On Troll Hunting (Ginger Gorman)

Troll Hunting by Australian journalist Ginger Gorman is a new book which examines the world of online hate and its human fallout. Along with interviews with a small number of trolls and general reflections upon this hateful world, Gorman’s book includes a number of case studies of trolling, some of which are relatively well-known while others not: all make for disturbing reading. While it’s of general relevance, many of the characters and events which populate this world would be especially familiar to (Australian) readers, or at least those who take an interest in such matters: on the one hand, ‘GamerGate’, convicted terrorist Joshua Goldberg, Andrew Auernheimer (AKA ‘weev’) and GNAA; on the other hand, those subject to what Gorman calls ‘predator trolling’, including writer Van Badham and lawyers Josh Bornstein and Mariam Veiszadeh (among others). Gorman’s book is well-written and engaging, and weaves together the author’s own experience of being ‘trolled’ with those of others, along with some examples of ‘troll hunting’ and ‘troll hunters’, the latter category including journalist and lawyer Luke McMahon. As well as being of general interest, the text is of particular interest to me because of the ways in which the ‘world of online hate’ has been ‘weaponized’ by elements of the far right, a theme explored in more detail in the anthology Cyber Racism and Community Resilience: Strategies for Combating Online Race Hate (Palgrave, 2017). At a little over 250 pages long, the text includes endnotes, which are useful, but — rather annoyingly — no index.

Gorman’s book is divided into three parts: ‘Trolls’, ‘Targets’ and ‘Troll hunting’. The first part examines the evolution of online trolling, the emergence of ‘predator trolls’ in particular — which Gorman defines (p.18) as those who set out to do real-life harm — and details the author’s lengthy conversations and interactions with several of its enthusiastic practitioners. In the second part, Gorman provides case studies of predator trolling and investigates the ways in which law enforcement has responded, or more precisely failed to respond, to these activities. Gorman also explores how social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have dealt with trolling and cyberhate generally — which is argued to be less-than-adequate. The third and final part of the book explores how some trolls, including Goldberg, came unstuck. Throughout the text, Gorman reflects upon her journey into this ‘world of online hate’, and how her interactions with the creatures which inhabit it change her understanding of them, their world, and its relationship to broader social and technological trends, especially racism and misogyny and the central place of social media in everyday life.

‘Trolling’ IRL

While the second part reveals varying degrees of incompetency and indifference on the part of tech companies, after documenting the systemic failure of law enforcement to address cyberbullying, Gorman does detect a more hopeful sign (pp.119–120):

Some stories are emerging of more appropriate, and effective, responses to cyberbullying complaints. Take comedian and writer Catherine Deveny. 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 doxed 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.

Within forty-eight hours of Deveny’s original comments being posted — and the resultant blow-up of public vitriol — Victorian counter-terrorism police reached out to her. They got her statement and started investigating. Police patrolled outside her house and work events. An investigator from the Office of the Federal eSafety Commissioner also got in touch. In contrast to many who’d gone before her, Deveny received significant and appropriate support. After hearing so many dire stories, it’s great to hear one like this. Wouldn’t it be amazing if all predator-trolling victims could rely on getting this kind of assistance?

LOL.

For what it’s worth, I remember when this incident took place, and at the time made brief reference to it on the blog. In which context, a few things. First, those responsible for paying Deveny a nocturnal visit included right-wing activists Julian de Ross (AKA ‘Hugh Pearson’), Rino ‘Bluebeard’ Grgurovic and Ricky Turner. Secondly, whatever became of the intervention by Victorian counter-terrorism police and the Office of the Federal eSafety Commissioner, the boys carried on as before. Thus one month later, members of the same crew — on this occasion consisting of Paul Exley and Danny Peanna/Parkinson from Sydney, together with the Melbourne-based Grgurovic, Logan Spalding, and their ringleader Neil Erikson — filmed themselves disrupting a church service in Gosford; in June, Erikson, Turner and several others paid another nocturnal visit to a private address, on this occasion that of rival right-wing entrepreneur Dave Pellowe. While it’s unclear if those responsible for attending Deveny’s and Pellowe’s address faced any legal repercussions (it seems not), for his part in the disruption of the church service Erikson at least was later charged under an obscure law making it an offence to ‘obstruct a member of the clergy in the discharge of his or her duties’.

It’s possible, I suppose, to characterise this behaviour as ‘IRL trolling’ — but there’s certainly other interpretations. One critical difference is that, while it may be performed for teh lulz, unlike almost all of the examples of ‘trolling’ Gorman provides in her book, such actions are not really all that anonymous. In fact, while there’s occasionally some effort made to disguise the identities of those responsible, for the most part it’s very public — and by public I mean ‘filmed and then published by/on Facebook’. When de Ross, Grgurovic, Turner & Co. visited Deveny’s home; Exley, Peanna, Grgurovic, Spalding and Erikson disrupted a church service; and Erikson, Turner & Co. visited Pellowe’s home; these actions were undertaken precisely in order to be documented and distributed via Facebook. So too, the numerous other occasions upon which Erikson in particular has undertaken the role of a serial pest, from disrupting council meetings and various left and ‘multicultural’ events to stalking and abusing various public figures he happens to dislike. (Note that Grgurovic is due in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on February 26 over assault charges; Erikson, along with his kameraden Ricky Turner and Richard Whelan, have a date on May 13 over similar.)

