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.)

Australian Jewish Democratic Society : Statement against fascism and Milo Yiannopoulos in Kensington

[Published December 7, 2017.]

>>> Around the world, and around this country, there is increasing support for far-right politics, fascism and neo-Nazism. At Milo Yiannopoulos’ talk on Monday night a group of around 40 far-right people, including some known neo-Nazis, gathered outside the talk to incite hatred and violence. As well as racist language and attacks on Muslims, a number of those present chanted the names of concentration camps at a young Jewish woman who was there with a group from Jews against Fascism.

Some people in line waiting to hear Milo were filmed doing Hitler salutes. One group of fascists violently assaulted three protesters as they were trying to leave. More reports are emerging of those who attended Milo’s talk assaulting residents of the Kensington Housing Estate. As Jews we know too well where such violence and hate speech leads. Dissidence and active resistance to the mainstreaming of these ideas is vital.

Although there are some who argue that Milo and his associates are not Nazis, we believe that attaching that badge is accurate and important. Milo and Avi Yemeni, who was with the far-right camp, deflect the idea that they are Nazis as preposterous because they are Jewish or have Jewish ancestry. Yet, they nonetheless organise with and alongside Nazis who espouse violent racist views which are clearly informed by, and continue a history of, those offered by the Nazi regime in fascist Europe. These gangs adopt the superior race Nazi ideology, provoke violence, and the use of Nazi references and imagery is always within arm’s reach. This is what we mean by Nazis. Buzzfeed, whilst exposing Yiannopoulos’ enthusiasm for working with Nazis, has also exposed that Milo has used passwords including Kristallnacht and other antisemitic references. One needn’t look far to discover the horrific and vitriolic things Milo has said and done, including being an apologist for paedophilia.

It is widely known and reported that Yemini has said he would be antisemitic if he weren’t Jewish. It’s time we in the Jewish community stopped letting these men and their supporters hide behind the façade that they cannot possibly be Nazis because of their Jewish identities.

We send our solidarity and support to the residents of the Kensington estate, many of whom are refugees, and a significant number of Muslims, who faced with bravery and resilience vile fascists using verbal and physical abuse, behind the protection of Victorian Police. Victoria Police, in turn, have a long recognised history of systemic racism, racial profiling, and harassment of this community, which came out on the night through their use of provocation, racial slurs, and intimidation.

In Australia at the present moment we can also clearly see the effects of racism on Aboriginal people, refugees, people seeking asylum and other marginalised peoples. There is a rise in Islamophobia and antisemitism. We send solidarity to all peoples facing the brunt of the rise of racism and fascism.

This solidarity can only be made tangible by us, as well as other Jewish groups and individuals, making clear our public opposition to fascism and neo-Nazism. As we are witnessing the rise in far-right politics, we are seeing a corresponding wave of active resistance and supportive networking, to which we are firmly committed. We look forward to working alongside other Jewish and non-Jewish organisations and peoples in order to oppose this fascist violence and change the discourses which currently dominate our society. <<<

Note : The following venues played host to Milo on his tour:

Adelaide (w Andrew Bolt) : December 1 : Festival Functions : 292 Findon Road, Findon
Perth (w Andrew Bolt) : December 2 : Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre : 21 Mounts Bay Road, Perth
Melbourne (w Ross Cameron) : December 4 : Melbourne Pavilion : 135-157 Racecourse Road, Kensington
Sydney (w Ross Cameron & Mark Latham) : December 5/6 : Le Montage : 38 Frazer Street, Lilyfield
Gold Coast (w Ross Cameron) : December 7 : Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre : 2684-2690 Gold Coast Highway, Broadbeach

Milo Yiannopoulos @ Melbourne Pavilion (Kensington, December 4, 2017)

[Update (December 7, 2017) :

• As noted below, on Tuesday morning, Stephen Leane, Assistant Commissioner with overall responsibility for the police operation on Monday, was asked by a journalist ‘Did police enter the housing commission flats at any point?’, to which his response was ‘Not in the flats, no. We were certainly in Racecourse Road and we closed down traffic for some time.’ AFAIK, no media reportage has challenged this nonsense.

