This is a talk I gave at a high table dinner at the ANU College Bruce Hall on Tuesday the 6th of August (republished with their permission). Thank you for the organisers at Bruce Hall for inviting me to speak. I had a great night!
Some thoughts, somewhat unstructured, about Cloudflare’s decision to remove 8chan from their server.
1.) It seems like the decision will have no real impact, as 8chan is already in the process of working with a new host and seems like it will be back online soon. Cloudflare would have surely known this when they made the decision.
2.) Despite the praise given to Cloudflare I am heavily skeptical of their motives. Companies don’t make these decisions out of the goodness of their own heart, but because of profit motives. This was a decision based on the company’s reputation following real political pressure.
3.) If, and when, 8chan does get back online there is a real risk the space will become more radical. Many within these spaces feel as though they are outsiders who are constantly under attack. This decision will only enhance that feeling (and even bring more into the fold).
4.) While there has been discussion about banning 8chan outright, I think this is likely impossible and certainly not desirable. While I am comfortable with Governments regulating discussions that are about the specific planning of attacks, I am not comfortable with them banning entire platforms.
5.) We have to be careful to not be technologically determistic, entirely focusing on the platform culture of 8chan. Of course it plays a role, but I don’t think 8chan creates mass shooters. There are other social processes at play that a focus on technology can quickly ignore.
6.) This does not mean however we should ignore social media altogether. The evidence does suggest it has an influence in shaping radical ideas. But it does so in conjunction with other social processes. We have to think about them together.
In analysis published in The New York Times last week they presented evidence of a growing network of white extremist terrorists. The article said:
In a manifesto posted online before his attack, the gunman who killed 50 last month in a rampage at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, said he drew inspiration from white extremist terrorism attacks in Norway, the United States, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
His references to those attacks placed him in an informal global network of white extremists whose violent attacks are occurring with greater frequency in the West.
An analysis by The New York Times of recent terrorism attacks found that at least a third of white extremist killers since 2011 were inspired by others who perpetrated similar attacks, professed a reverence for them or showed an interest in their tactics.
In a great infographic the New York Times then examined the links between white terrorists, in particular showing who more recent terrorists have stated they were influenced by.
One thing stuck out to me however: these very rarely actually spoke to each other. The Times only presented evidence of two terrorists who actually spoke, where “a school shooter in New Mexico corresponded with a gunman who attacked a mall in Munich.” As the Times notes, together these two shooters killed eleven people. Apart from this however all the links presented are ones of influence. The connections are created based of readings of texts and manifestos, with terrorists citing influence from those who went before them, but not citing actual meetings, discussions or organising (one potential exception not noted in the article is the Christchurch shooter, who says in his manifesto that he got a blessing for his attack from Anders Breivik. However, as far as I’m aware, we still do not have physical evidence this occurred).
So reading this piece I was left wondering: does this actually represent a network? If it does, what does this network tell us about white terrorist extremism today?
Following the horrendous attack on two mosques in Christchurch two weeks ago, debate has turned toward the nature of the fascist threat in Western countries. Many have argued that we have ignored the threat of a growing fascist movement for too long, and that this attack highlights the consequences of this.
This blog post is designed to provide some thoughts on these issues. Some of these thoughts are more developed than others, while others are still in progress. All are up for discussion and debate and I hope to get feedback on these ideas to further important thinking in this area.
Last night I travelled to Sydney to see Jordan Peterson live. Peterson spoke in an absolutely packed theatre at the International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour. While the crowd skewed to a younger male demographic, it was quite diverse. It felt like the theatre had met the football.
I took a lot of notes during Peterson’s talk. I’m going to put in a summary of the notes below and put in some of my own reflections. Note that I was typing these notes quickly, and so there are parts of his talk I missed out. I also found it quite difficult to take notes as Peterson is a bit rambly and has a tendency to go off on tangents. I’d be taking a note from his previous sentence and then realise he’d gone off somewhere completely different and I’d lost the thread. This to me makes his appeal even that more fascinating as, in all honesty, while he has moments of hilarity and conciseness, he’s not the most coherent speaker.
Note that nothing here is a direct quote (except for a few I’ve put in inverted commas), just my reading of what he was saying. If anyone was there and thinks he was saying something different please let me know, I’d love to hear from you.
The humanities in Australia seem to be under attack. Last week it was revealed that the former education Minister Simon Birmingham had blocked approximately $4 million dollars of funding for humanities projects that had been approved by the Australian Research Council (ARC). Defending his position on Twitter, Birmingham said:
“I‘m pretty sure most Australian taxpayers preferred their funding to be used for research other than spending $223,000 on projects like “Post orientalist arts of the Strait of Gibraltar.” Do you disagree, @SenKimCarr? Would Labor simply say yes to anything?”
Late last week I got a letter from a group of Mardi Gras volunteers titled “SYDNEY GAY AND LESBIAN MARDI GRAS IS UNDER THREAT AND NEEDS YOUR HELP”.
The letter refers to motions being put by the group Pride in Protest at the next general meeting. The motions are quite varied, but include statements that condemns police violence, calls on the Government to end all Aboriginal deaths in custody and calls on the Government to end the human rights abuses on Manus and Nauru. There has also been significant debate about moves to ban the police and the Liberal Party from the parade, acknowledging the violence both organisations continue to inflict on both queer, but also other minority communities. Pride in Protest also wants to limit the role of corporations in the parade.
Over the weekend Richard Flanagan wrote an article he didn’t want to write about the nature of debate in our society, particularly following the canning of Germaine Greer and Bob Carr from the Brisbane Writer’s Festival. It has caused quite a stir!
Here are some thoughts I have on the piece. I wrote this as a tweet stream, so it may look a little disjointed, but I thought I could post here for people who don’t want to read the Twitter thread!