David Icke speaking at a ‘We Do Not Consent’ rally at Trafalgar Square in London, organised by St0p nEw N0rmEl, to protest against coronavirus restrictions.
On this week’s episode of Yeah Nah, we talk to Annie Kelly [Twitter] — PhD student on antifeminism and the alt-right and the UK correspondent and incel whisperer for the QAnonAnonymous podcast — all about QAnon in the UK, Mumsnet, Multilevel Marketing, (anti-)social media and moar!
Rather like the blogpost the NSW government’s multi-million dollar ‘Step Together’ program cites as an authoritative source on ‘far-left extremism’, the ‘Rise To Peace’ (R2P) post on Antifascist Action (ANTIFA) is quite woeful — and it feels bad, man. To make me feel slightly better, however — and in response to overwhelming public demand — I thought I’d chuck some words at it. So …
Like its cack-handed assessment of ‘far-left extremism’, R2P’s analysis of anTEEfa (credited to a ‘John Wilson’) is brief, short on detail, and long on presumption. Together with a terrific excursion into the bowels of ANTIFA’s history, an assessment of its current status, and an attempt to answer the question ‘Where The Bloody Hell Are You?’, it provides a potted, executive summary, then attempts (or purports) to explain the who/how/which/where and why of ANTIFA.
I’ll address the summary first.
1) ANTIFA represents a semi-disorganized collection of extremists on the far-left, sometimes considered the alt-left
Um … what’s the difference between ‘semi-disorganized’ and ‘semi-organized’? Presumably, this phrasing is meant to hint at the non-existence of what the author understands as ‘organisation’ (or their inability to discern it), along with the absence of a clear and fixed identity. Translated into English, this may begin to provide some useful analysis. As for what distinguishes ‘extremists’ on the ‘far-left’ from the ‘far-left’ as a whole, who knows? But who reckons ANTIFA is or in some way ‘represents’ the ‘alt-left’, why, and what do they mean?
Well, while it was coined by others, the term ‘alt-left’ was popularised by President Trump in August 2017, when he responded to a question about the ‘alt-right’: specifically, the Very Fine People who organised the murderous ‘Unite The Right’ rally in Charlottesville. For Trump, the ‘alt-left’ were the individuals in Charlottesville who:
… came charging at [indiscernible] – excuse me – what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
What about this? What about the fact that they came charging – they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.
REPORTERS YELL INDISTINCTLY
TRUMP: As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day. Wait a minute, I’m not finished. I’m not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day.
REPORTERS YELL INDISTINCTLY
TRUMP: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you had, you had a group on one side that was bad. And you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group – you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.
REPORTER: Do you think what you call the alt left is the same as neo-Nazis?
TRUMP: Those people – all of those people, excuse me – I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.
In which case, R2P reproduces — very peacefully, of course — the same fuzzy logic as the US President. That said, as Mark Bray (see below) has indicated, the term ‘alt-left’ did not stick (though the ABC has had a crack). For his part, Cornel West credits semi-disorganized ANTIFA extremists for saving the lives of clergy on that horrific occasion.
2) ANTIFA is more accurately described as a brand, as opposed to a formal group, however, for ease of understanding it may be referred to as such throughout this assessment
You say ‘ease of understanding’; I say ‘unnecessary confusion’. In my view, ‘ANTIFA’ may be more accurately described as a label, one whose misapplication has skyrocketed since pundits in the Anglophone made the Columbus-like discovery that yes, Virginia, there is grassroots opposition to the extreme-right. It’s also possible to distinguish between, on the one hand, formal, organised groups of anti-fascists — which are relatively few in number — and a broader milieu or movement, in which individuals occasionally participate, may (or may not) explicitly identify as ‘ANTIFA’, and/or for whom participating in explicitly anti-fascist political and organising projects is a function of broader political commitments. See : antifa notes (june 3, 2020) : notes on antifa.
3) With the upcoming presidential election, ANTIFA violence should be expected to rise alongside increasing political turmoil
Maybe. On the other hand, if anti- rather than pro-fascist sentiment is at issue in the contemporary United States, might it also be possible to ask: ‘why?’. Further, what, if anything, does this have to with the Trump presidency, and what, if any, ‘political turmoil’ is the country experiencing at the present moment? I would suggest that the Center for Strategic and International Studies, for example, may have added something germane to this discussion when it concluded that the far-right has committed “the majority of all terrorist incidents in the United States since 1994, and the total number of rightwing attacks and plots has grown significantly during the past six years”, with the far right launching two-thirds of attacks and plots in 2019, and 90% of those in 2020. And call me a crazy, bloodthirsty anarchist if you must, but I would further suggest that: one important dimension of the current ‘turmoil’ in America is the acute problem presented to the US state (and other relevant authorities) by the urgent need to co-opt and/or repress Black Lives Matter; increasingly rampant forms of economic, political and social inequality; a collapsing ecology; and now — since the publication of this anti-antifa diatribe — a global pandemic which has to date destroyed the lives of over 200,000 US citizens.
TLDR : Houston has a problem — but it ain’t ‘anTEEfa’.
So much for the summary. As for the rest:
“Summary of Extremist Narrative”
• Yes, anti-fascists oppose fascism, attempt to disrupt fascist organising, counter fascist propaganda, and otherwise seek to attach a social penalty to the open espousal of fascist doctrines; this is achieved by a variety of mechanisms; no, conservatives and those on the centre-left are not fascists.
• TLDR : anTEEfa are teh enimies of Freeze Peach, and employ violence against those who says things what they don’t like (and the police who protecc Them).
First, ‘free speech’ has a particular legal and cultural resonance in the United States which doesn’t necessarily apply elsewhere (Australia, for example, has no Constitutional protection for speech, and a highly-limited notion of what the law affords in this regard). Secondly, it’s certainly true that self-described anti-fascists in the US have taken action to disrupt or prevent some events from taking place. The most notorious of these events was likely Berkeley in February, 2017 — when a professional troll and pedophile apologist named Milo was seriously inconvenienced — but there are others, over a much longer period of time. Can such actions be justified? I think so, but the reasons for this are difficult to provide without agreement on some basic facts, which is absent in this instance. In any case, the things I think bear thinking about in this context are not merely the theoretical proposal that there exists some thing called ‘free speech’, but the conditions under which its exercise is rendered possible, recognition that all such possibilities have been made real through struggle, that this has always had an extra-legal dimension, and that such struggles have a long history.
