Fringe-dwellers & fanatics | #ANTIDOTE 2018

Fringe-dwellers & fanatics | #ANTIDOTE 2018

[ Applause ]>>Great thank you everyone. Thank you for being here. I, Maddison Connaughton. In my day job, I’m the editor
of “The Saturday Paper.” But today I am your guide to
the world of Fringe-Dwellers and Fanatics, a subject
all three of our panellists have
researched deeply. Obviously, John Safran was busy. So they got me. But to introduce our
panel, we have Dave Neiwert who is an investigative
reporter based in the US. And his book is called
“Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical
Right in the Age of Trump” which was released this year. It’s an excellent book. Next to him we have Ed
Husain who is a writer and was formerly a Senior
Fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations
in New York. His book “The House of Islam: a Global History” was
published in 2018. And over on the far side of
the panel we have Jeff Sparrow who is a writer editor
and broadcaster. He is a columnist for Guardian
Australia and a former editor of Overland Literary Journal. His recent book is
“No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson”
which is excellent. I read it and all three
books in the last two weeks. But you do have an
upcoming book as well called “Trigger Warnings: political
correctness and the rise of the right” which I think
will be part of this discussion. So please welcome
our panel everyone. [ Applause ] So to everyone, to
start, I want to talk about this term extremism. It kind of comes up in both
of your books Dave and Ed. But I think it’s a curious term. And I’m– I wonder if you
think it’s a useful term. If you think it captures the
nuance and complexity of some of the things you’re
writing about. And I guess what your
working definition of extremism is maybe
Dave, we’ll start with you.>>Yeah. It is problematic. I mean it’s rather over broad. And it doesn’t really sort of
explain a lot of, you know, it doesn’t really
get to the dynamic. But it is kind of reflective
of some of the limitations of the English language. And that we don’t really have a
good word for describing people who have been radicalised
which is more or less what we use it for. I think there are two
components to extremism. One is the sort of
ideological one that basically the
ideologies themselves are sort of extreme versions of
otherwise mainstream politics in the radical right
for instance. People we consider to
be extremists are people who aren’t merely opposed to
abortion but actually you want to have abortionists executed. They’re not merely opposed to
civil rights for black people. They want to have black people
eliminated from society. You see what I’m saying that it’s essentially already
accepted versions of sort of ideological positions
taken to their extreme. There’s also the behavioural
component of it as well that is people who behave in
very extreme fashion usually with violence or other kind, you
know, threats and intimidation. There are extreme
forms of behaviour. So that’s how I use extremism. That’s more or less my
working definition of it.>>Jeff do you have a
similar working understanding of extremism.>>Yeah. I don’t find
it very useful at all because as a term it’s
implicitly counterpose to– the extremes are
implicitly counterpose to the sensible centre which I
don’t think a very useful way to understand what’s
happening in the world today. I mean look, I’ll give
you a concrete example from a newspaper article that
was in the Guardian yesterday. Ben Doherty reporting
from Nauru, I don’t know how many
people saw this but, “The father of a 12-year old
refugee girl who attempted to set herself on fire in
Nauru says she is not receiving medical treatment. And she is refusing
to eat and drink. Her desire to die is very
high, her father said through an interpreter. The girl’s father is
also trying to care for her 13-year old
brother, their mother both of whom are seriously
mentally ill. Doctors warned nearly two weeks
ago the 12-year old needed to be moved off Nauru. But these recommendations
have been overruled by the Australian Border Force since she remains
on the island.” So here we have a
situation where a child, a mentally ill child, is
trying to set herself on fire. But she’s been kept on Nauru
to deter other refugees. This is a centrist policy. This is a policy
being implemented by the Australian government
with the bipartisan support of the Australian Labour Party. And so, it took counterpose
the sensible centre against the extreme
in that situation. It’s not very helpful at all because what we have now is a
situation where it’s the centre that is putting into the
mainstream of society. The idea that foreigners
are so dangerous that we should be prepared to let a child burn
herself alive rather than allow the floodgates
to be breached. And when you’ve got that
happening in the centre, it’s not surprising that it
revives extreme bright ideas on the fringes of society. So, but for me, the
juxtaposition between the centre and the extreme right is not–
is no longer particularly useful to describe the situation
we’re facing.>>Because if you have
people on what we understand to be the left and
the right agreeing on an issue finding compromise
lack offshore detention a policy of indefinite offshore
detention. That is seen as the
centrist policy rather than a particularly
extreme policy.>>Yeah. I mean Tara Kelly’s got
an idea of the extreme centre which I think is quite
useful in this situation. We so– we have for instance
there’s a bipartisan consensus in Australia now that
free market ideas that would have been enough to
right to Robert Menzies a couple of generation– a
generation or so ago. Not only that the free market
is the basis of the economy but market idea should be
injected into every aspect of society from sexuality
to the way that we’ve take care
of old people. And that’s so foreign to the
way that most people think about their lives and the
lives of the people they care about that induces a reaction
from the fringes as well. So again, it’s– there’s
a radicalism that’s now at the heart of our societies
that I think is producing some of the phenomenon that Dave
talks about in his book. And so it’s merely counterposing
the sensible centre against the fringes. It doesn’t really
explain what we’re facing.>>Yup.>>Ed I’d love to
bring you in here. I mean your working
definition of extremism but also I guess a little bit about what Jeff is
talking about.>>I’ve find much of what
Jeff just said hard to digest. Not at least because as a
Muslim there is something called the centre. And Islam was revealed
in the Quran. There’s references was at
the year or the middle way and there’s a huge
emphasis on centrism. And in the Greek tradition, one of the reasons why
Aristotle stood up is because between he
identified multiple extreme in every phenomena and from which he identified his
golden mean or his centre. So being a centrist is
supposed to be a good thing, and I’m sat in the centre
here and I find about Jeff, being a genuine centrist. But the Prophet Muhammad
warned against extremism. So we’ve– it was in the
Muslim tradition at least, we’re very conscious of
the fact that there are– that Islam was revealed as