• Some local folks have composed an ‘open letter’ re the event, to which others are invited to add their names. It is a clear public statement against the hate and violence that occurred on Monday night during the Milo Yiannopoulos event at the Melbourne Pavilion. The letter is designed to allow local community members, representatives, businesses, organisations and community leaders to show a united voice in condemning the hate and abuse directed at particularly housing estate residents on the night.

• On Wednesday, it was also announced that Melbourne Pavilion and tour organisers will be sent an invoice for the costs of the police operation. It’ll be interesting to see if they actually cough up. See : Milo Yiannopoulos and his promoters will be billed at least $50k by Victoria Police for protests, Melissa Cunningham, The Age, December 6, 2017.

• Finally, The Australian has published a report that some of the nazis attracted to Milo’s event abused a Jewish woman: At first, she thought she’d misheard. Then she turned and looked at the faces of the men glaring at her, chanting in unison. “Auschwitz-­Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau.’’ She hadn’t misheard. There was no mistake; only a hatred deeper than Perry, a woman readily identifiable as Jewish, could have imagined.]

[Note : The venue for Milo’s performance in Sydney tonight is Le Montage.]


Above : Richard Wolstencroft.

Huh.

That was interesting.

On the Melbourne leg of his tour, Milo Yiannopoulos was kindly provided a platform by Melbourne Pavilion (135-157 Racecourse Rd, Kensington: Facebook): a venue which, prior to hosting the Nazi-sympathising paedophile apologist, was more widely known for staging wedding receptions and boxing matches.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

[On meathead and his tour, see : Milo Yiannopoulos speaks, and Australia’s respectable racists howl their approval, Jeff Sparrow, The Guardian, December 5, 2017 | Inside Milo: ‘He Dressed In Gay Frilly Stuff And Had Ridiculous Red Shiny Shoes’, Chris Graham, New Matilda, December 5, 2017 | Milo Has A Platform Because He Upholds The Status Quo, Which Speaks Volumes About Australia, Michael Brull, December 4, 2017 | Australia’s welcome mat for right-wing trolls, Richard Cooke, The Saturday Paper, October 21, 2017.]


Above : On L, Richard getting stuck in; on R, Richard with Neil Erikson, Mark Hootsen (Nationalist Alternative) and bonehead Joey Edwards.

Most of the reportage on the event (‘VIOLENCE! CLASHES! DALEKS!’) has concentrated upon one incident that took place early in the evening. (Indeed, the original account published in The Age suggests that the author left the rally to attend the event inside shortly after this occurred.) A little after 6pm, ‘Patriot Blue’ — on this occasion consisting of Neil Erikson, Garry Hume, Toll Group’s Ricky/Rikki Turner, Richard Whelan and possibly others — rocked up to the protest, which had assembled across one half of Stubbs Street at the Racecourse Road intersection, and immediately attempted to barge their way thru it. Consequently, there was a clash, police intervened (employing capsicum spray) and two men were detained: this appears to be the basis of the claim that two men were arrested on the night. (Note: As usual, police will be compiling and reviewing media in order to identify any potential wrongdoers, especially kids on the estate, with a view to laying charges; as is now customary, spray was fairly liberally dispensed throughout the evening.)

The Moles snuck into the Garden last night.

Beyond this, the evening mostly consisted of watching Milo fanboys (and some fangrrls), some wearing MAGA hats, and a handful chucking up Nazi salutes, slowly trickle their way thru to the venue, which was surrounded by hundreds of police whose job it was to guarantee their safe passage to and from it. There were a small number of clashes throughout the evening, and some folks misplaced their MAGA hats and Dangerous books; reportedly, one young patriot attempted to remove a Muslim woman’s headscarf at some point during the evening: a bad decision which left him feeling rather sick and sorry, but safely delivered back to Milo’s mob.

In a media conference this morning, Assistant Police Commissioner Stephen Leane, who had overall responsibility for the police operation, stated that there were three performances by Milo, each attracting 1,000 punters. This would seem to over-inflate the numbers actually attending: others say much fewer. Leane also exclaims over the fact that protesters were able to move about and, especially, around the police blockade established at the top of Stubbs Street … possibly through the use of an elaborate communication system involving hand signals, bells and whistles (rather than, say, bRanes) and one practiced in ‘open fields’, which is a new one. In any case, the movement around the blockade was, in reality, inspired by reports that the nazi mob (below) were trying to have a crack at locals — and by a desire to defend locals rather than simply mill about in Stubbs Street exchanging insults with the chuds.

