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Investigating Stormfront: Whiteness, Demography and Politics

Matilda Surtees and Geordie Crawford investigate Australian white supremacy organisations.

white-supremacist-posters

white-supremacist-posters

White supremacist posters, which depicted the Celtic cross, and exclaimed “White Pride Worldwide”, were last week plastered on a bus stop outside Wentworth Building.

The logo on the posters was very similar to that of the white supremacist discussion forum Stormfront, an organisation established by former Ku Klux Klansman and convicted terrorist Don Black.

The posters were spotted a day after the ‘White Man March’, a global event intended to publicise white supremacy and combat multiculturalism.

Whilst one would think it easy to determine how many white supremacist groups there are in Australia, some ostensibly racist organisations reject the label. The Australia First Party (AFP), for example, prefers to consider themselves a “united patriotic front”.

These organisations hold in common a desire for racial separation, but are divided on what constitutes a white nation. Some white supremacists, such as Tom Metzger, the founder of White Aryan Resistance (WAR), believe in white nationalism, or a global community of white people.

Others, like the Southern Cross Hammerskins (SCHS) and the AFP place a specific emphasis on state-based white nationalism, through their use of the Eureka flag and warnings of the “chaos of globalism”.

“Almost all users on Stormfront Down Under [Stormfront’s Australian branch] would describe themselves as patriotic and animated by a love of country,” said Andy Fleming, a journalist who has written extensively on the subject.

This sense of race-based patriotism unites many Australian white supremacists. To this end, the AFP claim to be fighting a “yellow peril” by endorsing a traditional, patriarchal family structure, while Blood and Honour claim their promotion of racist music to be an act of resistance to non-white cultural influences.

While Australian white supremacist ideology can be pluralistic, it is often marked by a simultaneous and incoherent embrace of the myth of biological race, as well as a cultural definition of whiteness.

As multiculturalism has become embedded in both Australian policy and society in past decades, white supremacists have increasingly refocussed their attentions on the perceived erosion of “White Australia”.

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According to one supporter, two of the most prominent groups, Blood & Honour and the SCHS, “work in brotherhood” but are not formally affiliated.

Both have their own subsidiary groups, replicating the structures of their overseas predecessors. Combat 18 is an affiliate group of Blood and Honour and bizarrely the SCHS have their own “supporter’s club”, Crew 38.

The tiered relationship between SCHS and Crew 38 is reflective of a tightly hierarchical culture in white supremacist organizations. A spokesperson for Exit White Power, an anti-white supremacist project, stated that there are “a lot of rules about where you sit in that hierarchy, who you answer to, and what’s involved in different stages.”

The typical demographic for such groups is young men, aged 14-25, who are often socially alienated and lack other commitments – work, mortgages, marriage, children – which may interfere with their dedication to the group.

“There are not many happy, stable young people joining white supremacist groups,” the EWP spokesperson notes. The appeal is often social, not ideological, and the prevalence of music concerts in the white supremacist community seeks to capitalise on this.

However, the manager of grassroots watchdog project The Anti Bogan observes that different white supremacist organizations attract different demographics.

Members of the AFP, he says, are far more likely to be part of the “over-fifties age group, who would have grown up in the era of the White Australia Policy,” and have seen the demise of “their imagined white Australia.”

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The Australia First Party retains an official headquarters in Tempe, in Sydney’s Inner West. It was at these headquarters that an AFP supporter was shot and killed by another in 1991.

Violence within white supremacist groups is common and is a powerful deterrent to leaving these organisations. “They can be very insular, and they tend to bash each other up quite a lot,” said the EWP spokesperson.

The external activities of white supremacist groups are more likely to be disseminating hate speech in the form of flyers and stickers than to be physically violent. In January this year, four Perth men were convicted for spreading “racially motivated material”.

However, one of the convicted, Combat 18 member Jacob Marshall Holt, also pled guilty to firing gunshots at a Perth mosque in 2010.

Another group, the Australian Defence League, held a rally to oppose the construction of a mosque in Bendigo, Victoria on March 22. They describe Islam as a “meddling enemy” and “Australia’s biggest threat”.

Writing for New Matilda, Fleming stated that there has been a “political reorientation” of the far right and white supremacist groups, with Islamophobia now the “chief attractor”.

EWP’s spokesperson concurred and pointed to online forums in particular as a site for burgeoning anti-Islam sentiment.

One supporter of the ADL told us he believes that “all races usually get along” in Australia. His support for the organisation, however, originates in “the fact people come here and try to push there [sic] Islamic views upon Australians in an aggressive way.” Such views suggest that Islamophobia has indeed become a point of convergence for mainstream racism and extremism.

It can be difficult to ascertain the extent to which extremist activity manifests itself offline. EWP’s spokesperson acknowledged that there is a lot of activity online, but describes the majority of those belonging to white supremacist groups as “keyboard warriors,” reiterating her earlier point that these groups “exist mainly for themselves”.

She points out the humorous contradiction that “one of the things they always talk about is how no one wants to meet up.” The content of Stormfront’s Down Under forums certainly supports her assertion.

And as for the “White Pride Worldwide” posters, she points out that there was no call to action involved, and no group claimed responsibility.

“They were likely just some kids who read about the White Man’s March online,” she said.

For more information on the organisation, Exit White Power, please visit: www.exitwhitepower.com.

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