The reaction to the Reclaim Australia raid represents a dangerous precedent, for labelling them as “terrorists” will see the gap between opinion grow larger.
Soon after the black leather boots of justice knocked down the front door of Phillip Galea in Melbourne, a quicksilver assumption was made. As the target of the raid was known to fly his allegiance to Reclaim Australia (among others), and as the raid was indeed an anti-terrorism raid, the label was planted upon the movement via the bold print of news headline: “Reclaim Australia” and “terrorism” shared the same sentence.
The AFP, after the dust had settled from the raid, said that they stopped “an escalating threat” and that the Victorian community at large was now safe, because there was no “impending threat”. I’m not refuting their investigatory work, or claiming that they’d act on anything outside the letters of the law, but the name of the unit which actioned the plan was the genesis.
The real issue is the comparison that was made by the media when the story broke over the jangled, terror-fearing, news-hungry populace. Reclaim Australia, made famous for their donnybrook with the anti-racism crowd during that titular rally in the streets of Melbourne and Sydney, were now “terrorists”. It’s an easy connection to make, and a fine one at that, and if I sat in the chair of a metropolitan newspaper, I probably would have made the same decision. However, Reclaim are not terrorists. Exclusionists, yes. And people who sometimes purport their exclusionist views via the application of violence (who also claim, via a release on their Facebook page, to abhor the use of violence, and have no connection to the individual arrested), yes. But in the minds of their detractors, it is now easy to point at the reports and lump Reclaim in with IS.
If you shrugged your shoulders, dismissing the problems of Reclaim with the impulse of “well, they’re terrorists”, that should represent a real teeth dryer. A long drawn bow, perhaps, but as I’ve learned, once someone makes that connection in one’s head, there it shall stay, resistant to the pointless facts.
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The accused apparently said that he will be fighting the charges, as they represent “a conspiracy against the patriot movement”. Details are skint, but certain between-the-lines assumptions can be made, as CT command assistant commissioner Ross Guenther said that he expects no further arrests to be made in relation to the investigation.
Which means, of course, that it was a targeted raid.
Now the adjective “targeted” is prophetically subjective in this case, it can be used to add weight to whatever your preconception may be. For those who support Reclaim will feel unfairly targeted, by virtue of what views they hold, and to those opposed, a targeting justifiably brought on by their extremist views, which now seemingly breeds a home-grown form of terrorism.
For a group that rails against Islam, how would it feel to be tarred with the same accusatory brush of those you exist to oppose? Independent of whether Mr Galea is found innocent or guilty of the charges, the judgement doesn’t matter. In the minds of the populace, the gavel fell when the news flashed. What comes next, is what has come before: more schism in the name of refuting a label “terrorist”. The violence witnessed in the streets of Melbourne (from both sides) was brought upon a differing opinion of a different term (racist). Both sides desired their arguments to be heard, and therefore, spoke the language of violence. Ergo, the actions spoken will grow louder, and the divide will grow ever deeper.
As a country politically beset by vastly opposing political wings, the acts and our collective assumptions of the visceral acts of the weekend are only set to push us further yonder – from understanding, and crucially, from a shared middle ground. All of which does not bode well for the next meeting of minds, be it political discourse, or public concourse.