All of these acts have been performed publicly and for the benefit of his Facebook audience, the corporation having granted Erikson permission to do so for at least the last four years. Thus, it was only in the space of the last few days that Facebook, for unknown reasons, banned a number of Erikson’s accounts. (It’s possible that the pest may have come unstuck upon announcing the re-launch of the ‘United Patriots Front’ by creating an event page for a February 16 rally at Federation Square — the UPF collapsed after Facebook banned its page in May 2017.) Still, there are hundreds if not thousands of very similar pages on the site, and it remains the critical tool for far-right organising in Australia and elsewhere. (See, for example, Fraser Anning’s Neo-Nazi connections (The White Rose Society, January 11, 2019) and Facebook Fueled Anti-Refugee Attacks in Germany, New Research Suggests (Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, The New York Times, August 21, 2018) for two among innumerable other instances.)

More broadly, while Gorman makes fairly short work of the corporate pablum spewed by Facebook and Twitter concerning their commitment to combating trolling and ‘hate speech’, if Facebook in particular is understood as being a massive private data-collection agency — one which derives a substantial proportion of its profits from selling this information to advertisers (and whoever else can pay for it) — it’s possible to cut through this nonsense fairly easily. Further, like corporations generally, Facebook is able to use the enormous financial and political power at its disposal to ensure the forms of regulation which might inhibit its continued growth and profitability are kept at bay. And while YouTube/Google doesn’t feature in Gorman’s account, its role in promoting racist and fascist propaganda, along with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, rivals that of Facebook, and has long been understood as a key node in the distribution and promotion of race-hate and other forms of hate speech (see, for example, ‘Fiction is outperforming reality’: how YouTube’s algorithm distorts truth, Paul Lewis, The Guardian, February 2, 2018 and ‘Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube’, Rebecca Lewis, Data & Society, September 9, 2018).

In any case, to return to Goldberg and Veiszadeh (pp.218–219):

Towards the end of 2014, [Veiszadeh] publicly voiced her outrage that a Woolworths supermarket in Cairns was selling singlets printed with the Australian flag alongside the tagline,’If you don’t love it, LEAVE’.

Three months after her tweet, the far right anti-Islam group The Australian Defence League posted her tweet to their Facebook page. From there, it was picked up by the alt-right Daily Stormer website. Chillingly, The Daily Stormer post about Veiszadeh, written under the byline Michael Slay, demanded of its thousands of followers: ‘Stormer Troll Army … assemble!’ ‘We need to flood this towelhead subhuman vermin with as much racial and religious abuse as we possibly can,” the spite-filled post reads …’

(Note that a few weeks ago the former ‘President’ of the ADL, Ralph Cerminara, was found ‘guilty of two counts of intimidation and one count of common assault’ after attacking his neighbour in Sydney.)

In addition to being attacked on The Daily Stormer, Veiszadeh’s tweet also triggered a Queensland woman, Jay-Leighsha Bauman, to send Veiszadeh messages calling her a “whore”, a “rag-head” and [telling] her to return to her own “sand dune country” — Bauman was later sentenced to 180 hours of community service for the crime. A few months later, an Ordinary Mum™ and Reclaim Australia supporter was charged with threatening to slit Veiszadeh’s throat. On these and other occasions, it seems the chief fault of those charged was not bothering to anonymise their threats; the fact that Bauman’s threats were reported on by both the BBC and CNN may also have prompted authorities to take a closer look. That said:

Later in 2015, Luke McMahon and Elise Potaka reported in Fairfax newspapers that Michael Slay turned out to be not one person, but two. One of those two men was Joshua Goldberg, whose main trolling preoccupation was preserving freedom of speech. As the troll hunter explained earlier, this was how he ended up choosing targets such as Josh Bornstein.

Nathaniel Jacob Sassoon Sykes

The ‘other’ Michael Slay was of course Jewish neo-Nazi and toy-doll enthusiast Nathaniel Jacob Sassoon Sykes, who was exposed by McMahon in April 2017. Like Goldberg, Sykes contributed scores of articles to The Daily Stormer, inter alia attacking Veiszadeh along with Badham, Bornstein, Dr Tim Soutphommasane and yours truly. Currently, Sykes is the chief writer for the ‘United Nationalists of Australia’ blog, the online shitsheet of the ‘Australia First Party’. In that capacity, Sykes attacks the various enemies of the AFP on the left as well as the right. Sometimes, this creates legal difficulties. Hence, after publishing an article in June 2017 by party leader Dr Jim Saleam which detailed alleged crimes committed by members of rival fascist groupuscule ‘Klub Nation’, in May 2018 legal action against Saleam and the blog was apparently taken by various persons associated with KN. (Member of this radical right-wing network are also implicated in an attempt to infiltrate the Young Nationals in NSW last year.) Beyond this, members of the neo-Nazi ‘Lads Society’ and, more recently, a man called Michael Freshwater, have also been attacked by Sykes on the UNA blog. While Sykes was dismissed by ex-UPF and Lads Society organiser Tom Sewell as a ‘divisive little Jew’, Freshwater, it’s alleged, has been part of a conspiracy to undermine AFP, embracing elements of the Liberal Party as well as neo-Nazis like Mark McDonald, the leader of the Lads Society in Sydney and former leader of neo-Nazi groupuscule ‘Squadron 88’.