In addition to the many hundreds of potatoes who threw money at Milo, a small group of 30–50 individuals, mostly consisting of members of the Soldiers of Odin and True Blue Crew, but including The Lads Society, Avi Yemini and his sidekick Daniel Jones, Julian de Ross (‘Hugh Pearson’) and even naughty little boy Lachlan/Logan Spalding and a handful of other faces, formed their own rally at the intersection of Racecourse Road and Stubbs Street. This was (mostly) kettled and police, for some reason, allowed them to maintain a presence at that location for several hours, just as increasing numbers of folks from the housing estate, eventually numbering in the hundreds, joined the protest. Note: the boys finally departed sometime around 8:30 to 9:00pm. As they did so, a small group of perhaps 20, including Blair Cottrell, members of SOO and TBC, jumped three protesters leaving the protest, who were beaten and eventually made their way to hospital.

More on that later.

The Best Laid Plans

According to police, the venue, Melbourne Pavilion, was not obtained by organisers until the day of the event. Situated across the road from Kensington public housing estate, it was not the ideal location for an anti-Muslim, anti-refugee and pro-paedophile bigot, especially given the large proportion of African and Muslim migrants living on the estate and the racial profiling residents are subject to. I suppose the sting in that tail is that police have declared that they’ll be issuing Melbourne Pavilion an invoice for the costs of the policing operation, which will surely be tens of thousands of dollars. This may cut somewhat into the profits the business hoped to earn thru facilitating expressions of hatred and bigotry, so is very richly deserved.

On the whole, it’s unclear precisely what the concrete, tactical objectives of the various maneuverings by the riot squad were, given both their actions and the context. Thus, by allowing a small clutch of nazis and other goons to hang about outside the estate for hours, it seemed as if the riot squad were actually intent on provoking one. Leftist protesters were joined by an increasingly large number of locals as the night wore on, and everybody’s patience at having Milo, potatoes and nazis on their doorstep also wore out.

Two final observations: first, a handful of malcontents managed to sneak into Milo’s performance, including two sex-worker anarchist women. At about 8:30pm, the dynamic duo let off personal alarms and shouted slogans; smoke from a small fire that was started in the venue toilets added to the general ambience. (One of the woman was escorted out by police and security, while the other was able to leave undetected.) Secondly, the bulk of the CARF contingent left the area after 10pm. From about 10:30pm, riot police made several attempts to storm the estate (car park and gardens) where local youth and a small contingent of anarchists were still gathered. According to one report, each time they were repelled by rocks and other projectiles and were unable to make any arrests or injure anybody and finally retreated to the other side of Racecourse Road (where the main group of police were congregated). Notably, during the course of his media conference, Assistant Commissioner Leane denied police entered the estate, which is biZaRrE, as there’s certainly no shortage of evidence to the contrary.

*I’ll probably add some more detail to the above account and share others, but in the meantime:

Weapon-wielding protesters clash outside Yiannopoulos talk
Simone Fox-Koob
The Australian
December 5, 2017

Extra security measures are to be put in place when controversial alt-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos visits Parliament House in Canberra today, after police came under attack outside a speaking engagement he hosted in Melbourne last night.

Protesters pelted police with rocks, glass bottles and sticks, as left and right-wing groups clashed violently outside the Melbourne Pavilion.

Numbers swelled to more than 500 at the violent protest, which saw several brawls break out and police forced to deploy capsicum spray in a bid to stop the fighting.

A police officer was injured and two men were arrested during the violence, with objects still being thrown at officers by what appeared to be groups of young people who lived nearby, even after the organised anti-fascist protesters left the area just after 10pm.

A Victoria Police spokesman said police arrested the two men for discharging missiles.

“A police member suffered minor injuries after being struck with a rock,” he said.

At one stage, several fireworks were also let off in the grounds outside the large block of flats opposite the venue.

About a dozen men were involved in the initial stoush that broke out about 6.20pm outside the venue in Melbourne’s inner northwest shortly after far-right provocateur Neil Erikson and members of his Patriot Blue group arrived.

Erikson was seen brandishing a stick before another man intervened and dragged him aside.

At least a dozen heavily padded riot police charged the group, with officers later seen leading away two men dressed in high-visibility shirts.

