Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Bernardi flirts with fascism

When Cory Bernardi's views on abortion appeared in the news yesterday I instinctively reached for an image that would encapsulate, for me, all the issues that appeared by themselves in the context of them, and came up with a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph showing a woman whose body expresses strength, autonomy and agency but whose head is covered by cloth. The cloth falls to the ground behind her like a wedding veil. The image says, in a way, that once again we have middle-aged male politicians telling women how to use their bodies. The Mapplethorpe image, which probably dates from the 80s, has a clean look like images produced in Europe in the intra-war years of last century. Exactly the same association was made at the time in a slightly different context by graphic designer Neville Brody who was active with magazines, book covers, record labels and product packaging in that decade. Brody said about his first typeface:
[The first alphabet I did] was like a typeface from the 1930s, fascistic in a sense, and I was using it to comment on the state of the nation as I saw it. I was trying to pinpoint in the most graphic terms the parallel between what had happened in the Thirties, and the situation in the Eighties: the divided nation, the class division, the economic recession, and a highly authoritarian government.
Rigid control of autonomous entities such as people's bodies such as the South Australian senator wishes to impose has more than a vague resemblance to fascistic ideas about race and reproduction. The image I instinctively selected to show people closely resembles the kind of idealised conceptions of people the Nazis used during their time in power, before WWII, to manipulate, flatter and coopt the population in order to progress their militaristic policies, and Bernardi's new book's title - The Conservative Revolution - points in precisely the same direction. If the Nazis were anything they were radical, although we've long become used to radicalism as belonging to the Left. A "conservative revolution" is exactly what the Nazis undertook in Germany (then Austria, then elsewhere) during the 1930s.

Bernardi's book title also points urgently to the attitudes of the US Tea Party, a component of the Right in that country that also flirts with fascism under such anodyne banners as "freedom". An ideologue, Bernardi is offering politically correct solutions that abandon reason while he simultaneously accuses his political opponents of precisely what his words represent. People need to be aware of how politicians manipulate debates for their own ends, and Bernardi is clearly taking his cue from a successful party of the Right active just prior to the cataclysmic event that sparked the Western liberal revolution of the 60s and 70s. He is to be deeply distrusted.

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