Australia’s far-right scene usually gets little media attention. Radical political movements often struggle to be noticed in the media, and that’s probably a good thing. However, it creates a discrepancy in reporting when violence is concerned.
If a far-right extremist is prosecuted for a violent crime, the arrest, verdict and sentencing are usually reported, but journalists will rarely provide day-by-day reports of the trials, interview people involved, or push to get suppression orders lifted.
This contrasts with reporting of Australia’s jihadist scene, which generates much more sustained and detailed coverage. This is partly justified because jihadism has posed a much greater threat of mass casualty violence against Australians this century, but even so the prospect of far-right extremist violence is under-acknowledged in public discussion.
For this reason it was interesting to see three news stories in the last week relevant to anyone interested in Australia’s far-right fringe. This post summarises these stories and provides background information.
Plans for Wilders’ visit
Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald reported that far-right radicals are urging “patriots” to rally in support of Dutch MP Geert Wilders, who is touring Australia as part of his campaign against Islam. It’s unclear if they will manage a better turnout than the anti-climactic rally at the Melbourne State Library in September.
Also, a Slackbastard post shows some division on Australia’s far-right about Wilders’ impending visit. One activist, Welf Herfurth, called for rallies in support of Wilders, but then retracted it because Wilders is a Zionist.
This table helps explain some of these tensions in far-right circles. In short, neo-Nazis and white nationalists worry that a primarily anti-Muslim focus will dilute their message against Jews and non-whites generally.
A 2007 interview with Jim Saleam makes this case here. He complained about “so-called Australian patriots who are using the awareness of Islam to posit a pro-American foreign policy, which includes support for Israel” and that “Australia runs the risk of Asianization not Islamicization.”
Saleam is a leading figure in Australia’s small far-right scene. He is a white nationalist who was involved with neo-Nazism in the 1970s and has an extensive criminal history. He currently leads the Australia First Party, which recently won a seat in Penrith Council.
Slackbastard also states that another far-right group, the Australian Protectionist Party, has fallen apart. Its largest branch has disbanded and wants to reform itself using Wilders’ Freedom Party as a model. In my table I grouped the Australia First Party and the Australian Protectionist party together as white nationalists, but it is a broad category and there are significant differences between the groups. The Australia First Party leans closer to neo-Nazism than the Australian Protectionist Party ever did. For example, unlike the AFP, the APP does not cast “Jewish bankers” as an enemy.
Key APP members might now be trying to move further away from these circles and form a primarily anti-Muslim party, which would have a greater chance of achieving popular support. However, the Rise Up Australia Party is better positioned to capitalise on anti-Muslim sentiment.
Neo-Nazi being sentenced over guns and bombs
A Victorian County Court is currently sentencing a former soldier on weapons and explosives charges. He had described himself as a neo-Nazi, possessed white supremacist material, and had made notes expressing intentions to kill various people such as his former teacher.
The 23-year-old man had four guns, a silencer, bullets, a baton, a home-made knife and knuckle-duster. He had also made pipe-bombs and filmed himself testing explosives. He was described as delusional and paranoid, but very smart, with an IQ of 120.
He was not charged with terrorism offences, but with other offences such as “making improvised explosive devices for an unlawful purpose, causing an explosion likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property and a variety of offences related to manufacturing and possessing weapons.”
Violent skinhead appeals sentence
On 31 January the Herald Sun reported that neo-Nazi skinhead Shannon Hudson has lodged an appeal against his sentence for bashing a Vietnamese student.
Shannon Hudson, along with another Victorian neo-Nazi, Wayne O’Brien, had been sentenced on 12 December 2012 for the unprovoked attack. The two men were part of a skinhead group that called themselves Crazy Whiteboys. The judge described their commitment to neo-Nazism as superficial, as more of a style than an ideology: “”I am of the view that a lot of your discussions and talk about skinheads and white supremacy, and your Heil Hitler signs, were not really understood by either of you.”
You can read the sentencing document here, listen to a segment of the sentencing here, or listen to the whole thing here. A third person was involved in the bashing, but he was dealt with by the Children’s Court and no information is available on his case.
Unlike O’Brien, Hudson had an extensive criminal history and refused to cooperate with the police, so his appeal is unlikely to be successful.