Notes

• Joshua Goldberg (as ‘Moon Metropolis’) published a statement on Medium on December 28, 2018 which provides a defence of sorts to his actions: ‘It was always my intention to infiltrate online jihadist spheres so that I could eventually become either a journalist, an FBI agent, or both.’ The statement also refers to … when I got Milo Yiannopoulos to publish that “expose” on Shaun King, I did it purely to see the shitstorm that I knew it would create, not because I actually care in the least about anything involving either Shaun King or Milo Yiannopoulos (both of those people are complete and utter clowns as far as I’m concerned). The article, ‘Did Black Lives Matter Organizer Shaun King Mislead Oprah Winfrey By Pretending To Be Biracial?’ (Breitbart, August 19, 2015), is dissected in this blogpost on Internet Famous Angry Men. Yiannopoulos is of course a very well-known troll who for several years was able to translate his trolling activities into sponsorship by wealthy right-wing reactionaries and sought to acquire more filthy lucre by conducting (semi-)lucrative tours. In fact, Yiannopoulos, along with Gavin McInnes and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, are supposedly being brought to Australia by Penthouse Australia publisher Damien Costas next month (March 9–14) for a speaking tour. For his part, Costas is currently embroiled in a legal battle with publicist Max Markson regarding alleged unpaid debts; there’s also allegedly been some fisticuffs. See also : Here’s How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled White Nationalism Into The Mainstream, Joseph Bernstein, BuzzFeed, October 5, 2017 (A cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News reveals the truth about Steve Bannon’s alt-right “killing machine.”).

• Gorman makes reference (pp.199-200) to a category of trolling known as ‘media fuckery’, and cites US academic Whitney Phillips who defines it as ‘the ability to turn the media against itself … by either amplifying or outright inventing a news item too sensational for media outlets to pass up’. This brought to mind two things. First, a recent example of ‘media fuckery’ in which a fake Facebook page titled ‘Melbourne Antifa’ applauded the 2017 Las Vegas shooting. This later featured in an article in The Daily Mail by Stephen Johnson (‘Melbourne Antifa extremists praise Las Vegas shooter’, October 2, 2017), was fact-checked by FactCheck.Org and Snopes and in May 2018 also triggered a bizarre interaction between myself and a right-wing blogger in the US. Secondly, the phrase immediately brought to mind similar terms such as ‘culture-jamming’ and ‘subvertising’, political practices which pre-date both ‘media fuckery’ and teh intarwebs as a whole. See : How To Make Trouble And Influence People.

• Gorman also makes reference (p.47) to local neo-Nazi activist Blair Cottrell in the context of a discussion regarding ‘hate leaching into the mainstream’ and Cottrell’s appearance as a very special guest on Adam Giles’ show on Sky News in August last year. As noted elsewhere, Cottrell – following an appearance on Sky News – told his 25,000 Twitter followers he might as well have raped presenter Laura Jayes on air because “not only would she have been happier with that but the reaction would’ve been the same”. In which context, a few things: first, while Facebook has banned the UPF and Cottrell, such commentary is considered acceptable by Twitter (to which platform Cotrell shifted after being kicked off Facebook). Secondly, his kamerad Neil Erikson made a similar remark directed at another female journalist, Jodi Lee, in November last year: ‘Jodie [sic] Lee acted like I had raped her on live TV….. She wishes!’ Thirdly, Cottrell has an extensive criminal record, mostly revolving around his stalking of an ex-girlfriend. Finally, Cotrell, Erikson and fellow white nationalist Chris Shortis were convicted in September 2017 of inciting hatred for Muslims; Cottrell is appealing the conviction on the grounds that the Victorian Act under which he was convicted (The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001) is in fact un-Constitutional, and will be appearing in the County Court in Victoria on February 19.

• While Gorman devotes relatively little space to d0xing, it’s relevant in several instances. In her chapter on weev, ‘A Professional Racist’, for example, Gorman notes (p.232) that weev appeared on a neo-Nazi podcast with Mike Enoch and Christopher ‘Crying Nazi’ Cantwell. Later in the chapter (p.236), Gorman also refers to ‘Azzmador’, who along with Daily Stormer publisher Andrew Anglin wrote a post for the site encouraging their fellow neo-Nazis to attend the murderous ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. As it happens, Mike Enoch is in fact Mike Peinovich, who got d0xxed in January 2017, while ‘Azzmador’ is Robert Warren Ray. (According to a November 2018 report, Ray is currently a fugitive after being charged with a felony allegedly committed at the rally.) As for Cantwell, late last year he voiced an audio version of local neo-Nazi Ryan Fletcher’s tract ‘From HEMP to Hitler’, which has been promoted on David Hiscox’s AltRight website XYZ. See also : The far right, the “White Replacement” myth and the “Race War” brewing, Julie Nathan, ABC (Religion & Ethics), February 12, 2019:

The potential for violence which such online posts portend was graphically demonstrated in the United States in October 2018 by Robert Bowers, who wrote on Gab, a Twitter-like platform which is a haven for extremists and racists, “Screw your optics, I’m going in.” Shortly afterwards, he entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and murdered eleven Jews. Afterwards, Bowers told police that he was motivated by his belief that “the Jews” were “committing genocide to my people.”

