Why the alt-right believes another American Revolution is coming


Clare Corbould, Deakin University and Michael McDonnell, University of Sydney

The alt-right, QAnon, paramilitary and Donald Trump-supporting mob that stormed the US Capitol on January 6 claimed they were only doing what the so-called “founding fathers” of the US had done in 1776: overthrowing an illegitimate government that no longer represented them.

This was the start of what they called the “second American Revolution”.

This is why the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag was visible in the chaos — a symbol of resistance that dates back to the (first) American Revolution and was resurrected a decade ago by Republican Tea Party activists.

It is not hard to understand the appeal of this history to Trump’s followers. The era of the “founding fathers” has always loomed large in the minds of most Americans. And stories about the past are, after all, how individuals, families, and communities small and large, make sense of themselves.

Yet, it is worth noting these recollections of the past are necessarily selective.

The right to life, liberty — and to abolish government

Alt-right extremists, following conservative politicians, have also drawn succour from the Constitution, particularly when it comes to their “rights”, such as the right to free speech and bear arms.

These and other rights were not actually enumerated in the original Constitution, but rather tacked on in the Bill of Rights — a set of ten amendments passed to appease opponents of the Constitution and get it ratified.

These rights are fused together with the more vague yet “unalienable” rights enunciated in the 1776 Declaration of Independence — chief among them being the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.




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Drawing on philosopher John Locke’s ideas, the Declaration of Independence proclaims “we the people” come together to form a government to protect these rights.

And crucial to Trump supporters today, it says,

whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

This was the sentiment voiced on January 6 when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol. They chanted “This is our America” and “Whose house? Our house!”

Trump himself encouraged this thinking when he told the crowd before they marched to the Capitol, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness.”

The question is: who do Trump and, more broadly speaking, the alt-right think has taken the United States from them?

Many protesters outside the Capitol carried signs against the government.
John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx/AP

Rights for only a select few

The answer is evident in how the alt-right imagines the past: their vision of history omits or callously ignores the fact their constitutional rights have come at the cost of the lives and rights of others.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence it was a “self-evident” truth “that all men are created equal.” Generations of enslaved and free Black activists and their allies have worked towards realising this goal.




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Why the far-right and white supremecists have embraced the Middle Ages and their symbols


But for the founding fathers, and many of their white supremacist heirs, true “citizens” were exclusively white and male. A few years after penning the declaration, Jefferson denounced Black people as inferior. He owned hundreds of slaves. Even his own children, whom he fathered with Sally Hemings, were born into slavery.

Almost all of the founding fathers, in fact, were slaveholders or profited from the slave trade. Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution freed any of the half million enslaved people in the new United States — one-fifth of the population.

Rather, the Constitution purposefully entrenched the institution of slavery. By protecting the rights of slaveholders to pursue their happiness by holding on to their “property”, it doomed four more generations to enslavement.

Signing of the Declaration of Independence
Signing of the Declaration of Independence, by Armand Dumaresq.
The White House Historical Association (White House Collection)

By the start of the Civil War in 1861, there were 4 million people enslaved in the US.

The Constitution also gave the government the power to raise an army. After the American Revolution, this power was used time and again to wage a long genocidal war against Native Americans across the continent.

When enslaved and free Black people and their white abolitionist allies acted against slavery, slaveholders invoked the Revolution. They claimed they were undertaking God’s will to complete the work begun in 1776 of creating a free nation, and made slave-holding former President George Washington their hero.

It took an unprecedented and destructive Civil War to finally put an end to slavery, and another century or so for African Americans to achieve full rights as citizens in the United States. Every step of the way, they were contested and blocked by individuals, groups, states and judges who claimed they were upholding the principles of the Constitution.




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Rights trump equality

It should be no surprise, then, the alt-right movement is invoking the same “Revolution” today.

After Barack Obama’s presidency, Trump gave a voice to the grievances of his largely white supporters who feared they were being displaced in their own country.

And following the summer of the Black Lives Matter movement and Trump’s baseless claims the 2020 election was stolen, the Capitol Hill insurrectionists firmly believed “they” had lost control of the United States. They were no longer the “we the people” in charge.

'We the people will bring DC to its knees'
A sign at the Capitol insurrection declaring, ‘We the people will bring DC to its knees’.
John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx/AP

As in the past, they also had the support of prominent politicians beyond Trump. One of their supporters, the newly elected Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (who is also a QAnon supporter) declared before the January 6 move to block the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory,
This is our 1776 moment”.

And Congressman Paul Gosar, a prominent Trump supporter, wrote an op-ed entitled “Are we witnessing a coup d’etat?” in which he advised followers to “be ready to defend the Constitution and the White House”.

It has never been entirely clear when exactly the United States was last great in the minds of Trump supporters wearing their “Make America Great Again” caps. It might be the Ronald Reagan presidency of the 1980s for some, or sometime prior to the civil rights, women’s and gay liberation movements and the US defeat in Vietnam.

But there’s no doubt as to when this mythical greatness started. The yearning for the founding era — a time when slaveholders overthrew a government to protect their rights (including the right to hold people as property) — is palpable.The Conversation

Clare Corbould, Associate Professor, Contemporary Histories Research Group, Deakin University and Michael McDonnell, Professor of History, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why the far-right and white supremecists have embraced the Middle Ages and their symbols


Helen Young, Deakin University

Medievalist references littered the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6th.

Rudy Giuliani called for a “trial by combat”; the “Q Shaman”, Jacob Chansley (also known as Jake Angeli), was covered in Norse tattoos; rioters brandished a flag with a Crusader cross and the Latin words Deus Vult: a Crusader war cry meaning “God wills it” that has been taken up by the far-right.

