FDB in the AJN

Peter Kohn profiles Fight dem back! for the Australian Jewish News.

Website seeks net loss for net-Nazis

A new trans-Tasman group is taking the fight against neo-Nazis to a new plane – cyberspace.

Describing the internet as “the Wild West for right-wing hate groups�, Mat Henderson-Hau has formed Fight Dem Back, a website to monitor the activities of Australian skinheads and “net-Nazis� such as Whitepride and Hitler’s Gas Bill (HGB).

Careful scrutiny of extremists’ websites can reveal a lot of unintended logistical information that police can use to combat their activities�, said Henderson-Hau, a Sydneysider who is the website’s campaign manager.

“While net-Nazis are sometimes paranoid about revealing things, at other times they can’t resist bragging about their activities and unwittingly letting us know what they’re up to. They haemorrhage information,� said Henderson-Hau.

Last week the group passed on information to WA police regarding a white supremacist in Perth who is believed to be an associate of the Australian Nationalist Movement (ANM) and is planning to set up an online “hit list� of anti-racist campaigners in Australia.

Fight Dem Back passed on details of the “Redwatch Downunder� project, which Henderson-Hau says aims to threaten and intimidate people who stand up against white supremacists.

Several people associated with the ANM were convicted last year for race-hate graffiti attacks on the Perth Hebrew Congregation.

Fight Dem Back’s turf is not confined to cyberspace, however; members of the organisation also turn up at race-hate rallies. Earlier this year, Henderson-Hau organised a coalition of community groups into a working bee to scrape off neo-Nazi stickers from the walls of school buildings and traffic lights in suburban Sydney.

“Our group consists of a diverse range of people with all kinds of backgrounds – Aborigines, Asians, Maoris. We’re mums and dads, we’re not the latte set, “he said.

A number of Jewish professionals are on Fight Dem Back’s 350 strong Australasian team, many of them deliberately keeping a low profile. In New Zealand, a well known anti-racist activist Asher Goldman is a prominent member of the organisation.

Henderson-Hau, 28 draws his media-savvy perspective from his advertising background. He grew up in multicultural north-western Sydney, is part-Maori, and quips that “skinheads make a big deal online of the fact I had something like a Jewish great-great grandmother�.

Fight Dem Back is currently target-ing the Sydney Forum, which has invited Holger Apfel of Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party to address its next conference in August. It has alerted the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Immigration that Apfel might be seeking a visa.

“Our effect has been that we cancel out the impact of the hate groups because we also draw media attention,� he said. “Before we came along, they were much more brazen.�

He said Fight Dem Back has “mainstreamed� the anti-fascist, anti-Nazi campaign in Australia and New Zealand. “When these characters hold a rally, you expect the usual socialist and anarchist groups and so on to come along and voice their opposition, but when Fight Dem Back turns up to these rallies, people understand that it’s more than that.�

New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies president David Knoll told the AJN Fight Dem Back was a valuable addition to the fight against extremist groups.

The Fight Dem Back website “has helped in trying to remove an unwelcome element from political discourse�, he said.

Knoll said the board has alerted the Department of Immigration to the planned visit of Holger Apfel.

Friday June 17, 2005

News brief · 17 June 2005