Chillingly, these words were echoed by another Gab user, an Australian named Ryan Fletcher, who wrote, “I think its [sic] about time to say ‘f*** your optics I’m going in’.” Fletcher has a dark history of calling for the murder of Jews in Australia and worldwide, and of posting images of Jews being killed, on his Gab account. Fletcher subscribes to the myth: “#White gentiles are waking up to the agenda of #ZOG (which is #WhiteGenocide).” “ZOG” stands for “Zionist Occupied Government,” a term used to insinuate that “the Jews” control the United States and other Western governments. Fletcher also writes articles for XYZ.

• Speaking of neo-Nazis, Gorman notes that inre her own experience of being trolled in 2013 (pp.10–11), Six days after Newton was sentenced in 2013 came the second frightening moment. Don found a photo of our family on the fascist social network Iron March. The now-defunct website carried the slogan ‘Gas the kikes’ on its homepage. Iron March was of course the birthplace of Australian neo-Nazi groupuscule ‘Antipodean Resistance’. Its British cousins, National Action, have been proscribed as a terrorist organisation (see : See Graham Macklin, ”Only Bullets will Stop Us!’: The banning of National Action’, Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol.12, No.6 (2018) [PDF]). See also : Extreme neo-Nazi ‘death cults’ drawing in children as young as 13, report warns, Lizzie Dearden, The Independent, February 17, 2019 (‘Exclusive: Children as young as 13 being drawn into ideologies ‘harder, darker and more committed than ever before’’).

Below : Nathaniel Jacob Sassoon Sykes (Australia First Party/United Nationalists (of) Australia; Jacob Hersant (Antipodean Resistance/The Lads Society):

See also : Online abuse of women in the media, Justine Landis-Hanley, The Saturday Paper, February 16, 2019 | Meet The Woman Giving A New Face To Troll Hunting, Jamila Rizvi, Future Women, February 2019 | The ‘Canary In The Coalmine’ Link Between Terrorism And Trolling, Alex Bruce-Smith, Ten Daily, February 5, 2019 | Internet trolls are not who I thought — they’re even scarier, Ginger Gorman, ABC, February 2, 2019 | Troll hunting: a journey to the dark side, Karen Hardy, The Canberra Times, February 2, 2019 | Twitter, the barbarian country, or how I learned to love the block button, Van Badham, The Guardian, January 31, 2019 | Troll Hunting review: Ginger Gorman goes in search of the online bullies, Jonathan Green, The Sydney Morning Herald, January 18, 2019 | Staring down the trolls: Mute, block or resort to ‘digilantism’?, Ginger Gorman, The Sydney Morning Herald, June 16, 2017 | Cyberhate With Tara Moss, ABC, 2017 | Misogyny Online: A Short (and Brutish) History, Emma A Jane, SAGE (2017) | Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous, Gabriella Coleman, Verso (2014). As well as providing some further detail regarding weev’s activities prior to his going full nazi as an editor for The Daily Stormer, Coleman’s book also contains important background on the various (sub-)cultural contexts from which the ‘predator troll’ emerged. (Note also that, in conversation with weev in August 2010, Coleman writes (p.22): ‘His denunciation of “the repulsive order of the financiers” had the ring of truth, given the recent financial mess their recklessness has engendered, so I found myself, only minutes into my first bona fide conversation with a world famous troll, in agreement with him.’ LOL.)

antifa notes (january 15, 2019) : Fraser ‘Final Solution’ Anning & Simon Hickey, ‘The Nazi Sparky’

Fraser ‘Final Solution’ Anning

Anti-fascist research group ‘The White Rose Society’ has published an exposé on federal Senator Fraser ‘Final Solution’ Anning and his many links to local neo-Nazis and other far-right activists.

See : Fraser Anning’s Neo-Nazi connections.

Included in the exposé is reference to a range of familiar characters, most especially Andrew Wilson (Patriotic Youth League/Volksfront/Klub Nation/Klub Naziya/Public Information Forum).

See also : The Nationals Party express concern over new Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party, Lucas Baird, The Australian Financial Review, January 11, 2019 | Cronulla 2.0? : Racist assembly @ St Kilda Beach, Saturday, January 5, 2019 | Neo-Nazi infiltration of the Young Nationals in NSW, October 11, 2018.

Simon Hickey, ‘The Nazi Sparky’

In February 2017, it was reported that Simon Hickey of ‘Smerff Electrical’ in Brisbane had sponsored leading neo-Nazi website ‘The Daily Stormer’:

A Queensland tradie has emerged as the sole corporate sponsor of one of the world’s most popular neo-Nazi websites, drawing condemnation from a Jewish civil rights organisation.

Simon John Hickey, a Brisbane electrician and airconditioner installer whose business logo appears to feature Pepe the Frog, a meme that has become popular with the alt-right, wearing an SS uniform and standing in front of Auschwitz, wouldn’t answer questions posed by Fairfax Media …

See : The Brisbane tradie sponsoring a prominent neo-Nazi website, Jorge Branco, The Brisbane Times, February 28, 2017.

