Everyone knows how dangerous to a democracy conspiracy theorists are. This was demonstrated, in spades, by the January 6th insurrection in the USA. This is not so much because of the conspiracy theorists’ ability to organise insurrections (most are idiots), but by their patently obvious gullibility, which allows them to be manipulated by charlatans like Donald Trump and assorted fascists (Proud Boys, Oath Keepers etc.)1. It is a fair bet that if these insurrectionists had found some of the elected members of Congress, especially Pence or Pelosi, they would have killed them2. After all, they killed a few police officers during the insurrection. Where elected representatives are targeted for death by a mob of people in support of a person spouting numerous lies in an attempt to overturn an election, then democracy is under significant threat.
While nothing like that has happened in Australia, there are indications that the same sentiments exist among the cohort of gullible conspiracy theorists and their urgers in the Murdoch media. At demonstrations apparently supported by the Murdoch media during the pandemic, there were death threats aimed at the Labor Premier of Victoria, Dan Andrews. These demonstrations were attended by assorted moronic conservative politicians such as (now fortunately former) Liberal federal member for Hughes Craig Kelly and (also now fortunately former) Democratic Labour Party member of the Victorian Legislative Council, Bernie Finn3.
But what of the religious? The International Panel for Social Progress concluded (in 2017) that religion is neither inherently pro-democracy nor anti-democracy. Indeed, many western nations became democratic when almost the entire population were believers, while the churches had a great deal of power over people’s lives, and a great deal of influence over governments of all political persuasions4. However, things have changed in recent years. The religious are now aware that their power and influence are in decline, as religion itself is in decline all around the world. This includes Christianity5, as well as Islam6.
In the United States this religious panic has manifested itself in that has been termed Christian Nationalism or christofascism. Calling former president Trump a Christian is laughable in that his only god is himself and his only commandments are what benefits Donald Trump. However, he does play up to the christofascists as well as the gullible. In June 2020, Trump strolled from the White House to a nearby Episcopal church for a photo-op with a bible in hand. Some white evangelical leaders lapped up the symbolism. Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition said that, “…what ails our country can be found in the repentance, redemption, and forgiveness of the Christian faith”7. In the January 6th insurrection, there were many Christian symbols displayed by insurrectionists.
In a recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas late last year, state Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick took the stage and cast current culture war issues (immigration, transgender rights, gun rights…) as subordinate to America’s heritage as a Christian nation, which is in jeopardy. He warned, that “we have to be ready for battle,” because we are not in a fight any longer of Republicans and Democrats but a fight of lightness and darkness.
For those fluent in the evangelical code, this is about a battle between God and Satan, with of course progressives doing the work of Satan8.
Until recently, such apocalyptic language would have been seen as confined to the extreme political fringe. However, the increasing power of hard-right overwhelmingly white American Christians, is because they are in the middle of a moral panic engendered by 50 years of social and demographic change, and in an existential crisis caused by the dramatic decline of their own churches. So, they are throwing their lot in with autocratic political leaders who espouse, or pretend to espouse, their religious values8.
Democracy is supposed to represent the interests of all of the governed, including people of different religious faiths and those with no religious affiliation; the political rise of christofascism and their success tearing down the wall between church and state is a danger to democracy8.
After a decades-long campaign by the religious right, the stacked U.S. Supreme Court has expanded public funding of religious education, authorised prayer in public schools and struck down abortion rights. The christofascists are now targeting same-sex marriage and transsexual rights, and have supported voter suppression efforts targeting people of colour, are banning books they deem offensive from school and community libraries, and have denied the reality of climate change and the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines8.
In Australia, the panic among the religious engendered by this decline in religion has seen them take over most state branches of the Liberal Party and Queensland’s Liberal National Party9. Fortunately, this strategy has not worked so far, and has only led to what looks like a serious, possibly terminal decline in their electoral fortunes; with the Western Australian Liberals being almost completely wiped out in that state’s most recent election, the Victorian Liberals going backwards two elections in a row, the Queensland Liberal National Party also going backwards, while the South Australian Liberal government suffered a serious defeat in their most recent election. It also looks like the Liberal government in New South Wales could be headed for a similar fate. This relative lack of success when compared with the US may be because the decline in religion is more advanced in Australia10, than it is in the US11.
