A trip inside the racist mindset

The last couple of weeks have seen FDB cropping up in all sorts of media. Print, tv, radio and numerous online outlets as well. Of all the stories to have involved us and our work, the following from David King and Paige Taylor in The weekend Australian has to be our favourite.

For starters, it doesn’t just examine our uncompromising antifa attitude, it also looks at our softer side. To any wavering fash reading this piece, yes, we can help you find a way out of the dead-end street that is racist activism.

Extremely vulnerable
David King and Paige Taylor
December 24, 2005

DAMON Blaxall warned his mother, Marion, to stay away from his racial vilification trial because he knew it would upset her too much. In court, the 29-year-old unemployed Perth man ranted against “ragheads”, denied the Holocaust and described his race-hate activities as a “stab in the face” against ethnic community leaders.

Blaxall was a member of the ultra right-wing Australian Nationalist Movement when he sprayed slogans and swastikas on a synagogue in July last year. This week he was sentenced to one year in jail.

Marion Blaxall, a semi-retired businesswoman from Perth’s southern suburbs, still struggles to understand where her son’s extremist views came from: “He knows I don’t agree with any of that stuff,” she tells Inquirer.

“As parents, there is absolutely nothing you can do … they get that sense of belonging and that’s it, they’re gone,” she says.

Damon Blaxall is a classic example of a young man who was vulnerable to the lure of extremist politics. Although his involvement with the ANM damaged his life, leading him further away from his family and landing him in serious trouble with the law, he does not see it that way.

“Being in the ANM has been a turning point in my life,” he wrote from prison last year while on remand, charged with a racist graffiti spree.

“There has been a great feeling of comradeship, trust and respect and we are made to feel that we are not a minority but a serious group of like-minded people banded together to fight Australian oppression.”

The group’s leader, Jack van Tongeren, became his mentor. “I have grown closer to Jack in two years than I have in 14 years with my [biological] father,” Blaxall wrote.

Since the unrest in Sydney between whites and men of “Middle Eastern appearance” before, during and after the Cronulla riots of December 11, the police and media spotlight has turned on the shadowy figures of the extreme Right. The Australia First Party, the Patriotic Youth League and the skinhead group Blood and Honour were at the violent Cronulla demonstration handing out leaflets and flyers.

The groups’ leaders deny involvement in any violence but ASIO has targeted them in its investigation of the riots. The far Right has sought to capitalise on the Cronulla riots, producing propaganda videos titled Battle for Cronulla, credited to White Nationalist TV.

Anti-racism campaigner Mat Henderson-Hau, who leads a web-based group called Fightdemback, says people lured to the shady groups are often angry young men who are socially isolated and feel marginalised. His group tries to expose far-Right groups and provide counselling for those who want to leave such groups. He says they might have struggled with drugs, mental illness or a family break-up. Often good jobs, cars and success elude them.

“There’s the younger people who are socially disaffected, they might not have that many friends, and all of a sudden there’s a family of bigger brothers who are coming along who, at least on the surface, offer a sense of brotherhood and unity,” Henderson-Hau says. “Protection is the most important part for a scrawny kid who might be getting kicked.”

Henderson-Hau says older men can also become vulnerable to the groups when going through a “quarter-life” crisis. “They have been running on the spot for a number of years, never getting promotions, never getting a decent job, never getting a girlfriend or a car,” he says. “Suddenly they see that flyer or that internet site and all of a sudden there are all these easy answers.”

It’s not hard to see how white supremacist groups can provide people with an explanation for often marginalised lives. “If they can’t get a job, then an immigrant took it, if they can’t get a housing commission house, an Aborigine took it,” Henderson-Hau says.

But what’s most attractive is being told you’re part of the master race. Marion Blaxall tells Inquirer her son was a troubled youth, an adopted child who grew rebellious. He dropped out of school, became involved in drugs and was diagnosed with a mental illness.

Damon Blaxall began socialising with other allegedly racist young men who called themselves the White Devils. They had a website and had designs on becoming a force, but in fact gathered in a mate’s shed and drank beer, sometimes taking pictures of themselves wearing white hoods. Recalling why he was drawn to the scene, Blaxall wrote from prison: “My life had gone from bad to worse, feeling like a goldfish in a shark tank.”

The internet has become a fertile ground for white supremacists. Ultra-Right web forums such as Stormfront provide a focal point for those interested in dividing the community on racial lines. “The majority of this recruitment is now done on the internet,” Henderson-Hau says. “All it takes is a Google search, and they’ll find Stormfront.” He describes the chat room as “just a giant bitch session”.

But in the wake of Cronulla he fears it is becoming more sinister. “It’s being used for a bit more organising, a bit more incitement,” he says.

He explains that in the old days right-wing groups would have recruited members through sticker and leaflet drops after a race attack. “After any racial incident they would do a big drop of flyers and stickers and attempt to capitalise. I guess that’s what they tried to do with Cronulla and all those videos and radio programs.”

Many of the right-wing groups no longer publicly identify with neo-Nazi ideology. The Patriotic Youth League and Australia First deny all links.

Australia First insists it is a nationalist, rather than a racist, group. Henderson-Hau believes this is spin. “They tone it all down,” he says. “They trim their ideology to make it a bit more publicly acceptable.” Now they describe themselves as patriots and nationalists.

Henderson-Hau, a member of the Greens, says his aim is to get vulnerable people out of such groups. He says they have some counsellors who can talk to and reason with them. “A lot of the time if you just get in early, it’s not that ingrained. They are just very confused,” he says. “If a reasoned voice can come in and clear up that confusion, then a lot of harm down the track can be prevented.”

He says many of the young men are looking for attention and someone to talk to. It’s one option in a complex social problem.

Marion Blaxall and her husband, Dave, say they have had countless arguments with their son about his extreme views. She believes her son has finished with racist groups but is deeply saddened by his circumstances, particularly that he will spend Christmas in jail. “Despite everything he has done, I know Damon is a good person with a good heart,” she says.

Food for thought isn’t it?

We must of course stress that our softer side does not extend to the elder statesmen of the Aus and NZ racist scene. It is people like Jim Saleam, David Palmer, David Innes, Jack Van Tongeren, Sid Wilson, Kerry Bolton and Peter Campbell who indoctrinate and prey on vulnerable young people like Damon Blaxall and mess their lives up

We sincerely hope that Damon comes out the other side and gets his life together. Should he move along so far as to renounce his violent racist past, we will be among the first to congratulate him.

Fight dem back · 24 December 2005 · Discussion