As the parliament moves to legislate for same-sex marriage, the involvement of the alt-right in the ‘No’ case becomes clear. By Karen Middleton.
Alt-right links to the ‘No’ case
In Australia’s online “alt-right” community, they’re saying the fight is only just beginning.
The postal survey on same-sex marriage and impending change to the law has activated some Australians not normally directly engaged with the political system, drawing views generally exchanged in dark corners out into the spotlight.
Among extreme right-wing groups online, “No” supporters are disinclined to let things rest, despite the house of representatives being scheduled to finalise the legalisation when it meets next week.
A Melbourne man, Dean Anderson, has established an online petition aimed at having the survey results audited, believing they are “unreliable and do not represent the true numbers reflected by the Australian people”.
The petition, now also being promoted by an associate of Anderson’s who calls herself Kat Klayton online, has just over 4000 signatures and will likely go the way of most other petitions to government.
But it is not the first public engagement that Anderson and Klayton have had with the postal survey and the campaign against changing the law. Anderson and Klayton are participants in the alt-right online #dingotwitter community, some of whose views reflect those of white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
Anderson has posted statements advocating white rights and anti-Jewish sentiments, including some in which photographs of ABC broadcasters and federal politicians with Jewish heritage are plastered with Star of David markers.
“Make no mistake,” Anderson wrote earlier this month. “White nationalists don’t hate other races. We just want to preserve that which is ours. Just like every other race in the world is allowed to do without judgment, hostility or guilt.”
He and Kat Klayton have posted photographs of Nazis burning books. They have also posted material equating homosexuality with paedophilia.
They and a small group of others were responsible for literally painting their opposition to same-sex marriage mid-campaign, in the skies above Sydney and Melbourne.
Klayton was listed as the person responsible for establishing a crowdsourcing GoFundMe page online, to raise money for skywriting messages over Sydney and Melbourne during the postal survey period.
“Vote NO” was written over Sydney on Sunday, September 17, the day after Australians for Marriage Equality launched the “Yes” campaign in Sydney.
Another “No” was written in Melbourne’s skies on October 10.
Initially, the GoFundMe page was established anonymously, but the host site froze the funds until its creator’s identifying details were provided.
In a statement to The Saturday Paper, the company confirmed it had released the funds once details were updated with a name.
“As an open fundraising platform, we allow campaigns that organisers believe in as long as they do not violate our terms of service,” the GoFundMe statement says.
“Our giving community is free to choose which campaigns they support.”
But the company also added that it supported same-sex marriage. “We are an open platform and believe in the need for equality, diversity and inclusion around the world. Every Australian should have the freedom to express their love for whoever they choose and have that love recognised.”
In response to the company’s demand, Kat Klayton was listed as the page’s creator. That name was later changed to Katrina Bailey, with Kat Klayton listed as receiver of funds. Kat Klayton’s Twitter handle includes the word “anirtak” – Katrina spelled backwards.
But as Twitter introduces tougher rules next month, many with extreme views are migrating to new sites, including a site called Gab, with fewer restrictions.
“All of us on the right have been marked as Nazis for holding counter revolutionary views,” Dean Anderson writes on his Twitter feed.
“Some are… most aren’t.”
The #dingotwitter and #dingogab discussion threads on Twitter and Gab are full of anti-women, anti-gay, anti-Jewish and pro-Anglo sentiments, advocating white supremacy and deriding people of other races or mixed race, including, this week, Prince Harry’s new fiancée, Meghan Markle.
One of those prominent in the #dingotwitter community writes as @Racial_Ryan.
In the days after the postal survey results were revealed, he wrote a note joking about killing homosexuals: “If we’re redefining marriage, we’re going to have to redefine the term ‘shotgun marriage’. Remember it’s ‘Til death do you part’ goys. #SameSexMarriage #SSM #HomosexualMarriage #CulturalMarxism #Jews”
The same day, he posted: “If someone is #transpecies can I utilise my hunting licence on them?”
Two days earlier, he posted an anti-Jewish message which ended with “#AltRight #UniteTheRight #WPWW #FourteenWords #HailVictory”
WPWW stands for White Pride World Wide and is part of the logo for Stormfront, a white supremacist website.
Fourteen words refers to a white supremacist and white nationalist slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
Having long preferred private forums to exchange their ideas, those who share these more extreme views are increasingly engaging publicly and in what is generally known as mainstream politics, as activists or candidates or through associations with existing MPs and senators.
In last year’s ACT election, a member of anti-Islam group Reclaim Australia, Daniel Evans, ran as an independent candidate for the seat of Yerrabi.
Reclaim Australia organised a “Straight lives matter” rally in Sydney during the postal survey, at which Kat Klayton was one of the speakers.
