War in Ukraine has not interfered with the Australian right’s tireless prosecution of domestic culture war. Indeed many have simply seized on the Russian invasion as a way to add a new flavour to attacks on their perceived domestic adversaries.
Given that the Australian left has nothing to do with the ongoing conflict, this has required the writers to torture logic to within an inch of its life.
Peta Credlin, writing in the Australian, was just one of those who looked at Ukrainians’ defence of their country, then posited an entirely hypothetical invasion of Australia, decided that her compatriots would not be capable of such tenacity, and proffered this as proof of her country’s complacency.
Credlin claimed that the invasion showed that we need “to dump our politically correct preoccupations”. Somewhat astoundingly, she contended that “the most obvious rethink the security crisis should prompt is the west’s response to climate change”.
She claimed that European dependence on Russian gas should lead the west to double down on its dependence on imported carbon-based fuel, since reducing emissions would constitute “one-sided economic disarmament”.
Having drawn this longest of bows, she then complained about “the internal culture wars that western countries seem always to be fighting” as a “unilateral moral disarmament” to which the only solution is a steadfast nationalism.
In the same pages, Greg Craven also claimed that Australians would not be up to the job of defending the country from an imaginary invasion. His evidence included the response to the Covid-19 epidemic which had revealed “a nation of bed wetters”, the growth of the #MeToo movement, and leftwing virtue-signalling.
His solutions? A nationalistic civics program and the timeless rightwing standby, national service.
In the Daily Telegraph, Erin Molan also doubted the capacity for Australia’s “young adults” to muscle up to an entirely fictional invasion.
While on “climate change policies, gender issues or Indigenous affairs, they gather, march, protest and post (on social media of course) with the kind of bravado and uncompromising resolve we might recognise in … Ukrainian youth”, unfortunately the “focus of much of their lives, including time spent at school, seems to be on what is terrible about this country, how we have failed and all the ways in which we continue to do so”.
Given all of these grim reports of our failure to repel a non-existent invasion due to the corrupting influence of leftist cultural values, it was amusing to read once-popular blogger Tim Blair’s phoned-in objections to leftists shoehorning their “woke obsessions” like climate change into commentary on the invasion.
It’s possible to raise obvious objections to all of this. If the west reduced its dependence on fossil fuels, whatever leverage Putin has over western Europe would be greatly diminished.
Ukraine’s low vaccination rate, the outflow of refugees, and war conditions are likely to greatly complicate the impact of the conflict, so the idea that their heroic defence of their country somehow exposes the folly of robust public health measures is entirely backwards.
And on the “woke” front, the relatively liberal framework of LGBTQ and women’s rights in Ukraine vis-a-vis Russia, where they are persecuted, is a source of acute concern for young Ukrainians, many of whom are organising to help the armed forces because they see Russia as a threat to their hard-won rights.
There’s a reason that so many on the far right in the west are barracking for Putin in this war: they see him as a leader who is pushing back on the liberal freedoms that LGBTQ people, women and others have won in the west.
There’s also the fact that Australia is not being invaded, and that this is not remotely on the cards.
But the Australian right’s opinion division is impervious to sense, so these objections are mainly useful as a reminder to ourselves.
History, facts and context simply don’t figure in their ceaseless prosecution of culture war, and their constant struggle to pull Australian politics to the right.
This effort is as unimaginative and unthinking as it is amoral.
A detailed understanding of the conflict in Ukraine would be a hindrance. The calamity of a foreign invasion is simply grist for their mill.