THE stories that aren’t afforded a news cycle are now the ones that matter most. If you follow their faint trail, what you find is usually far more important than a canned “issue” or the “current thing.” It wasn’t surprising that an important near-admission by ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess was ignored by the media after his appearance at a Senate Estimates hearing on 13 February. Asked by South Australian Liberal senator Alex Antic if ASIO had – like the sinister British army intelligence unit whose actions were exposed in January – spied on critics of mandates, lockdowns and mask-wearing during the course of the pandemic, Burgess pleaded the fifth. “That sounds like a ‘yes’ to me,” Antic replied. ABC reporter Jessica Riga’s blog on this hearing didn’t mention the exchange – though it was obviously the most newsworthy. Riga did, however, post what the Director-General said on “right wing extremism.” It “grew rapidly” after Covid-19 hit – “fuelled in part by conspiracy theorists” – but the “threat” had since “moderated.” To put it another way, “conspiracy theorists” were right about many things, harmed nobody and quit the agitprop when governments gave in to reality. It isn’t a mystery why the ABC – the nation’s worst purveyor of Covid-related calumnies – didn’t see an angle in the abused liberties of the vindicated.
Since 1945, there has never been a dearth of fascist hooligans in Australia. Many have been violent, most were unclubbable cranks grouped into screwball parties and cells of backyard Braunhemden. While they never endangered democracy itself – as the Communist Party and its labour movement allies once did – they remain on the radar of the intelligence services. That said, the quantification of supposed right-wing extremism by ASIO over the past four years has been pointless: a third of counter-terrorism cases in 2020; increasing to 40 per cent in March 2021; up to 50 per cent by the end of 2022. And now? “Religiously motivated extremism” – the new name for Islamic extremism – again accounts for most of ASIO’s counter-terrorism workload (70 per cent). So what happened to all the Nazis in “suburbs around Australia”? Nobody knows. Maybe ASIO was obliged to look at every locked-down lummox with a Red Ensign who tweeted a desire to push Daniel Andrews down another staircase but a statutory wild goose chase isn’t a “growing threat.” Everyone with common sense knows that Islamic fanatics are the top predators in the domestic national security ecosystem but that lone actors like the ACL gay rights bomber and the Christchurch shooter are dangerous spectres too. This is nothing more than the status quo ante covid.
But don’t think the Albanese government and the media will be deterred by the disappearance of a little bell curve. The pandemic might be over but leftists live in a vortex of disdain wherein facts no longer matter. They truly believe this is their moment and that their dogma – the disestablishment of religion and the family, bureaucratised race wars, the censorship of history, glorifying abortion, euthanising the elderly and sick, compulsorily esteemed homosexuality, transgender mania and the psychological grooming of children – must be seen as normative but also besieged. When then Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells challenged Director-General Burgess on his use of the term “right-wing” in March 2021 – on the grounds it was being used to serve the political interests of Labor and the Greens – the media reaction proved her point. When, two weeks later, Burgess announced that ASIO would no longer classify terrorist possibles and probables as “Islamic” or “right-wing” (in line with Five-Eyes policy), it was a victory of sorts for everyone. The bourgeois left – embarrassed and vulnerable every time an unassimilated Muslim went berserk – had been trying to airbrush away jihadic motive for a decade. The senator was pleased – notwithstanding that she too had given ground – and ASIO looked like the disinterested overseer it is supposed to be. To her immense credit, Fierravanti-Wells recognised the issue in play wasn’t about security. It was a strategy to imperceptibly but inexorably ostracise conservatives. The Morrison government’s listing of the Sonnenkrieg Division soon after – a neo-Nazi group the ABC admitted had no Australian members – was an artfully thrown bone.
The trouble with bones for ravenous dogs, of course, is they only whet their appetites. The curated hysteria about right-wing extremism reached a crescendo in the summer of 2020-21 as the federal Labor Opposition and its media servants sought to accomplish two things: associate the Morrison government with the engineered chaos of Donald Trump’s final weeks in office and draw attention away from the savagery and moonbeam militarism being practiced by state governments. At the centre of the propaganda operation was Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally. “Right-wing extremists are hiding in plain sight,” the ex-Mean Girl and lapsed American – known for aping Democrat melodrama – told the ASPI in September 2020. They were even using “certain words and phrases” to “convey coded content,” she claimed. Sounding like young John Nash in ‘A Beautiful Mind’ and enlivened by the drumbeat of the Growing Threat, she demanded an inquiry whose theme would have been some variation of Liberals = Hitler. Amongst those now denounced as “far right” are pro-lifers, devoted Catholics, ‘climate change’ dissenters, opponents of mutilating minors and sex shows for toddlers, free speech advocates and peace campaigners. Tellingly, all the caricaturists are fervid boosters of Ukraine, a nation that regarded Nazism as fondly as Australians regard pies 15 minutes ago. Consistency only matters to the accountable.
Ironically, when the First Lady of Scotland Island parachuted into the southwestern Sydney seat of Fowler in last years’s election, Asian and brown migrants read Labor’s own coded content as white supremacism and brought her political career to an end. Before that reckoning, however, there was the Grampians yowie SS scare (dismissed by police), the risible Proud Boys polo shirts panic and a deranged race assailant with a swastika painted on his forehead (he suffered from schizophrenia). Hysterical “calls” for bans, investigations and legislation followed. Even Premier Andrews – whose Camicie Nere had become internationally infamous for rigging prosecutions, shooting protesters and assaulting pregnant women – pretended to fret. On antisemitism, he declared Victoria – if not Labor’s teeming anti-Zionist wing – had “no place for that sort of bigotry and hatred.” (The Garden State was booked out by anti-Catholic bigotry and hatred). So frustratingly non-existent was actual right-wing violence that by 2022 new Labor home affairs minister Clare O’Neil began flagging the likelihood of criminalising even more “groups” to “better capture” it. Writing at The Conversation, lawyer Keiran Hardy argued that changing the definition of terrorism would “capture right-wing extremist groups that are dangerous to society but do not obviously engage in or support terrorist acts.” Ergo: the state could go after anyone for espousing anything. In February of this year, David Shoebridge asked why ASIO wasn’t rounding up more rightists. The absence of Stormtroopers was frustrating but is sure to make left-wing ‘hearts’ grow fonder.