These far-right appropriations of the European Middle Ages are important reminders that recent violence has a long history and global scope. Medievalist symbols were displayed at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The Christchurch terrorist’s manifesto referred to Norse and Crusading medievalisms.

There are many other examples.

Extremists misinterpret and appropriate medieval culture to suit their own purposes. They add new modern meanings to historical images and ideas and put them in new contexts. To understand why and how, we need to look to the modern world, not the Middle Ages.

Medievalism and whiteness

The association of the European Middle Ages and white identities reflects modern racisms more than medieval realities.

In the late 18th century, nations like England, Germany and France needed new origin stories that accounted for the emerging pseudo-science of race and the support imperialist claims of superiority over peoples they sought to subjugate.

In the 18th Century, white Europeans developed new unscientific definitions of ‘race’, such as in this 1851 map of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach’s five races.
Wikimedia Commons

The Middle Ages had been understood as a dark period of barbarism between Classical and modern times, but were re-imagined as the crucible of European whiteness and its variations such as “Celtic” and “Anglo-Saxon”.

The roots of social and cultural institutions were linked to ideas of biological descent.

In the 1700s, the Germanic “Gothic race” was understood, especially by the English and Germans who claimed descent, as having an inherent love of freedom, capacity for violence and respect for women. These supposed qualities were said to have led to the feudal system of government, chivalry and particular cultural aesthetics.




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The same ideas were linked to an imagined “Anglo-Saxon race” in the British Empire and its colonies. Racialized ideas about freedom that come from the 18th and 19th century are still influential among white extremists.

In architecture, academia, literature, language and art, whiteness was associated with the Middle Ages in ways that still resonate in 21st century society and culture. Pre-Raphaelite art created a white medievalist aesthetic reflected in modern TV shows like Game of Thrones (2011-19) and The Last Kingdom (2015–).

The pre-Raphaelites reimagined the Middle Ages as a white society, such as in this 1901 painting by Francis Bernard Dicksee.
Bristol Culture, CC BY-NC-SA

This association of white racial and cultural identity with the European Middle Ages is still strong in mainstream culture, as well as among extremists. We only need to look at controversies, such as the black British actor Jodie Turner-Smith playing Anne Boleyn.

Why do white supremacists use medievalist symbols?

White extremists take up existing ideas to legitimise their ideologies and false claims about the past. A rigidly structured feudal society ruled through violence by a king and nobility is appealing to fascists.

Most Western nations, including Australia, understand the European Middle Ages as part of their heritage. A copy of the Magna Carta, an English royal charter from 1215 often said to have enshrined trial by jury and other legal freedoms, hangs in Parliament House in Canberra. This makes medievalist symbols useful in allowing extremists to reach across national borders.

Medievalism is everywhere in contemporary Western culture, from entertainment like Vikings (2013-20) and the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise, to home loan and credit card advertisements, political discourse, themed restaurants and much more.

This helps make extremist associations deniable. Hate symbols can be hidden in plain sight when their meaning is open to question.

While Chansey’s tattoos are classed as hate symbols by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), they also note they are sometimes used by “non-racist pagans”.




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Popular culture medievalisms contribute to this deniability and provide opportunities for radicalisation through shared interests.

Former Ku Klux Klan member Derek Black started a section dedicated to Lord of the Rings and fantasy (a major area of popular medievalism) on the white supremacist site Stormfront in the early 2000s specifically to recruit people to white nationalist ideology. He told the New York Times he thought people who liked the “white mythos” of Lord of the Rings could be “turned on by white nationalism”.

More recently, video games and gaming websites — where medievalist material is common — have become major sites of concern for anti-radicalisation practitioners and policy makers because of activity by the far right.

Awareness is needed

Recent years have seen an increase in white extremist violence, including — but not limited to — mass-murderous terror attacks. It is increasingly important that we are aware of hate symbols.

The ADL’s advice to consider context in deciding if a particular use of a symbol is “racist” is not necessarily useful in deciding whether it is a sign of white extremism because of deniability and exploitation of common beliefs.

Medievalist symbols like those displayed at the Capitol have been linked to white European identities for centuries. Their use by violent extremists means that this connection can not be denied, ignored, or thought of as a neutral choice. We must deliberately, actively, and explicitly reject hateful meanings and the violence that goes with them in all aspects of our medievalist modern world.The Conversation

Helen Young, Lecturer, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Far-right groups have used COVID to expand their footprint in Australia. Here are the ones you need to know about



ERIK ANDERSON/AAP

Kaz Ross, University of Tasmania

The threat of far-right terrorism has loomed large in Australia this week. An 18-year-old from NSW has been arrested on charges of advocating terrorism and inciting others to violence. According to police, he had not only been sharing white supremacist and neo-Nazi views online, but had expressed support for being involved in a “mass casualty” event.

The arrest coincided with the launch of an inquiry into extremist movements in Australia by the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security. Headed by Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, the inquiry will consider both right-wing and left-wing extremism.

The teenager from Albury arrested this week by the NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team.
AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE

Also this week, the royal commission report into the Christchurch terrorist attack reported that New Zealand security and intelligence services had mistakenly ignored the potential of far-right groups to commit acts of terrorism due to an overwhelming focus on Islamist threats.

The commissioners confirmed the convicted terrorist behind the attack that killed 51 people had been active in Australian extremist groups before moving to New Zealand.

The far right becoming more visible during pandemic

Far-right extremism is not a new phenomenon in Australia, but it has certainly been on the rise in the past year in response to federal and state governments’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In September, ASIO revealed that up to 40% of its counterterrorism efforts were now directed at far-right extremist activities, an increase from 10-15% before 2016.

ASIO has also warned that far-right groups were exploiting the pandemic to expand their operations. New groups have emerged and existing groups have become more radicalised and increased their memberships.