“History of the group”
• TLDR : “ANTIFA” is/not a group or organisation, but a dynamic network; most ANTIFA are Marxists; you can learn about ANTIFA in books; communism, socialism, and far-left anarchism are Marxist and its adherents call for revolution.
Like writers for WND, Loomer has frequently pushed anti-Muslim bigotry. The right-wing commentator has described herself as a “proud Islamophobe,” has stated that she didn’t “care” about the anti-Muslim mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, and has said that she would like to see “more” migrant deaths.
Not surprisingly then, the account provided by WND, titled ANTIFA: What Americans Need To Know About The Alt-Left, is suitably histrionic. Hence:
The truth is that Antifa is fighting for communism. Its members are fighting for anarchy. And they always have been. Antifa aren’t the real fascists or the real racists. They aren’t militant Hillary Clinton supporters or Nazis in disguise. Nor are they even anything new. They are simply the same leftists who have drowned the world in blood under the cover of egalitarian slogans since the days of Lenin … it’s time for all Americans to see these violent extremists as they really are, in their own words. This is the story of the masked radicals who think they have the right to tell you what you are allowed to say, hear, and think. This is the story of the black-clad people who beat Trump supporters in the street for the “fascist” and “racist” act of loving their country. This is the story of America’s most dangerous domestic terrorist group. It’s the story of Antifa – The Rise of the Alt-Left.
And so on and so forth. The lines of argument in the text would appear to have decisively shaped R2P’s approach to the subject, and it concludes that ANTIFA is the declared enemy of most Americans and wants to subject them to annihilation. It also tentatively suggests that ‘decent’ Americans — ones governed not by ideology but only ‘common sense’ — take action and form ‘Anti-Communist Action’ (as though this term, like ‘anti-antifa’, hadn’t already been adopted by fascists, American and otherwise).
• TLDR : Reference is made to ‘cumulative extremism’ and fascist creep, therefore ANTIFA violence; Yanquis began using the term ‘anti-fascist action’ in the mid-2000s; the Trump 2016 Presidential campaign produced a surge in ANTIFA activity and membership; this activity has ‘sparked civil unrest unlike anything observed in decades in the United States’ with groups like ANTIFA in the ultra-violent vanguard.
While reference is made to ‘political theorists’, none are named, and while there appears to be some attempt to define the concept of ‘cumulative extremism’ — ‘Political theorists have argued that the spread of extremist political leanings begets the rise of the opposite form of extremism along the linear political spectrum’ — the relevant literature provides some guidance. See, for example, Interpreting “Cumulative Extremism”: Six Proposals for Enhancing Conceptual Clarity, Joel Busher & Graham Macklin, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol.27, No.5, 2015:
The concept of “cumulative extremism” — described in 2006 by Roger Eatwell as “the way in which one form of extremism can feed off and magnify other forms [of extremism],” has recently gained considerable traction in academic, policy, and practitioner discourses about extremism. Yet in spite of the growing usage of the term, particularly in analyses of the dynamic between extreme Islamist and extreme Right-Wing or anti-Muslim protest groups, there has to date been scant interrogation of the concept itself or of its application. In this article, we make a series of six proposals as to how we might enhance the conceptual clarity of these conversations about “cumulative extremism.”
The idea of ‘fascist creep’ is presumably a reference to the work of writers like Alexander Reid-Ross (see : Against The Fascist Creep, AK Press, 2017) which traces today’s often-disguised forms of rightwing extremism through the decades and across the globe to show how infiltration is a conscious and clandestine program for neofascist groups that seek to co-opt and undermine both the mainstream and the new social movements of the left.
As for the claim that since 2016 anTEEfa has ‘sparked civil unrest unlike anything observed in decades in the United States’, I would gently suggest that the author reads more, and perhaps even reflects upon a li’l history.
“Current state of the movement”
• TLDR : ANTIFA is an extremist ideology and brand; its current iteration has ‘become increasingly active and violent since its inception just over a decade ago’, and will continue to be ‘a source of far-left extremism for the foreseeable future’, with its ability to recruit ‘highly dependent on a politically volatile United States’; the 2020 presidential election means even more ultra-violence.
• TLDR : Across the nation but mostly major US cities, college campuses and anywhere there’s heaps big trouble.
As the WND text notes, Rose City Antifa and New York City Antifa are two of the relatively smol number of groups in the United States which describe themselves as such, but there are others, and a broader network of aligned groups and projects. As a general rule, anti-fascist and anti-racist coalitions form if and when fascist and racist groups become particularly active in a given area, but in doing so draw upon a longer history of struggle (mostly based in the labour and Civil Rights/Black liberation movements) against white supremacy and extreme-right doctrine and organisation. The relationship of these ideologies and movements to nationalist ideology, colonial-settlerism and US politics, culture and society generally is of course a much longer story. Happily, I understand that over the years a number of people have written about these histories, and it remains possible for those interested to read these texts, consider and reflect on their contents, and analyse and critique their perspectives and understandings in terms of their own experience — perhaps even over a lifetime.
“What are the primary recruitment methods into the movement?”
• TLDR : teh intarwebs; Mark Bray.
It’s true: you can read about ANTIFA, anti-fascism, fascism and a number of other things on the internet. It’s also true that in 2017 Mark Bray wrote a book titled Antifa: The anti-fascist handbook (given an unflattering review in Rupert Murdoch’s zine ‘The Australian’, sadly). He also wrote an article for The Washington Post in September titled ‘Five myths about antifa’ which, like his book, is recommended reading. Otherwise, I would suggest that anti-fascism attracts sympathy, support and sometimes participation mostly on account of the fact that some people look around the joint, see a resurgence in fascism, white supremacy and related doctrines — and then decide they wanna do something about it.