The manifestation of this christofascism in Australia is fortunately a poor imitation of that in the US. Here, it was perhaps epitomised by Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s failure to get the Religious Discrimination bill through parliament12, by his secretly being sworn in as numerous ministerial positions without telling his colleagues13, and by his planned Voter Identification bill14, 15.
Could it be that, as their numbers decline, the religious are becoming more and more strident in their panicked defence of their power and privilege, such that they pose a similar danger to democracy as conspiracy theorists? The reason I suspect this is so, is because of the odd dichotomy among Christians which has become more obvious in recent years, both in the US16, and Australia17. Indeed, in the US, this dichotomy has seen the branches diverge even further than when I first wrote about it almost six years ago16. This is indicated by political commentator Lindy Li, who in response to Republican Lauren Boebert ‘praying’ for a premature end to Biden’s presidency, tweeted: “This is the self-appointed party of Christianity SHAME ON YOU! This is why church pews are emptying at a ferocious rate. Why increasing numbers of Americans now say they are religiously unaffiliated. Christianity in America has devolved into a rabid tribe of Talibangelicals and gun-totin Y’all Qaeda fanatics.”18
It is often said that the privileged and powerful never give up their privilege and power willingly; it has to be taken from them. This is what the so-called “Talibangelicals and gun-totin Y’all Qaeda fanatics” are fighting tooth and nail against. Why do they do this? Because, deep down they know that the privileged position of ‘the people of faith’ and their churches are under threat, and they are terrified that when minorities attain equality, that people of faith will be treated as they treated minorities. This makes them just as dangerous to democracy as any bunch of deluded conspiracy theorists.
This is a fascinating blog. The references are meticulous.
I try to make sure the evidence for my opinions has some basis in fact.
As we’ve discussed many times, the Murdoch media and its hacks are enablers and cheerleaders for all manner of anti-democracy garbage. This admission by old Rupe himself (nothing we didn’t already know) is the tip of the iceberg, which hopefully will melt into oblivion very soon:
Unfortunately his son Lachlan gives the distinct impression of being even worse that Murdoch himself.
Btw, Rupe’s admission will no doubt be used by the lawyers defending Crikey in Lachlan’s defamation case.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the defamation case withdrawn, given what has been revealed in the Dominion case.
It seems Lachlan is just a clone of Rupert. The thing that gets me is that James just walked away and let the lies and other bastardry continue. Silence is complicity. I hope Dominion get the full amount they are seeking, and then I hope it contributes to the demise of the Murdoch media business.
I think he tried to affect change from within but got tired of hitting his head against the two brick walls. Iirc he strongly disagreed with both of them about the company’s approach to climate change and Fox’s culture.
Just found this which explains James’ decision to walk. He’s gone up another rung for me.
HE should be heading the group, not Lachlan The Lesser.
Woops…. tried to effect change
Crikey, hasn’t the Fox/News Corpse/Murdoch house of cards taken a battering in the last week? Unfortunately it won’t disappear down the sewers where it belongs and regularly operates.
Seems Rupe The Decrepit has accepted that irrespective of final outcomes, drawn out public court battles about Fox’s lies and News Corpse mgt’s possible responsibility for same weren’t going to be good PR for the corporation or the Murdoch name generally. Quite clearly, court exposure would have seen Fox’s deceit and dishonesty laid bare for all and sundry – especially credulous fans they rely on for income. Most others with functioning brain cells already knew Fox, SKY etc promoted lies, mis- and disinformation but from what had already become public I think even we might have been surprised at the depths of their dishonesty and unctuousess. The Dominion suit may also – depending on various rulings and judicial explanations – have exposed that soul-less and arguably sociopathic mob to multiple suits along similar lines, although evidence wouldn’t be as readily available.
Got little doubt that Murdoch the Lesser’s discontinuation of his Crikey suit came after daddy showed him the likely damage to personal and corporate reputations, even if MtL technically proved he was defamed under Australia’s outdated and punitive defamation laws. The law may say one thing, we can draw our own conclusions from the material presented.
As some have already opined, it’s a pity the Dominion case didn’t go to full trial. The good news is that there are a handful of similar smaller suits yet to go through courts, although it’s probable that some or most of those will also be settled out of court. Hopefully Eric Coomer’s suit WILL go the full journey.
PS RIP Fr Bob Maguire, a great humanist and true christian
I hadn’t heard that Little Murdoch had called off his defamation case until I read your comment. Is Smartmatic still chasing their case against Fox? I seem to remember that the damages they were after were also in the billions.
Just checked and still active apparently.