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One such right-wing group is the Proud Boys. They received what seemed like an endorsement this year from US President Donald Trump when, after being asked to condemn white supremacist and militia groups during the first presidential election debate in September, he said they should “stand back and stand by”.

The group has also been growing in Australia this year. Its vetting channel on the encrypted app Telegram has been increasingly active, with a steady stream of new applicants. And members have participated in protests throughout the year.

At the Melbourne Invasion Day rally, a group of Proud Boys posed at Flinders Street Station wearing T-shirts that said “Governor Arthur Phillip did nothing wrong”. They dispersed before the rally commenced.

By November, however, they were bolder and appeared wearing their signature Fred Perry polo shirts at an anti-lockdown protest at Victoria’s Parliament House. They scuffled with police before being pepper-sprayed, arrested and fined.

The Proud Boys became more of a visible presence at a November protest in Melbourne.
Erik Anderson/AAP

The Proud Boys are a self-described “Western chauvinist” street-fighting gang for men. They claim to be non-racist, but members must take an oath upholding Western civilisation as supreme. Their process for becoming a member also involves violence against each other and against antifascists or “antifa”.




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This year, Proud Boys members in America have been arrested for assault, street brawls and weapons offences. They are an increasingly visible presence on the streets there, frequently wearing military body armour and carrying high-powered weapons.

The increased visibility of Proud Boys at demonstrations is concerning if it signals a new strategy by the group to engage in street violence either with police or left-wing protesters.

Proud Boys members protesting the presidential election outcome in Washington. Note right Wing Death Squad badge.
KYDPL KYODO/AP

Other far-right groups emerging

Other right-wing groups in Australia have benefited from public anger to the government’s coronavirus responses, as well.

Relatively new groups such as the Townsville Free Corps and the National Socialist Network, an offshoot of the Lads Society and incorporating ex-Antipodean Resistance members, have stepped up their recruitment and propaganda activities in Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland over the past year.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre in the US, which tracks far-right extremist groups, revealed in August that the white supremacist terror group The Base had also interviewed potential Australian members using its Perth-based recruiter to set up cells. By late 2019, at least a dozen Australian men had applied to join The Base.

One potential member had been a former political candidate for One Nation, the SPLC reported.

Many of these far-right groups are adherents to the same “great replacement theory” that motivated the Christchurch killer. According to this theory, white Europeans are threatened by increasing non-white immigration and are therefore facing “white genocide”.




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The Base follows an “accelerationist” ideology, which aims to bring about societal collapse as a way of “winning the race war” for whites.

The National Socialist Network, which has more than 2,000 members on Telegram, uses the “great replacement theory” to recruit. Its leader, Thomas Sewell, specifically targets young, white, “disgruntled” men.

When hateful speech turns into violence

Tyler Jakovac, the 18-year-old man arrested in Albury this week, fits this description. According to NSW police assistant commissioner Mark Walton, he hated anyone who did not look like him and was specifically opposed to Jews, Muslims and immigrants.

The National Socialist Network issued a statement via an encrypted app claiming that Jakovac applied to join six months ago, but didn’t pass the vetting process. The group claims that after being rejected, Jakovac abused it as being “too moderate”.

The Christchurch killer, meanwhile, had been invited to join an earlier version of Sewell’s group. He declined and went on to act alone.

This raises a problem: extremist groups with a public propaganda strategy are easier to identify, but as the inquiry into the Christchurch attack noted, lone actors can be almost invisible to authorities.




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There are communities on gaming platforms, message boards and in encrypted apps that share racist, anti-semitic and hateful material every day. By ““weaponising” irony, users can hide behind plausible deniability (“it’s just a joke”) when challenged about the violence stated in their posts. But to outsiders, the language used can be confronting.

It is often insiders who have a more finely tuned sense of when someone is crossing over from sharing memes to something more sinister. We need to educate and support internet users to follow their hunches by identifying and reporting other users who are edging toward violent action.

The Christchurch murderer was reported to police in 2016 for threatening someone with retribution on the “day of the rope”, according to the inquiry report. This is neo-Nazi shorthand for the mass murder of race traitors. Unfortunately, no police action was taken.

There are thousands of references to the “day of the rope” in online groups — knowing when to step in is the challenge. And, as the events of this week show, disruptive preemptive action is essential to reduce the risk of another mass murder.The Conversation

Kaz Ross, Lecturer in Humanities (Asian Studies), University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia recognises the threat posted by far-right groups. So, why aren’t they listed on the terror register?



Shutterstock

Jessie Smith, University of Cambridge

This week, Kristina Keneally announced plans by Labor to review the nation’s register of terrorist organisations.

ASIO sounded an alarm last month that far-right groups pose an elevated threat to Australian national security. Cells have met to salute the Nazi flag and train in combat. ASIO is now investigating twice as many far-right leads as last year.

However, to date, no far-right group has been banned in Australia. This sits in contrast to the UK, where National Action and other far-right groups are outlawed and members have been convicted of terror-related and other crimes.

Keneally asks whether our laws are fit for purpose. One year after the Christchurch massacre, it’s time to investigate whether enough is being done to address the far-right threat in this country.

How groups are listed on the terror register

The definition of terrorism underpins the way terror organisations are registered in both the UK and Australia. Australia designed its laws from a British template, so the definitions are very similar.

At its core, a “terrorist act” is defined as conduct with special characteristics – namely, the advancement of a “political, religious or ideological cause” and the coercion of government or the intimidation of the public.

There are two ways to counter far-right groups in Australia.

The first is through the proscription process, or the creation of a “list” or register of banned groups.

To list a group on the national register, Home Affairs reviews intelligence from ASIO and must be satisfied the group is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting, fostering or advocating terrorism. There is huge symbolism in proscription. It is the highest level of disendorsement, as it can allow the government to label a political movement as criminal.




