• The Danger from the Extreme Right

    Like other readers, no doubt, I recently experienced a “believe it or not” moment, when I read an account of a crowd at a recent Trump rally cheering the news that the US Women’s Football Team had been beaten at the Olympic Games.

    The reason for the cheering was, apparently, that, as Trump explained, the team could be castigated as “woke” -. a widely used term of abuse that was justified, it seems, because the team had “taken a knee” in a protest against racism and had, on an earlier occasion, declined an invitation to join Trump at the White House to celebrate an earlier triumph.

    When I considered the bizarre nature of this demonstration of political prejudice, I couldn’t help but link it to other reports – in particular, of the violent (and irrational) protest in Sydney against the lockdown response to a Covid outbreak, and the constant disinformation in social media about vaccination. It occurred to me that, wherever one looked across the globe, it was the extreme right that was taking to the streets (and the social media) in order to spread their irrational prejudices.

    Those prejudices can be identified as those of the extreme right, because they share a common hostility to the concept of government and an anti-democratic belief that government is really a conspiracy against the people, a readiness to believe bizarre conspiracy theories (like Q Anon), their dismissal of and lack of respect for others who are different in matters of ethnicity or sexual orientation or disability, and their elevation of individual freedom (for some at any rate) as representing the greatest good.

    Even more worrying is their increasing readiness to use violence against those whom they regard as “woke” or as embracing “political correctness” or “cancel culture” – all terms of abuse directed against attitudes that – for most people – are no more than a reflection of respect and concern for the rights of others.

    It occurred to me that, after decades of what was called the “Cold War”, when the major threat to the values of western civilisation was seen as coming from the “left”, as represented by the Communist ideology, we are now seeing a sea change. It is now surely undeniable that it is the extreme right that now poses the major threat to our way of life. If we want to avoid further and increasingly serious threats, we must call out those who peddle irrational views as to what is or is not in the public interest; we cannot afford to soft-pedal on, or seek an accommodation with, those who represent such an overt denial of our traditional values and virtues.

    Those who control our national media have a special responsibility; their natural tendency is to promote right-wing views, but they must not let that stray into the endorsement of anti-democratic and anti-social views and actions. We deserve – and need – more from them than that.

    Bryan Gould
    28 July 2021