One of them appeared to be affected by capsicum spray. Police are understood to have made at least one arrest.

A second larger brawl broke out around 8pm, sparked by an attempt by two men to unfurl a large banner on the outskirts of the protest. Several members of a far-right group broke through a police line and tried to yank it from them. Riot police were again forced to use capsicum spray to break up the fight. [I think the author may well have got this arse-backwards, ie, the two men were unfurling a Trump banner.]

The size of the gathering swelled significantly throughout the evening as residents, believed to be from the nearby public housing blocks, emerged. At one stage a man with a loudspeaker and wearing a jumper with the logo “Soldiers of Odin” shouted abuse at the group, which appeared to include several Muslim women. [There were several LOldiers present.]

The Melbourne leg of Yiannolopous‘s show, The Troll Academy, attracted around 500 protesters, with police deploying around 100 officers, including about 40 members of the Riot Squad, in anticipation. At one stage police were pelted with rocks.

The crowd, which saw traffic blocked off for several hours, included opponents of the unapologetically contrarian commentator, who has sparked outrage for describing feminism as a cancer and likening Islam to Aids. [Also, inter alia, collaborating with neo-Nazis in the United States via Breitbart and being a apologist for child rape.] Groups included the left-wing Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, who held placards stating ‘F*** off Nazi scum’ and chanted “Hey Milo go to hell”, as well as right-wing groups Patriot Blue, Reclaim Australia[?], The Freedom Party [ie, George Jameson] and Soldiers of Odin.

Erikson, who is known for being one of the first people to be convicted under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act and last month accosted NSW Senator Sam Dastyari at a university pub, defended his role in the stoush, describing it as “democracy in Australia”.

“I know one of my guys was taken down. I got into a bit of a scuffle with a few,” he said.

“We had to defend ourselves.”

Two days earlier he had tweeted: “Got a big surprise for the feral left at the Milo event on Monday”.

Video footage posted on Erikson’s facebook page shows him with a loud speaker shouting religious abuse at a group of antifa protesters, who had been joined residents from the nearby housing block, some of whom wore Islamic religious garb.

“Mohammed is a paedophile,” he said repeatedly, in the footage which he appeared to film himself.

“The third world want to attack us.

“This is free speech,” he said.

The footage shows his associate Blair Cottrell, a founder of the far-right United Patriot’s Front, standing next to him.

Erikson claimed one of his associates had been arrested after a brawl and that another one of his associates had been hit in the head by a projectile.

See also : In my words: local communities assaulted by Milo fascists and riot police, Tasnim Sammak, Djed Press, December 5, 2017 | Melbourne protesters defy cops, challenge Milo Yiannopoulos, Vashti Kenway, Red Flag, December 6, 2017 | Monday night in Flemington, Vashti Kenway, Overland, December 6, 2017 | ‘They’re Trying To Change Our Holidays’: What Drew Young Australians To Milo Yiannopoulos?, Max Koslowski, New Matilda, December 6, 2017.

Bonus! LEGALS!

Melbourne Activist Legal Support states that policing at the protest against the Milo Yiannopoulos protest event in Flemington did not take into account or prioritise the safety of the local community. On the night, MALS attempted to communicate with senior police present to move the small right wing protest back down Stubbs [Street] and far away from the housing estate. They had ample power and means to do that.

Instead police cordons gave Soldiers of Odin and True Blue Crew a prominent location in the middle of Racecourse Road from where they were able to shout obscenities at local residents. Moving the right wing protest group further down Stubbs [Street] closer to the venue and away from the housing estate communities could have prioritised the safety of local residents and those most impacted by racist and Islamophobic abuse from those groups.

Whilst we have limited capacity to support follow up activities, we are awaiting advice from our allies at Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre as to further steps that will be taken. They have offered LEGAL SUPPORT for local people from the housing estate who were arrested and assaulted. You can get in touch with them. Contact details on their website.

Regarding any additional arrests of protesters we assume those who called the event will be supporting any activists arrested with connection to friendly lawyers.

For others who attended, we recommend debriefing with friends and family and ensuring injuries are documented, and footage backed up and secured should there be capacity for follow up [see : https://www.activist-trauma.net].