A reader recently brought to my attention the fact that a NSW government program called ‘Step Together’ has recommended that The Kids™ obtain illumination about the dangers posed by ‘Far Left Extremism’ by Reading All About It! on a website called Rise2Peace (R2P). According to Step Together, the R2P article provides a ‘[d]eeper discussion of just one of the extremist groups who have been known to use violence’. According to R2P (TLDR): a) ‘far left extremism’ is a form of terrorism based on Marxist principles; b) one of the more active of these extremist groupings (in the contemporary United States) is ANTIFA and; c) ANTIFA, like the anti-fascist movement as a whole, ‘is violent and threatening to society at large’.
Sounds terrible, Muriel.
In any case, this is an interesting perspective for the NSW government to seemingly endorse — and, certainly, to finance the promotion of — but I have a few quibbles, which I’ll outline below. But first, let’s take a walk.
Step Together is a project of the NSW government, initiated in 2017 and describing itself as ‘a helpline & online service to help you find the support and information you need if you’re worried that someone you care about may be trying to effect political or social change through violence, also called ‘violent extremism’’.
According to the Deputy Secretary, Strategy Police and Commissioning, Department of Communities and Justice — appearing on March 4, 2020 at a legal affairs committee hearing for an examination of proposed expenditure for the portfolio area of counter terrorism and corrections — the helpline had to that date:
… provided 2,400 telephone and web chat counselling contacts and [received] 145,000 hits on the website. We know the hits on the website come from international [visitors] as well as across Australia and New South Wales. This is a leading program and is being looked at by all the other States and Territories and the Commonwealth as a forerunner in this space because what it does is provide support to families who are concerned about a family member who may be being radicalised or caseworkers and counsellors in the community who are also concerned and need support. What we know is that these people ring and then they ring back, often to get follow-up support and advice. That is having a considerable impact.
The figure of 2,400 is a considerable advance on that initially reported after the program’s launch in June 2017, when:
… it had only received “around five phone calls” in the two months since its launch. One source, who spoke to the ABC on condition of anonymity, said: “It costs millions, but only a few people have called it. One call was a wrong number, the other was a parent worried their kid was dating a Muslim.”
The helpline itself is operated by a private company and registered charity called ‘On the Line’, ‘a national provider of some of Australia’s most vital and trusted services including MensLine Australia, Suicide Call Back Service and SuicideLine (Victoria)’. In its last annual report for FY2018–2019, the chairperson of On the Line declared:
Exciting times! On the Line is now in the third year of its market-oriented strategic transformation, and our attention has been on growing revenue to ensure our long-term sustainability, and position our organisation for the future. We continue to outstrip our annual performance targets and deliver on our strategic objectives.
For their part, the charitable company’s CEO was happy to report that: ‘Our corporate brand awareness of 36% (target 30%) demonstrates that current and potential Government and commercial funders know who we are, and understand the value of the outsourced telephone and online counselling services On the Line deliver’.
‘Online’ had a total declared income for the year of $13,365,541.00, 96.01% of which was derived from government grants.
According to Anthony Roberts, Minister for Counter Terrorism and Corrections (speaking at a previous committee hearing on September 9, 2019), the NSW government’s ‘$47 million countering violent extremism package has had $21 million towards supporting schools, $10 million in community grants [and] $6.5 million to design and develop the very successful Step Together helpline’.
In that hearing, reference is also made to CAPE, a project of ‘All Together Now’, which ‘educates Australians about racism’ by ‘imagining and delivering innovative and evidence based projects that promote racial equity’:
All Together Now’s ground-breaking Community Action for Preventing Extremism (CAPE) project, formerly known as Exit White Power [2012–2014], was established in 2012 to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of young people who are attracted to white nationalism and white supremacy. Since then it has gone from strength to strength and remains the only project of its kind in Australia.
(Note: there exists a similar program called EXIT Australia.) All Together Now was founded by Priscilla Brice-Weller, who previously worked in investment banking, in 2012. While being committed to racial equity, Brice-Weller is unconvinced of the political utility of counter-protesting events like Reclaim Australia rallies, writing in November 2015 that:
So, you may ask, if I’m not protesting then what am I doing to prevent racism? Instead of attending the protest in Sydney last weekend, I spent my weekend studying. I’ve been awarded a full scholarship to study an MBA. Studying business is giving me the privilege and opportunity to address interpersonal and systemic racism from another perspective. That is, I believe that social change comes through strategic thinking, effective leadership, and academic evidence, not through violent protest. My MBA studies are enabling me to work in this way.
This strategic thinking, effective leadership, and academic evidence presumably informs the approach of CAPE to countering racism and the ‘violent extremism’ of protest movements like Reclaim Australia (and, one assumes, its ‘violent’ opposition: ‘at least one person was arrested after allegedly writing graffiti on a memorial, New South Wales police said’). According to answers tendered in response to questions put to The Hon. Anthony Roberts at a budget estimates hearing in September–October 2019, this theoretical work is also supplemented by financial support. Thus:
Community Action for Preventing Extremism (CAPE) NSW was allocated $750,000 over four years. The project provides training for frontline workers across the state and creates a network of youth leaders who can counter far-right narratives in online conversations. Frontline workers who live in NSW and work with young people are eligible for a full-day of training. Training includes knowledge about far-right extremism, communication skills, skills supporting young people with complex needs and building networks and relationships. It includes updates and ongoing support from staff.
As to the impact of Step Together and CAPE, with regards the former, a review (NSW Countering Violent Extremism Program Evaluation, October 2019) undertaken by ACIL Allen Consulting concluded that evidence is ‘relatively limited as there were no outcomes data available’. Further, ‘[q]ualitative feedback indicates that the support line has achieved service uptake among its target audience. However, many of the contacts through the support line or webchat fall out of the scope of the service and are referred on to other options.’ With regards CAPE and its predecessor Exit White Power, Brice-Weller contributed ‘Challenging the Far-Right in Australia’ to The Far-Right in Contemporary Australia (Palgrave Macmillan US, 2019). From what I can gather, Exit White Power met with fairly limited success (hence ‘of the five people who responded to [a] survey [of its Facebook page], three reported they had benefited from hearing other views and perspectives’), while the precise impact of CAPE is uncertain and requires further research funding in order to determine.
