Bryan Wall: A Warning Shot


From top: President Michael D Higgins speaks on his re-election victory on Saturday at Dublin Castle in front of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) and Presidential candidate, Peter Casey (far left); Bryan Wall

Across Europe the rise of movements of the Right has been especially noticeable in recent years. What binds them together, in spite of the geographic distances between them, is a worldview based on a number of recurrent themes.

Distress at the apparent loss of national identity, anguish for the loss of religious belief and institutions, fear or dislike of modernity and the resulting atomisation of society due to the prevalence of technology and neo-liberalism, and an overriding contempt for what they view as a form of coddling liberalism which pervades the industrialised world.

For those on the Far Right, this list of grievances is not sacrosanct but it is nonetheless a basis upon which their actions rest.

Economic conditions for the last decade have proven to be fertile ground for the rise of movements which give a voice to people with these beliefs. Their rise in the polls should come as no surprise yet, like the election victory of Donald Trump, it often does.

How do we explain this surprise?

Firstly, the source of much of the surprise comes from the mainstream media. Content to ignore the proliferation of right-wing movements, the Left often comes in for much vilification and degradation on the part of pundits in the media.

Reading any of the most popular British publications for the last two years would leave one with the impression that Jeremy Corbyn is the next Adolf Hitler and Karl Marx rolled into one. Such an obvious contradiction is not enough to deter his most vociferous enemies in the press.

All the while the rate of hate crimes has risen. Insinuating that Jeremy Corbyn and actual anti-Semites are cut from the same cloth undermines the whole notion of social justice, does damage to legitimate movements of the Left, and only emboldens those on the Right who relish in the muddied waters of confused ideologies.

This latter aspect allows them to brand themselves as “alt-right”; an alternative to, and sometimes ironic undermining, of mainstream institutions such as political offices and the media itself. A label like this allows them to market themselves as an “alternative” to the mainstream, as opposed to using the more appropriate term of fascist.

Others, such as the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) have no such concerns when it comes to their marketing policies.

Most recently, for example, they called on students in German schools to report their teachers for political bias using an online tool that the AfD designed. The bias in question would be “bias against our party”, according to an AfD spokesperson.

Since their creation, the AfD have campaigned on the basis of fighting against immigration, the supposed Islamisation of Germany, alongside restoring German cultural values, amongst other things. Given their policies one would hope that they would not be successful.

But they are just that. In the federal elections in 2017 they won 97 seats which in turn made them the third largest party in the German parliament.

What explains the success of the AfD, and others like them, is they have tapped in to the concerns of many people who feel they have been ignored by the mainstream. It is also explained by the support of people who feel alienated from the Left, or at least what passes as the Left in some quarters.

These concerns, enumerated above, are not always based on the idea of a form of racial supremacy or an authoritarian takeover of society. On occasion, as is the case here, some of their concerns warrant attention if we take them at face value.

Alienation from the Left and social justice movements more generally, is one element in particular on which we should focus our attention. I

n the American case, not every single person who voted for Donald Trump is a racist, gun-toting, misogynist. In the German case, the same applies.

What has made movements of the Right more prolific in recent years has been the previous ten years of economic austerity and hardship in Europe. In America, these hardships have lasted for decades.

And a movement of the Left more concerned with gender-neutral bathrooms and racial diversity in a corrupt political system than with economic realities, lived in and experienced daily by millions, has been a blind spot used by the Right to its advantage.

Social justice without economic justice is meaningless and this has been noticed by the Right who promise both.

Anger at mainstream politics and politicians has been utilised by elements of the Right at the expense of the Left. In Ireland it has often been noted that a Far Right movement has never taken off. There are no easy explanations for why this is the case.

One possible reason has been the dominance of parties of the Right and Centre-Right in Ireland for most of its history which have offered a pressure valve release of sorts. In this sense, a movement of the Far Right has been forestalled given the traditional social conservatism of the two major political parties here.

Nonetheless, there is a sizeable contingent of the population who are apparently unhappy with the current state of Irish society who are finding an outlet in elements of the Right that are not associated with mainstream politics.