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There is good reason for the government to be selective – many hundreds of groups can meet the broad definition of terrorism. For instance, any rebel group in a war zone fits the bill, including allies we arm, train and partner with, such as certain groups in Syria.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is therefore guided by discretionary factors, such as a group’s ties to Australia and its threat profile and nature of its ideology. Most groups on the terror list are large, well-resourced Islamist outfits such as Boko Haram and al-Qaeda.

The second way to affix a terrorist label to a group is by satisfying a jury, at trial, that it meets the legal criteria of “terrorist organisation”. This process does not involve Home Affairs; the decision rests with the jury.

Smaller, home-grown cells have been tried in this way, such as the conviction of the Benbrika group (the “MCG plotters”) in 2006. The jury found they were members of a terrorist organisation despite their absence from the national terror register. As such, leaving a group off the list does not create a meaningful gap in the law.

This two-tiered approach allows flexibility. At times, a group might not have a name, or it might not be organised or have a public profile.

There might also be operational reasons for ministerial restraint for not listing a group, such as fear that public declarations could disrupt covert police investigations into its activities.

Why have far-right groups been banned in the UK?

So, what explains the difference between the UK and Australia when it comes to dealing with far-right groups?

Despite Keneally’s concern, there is no meaningful difference between proscription criteria in the two countries. The UK includes violence committed on racial grounds, but this is matched by our reference to ideological motive. The UK looks to those who “glorify” terrorism, but we include groups that “advocate” or “praise” similar conduct.




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However, one way the two countries diverge may be in the scale of the threat.

National Action, a neo-Nazi group whose members have called for a “race war”, has a large following in the UK. Members cheered the murder of MP Jo Cox and have been jailed for plotting to kill other left-wing politicians.

The far-right in Australia may not yet have gained the same momentum.

Greater parliamentary powers over Home Affairs

Keneally is trying to figure out whether the failure to list far-right groups in Australia is due to the law, the lack of sufficient threat or the lack of political will.

But the law is fit for purpose, and ASIO has issued a serious public warning. What’s left hanging is politics.

Rather than review the criteria for proscription, Keneally should press for an enhanced role for parliament’s intelligence and security committee over Home Affairs.




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Parliament’s intelligence and security committee can currently review (and veto) a decision by Dutton to add a group to the register of terror organisations. But the committee cannot intervene in cases Home Affairs deliberately rejects.

Perhaps an expanded parliamentary review function over the minister’s decision-making and the department’s method of prioritisation would give Keneally the answers she seeks.

In response to ASIO’s warning on far-right groups, Dutton was quick to label Islamists as “left-wing” extremists.

Despite Labor’s objections to this characterisation, Islamic extremist and “far-right” groups have much in common – all are driven by elements of hate, misogyny, supremacy, destruction and brands of extreme social conservatism. All deserve sober consideration, whatever the label, and without political distraction.The Conversation

Jessie Smith, PhD in Law, University of Cambridge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia isn’t taking the national security threat from far-right extremism seriously enough



The Christchurch attack is a clear signal we need to change our approach to both hateful extremism and toxic political discourse in Australia.
David Alexander/AAP

Greg Barton, Deakin University

This is part of a new series looking at the national security challenges facing Australia, how our leaders are responding to them through legislation and how these measures are impacting society. Read the rest of the series here.


Until the terror attack in Christchurch in March, the threat of far-right terrorism in Australia was one we knew was coming, but believed was well over the horizon.

The sordid story of the Christchurch attacker – “ordinary Australian” turned hateful bigot turned mass-murdering terrorist – contains some uncomfortable truths for our country, not least of which is the fact that the threat of far-right extremism has arrived in the here and now.

Just as troubling, yet even more challenging because it is so insidious, are the clear links between the Christchurch shooter’s motivations and our mainstream political discourse. Facing up to this threat requires us changing our approach both to hateful extremism and toxic political discourse.

Police and counter-terrorism officials have long been warning us of the rising threat of far-right violent extremism. Over the past decade, this has emerged as the number one terrorist threat in America and a persistent and growing threat in Europe.




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Christchurch attacks are a stark warning of toxic political environment that allows hate to flourish


It’s tempting to say that had more resources been committed to tracking and monitoring far-right groups and individuals in Australia, the Christchurch terrorist perhaps could have been stopped.

But even in hindsight, things are not so clear. The Christchurch gunman was a lone actor with no previous history of significant violence, although his involvement in hateful extremism was well-known to family and friends.

This is the particular threat that keeps counter-terrorism experts awake at night, when so-called “cleanskins” (people with ostensibly spotless records) turn into lone-actor terrorists.

We are flying blind on far-right extremism

One clear lesson from Christchurch is that we need to pay more attention to hate speech and hate crimes.

It is true that “shit-posting” is a common occurrence on social media, and among all those people spouting off, it is extremely difficult to see who might become a violent extremist.

But clearly, we don’t understand the world of far-right extremism nearly as well as we should. We need a better way of monitoring and tracking far-right forums, social networks and the links between far-right individuals through their histories of travel and extremist communications.

We also have no centralised, national database of hate incidents. Hate crimes remain under-reported, poorly documented and de-prioritised to low levels of state policing.




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Right-wing extremism has a long history in Australia


The result is that we are flying blind. We don’t get to see the patterns between far-right groups and internet “shit-posters” because we are not collecting the data.

If we made it a priority at the state and federal level to document hate incidents, whether crimes or not, we would at least have a sense of when and where the problem is growing and who is most significantly involved.

This wouldn’t eliminate the threat of far-right extremism, but it might help stop the next massacre and it would certainly contribute to making Australian society more healthy, welcoming and just.