Rise2Peace (R2P) was launched by graduate student Ahmad Mohibi in Washington, DC in late 2016. Like umpteen other QUANGOS, its initial efforts appear to have been aimed at developing and implementing strategies intended to limit the appeal of ‘Muslim extremism’, in this instance especially in places like Afghanistan. But the remit to ‘counter extremism’ has obviously extended beyond this into ‘right’ and ‘left’. Hence, the publication of two blogposts (one referred to above) analysing ‘far left extremism’.
The first cab off the rank in the ‘Extremism Assessment Series’ is titled ‘Far-Left Extremism’ (August 1, 2019), while the second is All About ‘Antifascist Action (ANTIFA)’ (July 24, 2019). The contents of the articles are rendered somewhat difficult to assess given that they abound with inaccuracies and are frequently incoherent. (Indeed, they read rather like undergraduate essays hurriedly composed the night before deadline.) In which case — and given that there are surely better-quality and more relevant analyses provided by less-obscure outlets — it kinda begs the question why Step Together would select this blogpost in particular to promote, especially to an Australian audience, and one presumably vulnerable to the appeal of the far left and anti-fascism.
The assessment makes a number of central claims:
1) Based on Marxist principles – left wing extremists believe that the working class should revolt against those in power; [c]an often be classified as “antifascist”.
• ‘Far-left extremism’ is undefined, but would presumably be able to be distinguished from, say, ‘far-left moderation’, though the employment of the term ‘far’ already implies some proximity to the outer limits of acceptable political discourse (and ah, praxis).
• My understanding of ‘Marxist principles’ — which is alleged to form the basis of ‘far-left extremism’ — is derived from Marxist thought, about which I understand a number of things have been published over the course of the last 150 years or so, not least by Karl and his mate Friedrich.
• Leaving aside the fact that specifically ‘Marxist’ principles are only one of several points of reference on the (extreme/far/extra-parliamentary) left, the proposal that workers can and indeed should revolt against those who dominate and exploit them — rather than, say, submit to these depredations — is one that’s accepted by divers political actors, though it can be asserted (and indeed in this instance is) that such resistance is constitutive of ‘far left extremism’.
• While Teh Left opposes ‘fascism’, left perspectives on the utility of ‘anti-fascism’ vary considerably.
2) One of the major goals of left-wing terrorism is the creation of a “utopian” society[.]
Is it though? As a general rule, acts of terror generally have more specific aims, and left-wing terrorism in particular. Certainly, few claim to be motivated by a desire to go no-where. (See also : The Soul of Man under Socialism, Oscar Wilde, 1891.)
3) There is absolutely no religious facet of leftist ideology[.]
Again — really? Presumably, along with collapsing the distinction between leftist ideology and far-left extremism, the author is simply ignorant of the long history of religiously-motivated leftism, and the long and complex history of left engagement with religion. TLDR : ‘When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.’
4) One of their biggest tactics is “provocation” – provoking those in power to overreact in order to garner more sympathy and members[.]
Uh-huh. So when Gaetano Bresci assassinated Umberto I in 1900, it wasn’t in retaliation for the Bava Beccaris massacre, it was because he wanted the Italian state to ‘over-react’? When Russian anarchists bombed Bolshevik headquarters in 1919, it wasn’t in retaliation for arrests and raids, it was so that more workers would join their circles? When Sholom Schwarzbard shot dead Szymon Petliura in 1926, it wasn’t Petliura’s orchestration of pogroms that motivated him, it was because Schwarzbard wanted the (non-existent) Ukrainian People’s Republic to unleash hell in the expectation that others would then want to join his (non-existent) group? When a smol group of left-wing activists hijacked a plane in 1961 to rain anti-Salazar pamphlets over the districts of Setúbal, Barreiro, Beja and Faro in Portugal, what they really wanted was to compel the dictator to close the libraries? When the ETA turned Admiral Carrero Blanco into Spain’s first astronaut in 1973, was it because they wanted the Spanish Navy to turn its guns on Donostia? When the Provos blew up the Brighton Hotel in 1984, they didn’t want to kill Margaret Thatcher, they just wanted to make her mad?
And so on and so forth.
In reality, to the extent that they’re rational political actors, the tactics applied by left-wing terrorists are a function of their strategy, which in turn is determined by their goals, the context in which these are being pursued, and their underlying political commitments. The notion of provocation — of enticing authorities into unleashing such a degree of violence and repression that it triggers a more generalised revolt — is one that some have entertained, but there’s no consensus on its utility, some rejecting it on principle and others because it’s thought to be counter-productive, and there are better ways of sparking such confrontations. It’s also an accusation that’s not infrequently leveled at the victims of state violence and/or as a post-facto justification for its exercise. In this context, it might be more accurate to suggest that, like others, left-wing terrorists can sometimes perform spectacular acts of public violence in order to obtain publicity for themselves and/or in the hope that a significantly large audience will agree with or feel sympathy for the act and perhaps be inspired to join or to undertake similar acts themselves in future.
5) Primary targets are government buildings, symbols of authority, and right-wing conservative rallies/demonstrations[.]
Primary targets of left-ish punk rock songs are governments, authority and reactionary politics. So what? And while Willem Van Spronsen was killed by police while apparently taking action to disable the fleet of buses that serve the Northwest Detention Center, it wasn’t a ‘far left extremist’ who committed the deadliest act of terrorism in the United States prior to the September 11 attacks when the Alfred P. Murrah building was blown up in 1995. As for ‘right-wing conservative’ rallies and/or demonstrations …
• The article then proceeds to give a garbled account of ‘History of Ideology in the United States’. It gets off to a flying start by claiming that ‘Leftist ideology originated around the time of the industrial revolution’ — whenever that was. Happily, anybody with access to, say, a dictionary, would know that the origins of the distinction ‘left’ and ‘right’ derives from the French revolution, not the industrial. I also understand that historians, both Marxist and non-Marxist, have given some thought to understanding feudalism, capitalism, modernism and industrialism as economic, political and social modes.