When Sam Harris, Douglas Murray, and Jordan Peterson gave a lecture in Dublin in July of this year, they spoke in front of a crowd of thousands.

Mr Harris is a well-known defender of U.S. foreign policy and is a staunch defender of Israel. He is also known for his defence of racial profiling along with his general writings on Islam and the supposed threat it poses to the West.

Mr Murray is a neoconservative and criticises Islam along the same lines as Harris, arguing that Islam poses a threat to Europe in particular and therefore immigration must be stopped.

Mr Peterson, for his part, is beholden to the idea that a postmodern Marxist ideology has infiltrated universities and politics. From here it undermines all that was good about society in the past where it also insists that truth no longer matters.

All three speak the language of the Far Right; lamenting the destruction of aspects of modern society they consider important, a dislike of modern politics and culture, a wish to return to the golden days of the past, the Marxist infiltration of our institutions.

At one stage Peterson had planned to launch a website which listed university departments and courses which were “indoctrinated” by postmodern Marxist views. The plan was eventually scrapped — for reasons other than Peterson’s complete misunderstanding of both Marxism and postmodernism — but it bears a striking similarity to the AfD’s current initiative.

The appearance of these three men here and the fact that it was so well attended should be a wake-up call for many of us.

Despite the liberal facade that now covers the country, there is a sizeable portion of people who are unhappy with the current functioning and structure of society. Spokespeople for the Right are capitalising on this.

What will follow not long afterwards is a political movement of the Right that likewise capitalises on the real discontent that is felt and experienced and utilises the same inroads made by the Petersons of the world. Peter Casey’s result in our own presidential elections over the weekend is a symptom of this.

Yes, his comments about Travellers were contemptible and some of the many people who voted for him likely did so because of these comments.

But many are just as likely to have voted for him given the lack of coherent candidates, the clear bias shown against Gemma O’Doherty in her attempts to gain a nomination for the elections, and the very real and serious questions that were raised, and still need to be answered, surrounding the expenses of the incumbent Michael D. Higgins while in office.

Many on the Left in Ireland were in lockstep with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in their support for Higgins and his re-election. An alignment such as this should have given them pause for thought.

And now that Casey has placed second in the election, their own lack of comprehension of how this was possible is demonstrable of an even more serious problem.

They simply do not understand why people are unhappy, angry, and how the Left’s lack of self-awareness feeds into this.

Support for Higgins by Leftist parties and the hypocrisy this entails should be self-evident. It is apparently not. People voting for Casey as a result of this is currently too much for them to decipher.

This result, then, should be a warning that unless moral consistency is shown alongside an understanding of why people are deeply unhappy with modern society, the Right will continue to win at the expense of equality, justice and those on the Left who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of both.

What we will end up with if this continues is an Irish version of the AfD. With no coherent or consistent response to them or their supporters, their victory is assured and the Left will continue to fail to understand some very basic truths through either incompetence or unwillingness.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall


62 thoughts on “Bryan Wall: A Warning Shot

  1. Dub Spot

    “ the Left often comes in for much vilification and degradation on the part of pundits in the media.”

    Excuse me? In Ireland? #irishtimes #rte

        1. Giggidygoo

          Sure are, when the advertising (?) money is made available for things like the 2040 FG ‘plan’ needs to be foisted upon us. Advertising, of course, disguised as ‘editorial’

      1. Rob_G

        The last opinion poll I saw has Solidarity-PBP on 1%, I would be surprised to see any mention good, bad or indifferent in the media based on those figures.

        1. Ger Mc

          I am proud to one of that 1%. Listen here Casey is some fupper to have gone after the Travellers, but there is no need to be stoking the flames of some far right movement in Ireland. That’s just mad

  2. Pat-the-barker

    What a load of over thought rubbish, there is no move to the right in Ireland. Casey is not some master political strategist. He stumbled on an issue that’s pisses a lot of people off. The behaviour of the travelling community

    1. Termagant

      Exactly, it’s not as if he campaigned on driving travellers into the sea and purging their mention from the history books, if he hadn’t been asked about travellers we wouldn’t even know what his stance was. The big news here is: political aspirant confesses to holding a widespread opinion.

