Cultural Marxism – the delusional conspiracy theory motivating the Alt-Right

While wading through the feverish swamps and fetid cesspits of the internet, you most likely will come across the contemptuous and accusatory snarling phrase ‘cultural marxism’. This term, in the view of the conservative Right, constitutes a conspiratorial endeavour by multiple non-white and non-Christian forces to sabotage and ultimately overthrow white, Western Christian civilisation. There of course numerous iterations of this view, but that is the central component.

Is there any truth to this? No. So why propagate this myth? Because it serves as a scaffolding to unite the disparate and fractious groups of the conservative Right around a single philosophical worldview.

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian ultra-right terrorist, rationalised his actions by claiming that his murderous rampage in 2011 was a defensive strike against cultural Marxism. Mark Latham, former leader of the Australian Labour Party and current advocate for the racist One Nation group, promoted the viral toxic falsity of cultural Marxism to attack multiculturalism and immigration.

As Jason Wilson of The Guardian explained, it provides a unifying theory for the conservative Right to wrap themselves in the mantle of victimhood. Wilson states that:

What do the Australian’s columnist Nick Cater, video game hate group #Gamergate, Norwegian mass shooter Anders Breivik and random blokes on YouTube have in common? Apart from anything else, they have all invoked the spectre of “cultural Marxism” to account for things they disapprove of – things like Islamic immigrant communities, feminism and, er, opposition leader Bill Shorten.

The main themes of the ‘cultural Marxism’ conspiracy theory go back decades, and they have emerged from the phantasmagoric world of the Alternative Right thanks to inordinate publicity given by mainstream ‘respectable’ conservative politicians. While conspiracy theories are rife in the septic-tanks of the Alternative Right, they become weaponised as political platforms when advocated, with numerous mutations, by the conservative Right. The latter, informed by religious fundamentalist and fascistic inputs, becomes a platform for conspiratorial perspectives that toxify the wider society. This mix has dangerous consequences.

So what in the hell is this mysterious and all-consuming conspiracy theory? Let’s attempt a working summation of this large subject.

A working definition

So what is meant by the phrase ‘cultural Marxism?’ For all its various permutations, the basic core of this contemptuous snarl word remains as follows: there exists a basic and unscrupulous alliance between feminism, socialism, mass immigration, multiculturalism, indigenous nations, Islam, identity politics, the LGBTQIA community – essentially, anyone despised by the Alt-Right, to undermine the character of white, Christian nations by moving the arena of struggle from class to culture. A series of culture wars, it is alleged, is the new tactic of the cultural Marxists, surreptitiously working their way through the educational and cultural institutions to take over the capitalist nations.

The notion that the universities are overwhelmingly staffed by Marxists indoctrinating students in the tenets of Marxism is ludicrous. If the universities intended to churn out graduates ideologically committed to the goals of Marxism, then they have failed ignominiously. Capitalism has remained resilient throughout the decades since the dissolution of the Soviet bloc. With that last point, we come to the main reason why the zany theory of ‘cultural Marxism’ has gained traction.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990-91, the radical and conservative Right needed a new enemy on which to fixate. Throughout the decades of the Cold War, the Communist system as embodied in the USSR provided a target on which the Right could focus their obsessive rage. With the removal of that target, they required a new rationale – and one was provided. William Lind and Pat Buchanan, outspoken advocates for the radical Right, formulated an updated version of the old conspiracy theory – ‘cultural Marxism’ was infiltrating and subverting capitalist society.

Class struggle was no longer – supposedly – the prime area of Marxian subversion. Culture became the new stomping ground for the pesky Marxists. Any expression of the multiethnic and sexual diversity of the society could now be attacked as manifestations of the underlying agenda of ‘cultural Marxism’. 

Anti-Semitism repackaged and updated

From its inception as a coherent philosophy, Marxism – or more correctly, scientific socialism – has provided a criticism of the cultural domination of capitalism. This is nothing new. The detractors of Marxism, from the beginning, attacked this cultural critique as a product of the allegedly Jewish origins of scientific socialism. An outsized role was ascribed to the fact that the German labour movement contained, among its adherents and leaders, workers of Jewish background.

The notion that Jews form a distinctive conspiratorial formation is at the heart of numerous conspiracy theories – and formed the basis for the earliest attacks against the doctrines of Marxism. This core anti-semitism has been resuscitated by the modern ‘cultural Marxism’ conspiracy theory.

Mikhail Bakunin, the anarchist leader, attacked Marxism on the grounds that ostensible Jewish ethnocentrism prevented the Jewish people from fully participating in a project of cross-cultural and multiethnic worker emancipation. This portrayal of Jews involved in a secret cabal to overthrow the existing order and implement their plans of domination did not start with Bakunin, but has formed a central component of many critiques of Marxism from the ultra-right.

From the 1920s, the Nazi movement – exemplars for today’s Alternative Right – propagated the myth of ‘Judeo-Bolshevism‘, an alleged secretive grouping of Jews – this time in Bolshevik form – operating to overthrow capitalist society from within. Working mainly within the realm of culture, this plot involved spreading doctrines intended to dilute the white Christian nature of Western societies.

At its core, today’s cultural Marxism conspiracy theory contains an updated, recycled and modernised version of the old anti-Semitic Jewish cabal trope. This is where we need to examine the so-called Frankfurt school, and the entirely deceitful portrayal of this branch of academia by the modern white supremacist Right. We need to understand the role that this deception plays when elaborating why the cultural Marxism conspiracy theory is so toxic.

The Frankfurt school and cultural studies

The Frankfurt school – more correctly known as the Institute for Social Research – was a grouping of German Jewish intellectuals who studied the influence and application of culture. They fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, and continued their work in the United States. These thinkers, coming from different intellectual traditions, tried to understand why the wider European proletariat did not rise up in revolutionary fervour in the 1920s. The role of culture was highlighted as a barrier to the consciousness of the working class.

The Frankfurt school’s major theoreticians also included examinations of gender roles, patriarchy, and they drew upon the work of Sigmund Freud. A number of these scholars became neo-Freudians, elaborating and revising some of Freud’s basic ideas. This work became the springboard for further examinations of the instruments of cultural domination. The Alt-Right has taken this school, and in particular its German Jewish scholars, as the incubator of a vast anti-Western conspiracy.

Let us presume that the German-Jewish intellectuals of Frankfurt school intended on subverting capitalist civilisation through the propagation of Marxist and feminist doctrines. What was the fate of the collective of philosophers and theorists of the Frankfurt school? If they ever did intend to undermine and overthrow Western civilisation, then we have to conclude that they failed miserably.

