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Internet clout chasers spread fear and hate following tragedies

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Social media erupted in racist accusations following the Bondi Junction murders (Screenshots via YouTube/Twitter)

Recent mass-murder events have seen social media commentators spreading misinformation and hatred in an effort to gain attention. Tom Tanuki reports.

SARAH AYOUB, writing thoughtfully to urge a range of communities against fanning the flames of sectarian or inter-faith violence for The Age, observed:

‘Seeing the riots unfold on Monday and hearing about plans for retaliation, even though they might be unfounded rumours, has been incredibly distressing because it risks undoing what many of us have built here.’

A violent attack on an Assyrian Christian priest (which almost immediately followed last weekend’s Bondi Junction stabbings) sent the community around the Wakeley church that witnessed the attack into an outrage. There were attacks on police camped around and inside the church to arrest (and protect) the attacker, and mosques and other places of worship in Sydney’s surrounding suburbs were suddenly in danger of retaliatory attack.

In that context, Ayoub wrote to appeal to the better nature of the multi-faith and multi-ethnic communities she cares about. People who are, as she puts it, ‘anxious and afraid. We’re apprehensive. We’re defensive’.

She speaks from experience and familiarity; not out of a desire, not to chastise, but to empathise and soothe. It is welcome writing, a welcome sentiment.

But decent voices like that are often overshadowed by the heaving, urgent intensity of internet clout goblins and conspiracists. They lie in a frenzy because they have to lie first to get the reach. Increasingly, they even get to set the tone for how panicked communities – which they are rarely a part of – respond to tragedy.

Immediately in the wake of the Bondi Junction attack, one Daniel Lewkovitz, internet addict, wrote:

‘A modest prediction further to the Westfield Bondi Junction stabbing attack: Penny Wong will want to give the attackers a state. The Greens will praise the attackers for resistance. The UN will blame Israel. The NSW Police officer who shot the attacker will be accused of genocide.’

It’s impressive to adopt a position of feigned fatigue with a sense of a degenerative state of modern culture war while also posting to piss and moan about your political opposition regarding a tragedy that hasn’t even stopped happening yet.

The blood is still pumping onto the floor and the worst culture warrior you know is trying to pull rank about how lowly everyone else is. While barely concealing his glee, of course, blood rushing to his typing fingers, greedy for a bit of mass-murder virality.

But then it was time to call the knife guy a Muslim, of course. All the usual suspects – from far-Right Islamophobes through to Zionist lobbyist group Islamophobes who’d benefit from him being Muslim – did that. I’d name them, but they aren’t worth naming. They are operating on an Islamophobic hive mentality that they aren’t self-aware enough to elucidate.

Other people decided that it would be better for them if the attacker were Jewish, including internet addicts and clout goblins Simeon Boikov and “Syrian Girl”. One random Jewish kid got blamed. Simeon will stop at nothing to post everything — he will even risk releasing paedophiles into the community just to experience the thrill of posting stuff with an exciting "BREAKING NEWS" header.

Then we all found out the attacker wasn't a Muslim extremist terrorist, nor a random Jewish student.

One internet addict with big hair called Kobie – who exists in people’s field of consciousness for some reason – reasoned:

‘Whenever a mass stabbing or something similar happens anywhere in the world, certain types of people immediately come to mind for most of us.’

Well, if you immediately think of Muslims when stabbings happen, I guess it’s perfectly fine to endanger random local Muslims to bolster your Twitter reach. Fair enough.

Even Australian neo-Nazis, who are apparently back in the discourse now with a capacity for reasoning at the same level as many of our Right-wing Twitter leading lights, lectured me at length on Twitter about how the non-Whiteness of the attacker means non-Whites should all be deported.

Then we found out that his actual ethnicity meant he would be eligible for membership in the National Socialist Network, their pan-European White nationalist group.

There’s little solace to be had in making these kinds of germs look bad when all they do is look bad anyway. They nevertheless manage to creep into moments of moral panic and use that foment to paint another target on minorities.

I have been watching parasites like these hyperventilate during moments of tragedy, leap for their phones to loudly and publicly guess that “it was a Muslim” for years. I remember it happening en masse in 2017, immediately after Dimitrios Gargasoulas’ CBD attack. White nationalists and “patriots” of the day seized on every incident to accuse Australian Muslims before they knew a single thing about it. 

In fact, I recalled recently that I once made a Million Flag Patriots video taking the piss out of this tendency after Gargasoulas way back in January 2017. It could’ve been made yesterday.

There seem to be so many more of these opportunists now. Worse, it feels as though reality, so much more social media-driven than it was then, has bent slightly to accommodate this opportunist clout wrangling.

Tensions were stoked after Bondi Junction roared back into life when only days later, a priest was stabbed in a Wakeley church. As the community around the church launched into a violent rage at NSW Police, minutes later, rumours flew. Suddenly every clout chaser thought they knew it all within minutes, fit to enlighten the whole world.

Internet addict Drew Pavlou “reported” that, 'reports' say the attacker had had his fingers cut off in retaliation. (“Reports” means internet comments sections he read, presumably. Or your mate’s message from his mate from her mate from his mate.)

The attacker was an Assyrian kid from Sydney, a Muslim convert, whom they named. He wasn’t. Why let that stop a viral post or ten?

Internet addict Syrian Girl took to a Twitter space to spread bullshit around about how the attacker was sent by Mossad. Because it suited her for him to be a Jewish plant, just as it suited her for the Bondi Junction kid to be a random Jewish student.

Subsequently, I saw Mossad everywhere. Mossad sent a kid to a Christian church to stab a priest, apparently. It was Mossad. Mossad done it. Mossad. Mossad.

We found out the attacker was not the Assyrian kid who'd been blamed. So, like Benjamin Cohen, he presumably now has to filter through all the threats he’d have received in his own quiet time. Enjoy, son!

The attacker also likely hadn't had his fingers cut off, it seems, rather simply injuring his hand while attacking the priest. Perish the thought that some internet addict’s “sources” aren’t rock-solid.

Sadly for the clout-inclined, the actual attacker is said to be 16 years old, so his actual name cannot be published in the press. (Well, I say that, but it seems that Australia’s clout goblins are now gleefully trading the 16-year-old child's name around on social media anyway. They’re pitching in and doing their best to imperil his future trial and get him a speedy release, just like Simeon Boikov did with that paedophile.)

Now internet addict Syrian Girl is threatening to sue Drew Pavlou and a couple of other internet addicts over the suggestion that she started the lie about the random Jewish kid after Bondi — just as she herself is potentially up for a defamation suit over naming said Jewish kid. Good for her, good for all of them! A big defamation trial would be a great occupying pastime for a bit of clout.

I am not under any delusions about the world I live in. People vie for attention with information online. The internet has made the world stupider because the world cannot wait and shut up anymore.

What I can’t stand is the idea that Sarah Ayoub’s community and others around it are being manipulated toward panic to satisfy the reach and attention requirements of parasites and opportunists.

Tom Tanuki is a writer, satirist and anti-fascist activist. Tom does weekly videos on YouTube commenting on the Australian political fringe. You can follow Tom on Twitter @tom_tanuki.

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