White Man Terrorism Isn’t So Terrifying, as Far-Right Plan to Behead Labor MP Ignored

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White Man Terrorism Isn’t So Terrifying, as Far-Right Plan to Behead Labor MP Ignored

A 19-year old Anglo Australian male briefly entered Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp’s office dressed in a military-style outfit and armed with a knife on Wednesday afternoon, with the intent to behead the parliamentarian as part of a self-confessed politically-motivated terror attack. But he backed out.

Raymond Terrace teen Jordan Patten had posted a 205-page manifesto online, which appears to have been influenced by white supremacist Australian terrorist Brenton Tarrant, and it details the young man’s intent to behead a Labor MP, as he is a Liberal voter at odds with that party’s politics.

Antifascist researchers The White Rose Society notified media about the manifesto doing the rounds of the internet. And as Patten livestreamed his failed attempt, his followers taunted him online afterwards for chickening out. And amongst them were neo-Nazis, white supremacists and incels.

The Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT) reported on Thursday, that Patten has been charged with one count of acts done in preparation for, or planning, for a terrorist act, contrary to section 101.6 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), which is an offence that carries life imprisonment.

But there is a stark anomaly with how this incident is being treated compared to other “terror” incidents earlier this year, as NSW premier Chris Minns has failed to address the terror matter in the way he did others.

Indeed, the premier was even in Newcastle at the time an act of white barbarism almost killed his colleague.

And where was NSW police commissioner Karen Webb’s big televised terrorism designation announcement, just like the one we were graced with back in April?

White men can’t terrorise

Politically-motivated terror acts perpetrated by white Australians aren’t usually termed terror. When Tarrant, a white Australian from Grafton, perpetrated the 2019 Christchurch massacre, shooting 51 Muslims at mosques, Australian white supremacist terrorist was not a term that made the headlines.

Unlike Tarrant and Patten, Joe Cauchi, a white man of European descent, who went on a killing spree in a Bondi mall on 13 April, left no manifesto. But NSW police confirmed he did seem to be targeting women, just like an incel, which are far-right white men who kill women because they can’t get laid.

Yet, while the incel scenario didn’t appear to be considered, when a 16-year-old Muslim Arab teen nonfatally stabbed a priest two nights later, ‘haters gonna hate’ commissioner Webb stayed up until 1.35 am, following the 7.15 pm incident, to appear before the press to deem it a terror attack.

Webb made the terror call prior to charges being laid against the teen, who stabbed the priest in a church in Wakeley. And the NSW premier later explained that this opened up a smorgasbord of powers for police to investigate the crime but didn’t mention the draconian penalties that too apply.

So, Webb’s late-night fanfare was unnecessary, but it did trigger the old trope of Muslim equals terrorist in the public mind.

This is especially so, as coming just two days after the Bondi stabbing of six people by a white man, whose actions reflected a pattern of incel crimes being committed across the Anglosphere over recent times and has actually been prosecuted as terrorism in Canada.

A tale of two terrorisms

The 16-year-old Arab boy was charged with committing a terrorist act under section 101.1 of the Criminal Code, which is an offence that too carries life imprisonment. And like Patten, mental health concerns were raised about this teenager and whether that contributed to the crime.

Then the NSW police deployed 400 officers to execute search warrants at 13 locations across Sydney’s west on 24 April, which consisted of raiding the houses of parents of teenage boys, who were associates of the teen who stabbed the priest. And seven youths, aged 14 to 17, were arrested.

By the next morning, the AFP outlined, five juveniles had been charged. Two 16-year-olds and one aged 17 received a charge of conspiring to plan or prepare a terrorist act, while a 14-year-old and another of 17 were charged with possessing violent extremist material sourced via a carriage service.

In terms of the boys charged with conspiring to plan a terror act, there were no real set out plans located. So, they were merely charged over thought crimes with an offence carrying up to life imprisonment.

White Australians being charged under terror laws is extremely rare, however. And there’s only ever been one terror conviction of a white male, the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN) has pointed out. So, if Patten is convicted under the current charge, he’ll be the second.

AMAN has further outlined that numerous Australian white males have had their underlying mental health conditions taken into account, when having committed acts that have the potential to be charged as terror, which leads to regular criminal charges with much reduced penalties.

And there’s no certainty the Patten charge won’t be downgraded to a criminal offence due to any mental health considerations pretrial, while terror charges may be backed up by a second lesser offence at trial, which could result in his being acquitted of terror but convicted over a regular crime.

Another aspect of Patten’s case to keep in mind as well, is whether the JCTT, which is comprised of NSW police, the AFP, ASIO and the NSW Crime Commission, will be deploying 400 officers to raid the homes of the Liberal voter’s associates or online friends and detractors, as was the case in Wakeley.

Laws are colourblind, cops aren’t

Prior to the outbreak of the Israeli-perpetrated Gaza genocide, and beginning in 2020, ASIO had been making assessments and statements revealing its terror caseload was increasingly taken up by right-wing extremists. And this began with being a third of the load and then rose to 50 percent of it.

But times have changed. And as AMAN advisor Rita Jabri Markwell explained to Sydney Criminal Lawyers in May, over recent months there’s been an attempt to align Palestinians with Muslims and terrorism, as “it’s the most effective way to deflect moral responsibility from Israel for its carnage”.

Civil liberties advocates have been warning for years that the now 100-odd pieces of counterterrorism and national security legislation passed since 9/11, don’t only serve to enhance terror investigations, but in doing so, erode the rights of all citizens and residents of this nation.

These laws were passed in response to a UN resolution calling on nations to criminalise terrorism in domestic law, following the New York terror attacks.

However, as our nation is dearth of federal human rights protections, it went to town in passing these laws, which has too been mimicked in the states and territories.

So, now we have a huge framework of terror laws that carry the most extreme penalties for acts that when committed without any ideological motivation, are crimes that carry much lesser penalties and consequences, including in regard to resulting prison conditions.

And while these laws are colourblind and pay no attention to any particular faith, they are being applied through the lens of the Australian criminal justice system’s systemic prejudice, which has seen these laws overwhelmingly targeting Muslim members of our community.

And let’s not hold our breath on the Patten case changing the trend.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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