Rather than serving as a hotbed of leftist agitation, the Frankfurt school’s thinkers merged into the very institutions they were allegedly attempting to subvert. Only one, Herbert Marcuse, remained a Marxist for the entirety of his life. The others all sank into neo-Freudianism – others, like Theodor Adorno, were openly hostile to the 1960s counter-culture and protest movements.

Indeed, the Frankfurt school was the progenitor of postmodernism, the latter the ultimate repudiation of any kind of transformative political project. Postmodernism rejects all kinds of grand, totalising narratives – hardly the basis for a monolithic, surreptitious conspiracy aimed at taking over society.

Cultural diversity and conspiracy

All Marxist intellectuals have, at one point in their lives, examined the capitalist mechanisms of cultural domination in Western society. Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist, famously wrote books while imprisoned on this very subject. Is there a fightback by the disenfranchised and impoverished against the dominant capitalist culture of consumerism? Yes. Expressions of cultural and gender diversity reflect the multiple identities of people in the working class. Is there a secretive cabal of Jewish cultural Marxists intent on toppling Western civilisation? No, there is not.

Professor Samuel Moyn from Yale University wrote that the Alt-Right, and their mainstream enablers, advocate a conspiratorial worldview because it homogenises and combines various groups of people into a shadowy, secretive network to thwart ‘normal’ white, Christian society. The conspiratorial framework is quite flexible, and can be adapted to include any number of groups the Alt-Right loves to hate. Feelings of white resentment can be effectively channeled into attacking minority groups and scapegoats, rather than focusing on the capitalist system that has undermined the living standards of everyone.

The St Kilda neo-Nazi rally, the swamp of the ultra-right and the Ukip-ization of Australian politics

In the course of 2018, a number of hate preachers had uninterrupted access to the Australian media outlets, and were able to spread their messages of hate and intolerance far and wide. These preachers were able to disseminate their vitriol because of the active complicity of sections of the Australian political and media establishment.

Oh, and by the way, none of the hate preachers in question were Muslim – they were white. While in this day and age, the term ‘hate preacher’ is normally associated with Islamic clerics, that description can equally be applied to the more effective – and better publicised – hate preachers who were business suits. Do not focus exclusively on religious garments to identify those whose message is one of racial and ethnic hatred.

In St Kilda, a south-eastern suburb of metropolitan Melbourne, a neo-Nazi rally was held by about 150 ultra-rightists and racists. The gathering was met with anti-racist protestors, and the original goal of the neo-fascists – to incite racial violence – was defeated. While it is tempting to simply ignore developments like this, it is important to elaborate the political significance of such gatherings.

The rally was attended by racist Senator Fraser Anning, who has gone on record advocating a return to a ‘White Australia’ policy. In his first speech to the federal parliament, Anning condemned multiculturalism, denounced the Muslim community, and called for a reintroduction of a white-only immigration system in Australia. Anning, one of a number of ultra-rightist and racist politicians, has been condemned by the Australian political establishment.

The current stand-in for the position of Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, issued a statement about the neo-Nazi rally, condemning the ‘ugly racial protests’. Note that the PM did not explicitly denounce the fascist gathering, but – like US President Trump in the wake of the Charlottesville race riot – condemned both sides as equivalents. This incident serves to highlight the role of the mainstream Australian political parties in aiding and abetting the political circumstances that gave rise to neo-fascist groupings, like the ones at St Kilda.

This perverse equation of racist militants with anti-racist protestors is a sign of the times in Australian politics. The demonization of refugees and asylum seekers, the constant attacks on immigration as a security issue, and the promotion of xenophobia by the corporate media have fan the flames of the ultra-rightist and racist groups. While the neo-Nazi groups may be small in number and remain on the fringe, it is the complicity of the mainstream that needs to be examined.

The St Kilda rally, and the presence of a united front of disparate ultra-rightist groupings, is an inevitable consequence of the Ukip-ization of Australian politics. The latter is not my invention, but a concept originated by British sociologist and blogger, Richard Seymour. Ukip is a specifically British creation that originated in the bowels of the Tory financial elite, and has pushed British politics in a xenophobic and ultra-rightist direction. We can see similar trends here in Australian politics. Stoking paranoia about Muslim immigrants as ‘potential terrorists’ and whipping up social anxieties about refugees is not unique to Ukip, but a characteristic of the major political parties in Australia as well.

Hate preachers

At the beginning of this article, we spoke about the presence of hate preachers in Australia in the course of 2018. One particular example of this variety of species is Nigel Farage, founder and former leader of Ukip. He came to Australia and conducted a speaking tour in September last year. His trip was sponsored by sympathetic Australian businesspeople, and Farage was given respectful coverage in the Australian media.

He travelled to a number of Australian capital cities, where he was able to recycle his message of vitriolic hate. It is true that he was met by enthusiastic counter-protesters, the latter actually confronting the politics that Farage promoted – a job that the media failed to do.

The most appalling aspect of his speeches, apart from his racism, was his attempt to position himself as a defender of working people. Ukip, in a similar way to far right parties across Europe, adopt a leftist mask to disguise their pro-business and neoliberal politics. Farage, in finding a supportive audience in Australia, seeks to direct public anger about the inequalities and injustices of capitalism onto the most vulnerable – immigrant communities, welfare recipients and refugees.

The far right has a long history of cynically appropriating leftist-sounding phrases – even talking about ‘revolution’ to disguise its nature as a revolt of the oligarch. Farage himself is a former investment banker and multi-billionaire, who presents himself as a ‘rebel’ against the mythical ‘politically correct’ cosmopolitan establishment.

Another hate preacher who was able to gain a sympathetic audience in Australia was Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief of staff, campaign adviser and alt-right ‘theoretician’. Interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Bannon was basically given a free pass, and the interview failed to confront his racism. Bannon went to great lengths to deny that he is a racist, or that his political platform contains any hint of racism. That is quite interesting, because in 2018, at an international conference of ultra-rightist parties, Bannon proudly declared that he wears the label racist as a badge of honour.

Bannon is nothing if not a clever and cynical media operator. His main target, in his interview, was China, and its supposed rising influence in Australia. Tapping into the long and dark history of anti-Asian sentiment in Australia, Bannon repeatedly stressed that Australia was the ‘tip of the spear’ in America’s drive against China. While stopping short of urging a direct military confrontation, Bannon nevertheless took a belligerent stand against China, drawing on recent hysteria about a purported Chinese military presence in Vanuatu. Never matter the hundreds of American military bases sprawling across the Asia-Pacific.

