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?
Continue reading What do networks tell us about white extremist terrorism?
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.
Continue reading On Christchurch, lone wolves, and the threat of fascism
In the wake of the Christchurch attacks, there’s naturally been a focus on the role of social media in spreading extremism.
I think it’s good that we talk directly about the impact that social media has in events such as this. Yet, I am worried about the use of blunt technical solutions — particularly the banning of users/groups — as a way to deal with this issue.
Continue reading Be Wary of Blunt Technological Solutions to Extremism
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.
Continue reading Notes on Jordan Peterson Live
I have been thinking a lot about the behaviour of the ALP in recent weeks.
At a moment when they are dominating the polls and seemingly assured victory at the next election, the ALP have conceded ground on a range of issues. They voted through a bill that will stop migrants getting access to welfare for four years, they capitulated on the data encryption bill (#aabill), the left is now saying it wont force a debate on boat towbacks at the upcoming national conference, and despite increasing pressure they are still on the fence about Adani.
For the left they continue to disappoint, disappoint, and disappoint some more.
Why? Why not take some bold stances at a time when the Government is in disarray and victory looks almost inevitable. There’s two real answers I’ve come to as to why.
First, maybe the ALP actually just believes this stuff, and we should finally, once and for all, abandonen the idea that they are some bastion of social justice who just continually get wedged into positions they hate. If even at this moment the ALP cannot spend any political capital on bold left-wing policies, then maybe we should never expect it of them.
But second, I think it really shows what the ALP think of the voting population. It’s notable that the party continue to cave on issues such as migration and national security. It harks back to the Howard era, who dominated on these issues for many years, creating a narrative of a regressive voting population that turns on parties (primarily the ALP) if they are weak on these issues.
What recent moves by the ALP show is that they are still stuck in this era, seeing much the population as a group of ‘bigoted masses’ that they must continually appeal to through regressive social policies. They pass these policies out of fear of backlash. They view the population as a group of right-wing reactionaries, forcing them to take positions they just wish they wouldn’t have to do.
This reminds me a lot of the debate around the plebiscite on marriage equality. Again, in this instance, it was determined that the plebiscite must be opposed because the bigoted masses of the population simply should not have been trusted with a vote of this magnitute. There were fears for weeks leading up to the vote that there would be a huge no — that the real, bigoted, sentiment of the population would come out once given an opportunity. Only the elites in Parliament could be trusted with such a thing.
The problem with all of this though is that there is very little evidence that the population actually reacts in this way.
The huge vote in favour of marriage equality should be one indicator of this, but it’s true for other issues as well. While security questions certainly dominated political debate in the post-9/11 era, this is no longer true. It’s hard to remember that in 2007 for example the ALP, under the leadership of Kevin Rudd, took a radically different approach to asylum seekers than seen by the party in recent years. Rudd promised to shut down the Pacific solution and to bring asylum seekers back to Australia. He won easily.
The same can be said about other issues. Polling for example has frequently shown strong opposition to the Adani Coal Mine, alongside a continued desire from the general population for Governments to take action on climate change. Concern about the encryption bill was extremely strong during its passage — with big business, data experts and tech companies alike arguing against the bill. This would have easily been enough to back up the ALP in blocking the legislation.
In fact in each of these areas the ALP has the potential to wedge the Liberal Party quite strongly. The health and well being of asylum seekers, alongside climate change, has clearly become a concern for Liberals in more socially conscious and wealthy seats, highlighted both by the results in Wentworth the Victorian state election. Both events resulted in the loss of blue ribbon seats, with incumbent Liberals blaming the federal party’s positions on these issues, at least in part, for the results. On the #aabill, the Labor Party could have easily used the legislation to talk about civil liberties and freedom of speech, something that is notionally of concern for many more libertarian minded Liberals. The ALP could have easily used these issues to further the current splits between moderates and conservatives within the Liberals.
Yet in each case the ALP has wavered. It has done so out of old fears, ones based in an idea of a bigoted mass of the Australian public that could easily turn against them if they take any bold approaches. It has shown how weak the party is, but also how they perceive themselves, and the people who vote for them. Both portend to a worrying approach if and when they enter Government.
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?”
Continue reading Facing attacks, humanties academics should embrace a debate about the value of our work
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.
Continue reading Mardi Gras and the politics of inclusion
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!
Continue reading On Richard Flanagan’s article that he didn’t want to write
The outrage cycle has struck again this week — this time targeting two big stars in Hollywood and the late night circuit. In Hollywood, the Director James Gunn was fired from the Guardians of the Galaxy series after a number of vulgar tweets he authored about ten years ago surfaced online. On the other side of the US, in the late night circuit, the host the Daily Show, Trevor Noah, came under fire after a video of a racist routine targeting Aboriginal women also appeared online. The video, which is four years old, has to some calling for Noah’s upcoming tour in Australia to be boycotted.
There are some big commonalities between these two events.
First, both were incidents that happened a number of years ago, but only surfaced in the last week. Both were instances of people trying to make jokes, even if vulgar, crude and racist. More important both have expressed remorse for their jokes, with Noah saying he dropped his joke after he realised it was offensive (but stopping short of apologising), and James Gunn showing immense regret for his comments. Both are also now facing serious consequenses for their words, with the action against Gunn (being immediately fired) in particular being quite severe.
Continue reading Trevor Noah, James Gunn, and the problem with outrage culture
Last night I went to an excellent lecture from Professor Michael Kimmel, hosted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Kimmel researches why men are attracted to far right groups and spoke about how to get them out in this talk. . There were a bunch of people who were interested in the lecture when I was tweeting about it, so I thought it would be worth noting down some of Kimmel’s ideas and some of my own reflections on them.
First! Please note, I’ve included some of the cartoons that Kimmel used in this lecture to illustrate his point (photos I’ve taken of his slides). These cartoons are extremely racist, homophobic and sexist. I am not using them as an endorsement of their message, but rather as a way to highlight the point Kimmel was making. But beware of their content!
Kimmel’s research is based on the acknowledgement that men are more likely to join and be active in far right groups than women (although not exclusively), and therefore to understand these groups we have to have a gendered analysis of them. Understanding gender alone, he argued, would not allow us to understand the extreme right. However, you also cannot understand the extreme right without understanding gender.
Kimmel went through a three stage process in how far right groups talk about and use gender in their materials, recruiting etc. I’m going to go through these stages and then provide some further reflections.
Continue reading Why do men join far right groups, and how can we get them out?