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Exit, Stage ... White

Extremism comes in all forms, but a new website aims to offer an alternative to young men at risk of becoming involved in white supremacy. Samuel Caldwell and Nadia Jamal report.

Australians are being brainwashed into accepting Muslims. There is a Jewish conspiracy controlling the media. Non-white immigration will lead to genocide.

These notions may appear over the top, but they are some of the beliefs held by Australia’s white supremacists, according to Exit White Power, a new local website.

Exit White Power, whose name is a play on ‘white power’ movements, is putting such presumptions on the public agenda and raising serious concerns about the presence of white supremacy in Australia.

The website is designed to plant a seed of doubt among young men who are at risk of becoming involved in white nationalism - and uses cartoons (see main image) to debunk myths sourced from various white power groups.

Some of the more recent public displays of white supremacy in Australia include the scrawling of Nazi graffiti on Melbourne graveyards and the state parliament in Victoria.

As well, two music festivals with links to the white supremacist movement have been held in Queensland and Victoria this year, the first time it is believed that two such events have been held in Australia in the same year. The festivals, promoted as ‘white nationalist’ concerts, attracted guests from overseas.

Exit White Power, which offers ways out for those involved in extremist white groups, is funded by the Federal Government and run by All Together Now, a “harm prevention” organisation staffed mostly by volunteers.

From October, Exit White Power’s online presence is expected to expand, with plans for an online forum that will answer real-time questions from readers about white supremacy. A mobile phone app about racism called ‘Everyday Racism’ will also be launched by All Together Now in October. 

'We have to make these interventions, against both hard and ‘soft’ forms of white supremacism at every opportunity.'

– Professor Suvendrini Perera, Curtin University

White supremacy and racism

‘Hate networks’ are often part of transnational white supremacist movements.

But it is “impossible” to get a precise idea of the prevalence of these groups and the extent of their membership, according to Professor Suvendrini Perera, an expert on race, ethnicity and multiculturalism from Perth’s Curtin University.

For Professor Perera, the real problem lies in the prevalence of racist attitudes in Australia.

“Australian white supremacy of course begins with the dispossession of Indigenous people and continues in the covert and overt ways in which that supremacy is perpetuated,” she said, adding that it was heartening that a number of groups are now directly confronting white supremacism.

“Exit White Power is one such group … This kind of courageous and innovative intervention, both online and at grassroots level, is very necessary,” she said.

“And we have to make these interventions, against both hard and ‘soft’ forms of white supremacism at every opportunity.”  

Across the world, a growing number of groups are being established to address white supremacy and racism, each with their own unique approach to tackling the problems.

A leader in the field of anti-white supremacy is the South Poverty Law Centre, which monitors hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States and exposes their activities to police, the media and the public.

There are currently about 1,000 known hate groups operating across America, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads and black separatists, the Centre’s website says. The number of hate groups has increased by 67 per cent since 2000, a surge the Centre attributes to anger and fear over America’s ailing economy, an increase in non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority.

Also on the international stage, Google Ideas launched Against Violent Extremism in 2011 to bring together former extremists and victims of extremist violence to address the overall problem of extremism.

White supremacists rival Muslim terrorists for online presence

Researchers at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, an independent think tank based in London, have argued that some of the most popular Islamist militant web forums are rivalled in popularity by white supremacist websites.

However, those involved in such forums still need private places to communicate and coordinate activities, raising questions about whether their use of the “deep” or “dark” web - a difficult area to monitor - is likely to increase.

Do violent white supremacists have anything in common with radicalised Muslim terrorists?

One common thread across the different extremist groups is the process of radicalisation, said Kate Barrelle, a forensic clinical psychologist currently undertaking PhD research at Melbourne’s Monash University on disengagement from violent extremism.

In Australia, this process usually involves a significant change in a person’s social network, including how the individual distances themselves from most members of their community and moves towards more anti-social groups.   

Becoming radicalised, however, manifests in different ways across ideological groups. While the type of music a person listens to, how they dress or who they hang out with varies across the different extremist groups, what is similar is that their “ideas become increasingly revolutionary and their action orientation increasingly aggressive where, at an extreme they endorse violent or other non-democratic ways of advancing their political goals”. 

Ms Barrelle said that many of the individuals in Australia who get involved in extremism join for social or personal reasons.

However, for young Australians who go back to their parents’ homeland (such as Syria) and experience political violence first-hand, it is a “game changer”.

“To see someone you love die, and the emotional accelerant that goes with that, hastens the radicalisation process massively,” said Ms Barrelle.

While the internet is “not the culprit or cause” for those who become disenfranchised, Ms Barrelle said that the online world allows such individuals to connect more easily - regardless of culture, time and distance - with others who may be wielding a bigger grudge.

Read more about conspiracy theories: \'Separating fact from fiction\'

The Point

A new website is taking on white supremacists

Author Note

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