In November last year, Hickey was fined $10,000 (plus costs) in the Holland Park Magistrates Court in an action brought by the Office of Fair Trading ‘for acting as an unlicensed security equipment installer’. Further:

The court heard Mr Hickey was uncooperative throughout the investigation and repeatedly showed abusive and discriminatory behaviour towards investigators.

In January 2018, the Richlands Magistrates Court convicted and sentenced Mr Hickey to six months’ imprisonment, with the term of imprisonment suspended after serving seven days, for the unlawful stalking of an OFT inspector involved in the investigation of the unlicensed security work.

Yesterday (January 14), in Brisbane, the Fair Work Commission rendered a verdict in the case a former employee of Hickey’s brought against him for unfair dismissal.

Conclusion in relation to compensation

[110] After considering the matters required by s. 392 of the Act, I have decided to award Mr Lamacq the amount of $11,400.00 being twelve weeks’ ordinary wages, to be taxed according to law. The amount is to be paid within 21 days of the date of release of this Decision and an Order to that effect will issue with this Decision.

The ruling makes for interesting reading. Highlights include:

[30] Mr Hickey also tendered a written employment contract said to have been signed by Mr Lamacq on 17 September 2017. Mr Hickey said that he did not remember signing the contract and that the signature on it was not like his signature. The contract makes for interesting reading. In relation to wages it states at 5.1:

“You will be paid Weekly at the rate of $15 per hour. If you are unhappy with your wage, you can fuck off. Nobody is forcing you to work here.”

[36] [Hickey:] … Here’s the number for fair work Australia 13 13 94. Do you know how many calls they get per day? Boo Hoo this cunt fired me and he wasn’t paying me leave loading 12% or some shit. Do you know what these cunts do about it? Nothing unless it’s a company worth prosecuting. They know they’ll get nothing from me and even if they could get me for something what would it be?

Nazis eh?

Bonus! Clive Palmer

Fabulously-wealthy blabbermouth Clive Palmer is continuing to carry on like a pork chop, and aiming to return to the federal parliament this year. To that end, he’s been chucking up billboards ripe for redecoration, spamming text messages and has now launched a mobile gaming app called ‘Clive Palmer, Humble Meme Merchant’. It’s replete with AltRight messaging, and is dissected by Jordan McSwiney in this thread, which is recommended-reading.

Cronulla 2.0? : Racist assembly @ St Kilda Beach, Saturday, January 5, 2019

[Update (January 8, 2019) : Rather than compose another post, I thought I’d update this one with some more infos arising from Saturday’s hate-rally. The first segment concerns police deployment of capsicum spray and use of rubber pellets; the second, the employment by NITV and SBS of neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell on the renovations to their centre at Federation Square in Melbourne.]

Capsicum & Pellets

Among all the media reportage on events at St Kilda on Saturday, one thing that caught my eye was the following (St Kilda beach rally: far-right and anti-racism groups face off in Melbourne, Lisa Martin, The Guardian, January 6, 2019):

In one heated confrontation a rightwing protester broke through police lines and tried to grab a banner from three anti-racism campaigners.

Police sprayed capsicum spray and used rubber pellets before arresting the rightwing protester.

It caught my attention partly on account of what others related to me about the incident. This is their account:

The incident occurred when the anti-racist contingent went out on to the road at Beaconsfield Parade and the fascists were on the embankment leading up to The Esplanade. A few of the fascists started running down the hill and Beaconsfield Parade. At this point, most of the remaining fascists followed them, and the main contingent of the anti-racist rally did as well. This meant that the police followed the main groups (and the fastest-moving parts of those groups) down the road. This left the back of the anti-racist rally completely exposed to both the slower-moving fascists and the ones staying on the embankment.

As there was no police line separating the back end of the rally from the fascists, three anti-racist activists held a banner as a first-line of defence. At this point, a member of the fascist rally approached the three activists holding the banner and tried to rip it out of their hands. The three anti-racists pulled the banner, back but at this point police entered from behind the anti-racists and pepper-sprayed the three of them. As the pepper spray was deployed, the three anti-racist activists and another witness heard at least three loud ‘pops’ in quick succession.

No one was injured from whatever was shot (pepper-ball pellets or rubber pellets) and no-one was marked with dye. However, the OC spray was quite severe. Two women required medical treatment (the pepper spray was mainly levelled against the defensive position of the anti-racists). They were decontaminated on the side of Beaconsfield Parade, initially by other anti-racists, and eventually by paramedics. Those who had just been attacked by the fascists, and then by police, were left exposed as their injuries were treated and as fascists walked past, filmed them, mocked them, and called the women ‘bitches’ and ‘scum’.

We all believe that the police deployed their new weapons, as well as the usual OC spray, and then immediately left the area, without accounting for their behaviour.

Blair Cottrell, NITV, SBS, & Federation Square

According to a source, neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell, in addition to leading the hate-rally in St Kilda on Saturday, has been working as a sub-contractor on the renovations to the building in Federation Square which houses SBS and NITV. As of (very) recently, he’s been re-deployed elsewhere, but was working at the site throughout the Christmas period, in December and January: the precise date on which he commenced working there is unclear.

Cottrell is on the record as advocating the execution of ‘leftist’ media workers. In November 2015, he — along with Neil Erikson, Chris Shortis, Linden Watson and Andrew Wallis — staged a brief occupation of community radio station 3CR. While there, they took notes on staff and stole photographs (and, it seems possible, other d0x).

