Their leader was Torin ‘TJ’ O’Brien and the alleged criminals were Indigenous youth.
9News described O’Brien as a ‘Local Muay Thai gym owner [who] had previously posted a $5000 reward on social media for information on youths believed to have robbed a home in town’, while subsequent reportage noted that O’Brien was a former PHONy candidate. On Tuesday, The Guardian revealed that the ‘Rockhampton mob ringleader was head of [a] ‘patriots’ group that posted anti-Islam content’: the group in question being the ‘Patriots Defence League’ of Australia (PDLA).
The PDLA first crossed my radar in July 2014, when a group employing that name (which had split from the ‘Australian Defence League’) held an event in Adelaide. In September 2014, I wrote an article for New Matilda about the ADL and terrorism. In it I referred to another article by Chris Johnston (Bendigo mosque a cause celebre for right-wing outsiders, The Age, June 27, 2014) which located the PDLA within a broader array of similar groups — Restore Australia, PHONy, Stop the Mosque In Bendigo, The Q Society, Defence Conservative Action Network, Concerned Citizens et. al. — while my own concluded as follows:
The changing political emphases of the far right and the attempt to build an Australian equivalent of the English Defence League demonstrates the flexible, syncretic nature of fascist ideology; the various conflicts, splinters, and rivalries the fractious nature of the milieu. In one sense, the ADL has found its real home on social media, allowing for the articulation and reinforcement of Islamophobic tropes which, the ADL hopes, will someday soon be translated into real mass action against Muslims.
In the next few years, these hopes gained some solid foundations and, while limited in scope, mass action took the form of public protests (against the construction of Bendigo mosque, halal foods and other expressions of Islamic life in Australia) along with political campaigns by various micro-parties. Also entryism and coalition-building among different elements of a broader far-right, both religious and secular. Such actions helped to foster a culture from which individualised actions arose: the most vivid and horrific demonstration of anti-Muslim feeling being enacted by one man in Christchurch in March, 2019.
In any event, to return to O’Brien and the PDLA, as I noted in December 2020:
…the PDLA continues to maintain dozens of pages and groups on Facebook, and one of its lvl bosses, Torin ‘TJ’ O’Brien, was Pauline Hanson’s nominee for Rockhampton at the Queensland state election in October. You may remember TJ from such cunning stunts as registering the PDLA as an ‘advocacy group for domestic violence victims’; quite something for a body devoted to eradicating Muslims (sadly, the Queensland Office of Fair Trading disagreed with TJ, and deregistered the organisation). Anyway, TJ got 3,714 votes for Pauline, winning third place after Labor and the LNP.
The context for this passing remark was the November sentencing of fellow ‘patriot’ Phill Galea to 12 years in prison after Galea was found guilty of conspiring to blow up various of his political opponents (myself included). Galea thus had the dubious honour of being the first ‘patriot’/’right-wing extremist’ to be convicted of terrorist offences in Australia (at least during the ongoing and seemingly-endless ‘War on Terror’ inaugurated by 9/11). In the years since, a number of other ‘extremists’ have been charged with alleged terrorist offences.
In an interview with 3AW’s Neil Mitchell on Monday, O’Brien announced that he’d compiled a list of 10 or so addresses in Rockhampton belonging to alleged criminals that he intended to visit. He also declared his intention to place pressure on the real estate agencies responsible for letting the properties. Subsequently, and following further media scrutiny, O’Brien’s Facebook account has been terminated, and a meeting with the ‘hopeless’ (according to O’Brien) MP for Rockhampton, Barry O’Rourke, has been cancelled.
See also : Fears of more vigilante mobs after Aboriginal men’s house surrounded in Rockhampton, Dan Butler, NITV, May 10, 2023.