  3. Ben Redmond

    Ireland has a tiny vociferous Left in the Dail, almost no Right, and a huge all-things-to-all Centre. Fianna Fail used to be the great democratic populist party but lost that essence from the 1960s onwards with the departure of the old revolutionary guard and the emergence of the mohair-suited modernists. Today, with FF disgraced in the wake of corruption and financial mismanagement, Sinn Fein steadily presents itself as the ‘real FF’ populist party. Labour is in shambles because of its collaboration with the post-2008 financial meltdown EU-imposed austerity measures. SF and the minor Left parties have gobbled up the Dublin disgruntled voters where Labour might previously have prevailed.
    I doubt whether the Peter Joseph Casey surge in the presidential election signifies a political surge to the political Right in Irish politics. It is certain that the 23% voters who plumped for Casey have sent a message. I think it is important to decipher the message or messages they have sent. I think it is equally important to identify the segments of ‘the establishment’ that these messages have been sent to. How have these segments of the establishment been behaving in public that has disillusioned many voters? Is the writer of this article, Bryan Wall, any different in his lifestyle and utterances from these establishment segments? If not, then he might consider that he is part of a problem that he is trying to analyse.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      Well said, Ireland is the only country in Europe with a “populist”* party on the Left.

      * By ‘populist’ I do mean willing to jump on any popular bandwagon regardless of the party stance prior to knowing which way the people were going to go. Irish Water being a prime example.

  4. Ollie Cromwell

    It’s not the mainstream media which has villified Corbyn for his lack of action over widespread anti-Semitism in the Labour party but the Jewish media,Labour MPs who have subsequently been abused and threatened and large numbers of traditionally Labour-supporting Jews.
    What happened in Pittsburgh is what happens when you allow this to happen.

    1. phil

      Ah come on, Im a neutral casual observer of what goes on in the UK, and it was clear to be that Corbin was being measured by a different standard , even before the anti-Semitism issue. Vocal support of Corbin appeared to be dangerous within labour, and it had little to do with the Tories , labour was tearing itself apart from within.

      1. Ollie Cromwell

        Try telling that to hard-working,decent Labour MPs facing deselection by Momentum for having the temerity to go to a protest outside Parliament over Corbyn’s failure to crack down on anti-semitism.

    2. Pat

      Mass killings of Jews happens when the Jewish media are too quick to call out antisemitism?

      that’s a chilling thing to post Ollie

  5. Verbatim

    Very interesting article.
    I don’t think Casey has it in him to stir much up or, that many would rally behind him; it was more by error that he found himself in the Traveller debacle, and the votes for him were more of a cheering-on kind. It was troubling all the same when he took the weekend off to “think over whether to continue” and, yet, decided to carry on. I do believe that there is an ultra-right space waiting to be taken up in Ireland, perhaps not in the immediate present, but after Brexit takes effect, when more immigrants settle into Ireland who are not willing to integrate. People are realizing that the government hasn’t control over much at all.
    Look at Italy’s new anti-establishment government budget, the EU is not happy about Italy wanting to increase welfare spending and to roll back on some reforms and taxes!

    1. Ollie Cromwell

      I’m not sure why anyone questioning the consensus should automatically be bracketed as ultra-right.
      Brexit was a vote that encompassed vast swathes of working class territory as well as ordinary middle-class voters most of whom would baulk at the suggestion they were far right.
      Likewise Casey’s good showing in the referendum was down to specific constituencies where Travellers are a problem.
      You never going to see a halting site while ordering your €4.25 skinny latte from the coffee shop near your half million pound Docklands shoebox.
      Populism is about ordinary people being persuaded by the clever use of social media to vote after years of being ignored.
      It’s why Facebook is desperately trying to censor those with the most popular voice.
      Trump had 54 million Facebook ads compared to Clinton’s 40,000 during the last election – he won’t be able to do that in 2020.
      Populism is also about liberals failing to understand what caused it in the first place and instead of trying to answer it they double down on the abuse – by calling those concerned voters racist bigots.
      You only had to read BS last week to see the worst of them in action.

