Far-right, fascist organizations lead anti-vaccine movement in Australia
Australia’s far right is leading the anti-vax and anti-containment movement. These extremists are radicalizing the movement, both politically and tactically.
On the evening of November 12, right-wing activists gathered outside the home of Victorian MP Andy Meddick of the Animal Justice Party. At the protest in Melbourne on November 13, several marchers showed up with ropes and a model guillotine. From the stage, a speaker attempted to sing a song of “Hang Dan Andrews”.
So far, these threats of violence have only been performative. Nonetheless, they suggest the rise of a movement that gains confidence as it moves to the right. Initially, the protests were aimed at undermining public health measures. However, in recent months, organizers have broadened their scope to include other far-right talking points, such as the attack on Victoria Labor Prime Minister Dan Andrews as a “socialist” and “Communist”. Australia’s far-right is also updating its ideology with a toxic cocktail of “New World Order” conspiracy theories and opposition to public health measures, hidden under libertarian rhetoric about personal freedom.
The next right-wing mobilization will be an Australian version of the so-called “freedom” global rallies, which will be held on November 20. Campaign against racism and fascism organize a counter-demonstration for the same day. Upstream, however, it is important to be clear about the danger posed by the increasingly right-wing anti-vax and anti-Andrews movement.
According to an anti-extremist researcher Jordan mc swiney, the fascists both organized these anti-vaccine protests and recruited among them. MP Craig Kelly, a member of the right-wing populist United Australia Party (UAP), spoke at the November 13 protest in Melbourne. Although the UAP is not fascist, as an anti-fascist research group, the White Rose Society highlighted, he has close ties to right-wing extremists. Security for the event was provided by fascist Stuart von Moger. Von Moger was once a leading member of the Lads Society, which is associated with the National Socialist right and was formed by members of the late United Patriots Front.
Likewise, the Melbourne Proud Boys were in attendance on November 13 and can be seen in photographs of the rally. Far-right figure and fascist sympathizer Andy Bolt broadcast the event live. At the same rally, spectators photographed members of the National Socialist Network carrying signs with the anti-Semitic “Who” whistle. Who is a reference to the anti-Semite conspiracy theory that the pandemic is fake and a Jewish conspiracy. Western Australia’s most prominent fascist Dennis Huts also attended a rally in Perth.
Nazis and fascist sympathizers also maintained an active and increasingly savvy presence online, particularly in the cryptic group chats that have become a crucial organizing tool for the far right. For example, Harrison McLean was the moderator of the main account of the “Melbourne Freedom Rally”. The Guardian revealed that while being involved in organizing the Freedom Rally, he was also an explicitly pro-fascist leader focus groups – one of which he described as dedicated to “deepening relations between Jews and the NWO [New World Order]. “
At the same time, fascist activists like McLean argue that their organizations should learn to be more tactical when expressing their most loathsome views. In a series of messages to other Nazi recruiters, McLean explained that many new supporters and recruits are “standards” and are “not ready for the JQ. [Jewish Question]”Or” the idea that [Adolf] Hitler had good points.
Instead, McLean suggested that Nazi activists seeking to gain influence in the anti-vax, anti-Andrews movement begin with “‘Dan [Andrews] Wrong “and go directly to” No coercive vaccines “.
In other cases, chat moderators have stepped in to ask the posters to tone down their praise of Hitler and the Nazis, fearing this would generate bad publicity. This was evident in an exchange between two activists named Mikey and Bill on the main Telegram channel for the “Melbourne Freedom Rally” on November 20. After asking Bill to come back on a thread and delete “anyone who looks dangerous,” Mikey added, “Remember we have to have good optics.”
Fascists and members of far-right organizations have also drawn inspiration from more traditional right-wing organizations and politicians. The January 6 riot on Capitol Hill clearly resonated with many members of Australia’s anti-vax and anti-Andrews movement. On November 13, protesters chanted QAnon’s slogan “where we go one, we all go” and echoed Donald Trump’s rhetoric by referring to the threat posed by “antifa” and claiming that Democrats have a socialist program. The Trump 2020 flags and QAnon signs have also been prominent in recent protests in Melbourne, as have the banners that read ‘Make Victoria Great Again’.
The ruling right has responded positively to the anti-vax and anti-Andrews movement, seeing it as an opportunity it could benefit from electorally. Rupert Murdoch’s conservative press promoted these movements for months, campaigning relentlessly against the state’s Labor government and its public health measures. Peta Credlin, former Tony Abbott’s chief of staff and Sky News luminary, attended the November 13 rally along with several other Victorian-era Liberal MPs.
Likewise, right-wing politicians like Liberal MP George Christensen and UAP MP Craig Kelly saw electoral opportunities in the backlash against vaccination mandates and other public health measures. Kelly is a climate change and COVID-19 denier who backs Trump. Like Christensen, he championed the anti-vaccination and anti-public health cause and touted the dangerous myth that horse dewormer, ivermectin, is an appropriate prophylactic treatment for the virus.
Indeed, now that Kelly has associates With the UAP of mining tycoon Clive Palmer, the party gained electoral legitimacy and became a very visible pole of attraction for the far right. Even more worrying, the UAP recently recruited the full membership of Reignite Democracy Australia (RDA). As a result, the UAP now has over 70,000 members, making it by far the largest political party in Australia. Whether or not this translates into parliamentary gains, it will likely channel crucial votes to the Coalition.
Based on recent indications, we can expect a significant number of rallies across the country on November 20. We can also expect openly far right and fascist groups to be present. The current situation in Italy, Germany and other parts of the world is a stark reminder that the far right can grow rapidly and become a staple in political life.
There are, of course, debates to be had within the left over vaccine mandates and the threat to civil liberties posed by laws touted as necessary public health measures. And at the same time, it would be wrong to suggest that every anti-vax protester is part of the far right. However, these points do not erase the reality that far-right and fascist organizations are at the heart of this growing movement.
The size of these gatherings is evidence of a dangerous shift in Australian politics. Over the past decade, the far right has made several attempts to strengthen its presence in Melbourne, and each time the left has stood up to them. In 2016, 2017, and 2018, the progressives challenged the fascist protests and pushed them back. Thanks to the pandemic, the stakes have increased. The left now has a greater responsibility to counter the far right, both politically and on the streets.