is code for “white genocide” a meme assiduously promoted over many years by the US white supremacist Bob Whitaker, now deceased, who believed that immigration, interracial marriage, and multiculturalism dilute white influence and will drive the white population to extinction (Daniels). The idea that “culture is inseparable from race” and that “some degree of separation between peoples is necessary for a culture to be preserved” echo white supremacist calls for a white “ethno-state.”“An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right” also namechecks so-called “neoreactionaries” such as Nick Land and Curtis Yarvin, who according to Yiannopoulos and Bokhari regard egalitarianism as an affront to “every piece of research on hereditary intelligence” and see liberalism, democracy and egalitarianism as having “no better a historical track record than monarchy.” Land and Yarvin, according to Yiannopoulos and Bokhari, offer a welcome vision of the conservative future:asking people to see each other as human beings rather than members of a demographic in-group, meanwhile, ignored every piece of research on tribal psychology … these were the first shoots of a new conservative ideology—one that many were waiting for.Culture Wars FuturesAs the culture wars have turned biological so they have become entrenched ever more firmly in mainstream politics. The “new conservative ideology” Yiannopoulos and Bokhari mention reeks of much older forms of conservative ideology currently being taken up in the US and elsewhere, based in naturalised gender hierarchies and racialised difference. This return to the past is fast becoming institutionalised. One of the stakes in the bitter 2018 dispute over the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court was the prospect that Kavanaugh’s vote will create a conservative majority in the court that will enable the revisiting of a talismanic moment in the culture wars by overturning the Roe versus Wade judgement. Alt-right calls for a white ethno-state find an analogue in political attacks on asylum seekers, the reinforcement of racialised differential citizenship regimes around the globe, the building of walls to keep out criminalised Others, and anti-Islamic immigration measures. The mainstreaming of hate can be seen in the willingness of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate and as president to retweet the white supremacist tweets of @WhiteGenocideTM, his hesitation to repudiate a campaign endorsement by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, his retweeting of bogus black crime statistics, his accusations that illegal Mexican immigrants are criminals, drug dealers and rapists, and his anti-Islamic immigration stance. It can be seen, too, in the recent electoral successes of white nationalist parties across Europe.For all their embrace of Eurocentrism and “the preservation of western culture” the alt-right revisiting of issues of race and gender in terms that seek to reinstate biological hierarchy undermines the Enlightenment ethics of equality and universalism that underpin western human rights conventions and democratic processes. The “Overton window” of acceptable public debate has moved far to the right and long taboo forms of race and gender-based hate have returned to the public agenda. Buchanan’s 1992 Republican convention speech, by contrast, for all its incendiary rhetoric, toxic homophobia, sneering anti-feminism, and coded racism, somehow manages to look like a relic from a kinder, gentler age.ReferencesAnsell, Amy Elizabeth. New Right, New Racism: Race and Reaction in the United States and Britain. Palgrave Macmillan, 1997.Bernstein, Joseph. “Here’s How Breitbart and Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas into the Mainstream.” BuzzFeed News, 10 May 2017. 4 Dec. 2018 <>.Bokhari, Allum, and Milo Yiannopoulos. “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right.” Breitbart, 29 Mar. 2016. 4 Dec. 2018 <>.Buchanan, Pat. “1992 Republican National Convention Speech.” Patrick J. Buchanan - Official Website, 17 Aug. 1992. 4 Dec. 2018 <>.Daniels, Jessie. “Twitter and White Supremacy, A Love Story.” Dame Magazine, 19 Oct. 2017. 4 Dec. 2018 <>.Davis, Mark. “Neoliberalism, the Culture Wars and Public Policy.” Australian Public Policy: Progressive Ideas in the Neoliberal Ascendency. Eds. Chris Miller and Lionel Orchard. Policy Press, 2014. 27–42.Hartman, Andrew. A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars. University of Chicago Press, 2015.Hunter, James Davison. Culture Wars: The Struggle to Control the Family, Art, Education, Law, and Politics in America. Basic Books, 1991.Nagle, Angela. Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right. Zero Books, 2017.Phillips, Whitney. This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture. MIT Press, 2015.Thomson, Irene Taviss. Culture Wars and Enduring American Dilemmas. University of Michigan Press, 2010.Yiannopoulos, Milo. “Feminist Bullies Tearing the Video Game Industry Apart.” Breitbart, 1 Sep. 2014. 4 Dec. 2018 <>.