If there is capacity to collate witness statements and use evidence to demonstrate inappropriate conduct we suggest you consider the following:
* Ensure your footage is backed up in addition to your phone, and you have advised protest coordinators or anyone else tracking incidents of your contact details and what you have recorded if it demonstrates clear and useful detail.
* Write a witness statement if you recall details of specific incidents that may be useful later in court. Tips here: [PDF].

We would also like to suggest that people who were at the protest ensure they decontaminate themselves and their clothes appropriately, if they were subject to pepper/OC spray, to avoid further injury and discomfort. Don’t cross contaminate clothes when washing. Some information here.

Look after each other folks. If we become aware of any further updates regarding follow up we will keep you advised.

Butterflies & Unicorns Win “The Battle of Eltham”

nickcondoms

Briefly:

Around 70 or so people attended “The Battle Of Eltham” today, the great majority non-locals from Sydney (Party For Freedom), Bendigo and Melton (True Blue Crew). All The Usual Suspects were present: Sergio Redegalli; Nick Folkes (pictured above), Toby Cook and George Jameson (PFF); Kane Miller, Paul ‘Guru’ Franzi & Co. (TBC); The Angry Gnome Jay B Moore & his wannabe bikies (Soldiers Of Odin) et al. Also guest starring (sic) were valour thief and serial pest Ralph Cerminara and (!) Richard Lalich (Australian Defence League); Blair Cottrell and Thomas Sewell (United Patriots Front); UPF lackeys Julian de Ross and John Wilkinson; John Bolton (Reclaim Australia, Adelaide) and a handful of other boofheads.

Something in the order of 200 or so other people joined Diamond Yarra Valley Resistance Solidarity (DYVRS) for a gathering and march, while several thousand more — including the supporters of ‘Welcome to Eltham’ — gathered in the city for a refugee rally. A good account of the day’s events in Eltham is provided by Kieran Bennett in Far-Right Outnumbered In Eltham (November 5, 2016), while the ABC published Eltham refugee rally: Scores turn out to support Syrian refugees being resettled; The Age Battle for Eltham: Welcoming butterflies a background to anti-refugee protests, The Guardian Victorian anti-refugee rally: counter-protesters turn up in strength and SBS (AAP) Pro and anti-refugee protests in Melbourne.

unicornz

The relatively small number who rallied under Folkes’ PFF banner is indicative of two things. One, there’s very little sympathy for those opposed to the housing project in the local community, especially when this opposition is being proclaimed by racist thugs. Two, the brief popularity enjoyed by Reclaim Australia and the UPF as a vehicle for racist, right-wing and xenophobic discontent — especially in Bendigo and, to a lesser extent, in Melton — has largely collapsed. This is likely due both to opposition and the failure to achieve very much through public mobilisations, but is also likely related to the various legal problems encountered by some of its adherents, most obviously in the case of alleged terrorist and TBC supporter Phillip Galea. So too, the prosecution of Blair Cottrell, Neil Erikson and Chris Shortis for racial and/or religious villification. As noted previously, John Wilkinson and Linden Watson, though also taking part in the UPF stunt in Bendigo, have escaped prosecution. Notably, Wilkinson had close dealings with Galea, allegedly providing him with cattle prods for use on leftist demonstrators.

At this stage, the next hate rally is scheduled for January in Sydney under the auspices of Reclaim Australia. In any event, the photo below, courtesy of JE, sums things up in Eltham today I think: a racist teenybopper from the True Blue Crew giving the finger to locals.

tbcgreets

Bonus Grace!

“The Battle of #Eltham” : #Fascists ~versus~ #Refugees : November 5, 2016

See also : 800 crimes against German refugee shelters so far this year, Middle East Eye, October 19, 2016: Crimes include arson, attacks using explosives and distribution of far-right propaganda.

This Saturday, November 5, a small group of people from Sydney, Bendigo, Melton and Melbourne will be descending upon St Andrew Park in Eltham in order to engage in what the organisers of the rally, the Sydney-based micro-sect ‘Party For Freedom’, are referring to as “The Battle Of Eltham”. The ‘Battle’ is to stop St Vincent’s Care Services in Eltham from providing housing to a number of Iraqi and Syrian refugees, a joint project of St Vincent’s Health Australia and CatholicCare. According to St Vincent’s, the proposal is intended:

… to help settle and support vulnerable refugees from Syria and Iraq – with priority given to women and children.