The American ruling class has been ramping up the militaristic rhetoric against China in recent years, because of the latter’s growing economic and technological clout. China has opened up to foreign capital and investment, and has participated in international economic relations with numerous countries. Chinese ‘market socialism’ has caused intense trepidation in Washington, not because it presents a military threat, but because China can mount a serious challenge to American economic interests. Bannon sought to include Australia in America’s new Cold War – against China.

There is no shortage of hate preachers in Australia – Andrew Bolt, a columnist for the Herald Sun and syndicated radio show host, regularly spouts his hatred for migrants in his columns. Whipping up fears about mythical ‘African crime gangs’ in 2018, he went on record to denounce immigration as a form of colonisation. In this endeavour, he was reflecting the thinking of major figures in the ultra-conservative Liberal government, such as Peter Dutton, the current Home Affairs minister. The media’s racialized reporting about crime has consequences for the South Sudanese, and other African communities in Australia.

The ultra-rightist swamp

Jason Wilson, writing in The Guardian newspaper, states that we must call out a fascist movement, even though it is still small and disparate. These groups may be fractured today, but with a uniting set of theories centered on racial resentment and anti-multiculturalism, these groups can combine. Aided and abetted by political and media figures who regurgitate hysteria about immigration and trash refugees, these groupings can gain a wider audience. Ignoring them would be the height of folly. As John Passant stated in his article regarding this issue:

Ordinary workers and others have to unite around the common goal of stopping fascism from spreading and getting a bigger audience before it is too late — too late for Jews, Africans, Muslims, women and the organised working class. Unite now.

Exactly.

It is time to stop the anti-Russia hysteria – Russophobia, birther conspiracy theories and opposition to Trump

Do you wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in a cold sweat? Does your television turn on and off for no apparent reason? Does your pet dog begin howling like a coyote at midnight? There is one overall explanation to account for all of these terrifying events – the Russians are responsible.

The Russians did it!

2018 is drawing to a close, but Russophobia has escalated, more paranoid and ridiculous than ever before. Your car won’t start? The Russians sabotaged it. You have an upset stomach? The Russians poisoned your meal. Your favourite football team lost the game? The Russians fixed the match.

While the tone of the above is facetious, there is nothing even remotely amusing about the current round of anti-Russia hysteria. The accusation of Russian interference has become the default explanation for any and every kind of problem in the US and Britain. This Russophobic mode of thinking disables our critical thinking faculties, blinds us to the myriad causes of social and economic problems in our own society, and serves the definite political purposes of the US and English ruling classes. The Russophobic mindset takes a paranoid, downward spiral, seeing malignant Russian/Soviet influence here, there and everywhere.

The portrayal of Russia as some sort of Machiavellian monster-superpower pervading every aspect of American life is preposterous, but it does fulfill political functions. Originating in the ruling circles of Washington and London, this anti-Russia paranoia has eerie similarities to the anti-Communist McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s and 60s.

Specifically, opposition to Trump, built up by the Democratic party and their supporters in the US military-intelligence community, is based on the absurd accusation that Trump is a Kremlin stooge, or at least owes his election victory in 2016 to Russian meddling.

This line of opposition ignores the very real reasons to oppose the racist Right – anti-immigration attacks, privatisation of public services, pushing down workers – and misdirects political opposition along “Trump is a foreign stooge” lines. Foreign powers are assigned responsibility for America’s problems, and the American capitalist system goes unexamined. We must fight back not only against Trump and his racist supporters, but against the economic system that produced him and made his ascent possible.

What is the purpose of this vocational demonisation of Russia, and in particular its president, Vladimir Putin? We can start examining this question by recalling the wise words of emeritus Professor Stephen Cohen, a scholar and expert commentator on Soviet and Russian history and politics – the Cold War ended in Moscow, but not in Washington.

With that concise and accurate observation, we can begin to understand that Cold War thinking still dominates policymakers in Washington and London as well. Russia under President Putin has reasserted itself, and this pushback has set off alarm bells in Washington’s ruling circles. Not only has President Putin avoided the attempts by the Western powers to isolate Russia, he stopped the Jamaicanisation of the Russian economy, restoring its fundamentals and asserting Russian capitalism on the international stage. This hardly makes Russia an enormous superpower, or a mythical resurrection of the Soviet Union, but a serious competitor to the other capitalist nations.

Birtherism and Russophobia

Birtherism – the racist conspiracy theories about former President Obama’s citizenship and birth – alleged that he was a secret Muslim, and a puppet of a foreign power. Denounced as disloyal and a traitor, the ludicrous assertion that Obama was controlled by a foreign state was used by Trump and the racist right to divert opposition to Obama’s policies. No mention was made of Obama’s escalation of drone strikes, letting Wall Street banks and financial institutions off the hook for their criminality, or continuing privatisation of public assets.

The anti-Russia hysteria is a xenophobic realignment of the birtherism paranoia. The “Trump is a Kremlin stooge” allegation may not be openly racist, but it is equally xenophobic as the birtherism attacks against Obama. Attacking and smearing opponents, particularly left-wing alternatives, to the Democratic party in the US as stooges of Communist/Soviet/Russian influence has a long and sordid history.

Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and other opposition candidates have faced scurrilous accusations of Russian influence. Interestingly, it was the Republican party, during its failed 1992 campaign for the presidency, that accused the eventual winner, Bill Clinton, of being ‘soft’ on Russia.

Russophobia is back in fashion in Washington, and in Canberra for that matter. There are a whole host of reasons to oppose Trump. Being an agent of a foreign power is not one of them. It is easy to blame outsiders for your own domestic problems. While Russia is no longer a Communist country, its allegedly perfidious activities are normally ascribed to underlying Communist-Marxist influence in the Kremlin. After all, Putin himself is an ex-KGB agent, is he not? Those pesky Commies still manage to come back.

Putin and George H W Bush

It is interesting to note that Putin’s background as a KGB operative is frequently cited to denote Russia’s supposedly authoritarian character since he took office in 1999-2000. However, the late George Bush’s background as head of the CIA made little if any impact on the American system of government.

Even though Bush, in the 1980s, was responsible for constructing a shadowy criminal-business network outside the scrutiny of the US congress in carrying out the Iran-Contra affair. Bush became a traitor to the very constitution he swore to uphold, circumventing it and its laws to continue supplying the murderous Nicaraguan contras.

All forms of dissent in the United States, from Black Lives Matter to Wikileaks, are routinely smeared in the corporate media as Russian stooges or agents influenced by the Kremlin. The sinister effectiveness of this tactic is quite astounding- dismissing your opponents as foreign agents actively discourages any discussion about the serious and legitimate reasons for political dissent. Rather than have a substantive discussion about the ongoing problems of racism, state surveillance, the crimes of US foreign policy and corporate corruption, these issues are swept under the carpet under a tide of false and malicious accusations of Russian influence.