Anti-immigrant protesters at a Reclaim Australia rally in Sydney in 2015.
David Moir/AAP

A disproportionate focus on Islamist terror threats

The September 11 attacks in America, and subsequent attacks by al-Qaeda in Bali, Madrid, London and elsewhere, triggered an enormous investment in counter-terrorism efforts in Australia.

This had barely begun to abate when the formation of the Islamic State (IS) caliphate in mid-2014 alerted us to the high rates of terror recruitment in Australia and prompted the raising of the national terrorism alert to the penultimate level in September 2014.

An intercepted phone call then triggered Australia’s largest-ever counter-terrorism operation. Shortly afterward, the Islamic State issued a call for random lone-actor attacks around the world and, within days, an 18-year-old launched a knife attack against two police officers in Melbourne.




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Australia has enacted 82 anti-terror laws since 2001. But tough laws alone can’t eliminate terrorism


These circumstances have led to 82 counter-terrorism laws being enacted in Australia since 2001, and 16 counter-terrorism operations since 2014, almost all of which have been responding to the threat posed by violent Islamist groups like al-Qaeda and IS.

This perception of the increased threat posed by these groups has resulted in a disproportionate investment in counter-terrorism compared with the response to the much greater threat posed by domestic violence.

At the same time, however, very little has been invested in preventative counter-terrorism measures, including countering far-right extremism.

A national discourse bound up in fear

We pride ourselves on being the world’s most successful multicultural society, yet we consistently turn a deaf ear to those who come up against hatred.

Just last month, for example, a new national survey found that 82% of Asian Australians, 81% of Australians of Middle Eastern background and 71% of Indigenous Australians had experienced some form of discrimination.

One reason why we are not yet ready to face up to this problem is that our national political discourse has for decades become bound up with the politics of fear, “othering”, and scapegoating minority communities.

When we demonise “illegal arrivals” and give license to the toxic rhetoric that we are being “swamped by Asians”, as Pauline Hanson put it in the late 1990s, or more recently “flooded by Muslims”, then we are buying into the core element of the narrative of terrorists like the Christchurch gunman.

In his manifesto, the gunman referenced the far-right extremist trope of “the great replacement” –
the fear that white Christian society is being overrun by brown-skinned, non-Christian people who are changing its culture and society irrevocably.

He picked up this idea from parts of Europe where there is strong antagonism to migrants and Muslims. But he referenced it directly from the writings of the Norwegian far-right terrorist who shot dead 69 people and blew up another eight in July 2011.

This same argument featured in the manifesto of the El Paso gunman who murdered 22 people at a Walmart store in Texas last month. In it, he praised the Christchurch shooter and warned of a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas.

These alt-right terrorists are driven in part by a fantasy of going from “zero to hero” in the alt-right internet world and becoming renowned as “warrior defenders”.

White nationalist manifestos are a recurring feature of far-right extremist attacks, like the one in El Paso this year.
Larry W. Smith/EPA

Prioritising far-right extremism

Prior to Christchurch, kicking the can down the road and prioritising other threats to our national security seemed an understandable, if not ideal response.

We now need to face the reality that of 50 terrorism-related deaths in the US last year, almost all involved far-right extremism. (Only one was linked to jihadi terrorism.) This is a pattern that’s been established for decades now. In fact, nearly three-quarters of all terrorist deaths in the US over the past decade have been linked to far-right extremism.

And while there is reason to hope the problem will never become quite so serious in Australia (despite the fact an Australian far-right extremist has murdered 51 people in another country), we need to do what we can now to counter the rise of hate speech and hate crimes – not later.

There are no quick fixes or guaranteed solutions, but these steps will make society better in ways that go far beyond the immediate threat of another terrorist attack.The Conversation

Greg Barton, Chair in Global Islamic Politics, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The far-right may think they own ‘nationalism’, but we can reclaim it as a force for good


Rachel Busbridge, Australian Catholic University

We see the word “nationalism” as problematic. The weekend rally on St Kilda beach, organised by far-right activist Neil Erikson, reminds us nationalism is the territory of fringe groups who hold bigoted views, particularly towards people who aren’t “white”.

Nationalism means:

Identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.

We often think about nationalism in these terms. To be a nationalist means loving your own country in a strident manner while being fairly suspicious of people in other countries.

The global rise of populism and the solid electoral gains made by far-right and xenophobic parties across the Western world seems to have underscored the association between nationalism and the base and aggressive in human politics.

Yet, is it possible to simply turf out nationalism? Beyond its ideological connotations, nationalism rests on one of the most important elements shaping modern social life: we live in a world of nations.

We often under-estimate the power of nationalism in contemporary societies, as well as the variety of roles – not all conservative and problematic — it plays as a social and political force.




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How multicultural groups use nationalism

Australian nationalism may have come to be associated with right-wing groups such as Reclaim Australia. But multicultural communities often publicly frame their distinctive identities in terms of national belonging and participation in the life of the nation.

They may not always march under the flag — though sometimes they do — but they regularly appeal to a national “we”. My research has explored how multicultural communities in Australia invoke the national language of their new country while advocating for their unique needs and cultural differences.

Although flags are often associated with right-wing groups, they are also embraced by new citizens.
Sophie Moore/AAP

Irrespective of our personal politics, we participate in the idea of nationalism when we identify ourselves as “Australian”, talk about “United States” politics or expect to encounter cultural differences at the airport.

Some say we should use the word “patriotism” as a softer alternative. While still guided by a love and loyalty for country, a patriot’s passions are tempered by a “spirit of cooperation”.

Others say we should throw out any loyalty for country altogether, becoming instead cosmopolitanists who celebrate a borderless common humanity, or localists who prioritise the interests of their immediate community.

But nationalism is not just a political ideology that demands the needs of the national group sit above those of outsiders. National loyalty doesn’t necessarily supersede any others while national interests trump all else. Nationalism is intertwined with the very idea of there being nations in the first place.

