Over the past week, there has been a lot of debate about who exactly has taken the streets of Melbourne by storm. It has been claimed on several occasions, including by union leaders, that the protests, which began against mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations and restrictions on the construction industry, have been “infiltrated”, ” orchestrated ”or otherwise organized by far-right actors.
So far, allegations of far-right manipulation have been vague and imprecise. No one has yet identified actual far-right figures involved in organizing the protests (although some did attend), given any evidence of what they did or even be clear about what they did. mean exactly by “extreme right”.
So far, there is little indication of any significant involvement of known far-right groups or actors in the organization of the protests. Indeed, as anyone who watched them knows, the protests were hardly “organized”. The meeting points are sent via Telegram and individuals share them on their own social media accounts on other platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Beyond these meeting points, however, there hasn’t really been much organizing in the protests to date.
It is clearly true that there have been individuals with far-right beliefs in online groups and on the streets of Melbourne over the past few days. However, there is no good reason to believe that these people make up the majority of the crowd. The nature of these kinds of ‘anti’ protests is that the participants are united by who they are. versus, but often have very different opinions on what they are for. Protesters are likely to be motivated by a range of views, ranging from a genuine opposition to compulsory vaccination on the grounds that it violates their rights, to an equally genuine belief that Bill Gates is using vaccines to spread the word. microchips to people in the name of Satan.
Calling all of these far-right people, white supremacists or neo-Nazis, as the construction union has suggested, is not only inaccurate. This is actively harmful, as it gives anti-containment protesters a propaganda tool they can use to their advantage. The logic is this: “They say we are white supremacists, but we are not. If they lie to you about it, what else are they lying about?
In a slew of protest talks and live videos over the past week, protesters have reacted angrily to the suggestion that they are far-right extremists. Famous live streamer Rukshan Fernando spent the first few minutes of his video of Tuesday’s protests searching for non-white members of the crowd, jokingly asking them if they were white supremacists.
“I am here with the right-wing extremists,” he said, filming a group of Sikh protesters. “These are the neo-Nazi extremists here. The media say the workers in Victoria are right-wing neo-Nazi babies, but here we have people from India, Sikhs from the Punjab, working class Australians from all walks of life, and they call them Nazi babies. and right-wing extremists on television!
“So what I’m trying to show you guys is how the media and the authorities handled this whole thing with their bogus accounts,” he said. The video had received more than two million views as of September 24.
In another example, during the clash between protesters and police at the Shrine of Remembrance on Wednesday, a speaker with a megaphone said, “One thing I wouldn’t mind knowing is when they’re going to have a. better rhetoric than saying we are all white supremacists. I don’t see a lot of white supremacists! Maybe a. Come on man, we know your rhetoric, we’re on your rhetoric, and it’s weak. People see through, and we see through, and maybe that’s why [the police] must continue to show strength because you know your rhetoric is failing and the regime is dying. This video had been viewed 1.2 million times as of September 24.
It shows why it is so important to be precise, careful and evidence-based when talking about these protests, movements and groups. The erosion of trust in legitimate authorities and media is further eroded by oversimplified and inaccurate accounts of so-called shadowy far-right puppeteers that never seem to materialize.
The threat from the far right is real. Where there is clear evidence of the involvement of far-right groups or influences, this should be reported.
However, the use of “far right” as a generic label applied to every anti-foreclosure protest dilutes the meaning of the term, hinders understanding of what is really going on, and can be actively counterproductive.
We can’t fight conspiracy theories with our own research for invisible scarecrows. Inaccurate reporting and commentary on protests like the ones Melbourne has seen this week is undermining confidence when it matters most.