Opposition to Trump and the Alternative Right becomes constrained; rather than discuss the criminal and predatory policies of the Trump administration, the politically dissenting groups have to answer deceitful questions about their alleged lack of patriotism and foreign influence.

Russia’s reorientation and resurgence

In the last few weeks, Russia has delivered to the Venezuelan government two long-range strategic bomber aircraft, capable of carrying short-range nuclear warheads. Moscow also pledged to establish joint defence training and military strategies with the Venezuelan authorities.

These measures, along with the Russian government’s decision to block the Kerch strait separating Russia from the Crimean peninsula and seize three Ukrainian naval warships, touched off a war of words between Moscow and Washington. But these moves also demonstrate the major reason Washington and London harbour bitter resentment towards Moscow and Putin in particular. Putin has been outmanoeuvring the US and Britain for decades.

Russia has recuperated from the disastrous consequences of the USSR’s dissolution in 1991. In what was the worst peacetime collapse of industry and social services, millions lost their lives through destitution, the rise of unemployment and crime, and the subsequent loss of medical services. The change from a centrally-planned socialist economy to a privatised, oligarchic ‘free market’ produced the mass pauperisation of the population, massive inequalities, child malnutrition and homelessness. Health and social policy experts have calculated that in the 1990s, millions died as a result of the reestablishment of capitalist economic relations and the destruction of social services.

The orgy of criminal self-enrichment of the Yeltsin years stopped under President Putin. No, he is not going to restore the Soviet Union; no, he is not a new Stalin, neither is he a dictator. He is a Russian nationalist, a De Gaulle-style leader who stresses cooperation with Europe while maintaining Russia’s interests. While criticising unilateral actions by American imperialism, he is not anti-imperialist. Russia is not a superpower about to devour the globe; neither is it an economically disastrous place as it was in the 1990s.

Russia has vast natural resources, and this, combined with its resurgence, makes it an obstacle to the plans of the United States. Let us bear in mind that Russia today has an economy smaller than South Korea and Brazil. It has military bases in Syria, and along Armenia’s border with Turkey. The United States has at least 800 military bases around the world, plus its expanding and covert military presence in African countries.

It is not Kremlin propaganda to point out the obvious fact that NATO has expanded to incorporate former Eastern bloc nations. It is not Kremlin proper to observe that the 2014 Ukrainian putsch was led by neo-fascists and Nazi-rehabilitating racist criminals. It is not “Putin apologetics” to point out that the United States – and interestingly Israel – are militarily and diplomatically supporting the neo-Nazi government in Kiev to stoke tensions with Moscow.

Russia under Putin has got itself together, and waged diplomatic measures to increase ties with China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, India and other nations. The Kremlin intervened decisively in Syria to protect its interests, and militarily defeat what it sees as religiously extremist militia groups fighting to topple the Ba’athist Syrian regime. Demonising Putin may make us feel self-righteous, but does nothing to assist us in understanding the legitimate grievances that Moscow raises regarding current conflicts.

Australia – let’s stop the anti-Russia paranoia

What has all this got to do with Australia?

In an article for Russia Beyond the Headlines, journalist Rakesh Krishnan Simha makes the powerful case that Australia, rather than blindly and mindlessly following the policy directives of Washington, should abandon its anti-Russia paranoia. As Simha writes:

Over the decades, they have blindly followed the U.S. and have been loyal foot soldiers in a string of American-inspired conflicts around the world – Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria. Plus, with old co-hegemon Britain’s defense forces shrinking because of budget cuts, Australia is keen to take over the role of America’s closest ally.

With the end of the Cold War, the Australian foreign policy establishment were euphoric – Russia was defeated (supposedly) and Yeltsin opened up the nation to the inroads of foreign capital. But the euphoria was short-lived. Putin’s ascent to power, and Russia’s resurgence as a force to be reckoned with, has made Canberra sullen, hostile and resentful. We must stop this ongoing hostility to Russia, simply making America’s enemies our opponents as well.

If we maintain this direct collision course with Russia, the consequences for the world will be catastrophic. Let us stop this insane psychology of ‘Russiagate’, and look at ourselves and our own problems. In their attempt to unseat Trump, factions of the American ruling class are using Russophobia as a weapon. Let us not go down that road, but oppose Trump by presenting an anti-capitalist alternative, and thus sweep away the diseased system that gave rise to such a diseased mind.

The anti-Semitic shooting at Pittsburgh was a long time in the making

The murder of worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pensylvannia, by the white supremacist Robert Bowers, was motivated by anti-Semitism. Bowers circulated his views on social media, referring to immigrants and ethnic minorities in derogatory and menacing terms. However, he saved particular scorn for the Jewish people, regarding them as a uniquely cunning, sinister, organised and direct threat to the status of white America. While carrying out his attack, he reportedly yelled ‘all Jews must die.’

Why did this particular brand of hatred – anti-Semitism – rear its ugly head at this point? It is worth examining the persistence of this long-standing hatred. This act of domestic terrorism at Pittsburgh is arguably the largest slaughter of Jews in recent American history. While this shooting bears a striking resemblance to the racist killing of African African worshippers at the Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston in 2015, the Pittsburgh killing was motivated by anti-Semitic undercurrents that have been ever-present in American political and cultural life.

Trump’s words have lethal consequences

Bowers targeted that particular synagogue because it has its roots in the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), an organisation has helped refugees and migrants from multiple ethnic and religious backgrounds settle in the United States. The anti-immigration rhetoric that pours out of the Trump administration has very real and serious consequences. Make no mistake – current US President Donald Trump has emboldened and legitimised anti-immigrant hatred and white supremacy through his words and actions.

Trump and his supporters have routinely denounced migrants and refugees as a threatening presence in the United States; speaking of migrants as an existential menace is a talking point of the white supremacist Alternative Right. The migrant caravan from Honduras, consisting of people fleeing US-made wars, poverty, environmental destruction and criminal violence, are portrayed by Trump as an emergent menace for which a military response is the only solution.

It is not surprising that responsibility for the Honduran caravan is attributed to the scheming and organisation power of the mysterious Jews by right-wing commentators. It is no exaggeration to say that the hysterical response to the migrant caravan – encouraged and led by the Trump administration – led to the Pittsburgh shooting. Bowers emerged from the fevered swamps of the racist and anti-Semitic Right to take action against persons that the president said were a direct and immediate threat.