This is such a taken-for-granted reality, we often understand nations as stretching back to time immemorial when, in fact, they are only a couple of hundred years old – and most are far younger.

Modern nationalism has its roots in 18th century European thought and found its most powerful expressions in the French and American Revolutions. But it is only since the end of the second world war that the world transformed from one of empire and dominion to ostensibly independent nation-states.




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Nations, of course, are real in the sense that the nation-state continues to organise everything from schools, markets, bureaucracies and military, to the structures of citizenship. But the idea of the nation as a political community united by a distinctive culture is an imaginary construct.

The notion of nation confers an idea of horizontal membership and solidarity (rich or poor, we are all Australian) belied by vigorous and often violent struggles that take place under its rubric – as well as a selective forgetting of history.

Yet, their ubiquity in the modern social imagination means nations matter.

Why nations matter

Nations matter because they provide identity, community and a sense of belonging for many people. In a world made smaller by globalisation, this is especially important to counter the sense of rootlessness and displacement.

Nations also matter precisely because of the things they promise yet fail to deliver. It isn’t possible to fulfil the national ideal of horizontal membership (Australia’s richest woman Gina Rinehart will never be neighbour to the average Joe), but the aspiration for equal participation and compulsion towards solidarity can make for powerful democratic fodder.

Historically, nationalism and the idea of popular rule was essential to the movement towards democracy. Today, the idea of belonging to a nation continues to fashion social solidarity across differences, encourages mutual responsibility among citizens and allows people to commit to or participate in public institutions and projects.

The confederate flag implies a nationalism that sees white Americans as superior, and promotes slavery.
Kim Kelley-Wagner/Shutterstock

All this compels a more nuanced understanding of the roles and functions of nationalism in contemporary society. Rather than patronise “ordinary people” for their nationalist attachments, we would be well served to think about the democratic and progressive potential of nationalism.




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The Trumps and Brexiters of the world are most certainly nationalists in the sense they organise around a “nation first” idea. But the political meanings of nationalism are not set in stone. Nationalism can take progressive forms that prioritise connectedness and equity rather than racism or white supremacy.

Nationalism can be used to fight colonial domination as much as enforce it.

Most importantly, nationalism needs to be understood as a driving ideology shaping our modern world. Grasping this is fundamental to understanding national community as more a political aspiration than a cultural given; something to achieve rather than something already fixed.

And this, in turn, is fundamental to refusing the claims of the far-right who would like to claim the nation for themselves.The Conversation

Rachel Busbridge, Lecturer in Sociology, Australian Catholic University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How believers in ‘white genocide’ are spreading their hate-filled message in Australia



File 20181126 149341 dd4hj8.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
An alt-right protestor promoting the idea of ‘white genocide’ at a rally in Washington on the anniversary of the deadly Charlottesville protest.
Michael Reynolds/EPA

Kaz Ross, University of Tasmania

This piece is part of a series on race and racism in Australia. The series examines this complex and incendiary topic, and the role it plays in contemporary Australia.


In October, the ABC’s Background Briefing outlined how the NSW Young Nationals Party had been the target of an organised infiltration attempt by members with neo-Nazi or “alt-right” views. Once this infiltration was exposed, 22 members were banned for life and individuals in other extremist groups were barred from becoming future members.

The group’s aim was to influence party policy in the area of immigration, as shown in motions they proposed at the Young Nationals’ annual conference. Controversially, they wanted immigration to be curtailed to only “culturally compatible peoples” and for white South African farmers to be granted refugee status on the basis of racial oppression.

These views have been gaining support in Australia. Senator Fraser Anning and MP Andrew Laming have both spoken publicly about the plight of white South Africans, and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton floated (then discounted) the idea of special visa attention for the farmers.




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Senator Pauline Hanson’s most recent maiden speech in 2016 also called for an end to multiculturalism and the granting of visas for “incompatible” people, specifically Muslims.

Anning’s defence of Western civilisation on Facebook.
Senator Fraser Anning/Facebook

These views are based – perhaps unknowingly – on a core belief of neo-Nazis: so-called “white genocide”.

The defence of Western civilisation and pride in “white” achievements – on the rise both here and abroad – have become racist dog whistles for this call for action to prevent the “disappearance” of the white race.

This fear of white genocide is also leading to violence. The shooter who killed 11 people in the recent Pittsburgh synagogue attack justified his actions by claiming that Jews were committing “genocide” against his people.

So, what is ‘white genocide’?

The recent manifestation of white genocide has its origins in the American neo-Nazi movement. The Turner Diaries, a very influential 1970s novel by William Luther Pierce, posited a dystopian world in which white Americans were oppressed by non-white minorities at the behest of Jewish politicians. A righteous, armed resistance then takes back control of the world after a bloody nuclear war.

Pierce’s work inspired a spate of violent crimes, including the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh in 1995. It also led to the formation of secret groups, including the infamous and ultra-violent white supremacist group The Order. It was an influential member of the Order, David Lane, who coined the white nationalist mantra:

We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.

White genocide adherents want a return to a so-called traditional way of life defined by the nuclear family and prescribed gender roles. They divide humans into separate races and see multiculturalism and migration as a threat because each race should be contained to their perceived homeland.

Imagined racial homelands posted in the Australia’s Future Exposed Facebook group.
Facebook

The idea of a homeland is important. Following the second world war, American neo-Nazis drew on notions of place and race that took root in Germany in the 19th century and were later adopted under Adolf Hitler as the slogan “blood and soil”.

“Blood and soil” is the cry of the nativist, asserting the belonging of a people to a place to the exclusion of outsiders. The slogan reappeared as one of the chants at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

‘Blood and soil’ was among the many racist chants of protesters in Charlottesville.

