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Defending our democracy from infiltration

The Age last year revealed that special forces veteran Ben Roberts-Smith wore the provocative symbol of a crusader cross on his breast over his uniform while on duty in Afghanistan. Apparently “quite a few” others wore it. This is particularly problematic because while Roberts-Smith may not have perceived it that way, the cross has strong associations for the far right suggesting an era of racial purity, with the Christian west waging war on the Muslim enemy.

The armed forces redacted the symbol when the photograph was released, later describing it as “at odds with Defence values.”

Australian soldiers also created scandals sporting KKK outfits and flying the Nazi flag “for a prolonged period” while deployed in Afghanistan. This stands disturbingly alongside accusations that Australian soldiers committed war crimes there.

Thomas Sewell, who founded the National Socialist Network is a former soldier. A number of his fellow veterans have links to far-right groups. In 2021, one former soldier had his passport cancelled as a Neo Nazi. It is not known if he chose to enter the army as a Neo-Nazi or was radicalised within it. Former special forces officer, Riccardo Bosi, has been one of the leading conspiracy spruikers at “freedom rallies” in NSW, with particularly violent rhetoric. He claims to be transitioning into politics.

Military veterans have also been amongst the strong supporters of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party. One notorious photograph showed a group of gym-fit veterans who had gone on to work as “emergency response” guards at Australia’s scandal-plagued refugee prisons on Nauru. Both parties were present at a “Reclaim Australia” white ethnostate rally. Refugees have reported ugly experiences with veteran guards in Australia’s indefinite detention complexes. Their Islam-hating sentiments were leveled at the wars’ victims trapped with the men who loathed them.

Pauline Hanson with veterans at a Reclaim Australia rally in 2015

Pauline Hanson and veterans working for Wilson Security as guards on Nauru in 2015 from the Guardian Australia

The University of Canberra’s National Security Hub has expressed fears that veterans are being targeted online by far-right groups. The fact that the body has Defence funding underlines that the leadership of the armed forces is beginning to take far-right radicalisation within our military, and its veterans, more seriously.

The way that authorities supervise our armed services (including police) has for too long ignored the threat that is posed to our democracy by the militant right. The growth of the conspiracy sphere has raised the threat posed by such trained individuals and groups by the depiction of governments, “the left” and minority groups as an existential threat to the national wellbeing.

Worryingly, the Australian armed forces (allegedly?) continue to prioritise religious chaplaincy over secular mental health resources. The elite group that supervises and advises upon the wellbeing of our service people has declared that it sees itself having an evangelical role in bringing God to the forces.

The international right has Pentecostal Christianity thoroughly intertwined within the conspiracy sphere. Centre Left politicians and progressive groups are defined as a child-devouring and demonic threat to the populace within these ideologies. Violence is a result. Religious symbols, banners and prayer were on display at the insurgent attack on the US’s Capitol on 6 January 2021. In far-right circles, Christianity is also deployed as a meme representing white superiority. (Although some more extreme groups prefer Nordic faiths, divorcing themselves from Christianity and its Middle Eastern roots.)

Within our political system we have parties like Pauline Hanson’s and Clive Palmer’s content to replicate the kinds of narrative and trigger words found in conspiracy and far right circles. Senator Ralph Babet’s social media feed regularly reveals conspiracy-theory messaging. The Coalition parties have both had representatives willing to ally themselves with conspiracy and far-right narratives, giving credence to the movements, and the delegitimising of the centre/left.

Murdoch’s News Corp platforms are filled with race-baiting stories. Even an Indigenous Voice to parliament, purely an advisory body, is anathema to these organs. Ben Roberts-Smith has quoted his employer, Kerry Stokes, as happy to hold a costly media platform for the power it gives him over politicians. His Channel 7 is too often held to account for racist framing of news stories.

Daily Telegraph tweet about one of the police shooters in Qld

Daily Telegraph tweet about one of the Queensland police shooters.

