A special investigation into extremism

Over the last few weeks I have been exchanging e-mails with Paul Toohey a journalist from News Corp.  The e-mails let to the Online Hate Prevention Institute’s offices by him and a photographer as part of a special investigation into extremism in Australia.

The article, “Extremism taking us to dark places” was published in various forms in all the capital cities on Sunday. The most complete version of the article is online at the Daily Telegraph.

For the report, Paul attended a meeting of the United Patriots Front at the Bush Pig Inn just outside of Bendigo.  He spoke with Blair Cottrell, Chris Shortis and Thomas Sewell. The UPFs topic for that meeting was “the white genocide facing Australia” and “how white Australia is being overrun”.

Paul also spoke with Ralph Cerminara who broke away from the UPF. “There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim, just as there is no such thing as a moderate neo-Nazi”, Cerminara said in a statement that attacked both on the Muslim community and his former friends at the UPF.

Neil Erikson, another who has left the UPF, told Paul that “until this patriotic rise of Reclaim last year, there was no one to hang out with apart from neo-Nazis.” He went on to say “It’s now lost support. The neo-Nazi movement has scared people away. If Reclaim were to hold a rally now, they’d be lucky to get 20 people. It’s all gone online. They’re safer at home.” Erikson himself, Paul reports, is recovering from being bashed by the far-left Antifa activists who spotted him at an Australian Liberty Alliance meeting.

From the interview with myself Paul reports: “Andre Oboler, who leads Australia’s only monitoring site for online extremism, the Online Hate Prevention Institute, says interest in patriotic groups is surging, with 200,000 Australians now actively following hate sites.”

The following quotes of mine are included in the article:

  • “When we consider the size of Australia’s population we see that a far larger portion of Australian Facebook users are actively joining such hate groups online than occurs in other countries”
  • “There’s an element of bigotry and racism that has brought into the political sphere in the last few years at a much higher level than we’ve seen since World War II”
  • Online hate “has risen steeply over the past year”, particularly in the last six months with “a shift with more Australians starting to engage in a small number of significant Australian specific (hate/patriotic) groups.”

I explained the roots of the current Australian anti-Muslim groups which mostly grew out of the English Defense League (EDL). The EDL were innovators seeking to make bigotry acceptable in society in way unseen since before the rise of Nazism. They did this by arguing they were not racist, only against Muslims and that Muslims were not a race. I explained to Paul that the distinction was not legitimate. “It’s like saying, ‘I’m not racist, I’m just homophobic.’ Well, you’re still a bigot.”

Asked whether anti-Muslim political parties should be silenced, I told Paul “There should be leeway for political parties” and that “If you force them to code what they’re saying, people might vote for them accidentally.” The comments on Paul’s the Telegraph article show that many supporters of parties like the Australian Liberty Alliance are being mislead regardless.

I’m particularly thankful to Paul for noting that OHPI is not receiving Federal Government funding to support our operations. According to UNESCO there’s around 5 organisations globally, including OHPI, doing innovative work to counter online hate. The other organisations receive substantial government funding. If OHPI is to continue our important work, we not only need a significantly more financial support from the public, we also need the government to step in and provide us with the sort of support they offer to other charities undertaking important public work. It’s not an unreasonable request given the work we do both publicly and confidentially to support police and other government agencies.

You can see the article online at: “Extremism taking us to dark places“, The Daily Telegraph, 15 June 2016

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