an antidote to extremism. So the Prophet said [foreign
language] and be wary of extremism in religion. Those of us who were extremists in our younger days
saw ourselves as revolutionaries never
quite as extremists. So I fear that people who
are in the Marxist tradition or in the Islamist tradition or in the far-right tradition
also see themselves as some kind of revolutionary trying
to undo the centre. In the Muslim tradition,
there’s a long history of the extreme movements
starting with the Khawarij onwards. My working definition
of extremism in the religious context but
especially in the global context of Islamist extremists,
remember there are now about 1.7 billion
people around the world who are ordinary mainstream
normal rule abiding compassionate kind Muslims. Among whom, there are a tiny
minority who are extremists. And we identify them through
their links to the Khawarij and I go into that in
the book in great detail. But more importantly in terms
of a working definition, I would say someone
who’s a literalist in their social approach
so anti-gay, anti-women, anti-Jewish, anti
religious minorities. Two, seeks to impose
that literalism by taking control of government. In other words, taking
control of the state to impose their rigidity
and my last point would be that on the attack
on the free market. I’ve just come about three weeks
ago from Edinburgh and I sought out Adam Smith’s home
just to see the– that the city had that had given
us the probably the strongest free-market thinker. Because the whole point of Adam
Smith’s writing and giving birth to the free market was to
liberate people from the control of the nobility, the
control of the aristocracy. And side-by-side with
his book on “The Wealth of Nations” he also
had written the book on understanding
moral sentiments. So, there was a moral impetus to
do away from commercial society and go to a go to a
society that was much– go away from mercantile society, and go to a more
commercial society. So as a beneficiary of
Margaret Thatcher’s free-market home-owning policies and
allowing my family to be and my father to be able to buy
a home which I then inherited and then allows us
to be a, you know, wealthy property-owning
democracy. I would just kind of caution
against the unleashing of attack after attack after
attack on the– on a free market and a
free world that allows us to prosper and be who we are.>>It could–>>No, good ahead please.>>Jeff, and one of the things
that of course I deal with is or have to deal with
is fact that– in fact, many of the government
policies that we now have in place in the United States
are what I would call extremist particularly our current
immigration policy that has led to children being put in cages. I don’t– I have no problem
describing that even though it’s from the government
is as extremists. I don’t think necessarily
that just because it comes from the government
that it’s centrist.>>Well, I don’t know. Then it becomes a little bit
of a debate about definitions. It doesn’t know. We have a situation for instance
when Trump was first elected one of the phone calls he made
was to Malcolm Turnbull where they were discussing
refugees on Manus Island.>>Yeah.>>And Trump couldn’t at first
believe the Australian policy.>>Yes.>>That was so cruel when I was
explaining to him he said yes. You’re worse than I am. We should do that too.>>Yeah.>>And they took on, you know, elements of the Australian
Refugee policy. But it seems to me a little
bit strange to call policy such as the Australian Refugee
policy which is supported by both major parties, a fringe
policy sort of mean like. OK, we can debate what you
call extremists or not. But I think we have
to recognise, this is where politics
in Australia is at now.>>Sure.>>To oppose mandatory detention in Australia it makes
you on the fringe. Supporting it makes
you mainstream.>>Sure. Although, it’s
important to understand that a lot of people
I would describe as extremists actually
see themselves as representing the mainstream. They see themselves
as conventionalism. It’s a key component
of authoritarianism.>>I guess these goes
to my point though about this terminology
not being very useful. It becomes a little bit of Alice in the Wonder– Alice
in Wonderland–>>Sure, sure. Yeah, yeah.>>– our discussion as to, who’s fringe and
whose mainstream?>>Right, right.>>When particularly
when we’re talking about figures like Trump.>>Sure. Yeah.>>I do want to come back
to the impact of capitalism in the free market and how
that’s place into this. But you use the term
literalist, Ed. And I think that that
is something that came up in your book and Dave
in your book as well. In an interesting way,
so Ed you described kind of these often young men who have very literalist
interpretation of the Quran. And Dave you described this
group who are very literalist in their interpretation
of the Constitution.>>Yeah.>>And of the Second Amendment
the originalist, the textualist like Antonin Scalia but obviously there’s an
extreme version of that. I just wonder where you
think that is coming from that reversion to
literalism I guess both within Salafi, Wahhabism
and within the alt-right in the US why are we
turning to those texts and potentially misinterpreting
what they are trying to instruct.>>I don’t speak for David because I’m sure you’ll
do so remarkably well. But I think there
are similarities. And the great similarity
between literalists in the religious
tradition be it, you know, in my own religion Islam
or I mean if I may say so Evangelical Christianity is that there’s an imagined
return to a glorious path.>>Right.>>And it’s that underlying
emotional impulse of glory of self-recognition, self-worth
and the desire to dominate that is then used as
an emotional position, starting position that
we’ve been outcast. We are no longer powerful. We need to correct the
misdemeanours of the world. So it’s what Plato
talked about as Thumos. And that’s the starting point. And then they turn to
texts be it political text or be it religious texts
to justify that position. And sadly in the case of
religion because of the long and rich history of the
Abrahamic faiths, you know, we’re talking of a 1,400 year
tradition in Islamic case and almost a 6,000 year
tradition in the Jewish case. But there’s layer upon layer. So, all of that older Hebrew
prophets are recognised within the Quran. So what you see is a literalist
reading of scripture on say for example government. There is no reference
in the Quran which is a 6th century
text on government. There’s a reference
to [foreign language] that the rule is only for God. Now that’s one of
the first verses that they take the Khawarij took
that in the 6th century and use, it’s a devastating effect rising against the prophet’s
own family. And there’s a lot of
bloodshed in early Islam because of misapplication
of this verse by a very, very tiny fringe minority. And today the Islamists be it
from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and their
various offshoots or be it the Saudi
Salafis and Jihadis ISIS and their many offshoots. They refer to this verse and use
others to back up their claim that government must
be for God alone. OK. Even if we accepted
that well God hasn’t come down on earth to govern. Well, no, no we are