• The article claims that ‘[d]uring the [1980s], left-wing terrorism was attributed to 74% of all terrorist attacks in the US’. The source for the claim is a 2001 essay by Karl A. Seger titled ‘LEFT-WING EXTREMISM: The Current Threat’, which was written for the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Safeguards and Security. In the essay, Seger writes:
Leftist extremists were responsible for three-fourths of the officially designated acts of terrorism in America in the 1980s. From an international perspective, of the 13,858 people who died between 1988 and 1998 in attacks committed by the 10 most active terrorist groups in the world, 74 percent were killed by leftist organizations …
Between 1988 and 1998, 13,858 people died in attacks committed by the 10 most active terrorist organizations in the world. The most violent of these was the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which was responsible for 3,575 deaths. When all of the deaths attributed to these groups are compared, leftist organizations were responsible for 10,198 or 74 percent of all people killed by the 10 major terrorist groups during this time period.
Exactly what is being claimed in the article, then, is unclear. The figure of 74% in the reference is to that proportion of individuals allegedly killed globally by leftist terrorists in the period 1988–1998, not those killed (or terrorist acts performed) by leftist terrorists in the United States in the 1980s. (Seger cites Thomas Omestad, David E Kaplan and Stefan Lovgren, ‘The joy of the Turks, The fury of the Kurds’, US News & World Report, March 1, 1999.) But perhaps the author meant to write that ‘left-wing terrorism was attributed to [three-quarters] of all terrorist attacks in the US’ in the 1980s? If so, while no source for this claim is given, to the best of my knowledge — and if the Global Terrorism Database is any guide — it seems unlikely.
• The article claims that ‘[t]hroughout history [ie, if you think history is what happened in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s] there have been several known leftist groups that operated within the US, including the United Freedom Front, New World Liberation Front, Weather Underground, Black Liberation Army, and ANTIFA’. Who knows why these particular groups were chosen — and not, say, the May 19th Communist Organization, Symbionese Liberation Army, or even the Black Panther Party — but whatever. It could also be said that ‘throughout history’ there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of ‘leftist groups’ in the United States, both very well-known and obscure.
And so on and so forth: to identify all the many faults, logical and empirical, within this very brief ‘guide’ is more bother than it’s worth.
Finally, it would be a Good thing if Step Together somehow succeeded in turning eejits away from terrorism and thus prevented the emergence of another Phillip Galea or Michael Holt or whoever those blokes in NSW are, but I’m not especially confident.
[NB. The blog is a bit buggy at the moment, so apologies for lack of much in the way of supplementary infos.]
On this week’s episode of Yeah Nah, we talk to semi-regular guest Jason Wilson [Twitter] about the fires that have devastated parts of the United States, the attempt to attribute responsibility for them to anTEEfa, and the paranoid political climate ahead of the 2020 US Presidential election.
Eighteen months after the Christchurch massacre, Sky News Australia has recently launched a campaign to rehabilitate the reputation of AltRight propagandist Lauren Southern.
For those of you coming in late, Southern’s agitational efforts on behalf of white nationalism in general and ‘The Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory in particular have won her a large fanbase — and not only among Australian media. Sadly, her prestige was tarnished and her political utility diminished somewhat by the death and destruction the killer wrought, and a few months after the killings she announced that she was ‘retiring’.
In any event, the campaign to ‘Reclaim Australia’ for Lauren Southern was kicked off by Sky News Australia presenter, The Spectator Australia editor and Southern fanboy Rowan Dean in July 2020, when his very normel zine published an article by her titled ‘Lauren Southern: keep the theatre of cancel culture off the Australian political stage’.
The Spectator missive contained the usual whining but also news that, after a long and happy holiday, Southern had relocated Down Under in order to revive her career (see : Lauren Southern – now a new true blue Aussie – proves ‘cancel culture’ doesn’t exist, Tom Tanuki, True Crime News Weekly, July 28, 2020). Naturally, Southern made no mention of the massacre she helped inspire — nor of the many other wonderful actions she’s taken to merit the term Sky News attributes to her: ‘political activist’ — but this is ah, not-terribly-surprising. Then again, neither is the fact that not everybody is happy jumping down The Memory Hole with her. Commenting on the ‘Far-Right Online Ecosystem’ what influenced the New Zealand terrorist manifesto, the (other) Southern (Poverty Law Center) notes:
Lauren Southern, a Canadian far-right conspiracist who commands a large audience on YouTube, posted a video called “The Great Replacement” in July 2017, which was viewed over half-a-million times on Facebook and shared more than 7,000 times. Southern and racist alt-right YouTube performer Stefan Molyneux attempted to give a talk in New Zealand in August 2018, but the people running the venue cancelled the event after being swarmed by high-profile critics, including Jacinda Ardern, the country’s prime minister.
This was just one of her many Greatest Hits, which have included:
• In April 2015, before a failed tilt at public office (as a Libertarian Party candidate she gots 535 votes or 0.89%), Southern first attracted attention with her debut video on Ezra Levant’s propaganda network ‘The Rebel’ (see : convicted spousal abuser Avi Yemini), with a video titled “Why I Am Not A Feminist”.
• In June 2015, Southern crashed an anti-rape activist event called SlutWalk with a poster that read “There Is No Rape Culture in the West”.
• In March 2016, Southern attended a cancelled rally and counter-protest for fellow ‘Libertarian’ August Sol Invictus, where someone poured something on her head. For his part, Invictus credits Southern (a Canuckistanian) with understanding the deliberate destruction of our culture and the apathy that enables it better than most Americans. (Last month, Invictus was granted bail after being charged with domestic violence.)