In the standard media approach to violence committed by white terrorists, Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph covered the Wieambilla conspiracy-driven police killers with warm humanising descriptors. The former educator of the three was evoked as a dedicated NSW principal harmed by health and systemic problems. Across the media, the armed forces and in politics, violent extremists who are white have tended to be depicted as a lone threat, an outlier, or even a damaged victim.

Germany is facing this crisis. In the wake of the Nationalist Socialist Underground serial killings, the Day X plot and now the Prince’s coup plan, they have seen repeatedly both the radicalisation of citizens into violence, and the systems’ propensity to excuse and ignore the warnings. Most concerningly, Germans have seen that there may not just be shoulders shrugged at white boys gone wrong, but potentially complicity within the armed forces and security sectors with far-right aims. People with military training, a system that is lax about its weaponry, and even current serving members with access to high-tech equipment, pose a substantial threat. The far-right parliamentary party AfD is also represented in these spheres.

When a briefing took place about AG Dreyfus’s anti-corruption commission, one of the leading public servants was asked if the parameters were being future-proofed against a government without respect for our system. The public servant dismissed this with, “That’s democracy.”

This is a moment in history where “That’s democracy” reveals a normalcy bias that endangers our future. The framework of democracy protections being erected by the Albanese government needs to take into account that not all our politicians support liberal democracy. We need to challenge our media owners to face the implications of their messaging.

Further, the slowness with which our security forces have moved from seeing enemies as foreign to understanding that too many of them are our own must cease. The far-right wants the end of democracy. It’s up to us to stop their mission.

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9 comments

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  1. Steve Davis

    The description of the rise of militant groups within Australia brings to mind the New Guard of the 1930s.

    We all know what happened at the end of the 30s.

    Buckle up.

  2. Phil Pryor

    The illustrated daly telegraph rubbish here indicates the well known, that media of this low type employs childish idiot scribblers to assert a position of coercive superemacy so the Merde Dog maggots can extract power, control, profit, pose and pontification. Lipstick coated lies are suited to control the simple and porous. Merde Dog, Stokes, Costello, Der Sturmer, Pravda, Conrad Black, British press barons…the daily dogshit and weekly wanko…

  3. Lucy Hamilton

    Precisely, Max. The international echoes are constant.

  4. Clakka

    Seeking to make himself a hero, conniving Little Johnny the artful dodger, created a cover for his racist and toadying (criminal) coalition of the willing venture in the Middle East. A cover of nationalist incitement, including dredging the dross of Bean.

    After years of a reasonable and settled peace in Oz, he single-handedly incited an epidemic of hysterical nostalgia for militaristic nationalism amongst the unread and reckless youth. A youth spoiled and spoiling for a purpose by which to unleash. Flag-waving, and pumped with might and supremacy they flooded to the War Memorial at Gallipoli, clueless to the embarrassing absurdity they presented. Then returning home to go on to unleash white-supremacist race wars against any and every ‘other’ they could discriminate against. Yeah, thanks Little Johnny.

    So it goes, and continues. Those entrenched, a paranoid brutality, hiding out, craven, or emerging emboldened whenever they can find alms, lubrication and new language from anything anywhere.

    It’s always unleashed as cover by politicians or clerics, and there’s always that source of flunkies waiting to be started.

    Does 30 years of priming lead to a ‘normalcy bias’, followed by the catch-22 risks of ‘controlled hope’ or devastation when later faced with oppression and terror? Seems so.

    It’s certainly up to those that see it, to nip it in the bud, question it and call it out loud right from the start.

    Controlled hope or devastation are just not options.

  5. Terence Mills

    It’s quite disturbing to note that those responsible for the police killings in S.W. Queensland had all the attributes of right-wing nut jobs.
    They were conspiracy theorists, they had weird religious beliefs, the were anti-vaxxers and they aligned with One Nation’s politics and they probably consumed the rantings of the Sky after Dark extremist (Sky after Dark is beamed into regional areas free to air).