God’s people. We govern for God. And so they empower
themselves as god. So the literalism then manifests
in interpreting other verses of the Quran in relation to say
a punishment or to or to gender or to Jewish people as
religious minorities or even Christians indeed. So that’s where the literalism
starts an emotional position and vis-a-vis historical glory. And imagine historical
glory by the way. And we can go into that later
but then it finds itself in political expression that
we must control government in our name to represent
God on earth and then rule over
everyone else. And those who disagree with
us interestingly enough are traitors, so whether you’re
a traitor on the basis of disagreeing with them on
their interpretation of religion and therefore liable
to punishment. So that’s where the
literalism is derived from and that’s how it
finds manifestation.>>I just have one follow-up
and I wonder if that’s a– which is so the chicken and
the egg situation is the interpretation of the text
to justify the violence that someone wants to persecute or is the text misinterpretation
driving the violence which direction is that going because your first
book was obviously about your own radicalization
as a teenager. I wonder if you can speak
a little bit to the– in which direction it goes
and is it text to violence or violence being justified by–>>Well, and so, if it is
text to violence and if that was the argument
and many do make that very important assertion. My question is that
well if it’s text to violence then we’ve
got 1.7 billion Muslims around the world most of them
or almost all of them proud of their religious heritage. Most of them take it seriously. If not all of them at
least hundreds of millions of Muslim clerics exist and
just this year we had a Hajj with almost three million people
because they’re acting on texts because they take
the text seriously. Therefore, they take the long
and arduous journey to Mecca and then to Medina, and
similarly on abstention from alcohol and from
pork and whatnot. So if the text was so strong
and driving action as it does in other spheres then
presumably it should be act– forcing action in relation
to those who disagree with the hardline
interpretations or those who have a position
on non-Muslims, Jews, Christians and pagans. We should– most of many more of us should become
violent and suicide bombers. And that’s the logical
conclusion of a text driven argument
that you should have– I mean we should be having
all-out apocalyptic murder out there, you know, because
1.6 billion Muslims would go fanatical, you know. We won’t be dwelling in the
fringes it’d be drilling in the firmly in the centre. But that’s not happening
because it’s the other way around that most Muslims who are
extreme and who are fanatical and who are indeed
Jihadists go to the texts to find justification. And I say that as someone
who was born and raised in the Muslim tradition. My father was an
observant Muslim. My mother was a regular
recite of the Quran. From a very young age, I was
steeped into that tradition. And, you know, I memorise
large chunks of the Quran. I’d mastered Arabic. I had the Jewish classes. I had [inaudible] classes. There’s a jurisprudence and
mastering of the Quran classes. And at no point was I
encouraged to either take up violence or support violence. Yes, there are violent verses
in the Quran or verses referring to violence in the Quran. Yes, there are verses that
have negative reference to Jews in the Christians. And yes, there are
verses that good verses that call for violence. But we always understood
this was a context in 7th century Arabia when the
Prophet Muhammad was punished in the most arduous of terms. And this is rather than turned
the cheek that Jesus did in a three-year ministry, Muhammad tolerated
the punishments and the torture for–
in a 10-year ministry. And on that 11th year, he
fought violence with violence or some say defence,
some say offence. Whatever the reading of history
is that he did take up arms and permission was
granted to him. And that’s the language
of the Quran. Permission is granted to you. In other words, it’s not
the norm it’s the exception. So and yes I was drawn
into that world view. And yes I and embrace the
narrative of, you know, destroying Israel, overthrowing
Western governments, removing every Muslim government
and creating a caliphate. And now when I wrote
the Islamist, it came out about
nine years ago. Most people thought that
I was being an alarmist in exposing this rhetoric of
a caliphate in the underworld. But as we saw with ISIS,
that is not a deluded pursuit and on the part of
extremists and– well, we saw ourselves as revolutionaries we
never saw ourselves as extreme or as radical. Now that said, you know, I
think it was Bill Clinton who said there’s nothing
wrong with America that can’t be fixed with–
by what’s right with America, I don’t want to crouch
into your territory.>>Yeah, yeah, I know.>>But similarly in Islam,
there’s nothing wrong with Islam that cannot be corrected
by what’s right in Islam. So whether it’s the text or the
action or the other way around, the antidote– I don’t use that because the festival
is called Antidote. The antidote to extremism
and terrorism is also within those very same texts,
in other words, the Quran and the literature that the
Prophet Muhammad left behind.>>Well, I have two kinds of
literalists really that I have to cope with in dealing with
right-wing extremism and one of them, some of our
religious, we have, you know, the fanatical– you actually
recall them Christian reconstructionists but they want to impose a Christian
state on the United States. And they use– well, we use to call it a fundamentalist
interpretation of Biblical scripture. Now, we tend to say
literalists or, you know, various evangelical. But either way, it’s this
insistence and this notion that these words mean one
thing and one thing only. And of course anyone familiar
with language and the nature of language is that that’s not
actually how language works, right? And for many years and, you
know, over the course of time, especially in the case of
the Bible which has been gone through multiple
translations and you’re going to actually find
various versions that actually use a
lot of different words. It becomes clear that, you know, those interpretations
are very much open to their own interpretation but the fundamentalists
always insist that their interpretation
is the only proper one. And the fraud and of
course then the other kind of literalists they have to
deal with they’re the ones that you mentioned, we call
them constitutionalists or– the constitutionalists
are very much a component of the patriot militia movement. And they insist on this very–
a very particular interpretation of what the words of
the constitution mean. But actually– and this is where
the fraud of it all is kind of revealed is that that in reality constitutionalists
interpretations of what the constitution
says have never been accepted in United States courts. Because of course the courts
understand how the law works, they understand how
the constitution works and they understand that
it can change overtime and our understanding
of the meanings of those words can