This book is the first to elaborate on radical and extreme right movements in contemporary Australia. It brings together leading scholars to present cutting edge research on various facets and manifestations of Australia’s diverse far-right, which has gained unprecedented public presence and visibility since the mid-2010s. The thematic breadth of the chapters in this volume reflects the complexity of the far-right in Australia, ranging from the attitudes of far-right populist party voters and the role of far-right groups in anti-mosque protests, to online messaging and rhetoric of radical and extreme right-wing movements. The contributions are theoretically grounded and come from a range of disciplines, including media and cultural studies, sociology, politics, and urban studies, exploring issue of far-right activism on the micro and macro level, with both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Mario Peucker (PhD) is a research fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities at Victoria University (Melbourne). He has undertaken multi-method research and published extensively in the areas of far-right extremism, Muslim community activism and active citizenship since 2003, both in Europe and Australia. Debra Smith (PhD) is a Senior Industry Research Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities at Victoria University. Her research focuses on questions of violent political extremism, social conflict and social change, with a particular interest in the role of emotion within violent extremism beliefs and action.
Trump, the Alt-Right and Public Pedagogies of Hate and for Fascism: What Is To Be Done? uses public pedagogy as a theoretical lens through which to view discourses of hate and for fascism in the era of Trump and to promote an anti-fascist and pro-socialist public pedagogy. It makes the case for re-igniting a rhetoric that goes beyond the undermining of neoliberal capitalism and the promotion of social justice, and re-aligns the left against fascism and for a socialism of the twenty-first century. Beginning with an examination of the history of traditional fascism in the twentieth century, the book looks at the similarities and differences between the Trump regime and traditional Western post-war fascism. Cole goes on to consider the alt-right movement, the reasons for its rise, and the significance of the internet being harnessed as a tool with which to promote a fascistic public pedagogy. Finally, the book examines the resistance against these discourses and addresses the question of: what is to be done? This topical book will be of great interest to scholars, to postgraduate students and to researchers, as well as to advanced undergraduate students in the fields of education studies, pedagogy, and sociology, as well as readers in general who are are interested in the phenomenon of Trumpism.
Zia-Ebrahimi’s objective in this article is two-fold. First, to argue that antisemitism and Islamophobia display similar dynamics in representing their target population as a separate and antagonistic race (a process referred to as ‘racialization’). Second, to suggest that conspiracy theories of the ‘world Jewish domination’ type or their Islamophobic equivalent ‘Islamization of Europe’ type are powerful enablers of racialization, something that the race literature has so far neglected. In pursuing these two interrelated objectives, he offers a textual comparison of two conspiracy theories featuring Jews and Muslims. The first is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (1903), the notorious forgery claiming to be the minutes of a meeting of Jewish leaders planning to take over Europe and the world. This text is largely considered to be at the very heart of modern-day antisemitism and an essential ingredient of the ideational context of the Holocaust. The second is Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis (2005), a pamphlet by polemicist Bat Ye’or claiming to have uncovered another ominous conspiracy, that of Muslims plotting to turn Europe into Eurabia, a dystopic land in which jihad and sharia rule, and non-Muslims live in a state of subjection. Zia-Ebrahimi argues that, despite some differences in format, the two texts display strikingly similar discursive dynamics in their attempt to racialize Jews and Muslims as the ultimate Other determined to destroy Us. This process is referred to as ‘conspiratorial racialization’.