  6. Knocka Boi

    So let’s if I got this:

    Right Wing = Bad

    Left Wing = Good*

    *Except for:
    Pol Pot
    Chairman Mao
    Michael D Higgins

    1. MaryLou's ArmaLite

      You can see how the NPC meme gas become so popular, you could superimpose it on Bryan Wall and nobody would be able to tell the difference.

        1. SOQ

          National Socialism (German: Nationalsozialismus), more commonly known as Nazism

          The term “National Socialism” arose out of attempts to create a nationalist redefinition of “socialism”, as an alternative to both international socialism and free market capitalism.

          By the early 1920s the party was renamed the National Socialist German Workers’ Party – to attract workers away from left-wing parties such as the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Communists (KPD) – and Adolf Hitler assumed control of the organization.

          The majority of scholars identify Nazism in both theory and practice as a form of far-right politics.

        2. Knocka Boi

          Keep trying to pretend that the German Nazi’s were right wing. It means turning history and meaning upside down.

          It’s like trying to pretend the the US Democrats did not found the KKK.

          Fascist continues to be left wing ideology. It requires worship and subservience to the state for “the common good”: Just look at the current fascism of identity politics and how it must be forced on people through lies and coercion.

          You snowflakes won’t admit that you are the spiritual successors the Nazi storm troopers. You just all call yourselves Antifascist these days as a linguistic and etymological slight of hand that fools no one but yourselves.

          Hitler was a leftie – deal with it.

          1. Nigel

            Find me some neo-Nazis and modern KKK who support the Democrats then. The only ones who don’t support Trump think he hasn’t gone far enough. The idea that fascism is of the left us a propaganda lie that’s been around for twenty years or so. It’s completely ahistorical and on a par with anti-evolution arguments. You don’t even believe it yourself you’re just lying to pwn the libs, which means you’re covering for actual fascists on the right just to have a lol. At best.

          2. Knocka Boi

            Democratic Party Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia was a KKK member and mentor of Hillary Clinton.

            But you’ll ignore this because the waft of your own righteous indignation will triumph over any sense of the truth you may have.

            Hitler was still a Socialist leftie. Deal with it. Don’t lie about it.

          3. Nigel

            It’s 2018, Byrd famously recanted his racism and who’s Duke supporting now? How did the economic system of the German fascist state work?

          4. Knocka Boi

            I answered your question but you’re ignoring the answers as I predicted.

            Hitler was a socialist leftie. Deal with it. Don’t lie about it.

  7. Susan

    That lecture was most likely well attended because Sam “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” was there, as an outspoken atheist he would have drawn a moderate amount of interest from like minded people.

  8. Nigel

    I put it to you that the fact that the right in the US have been promulgating stories about a caravan of migrants being funded by George Soros and that attempted bombings of Trump critics were false flag operations, and that these stories are either believed or simply used as blunt political weapons by those willing to claim to believe them, is more emblematic of what the left, or anyone not of the current iteration of the hard right, is failing to deal with, regardless of your listing of the failings of the left. I also put it to you that the Repeal the 8th campaign provided a far more viable model for countering the current rise of the dangerous right than handwringing about the possibility that people on the left might be saying mean things about people on the right. You would be far better advised to quit worrying about the feelings of people who voted for Casey because he said stuff about Travellers, and either recruit or join in with veterans of the 8th, use their experience and expertise to drive your activism rather than engage in endless rounds of what amount to tone policing, the terms of which are often dictated by the right.

  9. Emily Dickinson

    Here’s why Casey polled almost 25%.

    Someone works 40 hours a week – a normal person who cares about homelessness, waiting lists, dodgy guards and all the rest. Maybe they pay rent in the city for a flat that they can’t afford, or commute a dozen hours a week from a distant county, or live with parents long past the point of being comfortable doing so. But they suck it up, pay their taxes and, amongst everything else, help to house other people in even greater need.

    Then our citizen reads about a group of Travellers down in Tipp who refuse to accept purpose built modern homes because they reckon they’re also fully entitled to stables for their horses at the taxpayers’ expense.

    That mind-blowing level of arrogance, ingratitude and entitlement is met by absolute silence from everyone across the entire political system. Equally, there’s not a peep of criticism from the mainstream media.