• In 2017, Southern was detained by the Italian coast guard for trying — along with others in the Identitarian movement, including lvl boss Martin Sellner — to block a boat carrying refugees across the Mediterranean Sea.
• As part of her anti-refugee campaign, Southern helped to produce a doctored video which resulted in its target, Ariel Ricker (the American director of Advocates Abroad, a nonprofit group that assists refugees and other asylum-seekers), receiving in excess of 37,000 death and rape threats. Advocates Abroad later stated that [t]hose responsible for the video are extremists whose goal is to incite violent opposition to refugees and those who serve them. The death and rape threats that resulted from their video demonstrate their intentions.
• Later in 2018, Southern was warmly embraced by Sky News and other NewsCorpse properties on her tour of Australia with fellow propagandist Stefan Molyneux. Notably, the tour organisers employed members of the neo-Nazi groupuscule ‘The Lads Society’ as security. Along with entertaining local nazis, Sky News presenters and other racist losers, Southern also took the opportunity to go into bat for her fellow Whites in South Africa (which, as I understand it, has an interesting history of ‘race relations’). Thus:
One conspiracy theory that took off last year with the #whitegenocide hashtag claimed, falsely, that the South African government was massacring white farmers and stealing their land, in part driven by YouTubers like Lauren Southern, who has produced both a “great replacement” video, which disappeared after the Christchurch attack, and a higher-production video called “Farmlands.” It bubbled all the way up to Donald Trump, who credulously touted the story himself on Twitter, saying, “I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”
The ‘White Genocide’ meme was of course promoted by Southern during her 2018 propaganda tour, when she was joined by bankrupt (and very eggy) former Senator Fraser Anning.
In My View
Fast-forward to September 2020 and Southern’s latest performance is on a new-ish show called ‘In My View’. The episode featured her along with Georgie Dent (‘a journalist, editor, author & passionate advocate for gender equality’), 2GB broadcaster Michael McLaren and, most curiously, Antoinette Lattouf, the co-founder and director of Media Diversity Australia (MDA). (Note that Women’s Agenda contains one reference to Southern in a piece by Dr Kaz Ross, who writes that Southern’s “It’s Okay to be White” T-shirt served as the inspiration for Senator Pauline Hanson’s recent Senate motion declaring the same message. Apparently, Ross’s warning that Australia should be wary of such figures failed to make it on to Dent’s agenda.)
As for MDA, it published a report into media diversity last month, which found that presenters, commentators and reporters on Australian television are overwhelmingly of an Anglo-Celtic background. It further notes that:
It is clear that Australian television news and current affairs media does not represent all Australians and this affects the way stories are told and framed. It has been almost three decades since the 1991 National Inquiry into Racist Violence by the then Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission raised concerns about the lack of diversity in the media leading to inadequate representation of significant sections of the Australian public.
Of course, as the title of the Inquiry suggests, it was undertaken by HREOC following representations to it about an apparent increase in the incidence of racially motivated violence in Australia. In the late ’80s, some of this violence was organised by way of Jim Saleam’s National Action (NA, Sydney) and Jack van Tongeren’s Australian Nationalists Movement (ANM, Perth). The Inquiry thus detailed a number of other things too, including attacks upon journalists and activists by the racist thugs of NA (see, for example, Reverend Dr Dorothy McRae-McMahon’s account in Australians Against Racism, Pluto Press, 1995). While NA collapsed some years later (a result of political exhaustion and opposition), the (explicitly) neo-Nazi banner has been taken up by others, including members of Southern’s 2018 security detail. Indeed, just yesterday members of the National Socialist Network were Twitter celebs and — like their antecedent Antipodean Resistance — have been busy this year distributing agitprop on whatever remains of University campuses.
Typically, the fact that members of a nazi groupuscule have been connected to neo-Nazi terror networks like ‘The Base’ has been ignored by Australian media, though if public declarations by ASIO are anything to go by, the prospect of another nazi massacre by a 110% Dinky-Di Aussie Patriot is actually something to be taken quite seriously. Still, leaving aside secret squirrels, the NSN hasn’t had much luck in Melbourne recently, Southern’s boys losing their bunker in Rowville just a few weeks ago — though again, this elicited precisely zero interest from Australian media, diverse or otherwise.
Southern herself is not. a. fan. of ‘diversity’, stating in her 2016 book Barbarians: How the Baby Boomers, Immigration, and Islam Screwed My Generation that racially-conscious yoof such as her will have to accept that diversity is not a strength, it’s a weakness. Its legacy is not peace and love, but division and hate.
In terms of situating Southern in this milieu — and, moreover, understanding the political function of her propaganda — another report worth consulting is Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube by Rebecca Lewis (Data & Society, September 18, 2018), which presents data from approximately 65 political influencers across 81 channels to identify the “Alternative Influence Network (AIN)”; an alternative media system that adopts the techniques of brand influencers to build audiences and “sell” them political ideology. Along with Southern, among the 65 ‘influencers’ are other former ‘Rebels’, including Faith Goldy, Gavin McInnes and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (‘Tommy Robinson’).
With regards the September 20 episode of ‘In My View’, it’s fairly standard Sky News fare, with the political activist Lauren Southern being described as someone who thinks lock-downs in Australia and internationally have become a classist problem, driven by political elites. Then follows a discussion on the merits of governments employing private consultants, agricultural labour market shortages, and the importance of investing in child care. Southern’s contribution consisted of: hailing the virtues of privatisation (which she contrasts with the public sector AKA The Soviet Union AKA the White Sea–Baltic Canal) and calling for ‘More consultants, less bureaucrats!’; touting the moral virtues of manual labour for yoof while simultaneously complaining that it’s unfair for refugees, refugee organisations and those who advocate mass immigration to take political advantage of this alleged crisis (according to Southern, Trump, on the other hand, developed a very sensible policy response to The Immigrant Question) and so on and so forth.
tl; dr : It seems very unlikely Southern will be joining other immigrants picking fruit, but may well accept a jerb as a ‘political consultant’.