On that basis, it seems reasonable to conclude that, during the weeks he spent working on site, African, Muslim and Indigenous staff members were potentially exposed to an unsafe work environment. Further, Cottrell has potentially had access to sensitive information; certainly, he’s had the opportunity to put faces to names, acquire detailed knowledge about access to and egress from the building, the comings and goings of particular staff members, and so on.

For the record, nobody much cared about the invasion of 3CR. It’s a small, community-based organisation, targeted on account of my involvement in hosting a radio show there. SBS and NITV, on the other hand, are large media organisations, with many employees and sizable budgets, so it’s possible that Cottrell’s employment there, and seemingly ready-access to its staff and layout, may prompt more serious reflection. At this stage, it remains unclear if the site was a union job, and who exactly was responsible for his employment in the first place. Thus, while members of his extended family run a company called ‘Cottrell Constructions’, via which he’s apparently obtained work, I dunno if this company or some other was contracted to undertake work at Federation Square.

All of which sounds like lines of inquiry that a journalist might like to pursue eh.

[Update (January 7, 2019) : See also : St Kilda rally: A fascist movement can only be kept small if we call it by its name, Jason Wilson, The Guardian, January 7, 2019.]

[I’ve briefly revived the blog in order to write the following. I’m still gonna be taking a break in January, and unpublishing the facebook page. I may add to the post in the next few days as further infos comes to light.]

Aiming to capitalise upon media-driven panic over African youth crime, on Saturday, January 5, serial pest Neil Erikson joined with neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell to organise a racist rally at St Kilda Beach. While estimates vary, and numbers fluctuated during the course of the afternoon, somewhere around 150 people attended their rally, the great majority men and almost all white/’of Anglo appearance’. A larger crowd of perhaps 2-300 attended two anti-racist events on the same strip of beach: one a community picnic, and the other an anti-racist rally organised by the Campaign Against Racism & Fascism (CARF). Both the picnic and rally were scheduled to kick-off at midday, with Erikson and Cottrell’s event due to start at 1pm.

While scheduled to end at 4pm, as it happened the racist rally didn’t last that long and, after perhaps an hour or so of (no-doubt electrifying) speeches — including an address by Senator Fraser ‘Final Solution’ Anning — it abruptly ended. Those who’d assembled then turned their attention to the anti-racist contingent, which by this point had formed one grouping around the picnic, the CARF contingent having marched the very short distance from Catani Arch to join the picnickers. The next hour or two saw various attempts by the racist mob to break the police lines that had formed around the anti-racist contingent. While generally unsuccessful, the mob was free to roam around the police kettle, and continued to harass anti-racists, including when they attempted to leave the area. (For whatever reason, when CARF initially tried (unsuccessfully) to leave the area by crossing Beaconsfield Parade to the Esplanade, the anti-racist assembly was split in half, with the picnickers left behind, and only later being able to leave — either along the Parade, and eventually rejoining CARF — or by another route.)

At various points during this protracted exit from the area, there were brief clashes involving the two sides. In this sense, policing of the event mirrored to some extent that witnessed at the Milo stoopid of December 2017. On that occasion, police were content to allow a small group of fascists to occupy the intersection outside the venue (Melbourne Pavilion) for several hours. On Saturday, the racist mob assembled on Beaconsfield Parade to taunt anti-racists. At one stage, during the (at first) static confrontation between the kettled anti-racists in the park and their loyal opposition (located between it and the road), Some Guy driving a sound system along the Parade paused alongside the racist mob, and two adventurous lads from within the crowd stole a generator from the vehicle. (I understand that they later abandoned the equipment, which was collected by police.) Or as the ABC reported: The conflict spilled onto the road when far-right demonstrators attacked a car which was carrying a loudspeaker broadcasting “Sudanese are welcome, racists are not”.

As the afternoon progressed, there were multiple opportunities for clashes between the two sides, and I’m mildly surprised nobody was seriously injured in these encounters: police reported just three arrests, possibly including that of Rino ‘Bluebeard’ Grgurovic (above). As media have noted, the police presence was massive on the day, with many hundreds mobilised for the occasion, including regular police, uniformed and plainclothes, dog and horse, PORT, undercover, community liaison and specialist media. They also had a helicopter — and a boat!

    1) The racists assembled in the area outside Encore Restaurant near the car park. (It’s been reported that Erikson & Co were getting their drink on from relatively early on at the restaurant.)
    2) The general area in which the racist assembly gathered on Beaconsfield Parade.
    3) The brown lines indicate the movements of the racist mob during the course of the day, walking to the rally along the foreshore and trailing anti-racists as they left the picnic area, eventually reaching Luna Park; the blue line is where several hundred onlookers gawped at the spectacle from the Esplanade.
    4) CARF assembly point.
    5) Community picnic.