change as well. And in fact, there
isn’t a single component of the core constitutionalist
worldview that has been legitimated
at all by American courts. It’s very much outside
of the actual mainstream.>>Except perhaps
the Second Amendment.>>Yeah, possibly. Well, actually no, no. They believe that,
unlike the courts, that the Second Amendment
actually gives you the right to own any weapon you want to. So I’ve heard them
actually argue that the Second Amendment gives
you the right to own a tank or a missile or perhaps
even a nuclear bomb. So, no, no, the courts don’t–
have never agreed with that, so.>>Yeah.>>I think the Second
Amendment thing is particularly interesting. Knowing it– the language
of that amendment– I should have written
down the exact text, but it often said it’s
the right bear arms but the actual amendment is
longer than that and speaks to the need to maintain–>>A well regulated militia. Yeah. And what about– They always say what about
shall not be infringed, don’t you understand? That’s one of their
favourite lines. And I go, well, what about well
regulated, don’t you understand?>>But the militia part of it
comes up in your book a lot that the militia movement,
the patriot militia movement and the US, it was something
that I hadn’t read a lot about before I came
across your book but–>>Yeah.>>– I think it’s fascinating.>>Yeah, yeah. I know it’s often overlooked
part of the radical right in the United States
because we’ve actually tended to focus on the alt-right. You know, that’s been the
sexy story but the reality is that the patriot militia
movement worldview is really widespread in rural America–>>And this is people sort
of organising themselves into small groups that
are well armed to–>>Very really armed.>>– you know protect
the border or protect certain property.>>Well yeah. Just have guns.>>”Protect”.>>They yeah, they actually– if what they argue is that
the Second Amendment is there to prevent the government from imposing any
suppression on them. So I call it the insurrectionary or insurrectionist
interpretation of the Second Amendment
which is that, you know, somehow the Founding Fathers
wanted people to be able to have guns so that they
could overthrow the government that they were creating. You know, and it’s nonsense
of course it has no grounding in reality and yet this is
what they very deeply believe and you’ll hear people at
the– in the NRA, you know, Dana Loesch, the NRA spokeswoman
has said this exact same thing numerous times. So it’s actually being promoted
at this very high level. You’ll hear people
say it on Fox News but it has no actual
basis in reality.>>Jeff, in the Green
Room you mentioned, not to brag that we were
in the Green Room but–>>Its pretty special folks.>>Yeah.>>But you mentioned that
you went along to one of the Milo Yiannopoulos
talks in Australia and the crowd there
sort of surprised you. I am curious about the element
to which the Internet has played in spreading I guess
this extreme outright– extreme is a most
version of the world and to everyone on the panel. But, particularly, I think it
was interesting what you were saying about who was in
the crowd at that talk.>>Yeah, people might have seen
that Australia has registered on the radar of only sort of
fighting Right-Wing Hucksters. It’s a place you can come
and you can shoot your wares and you’ll get good
crowds because, you know, we had Lauren Southern, we had– we’re going to get
the proud guys–>>Stefan Molyneux.>>Stefan Molyneux, we had
Milo and so they’re all coming out here and they’re all
making big bank doing so.>>And they all got
visas interest.>>They all get visas.>>Slower to take.>>But the Milo event
was kind of interesting because his shtick is so
shameless in the sense that he will do the same act
that he does all over the world and he’ll drop in a couple
of topical references. So, you know, he’ll say
something about a local feminist but otherwise it’ll be the
same thing he’s done all over the world. And I was expecting it to be
largely to made up of kind of angry young men
who are the sort of stereotype of the alt-right. There were quite a
few angry young men but what surprised
me was the extent to which he was pulling
a kind of suburban crowd as well including
kind of families who knew not only all his
greatest hits and would laugh when he would say, you know,
him saying feminism is cancer or whatever, you know,
all this catchphrase that he’s established
over the years. But they also knew he’s various
run-ins with other figures in the American alt-right. And I was listening
to the conversations when we were in the [inaudible]. They would tune in to this
far right kind of multiverse through platforms like YouTube. So these are figures
who wouldn’t get a run in the mainstream
Australian media by and large. But if you’re accustomed to watching Milo’s YouTube
videos you’ll be served that videos from other
alt-right personalities and you quickly become
familiar with the whole universe of these people and you side
with one as opposed to another. And I think a lot of people
who went to the Milo event, there are a lot of
people in the media who had convinced
themselves that this was going to be a bust, you
know, because no one that they knew were the
slightest bit interested in my life. But when you went there that actually they’re
pulling quite big crowds and there are lots of sort of
alienated suburban families who find this message as
clearly fraudulent as it is and the Milo shtick is so
shamelessly transparently, cocks earning for money,
this defamation here. But anyway–>>We are being streamed live.>>Anyway, Ann Coulter joining
him this trip is another fan culture.>>Ann Coulter, yeah.>>So it’s going to get better.>>Better.>>That’s right. But they clearly finding
an audience in ways that you wouldn’t
kind of expect.>>Did you speak to
anyone in the crowd? To anyone who was kind
of there and why they– what brought them to the show?>>Yes. So for a lot of them,
it’s sort of familiar things, hostility to political
correctness was a big thing. It was very hard to find people to tell you what political
correctness actually was but everyone is against it.>>Yeah, there is no
right-wing version of political correctness
is there.>>Yeah. There was a lot of
sense that these were people who might in other circumstances
have supported Pauline Hanson but the American
versions were slicker. If you know what I mean, that
Milo is more entertaining than Pauline Hanson
or Peter Dutton.>>They always thought that up.>>Yeah.>>It’s been a show.>>That that’s right and,
you know, the stage showed that he puts on his very
rock and roll, you know, he comes on to music
and it’s sort of a cross between like a far-right rally
in a stand-up routine, so yeah.>>Did you find that this
similar, I guess education on the Internet is
playing a role in extremism within Islam especially
for I guess younger men, I guess it’s mostly men and–>>It is mostly men although,
you know, we’ve seen women go and join ISIS, or wanting
to be Jihadi brides even if it’s a second wife
or a third wife perhaps to take that position. Astonishing that aide
and aspiration and be that position can be found
in mainstream society today. But I think that’s part of the
problem that young Muslims. In the past if you had a