Finally, Southern expressed Thoughts, Opinions and Feels about the Coronavirus and the state’s responses to it. Specifically, she noted the disruptive effect of lockdowns on The Economy (citing the case of Tory cafe owner Michelle Loielo and the travails of the lawnmowing industry) and on The Family. She further claimed that merely asking questions of the regime means being called anti-science, that those responsible for enacting such policies (ie, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews and The Political Class generally) were engaged in ‘virtue-signalling’, and that their own lives are untouched by these policies. Somewhat amusingly, Southern falsely claimed that multiple Australian government ministers have been penalised for breaking the rules they themselves have imposed, and half-seriously proposed that the ‘solution’ to these problems may be found by ensuring that for every job loss in private industry, a government employee loses theirs. Oh, she also reckoned that the Swedish model (5,865 deaths and counting) is real Good, and that Trump should go ahead and appoint a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election.
Again, nothing untypical for Sky.
To conclude: Sky is wanting to (re-)incorporate Southern into its programming schedule, and to an extent has already succeeded in doing so. This is in keeping with their earlier championing of Southern and her views, but is somewhat remarkable given that her rehabilitation takes place after a fellow believer in ‘The Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory massacred 51 Muslims (mostly immigrants and refugees) in Christchurch. Indeed, Southern has been further rewarded for her role as a propagandist for racism and xenophobia by being invited to guest star at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Sydney in November. I think this says quite a lot about what passes for ‘conservatism’ in these crazy, topsy-turvy times, but while the dangers of normalising fascist politics have already been remarked upon by many, I can see no compelling reason why journalists and other media workers in Australia should voluntarily assist Southern and Sky in achieving this goal.
an academic and a social justice advocate with over a decade of experience in community leadership. For the past few years, my research and activism has focused heavily on countering the rise of fascist movements and hate groups in the U.S. Northwest and more broadly. I have worked with community organizations, educators and school administrators, faith communities, organized labor, and others to form responses to threats, targeted recruitment and manipulative messaging by far-right extremists.
On Multural Carxism, Joan has recently had published ‘Who’s Afraid of the Frankfurt School? “Cultural Marxism” as an Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory”‘, Journal of Social Justice, Vol.9, 2019 [PDF]. The article makes reference to three key figures: Paul Gottfried, William S. Lind and Kevin MacDonald. MacDonald paid a visit to Australia in later 2018, meeting with local nazis and talking at NSW Parliament. Thus:
Mr Brasher is a 20-year-old law and economics student.
In June, he posted a video of himself boxing at The Lads Society clubhouse in Sydney.
In September, he posted on Instagram about having had “the honour of meeting Kevin MacDonald”, a man described by a US Law Centre as “the neo-Nazi movement’s favourite academic”.
Mr Tuckfield was recently photographed campaigning for NSW Nationals MP Paul Toole.
He also shares a registered business number with another Young Nat, Michael Heaney, and two members of The Lads Society — one of whom posted a photo of himself to Facebook wearing a neo-Nazi T-shirt a few years ago.
On this week’s episode of Yeah Nah, we talk to Shannon Foley Martinez [Twitter]. Shannon is:
a former violent white supremacist, has two decades of experience in developing community resource platforms aimed at inoculating individuals against violence-based lifestyles and ideologies. Foley Martinez has worked in at-risk communities teaching and developing dynamic resiliency skills. She has worked for school systems, nonprofits, and community organizations.
To which Jordan replied: [email protected] called @ScottMorrisonMP a simp… and pissed off gross ex buzzfeed hacks whilst doing it. He would make a great PM… oh yeah and he designed the NDIS.
So far, so Twitter.
(Note: Jordan is not. a. fan. of Buzzfeed.)
Over the course of the next day or two, Things Escalated, with Jordan’s hostility to various other meeja sheeted home to a supposed rejection by SBS — a claim Jordan denies. In any event, Jordan offered some further thoughts on the AUWU in a podcast (August 23), and finally promised to fully expose the union in a subsequent video.
In terms of the podcast, Jordan claimed that inter alia he’d privately conferred with Bill Shorten staffers about the AUWU, reckoned that the AUWU has pushed out good comrades from the union movement and claimed that leading AUWU members enjoy many privileges, come from wealth, and enjoy a wealthy and well-fed lifestyle as a result of their involvement in the group.
In his subsequent ‘Apology’ on YouTube (August 28), Jordan elaborates on why the AUWU is bAd, corrupt, not-a-union, and best abandoned by its membership. Below is an account of the main allegations he makes in the video. Note that some details (available in the original video) have been omitted, the reasons for which should become clearer upon reading.
To begin with, Jordan highlights the fact that — despite having supported the AUWU by MCing and speaking at several of their events in 2016 — Van Badham was subsequently denounced on Twitter by Thomas Studans, the NSW co-ordinator for the AUWU. So too Emma Dawson, who co-authored a submission to a Senate inquiry into employment services by the AUWU and her organisation Per Capita in 2018 (see : ‘Working It Out: Employment Services in Australia’, AUWU & Per Capita, September 2018).
Secondly, Jordan makes claims based on grievances aired by a former President of the AUWU, Hayden Patterson. The other person named in his video, Imogen Bunting, was allegedly expelled in order to prevent her from regaining office as the secretary of the Brisbane branch of the AUWU.
Thirdly, Jordan contrasts the claim by the AUWU that it has thousands of members with the fact that as an incorporated association it claims just 42. Further, as the union is not affiliated to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), it cannot be considered a ‘real’ union. Finally, Jordan reckons that the fact that the last annual report — showing that the AUWU had a budget surplus of approximately $30,000 — is evidence of hypocrisy and moral corruption on the part of the group: a ‘union’ that had real concern for starving workers simply wouldn’t have such a massive surplus. For this reason, he describes AUWU member Jeremy Poxon as ‘a monumentally hypocritical piece of shit’ given his authorship of an article in Junkee in May 2019 titled ‘What Good Are Billions Of Surplus Dollars When People Are Starving?’.
(Note: Jordan is not. a. fan. of Junkee.)
