Extremism in Australia

An Australia Day weekend camping trip in the Grampian Ranges by neo-Nazis has caused rising concern. In media coverage on this story today, our CEO, Dr Andre Oboler, was interviewed by ABC Australia’s The World Today on Radio National, then separately in a live TV interview on ABC News.

The radio segment can be heard here.

These events come as the Online Hate Prevention Institute and other groups prepare our submissions for a Parliamentary inquiry into extremism. As Dr Oboler stated on Radio National, one of the critical failings is that government has consistently tried to go it alone and fails to fund organisations like the Online Hate Prevention Institute who do critical work in this space. As we shared in our last newsletter, last year our costs exceeded our income by 40% as we struggled to meet rising online hate and extremism due to COVID-19. This is not sustainable and frankly the lack of government support hinders our capabilities and puts Australians at risk.

The risk as we see it is not these known individuals who were off in the Grampian Ranges. This new group is really just a merger of two existing groups, one of whom (a self described neo-Nazi youth group) carried out this same stunt in the sample place a few years ago. As the “youth groups” leadership are aging out, they have merged another neo-Nazi group, creating a slightly larger group without age barriers. Then to make a statement and get media coverage, they repeated their stunt, visiting the Grampian Ranges once again. Their numbers aren’t growing. Authorities know who they are. This is under control.

Our CEO, Dr Andre Oboler, explains:

There is a threat from right-wing extremism, but what happened in the Grampians isn’t it. The real risk, as we saw in the Christchurch attack, is from someone off the radar, drawn to extremism on alternative social media, and who then unilaterally engages in a terrorist act with no warning.

De-platforming of the QAnon conspiracy group is now intensifying following their role in the Capitol Storming in Washington DC. They are encouraging others on the right to join them in an exodus from mainstream social media and onto fringe platforms. These fringe platforms have a culture of white supremacy, or in the case of larger fringe platforms, at least of tolerating it. On these platforms, already filled with white nationalists, some of the QAnon supporters and those they drag across with them will be radicalised. It only takes one of these people, a new convert to the cause, radicalized to the extreme, operating online entirely anonymous, to cause a tragedy.

The approach of cooperating with local community groups, as was done to tackle Islamist extremist, doesn’t work in this situation. A new approach is needed. That approach must include serious funding for civil society organisation who are experts in this space. Not just academic research, but those working at the coal face.

Government doesn’t just fund academic research into suicide, they also significantly fund organisations that work to prevent it, like Lifeline (around 75%) or Beyond Blue (around 68%). Government doesn’t just fund academic research into cancer, they fund the Cancer Council (around 25%). Why doesn’t government support civil society when it comes to preventing harm from extremism?

Too many of the experts are working on this threat in their limit spare time. IF it weren’t for that, the could contribute far more. Limitations from a lack infrastructure and support reduce capacity. What we achieve at the Online Hate Prevention Institute is in spite of these challenges. It’s also totally unsustainable unless government gets their act together and gets behind us. Let’s hope the new inquiry into extremism leads to change and governments, both federal and state, start to put the partnerships that are so badly needed in place. Let’s hope that happens before we have another tragedy.

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