The following story appeared on ABC Radio’s PM yesterday:
MARK COLVIN: Researchers in Europe say the financial crisis and the immigration debate are fuelling support for far right groups. Young men, in particular, are joining them via social media.
The same sets of issues are politicising young Australians but commentators here say there isn’t the same attraction to fringe groups.
Adam Harvey reports.
ADAM HARVEY: Researchers with the British think-tank Demos say young Europeans are being drawn to far right groups and they’re showing their support in a very modern way, by becoming Facebook friends with, and Twitter followers of, organisations like the British National Party.
Demos surveyed the opinions of more than 12,000 supporters of the BNP and other anti-immigrant parties like Marine Le Pen’s French Front National, and Italy’s Northern League.
And the group used Facebook’s own data to analyse more than 400,000 supporters of these groups. Most are aged under 30, and more than 75 per cent were men.
Australian journalist and author Antony Loewenstein says the rise of the far right is no secret.
ANTONY LOEWENSTEIN: One of the things that is very clear in the last 10 years, particularly since September 11th has been the growth in anti-Muslim, anti-immigration parties in many European countries, including countries that were traditionally quite liberal, open minded towards immigration.
ADAM HARVEY: Loewenstein is a contributor to a new book on the rise of the far right. The book, “On Utoya” is a series of essays prompted by the massacre on Norway’s Utoya Island by extremist Anders Breivik.
ANTONY LOWENSTEIN: His manifesto, 1500 page manifesto very clearly stated mainstream views these days, mainstream being anti-immigration, anti-Islam, very, talking about white pride, white culture, very supportive of Israel, supportive of the idea of Israel being a strong nation dealing with the Islam or the Muslim and the Arab problem. And that’s the kind of thing that used to be on the fringes but now is very mainstream.
ADAM HARVEY: The Demos research found that far-right supporters like Breivik who may once have been anti-Semitic, have found a new enemy.
ANTONY LOEWENSTEIN: They way that Jews used to be viewed, as strange, weird, strange dresses, odd food, a threat to the harmonious society has now been replaced by the strange, crazy Muslim in these people’s languages.
ADAM HARVEY: Social media commentator Tommy Tudehope says it’s easier these days to join far right groups.
TOMMY TUDEHOPE: You know for something that’s unpopular or something that can be embarrassing or if you don’t want to be publicly seen to be backing a far right cause, jumping on the internet and a few clicks supporting such a movement gives you that anonymity and gives you that right to support that thing which you may previously not have had.
ADAM HARVEY: But Tommy Tudehope says it’s important not to confuse online support with actual feet on the ground and that’s as true for the far right, as it is for far left groups like the Occupy protesters.
TOMMY TUDEHOPE: And I think there needs to be a far more considered approach in measuring how effective or how actually authentic these movements are. Now the Occupy Sydney movement, they may have cultivated some online presence but there’s very few of them in the street.
ADAM HARVEY: He says Australians aren’t as likely to be drawn to the fringe.
TOMMY TUDEHOPE: People are less likely to subscribe to an extreme movement regardless of its belief system simply because of the fact they think, well you know if I’m going to make a difference, I’m going to have to vote anyway so I might as well do it at the ballot box every couple of years.
But you know in terms of extreme movements, we have a very stable democracy and both parties are you know relatively vibrant in their membership and offer relative ease in terms of joining.
So I don’t think there’s too much of a cause for any sort of extreme movements to pop up.
MARK COLVIN: Social media commentator Tommy Tudehope ending that report from Adam Harvey.