Photo courtesy of the author
Last month, an extreme right-wing party called Australia First posted details online of the man they believed to be behind the pseudonym Andy Fleming. For the past decade, "Fleming" has been aggravating local neo-Nazis. They aren’t particularly pleased. He’s received countless threats and racial abuse from them, which warrants his efforts to remain anonymous.
Studies show that racism is a mounting concern in Australia, and Fleming is a natural protagonist to rise against it. He decided to take a stand after seeing the racist underbelly of the punk scene in his hometown of Melbourne. In order to evade a curb stomp, he needed to veil his identity. Fleming resolved to use Anonymous-esque tactics to infiltrate these circles and disseminate his findings on his radio show and blog. In doing so, he has garnered quite a following (the latter has received more than 2.75 million views) – and Fleming is showing no signs of stopping any time soon.
I managed to speak with the man behind the alias to find out more about battling white supremacists down under.
Neo-Nazi skinhead with a patch in German that reads "Skinheads: White and Proud." Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
VICE: How did you respond when you first saw the leak?
Andy Fleming: It’s not the first time these groups have misidentified me. There was one profile on my blog's Facebook page that was repeatedly making hostile comments. I kicked them off the page, and then the leak was uploaded on the Australia First website.
I received an email from the misidentified man, who told me he was receiving some ominous calls and messages. I invited him onto my radio show to clarify things, but many of them still aren’t buying it.
How did you become involved in challenging these groups?
I sort of fell into the role from the recommendation of others. I opened my blog, SlackBastard, around 2005, as a means of channelling my political opinions. Things sort of sprouted from there.
I understand you were broadcasting information about the groups on your radio show. What was the fallout from this?
There have been a number of threats towards the station. It’s a pre-recorded show, so if the groups were to come into the station, the DJ working at the time could be identified as me. This is obviously very precarious, but the station is supportive. We are in discussions at the moment about how we can work around it.
How does the punk scene relate to neo-Nazis?
There's an element of punk culture that is attractive to the extreme right wing. This peaked with the neo-Nazi movements in the late 80s, and there was a lot of conflicts at the gigs. But I like to think most punks uphold the Dead Kennedys slogan: “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.”
What sort of tactics have you used to protect yourself?
I sometimes disguise my IP address, and I never reveal my name or traceable details. A number of people I knew who have written about the far right have received a lot of resulting intimidation.
What is the worst threat you have received?
There have been lots of death threats. I published a compilation of these on my blog recently. There’s also a lot of abuse arising from my presumed status of being Jewish.
What is your biggest goal in doing this?
Promoting anti-fascism and anarchism. My own politics are deeply antithetical to fascism – we exist on opposite ends of the political spectrum – so promoting my views is very important to me.
How does the extreme white in Australia compare with groups in other Western countries, like the US or the UK?
Nazis are marginal in Western society. This is not the case in countries like Greece and Hungary. They're on the extreme end of the spectrum, and there are a number of similar parties popping up. This has been a growth in the likes of the Tea Party in America, UKIP in Britain, and in the past One Nation in Australia. These parties express similar concerns to fascism, without being as far right.
It could be mentioned that in the West, anti-semitism amongst neo-Nazis has been largely replaced by anti-Muslim sentiment, which has been informed by the War on Terror.
What are neo-Nazis orchestrating online?
Many of them are very active on social media – the biggest community being StormFront. Many of these groups organise events, meet-ups and occasionally arrange to gate-crash far-left gatherings.
How often would you say bashings – like that of Vietnamese man Minh Duong – are occurring?
There have definitely been others incidents of migrant bashings in Melbourne, but it’s sometimes difficult to confirm the motives. It’s difficult to distinguish them from, say, a random beating. What’s really concerning is the popularisation of the belief that these attacks are legitimised by the victims being non-white and non-Australian.
Recent studies expose that racism is the biggest concern of migrants living in Australia. In general, do you think racism is getting worse there?
I do. If you look at politics and the media, race is being deployed in a way that’s becoming increasingly vulgar and open. There’s a large rhetoric on protecting Australia’s borders, which invokes a lot of paranoia.
How would this be impacted by Prime Minister Tony Abbott's plan to amend the Racial Discrimination Act?
I think these changes would encourage those who had been reluctant to do so to more forcefully present racism, as it will be understood to be acceptable. It would make matters a lot worse.
I understand there is a distinction between skinheads and boneheads?
Skinheads developed in the UK in the late 60s and early 70s. Boneheads were the right-wing infiltration of the scene. It’s largely contradictory that white supremacism should be a part of the skinhead ideology, because it drew largely upon Jamaican culture in terms of fashion and music. Bonehead is a term for the skinheads who had betrayed the roots of the culture.
How should ethnic Australians go about avoiding these groups?
Swastikas are an obvious hint – but the reality is that it’s sometimes not apparent. In many places, neo-Nazis have adopted the fashions of the far left. It’s definitely not that easy to identify them.
They do have gatherings and concerts, so it’s obvious that you should avoid these like the plague. The group mentality always promotes violence.