question, you would go either to your parents or to an Imam
at a mosque who’d undergone, you know, at least 6
to 7 years of training and therefore would understand
scripture in its whole. And Muslims, I mean,
always saw– I’d give you a very
quick example. There are lots of problematic
references in Hadith literature, what the Prophet Muhammad
allegedly said or did not say. And again in the house of Islam, I talked about that
in great detail. But there was always the Imam or
the jurist who was seen as a GP or a general practitioner. So you would go if you had a
question on, you know, on life and the GP would address that
by going to the pharmacist and selectively choosing what
was relevant for the context. Now, everyone’s a GP and
everyone’s a pharmacist. In the Muslim tradition,
in other words, we can just Google our
problem and the guys who are most active are
called Sheikh Google now. Now that you can just you can
just look up your question and bypass 1,400 years of
culture and nuance history, tradition and grammar, syntax,
poetry, allegory, metaphor. All of that is just,
you know, gobbledygook. So you just go straight
to the source. And often, a very literal
interpretation of the source and now Archbishop of Canterbury
is a good friend of mine, Justin and he often says that that the literal
interpretation claims that is not an interpretation. That it’s the true Word of God, I’m afraid that is
an interpretation. So that interpretation wins out. So the Internet is crucial, the
Google search is a brilliant, but you know, part
of the problem. But you’re right, that the
use of YouTube that many of the ISIS, Jihadists and others then found Anwar
al-Awlaki who then allowed and introduced them to others. So there’s a– that the
modern algorithm is part of the problem I’m afraid that,
you know, you go in searching for one item and it leads
to a whole underworld. Now at least with Rupert Murdoch
and Fox News and by the way as one of your exports, I
always like it where, you know, Australia people assume that
all Fox News and all that stuff on the– in Europe and in
America we have nothing to do with it, you know, it’s
just homegrown problems. I mean, you gave
us Rupert Murdoch. So, at least with Murdoch
there was recourse, you know, you knew where the problem
lies and you could identify. With Google and YouTube and–
you can’t identify the problem. So that is then without
doubt part of the challenge that is the most extremists
goes straight to the Internet to search the question. And then get connected to
others who think similarly and one reason why ISIS was
so successful in taking off so quickly was their– the
use of the online space.>>Now, and that came up you
open your book with that kind of a recounting of Dylann
Roof who walked into a church in Charlestown and opened fire.>>Yeah, the day after Trump
announced his candidacy.>>Yeah.>>Yeah.>>And he was radicalised
to white nationalism, white power movements
through the internet. He never really met up
with any of these groups–>>Right.>>– in person.>>Well it’s certainly
something that we have observed in the last four
years is that a lot of these radicalise
young men are joining– are not joining hate groups in the way we saw before rather
they’re becoming entirely radicalised online. And, yeah, Dylann Roof is sort
of the apotheosis of this that, you know, that you’re– you don’t have to join
a hate group anymore to get radicalised. And in many regards the Internet
actually plays really a central role in the spread of all
this partly through two means. One is as with ISIS and
Islamist radicalism, it is able to connect people from very disparate geographical
locations and as well as within the privacy of
their own homes in way that they’re not
exposed publicly when they join an
actual hate group. And this is something that we
actually saw really going back into the ’90s. A lot of the original militia
movement was organised online. It was very crude back then. They didn’t have social media,
it was mostly, you know, email forwards and these very
early versions of websites that enabled people
to connect in ways that they never could before. And it was also, of course, the weight you could keep these
very extreme views just sort of within your cluster. The other effect of the
Internet, of course, is what actually
happens on the Internet and the way people interact
and that is that, you know, it feels like you’re
talking to somebody. It feels like you’re
having a human exchange but it’s actually
just a simulacrum of an actual human exchange. It’s because you’re just
actually exchanging with bits of information on
a computer screen. You don’t have the
voice intonation. You don’t see an actual
physical presence of someone because of this it’s very, very easy for the
humanization to take place. And the humanization
is really so much of what drives the radical
right in the United States. I believe it’s also a really key
component of radical Islamist– Islamism and that’s, you
know, this is really a lot of what we’re trying to grapple
with is the extent to which that sort of humanization
takes place. And it can take place– in
fact as Jeff says for us, the demographic isn’t
poor people. Certainly with the patriot
militia movement it was mostly rural folks both the alt-right,
these are mostly suburban kids. We had– I covered a Milo,
you know, event as well on Inauguration night 2017
and it was extremely violent. Turned out to be extremely
violent outside, a man was shot about 10 feet away from me
and it was rather frightening. And, yeah, but inside Milo was,
you know, what’s the speech and it was fundamentally
incoherent. I couldn’t understand what
he was actually trying to say other than, yeah,
let’s hate other people. Let’s hate liberals.>>If you do have a question, we’re going to be taking some
soon, so just make your way to the microphone
closest to you. But I think an important part
of this conversation both in Australia and the US
is the aspect of racism that is playing out here. Dylann Roof was a
white supremacist. In Australia a lot of the– I guess fringe right or
rather it is being driven by Islamophobia, xenophobia. I’m not quite sure what
the best question to ask on that is given
that we are a panel.>>Short on thing.>>Yes, exactly but, I mean,
I’m curious do you feel like the liberal white
middle class person saying that the alt-right is a
fringe and is a problem in America is trying
to cast this off as a fringe problem
rather than dealing with the underlying
racialized element of the hate and fear that is driving this?>>Well, I think I’
going to get that. I think that comes back to
where we started, I mean I think if you had to number the number
of organised far-right groups or individuals in Australia,
we probably be talking to a less than a thousand. So it’s not a huge
movement in Australia. But on the other hand, if you
talk about say Islamophobia or if you talk about the
rhetoric of white genocide in South Africa, we are
hearing that that now from the very top echelons
of the Australian Government, and that is mainstream. So you know, when Peter
Dutton says that people in Victoria are too– people in
Melbourne are too scared to go out for dinner because
of African gangs. This is a rhetoric that previously was