    Finally, a presidential candidate acknowledges what many people are thinking. And, yeah, he’s an idiot, and he goes way too far with his comments. But enough of what he says intersects with enough of how people feel that he gets their No1.

    And if that choice is deemed unacceptable, if the establishment don’t want people voting for the next Peter Casey, then they need to come down off their ultra-liberal, virtue-signalling high horses, and be prepared to criticise elements in society, even if they are from minorities, when it’s fair and appropriate to do so.

    1. Barry

      However, this “normal person” did not vote. Turnout 44%.

      This construct person rants, in his car on the commute, but that’s it. Even if there are “thousands” at a right winger meet, they are small numbers overall. Irish politics is (still) local, fix things for me.

      Modern politics, and politicians, is based on getting a significant % happy enough. They have a job, a place to live, two holidays a year, and football. There is more “popular” reaction and media reporting of the accident in Leicester than political comment.

    1. MaryLou's ArmaLite

      It was a Christian conservative state, I cannot speak to earlier that the 80s,but in my time here it had never been right wing.

  10. Yep

    I find it ridiculous to consider the Harris debate as a “wake-up call” in the way you are framing it. It was essentially a debate on religious belief as a whole and when immigration was debated it centred more on the problems of integration and problems within the countries migrants escaping.

    Peterson goes off the boil regularly but to say the other two speak the language of the Far right is completely untrue.

    Also, we have an AfD. Identity Ireland. Following their facebook or even the journal comments should be far more of a worry than that overpriced intellectual waffling that mainly middleclass men attended.

  11. Nullzero

    Another Liberal “poor travellers(but don’t you dare put a halting site next to my house)” type having a whinge.
    Ireland isn’t in danger of heading down a path to far right mayhem.
    People are just sick of travellers getting away with being professional criminals.
    Any excuse for” progressive” cry babies to over egg the pudding and start telling us the sky is falling in.

  12. MaryLou's ArmaLite

    Somebody can be pissed at the behaviour of travellers, annoyed at those who abused social welfare, think the Christian bakers should be allowed to refuse to make that cake, support gay marriage and be pro choice, all at the same time.

    According to Bryan Wall’s identity politics this person would be both far right, Christian conservative and liberal, which makes no sense. You can’t distill things down to left and right, real life is far more nuanced.

      1. johnny

        -its like watching in slow motion two dump trucks crashing into each other-spewing garbage everywhere.
        -yeah ‘real life is more nuanced’-has be most hypocritical comment from the resident woman hating,sectarian,bigot on here…….

  13. Redzer

    ” the clear bias shown against Gemma O’Doherty in her attempts to gain a nomination for the elections”

    The anti-choice, anti-vax, Trump supporting Gemma O’Doherty.

    And you warn against the right and complain about the left?

    Give me a break.

  14. Truth in the News

    What Casey has accomplished is to focus minds on the failed policy that has been a social
    program to interfere in the lives and behavior of nomadic group that had a different tradition
    that existed for generations living on the side of the road and the conferring of “ethic status”
    only conceals the real problem, the issue needs a fresh approach by establishment Ireland
    whose only policy is house this group in clusters out of of the way. indeed out of sight, its almost
    the same as what was done to the Native Americans,,,,,little wonder that the issue garnered
    almost 350 thousand votes…..whats been going on with years is a well concealed program
    of discrimination of shifting the problem away from leafy suburbs affluence or the grounds
    of RTE or the Presidents Residence

      1. Truth in the News

        Establishment already done it, latest example Gilmartin Rd Tuam….price tag 8 Million
        Euros and don’t ignore the so called National Lottery

  15. Ronan

    Whatever about anything else, given the exit poll showed that only 2% voted due to a concern over the expenses/alowance/cost of presidency issue can we please drop the charade that anyone other than the media and a few columnists cares about the €315,000 and a few uses of the government jet.

  16. f_lawless

    This article omits the most concerning case of all in regards to right wing movements taking hold across Europe. The legitimisation over the last 4 years of a neo-Nazi government in Ukraine by the US and by NATO forces. First the US helped orchestrate a coup there, now NATO forces are arming and training these same right wing extremists.

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