Nothing could be more volatile.
The live streaming of the Christchurch massacre to Facebook, perpetrated by an Australian citizen, broke new ground in online slaughter. Politicians and members of the public of all persuasions have used the event to peddle their own interests and display tolerance, progressiveness or prejudice.
This is a story which runs every which way.
As the SITE Intelligence Group’s well respected Rita Katz records, white supremacists have celebrated the attack across various venues, from community-specific forums like Stormfront and Vanguard News Network to alternative, free-speech-purposed social media platforms like Gab and Minds.
Equally on platforms like Telegram messenger and Facebook, jihadists from around the world disseminated news of the shooting and called for revenge.
The blood drenched videos of Islamic State throwing “infidels” off buildings, burning them alive, dragging them behind cars, crucifying and stoning to death non-believers in a reversion to medieval practices, the high quality videos of ritual mass beheadings and masterful use of social media were all factors in their cut-through presence.
Extreme violence works.
Now terror has evolved.
From Australia’s great unwashed the most common comment is that the only thing surprising about the Christchurch massacre is it has not happened before. Reap what you sow.
While New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been met with almost universal acclaim for her handling of the crisis, no such plaudits have greeted Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The conservatives are on the nose in Australia and the current government, which has been a big supporter of mass immigration, is expected to face electoral wipeout in the coming federal election, due in May.
And Morrison finds himself in a world of pain.
For a start, he is at loggerheads with prominent Muslim broadcaster Waleed Aly, whose impassioned attack on the alleged exploitation of Islamophobia by the current government drew more than 12 million views.
Turkey’s President has also threatened to send Australian enemies of Islam back to Australia in coffins, just as the country did to their ancestors during World War One, more than a century ago.
And it only gets worse.
The Australian government mismanages everything and has chronically mismanaged immigration, creating a brooding, disengaged or overtly hostile base population.
Mass immigration, supported by the Big End of Town and thereby the conservatives, has made the rich very very rich; while the average citizen is stuck with static wages, falling living standards, escalating costs of living, massive congestion in the major cities and as much as anything a disintegrating national and community pride.
Much of the population feels overwhelmed.
And the government brought it all upon themselves.
Freedom takes many forms.
The excessive legislation and manipulation of Australian media has helped propel the rise of citizen journalism and a number of small, generally left leaning online publications.
Among the less academically inclined, that is most people, it has also propelled the shift to freer, less manipulated online platforms, most particularly Facebook.
Numerous anti-immigration or anti-Muslim groups now use Facebook as their main shopfront, a place to promote their beliefs and attract members.
They include No Sharia Australia, Reclaim Australia, Stop The Mosques Australia and Fair Dinkum Mate.
There is also a dodgem car cycle of activists, including Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson, being banned from Facebook and then sneaking back in.
At the same time national security agencies have come out of the shadows long enough to loudly proclaim their surveillance of so-called “right wing” groups — that is people who take up their democratic right to disagree with the government narrative embracing multiculturalism, record high immigration rates and the rapid demographic transformation of the country.
The actions has made it more difficult to organise demonstrations and no doubt scared off the less committed.
Surveillance in its crudest form, is a blunt instrument of social control, aiming to create a more conformist and compliant population.
And the simple enough question: can the people who build a road be held responsible for those who drive on it?
Dumb down the population. Impose simple narratives on complex issues. Increase the power of the state.
The story disappeared remarkably quickly off the front page of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s site, the $1 billion taxpayer funded institution which has devolved into little more than the propaganda wing of the government. It’s easier to deal with their favourite moral certainties, climate change, feminism, indigenous disadvantage, than it is to deal with the uncomfortable reality of home grown terror.
It wasn’t off the front page anywhere else.
There was always going to be blow back.
Blind Freddy could have told you that.
Arguably the most prominent or mainstream of the anti-immigration sites which have blossomed on Facebook in recent years is the Reclaim Australia Rally site, along with a number of regional offshoots.
At last count the site had more than 104,000 likes and 102,000 followers. They are significant numbers in a country with some of the world’s worst internet and most computer illiterate populations.
Recent posts have included stories on the reading of the Quran in the NZ Parliament, the massacre of more than 200 Christians in Nigeria in a four-day killing spree, the United Nations appointing Iran to the Global Women’s Rights Commission and Islamic State calling for retaliation over the Christchurch massacre.
Scott Moerland of Reclaim Australia told A Sense of Place Magazine he suspected they had not been barred from Facebook because they cooperated with the authorities.
“We believe the only reason we have not been shut down is because we come across a lot of whack jobs both in the Islamic community and the far right Nazi group, the really far right.
“We are not racist, we have black people on our committee. We give information to the cops if we see anything suspicious online.
“All the other anti-Islam groups get shut down as their soon as their numbers get high, including the Australian Defence League.