The refugees will be provided with medium-term rental accommodation in 60 units on the site of St Vincent’s Care Services Eltham. These units are stand-alone and separate from the residential aged care and independent living facilities on site.

The 60 units have been vacant for a number of years and have been refurbished by St Vincent’s Care Services to make them liveable.

The refugee housing project will run for two years and then the accommodation will be transitioned to be used as affordable housing for seniors.

There will be no impact on the residential aged care or independent living residents who live at the Eltham site.

You can read more about the project on the fact sheet (October 5, 2016) St Vincent’s has provided here.

In any case, while St Vincent’s claims that ‘We bring God’s love to those in need through the healing ministry of Jesus’, others, including the Party For Freedom, Soldiers Of Odin, True Blue Crew and United Patriots Front, have other ideas. Thus according to the PFF, in its promotional material for the ‘Battle’, ‘the decision to house the refo invaders in an aged care facility is a slap in the face of locals’, and those who support the proposal are ‘deranged and irresponsible advocates for open borders’. Further, ‘both major parties are working together to destroy Australia by using taxpayers’ money to facilitate the third world colonisation of Australia’: a dastardly plot which now implicates the Christian charities St Vincent’s and CatholicCare. Of course, the PFF also advocates the forcible sterilisation of refugees from the ‘Third World’, and is otherwise infamous for staging an invasion of a church service in Gosford (August 2016) and for attempting to stage a recreation of ‘The Battle of Cronulla’ (December 2015).

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

elthamrallyspeakers

Those scheduled to speak at St Andrew Park as part of the ‘Battle’ are all familiar faces on the far right. Thus in addition to PFF Chairman Nick Folkes and his teenybopper sidekick Toby Cook, Sydney-based anti-Muslim activist Sergio Redegalli, ex-Australian Liberty Alliance candidate John Bolton of Adelaide, and local boys Paul ‘Guru’ Franzi (True Blue Crew), Julian de Ross (AKA ‘Hugh Pearson’, United Patriots Front) and John Wilkinson (AKA ‘Farma John’) will all be delighting the crowds with their verbal wit. One person who won’t be joining the patriotik mob will be Phillip Galea, currently a resident at Thomas Embling hospital, but otherwise on trial for alleged terrorist offences. A friend of Reclaim Australia, the TBC and the UPF, Galea’s previous legal entanglements revolved around Wilkinson’s alleged provision to him of a number of cattle prods; Wilkinson was also one of those who participated in the UPF dummy stunt in Bendigo in October last year, though has escaped facing any charges. Not so lucky are UPF fuehrer Blair Cottrell and former UPF members Neil Erikson and Chris Shortis (now a member of the White nationalist Australia First Party): they are due to face court in March next year.

The fascist plan to grunt and squeal in St Andrew Park has also resulted in the organisation of some other activities by Diamond Yarra Valley Resistance Solidarity on Saturday morning. Titled SAFE – Stand Against Fascism in Eltham, the DYVRS day begins at 10am. In which context, it’s worthwhile noting that this is NOT a counter-rally and DYVRS is seeking to avoid any and all confrontation on the day. DYVRS:

DYVRS is staunchly antifascist, and firmly believes that hatred and bigotry on our streets should be shut down. In this instance though, due to circumstance and location, direct opposition to thugs and bigots is not a workable tactic.

If your desire is to shout at and engage with right wing undesirables, while in other circumstances we might agree, in this case we must respectfully ask you not join us on the day. We cannot emphasise this enough – this is a peaceful protest aimed at avoiding conflict. There is much at stake in this issue and no one to profit from conflict but the groups we oppose.

Note that further details on the day’s events (which are scheduled to finish at 1pm, ie, before the fascist rally ends at 2pm) may be found by checking the DYVRS Facebook event page on Friday night. Just a reminder the first stop on Saturday’s event at 10am is a very long way from the shouty asshats and is in an easily secured location. You are most welcome to just attend that part if you’d like. This stop will have the speeches and the banner drop. Afterwards we’ll be moving a little closer to their group but not in contact and if you’d prefer not to do that, that’s fine too. See you Saturday – remember to check for maps and further instructions on Friday on this page or Twitter.

As always, much love and respect to all the good folk taking a stand against racism and bigotry — see you on the streets!