associated with what? Nationalism that it’s
now being voiced by a man who very nearly became Prime
Minister, a couple of weeks ago, so it’s not surprising when this
rhetoric is at the very heart of politics in Canberra that it
gets a resonance well beyond the fringes of the far-right. And it’s also not surprising that the fringe far-right
can put themselves at a head of a broader movement when this
rhetoric is being mainstreamed. So, you know, if you’ve
looked back in Australia in the 1920’s a kind of baseline
anti-Semitism was fairly normal in Australian society. You know, you would
get people talking about the Jews dressed
differently. They were linked to violence
in the Russian Revolution, they had strange food. They had a strange religion. You don’t hear that
so much today but you hear almost
exactly the same tropes in every mainstream
newspaper about Islam. And it’s not surprising
then it finds a resonance in the population
more generally. So again, is that fringe
or is that the mainstream?>>I think about that piece
that I think a few weeks ago, there was a huge session
at a mosque in Lakemba where thousands of people prayed
and it was for a celebration but I’m sorry, I can’t
remember exactly what it was but there were thousands
of people and part of what they prayed for was rain to break the drought
in New South Wales. And the Daily Mail chose to run
that under the headline “Praying for rain bomb, thousands of
Muslims pray at Lakemba mosque.” And that I think that
level of Islamophobia in mainstream media
is, I mean, I can’t I– I’m a journalist but I
can’t escape the fact that the media plays
a role in this as well and in fuelling this
and mainstreaming it. Is it– do you feel like
it’s similar in the US?>>Yeah, Fox News. Pretty simple answer and
not just Fox, of course, but because it does
Fox’s standards creep over into places
like CNN as well. And it’s, you know, a lot of
this is fueled by this fear of losing a dominant
position in society. I might add as well this is also
profoundly misogynist movement and I believe that’s also
the case with radicalism as misogyny is really a big
component of the alt-right. And it’s always been a
sort of an undercurrent within Neo-Nazism going back
to the 1920 or Nazism itself in the 1920’s and ’30s had
this element of control over women’s bodies it was
actually part of their thinking. So and a lot of this is,
as I said, is about a fear of losing control, fear of losing the position
of dominance.>>Ed, what do you think
is driving extremism– extreme Islamist? Do you think it is because
it’s obviously not fear of losing dominance,
I mean Islam is one of the fastest growing
religions in the world. I feel like it’s– it– I’m not
sure what the driver is there.>>But part of the driver
is where we started, you know, a desire to dominate. Another is a return to
a past form of glory. And there are a whole
range of factors, you know, Western domination. But underlying it all isn’t just
grievances against the West. It’s also a desire to for them to become what we saw
under ISIS control. But on what’s just been said I’d like to make a couple
of remarks if I may. And I’m sorry if this
kind of breaks the beauty of the Australian consensus
culture you have here but whether it’s
politicians here in Australia i.e.
Pauline Hanson. I only mention her because
she’s the one that rocks up in our newspapers
with her comments. I didn’t mean that appearing
with the book part in– or whether it’s, you know,
Marine Le Pen in France or whether it’s alt-right
bigots in America or whether it’s the party in
Austria that scored over 20% or whether it’s the party in
Germany that’s on the rise. Across Europe, across the
West, the new bigotry, the new hatred isn’t about
black people, isn’t about Sikhs, isn’t about the Chinese. Is– Isn’t even about the
hatred of the Nazis that led to Jewish people being killed. It’s about Muslims
and it’s about Islam and that’s the new
bogeyman and it’s wrong, it’s flawed, it’s unacceptable. Yeah, and all of that said
we have to accept and that’s as I say this is a Muslim and
a proud and observant Muslim that often it’s a
sad and ugly reaction to terrorism and extremism. And we saw this off as
Charlie Hebdo in France that the economists in a poll
unrelated to Charlie Hebdo because they know it’s– they didn’t know it
was going to happen. And rates of anti-Muslim
sentiment by and large in France were low. Charlie Hebdo happens
and rockets and the rates of anti-Muslim hatred plum,
you know, go up high, rocket. There’s a correlation similarly
in America 9/11 was abysmal that was wrong and
should not have happened and we should condemn it and
yeah in the strongest terms. And after 9/11, we saw a
rocketing of Islamophobia. Now, what we had was George
Bush at least going to a mosque and saying Islam and Muslims
are not responsible for that which I think is the
right attitude to have. But now if something like this
happen we can see Donald Trump’s rhetoric being, you
know, outdoing the worst of the bigots in
the last century. So we are in very
dangerous territory in the Islamist extremism and terrorism has had among
other reasons being a cause for the rise of a very fascist
movement across the world. That then paralyses the centre because if the centre
doesn’t talk about it, I’m afraid there are people out
there who are only too willing to talk about it in
the UK’s Nigel Farage and others here you’ve got the
politicians that I’ve mentioned. Now when the centre
does talk about it, it gets accused of
being bigoted. We have got to find a way of
our politicians centre left, centre right to talk about
this issue, in other words, condemned the extremism
and terrorism that comes out of Islamism and honour– and allow for most normal
mainstream Muslims to prosper and thrive as citizens not as a collective group
full of victimhood. And on the other hand,
condemned the fascism, and the terrorist led
extremism that’s coming out from the far-right,
the loop ends of our world and the Austrian and the
five-star movement in Italy and the, you know, Deutschland
first party that’s coming off free Deutschland
party that AUD coming out of Germany condemn those. And unless we allow for that
to happen in the centre, in other words, we must have
this conversation and allow for the extremes on
both to be suffocated. And I’m afraid and that there’s
an extremism that’s not been mentioned here and as the
extremism of the far-left. When the extremism of the far-left either Red
Alliance wants to do a deal with the Greens [inaudible]
Islamists, you suffocate everybody
and we’ve got to be open and honest and accepted. In my country, people like Jeremy Corbyn are
part of the problem. The mainstream Labour
Party is now dominated by an anti-Semitic man and
an anti-Semitic movement in the name of freedom
of speech on Israel. You know, if you want to make
deals with the Hamas, Hezbollah and other extremist terrorists
in the name of peacemaking. Then you should also be talking
to the Israeli government because you don’t make peace
without talking to the guys who are currently in power. So we have a triple threat
I’m afraid, you know, the extremist terrorists on
the Islamist front and then on the far-right and then