Of course, it is the Jews who are held responsible – a conspiracy theory that denies any agency or intelligence to the Honduran refugees, but rather reduces them to naive dupes of the ever-conniving Jews. Amplified by right-wing commentators, the message of the Trump presidency was unmistakable – the Jews are ‘pulling the strings’. Trump and his supporters cannot dismiss political rhetoric as just mere exaggeration or playing to the crowd. Bigotry becomes normalised, and the hate that it spawns emerges from the fringes and makes its way into the political mainstream.

The longest hatred

It would be naive in the extreme to blame Trump exclusively for the eruption of anti-Semitic violence in America. Anti-Semitism has a long and dark history that predates Trump and the Republicans. It is an unusual hatred in that it found expression first as a religious anti-Semitism with the triumph of European Christendom and then as a racialised form of bigotry with the rise of pseudo-scientific theories about race from the late eighteenth century.

While it is common for racists to look down on people they see as inferior – note the habitual targeting of Hispanic migrants as lazy and subsisting on welfare – the Jewish people have been pilloried for their purported collective intelligence. This intelligence is not something that is ascribed to individuals, but as a collective entity to be wary of – the scheming, conniving, villainous Jew has made an appearance in many guises. Since the days of Shakespeare’s Shylock, the money-lending, greedy and sinister Jew has been held responsible for manipulating political events and economies, using the liberal cosmopolitanism of the Christian West to undertake treacherous, and sinister projects for financial gain.

Anti-Semitic oppression has a long pedigree – Jews were attacked for being ‘Christ-killers’, drinking the blood of Christian children, holding dual loyalty while living in Christian communities – among many other accusations. With the emergence of pseudo-scientific racial doctrines, the Jews were compartmentalised as a unique ‘race’ unwilling and unable to assimilate in the European West. When Jewish communities reached out to other ethnic and religious minorities in solidarity, such as the Tree of Life Synagogue, they were denounced by the Right as ‘bringing invaders’ into their country of residence.

The mechanised mass murder of the Holocaust, brought to the world’s attention the horrors that anti-Semitic bigotry can produce. For a time after World War Two, the menace of anti-Semitism seemed, if not completely vanquished, at least significantly diminished. Jews emigrated to the United States, which emerged from the world war as a strong, vibrant economy. Jewish people moved into the newly expanding middle-class suburbs and assimilated into the capitalist society which appeared to welcome them.

It is their role as the alleged puppeteers, the ones ‘pulling the strings’ by using their financial power that is the accusation that has resurfaced in numerous forms. In this context, it is useful to examine the work of a Belgian socialist, Abram Leon. Murdered by the Nazis in the concentration camps in 1944, Leon wrote a classic study called ‘The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation.’ Leon examined how the Jews became traders and financiers, first in the era of feudal lords and nobles, and subsequently in the capitalist economies of Europe. While Christian Europe was deeply anti-Semitic, the Jews could find only one area where they could at least make a living – in money-lending.

It would be incorrect to dismiss European Jews as exclusive money-lenders, for they did find themselves taking up jobs as artisans, stevedores and other manual labouring occupations. However, it was their role as the financier which the ruling classes latched onto – making a convenient scapegoat, the ills of capitalist society could be blamed on the tax collector, and the usurious money-lender.

In times of economic crisis, it was convenient to direct public anger against the money-lending, huckstering Jew – the Shylock of old, and the alleged puppeteer of events in the collective imagination of today’s conspiracy theories. Based on the erroneous belief that the ‘Jews have too much power’, the Jews now stand accused of masterminding Black Lives Matter, the civil rights movement, feminism, immigration (particularly from Muslim-majority nations), LGBTQIA rights, political correctness – all the usual talking-points of the ultra-right racists.

This concept of the Jews as a secret cabal with power over the majority fits quite well with the far-right; the latter are longstanding supporters of the state of Israel. The best friends that Israel has in Europe are the ultra-rightist anti-Semitic parties and political figures. Philo-semitism – elevating the Jews into a racial category of exceptional intelligence – is a common theme of anti-Semites.

Far-right parties have expressed their support for the construction of an ethno-supremacist state of Israel, because it mirrors their own desire for an ethnically homogenous white-settler state in their countries of residence. With a new demon against which to fixate – Islam – Israel and its anti-semitic supporters have made common cause.

Anti-Semitism is not just an afterthought or peripheral to the white supremacist mindset. The philosophical core of white nationalism is the claim that the Jewish people constitute the striking antithesis and eternal enemy to the white Christian nation. In times of economic crisis, as capitalism goes into terminal decline, old scapegoats are revived from hibernation. The Atlantic consensus of austerity and so-called ‘free markets’ is breaking down, and into the breach steps the Alternative Right. Let us stop victimising the Jewish people yet again by opposing the resuscitation of an old, discredited and lethal bigotry.

No, George Soros is not a globalist puppet master

George Soros is a lot of things: a currency speculator, a financier who made billions by taking advantage of adverse conditions in Britain and Europe, a hedge fund manager whose only activity is buying and selling money, and an objectionable figure.

He is a hypocrite, promoting the “Open Society” as a value-free, purely democratic non-ideological societal vision. In fact, the underlying motivation of the supposed ‘Open Society’ is a deep commitment to neoliberal capitalist ideology. However, is he the puppet master, the Jewish entrepreneur at the hub of a vast globalist conspiracy, bankrolling fake revolutions and bringing down national economies? No, he is not.

In the last article, we examined the role of anti-Semitism in shaping and motivating George Soros conspiracy theories. Naming Soros as the ultimate puppet master recycles long-standing prejudices about Jews being the malevolent masterminds of social dissent, funding protests and social unrest to upset the white, Christian status quo.

But repackaging anti-Semitism is not enough. Anti-Semitism, while crucial to the world view of the ultra-nationalist right, is not sufficient to provide an alternative to the growing anti-capitalist mass movements.

We need to go further in our analysis, and examine how the far-right – the main purveyors of such conspiratorial thinking – serve to obscure the underlying causes of immiseration today, and helps to misdirect outrage onto the victims of neoliberal capitalism. The notion of globalism – which predates the election of Trump – has deep roots in the American political culture. This is the label which the Alternative Right, and its mainstream supporters, use to attack all its favoured targets, including George Soros.

Globalism

The term globalism, as used by the ultra-right, has seeped into popular discourse since the early 1990s. With globalisation becoming a hot-topic with the growing reach and operation of transnational corporations, issues surrounding unchecked corporate influence, national sovereignty and human rights rose to the fore. The Left made an economic and political critique of the capitalist system; the white supremacist Right substituted globalisation with the word globalism, to redirect the debate to ground that is conducive to the ideology of the anti-immigrant ultra-right.