For white nationalists, this idea forms the “solution” to the threat of white genocide. Neo-Nazi groups like Identity Evropa advocate for ceasing immigration from “non-compatible” nations and encouraging population growth amongst whites.

The most important goal of white nationalists, however, is the creation of a white “ethno-state”.

This is a state that is presumed to have strong bonds and social cohesion due to shared ethnicity or race, as argued by the evolutionary psychologist Kevin MacDonald. Some adherents go so far as to call for the removal of non-whites from multicultural societies, such as the US and Australia, to so-called ethnic homelands in other parts of the world.




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‘White genocide’ fears in Australia

After the US, Australia has the most active white nationalist presence on social media, according to J.M. Berger, a leading researcher on extremism. Over the past 10 years, various white supremacist groups have formed online, such as the self-described neo-Nazi group Antipodean Resistance.

As documented by the ABC, the ideas of neo-Nazis like Pierce and Lane are also actively being explored in secret online groups in Australia. An influential collection of writings called Siege by the neo-Nazi James Mason was cited as an inspiration for some of those expelled from the NSW Young Nationals, along with the aim of creating an ethno-state.

Another recent manifestation of this white supremacist ideology is the meme “It’s OK to be white.” Worn on a T-shirt by Canadian racist provocateur Lauren Southern during her recent visit to Australia, then raised as a motion in the Senate by Hanson, the slogan aims to portray whites as victims who are not protected by anti-racism legislation or social practices.

It is this belief that whites are being targeted that underpins the resignation letter of the leader of the NSW Young Nationals infiltration attempt. Clifford Jennings claimed that young white Australians face a grim future in which they are at risk of becoming a “harried, persecuted minority” due to an “oppressive multicultural regime” supported by the “treasonous” leaders of the major parties.

This is a clarion call to the believers in white genocide.

Why this theory is flawed and dangerous

Jennings is harking back to the long-abandoned Immigration Restriction Act (1901) and other racially targeted pieces of legislation known colloquially as the White Australia Policy. These privileged certain Europeans in migration programs with the aim of “keeping Australia white”.

But how do Australia’s white supremacists side-step Australia’s 60,000 years of Indigenous history? For the believers in white genocide, the term “genocide” does not refer to the impact of European colonisation on Indigenous peoples because they claim Australia only came into being as a nation with the arrival of white Europeans.

Visiting alt-right speakers such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux have openly denigrated Aboriginal culture. This has supported a belief that there is no place for Aboriginal people in the white ethno-state.




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Of course, the idea of whiteness itself in Australia has changed dramatically over time. And despite the claims of DNA testing companies, there is no scientific basis for “race” itself and, therefore, for racial superiority claims.

Are white Australians at risk of becoming a persecuted minority? Hardly.

Regardless, the white genocide theory is based on a flawed premise – that only white people can be authentic Australians (or residents of other perceived “ethno-states”). And in multicultural Australia, the facts tell a different story.The Conversation

Kaz Ross, Lecturer in Asian Studies, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The far-right’s creeping influence on Australian politics


Andrew Markus, Monash University

This article is the last of a five-part series on the battle for conservative hearts and minds in Australian politics. Read part one here, part two here, part three here and part four here.


Far-right political groupings are a constant feature on the fringes of Australian politics. In the 1950s and 1960s, they included the League of Rights and minuscule neo-Nazi parties. In the 1980s, there was National Action, the Australian Nationalist Movement, Australians Against Further Immigration and the Citizens Electoral Council.

In recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of a number of groups that combine online organisation with intimidating street activity: Reclaim Australia, Rise Up Australia, the Australian Defence League, the United Patriots Front, True Blue Crew and Antipodean Resistance.

While hostility between – and within – far-right groups is typical, they are united by their nationalism, racism, opposition to “alien” immigration and disdain for democracy.

Most far-right activists continue to be excluded from polite society. But the endorsement of their ideas by some mainstream political figures has allowed them to make creeping gains into the political culture.

Paranoid style

A feature of far-right movements was characterised in the 1960s by the American political scientist Richard Hofstadter as the “paranoid style”:

a style of mind that … evokes [a] sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy.

A common belief concerns conspiracies that are hidden by the media, which disseminates what today is termed “fake news” or “alternative facts”, previously known as propaganda and misinformation.

The conspirators have been identified in various guises, with the common element being the promotion of international and cosmopolitan, as distinct from national, values. They include Freemasons, Catholics (or “Papists”), Jews, Muslims, Communists, Socialists and Fabians.

International organisations such as the United Nations are especially suspect – seen as agents of a “New World Order”. Climate scientists and environmentalists, with their proliferation of international treaties, have become major targets in recent years.

Eric Butler, the driving force of the League of Rights for half a century, strove to unmask what he saw as the “New International Economic Order”, orchestrated by Jews, manifested in the Indigenous land rights movement, the destruction of family farms and small businesses, and the policies of “multi-racialism and multi-culturalism”.

In the 1980s and 1990s, far-right groups focused on their discovery of the “The Grand Plan – Asianisation of Australia”. The 1997 book The Truth, issued in Pauline Hanson’s name by a group of her followers, revealed “the internationalist elite of The New World Order” that was plotting the destruction of Anglo-Saxon Australia through “immigrationism, multiculturalism, Asianisation and Aboriginalism”.

In contemporary Australia, far-right movements focus on Islam. It is seen as an authoritarian force that supposedly seeks world domination through the infiltration of Muslim populations into the West, the establishment of a separate legal system (Sharia Law) enforced through mosques, and the subjugation of non-Muslims through acts of terror.

Hostility to immigration

The distinctive mindset that characterises supporters of minor political parties of the right is evident in public opinion surveys, but findings on members of fringe political groupings are less reliable because their numbers in national surveys are very small.