“The United Patriots Front had 130,000 followers when it was shut down.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s pissing off a hell of a lot of people. News outlets can be held liable for slander or anything like that.
“The reason Facebook has escaped that regulation is because they maintain they are a neutral platform, but they are not.
“They deliberately target conservative opinion. A staggering number of conservatives personal profiles are deleted or banned by Facebook. They are taking an editorial role.”
Suppressing dissent breeds revolution.
Mr Moerland, who served with the Army in Iraq and East Timor, said the biggest threat to national security were the nation’s journalists.
“They are not telling the truth. They are supposed to be our guardians. They are not doing it.
“I served in Iraq and saw how dangerous it was.”
Mr Moerland said he had been threatened by Muslims, including the beheading of his son.
“I am ex army, I can look after myself, but I am well aware of the threat. You only have to read about it for five minutes to realise how dangerous a religion Islam is.”
Living With The Consequences
Stop The Mosques Australia has built a significant online presence.
At last count the site had more than 85,000 followers.
It runs a steady diet of anti-Islamic material.
Recent posts include news of a Pakistani professor stabbed to death for planing a party with women dancing, the Turkish President claiming any anti-Muslim Australians will be sent home in coffins, just like their grandfathers, and claims that two of the Charlie Hebdo killers were trained by members of the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch but the media were covering it up.
Suppress Dissent and you ferment revolution.
But this, in the diversity babble that has characterised Australian government announcements in recent years, is exactly what the authorities have done.
Misguided, or just plain stupid. Or perhaps even intentional. Conspiracy theories, like the overarching story, run every which way.
Behind or in front of the howls of discontent, depending on how you look at it, is the major drift in mainstream politics towards an anti-multicultural anti-immigration stance.
Once a fringe group decried as extremists by mainstream media, politicians and multicultural activist sand mainstream politicians, year by year One Nation has drifted ever further to the centre.
Their leaders Pauline Hanson and Mark Latham are regularly invited as commentators onto radio and television spots.
And then came New Zealand. Facebook removed or blocked 1.5 million copies of the shooting video in a single day.
In the sea of analysis post New Zealand The New York Times noted that one surprising thing was how unmistakably online the violence was, and how aware the shooter on the video stream appears to have been about how his act would be viewed and interpreted by distinct internet subcultures.
In some ways, it felt like a first — an internet-native mass shooting, conceived and produced entirely within the irony-soaked discourse of modern extremism.
The attack was teased on Twitter, announced on the online message board 8chan and broadcast live on Facebook. The footage was then replayed endlessly on YouTube, Twitter and Reddit, as the platforms scrambled to take down the clips nearly as fast as new copies popped up to replace them. In a statement on Twitter, Facebook said it had “quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video,” and was taking down instances of praise or support for the shooting.
YouTube said it was “working vigilantly to remove any violent footage” of the attack. Reddit said in a statement that it was taking down “content containing links to the video stream”.
In its analysis NYT argues that online extremism is just regular extremism on steroids. There is no offline equivalent of the experience of being algorithmically nudged toward a more strident version of your existing beliefs, or having an invisible hand steer you from gaming videos to neo-Nazism.
The internet is now the place where the seeds of extremism are planted and watered, where platform incentives guide creators toward the ideological poles, and where people with hateful and violent beliefs can find and feed off one another.
So the pattern continues. People become fluent in the culture of online extremism, they make and consume edgy memes, they cluster and harden. And once in a while, one of them erupts.
The only surprise is that anyone would still be surprised that social media produce this tragic abyss, for this is what social media are supposed to do, what they were designed to do: spread the images and messages that accelerate interest, without check, and absent concern for their consequences.
Fair Dinkum Mate
Fair Dinkum Mate is an Australian expression referencing honesty, as in: “Seriously?!”
At last count it had more than 57,000 followers.
Last year there were concerns it would be closed down by Facebook.
One post last year read: Facebook is chasing us down threatening to give us a permanent ban, so we’re starting a back up page in case this happens…
Please feel free to LIKE the new backup page in preparation of their possible success.”
But the site has not been closed down and continues to run anti-Islamic material.
One recent post suggests that New Zealand does not want to be drowned in the sound of the Muslim call to prayer. It linked to an Otago Times story where a local Christian bishop protests it’s public broadcasting.
Bishop Brian Tamaki declares:
Two minutes of silence is okay but the Islamic prayer will sound? it contains this line ‘there is no God but Allah’, well I disagree.
Jesus Christ is the only true God … this is not us!”the broadcasting of the Muslim call to prayer, which includes the lines “There is no God but Allah” to which he strongly disagreed.
Tamaki said the announcement of the Muslim call to prayer was an abuse of Jacinda Ardern’s Prime Ministerial power.