Liam Stack, writing in the New York Times, explains that globalism has its origins as an anti-Semitic slur term with the beginning of the Cold War. It referred to a secret, powerful cabal of super-rich individuals who manipulate social forces to undermine American national sovereignty. The term, rather than elaborating a strong anti-capitalist analysis, perceives the world as run by secretive groups of conspiratorial elites (usually Jewish) to overturn white, Christian nations such as the United States.

This far-right conspiratorial world view has evolved, especially since the early 1990s, to incorporate all the elements to which the Alternative Right is opposed. As Liam Stack explains:

Globalism is often used as a synonym for globalization, the system of global economic interconnection that has been critiqued for decades by liberal groups like labor unions, environmental organizations and opponents of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But for the far right, the term encapsulates a conspiratorial worldview based on racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, according to Mark Pitcavage, a researcher at the Anti-Defamation League.

This conspiratorial world view has developed into a generalised anxiety about what the ultra-right regards as the New World Order (NWO). The latter is a fictional objective of the allegedly globalist elites, who intend to create one world government through international bodies such as the United Nations. The racist John Birch Society began the conspiratorial theorising of the NWO, alleging that the UN was a tool of the Communists and Jews. Similar tropes are trotted out about various international bodies, included the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg group.

What has this got to do with Soros?

As the typical example of an all-powerful Jewish financier, Soros fits the bill for our times – an updated version of Shylock, Soros represents the ultimate liberal globalist, and thus becomes the perfect bogeyman for the ultra-right. No longer is the economic debate about poverty, inequalities, structural racism or neoliberal capitalism. The conversation is transformed into a denunciation of mass immigration and elite influence – supposed tools of the globalist conspiracy to undermine American (and white Western) national sovereignty.

The enemy is no longer the capitalist billionaire, but the immigrants, the refugees, ethnic minorities, feminists, Muslims, atheists, the LGBTQ community – in short, the favoured targets of the Alternative Right. Globalism has, in many ways and forms, continued and extended the old Right’s Cold War-era thinking, and adapted it to our times. Globalism, rather than Communism, is the new demon against which to rally American civilisation (and there is always Islam). Discussions regarding the injustices of capitalism become transformed into anti-immigrant and xenophobic outbursts – working class people become mini-Enoch Powells.

Alex Jones, the shouting conspiracy theorist, regularly screamed his opposition to the fictitious New World Order creeping totalitarianism – his main target being immigration, which is regularly denounced as a tool of the globalist elite. Attacking any kind of protest movement as funded by George Soros, anti-capitalist opposition is delegitimised and written off. If the Walmart protesters, the anti-Kavanaugh protests, Black Lives Matter and anti-corporate groups can all be dismissed as paid puppets of the globalist Soros, then the only alternative oppositional outlet is that of the white supremacist Right.

Soros – hedge funds and philanthropic capitalism

George Soros is one of the wealthiest people in the world, having made his fortune through managing hedge funds. They are a type of pooled investment structure, designed to derive maximum returns for its main investors. Soros is also a currency speculator – the buying and selling of foreign currencies in order to profit from the ever-fluctuating prices of those currencies. Soros Fund Management is one of the most profitable entities in the business.

This economic activity is quite typical of the present day – the financialisation of capitalism; the economic workings of finance capital, as opposed to industrial capital. The domination of finance capital in the operation of the capitalist system produces figures like George Soros – hedge fund managers who make billions without actually producing anything. The shift in gravity from traditional industrial capital – factories, assets, manufacturing and so on – over to finance capital, has led to a fundamental shift in the current stage of the capitalist system.

Of course finance capital, and its domination of the system, is international in scope. Transnational corporations, operated purely for profit and increasingly owned by large banks and hedge funds, increase their scope and size across the globe. Soros, ever willing to exploit an opportunity, made his money by rising through the world of financial speculation.

No, Soros is not the ‘man who broke the Bank of England’, but he did take advantage of the tensions between the UK and Europe in the early 1990s to short-sell the British pound and make billions in the process. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir accused Soros of being responsible for the 1997 Asian economic crisis, a claim for which he later apologised.

Soros engages in corporate philanthropy, providing money to organisations such as the Democratic Party in the US, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others long-derided by the Right as bastions of left-wing ideology. His fellow billionaires also engage in philanthro-capitalism. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson – all participate in an economic system that enriches them at the expense of others, and then provide a portion of their wealth to grant-making organisations to salve their consciences.

Most of their money remains hidden away in tax havens. Ironically, with all the talk of globalisation and weakening of states, the billionaires have used the laws passed by nation-states and national governments to provide a veneer of legality to their dubious activity.

Soros promotes his Open Society Foundation, as an instrument to further the values upon which his career and wealth depend.  Ideologically and politically committed to ‘free-markets’, Soros worries that if liberal capitalism is collapsing, then the activity of financial speculation will cease with it.

Finance capital has impoverished the lives of millions of people, devastated environments, and demolished the living standards of working class people. This is not the result of the evil workings of a cabal of Jews, or immigration, or refugees, or Muslims, or single mothers on welfare. Finance capital and its attendant social misery is the direct outcome of the billionaire class, and the decisions they make. It is time to identify the cause of immiseration, so we can consciously fight the system that depletes all of us.

George Soros conspiracy theories – anti-Semitic paranoid fantasies move into the mainstream

US President Donald Trump promoted a conspiracy theory when responding to the protests against Supreme Court nominee (now confirmed) Brett Kavanaugh. The latter’s nomination to a judgeship has been strenuously opposed by women’s groups, because Kavanaugh faces claims of perpetrating sexual assaults. Trump, in dismissing the protesters, claimed that they have been paid by Hungarian-Jewish billionaire and philanthropist, George Soros.

It is interesting to note that Trump chose to deploy a George Soros conspiracy theory when defending his preferred nomination to the Supreme Court. Such conspiracy theorising, with Soros at the centre of a multifaceted sinister plot to manipulate global events, has been doing the rounds among the feverish swamps of the white supremacist Right for decades.

Trump was not the first Republican politician to use the “Soros paid them” trope to malign his critics. The conservative camp attacked the protesters who attended the March for Science, the feminist women in pink demonstrators – among others – as paid dupes of Soros-owned organisations.

Writing in the Al Jazeera article entitled “Who is George Soros?”, Patrick Strickland writes:

Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep, explained that “Soros conspiracies have always been a marker for the radical right as opposition to mainstream conservatism”.

Strickland says that:

Today, the 87-year-old billionaire, philanthropist and founder of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) NGO, is the favourite obsession of right-wing and far-right politicians, conspiracy theorists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis across Europe and North America.

