TRUE OPINION: One of the darlings of North America’s racist and extremist ‘alt-right’ scene is now a dinky-di Aussie, proving yet again how ‘cancel culture’ is simply a battlefield for the seemingly never-ending culture wars, writes Tom Tanuki.
Oh! G’day. Didn’t catch you creeping up on me. How long have you been there? I was just posing out bush waving an Australian flag around in full make up while thinking about ‘cancel culture’. You know, like real Aussies do!
I’d been thinking about how ‘cancel culture’ is a sham concept. There is only internet culture.
I think what people misconstrue as ‘cancel culture’ is in fact two facets of internet culture. One is the fact that now you must witness the crowd-voted popular testimony of anybody. Which might involve you. For example, your trans classmate can tell their friends online how your abuse hurt them at school; by the time you go online that evening, you discover that their peers elected to broadcast your abuse to the world. The black customer you eject for looking ‘suspicious’ tells everyone in your reviews; your small business’ rating plummets. The Muslim woman you terrified in the street has, you discover, an online following of millions and soon you are the terrified one. Your sexual assault victim accuses you publicly online and your life changes forever. That kind of thing.
Children are now lifelong Internet natives and they grew up knowing that social media promises them this potential. They learn from the start that their perspective counts, no matter who they are, because there’s always a chance it could be signal-boosted to the whole world – and the whole world is diverse, whether you like it or not.
The other facet is the sometimes Machiavellian practice of the Internet, developed by decades of conniving content creators, sock accounts, trolls, forums and imageboards. People can call you out. They might kickstart a process that ends your career and reputation. It might be for real reasons, or reasons that seem frivolous to some, or even for something they made up. You are exposed to this potential online whether you are famous or just another social media account.
That’s been the internet as it developed since the 1990s. Modern sociopolitical parlance might tell you you’re being ‘cancelled’, but none of that constitutes a ‘cancel culture’. It is a blend of these two facets of internet culture. Now that popular culture has well and truly been subsumed by internet culture, you can’t avoid it and there is no logging off.
Just been thinking about all of this stuff out bush with my flag flapping around me. Love going out bush to reflect on the culture wars, like a proper Aussie. It gets me reminiscing about the heady early-Trump culture war era. Remember those days? Remember the terminally disingenuous cumrags like Milo Yiannopoulos and the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’, whose careers revolved around saying nasty and offensive shit and then wearing the resultant ‘cancellations’ like a gold medal?
They weren’t called ‘cancellations’ then, but you get the idea. Anyway, they all faded away after a while. We figured out that the whole ‘socialists hate me because I’m brave enough to measure skulls and call women sluts’ stuff kickstarted careers but it didn’t offer any sustainable mainstream merit. Still, this ‘cancel culture’ stuff seems to have given the old culture warriors a shot in the arm Now that it’s gained legs as a new iteration of the old ‘free speech-stifling leftist bogeyman’ trope. There’s way too many careers kept on life support by that one trope for it to die! It’s nice to get out bush with your flag and brace yourself for a thousand God-awful NewsCorp columns about how evil cancellation is.
At least it was novel to see old mate Lauren Southern banging on about it. Remember her? Lauren’s apparently now relocated from Canada to Australia! I think that’s the first effective argument she’s ever amounted against migration. Yeah mate, I was just reading her article by the fire earlier while I waited for the billy to boil. She wrote a breathless article for the Spectator about the perils of ‘cancel culture’. She’s so on the pulse about our sunburnt nation! Why, she even had someone else catch her out bush reflecting with her flag, just like us. Gosh she’s naturalising quick!
Just your regular true blue dinky-di, right-wing extremist girl next door, Lauren Southern (Image: Supplied)
I’m pretty surprised though, because Lauren Southern is just about the last person in the world who I think gets to fret about ‘cancel culture’. Lauren says in her article: “I’ve been cancelled so many times in my life I can’t even count anymore”. I suppose I could be accused of trying to ‘cancel’ Lauren once.
In 2018, she did an Australian speaking tour with Stefan Molyneux, accepting money in exchange for getting on stage to abuse Aboriginal people and stuff. Through the fun anti-racist action group I helped start in 2017, Yelling At Racist Dogs, I organised decent people to go to her shows to abuse her far-right supporters and neo-Nazi security detail. In our view they were no less active participants in political extremism than the far-right patriot rallies of the year prior, and we treated them accordingly. By yelling at them. In Adelaide, a heroic YARD member even confronted Lauren herself, calling her a racist dog, because she is. “Where’s your evidence for your claim?”, squawked Lauren, like a YouTuber. After the Adelaide run-in YARD’s fine name went around the world, with all her alt-right fans and colleagues cancell- uh, condemning us for our outrageous extremism. Lauren’s tour organisers called YARD ‘authoritarian terrorism’. They threatened us with the attentions of Victorian Police’s top counter-terrorism officials. For yelling. So, just so you know: these people tend to exaggerate a bit.