“This is Offensive to all True Christians in Aotearoa … Our National Identity is at stake. PM Jacinda Ardern has abused her Prime Ministerial decree in allowing Allah as the only true God to be sounded in Muslim prayer across the airwaves.”
There has also been a focus on people voluntarily handing in semiautomatic weapons. One comment asks: “What kind of tool voluntarily hands their guns in?”
A spokesperson for the site told A Sense of Place Magazine some very large conservative Facebook pages have been removed in the last few days.
It is not unusual that any page that has a conservative view is targeted by Facebook, especially pages with anti-Islamic ideology.
I have been banned a dozen or more times amongst four profiles to run the page in the last two years…
This last week with the NZ incident had three bans on three of my profiles. All I did was share a Channel 7 post that had no violence but showed the killer’s face.
The whole “Authoritarian” manner that this terrorist attack has been handled is totally scary… We are being controlled with what we can say, and hear…
Milo Yiannopoulos being banned from touring amongst others is wrong. We have lost our freedom.
We are being silenced… Facebook has a “liberal” view and any that view politics differently are now not just getting a ban, they are being removed.
Rise Without Fear
Being banned on Facebook is almost like being banned from your local pub — a bit of notoriety never did anyone much harm.
Blair Cottrell of the United Patriots Front has attracted more attention than virtually anyone, and is, if anyone could step outside their posturing condemnations, a fascinating case.
He is on and off Facebook like a yo-yo and immediately attracts tens of thousands of followers every time he appears.
All the United Patriots Front pages were removed in 2017 but the movement keeps coming back.
Cottrell argues that the government needs to acknowledge that multiculturalism might have had a destructive purpose from the beginning.
Perhaps diversity isn’t our greatest strength.
Perhaps all it is doing is destabilising and dividing our society.
Perhaps that is all it was ever meant to do.
Blonde, Aryan one could almost say, a carpenter and body builder with a clear gift for communicating to his followers, Cottrell ends each of his broadcasts with the words “Rise Without Fear”.
This warrior cry was ably amplified by Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited when they broadcast an excerpt on their platforms.
Just in case you thought the mainstream media were not complicit in the ferment.
Mainstream politicians have also been having a field day on the back of Cottrell’s allegedly extremist views.
As a result not just of their own advocacy but faux outrage of government officials ensured that what would have been a small insignificant rally at Melbourne’s famous St Kilda Beach earlier this year protesting African street crime got maximum coverage on television and in print.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong were loud in their condemnation.
You might ask how a small group of not very articulate and not very well resourced people managed to get such blanket publicity for their cause.
Unlike so many of the useful fools cluttering the air waves, Cottrell speaks in simple, cut through language that anyone can understand.
There is nothing more frightening than watching your country be sold out from under you.
That is a sentiment many Australians relate to.
In a controversial interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he declared:
For me it’s either success, prison or death. We have a culture in this country. The culture is an expression of the people. That culture is not Islam.
I’m fighting for my people.
In spite of a nationally television St Kilda demonstration and events in New Zealand Blair Cottrell remains on the platform, but appears not to be active.
The closing down of dissident voices comes against a complex background. The conservatives, in Australia a Coalition the ill-named Liberals and the rural sector known as The Nationals, have been in power since 2013 and are about to face an electoral hiding.
They have passed some of the most draconian anti-free speech legislation anywhere in the world, including making journalists Persons of Interest under national security legislation and introducing so-called Journalist Information Warrants allowing multiple government departments to track their activities.
But once again the government has proved itself inept, unable to deal with an evolving online media climate. It has lost control of the public narrative.
Just as bombing Middle Eastern cities into ruins ensured that the American led Coalition lost the propaganda war in the Muslim world, so cracking down on dissent has played straight into the activists agenda.
Busy playing whack-a-mole, the government would be better off addressing the multiple issues, most particularly record high immigration rates, driving dissent.
Tim Wilms, editor of free speech advocates The Unshackled, reports:
Australia’s two most well known patriot and nationalist activists Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson have been banned permanently from Twitter. This follows their earlier bans from Facebook. Both have now opened up Gab.ai accounts which is the most well known free speech social media alternative.
Cottrell was banned before the Christchurch mosque shooting last Thursday following two controversial tweets where he quoted Hilter favorably and another where he referenced cutting the strings from puppet politicians and hanging them.
Cottrell had his Facebook page deleted last year, this year following the St Kilda political meeting on African crime his father’s personal Facebook account was deleted since it was discovered Cottrell was using it to access the platform. Following that his Instagram account was deleted.
Avi Yemini, another populist, known for his loud, upfront, in-your-face style, has been previously banned from Facebook. He had built 176,000 followers.
Yemini promptly returned to Facebook with another page. His current site, Avi Yemeni UnBanned, has more than 47,000 followers. His Twitter account has more than 30,000 followers.