From Charlottesville to Budapest, Soros has loomed in the rhetoric of leaders and controversial figures, replete with accusations placing the philanthropist behind everything from Black Lives Matter to migration.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a right wing anti-immigrant politician, blamed Soros for the influx of Syrian refugees in recent years, and accused Soros of orchestrating mass Muslim migration into Europe to dilute its Christian character. Orban has run anti-Semitic campaigns in Hungary, and has targeted Soros as the central villain in attempting to undermine Budapest’s authoritarian government.

In his election campaigning, Orban has spoken of immigration – particularly from Islamic nations – as an existential threat. Soros, Orban believes, is responsible for increasing such immigration in an effort to subjugate Hungary to the globalist New World Order. Orban has cleverly deployed Islamophobia and anti-Semitic themes in one hit. He compared his government’s struggle against the alleged Soros (Jewish) conspiracy as a defence of Hungarian sovereignty, similar in intent to the nationalistic struggles against the former Ottoman Turkish empire, the Hapsburgs, and the USSR.

Extreme right wing figures throughout Eastern Europe have advocated the Soros-puppet master conspiracy theory. Shaun Walker of the Guardian newspaper highlights that Soros has become a lightning rod for the conspiratorial-obsessed far right:

Not just in Hungary. In Romania, the chairman of the ruling Social Democratic party, Liviu Dragnea, said Soros and his organisations have “fed evil” in the country; while a Polish MP from the ruling conservative government has referred to Soros as “the most dangerous man in the world”. The US right has also joined in: in a semi-coherent rant, radio host and Donald Trump supporter Alex Jones claimed Soros heads a “Jewish mafia”.

How did George Soros become a lightning rod for conspiratorial theorising, and why is the white supremacist Right – known today as the Alternative Right – targeting him?

George Soros – the updated version of the anti-Semitic Rothschild conspiracy

The demonisation of Soros has its roots in the historic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that have been recycled and promoted by the white conservative Right over the centuries. The template of a rich Jewish figure heading up a vast tentacular conspiracy, manipulating current events for direct profit is an old and long-standing tactic of the Right, particularly in times of economic and political crisis.

Spencer Ackerman, writing in the Daily Beast, states that the idea of an all-powerful Jewish financier manipulating political and economic events for financial profit has its origins in the atavistic European hatred  – anti-Semitism. Soros is just the latest incarnation of this particular template of hate. In the nineteenth century, the role of Jewish manipulator was taken – in the anti-Semitic imagination – by Nathan Rothschild.

The latter, allegedly present at the Battle of Waterloo (he never was), rushed back to England, and deliberately lied to the London Stock Market that Wellington had been defeated. The stock market crashed, and Rothschild took advantage of the ensuing chaos to turn a profit. This fiction was put forward in an anti-Semitic pamphlet years after the events, and Nathan Rothschild had passed away. But the slur stuck, and it has been circulating for many years.

The nefarious Rothschild banking conspiracy has been debunked numerous times. All the elements of what has been a long-standing pattern of anti-Semitic theorising – a wealthy Jewish financier, using insider knowledge to manufacture a crisis, and leveraging that crisis to make a profit. Since the rise of European Christendom, the Jewish presence was regarded as alien – the eternal outsider taking advantage of cosmopolitan toleration in order to make money.

Anti-Semitic hatred evolved to respond to the changing political and economic circumstances of capitalism – the financial power of the everlasting Shylock could be used not only to explain the crises of capitalism, but also the rise of socialist and communist doctrines. The Russian Revolution of 1917 has attracted its fair share of conspiratorial fanatics – the Tsarist regime, undergoing a crisis, looked to its traditional scapegoat to blame, the Jews. As the Bolsheviks succeeded in Russia, the propaganda of anti-Semitic fanatics evolved to adapt their hate to the new circumstances, connecting Bolshevism to the universal bogeyman, international Jewry.

No less a figure than Winston Churchill, a scion of the English ruling class, believed that the Russian Revolution was the result of the sinister machinations of Jewish manipulation. He helped to provide credibility to the notion of an international cabal of Jewish financiers masterminding a vast conspiracy – only this time, it was not to strengthen capitalism, but to overthrow it. The Jewish financial conspiracy has metastasized from one of domineering capitalism to one of a Judeo-Bolshevik mutation.

Not every person who circulates George Soros conspiracy memes is a hateful bigot. In this day and age of social media, it is easy to share content that we do not necessarily fully understand. But make no mistake, the language, imagery and pattern of targeting George Soros are steeped in the bile of anti-Semitism. Portraying a powerful Jewish individual as a malign puppet master who manipulates the naive, and unsuspecting population for their own profit gives credence to the ancient prejudice.

Philanthropy and liberal capitalism

George Soros is well known for his philanthropy, and his Open Society organisation has promoted a version of liberal capitalism, primarily in the former Eastern bloc. Soros is not the only billionaire philanthropist – Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Elon Musk – billionaires promote their self-image by engaging in philanthropic endeavours around the world. They buy political influence, push their agendas in the corporate media, buy multi-million dollar advertising to spread their messages, and influence public political debates.

None of the aforementioned billionaires is targeted with such viciousness from the Alternative Right. It is Soros in particular who attracts the ire of the conspiratorial far right because of his Jewishness, and promotion of allegedly ‘left-wing’ causes. Soros has written books and articles advocating a ‘liberal capitalism’ of free markets and easier immigration within Europe. His criticisms of unrestrained capitalism, and his stance against what he sees as authoritarian regimes, has made him a particular hate figure of the ultra-right.

The current article has gone on for long enough, so it is time to conclude. However, the exploration of this subject is far from over.

In the next part, we will examine the role of Soros, the Open Society organisation, corporate philanthropy and how that relates to the financialisation of capitalism. The operation of hedge-fund capitalism, and the role of billionaires, can be examined without any reference to malign Jewish conspiratorial influence. Stay tuned.

 

Islamophobia is a form of racism – let’s stop playing semantic games

We have all heard or seen the following claim before, especially when wading through the cesspit of the Internet – “Islam is not a race, so how can I be racist?”  This meme is usually deployed by those trying to answer, and deflect, accusations of racism. It is worth examining this claim in further detail, because it provides us with a window into the state of cultural and political debate in our own society.

First, let us be clear – Islam is a religion, not a race. But Islamophobia is a form of racism mixed with cultural intolerance. Demonising an entire religious community on the basis of a stereotypical and allegedly shared racial identity is racism.

The title of the current article comes from an article by Miqdaad Versi, the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. Versi correctly observes that claiming ‘Islam is not a race’ is a semantic game, to provide an escape clause for a person espousing racist viewpoints.

