Calling those you disagree with a Nazi only helps the real sausage-brains in black

Columnist and communications adviser

It has become increasingly evident over the past few years that a raggedy band of disgruntled Australians are trying to get neo-Nazism to take off in Australia. Amateurs. Australia is a hostile environment for extremists of their ilk. But there’s plenty we could do wrong that would allow these weeds to flourish.

Australia’s neo-Nazi movement is small and,frankly,with its pale,hairy legs sticking out the bottoms of its black Lowes shorts,kind of funny looking. It has made a habit of showing up at cultural flashpoint events in an attempt to provoke a reaction.

“Name them and shame them”,is the message from the NSW premier after a group of masked neo-Nazis descended on a suburban park.

On the Australia Day long weekend,Victorian neo-Nazis who had bussed up to Sydney were stopped at Artarmon train station. Their myki cards probably didn’t work and then the cops showed up and told them that black was a terrible fashion choice on a 40-degree day. Stuck on the leafy north shore,the boys got together for a group photo and singalong in the park.

Had they made it to the site of the Cronulla riots,let’s say,or to another symbolic place or high-profile event,they might have achieved a success in the magnitude of one they managed last year. At theLet Women Speak rally in Victoria,a group of black bucket-hatted dweebs (who knew kids beach hats came in black?) showed up and kicked off an overreaction that is still paying dividends for them. The organisers of the rally were women concerned about pre-operative transgender women having unfettered access to the spaces in which women are most vulnerable,such as restrooms and prisons. It was dubbed an anti-trans march by progressives.

Everyone was shocked when the neo-Nazis appeared. Women’s rights groups are not used to attracting the support of Nazis,who tend to have hyper-traditional ideas about the role of women. It was immediately clear that they were there to make trouble. And they succeeded. A flurry of hot takes pronounced that women at the rally,includingVictorian MP Moira Deeming,were linked to the Nazis (a comment that was baseless and immediately denied). Victorian Liberal leaderJohn Pesutto moved to expel Deeming from the parliamentary party and,10 months later,the saga is ongoing,withDeeming taking Pesutto to court in a defamation case for allegedly branding her a Nazi.

That’s great ongoing free publicity for the neo-Nazis,who just had to show up and lift a right arm to set society against itself. It’s also worked for them at a more strategic level:as soon as progressives embraced the idea that anyone at a women’s rights march was anti-trans and nigh-on neo-Nazi,neo-Nazi ideas were maybe a little more acceptable to some. Think of it like one of those coin machines in an amusement arcade,where you feed in 20-cent pieces in the hope that the more go in,the closer others will get to the edge until a dozen tip over and deliver a mini-jackpot. By accusing ordinary people who have concerns about women’s rights of being Nazi-adjacent,the progressives rendered a few people more open to the neo-Nazi message. That’s a win for the neo-Nazis,delivered straight into their hands by people who would identify with anti-fascists.

This strategy is being deployed worldwide to take advantage of troubled times. Germany,which spent the post-war years putting in place infrastructure to ensure that Nazis could “never,ever” rise again,looks like it’s grown a new Nazi movement.

In a nutshell,that’s because Germany has failed to address a problem that concerns many ordinary Germans:high immigration and failed integration. There was a seminal moment on New Year’s Eve 2015-16,when groups of immigrant mensexually harassed and robbed scores of women who were celebrating in Cologne.

Progressive Germans struggled to find the words to condemn what had happened. Many media outlets didn’t report on the assaults immediately and then,when they did,didn’t mention the fact that the men were from an immigrant or refugee background. In later years,I asked the editor-in-chief ofDeutsche Welle why. He told me it was because they hadn’t wanted to stoke racist sentiment. Of course,that’s just what hushing it up achieved.

Meanwhile,right-wing media outlet Breitbart,which briefly existed in Germany,and politicians from the EU and immigration-sceptical AfD political party had no trouble saying plainly what had happened. After that incident,many Germans learned to turn to their right to find out the truth of what was happening in their cities. A few more coins which had been teetering on the edge fell into the trough.

In the US,neo-Nazis have taken a slightly different tack,affiliating themselves with pro-Palestine protests,using the blurry lines between anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment to position Nazis as kind of right all along. At the end of last year,Vice reported on a group which gathered in front of the White House to proclaim that Israel “is a pure genocidal state” and that “we Americans have been snookered into supporting[Israel] by Jewish control of our banks,our media,and our politicians,but we have to say enough and rise up as a people”. They’re calculating that their narrative is close enough to what some people in the pro-Palestine camp believe to dislodge a few more edge-dwellers.

With the war in Gaza rendering social cohesion in Australia the most precarious it’s been in years,we can expect to see the neo-Nazis try more of this sort of stuff on. It’s easy to build an Australian Nazi:just call people racists or fascists for expressing real concerns and let the anti-semitic conspiracy theories rip.

And don’t forget,the next time neo-Nazis show up at a rally,make sure to blame other people you hate. If you want to build a Nazi,you must never,ever just point and laugh at the sausage-brains in black.

Parnell Palme McGuinness is managing director strategy and policy at award-winning campaigns firm Agenda C. She has done work for the Liberal Party and the German Greens.

Parnell Palme McGuinness is managing director at campaigns firm Agenda C. She has done work for the Liberal Party and the German Greens.

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