  6. Clakka

    Yes Terence

    Disturbing, sad, very dangerous and tragic.

    The increasing enrichment brought by freedoms, technologies and treatments come with increasing responsibilities. Yet the disgruntled and disenfranchised will be drawn to the absolution via any rights and remedies brought to mind.

    As the story of the Wieambilla three unfolded, the chain of ingredients did not cause surprise, just sadness:
    Stress
    Mental illness
    Drugs (ice)
    The internet
    Guns
    Criminals and nutters held sway. The cops and the medicos were on a hiding to nothing – the social/community framework to guide or assist them with early intervention and prevention is entirely inadequate.

    Indeed it’s plain to see that the opportunistic abuse of freedoms by the designer RWNJs embedded in politics and the media, are the root cause. They get called out, but nothing seems to touch their guile, hide, and quest for the celebrity of infamy and lucre.

    I guess one can but keep pushing for the downfall of their corporate masters and backers whilst supporting the good folk.

  7. ajogrady

    Australians need to start paying attention. Our democracy is under threat and it not from a invading marauding nation. Its from within. Our democracy is being stolen right under our noses by billionaire media barons, mining magnates and right wing politicians fulfilling their own agenda and self interests that do not benefit the majority of the Australian people. When over 30% of first nations people in the Northern Territory were either unable or prevented from voting something is very wrong. It is against the fundamentals of democracy. Where was the outrage from the Main Stream Media? This is straight out of the American Republican play book where known groups who vote for Democrats, different ways/laws are found to prevent them from voting. Having over 30% of first nations people not being able to vote brings into question Jacinta Price’s election. Preventing voters from voting or manipulating voters through medias continual disinformation and exacerbated by big money adding to the disinformation is not how a true and proper democracy works. Its not what those who made the ultimate sacrifice fought for. They fought for a fair go for all Australians. We are a lesser people and a corrupted nation for this interference. While politics can be boiled down to the integrity and character of the parties, perhaps it is not just the integrity and character of the political parties that are in question. It is also the integrity and character of main stream media journalists reporting on the those political parties that is also in question. Biased, prejudicial and suspect journalism is undermining our democracy. Journalists are not ment to make partisan political statements dressed up as questions or make unbalanced subjective reports across media outlets.
    Democracy is being gamed by influential right wing legacy media that is also manipulating social media played to benefit big business. Those of us engaged in the civic debate don’t pay attention to the hermetically sealed information sphere of the radicalising Right. We don’t understand that there is a borderless global nation sharing panic and fear and unhinged theories to the gullible.This is the group of people who brought Trump flags and wrote appeals to US constitutional Amendments on their Australian posters.Their civic education is formed in international Facebook or Telegram echo chamber chat rooms that are being manipulated by the likes of Murdoch and Palmer that only benefit Murdoch and Palmer and their business interests. If businesses pay large amounts of money to “influencers” to gain advantage over their competition then how much is the influence of the L/NP turd polishing media outlets of Murdoch, 7 , 9, the once was “our ABC” and money from billionaires like Palmer worth to the L/NP? The Main Stream Media are a life support system and cheer squad for a side of politics that has decimated Democracy. The MSM is the problem not the solution. Advertising with these media outlets should be counted as political donations to the L/NP. The Fourth Estate need to recognise that they have been given a powerful and privileged position in maintaining a healthy democracy. The job of the Fourth Estates journalists is to uphold and protect the core values of democracy. The role of the media is to serve the governed, not the the media owners business objectives.
    “Truth”, “accuracy”, and “objectivity” are cornerstones of journalism ethics.

    Worst debt blow-out in the developed world refutes Coalition claims of economic competence

    https:/www.michaelwest.com.au/zombie-doctrine-belief-in-coalition-as-super-economic-managers-sticks-despite-proof-otherwise/

  8. Jack sprat

    “military men are dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy ” Henry Kissinger

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