An Cailín Rua
I’VE been consciously trying to avoid the news over the past fortnight in a futile effort to convince myself that Donald Trump has not just become the most powerful man in the world and that he is not busying himself by gleefully undoing every single bit of positive progress that has been made over the past century in areas like social justice, equality, climate change, etc etc.
Of course, denial and hiding one’s head in the sand is arguably what led to this situation in the first place, and now, of course, those of us with liberal leanings must appreciate that wanting an end to things like (deep breath) – social inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, sexual violence and crimes against women, flat-earthism and other such belief systems – is apparently a bad thing which disenfranchises large portions of the population. Mostly white men with money. Sorry about that.
What’s been really notable about the events of the past year – particularly the election of Trump and the Brexit vote – is just how quickly the far right has gained a visible hold in society and has attained for itself a level of credibility that almost belies belief. Now, it’s not a bridge too far to actually understand how atrocities like the Holocaust occurred in Europe, and more frighteningly, just how possible it is for similar abuses to occur again.
However, there is nothing new about the so-called ‘Alt-Right’ movement – which should really be referred to as what it is: fascism. It has been operating underground and online for a long time; it never really went away. What is new here is the legitimacy now afforded to such movements. The Irish Times, for example, recently published a ‘glossary’ of ‘Alt-Right’ (read, neo-Nazi) terminology, in what they deemed an effort to educate and inform the public of the vernacular used by the movement. (Here’s a hint – it’s usually pretty racist and misogynistic).
Unfortunately for the Irish Times, they failed to contexualise the piece as such, thus affording the writer, Nicholas Pell, a platform to promote his propaganda, unchallenged. The opinion editor of the paper was bullish in his response to the resultant criticism, claiming that readers were intelligent enough to make up their own minds about publication of what was essentially a fluff piece glorifying fascist propaganda.
RTÉ invited Pell onto the Claire Byrne Show the following week so that his opinions could be ‘challenged’ by human rights activist and Executive Director of Amnesty International, Colm O’Gorman. While the granting of any opportunity to challenge fascist ideology is worth consideration, in doing so, they – deliberately or not - placed Pell’s ideology on an equal footing to that of O’Gorman’s. The only encouraging outcome of the conversation was that Pell’s incoherent mumblings were no match for the articulacy of O’Gorman’s, but nevertheless, that is unlikely to deter his devotees nor convince them that his appearance on primetime TV was anything less than a victory for a previously oppressed movement.
Writing about this isn’t a soapbox exercise. Recent developments have real-life implications for real people we know. You, me, our families, our friends. The futures of members of our own families abroad, the safety and dignity of friends and neighbours of many different nationalities who in recent years have found refuge in Ireland and become members of our community. As a woman, Trump’s immediate steps to restrict the bodily autonomy of women (thus endangering their safety) have real implications for women around the world. His demonising of the Muslim community creates divisions where none need exist. It becomes acceptable as a result to publicly do the same elsewhere. Last week, I saw a (now defriended) Facebook acquaintance referring to the refugees arriving in Ballaghaderreen as ‘rats’.
I don’t want to live in a world where it is acceptable for my peers to spew such hatred and deem other living breathing human beings – children even – as sub-human.
It’s been said that all it takes for evil to prosper is for good men (or women) to do nothing. The best outcome we can hope for now is that the fear of what might lie ahead will mobilise those of us who want to fight for a better, fairer future and spur us into action.