also on the far-left. Now unless we’re all conscious
of this triple threat, I’m afraid we will be
leaving our, you know, a society that we should be
conserving, a civilisation that we should be protecting
to our children, our children which will not be the harmony
and the peace we’ve seen in the last 70 to 75 years. So the stakes are very high
and part of this battle is to understand what’s
going on inside Islam and then you have I’m
afraid got to take sides in this battle inside Islam that has these external
manifestations that occasionally sees
the visit of terrorism in our cities and countries.>>I don’t agree with
a word that of but–>>I’m unconscious, we
have to get the questions but you can wave your
response into Eros and answer to one of these questions.>>Well, I mean, in the
Australian situation, I think it’s really
clear though.>>Or not.>>We don’t.>>I’m sorry. No, I just–>>I might just take a
question but I’m sure you can–>>Yeah, that’s fine.>>Perhaps we have
someone at number two.>>All right and
thank you for this. I have one question that has
two parts maybe I’m sneaking two questions. My first one which you have
already, I mean, started talking about it why the word terrorism
is always reserved for Arabs and Muslims in our media even
though the same act can be taken by others it’s I often
describe are loonies or the mental health person–>>Yeah.>>– or whatever. That’s my–>>Isolated incidents.>>Sorry?>>Isolated incidents
that we described, yes.>>My second question, where do
you think our current government is going especially within the
liberal party where Morrison and Peter Dutton and Tony
Abbott and where we are heading? Are we going to the extremist
position or what are we doing?>>Jeff, maybe we
can start with you.>>Yeah, well there’s
a lot to unpack there. I mean, in terms of Australia, one of the things that’s rarely
discussed is the majority of terrorism historically in Australia has been
committed by the far-right. It’s simply not true that the
historic majority of terrorism in Australia has been committed
by Islamists of any kind but I’d go back to what I’m
saying what I said before. Actually, Pauline Hanson in Australia is the most
overt racist politician that we have out there. Pauline Hanson is polling what? Twenty percent, if she’s lucky,
the real Islamophobic racism in Australia is coming
from the government. And I think that’s– I
think until we acknowledge that then it’s easy
to reassure ourselves by saying the problem
is over there with this fringe
far-right group. But it’s not the
rhetoric that’s coming out of Peter Dutton’s mouth. The rhetoric that’s coming
out of Tony Abbott’s mouth, the rhetoric that’s coming out
of Scott Morrison’s house– mouth is some, you know, rhetoric that previously
would have been reserved to the fringe. And it’s the radicalization
is not simply about Islam either it’s also
about refugees in Australia. And that in some ways I’d say that the refugee
sentiment is stronger than the anti-Muslim
sentiment, I’m very, very wary of an explanation
of this that starts by suggesting it’s
the fault of a victim and I think that’s totally the
wrong way to proceed about. I forget what the rest of–>>The term terrorism
being used in the media to describe violence perpetrated
by someone who is Muslim versus not being
used for someone who perhaps is a you know
Christian extremist like or someone like Dylann Roof.>>Well, look I think we have
to be honest about this as well. Yes, 9/11 was a terrible
atrocity. Since 9/11 security has to
bring the predominant discourse of the far– of the
right around the world. In Australia we have spent
hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on anti-terror laws
and legislation. We’ve introduced a draconian
set of anti-terror laws and terror has been
the predominant mode of foreign policy discourse
in Australia since then out of all proportion to the
real threat that terrorism poses to people in Australia. And I know that’s an
unpopular thing to say but it plays a very, very
useful role for the right in Australian politics. And I think in terms of where
we are going, well I don’t think that Peter Dutton’s
failed attempt at the prime ministership
is over yet. So I think that is
probably where we go.>>Jeff, if you were
Prime Minister would you, impose any immigration
controls in Australia and if so what would they be?>>What do you mean?>>Now that’s a simple question. Would you have immigration
controls on Australian borders?>>Well OK, I’m not Prime
Minister, sorry it’s not– in some respects it’s not
a fair question to ask me. But I think we are moving to a
world where either we’re going to have to double down on
erecting Trump like walls or we’re going to have
to move to a position that allows people to immigrate.>>Any limits?>>I would be much more prepared to open the borders
than we are now. Yes. I don’t I don’t
see why that’s a controversial position–>>Because in the UK and across
Europe this is the issue. So do we need a Trump like wall?>>No, no that’s
between the extremes of completely opening
the borders and completely shutting
the borders. There is a sensible control
caveated thoughtful need based assessed position
on immigration. I’m not– I don’t know
your country well enough to comment on it. But I just hear from
the left this thing about bashing governments
on immigration. You know, in Germany one of
the reasons why Brexit happened by the way, sorry and then
we’ll take more question. I’d be very quick.>>Right.>>One of the reasons
why Brexit happened was because in 2015 there was an
influx and then rightful influx of Syrian migrants
coming in to Germany in the most horrendous
conditions in Syria and it was right. But what that led to was
an uptick of all kinds of sensitivities in Germany. And the far-right
in my country saying if we allow more migrants
coming in, we’ll see that kind of attacks we saw in Dusseldorf
and Cologne happen in Germany after Angela Merkel let in 1.2
million refugees in one year. Tony Blair, a friend of
mine, I worked with him for about three years. Let in almost three million
refugees from 1997 to 2007. When you shock societies out
there, ordinary people, us as, you know, thinkers,
readers you’re, you know, we’re part of an elite that
thinks about these things by virtue of you being here. You’re part of that elite,
you’re reading, you’re thinking, you’re reflecting you
have an open mind. But go speak to the ordinary
man and a woman who’s in the UK or parts of Europe whose pub
has been converted to a mosque or the church has changed. It does something to
people’s identity. Don’t mess with that,
so readily and so often without a clear position on whether you would
shutdown immigration entirely or what number you’re
allowed to accept or not. I say so because in my
country, the Labour Party and Diane Abbott the home
affairs spokesperson was asked this question and she
just said, oh yeah, we’ll just open the borders
and no limits whatsoever. That’s not sensible politics,
you know, politicians are about to be, you know,
people in the middle between multiple options. If you don’t have a better
position be critical of, you know, be conscious
of what you criticise because utopia isn’t an answer to real policy and
real politics.>>But Ed, we started this
