1 November 2022

Could rising radicalism be a lasting consequence of COVID-19?

| Ross Solly
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Vaccine protest

Protesters surround the National Press Club. Photo: Kelly Moroney.

Did COVID-19 and its associated lockdowns change the face of who we are as Australians? Have we shed forever the notion we are a carefree nation full of larrikins?

In all the talk of the long-term costs Australia is likely to pay because of COVID-19, ASIO this week added another concern for our country – the rise of radical and violent extremists spurred on by anti-vaxxers and conspiracists.

The 18 months Australia spent grappling with COVID-19 certainly exposed a nastiness among some Australians that I think shocked many. The lack of compassion shown to those in desperate situations, the willingness to dob in rule breakers, the lynch-mob mentality exposed on all sides on social media showed a distinct lack of larrikinism.

It may well have uncorked a bottle of vitriol that may never be sealed again. This is not just my concern – it’s also been voiced by ASIO.

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In its annual report ASIO fingered the rise of community anger during COVID-19 as a real concern. Director-General of Security, Mick Burgess, said his organisation was watching these groups very closely.

“The threats posed by religiously motivated violent extremists and ideologically motivated violent extremists remain real,” Mr Burgess warned.

“I remain concerned by the number of young Australians who are being radicalised and recruited by both cohorts. Specific-issue motivated violent extremism grew during COVID-19 and its associated lockdowns. Angry, alienated individuals and groups were being driven by a range of grievances, including anti-vaccination agendas, conspiracy theories and anti-government sovereign citizen beliefs.

“In most cases, these grievances were expressed peacefully, but in some cases protesters advocated the use of violence, and in a smaller number of cases, they used violence — the factors that trigger ASIO’s interest.”

Will it all die down eventually? Probably not. There are too many dark forces lurking on social media who are furiously pouring petrol on the flames of hatred. Many of us never see the really whacko stuff, because it’s confined to loony chat groups where like-minded angry people feed off each other.

But you can be sure our spies are on to it. And if they are concerned about the potential for younger Australians to be radicalised, then we should be too.

In Canberra we have all become very familiar with the “Cookers”, a group of protesters who still refuse to go home and who have espoused all sorts of bizarre theories about where COVID-19 came from, who was controlling it, and how it was part of a global conspiracy by Bill Gates to control our minds.

Some of these rantings have been given far too much airtime by some in the mainstream media. There is stuff discussed openly in some media outlets today which we would not have dreamed about a decade ago, all with the aim of gaining more social media hits and TV viewers.

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We have seen how that played out, and is continuing to play out, in America. ASIO believes this is where we need to be most vigilant.

“The most likely terrorist attack scenario in Australia continues to be a lone actor attack without warning and using a rudimentary and readily available weapon such as a knife or vehicle,” it said in its report, tabled in Federal Parliament this week.

I firmly believe this whole Aussie “mate” image was a myth all along. And now COVID-19 has provided us with a new moniker – the “Angry Aussie”.

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wodenresident3:53 pm 31 Oct 22

If lonliness and social isolation are contributing factors towards extremism, then I feel this would be a good place to start fixing this problem.

A ‘Mens Shed’ type movement for younger vulnerable men, where they could be mentored and have company of men.

wodenresident3:46 pm 31 Oct 22

“… alienated individuals …” Burgess

As a society, is this not a problem we can fix????

Whilst I agree COVID has fed the worst paranoia of this group, the problem has been around, to some degree, for some time. The rise of Trumpism, ultra religious right wing conservatism, along with the “Red Pill” delusionists & other extreme macho anti-feminist groups has been an increasing problem for a couple of decades. The Internet has exacerbated it, but even that is not the sole cause. It has a lot to do with politicians trying to tap into apparently alienated groups to allegedly give them a voice (though the more cynical side of me, thinks it is about fooling the ignorant and using them). Even Howard tapped into it with trying to claim the so-called battlers, which somehow morphed into an anti-intellectualism. Weirdly, that started a dumbing down of what was an intellectual (I even heard people deciding finishing Year 12 was too intellectual for them).

Did you actually watch the red pill? No.

I take it you support Biden? Being hunter Biden and the pending world war 3?

Maybe your glow in the dark grandchildren will write stories how the antitrumps saved the planet.

I wasn’t commenting on the film, but the deluded people who think they were the ones who would chose the red pill, without realising that whole movie was taking the p**s out of people like them.

Like all of your posts gooterz I’m not sure what you are on about. You never make any sense and I have a hard time trying to get my head around anything you say. Calm down and get a grip!!!

While this article is largely referring to Covid related protests, it’s important to remember that protestors within our society are not always right-winged
ultra religious, conservatives, extreme macho anti-feminist groups, anti-intellectuals who can’t finish Year 12.

The extreme left have their climate activist protest groups, some of whom glue themselves to works of art, the “vegan terrorists”, the anti-colonial protesters who spray red paint on statues, the BLM protesters, those who set fire to the OPH doors etc. Of course, the left have “great” leadership examples; Greens activist and Senator, Lydia Thorpe comes to mind.

Oh dear gooterz, who wrote, “I take it you support Biden? Being hunter Biden and the pending world war 3?”
If there was ever evidence where a lot of this is coming from here is some of it. This is NOT the USA. Leave that to your American buddies on the internet to rave about, and bring your mind back to Australia.

Capital Retro4:34 pm 31 Oct 22

What is “Trumpism”?

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