We all recognise the dictionary definition of the term Semitism. That refers to a linguistic and cultural groups, including Arabs and Jews. However, we also have a clear definition of the term anti-Semitism – bigotry and hatred against Jews. The anti-Semite does not care for semantic definitions – we can recognise the anti-Jewish racism directed against an ethno-religious group.

Sociologist Dr Craig Considine calls Islamophobia a form of racism based on cultural intolerance. His work, examining the racialisation of the Islamic identity, provides a necessary antidote to the purely dictionary distinction between race and religion. Religion has been used and abused as a basis to construct a fictional racialised identity, as has happened with the Jewish community in the past.

Orientalism rejuvenated

Islam is not a race, but Muslim people have been racialised. Orientalism is the historical source of the modern-day incarnation of Islamophobic prejudice. Islamophobia is the updated version of the old Orientalist bigotry; we are the ‘civilised’ West, and our mission is to control and uplift the Muslim outsider.

Khaled Beydoun, law professor and author of the book American Islamophobia, has noted how the United States has defined Islam, along with being black, as the perpetual outsider, incapable of assimilating and inherently opposed to ‘Americaness’. While Muslims have been present in American society since the earliest days of European settlement – there were West African Muslim slaves in the south of the US – Muslims were banned and excluded from the political and cultural life of the Americas since the 16th century.

Long before September 11 and the so-called ‘war on terror’, the American ruling establishment adopted a racialised exclusion of Muslims from the life of the emerging nation. Beydoun states that today’s Islamophobia has its roots in the perspective of Orientalism. The latter, discussed at length by the Palestinian Professor, the late Edward Said, is the cultural and historical lens through which the imperialist powers defined and perceived the Muslim Middle East.

Islam, according to the Orientalist view, is inherently violent, regressive, incapable of change and fixated on sabotaging the West. African blackness became the racial antithesis of American whiteness; the Islamic world was transformed from a religion into a racialised enemy – the eternal Arab/Muslim outsider. In this regard, we should note that from the late 1700s until 1952, the Naturalisation Act stipulated whiteness as an essential criterion of American citizenship.

Using the pathetic excuse of “Islam is not a race” is the standard preface to a racially-charged tirade demonising the Islamic community. It is perfectly true that Islam is not a race, but a faith-based religious group, whose followers share a set of beliefs and philosophy. But the Muslim identity has been racialised, and the ubiquitous “Middle Eastern appearance” is a loose, flexible descriptor that stigmatises a wide cross section of  Muslim and non-Muslim non-Anglo communities.

Let us avoid trotting out the simplistic and deceitful semantic exercise of “Islam is not a race” to evade any allegations of bigotry. In a decidedly similar way to anti-Semitism, the Islamic community has been categorised as a racialised identity, imbued with social characteristics that allegedly makes the religion’s practitioners unassimilable and unresponsive to the societies they inhabit.

While the adherents of Islam come from a diverse range of ethnic and racial backgrounds, it is the conflation of Arab-Muslim and the narrow racial framework of ‘brown’ persons that has dominated definitions of Islam. The multiracial and ethnically diverse reality of the American – and Australian – Muslim community is lost amidst this racially-exclusive categorisation of the Muslim as the perpetual outsider and potentially treasonous element in Western society.

Religious discrimination occurs when a particular group is targeted because of their religious beliefs. Racialisation occurs when that is identified and stigmatised based on what the racist wants to see – and then behaves according to that viewpoint. Cultural intolerance evolves into a form of racist practice.

The Islamophobic brand of hate is unconcerned with dictionary distinctions between religion and race. In the United States, hate crimes against Muslim persons has increased, especially since the initiation of the ‘war on terror’. The saddest part of this increase is that non-Muslims have been victimised. Sikhs, a group that practices a religion entirely different from Islam – have been the targets of Islamophobic hate crimes. Bigoted rhetoric from political candidates have real and dramatic consequences for ethnic and religious minorities. Racist attacks are motivated, not by an opposition to a religion, but by what the racist views as the racialised ‘Other’.

Travelling while being of Middle Eastern appearance

At this point, I have a confession to make. I am guilty of a crime. I have been committing this crime for decades, and will continue to do so into the future. What is my crime? Traveling while being of Middle Eastern appearance. It does not matter that I am not Muslim, or that Christianity can be a portal into whiteness. Traveling while possessing a Middle Eastern appearance is a serious offence in Australia.

Randa Abdel-Fattah, writer and lawyer, and academic at Macquarie University in Sydney, wrote about this precise subject. Being Australian and Muslim (or perceived as a brown person) are often viewed as mutually exclusive. This dichotomy is not confined to Australia – in the United States, being a ‘patriotic’ American and being Muslim are viewed as diametric opposites. Muslims – and by racialised extension, people from the Middle East – are the new enemy on the streets. Never matter that, for instance, Muslim Americans have served in the US military for decades. They have fought in all of America’s wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is not so much a clash of civilisations, but a clash of racialisations. Islamophobia is not a distaste for particular Muslim beliefs, rituals or cultural practices. It is a a pervasive, mainstream racism that targets the Muslim community, and reduces them to racially distinctive, Orientalist stereotypes.

Yes, we are all aware of the human rights abuses and repression in Saudi Arabia. Yes, we know about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Yes, we know about the repressive regimes in the Middle East, the harsh punishments carried out in the name of Sharia, the problems of patriarchy. If you want to help Muslim women, just listen to them here.

It must be made clear that Islamophobia does not include criticism of religion, disagreements or arguments about the role of religion in public life. It is equally important to note that the term secularism does not provide an escape valve for the regurgitation of racially-charged tirades against the Muslim communities. It is dishonest to pretend that anti-Muslim racism does not exist because ‘we focus on cultural or religious practices’. While the Islamic faith consists of many colours, Islamophobia has one unmistakable racial colouration.

There is a well-known quote which originated from the early days of the socialist movement in Germany – ‘Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools.’ This was a response to anti-Semitic smears doing the rounds among the workers movement. Using this quote as a template, we can update it by stating the following – Islamophobia is the secularism of fools.

Do I regard Muslim people as super-fantastic worthy of special privileges in the society? No, I do not. Am I unaware of the atrocities committed by fundamentalist groups such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State? I am very aware of these groups and condemn them in the strongest possible terms. Do I intend to write screeching denunciations of the burqa or the hijab? No, I do not – because that is none of my business. Muslim women are standing up for themselves, and do not need idiot-men like me to speak on their behalf.

I strongly agree with Rabia Siddique, when she writes that we must stop the normalisation of relentless Islamophobia in Australia. The first step on the way to confronting Islamophobia is to stop playing semantic games in order to fool ourselves into thinking that the problem of racism does not exist.