In terms of who attended, many were known faces and/or drawn from the various groups which have sprung up in Melbourne in the last few years. So Cottrell and Erikson were joined by former United Patriots Front supporters, Kane Miller and the True Blue Crew, Jason Moore and a handful of Soldiers of Odin, half-a-dozen Proud Boys, Tom Sewell and members of The Lads Society from Melbourne and Sydney (and possibly elsewhere), including its Sydney organisers Alex Annenkov and Mark McDonald (the latter of which was the chief organiser of defunct neo-Nazi grouplet ‘Squadron 88’), and so on. Most were not flying colours on the day, however, and most who attended would seem to have been drawn from the wider white nationalist, anti-African and anti-Muslim milieu, the principal platform for which is facebook. Sewell and The Lads arrived a bit late in the piece, and at first appeared to want to march through the anti-racist crowd, but eventually decided not to. Their arrival did, however, appear to be the trigger for the racist rally as a whole to begin to move to surround the anti-racist picnic and attempt to find ways around police lines to attack.

Finally:

• Senator Fraser Anning’s attendance at the racist rally has been noted. Laughably claiming that the nazi contingent was leftists-in-disguise, his trip was, according to the Senator, official business (ie, The Taxpayer footed the bill for his expedition to St Kilda), and in solidarity with the Vietnamese community. One of the fellas pictured above does a very good line in racist rhetoric directed at African-Australians, and promoted the event on facebook by way of terming it ‘Romper Stomper 2.0’, seemingly (and presumably blissfully) unaware that the 1992 film pitted boneheads against Vietnamese-Australian workers.

• One racist meathead in attendance at the rally sported an SS helmet and a Cosmic Psychos tee. The Cosmic Psychos issued a statement in response to the meathead’s use of their merch. Note that the dickhead was pictured in the company of Kane Miller, the lvl boss of the TBC: Miller and the TBC have worked in close collaboration with nazis for several years now.

• The anti-racist and anti-fascist contingent was on the whole poorly-coordinated. At best, this is a good opportunity for those involved to reflect upon what happened, and think about ways in which to improve upon Saturday’s outing. In this context, I’d suggest that, inter alia, a better understanding of the nature of the opposition is required, as is having a very clear idea of what the purpose of attendance is, along with movement within, to and from the event and the area as a whole. In other words, it’s not just a matter of rocking up, but having an exit strategy. That said, there was relatively little time to prepare for the event, it only being announced about a week prior to its occurrence, so there was always going to be some limitations.

• On the whole, I think that the far right had a good day on Saturday. Able to roam about with relative ease, being much more mobile and appearing to be both more able and willing to engage with the enemy, was certainly an advantage. As a result, I’d be very surprised if they don’t take advantage of the relative momentum generated by the event, and will be organising similar events in the near future.

Select media reportage

(January 5, 2019) : Huge Crowds In St Kilda As Police Separate Far-Right And Anti-Racist Groups, Josh Butler, ten daily | St Kilda Beach far-right rally draws hundreds of Melbourne police, rival protesters, Loretta Florance and Jean Edwards, ABC | St Kilda beach rally: far-right and anti-racism groups face off in Melbourne, Lisa Martin, The Guardian | Here’s Senator Fraser Anning Hanging Out With A Bunch Of Far Right Extremists, Tom Clift, Junkee | Arrests and violence as rival protests clash in St Kilda, The New Daily/AAP | Extreme right-wing ‘patriot’ rally in Melbourne: Nazi salutes and scuffles, police on high alert, Shannon Molloy, news dot com dot au | Race Discrimination Commissioner condemns far-right rally in Melbourne, SBS/AAP.

(January 6, 2019) : Scott Morrison Condemns ‘Ugly Racial Protests’ At St Kilda, But Not Fraser Anning, Emma Brancatisano, ten daily | Australian senator attends far-right rally in Melbourne as protesters perform Nazi salutes, Lizzie Dearden, The Independent | Australian PM condemns ‘ugly’ Melbourne rallies involving right-wing extremists, anti-fascists, tvnz/AAP.

(January 7, 2019) : Fraser Anning billed taxpayers thousands to attend two more far-right events, Max Koslowski & Michael Koziol, The Sydney Morning Herald.

(January 8, 2019) : Fascists Rallying over a Fallacy: Nazi Sentiment Seen as Acceptable by Some, Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

See also : Quiet riot: The race to ‘another Cronulla’, Benjamin Millar, medium, January 3, 2019.

Neo-Nazi group ‘The Lads Society’ @ 34 Thomas Street, Ashfield, Sydney : Help shut it down!

Neo-Nazi grouplet ‘The Lads Society’ — which arose from the ashes of the ‘United Patriots Front’ (UPF) and its stillborn political party ‘Fortitude’ (2015–2017) — currently operate two social centres, one in the south-east suburb of Cheltenham in Melbourne and the other in Ashfield in inner-west Sydney.

The centre in Cheltenham (Unit 9/158 Chesterville Road), which opened in October 2017, is scheduled to close in January 2019.

No reason has been given for the closure of the bunker in Cheltenham, but it’s worth noting that the estate agents listed the property as being available on November 7, just a few short weeks after an ABC exposé (in which Lads members starred) on neo-Nazi infiltration into the NSW branch of the Young Nationals.

The centre in Ashfield also featured in the exposé.

Spearheaded by the former fuehrer of short-lived neo-Nazi grouplet ‘Squadron 88’, Mark McDonald, The Lads Society centre in Ashfield is located at No.34 Thomas Street, and leased by way of the Colemon Property Group.

You may remember Squadron 88 from such exciting escapades as when they stuffed letterboxes in Bondi with anti-Semitic tracts in August 2014. And again in September 2014. Or, when they briefly adopted geriatric neo-Nazi Ross ‘The Skull’ May as the group’s mascot.