discussion with me reading you out an account of what’s
concretely happening here and now we have a child who
has set herself on fire.>>You’re entirely right. I’m not taking away
for a second but–>>But you’re saying–>>There’s a bigger picture, you’re giving the
Australian [inaudible].>>But you’re saying that we
shouldn’t move to [inaudible]. This is the current position.>>Is an Australian specific
in your right and the specific, my point is a generality
in a global issue. We’ve got across the West now
anti-Muslim parties emerging and it’s hitting on
immigration levels and we’ve got to have this conversation.>>OK.>>But not without you, I
don’t now what I would do.>>Would you post me
a specific question, let me post a specific
question to you. At the moment, we are
detaining refugees in detention centres Manus
Island in Nauru indefinitely. People who have come to Australia searched they
have been found to be refugees, they are now– we have children
burning themselves to death on Nauru and Manus Island, do
you agree with this or not?>>Absolutely not.>>OK.>>Well why would you pour post
as a moral question in the way that you too because you know–>>This is what the
mainstream in Australia says.>>OK, well look, I don’t
know Australia to comment. I know Europe and I know America
and there, you know, we could– we go– I think well
should have as a caveated and controlled immigration
policy that leads to integration, that leads
to newcomers integrating and being part of society
rather than blowing themselves up because they hate the
other among which they reside. So real issue, we’ve got
to be able to talk about it without feeling as they
were being racist or wanting to impose the kind of
freedoms on immigration that your thoughts reflect. I’m just conscious we’ve got
three people I don’t want to–>>No. Let’s get
one more question.>>Hi. So I love the
discussion particularly around the definition, you know,
what really defines extremism and so that’s what
my questions about. You’ve mentioned your first
few examples were about Nauru and I want to kind of juxtapose that with what’s happening
in the US with Trump. You know, when the– when
Michael Cohen got indicted, Trump forms actually
suppressed that and will start as kept I’m going on about
ice and trying to say that, you know, oh like that poor
girl who got murdered it was by an illegal immigrant et
cetera, et cetera, right? So there’s there was very much
a lot of mainstream support for, you know, for emigrate like
taking out illegal immigrants and being harsh on
immigration in the US. So I guess what I wanted to
ask regarding the definition of extremism is, is there
a deontological standard against which you can, you know,
judge gradients of extremism or, you know, with what happened
in the US with Trump winning, are we simply seeing
a realignment of what is actually
considered centrist?>>Would be Dave do you want to?>>Yeah, that’s a
very good question. I do think well and going
back also to the question about how do we define what’s
a terrorist that, you know, I put together a database
a couple of years ago or actually just got
published last year of domestic terrorism looking
and using the FBI dimension of domestic terrorism. It’s insane that Dylann
Roof was not classified as a domestic terrorist and
what actually changed the sort of public discourse on
domestic terrorism was 9/11. Prior to 9/11, Americans
understood that you know Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph could
be terrorists as well. And after 9/11 it became pretty
much the dominant narrative that a terrorist was
someone of Arabic origin with a turban basically. Which is why, you know, we have
Sikh taxi drivers being attacked by thugs in the United States
and being accused of terrorists. So a lot of this has to
do with media narratives in the way we discussed
these things in the media. But it also has to do with,
you know, the general framework of how we understand extremism. What Ed was saying, I
thought about the three kinds of extremism, the
radical Islamism and the American far-right. I think they’re both actually
creatures of the far-right and as well as the far-left of who I can tell you are
becoming they’re not nearly the problem in the states
that the other in particular the
radical right is, but they are becoming a problem. And the thing that
actually unites all three of them is authoritarianism and
ultimately that is what we are up against is democracy
versus authoritarianism. Those of us who believe
in democracy, those of us who believe
in the values of democracy and in democratic
institutions are now arrayed against a variety of different
kinds of authoritarians. And this authoritarianism
is the trend, is a global trend that’s
happening around the world and it’s certainly not
just in the United States, not just in Europe and
not just in Australia. We’re seeing it in countries all
around the world and that is, that I believe is the real
challenge that we face. [ Applause ]>>Potentially I have time for
one more, just keep it short.>>Sure, in Australia,
Islamophobia and anti-refugee sentiment and
anti-blackness all get a lot of attention in the
media and in conversation and they’re called
extreme as they should be. But my question is why don’t
many Australians consider the government’s policies
about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people to be extreme– extremist points of view? Because we have like more
children being taken away from their families than even
during the Stolen Generation, we have deaths in custody which are now being
counted by the Guardian. But I feel like what is
that is because they’re not as internationally prevalent
is it because of shame? Like why don’t we treat
these terrible policies as like the Northern Territory
intervention that’s ongoing as extremist?>>It’s a really good
question if you go back to Pauline Hanson’s
maiden speech in 1996. Anti-aboriginal racism
is was a major feature. When I went to that Milo
Yiannopoulos event that was one of his topical references
was to come out and say, say some racist things
about indigenous people which generated a laugh
through the crowd. And I think it’s I think
what you’re saying is true that it has being immobilising
thing for the far-right here and again it’s a
sentiment that’s been coming from the government as well. I should say the Northern
Territory intervention is something that very few
Australians know very much of that and would
never have happened to any other population other
than the indigenous population. And it’s really clear.>>Unfortunately that
is all we have time for, but there is obviously so
much more to talk about. I’d like everyone to
thank our panellists. [Applause].>>Thank you.>>Thanks guys.

One thought on “Fringe-dwellers & fanatics | #ANTIDOTE 2018

  1. This is why far-Left Libertarianism/Anarchism is key. It pushes for more equitable society, whilst staying firmly critical of hierarchy (being most critical of Authoritarianism & Totalitarianism).

    This is not to say an Anarchist cannot become an extremist that uses disproportionate violence, but I feel the ideology in-general is more fundamentally opposed to forceful imposition of any kind.

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