After a series of alleged threated against a freelance journalist, police have arrested a notable far-right figure with ties with the NSW white supremacist community.
Police have arrested and charged prolific hate preacher Nathan Sykes for allegedly making threats of violence against a Melbourne journalist.
The “lieutenant” of Australia’s most prominent white supremacist, Jim Saleam, Mr Sykes has been charged with a number of offences including using a carriage service to threaten serious harm.
The arrest comes after years of campaigns targeting prominent Australians.
Mr Sykes is alleged to have left several chilling voicemail messages in 2018 on the phone of Luke McMahon, a journalist and defence lawyer.
In one recording from March 2018, Sykes is alleged to have threatened to “stamp your fucking teeth into the sidewalk”.
Another recording is alleged to state, “I’m going to torture you to an absolute delight, little Lukey Luke… And I have people looking at you right now, staring at you from across the fucking street from where you live… You’re dead.”
Section 474.15 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth) prescribes a maximum penalty of seven years in prison for anyone to use a carriage service to make a threat to cause serious harm to another person. The maximum increases to ten years where a death threat is made.
A carriage service includes the telephone as well as Internet communications.
In the mid-2000s, Mr Sykes was editor of 100% Home Girls, a “soft-pornography” magazine published by Australian Consolidated Press.
A former colleague recalled his strong interest in Nazi paraphernalia at the time, and he was disciplined by management due to his political views.
Sykes was retrenched in 2008 and, in October 2013, became bankrupt due to his failure to pay bank and credit card debts amounting to $39,000.
In 2012, he self-published a novel titled Stuck Forever in the Throat of Society about a former pulp magazine editor who lost his job after being persecuted for his affinity with Nazi dolls.
In the book, Sykes writes: “If I didn’t have trolling, I’m sure I’d be crouched on a rooftop with a sniper’s rifle popping rounds into the ant-like, sheepish f#@kers on the street below.”
He now writes for the Daily Stormer website, the most widely read neo-Nazi website in the world, under the alias Hamish Patton.
The Daily Stormer website operates what they call a “Troll Army”, which is used to launch online campaigns to disparage and harass their targets.
Mr Sykes has led trolling campaigns against a number of prominent Australians, including Racial Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Muslim activist Mariam Veiszadeh and Guardian journalist and left-wing commentator Van Badham.
A 2015 campaign was motivated by Ms Veiszadeh’s opposition to a Cairns Woolworths store selling a singlet adorned with the Australian flag and the words, “Love it or Leave”. A subsequent article on the Daily Stormer published Ms Veiszadeh’s personal details, including her phone numbers and former residential address, urging the “troll army” to attack her.
When Ms Veiszadeh spoke out about the emotional toll of the campaign, Sykes published another article saying, “With a little bit of a psychological push, by cleverly using a carriage or service, it just might be possible to drive her over the edge.”
A similar campaign that same year dubbed “Operation Filthy Chink Rat” targeted Dr Soutphommasane, strongly criticising the commissioner and the Racial Discrimination Act on its 40th anniversary.
Mr Sykes regularly targets journalists such as Van Badham, whom he labelled a “Commie bush pig”. These campaigns are characterised by offensive language and often lead to the infliction of significant emotional abuse, and even fear of harm.
Police inaction and media pressure
Despite his history of alleged offending conduct, the New South Wales Police Force has hitherto refused to bring criminal charges, claiming there was “not enough evidence” against him.
The former NSW Police Force deputy commissioner criticised the top brass and police generally, stating that police have been turning a blind eye to right wing extremism despite abundant evidence of widespread criminal offending.
Indeed, a recent report found that police officers in our state often view hate crimes as a “political inconvenience” rather than actionable criminal conduct.
However, it seems recent events have caused police to take another look at the dangers posed by right-wing extremists.
Barrister Greg Barns of the Australian Lawyers Alliance has echoed the views of many, stating, “There needs to be much greater scrutiny of online threats of this type by police and action taken… If the alleged perpetrator were a Muslim of Arabic nationality the response might have been very different.”
It’s tragic that it seems to have taken a terrorist atrocity to get police to finally act.