After some further unkind commentary, Jordan draws attention to a number of other tweets by Studans, including one in which, in response to comments about an increase in applications for bridging visas (“Why has the minister allowed for the large blowout in bridging visas and airplane people under his watch?” Senator Keneally asked in the Senate on Tuesday), he accuses Kristina Keneally of being a ‘dog-whistling racist piece of sh*t loser’. In some other tweets, Studans uses the term ‘n*gga’ (seemingly in reference to various hip-hop lyrics).
Fourthly, Jordan cites an un-named person who alleges that the AUWU leadership made a number of serious and unfounded allegations against her, such that, inter alia, her job was put at risk. Further, more recently, Thomas (or ‘the AUWU leadership’ in Jordan’s terms) accused another Twitter user of being a ‘pedo’. Jordan also accuses the AUWU of doing the same thing to him on one of his (other) social media platforms.
Next, Jordan provides an account of the AUWU helpline and its apparent failings. Thus Jordan claims that Hayden stated to him that the first call he received when operating the helpline was from a woman in severe distress. According to Jordan, Hayden then attempted to have the helpline shut down, but was over-ruled. Subsequently, many calls went un-answered, generating a months-long backlog, and contributing to a tragic outcome for one caller. Note that, according to the AUWU’s 2018–2019 annual report:
[In April 2019, there] was a backlog of callbacks and emails dating back to September 2018. Thanks to the enormous efforts of both Tracey and Owen Bennett (among other advocacy volunteers), every single email, form, or voicemail was followed up on and apologies were ensured. From then on, the new Advocacy Working Group team (Tracey, Gene Saraci as Online Advocacy Coordinator, and other advocates) have ushered in a new era for AUWU advocacy services and have done so with a degree of professionalism and energy that any AUWU member would be proud of.
Jordan further claims that he received many accounts of bad behaviour by the AUWU from anonymous sources too scared to go public, their anonymity ensuring that they can avoid the prospect of (another) campaign of ‘savage and targeted harassment’ by the AUWU leadership. According to Jordan, this ‘destructive abuse’ has, in fact, ‘been orchestrated by Alex North, Jeremy Poxon, Owen Bennett and Thomas Studans’.
The main target of Jordan’s apology is Thomas Studans, who according to Jordan has unfairly attacked and smeared a number of people on Twitter. Two sources are named: Imogen Bunting and Hayden Patterson; other sources remain anonymous. The AUWU is not a union, but rather a corrupt, un-democratic gang responsible for seriously harming others.
The AUWU gang has yet to formally respond to Mr Friendly.
A little history …
These guys are the union for the unemployed. Who are they demanding rights from?
Leaving aside the more specific allegations about the AUWU made by Jordan, it’s worth asking: what’s a union?
The single most important criteria, according to Jordan, is whether or not a group is affiliated to the ACTU. All appearances to the contrary, the Retail And Fast Food Workers’ Union (RAFFWU) is therefore not a union. Rather, like the AUWU, it’s a ‘corporation’. Nonetheless, the RAFFWU has been dubbed a ‘rogue’ union by Clayton Utz, which notes with concern the possible emergence of similar organisations, ones which might challenge ‘traditional unions’ (in this context the SDA). In any case, the licensing of unions by the state can be a powerful weapon against worker organising and industrial militancy, including by Labor governments: the de-registration of the Builders Labourers’ Federation in 1986 and that of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) in 1989 being recent examples.
Of course, a more expansive definition of ‘union’ would obviously include not only bodies not affiliated to the ACTU, but also those not formed on the basis of a particular trade or industry. The Union of Australian Women, for example, describes itself as follows:
We are workers, wives, care givers, mothers, cleaners, cooks, gardeners, chauffeurs and much more. We do the vast majority of unpaid work. We are particularly badly affected by health, education, social security, aged care and housing cuts. We are badly impacted by the industrial changes. We are being attacked by State and Federal governments.
In the same camp could be placed squatters’ and tenants unions, and a range of other economic, political and social organisations.
Writing about political agitation by unemployed workers, Philip Mendes (‘From Protest to Acquiescence: Political Movements of the Unemployed’, Social Alternatives, Vol.18, No.4, October 1999) notes:
Regardless of the varied definitions and levels of success or failure, unemployed movements faced severe obstacles such as:
1) The indifference of much of the trade union movement. Dominated by laborist views which emphasize the wages and working conditions of wage and salary earners rather than a broader redistribution of income that alters the basic structural inequities between rich and poor, Australian unions have historically displayed little interest in the protection of those outside the workforce. During the depression, the union movement, whilst expressing sympathy for the unemployed, with some exceptions, generally made little attempt to organize the unemployed or to lobby on their behalf for adequate unemployment relief. As noted by historian, L.J.Louis, unemployed workers quickly became isolated from the mainstream union movement. Union ambivalence or outright hostility also tended to be the case elsewhere.
2) The psychological impact of unemployment which left many individual workers isolated and demoralized.
3) The inability of the politically powerless unemployed to initiate economic sanctions such as strikes to win their demands.
4) Political violence and political repression.
Broadly speaking, in 2020 indifference (1) remains the position of the trade union movement in Australia, leavened by occasional expressions of sympathy and support. By the same token, even as union membership has plummeted over the last few decades, and industrial militancy has all but vanished, a more expansive definition of the purposes of trade unions — sometimes dubbed ‘social unionism’ in the Anglophone worlde — is also largely absent. Leaving aside the brief heyday of the Wobblies and some Communist-controlled unions, in the post-WWII era those unions which have adopted a progressive agenda and attempted to intervene in broader social issues have generally been the more radical, with the NSW Builders Labourers’ Federation of the 1960s and ’70s probably being the best and most recent example. Changing such attitudes, policies and perspectives is no easy thing, but unions of the unemployed can at least support their members, and by doing so mitigate the negative psychological impact (2) capital imposes upon this segment of the labour market in particular. Strike action (3) too, is possible, but is likely to succeed only with broader public support. As for political violence and repression (4), that’s surplus to requirements at present, and assumes far more subtle forms than it did in, say, the 1920s and ’30s.