Neo-Nazi demonstration on the steps of the Victorian State Parliament | screenshot from The Project

What’s happening Down Under? Across the country there have been confrontations between LGBT advocates and traditionalist groups. First, there was an unedifying spectacle outside the Victorian Parliament on Saturday. A women’s rights gathering, led by diminutive Briton Kellie-Jay Keen, was met by trans activists and then hijacked by 30 or so Nazi-saluting neo-Nazis from the National Socialist Network (NSN).

This clash was further complicated by the presence of conservative NSW lawyer Katherine Deves and her traditionalist Victorian counterpart, Liberal MP Moira Deeming. Now Deeming is facing expulsion from the Liberals for her alleged association with the “far right”.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Hobart leg of Keen’s tour was met with a similar scene. Later that evening in Sydney, LGBTQ+ activists protesting a speech by One Nation’s Mark Latham at a Catholic Church in Belfield, in the Inner West, were attacked by protestors. About 500 people were involved, with several arrests. A police officer ended up in hospital.

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet described the events as “disgraceful”. His Victorian counterpart Dan Andrews wasted no time in condemning Saturday’s events and hurrying through legislation to ban the Nazi salute. This occured only a few months after a ban on the swastika. To burnish his LGBTQ+ credentials, Andrews hoisted a trans flag, two progress pride flags and a rainbow pride flag on four previously vacant flagpoles outside the state government office.

As is often the case with anything “Nazi”, the Fourth Estate got lost in its own hyperbole.

First, the usual caveats. Yes, NSN leader Thomas Sewell is a man with a chequered past that includes an assault charge and time in prison. Yes, such groups are unsavoury. And yes, any group invoking the Nazis is to be avoided and vigorously condemned

Still, to focus on neo-Nazis is to miss the point. What these protests reveal is an unravelling status quo — our failing America-led liberal order and its Manichean framing. Anything remotely ‘of the right’ is dismissed and left-liberalism is portrayed the only acceptable alternative.

This ignores the fact that the rest of the world might have different ideas. As Thomas Fazi wrote recently in UnHerd:

Despite the West’s attempts to “globalise” the conflict, only 33 nations — representing just over one-eighth of the global population — have imposed sanctions on Russia and sent military aid to Ukraine … The remaining nations, comprising close to 90% of the world’s population, have refused to follow suit. If anything, the war has actually strengthened Russian relations with a number of major non-Western countries, including China and India, and accelerated the rise of a new international order in which it is the West that looks increasingly isolated, not Russia.

It’s also evident in the chokehold of the Left in Victoria, in Labor Party governments in six of our eight states and territories, and in a left-of-centre regimes in Canberra (and Washington).

These clashes between pro-trans and pro-tradition protesters are local reflections of this dynamic. There’s something rotten in the state of our global Denmark.

Let’s take that Nordic nation to start. It is regarded as a model liberal democracy, but it has struggled to maintain its liberalism. After early experience with mass migration, Denmark took a step backwards. Realising that aside from social costs, the economic calculus of immigration was far from salutary, it restricted its liberal migration policies that have since rendered nearby Sweden one of the most rape-prone places on the planet.  

Across Europe similar trends are afoot. The Swedes have seen the rise of the right-wing Sweden Democrats. The Brits opted for Brexit. The Italians have voted in an allegedly “far right” Georgia Meloni. And the bete noir of the global left, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, is now the longest-serving leader in the EU.

And it’s movements like this that confirm that the liberal consensus is cracking up.

The Anglophone right has been unable to capitalise on this trend. Split as it is between free-market technocrats who dominate the mainstream right and the parties further to the right – like One Nation — who want a return to traditional values and more active engagement in the Culture War.

It’s thus clear, as British author Matthew Goodwin observes, that “people want a different conservatism”. This is something we now see in, of all people, ex-ALP leader Mark Latham. As he said about his recent speech, his intention was to protect “schools from Alphabet Activism and lawfare”. He later tweeted that: “To not give my speech, to go straight home would have allowed the transgender protesters to cancel my free speech and democratic rights.”

So why do we have noxious groups like the NSN? Because the mainstream right’s timidity about pushing back against the excesses of leftism and upholding natural law or basic morality, has birthed them. This is a trend that’s not only true here, but also globally.

We’re at a point globally where centre-right parties like the Liberals, Tories or Republicans can no longer bring themselves to protect our most vulnerable from the most egregious attacks and intervention. Lost in a sea of relativism, they are unable to uphold simple notions of nature.

It’s thus out of this cowardice that more extremist elements have arisen. Indeed, the placard carried by the NSN – “Destroy Paedo Freaks” – was a crude yet emblematic symbol of the failure of traditional conservatism. If mainstream conservatives won’t engage in the most basic duty of protecting children, then why should they be supported?

British philosopher John Gray warned that what “would come after the new right would be the old right”. We can’t be surprised if fascism returns as a reaction to the excesses of left-liberalism.

This is also all part of a wider malaise with democracy. As a recent SMH piece on the far-right notes, many now see no pathway for political change via the current Western liberal democratic framework. And they’re not exactly wrong. As to take the most emblematic example of voter frustration, immigration, the entire issue is effectively out of democratic control. Even though voters have consistently shown that they want lower immigration, they’re continually overruled by the political class.

As things stand, the average voter has no control over immigration. They have no control over the annual intake (running at over 300,000). They have no control over the composition (dominated by East Asia and the Subcontinent and not our historical sources). And they have no control over the total population (with Melbourne, for example, on track for 9 million by 2050).

What can you expect but frustration, apathy and anger?

As this week’s protests have shown, dismissing dissent as a rerun of the Nazis (even when there is a marginal presence), is lazy and cynical. It’s a tactic which deflects from the real issues at play and forestalls introspection and reform. 

Ryan Anderson is an essayist based in Australia. His work has appeared in Quillette and other assorted publications.