The rally turnout was small, with reports putting the crowd at between 15 and 30. But online, in the public forums where those calling themselves the “alt-right” gather, the numbers of adherents to their ideology are larger. And they’re increasingly organised.
A campaigner against the controversial Safe Schools program, Klayton told the rally she was part of the group that had organised the skywriting and that she had been subjected to abusive messages including one telling her to kill herself or she could “end up dead in a bin”.
Klayton said she had “spoken to the ladies from the Coalition for Marriage” who had undergone “an awful lot of harassment as well”.
A spokeswoman for the Coalition for Marriage told The Saturday Paper that the organisation had no involvement in the skywriting events.
The Australian Christian Lobby also denies any involvement.
Reclaim Australia has become increasingly politically active, holding anti-Islam rallies around Australia since 2015.
One Nation party leader Pauline Hanson and Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen are among those who have addressed their rallies. Christensen also took part in a #dingotwitter podcast but later apologised publicly for doing so.
The head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Duncan Lewis, has said ASIO is monitoring Reclaim Australia.
It and other similar groups are seeking to tap into what they see as a growing pool of nationalist, anti-Islamic sentiment in Australia.
An annual survey of social cohesion, published this week by the Scanlon Foundation and Monash University, found that while support for immigration remains strong, there is a relatively high negative feeling towards Muslims, fed by both the reality and the heightened perception that radicalised Muslims are rejecting Australia’s secular democratic values and institutions.
The survey found 41 per cent of respondents felt negatively towards Muslims, compared with only 6 per cent towards Buddhists.
It found that while the overall trend among the indicators of social cohesion was stable and positive, a breakdown of aggregated figures over the past decade showed a slide away from “strong” to “somewhat” supportive.
Monash University’s Professor Andrew Markus suggested some politicians were deliberately using some issues, including those around attitudes to Muslims, to push up their voter support.
“If you want to work that constituency, you can move it in a negative direction,” Markus said. “You can put on a burka, you can poke fun at people and you can get good numbers in surveys. You can play on fears and the middle will move in a negative direction. And this is an issue going forward to better understand this and understand what you can do about it.”
Some activists with extreme views are receiving official endorsement from elected representatives and being encouraged to participate more in public debate.
In the United States this week, President Donald Trump drew strong criticism from British Prime Minister Theresa May and members of the British public for using his social media profile – which has 43.6 million followers – to retweet anti-Muslim videos from nationalist organisation Britain First.
The man who murdered British MP and anti-Brexit campaigner Jo Cox on a West Yorkshire street last year shouted “Britain First” as he attacked her.
The former head of the racist Ku Klux Klan in the US, David Duke, praised Trump’s move in retweeting the videos, which were promoted as involving Muslims attacking non-Muslims – allegations either unable to be proven or in one case proven incorrect.
The president’s spokeswoman defended the retweets.
“Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real. His goal is to promote strong border security and strong national security.”
Activists with strong anti-Islamic views are finding supporters among Australian politicians, too.
On Monday, Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm will host alt-right British commentator Milo Yiannopoulos at an “in conversation” event at Parliament House in Canberra, to protests from members of Labor and the Greens.
Arriving in Australia on Thursday, Yiannopoulos said he was here to “warn” Australia and that it “might need saving from itself”.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young had been among those condemning his visit, saying in reference to Parliament House’s new perimeter security: “Aren’t we building a fence around the building to keep dangerous people who spread hate and promote harm to others out?”
Yiannopoulos, a former editor for US alt-right online publication Breitbart News, describes himself as a cultural libertarian. Despite being married to his male partner, he urged Australians to vote “No”. He has insisted he differs with many in the alt-right movement because he is pro-Israel.
After he made racist slurs against an African-American actress, Twitter permanently banned him on the grounds that he was “inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others”.
Senator Leyonhjelm rejects the description of Yiannopoulos as a right-wing extremist. “I suggest you consult a dictionary,” he told The Saturday Paper.
“Milo is somewhere between a conservative and libertarian, which is certainly not extremist and, as far as the libertarian aspect is concerned, not right-wing either.”
He further defended his guest in The Daily Telegraph, writing: “Yiannopoulos is sometimes accused of being a Nazi sympathiser,” Leyonhjelm wrote. “Yet as a gay Jewish man with a black husband, the white supremacist movement (which includes Neo-Nazis) wholeheartedly despises him.”
Leyonhjelm, as a libertarian, supports same-sex marriage.
The postal survey and its associated issues have drawn together a range of groups and individuals with overlapping interests. Some of those who campaigned actively hold views that many Australians would view as extreme.
They are increasingly willing to express them openly, vowing they are going to “take the country back”.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 2, 2017 as "Alt-right links to the ‘No’ case".
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