Australia’s major right-wing extremist groups are involved in a power struggle to determine the alpha dog in extremism, feeding off contemporary anti-Islam and anti-immigration fears, a Griffith University analysis has found.

According to Professor Geoff Dean from the Griffith Criminology Institute, such groups pose political and community challenges to the nature of Australian society.

“There is also evidence of a contest for ideological dominance between ‘old-style’ Right-Wing Extremism (RWE) groups and ‘new-style’ Radical Right Extremism (RRE) groups in Australia,’’ Professor Dean said.

The researchers examined eight of the most active RWE groups in Australia through their online presence. They found most public support was for ‘new-style’ Radical (Far) Rights groups such as Reclaim Australia with 63,593 Facebook subscribers.

Other Radical Right Extremism groups included United Patriots Front – 27,348; Australian Liberty Alliance – 21,788 and the Nationalist Alternative: 927.

The study analysed the content of publicly accessible websites, computer-mediated communications, and Google Trends data related to activities of these active right-wing extremist organisations.

Researchers focussed on these organisations’ rhetoric, political aspirations and propaganda statements, as well as the relationships between different right-wing groups.

“There is an emerging trend in the Australian community for fracturing the unwritten social contract of egalitarianism where everyone is entitled to an equal opportunity,’’ Professor Dean said.

Shifting support for far right groups

“When NRR groups capitalise on the politics of manipulating public fear with their contemporary anti-Islam and anti-immigration rhetoric designed to cloak their new far-right extremism persona in the language of concerned citizens and not racist ideologues, then community fragmentation becomes a real issue.

“RWE in Australia is not a homogenous movement, but several very different groups positioned on an ideological spectrum of extremism from conservative anti-immigration, anti-Islam groups to far-right neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, generally racist, white supremacy groups.”

He said their research had found that interest and community support for right-wing extremist groups in Australia was shifting from far-right groups (such as Southern Cross Hammerskins and Blood & Honour) to more conservative groups such as Reclaim Australia.

“The implications for governments and communities is that right-wing extremism in Australia is a broad church of different ‘old’ and ‘new’ style Radical Right extremist groups all competing for their ideological market share within the Australian community.

“Hence, policy interventions need to be tailored, by developing targeted strategies for dealing with these different groups.”

The study published on ResearchGate in October can be accessed here.