Victorian research on far-right extremism has warned that children are becoming more radical

A parliamentary inquiry into the rise of far-right extremism in Victoria has heard that children up to the age of 10 are being radicalized.

Key points:

  • Investigative journalist Nick McKenzie said programs to eradicate investigations in prisons were seen as “a bit of a joke” by law enforcement.
  • He said police were overwhelmed by the aggressive language online
  • Liberty Victoria President Michael Stanton said restoring confidence in government and the media was key to tackling far-right extremism.

Research investigates how social and mainstream networks have influenced an increase in right-wing nationalism, as well as how the COVID-19 pandemic fueled the proliferation of misinformation and neo-Nazi groups.

Investigative journalist Nick McKenzie, who infiltrated a neo-Nazi group, told the investigation that one of the biggest concerns was the growing number of children being radicalized.

“[This group] is dedicated to recruiting young and impressive Victorians, and is having some success in doing so, ”McKenzie said.

“They may not say it publicly right now, but Victoria police are overwhelmed by the level of threatening language on the Internet by Victorians, especially young Victorians.”

McKenzie said the eradication programs were not about counteracting the influence of extremism and called for the committee to conduct an audit.

“Our eradication programs in the prison system, others aimed at schools, don’t really work,” McKenzie said.

“Of course, talking to law enforcement contacts is considered a bit of a joke.”

The expert says Australia has seen an increase in far-right “lone attackers”

The Victorian Greens called for research on far-right extremism last year, amid concerns that Victoria had become a “keychain” for marginalized groups.

In January 2021, police investigated after a group of white supremacists gathered at The Grampians west of Victoria singing “Heil Hitler” and white power slogans.

Less than nine months later, what initially began as a demonstration against mandatory vaccines in the construction industry soon turned into several high-profile violent protests, after they attracted the assistance of extreme agitators. right, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists.

Australian home security expert Charles Sturt University Kristy Campion told the investigation that while it was difficult to gauge whether far-right extremism had grown in Victoria, extremists were becoming more unpredictable. .

“Obviously we’ve been experiencing right-wing extremism for over a century, but what we’re seeing right now with lone attackers motivated by far-right ideology is a level of unpredictability that may not have existed in Australia in the past. . “she said.

Dr. Campion said that in the 1990s and into the 2000s, extremist activity was largely organized by cohesive groups.

“What we’ve seen in Australia in recent years is a series of solitary or small-cell actors who are not at the behest of an organization and who have a completely different set of internal limitations,” he said.

“I can’t say it’s worse quantitatively, but it’s changing.”

The Liberty Group warns against the authoritarian response to the rise of the far right

Michael Stanton, chairman of Liberty Victoria’s civil liberties group, told the investigation that extremist groups were using the pandemic to help strengthen affiliations.

But he warned that while the threat of extremism was real, governments should not erode civil liberties when trying to counter the influence of extremists.

“We need to make sure that when we respond to those scenes of confrontation with the Grampians, whether it’s Nazi salutes, swastika displays or the erection of a gallows outside parliament, we don’t have a legislative response that throws the baby out. the bath water, “he said.

“Sometimes that means tolerating a speech that we find offensive or humiliating.”

Stanton said institutional transparency, the repair of faith in government and the media, and the separation of powers were “absolutely fundamental” to fighting right-wing extremism.

He also warned against stigmatizing and grouping all protesters against the blockade in the same category as far-right extremists.

“There is no conveyor belt from exposure to extremist ideology to violence,” Stanton said.

“If they feel despised, it will only reinforce the message of these extremists that the government cannot be trusted.”

Victoria moves to ban the Nazi symbol in public

The Victorian government introduced legislation in parliament in May to ban the Nazi swastika symbol as part of an expansion of anti-vilification laws.

Anyone who intentionally displays the Nazi symbol in public will face penalties of up to nearly $ 22,000, 12 months in prison or both, when the laws come into force in 2023.

Victoria’s Jewish Community Council told the investigation that the organization saw an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2020 and said Victoria urgently needed a strategy to deal with online hate.

Posted 2 hours ago Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 5:35 AM, updated 47 minutes ago, 47 minutes ago, Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 7:43 AM

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