Of Jewish background, he is passionate advocate against the Islamisation of Australia and not easily silenced.
Yemini told Breitbart News:
Banning my page is another example of Facebook’s political bias and is an attack on free speech. They are purging conservative pages. In this case, they are meddling in the Australian political system and therefore breaching a number of local laws.
I believe I was banned because I am exposing the Islamization of Australia and how it is negatively impacting the country. Many other conservatives around the world have also been banned for speaking out about Islam.
They claim it was for ‘hate speech’ but when pressed couldn’t give me a specific post that breached any of their terms and conditions.
And There Are So Many Others
The Facebook page No sharia law — Never ever give up Australia, posts a regular stream of anti-Islamic content.
It has more than 114,000 followers.
Recent posts include rallying support for anti-mass immigration political party One Nation, linking to a news story headlined Migrant Tries To Burn School Bus With 51 Middle-School Students In Italy To Promote “Open Borders” and another “Queensland mum jailed after taking daughters overseas for genital mutilation”.
One contributor declared: “We don’t want this evil in this country. We don’t want this evil system in our country. This system is a threat to everything that makes us Australian in this country. It wants to destroy who we are in this country. Child brides? We have to get this evil out of our country. We have to protect our people in this country from this evil that calls for Sharia Law. Sharia Law is not Australian. It would be the end of everything Australian, if it happens in this country.”
The Infidel Brotherhood of Australia Resistance, which had more than 17,000 followers, appears to have been removed, but variations of the site continue to attract significant numbers of adherents.
As an example of the tone, one poster commented:
We should not have to endure these barbarians in our once safe country thank God I have seen the best that Australia will ever be because the future can only get worse as they multiply.
Freedom of Speech Productions is also particularly active at this point in time, with numerous inflammatory posts and images. In the lead up to a Federal election it is ramming home the message that the Left, with their embrace of Islam, is destroying the country.
Much of their commentary stokes outrage amongst taxpayers over the use of their taxes to privilege the Muslim minority. Resentment over welfare dependency and public housing runs high.
The claim that 50 per cent of Muslims don’t work is frequently repeated and while open to dispute is largely borne out by government statistics.
Other significant sites include Australians Against Radical Islam, which has more than 84,000 followers.
Recent posts on Australia Blue include images of Muslims carrying placards “Islam Will Dominate The World” and links to stories with headlines including “How Islam progressively takes over countries” and another by well accredited academic Dr Augusto Zimmermann:
Above all, I simply can’t trust the Australian government and our notoriously incompetent and illiberal political elite to shield me or anyone else from certain types of speech that some intolerant religionist may consider unacceptable in accordance with the radical tenets of his/her fundamentalist doctrine and resulting threats of legal actions.
Our political leaders have demonstrated they possess an authoritarian inclination and have no proper regard for the rule of law and the preservation of our most basic rights and freedoms.
As for myself, I sincerely fear for the future of our nation.
Recent posts in Australians Against Islamisation & Sharia Law include references to thousands of Christians being murdered in Islamic attacks, condemnation of the government’s crackdown on free speech the responses of NZ and Australian leaders to the Christchurch massacre and calls for Australia to Wake Up to the threat from Islam.
Among the many new online journalism oriented publications springing up in Australia in reaction to the stranglehold of mainstream media is TOTT News.
Like many others, they warn of a country which has become a sham democracy spiraling into totalitarianism.
One editorial declared:
Australia is now at a cross-roads; we are staring down the road of tyranny and enslavement. Our rights and freedoms are systematically being taken away with each passing day, and soon, the free country that we once knew and loved will be replaced by a creeping state of Orwellian qualities. We are in control of our destiny and we have the power to stop this. One can make the conscious decision to stand up and fight for what little freedom we have left, or sit back and wait for the domino effect to begin sequence.
Stand up, Australia — before it’s too late.
The Australian government has spent a vast amount of time and money manipulating the country’s mainstream media, while the traditional Defence Department attitude to journalists, that they are Public Enemy Number One, has been allowed full sway.
The bureaucrat’s bureaucrat, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Affairs departmental head Mike Pezzullo, recently announced the Australian government has rededicated itself to standing resolutely against the extremist ideology of white supremacy and its followers.
To whom I say, you are on our radar and you will not be able to incite the racial strife that you seek. The scrutiny and pressure that you are under will only intensify.
But such blind authoritarianism deployed in the imposition of unpopular policies, particularly high immigration rates and the state ideology of multiculturalism, is likely to inflame an already difficult situation.
Behind the obvious ones there are many more anti-Islamic Australian sites currently on Facebook.
Nothing could be more volatile.
Written and compiled by John Stapleton, editor of A Sense of Place Magazine. A collection of his journalism can be found here.