For those of us who are concerned about the health of our families and friends, our neighbors and co-workers, the recent confluence of lockdown skepticism between some of the country’s conservative or neoliberal media outlets and US internet propagandists is downright worrisome to would-be Irish rightmost. The conspiracy theorists and downright racists who have brought their online brawl to the streets of Dublin and elsewhere in the past few weeks, daring the authority of the state, have done so because those with respect and prestige have created an environment in our society that is conducive to their real brawl.
Of course, there have long been a number of reactionary journalists and newspaper columnists in Ireland who have gained a foothold with the international old-right and found inspiration and ideological support in the battles of the Anglo-American cultural wars. It is therefore not surprising that the tiny core of fascists and xenophobes at home have reinforced their voices through ideological fellow travelers in the press so that they can benefit from the current crisis – or crises – on the island. But the willingness of so many to step out of the shadows, give up pseudonyms and relative anonymity in order to bask in the adoration of their followers while pointing out the not dissimilar messages of some in the mainstream media is a new phenomenon.
I, along with others, have been warning for several years about the vicious influence of the British and American neo-right movements on our native fascists. It was only a matter of time before the madmen started gathering on the streets, not on Twitter or Facebook. Fortunately, they are so far a minority of a minority. But they have friends and sympathizers in surprising places. And even those who refuse any connection and may be offended by such a proposal have made it their business to platform their topics of conversation and give respect to claims that deserve nothing but contempt.
Last weekend we saw the potential pot dictators, the Hibernian acolytes of Trump and Farage, gather in the capital, imitating American-style rhetoric and terminology with incongruous Irish accents for a ragged crowd of gurriers and loops. And we have seen some publications where the gathering’s bad-tempered public relations work was completely unworthy of its size or status, while at the same time establishing a false equivalence between fascist and anti-fascist demonstrators. If the violent neo-right polemic hits Ireland, the blame is not on Covid-19 or Brexit or a new global recession, but on the Randian instincts and the ideological loyalties of our neoliberal media.
In the competition between those who accidentally or deliberately make right-wing politics possible and those who actively oppose or discourage right-wing politics, I know where I stand. And clearly.