Above (L to R) : John Bolton (Cottrell’s lawyer/ex-Australian Liberty Alliance), Blair Cottrell (UPF/Lads), Mark McDonald (Squadron 88/Lads), Oscar Tuckfield (Young Nationals/Lads).

In response to the establishment of The Lads in Cheltenham, a local group formed, ‘South East Community Action’, to campaign to close the neo-Nazi organising space.

Now, in response to the establishment of The Lads Society in Ashfield, another campaigning group has formed: ‘Ashfield Community Action’ (Facebook /// Twitter). To keep abreast of its progress, please like/share/follow their social media.

Finally:

• Ashfield was the site of a previous neo-Nazi infestation in the 1960s.

• The Lads have been making noises about setting up shop in both Adelaide and Brisbane. Something of the flavour of the group’s membership was given when two were chucked out of a bar in Brisbane for throwing up Nazi salutes.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Tom Sewell & The Lads Society ~versus~ Nathan Sykes & The Australia First Party

Tom Sewell & The Lads Society

For those of you coming in late, Tom Sewell is a 20-something, New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based neo-Nazi activist. With a background in right-wing nationalist politics, Sewell emerged onto the political landscape in April 2015, alongside Blair Cottrell, at the first ‘Reclaim Australia’ rally in Melbourne, and later served as Cottrell’s sidekick in the ‘United Patriots Front’ (UPF). Unfortunately for Sewell, the UPF collapsed in a heap after Facebook deleted it from the platform in mid-2017, and its proposed political party, ‘Fortitude’ — which was launched at the home of the short-lived ‘Aryan Nations’ in Perth in late 2015 and for which Sewell was slated to stand for a seat in Victoria — met a similar fate. (As for the Aryan Nations, it folded after several of its members were arrested and later convicted of the murder that took place several months after the party launch.)

Undeterred by failure, Sewell pressed on and, in 2017, alongside his comrade James Buckle (former President of gun lobby group ‘Firearm Owners United’), Cottrell, Stuart Von Moger, and a handful of other AltRightists and neo-Nazis, he established something called ‘The Lads Society’.

Describing itself as a fraternal organisation, The Lads opened up an organising space in the suburb of Cheltenham and packed it with weight machines, various species of nazi, and one colossal ego. Further, in addition to attending a number of political rallies and other events, under Von Moger’s leadership The Lads were hired by Axiomatic Events to provide security for Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern during their July tour and were most recently employed by the organisers of the ‘March for Babies’. The March was organised by a number of principally religious, anti-abortion groups, and starred His Eminence, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.

Largely ignored by media, The Lads finally got their moment to shine last month when an attempt to hijack the Young Nationals in NSW, in which members of the Lads participated, was exposed by the ABC’s Alex Mann. Now, sadly, not only has The Lads’ bunker in Ashfield in Sydney, along with several of its members, been exposed, but this week real estate agent richardson french placed the property in Melbourne, located at 9/158 Chesterville Road, back on the market. To add some spice to proceedings, a few months ago a Facebook account called ‘ladsleaks’ popped up and began posting internal discussions taking place among The Lads on their secret page. Among other things, ladsleaks posted images of Lads in Brisbane sieg heiling ‘peasants’ and a video of Cottrell’s angry react. (The content below was posted a few weeks ago.)

Nathan Sykes & The Australia First Party

Nathaniel Jacob Sassoon Sykes (below, centre, with Lads) is a middle-aged Sydney resident, member of Dr Jim Saleam‘s ‘Australia First Party’ (AFP), principal author of the blog ‘United Nationalists Australia’ (UNA) and former contributor to leading US neo-Nazi website ‘The Daily Stormer’. Oddly enough, he’s also Jewish.

The UNA blog functions as a kind of unofficial online shit-sheet for the AFP, taking pot-shots at various of its rivals on the right and its enimies on the left. The former category includes the (now-defunct) ‘Party for Freedom’ (PFF), UPF, ‘Klub Nation’ and, of course, The Lads Society.

Tom Sewell & The Lads Society ~versus~ Nathan Sykes & The Australia First Party

As noted above, a small amount of material sourced from The Lads private Facebook group has appeared elsewhere on the site by way of ‘ladsleaks’. As well as confirming that the group is mostly comprised of neo-Nazis (who are well aware — duh — that most folks hate ‘nazis’, and thus they have to lie and dissemble about their politics when in public), the conversation below reveals no small amount of anger and upset directed at Sykes and his lvl boss, Jim Saleam. In addition to Sewell and Von Moger, among those participating in the disco are wealthy German-Australian businessman and ex-NPD member turned ‘national anarchist’ Welf Herfurth, batshit scribbler David Hilton (‘Moses Apostaticus’), fellow Queenslander, former AFP member, ‘Whitelaw Towers’ and UNA blog contributor Jim Perren (who helped organise Fortitude’s failed launch in Toowoomba) and ‘Tyler Winchester’ (AKA Mark McDonald, founder of ‘Squadron 88’ turned Lad).

Choice quote: ‘AFP is a cancer and a waste of time’; Jim Saleam ‘smears and destroys everything that is not on his [side]. When I refused to further bankroll the Sydney Forum he turned on [me] like a dog’ (Herfurth).