The incident brought to mind similar events, such as when some patriotic Volk attended Catherine Deveny’s house in Melbourne in April 2018, when nazi serial pest Neil Erikson & Co. disrupted a church service in Gosford in May 2018, when Proud Boy turned neo-Nazi turned Fink Jarrad Searby paid a friendly visit to the presumed homes of critics in Albury-Wodonga in February 2021, when Mike Holt of Restore Australia fame published what he falsely alleged to be my own address on Facebook in March 2015 and so on and so forth. Some elements of these and other stories may be found in Ginger Gorman’s Troll Hunting: Inside the world of online hate and its human fallout (Hardie Grant, 2019), from which the following account of Deveny’s encounter is drawn:
After making controversial comments on Twitter and Facebook about Anzac Day in 2018 — describing it as ‘Bogan Halloween’ and a ‘fetishisation of war and violence’ — she was doxxed multiple times. Her home address was posted all over the internet and she received an avalanche of credible rape and death threats. She was the focus of several Facebook hate groups. One night, five men in a ute turned up to her house. One of them knocked on her door and videoed himself doing it … In contrast to many who’d gone before her, Deveny received significant and appropriate support.
Nazis: 1 def. Drag Queens: 0
While publicly threatening or seeking to intimidate others with violence can sometimes create legal issues for those responsible, it can also prove to be a remarkably effective political tool. Hence when neo-Nazis and others threatened a drag queen story time event scheduled to take place at an Oakleigh library this Friday, Victoria police advised Monash council to cancel the event, and its CEO agreed. Surprisingly, this didn’t provoke front-page headlines on any NewsCorpse property. Following several previous such cancellations, however, it did demonstrate the need for LGBTQIA+ communities to discuss possible responses, and some of these may be found in Richard Watts’ series for ArtsHub (see : Queer culture is under attack: fighting back, May 4, 2023).
After having written about several local fashy keyboard mashers, Cam Wilson has returned with news that one of these gentlemen, Sam Duncan, the Daily Mail reporter who ran a secret racist Twitter account is now an editor there (Crikey, May 5, 2023).
Hurrah for the blackshirts!
Along with Duncan, Wilson also wrote about Luke Hollowood, a contributor to Tim Wilms’ blog ‘The UnShackled’ — or, as I like to call it, ‘The Unhinged’. Armed with poor social skills and a rich imagination, Wilms has never met a right-wing extremist he didn’t like. Consequently, scores have featured on his propaganda network over the course of the last decade. Wilms’ embrace of the far-right has extended to wearing its merchandise, including promoting the notion of ‘Right Wing Death Squads’ (RWDS). And while gun massacres are seemingly a daily occurrence in the United States, a mass murder in Texas on May 6, in which thirty-three-year old Mauricio Garcia ‘shot and killed eight people and wounded at least seven others at a busy mall north of Dallas on Saturday’ has direct relevance. According to Hannah Gais, Michael Edison Hayden, Rachel Janik and Megan Squire:
Garcia’s social media history suggests he has a long history with fringe radical-right internet communities, due to the frequency with which he referred to their esoteric symbols and memes. He posted to Odnoklassniki photos of hand-drawn symbols associated with the radical right, including “Deus Vult” crosses, SS lightning bolts, swastikas and references to “right wing death squads,” a meme that celebrates extrajudicial killing on behalf of a fascist state. He also drew and posted photos of helicopters, which reference the killing of dissidents under the 20th-century regime of authoritarian Chilean President Augusto Pinochet. Garcia also shared photos that appear to be selfies on Odnoklassniki showing that he tattooed the logo of the Schutzstaffel, or SS, a Nazi-era paramilitary organization, and a swastika on his body sometime between 2022 and 2023.
For Bellingcat, Aric Toller writes ‘On 21 April, a photograph of a vest with the RWDS (Right-Wing Death Squad) patch that Garcia wore during the shooting was shared on the OK account’ (Tracing the Odnoklassniki Profile of the Texas Mall Shooter, May 8, 2023), while in The Progressive, Zach D. Roberts elaborates upon How the Texas Shooter’s RWDS Patch Became a Meme (May 11, 2023).
Still, it’s all just for the lulz, eh Tim.