I have been sitting here the past week, watching in awe and disgust, at people who I initially would’ve assumed would be on the same page on the issues of bigotry and racism, tear each other apart, abuse, chastise and blame one another for the most ridiculous and petty crap.
Prior to the July 18 rally, I wrote a small article on the motivations behind both sides, and the violence that is also exhibited on both sides. I wrote this because I accepted long ago that both sides will be violent – it just happens, and the sooner we can accept that and try to work around it, and particularly stop blaming each other for it, the better. It seems my saying that has caused some people to believe I condone the violence. That is ridiculous and frankly, I find it offensive. I always make point before the rallies when I speak of them to ask people to remain non-violent in the face of opposition. Although I know this most likely will not be the case, to assume that I somehow condone the behaviour is stupid, and I have seen quite a large amount of people who previously followed the page on Facebook now go elsewhere and bitch about my supposed ‘condoning’ of violence.
To make matters worse, I now have people on the Facebook page ripping each other to shreds about the necessity of opposition, the tactics used, who is to blame for what happened, etcetera etcetera. Just stop it!
Firstly, the idea that opposition to the far-right is something you shouldn’t subscribe to begs the question as to why you’re even reading this blog, because it’s not just about opposing them ‘on the street’, but it has to do with any form or tactic, be that online, in the media, on the street, or wherever else the opposition may take place. The moment we begin to place limitations on where bigotry and racism should be opposed, we stifle the opposition to the far-right itself. That idea alone would see ReclaimWhat disappear, because you may not have realised yet, but ReclaimWhat is opposition to the far-right.
ReclaimWhat ‘gives them oxygen’, ReclaimWhat ‘makes them famous’. Of course, I don’t believe that – I’m very much a person who believes that letting them run unopposed is far more dangerous, and Fairfax journalist Van Badham summed up quite nicely the way I feel about the situation of opposition:
“There are those in the progressive community who say counter-protests “give oxygen” to the extremist views such as those of Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front. This ignores the powerful encouragement and sense of validation given to the far right when their rhetoric and actions occur without consequences. Consider, for example, how communities in Europe – particularly Germany – maintain vocal public opposition to marginalise far-right movements there.
The audience for counter-protests is not the media, the police or even the broader community; it’s the far right and those who might be sympathetic to them, because their ability to represent themselves to potential recruits as anything apart from extremists and outliers is destroyed when they are vastly outnumbered and opposed.”
Of course, there are elements of opposition tactics that are unfortunate, and one of those is the violence that ensues in many of those situations, however, pretending like it wasn’t going to happen at all is naive.
There also seems to be some want from those within the anti-racist groups to want particular groups and organisations to bear the brunt of the blame – I don’t believe that is fair. Particularly for those who understand the politics behind the ‘left’, many of particular political persuasions do not follow or believe in a system of hierarchy, so in knowing this, please do tell me how an organisation is supposed to control “their people” if they aren’t truly “their people”? This is in stark contrast to the UPF, who run their entire show based on a hierarchy – you have the leaders/führers, and the following/volk. UPF says “jump”, they say “how high?”
They do have the ability to stop their following being violent, far more than the general ‘left’, yet nobody over the past week has seemingly even addressed that issue, because they’re too busy bitching about the way the “left behaved”.
A lot of the far-right seem to believe ReclaimWhat is some sort of omnipresent, omnipotent figure that can control the governments, media and people, but I’m pretty disappointed to see the same sort of belief coming from those on the anti-racist side in thinking that we have some sort of control over the way people behave at rallies.
I asked people a week ago to accept the fact that two events were going to take place on Saturday, and I very much knew it was a heated and emotional issue for many.
I do not want to put my views forward on who had the more ‘legitimate’ event, or who had the ‘better tactic’, it’s a dichotomy I don’t wish to become involved in, despite the fact so many on the anti-racist side have now put their feet in. There was one big reason I decided not to involve myself in that, and asked people not to do so in public forums – it provides fodder to the UPF, and they capitalise on it. And they did.
Truthfully, Ralph did not have this emailed to him – he stole it off a public page, but that’s particularly what I said people should not do.
Again, I cannot control people’s actions, but I am extremely disappointed that people are airing their gripes out in places where the far-right can capitalise on it. There are better avenues to do this, and ones which are far more likely to get a result that will please both parties – use them!
I would also like to address the notion being put forward that somehow the behaviour of the ‘left’ on Saturday pushed ‘undecided persons’ to join the UPF. This is silly.
A noticeable demographic the UPF have long tapped into, and only are gaining, is the younger generations – particularly male. I can assure you, as a younger ‘male’, that the actions of the anti-racist protestors is not the main reason, or even a considerable reason that younger generations are jumping on board the UPF.
Wind back to your adolescence. Take a look at UPF, and the opposition. At face value, in a purely vain sense, which group is more ‘attractive’ to a young (particularly male) ‘Aussie’?
The UPF come off as ‘edgy’, they come off as ‘cool’, they don’t give a shit about the law, they don’t give a shit about who they offend. They come across as machismo, ‘trendy’, and something that is ‘cool’ to be a part of. Were the kids who were popular and envied in your adolescence ones who were sensitive, ensured they did not offend, socially aware, and were non violent? Certainly not in my youth.
Now, arguably, the demographic who buy into that may not be something the anti-racist movements want in the first place, but I also believe that these younger generations who buy into the UPF rhetoric do so not from ingrained hatred, but will subscribe to it because it is an image they want to associate with – It’s cool, and to them, alternative movements are not.
If we can ‘steal’ that demographic for the better of the nation as a whole, should we not try and do that?
Unfortunately, BBQs and rallies aren’t the way to do that, they do not appeal to that demographic. I would go as far as saying that the violence exhibited by UPF is one of those characteristics that wins them that demographic. Obviously, ‘ramping up the violence’ is not something we should look into or employ as a tactic to win over hearts and minds, but there are other ways those demographics can be won over, and we need to start looking outside of the BBQ/Rally realms to do so.
We have some thoughts on the way to go about this, but again, would love you input.
I would just like to ask that people stop attacking each other for the events on Saturday, and particularly not do so in the public forum. We aren’t the far-right, we should not act like them.