When Fraser Anning was attempting to justify his appearance at a far-right rally attended by Nazis, his media adviser saw a room filled with journalists and could barely contain his glee.
After a hostile news conference, where nonsense filled the void logic and rationality had left, the adviser turned back to the room and attempted to give a high-five to passing journalists. “ABC!” he exclaimed. “Yes! High five!”
The journalist declined. Anning and his staff didn’t care.
They had received what they came for. Five more minutes in a rapidly diminishing spotlight, a desperate attempt to extend the legitimacy his position as a senator of this nation afforded him.
Despite the increasingly grasping attempts for infamy, come the election in May, Anning will depart the Australian Senate. But his message will not.
Like a xenophobic Icarus, Anning flew too close to the sun and was burned on Friday, as he moved to blame the victims just hours after their innocent lives were lost to a white terrorist.
But vote for him, they did. More than 250,000 people did just that in fact, with his name forming part of the One Nation Senate ticket in Queensland, winning the Pauline Hanson-led party the highest vote after the major parties.
A twist of fate elevated him to the Senate when Malcolm Roberts, Hanson’s number two, fell to the section 44 constitutional crisis.
But it would not have taken much more for Anning to have been elected as the third One Nation senator. He didn’t just happen upon the party’s ticket. He’d been there before. If he hadn’t had fallen out with Hanson over Roberts, he’d be there again.
But the name doesn’t matter, because there is always another Anning. And there is always someone willing to vote for them, a media outlet willing to amplify and normalise their views so they can be found, a debate they are invited to attend in the name of false balance.
Anning went too far for even those who had help sew his wings, but he has never been alone.
One of the biggest massacres in history was carried out in the name of white Australia, allegedly by someone who heard the same messages we do, who grew up in the same environment.
Someone who took the symbols we’re told are just jokes, or harmless memes, or overreactions, and inked them on a weapon of death he deployed against innocents in a place of worship.
his defenders, of whom there were many, including his one-time party leader Bob Katter, dismissed any criticisms as overreactions.
Two months later, government senators voted in favour of a One Nation motion declaring it was “OK to be white”, a white supremacist slogan that made its way from troll chat rooms, to the floor of the Australian Senate.
Hanson – who had walked into the Senate wearing a burqa the year before – and conservative supporters still proudly wave the motion, despite the government’s humiliating reversal once it realised it had voted in favour of a fascist mantra.
Just one month later, the Nationals were forced to purge members from the party, after an investigation revealed at least 22 had links to neo-Nazis.
Members of the LNP youth arm dismissed their sudden use of the OK symbol, which has been co-opted as a white power dog whistle, as an overreaction of the snowflake left, looking for offence in every social media happy snap.
Conservative MPs hollered for special treatment for white South African farmers seeking Australian visas, despite spurious evidence that any was needed, while rampaging against “African gangs” in the face of police calls for calm.
International white nationalists were given media platforms and speaking gigs, and any criticisms were declared as political correctness gone mad, or as attempts to stifle freedom of speech.
Permanent migration numbers have been falling in Australia, but leading politicians talk about the “migration problem”, blaming migrants for successive governments’ failures to plan for population growth.
Anning went too far, but his path was well worn. The Queensland senator is scheduled to attend anotherevent in Victoria, and taxpayers are most likely to once again foot the bill.
There will be another outcry. Louder this time. With more voices. But it won’t matter. In a few short weeks, his name will be banished from the parliament, to be forgotten with all the haste shame and regret can bring, but that too won’t matter.
As long as there are those willing to blur lines for political gain, there will always be another Anning, waiting to push increasingly normalised discourse to its limit, before even those who laid out the path are forced to condemn it.
Anning isn’t an anomaly any more. The next one won’t be either.