Nevertheless, we can confidently conclude that a high proportion of people attracted to the far-right have a heightened negative view of their life circumstances, a stronger sense that the area in which they live – and their country – is on a downward path, and negative views of immigration and ethnic diversity.

The 2017 Scanlon Foundation national survey, which I led and analysed, disaggregated attitudes by political alignment. In response to the open-ended question “What do you think is the most important problem facing Australia today?”, immigration (viewed negatively) was the most important issue for One Nation supporters. By contrast, it ranked fifth for Coalition voters, sixth for Labor, and was not ranked at all by Greens voters.

When asked for their view of the level of immigration, 86% of One Nation supporters indicated that the intake was too high, compared with just of 37% of the national sample.

Heightened concern over immigration links to nationalist values. Asked to respond to the proposition that “people who come to Australia should change their behaviour to be more like Australians”, 78% of One Nation voters strongly agreed, compared with 37% of Coalition voters, 30% of Labor and 4% of Greens. An overwhelming 92% of One Nation voters strongly agree that “in the modern world, maintaining the Australian way of life is important.”

Expanding reach

While there is consistency over time in far-right values, in one respect there has been change. Where once these previously fringe political groupings struggled to reach large audiences, they have now improved their messaging and, most importantly, harnessed the power of the internet and social media to grow their networks.

This is illustrated by the “Stop the Mosque” campaign in the Victorian regional centre of Bendigo, which reached a level of activism and civil disobedience that won national and international attention. Opponents of the mosque established a Facebook page in January 2014; within six months, it had amassed more than 8000 followers.

Links were forged with like-minded groups across Australia, the United States and Europe, who provided encouragement, campaign advice, donations and access to resources. Protest activities were maintained for over two years and spread to other areas.

The emphasis on the perceived threat of Islam has been a crystallising issue for the far-right in recent years, helping it to grab headlines and recruit followers. Pauline Hanson and the Liberal National Party’s George Christensen spoke at anti-Islamic Reclaim Australia rallies in 2015.

The politics of the paranoid style remains in vogue among the far-right, which limits its possibilities for growth. But today, as Collette Snowden has observed, its reach is greatly enhanced:

with the dedication and commitment of a few passionate supporters, small and more marginalised groups are able to create a public presence that previously would have required years.

The ConversationThe influence of the far-right should not be overstated, but it is a danger sign when mainstream politicians associate themselves with its hateful agenda.

Andrew Markus, Pratt Foundation Research Chair of Jewish Civilisation, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Church Building in Israel Set Ablaze


Unidentified arsonist guts bottom floors of Jerusalem ministry center.

ISTANBUL, November 4 (CDN) — An unidentified arsonist in Israel set fire to a Jerusalem church building that has long been a focal point for anti-Christian sentiment in a Jewish ultra-Orthodox-leaning neighborhood, church officials said.

On Friday (Oct. 29) shortly before 1 a.m., someone broke the basement windows of the Jerusalem Alliance Church Ministry Center and set fire to its bottom floors. An area resident noticed the fire and called the fire department, which arrived 20 minutes later and found the church basement engulfed in flames.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze, ventilated the smoke and left after inspecting the rest of the building, said Jack Sara, senior pastor of the church.

Smoke and the noise of the blaze had awakened 10 volunteer workers who were sleeping at the church’s overnight facilities. The volunteers, who were visiting Israel from the United States and Denmark, went to a nearby hospital and were treated for smoke inhalation; they were released several hours later, church leaders said.

The church building sustained approximately $85,000 of smoke and fire damage. The fire largely gutted the basement and destroyed recent renovations.

Sara said he had difficulty understanding how the arsonist could have carried so much hate; whoever set the fire had to know people were inside the church, he said.

“He not only intended to burn a room but to kill people,” Sara said. “Whoever did it intended to kill people.”

According to Sara, fire investigators initially said the fire was accidental. Then they shifted and said the fire was arson, only to change back again to their original claim that it was accidental.

Although the Israeli press reported that investigators had not formally announced their findings, Sara said investigators told him the fire was “very suspicious.” Contrary to some reports, he insisted that there were no candles lit in the basement when the fire broke out.

Sara said his church, which hosts several congregational groups including expatriates and both Arab Christians and Messianic Jews, routinely receives threats. Referring to Orthodox Jews, militant Palestinians and even some Orthodox Christian communities, Sara said he receives hatred “from all sides.”

It is not unheard of for ultra-Orthodox extremists to burn churches or Bibles in Israel. Not far from the ministry center is the Narkiss Street Baptist Church. In 2007, the church was damaged in a fire believed to be set by ultra-Orthodox Jews. The church building had been rebuilt on the site of a church facility destroyed 25 years prior by anti-Christian groups.

Other recent anti-Christian attacks in Israel have included the bombing of a Messianic Jewish pastor’s home that left his teenage son clinging to life, the disruption of religious services by mobs of protestors and assaults on members of groups deemed “missionaries” by far-right, Orthodox Jews.

The Alliance Church building was constructed roughly 100 years ago. Palestine Bible College was founded at the building.

In 1948, after Zionist leaders declared the establishment of the State of Israel, the church opened other buildings in the Old City of Jerusalem to serve Arab Christians hampered from attending religious services by newly established political realities. Since 1967, Sara said, the building has been used for many purposes.

Sara said his church will host a prayer meeting on Saturday (Nov. 6) to ask for protection of the congregation and for a blessing on its enemies.

In a statement provided to the press, Sara said he wanted the church building to be “a beacon of light reflecting God’s love to all people.”

“We will continue to serve the Holy Land residents from this place, proclaiming peace and justice for all human beings, declaring God’s love for all of our neighbors, friends and enemies,” he said.

Report from Compass Direct News