Tell you what, though. If anyone deserves the nightmare of a permanent cancellation – something that never seems to actually happen – it’s our newest Aussie, old mate Lauren Southern. Do you know why? Righto, cobber. Join me by the billabong as I flap my flag and luscious blonde hair about. I’ll tell you a couple of Lauren Southern career highlights.
Lauren came up in about 2015 with content with a political orientation she described as ‘cultural libertarianism’. It developed into what I describe as bare-faced white nationalism. Lauren was preoccupied with white genocide. She released a video in July 2017 called The Great Replacement. It used some cherry-picked data and a handful of anecdotal ‘evidence’ to come to the conclusion that all whites are being replaced by brown people in foreign-looking hats. This conspiracy theory is embraced by white nationalists, neo-Nazis and racists around the world. Some say it’s happening because of Jews. Some say it’s the United Nations, who are told what to do by Jews. Others reckon it’s because of Cultural Marxism and white guilt, which were phenomena foisted upon the white man by – *checks notes* – Jews. Notice a trend there. White nationalists like Southern were always good at obfuscating the anti-Semitic bit to keep their YouTube channels.
Many Australians probably weren’t aware of this theory when Lauren toured her ideas here in 2018. They were given a crash course in it the next year when Our Christchurch Killer, Brenton Tarrant, named his shooter’s manifesto after it. Lauren’s Great Replacement theory is not just a victim narrative. It is fundamentally an invitation to the angry white man to do something about it before it’s too late. Brenton did that. He defended the white race against the Muslim invasion that Lauren’s favourite theory warns of.
I say that anyone who pushed the Great Replacement conspiracy theory hard as part of their career shares Brenton’s bloody legacy with him.
Like Martin Sellner and his group Generation Identity. They were some major Tarrant inspo. In 2017 they began a campaign of sailing out to intercept humanitarian ships that were helping migrant vessels sailing into Europe seeking asylum. Thousands of migrants die each year on these voyages, so intervening with ships out to save them is tantamount to killing refugees (Sellner did claim they would ship any refugees they intercepted to ‘African nations’ rather than abandoning them at sea). When they launched their first race war ship in 2017, onboard on the very first night sailing was Lauren Southern. She filmed and uploaded a promotional video for the campaign.
Martin Sellner, Lauren’s mate, more recently came to attention in Australia when we learned that ‘Our Christchurch Killer’ – Brenton Tarrant – had donated 1500 Euros to him for his hard work on not-not-drowning brown people. They chatted at length. Lauren’s mates, hey.
Why do you concern yourself so with Lauren’s white nationalist career, Tom?, I imagine you ask yourself as you watch me flapping my flag. Am I obsessed? Do I secretly dream of writing Lauren’s biography? What’s my deal? Am I… trying to cancel this poor woman?
Mate, I’m sick and tired of running through the history of pathologically disingenuous, careerist nationalist clowns like Southern to an Australian audience of saps who think I’m carping on about nothing because I reckon everyone’s Hitler. Lauren announced in her recent career return after a lengthy hiatus that she is now a centrist. Oh, is that enough for the Spectator, is it? Enough for Sky News, who were happy to feature her on air after the article? People can just transition from race-war-signaller to columnist with a mere stated position change? Sounds chill.
Maybe for many in this country, but not for me. I don’t think Lauren gets to dust off the vlogging chair, announce “I’m a centrist!”, ignore her entire legacy and expect me to do the same.
Yes, I believe people can generally be forgiven. Not even the most fervent bout of contrition would make me forget about Lauren’s career and message to date but I do believe, in principle, in forgiveness. But anyway, who’s asking? Certainly not Lauren. She hasn’t requested anyone’s forgiveness. She just wants a job again. A job here in Australia, I assume, judging by her appearance on Sky News? Who knows.
But what can I do about any of it? Nothing, really. What can I do about the localisation of a famous Canadian white nationalist who helped popularise the theory that inspired a slew of mass-murderers – including Australia’s worst one? Someone who helped promote an white supremacist campaign to intercept refugees at sea is here now. And apparently she’s able to sanitise herself sufficiently to write columns and hop on Sky News simply by announcing that she has changed her political orientation. Apparently now that’s as Aussie as heading out bush with your flag cape on.
So what exactly is ‘cancel culture’? Lauren’s career does a good job of demonstrating how it does sweet fuck-all. If it were real, if it worked, I’d never have heard of her again. But that’s not the world we live in. It’s not real at all. It just sounds good for shameless nationalist dogs to churn breathless opinion columns out about.
It’s enough to make you want to escape it all. You know, pack your flags, put some lippy on and head out bush to clear your head. Hey, while you’re there, would you mind taking a photo of me flapping about? This is too authentically Aussie to miss.
Who wore it better? Lauren Southern or your humble correspondent (Image: Supplied)