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Australia’s Blindspot: The rampant rise of far-right extremism in Australia

Madeline Thompson

Image credit: Sides Imagery from Pexels
Image credit: Sides Imagery from Pexels

Far right extremism, like any other terrorist threat, will continue to grow if counter action is not taken. The difference between far-right extremism and acts of terror committed in the Middle East, or by foreign entities, is that western nations across the world have not seen far-right extremism as a threat until recently. As a rise in far-right extremism is witnessed in Australia it has become apparent that we are not exempt from this vulnerability. Confidence will continue to grow within these groups as the existing governmental response continues to fuel their ideological narrative of superiority. This increase in confidence will continue to manifest into violence as these groups move further into the mainstream arena.

The cell style terrorism structure of “leaderless resistance” is commonly utilised by

far-right groups. It allows chapters to be established in various locations that transcend borders and encourages the execution of lone wolf attacks. The siege of the United States Capitol on January 6th, 2021 is perhaps the most widely seen example of this violence, but these incidents are not confined to the borders of the United States. As individuals attended rallies on January 26th with Proud Boys logos on their clothing, and far-right extremist groups gather in the Grampians in western Victoria, the threat of far-right extremism to in Australia is clearly present and highlights the need for decisive action from the Australian Government.

A deep understanding of the structural formation of these groups and the mechanisms in which their ideology is spread, needs to be formed to face this threat. The rise of far-right extremism is not one that has occurred in a vacuum, nor can it be attributed to the Trump administration alone. The failure to include a far-right extremist group on Australia’s declared terrorist organisation list until March this year, highlights the power of the narrative of the “white power unit” present in our own government.

The apocalyptic neo-Nazi narrative spread by James Mason appears to be becoming true to many believers. This narrative capitalises upon the human fear of the unknown to encourage violence against Jewish, coloured and LGTBQIA+ community members who are viewed as threats to the “white race”. The recorded increase in far-right training camps and gatherings in Australia, as well as the increase hate crimes and crimes inspired by far-right ideology in recent months, has been incited by these groups through a cell style terrorism structure of “leaderless resistance”. This structure calls for individuals to commit attacks themselves, in which the inspiration is provided through the extensive reach of these groups' influence on social media.

As studies confirm, the spread of this ideology on Facebook has penetrated the nation's sovereign borders and has consistently received the high levels of engagement on the platform. The Australian Government must address the capacity for far-right groups to mobilize and incite violence, the occurrence of which has increased over the past three years.

Without prompt and efficient government response to this threat, both on and offline, this

violence will only continue to escalate. Radicalised individuals will continue to answer the call of this propaganda and engage online with other individuals within the organisations. Chat rooms like 4chan, have been utilised by far-right groups within Australia. Social media has the capacity to reinforce biases and gives power to organisational leaders to manifest these agendas into violence in the name of their cause. The toxicity of this environment has only been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The threat of far-right extremism will continue to increase if accountability measures are not strictly enforced at a national and international level. The “leaderless resistance” structure of these organisations not only allows these groups to form in regional areas across Australia, but also makes them harder to stop.

A three-tiered governmental response is required that not only targets this rising threat, but also addresses blind spots, whether conscious or unconscious, that have been capitalised upon by these groups.

If left unchecked, the violence that has been witnessed over the past few years will

continue to escalate. The current lack of accountability is enabling and building the confidence of these groups. Swift and effective action is critical.

Madeline Thompson is currently a student at Bond University completing a double major of international relations and diplomacy specialising in terrorism and modern security threats.


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