Kelly Jay Keen speaks during a Standing for Women protest (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

A kangaroo court

Guilt by association grips Australia

Artillery Row

In Australia, politics is imitating Twitter. Bad faith takes and guilt by the merest whiff of association have gripped both the Labor and even the right-leaning Liberal Party. The political hate figure at the centre of this social media style mobbing is newly elected Moira Deeming MP.

Deeming is facing a vote to have her removed from the Liberal Party for “organising, promoting and attending” a Standing for Women (SfW) rally that was gatecrashed by far-right extremists. In a statement following the event, Deeming said neither she nor SfW had done anything wrong, and that the “event was attended by Muslims, Christians, Atheists and members of the Greens, Labor, LDP and Liberal Parties”.

SfW organise events in countries around the world with the aim of encouraging women to talk freely about the impact of transgender activism on their lives. The gatecrashers at the SfW rally in Melbourne were later identified as members of the National Socialist Network. Dressed in black, very much like their antifa opponents, the all-male group stood with a banner reading “destroy paedo freaks”.

Deeming says she, like most of the SfW supporters, “did not realise who they were until they were being escorted out by Victoria Police, when they did the despicable Nazi salute … None of those organising the event had any involvement with these men”. 

Nonetheless, at a press conference on Monday morning, Liberal leader John Pesutto said expelling Deeming was a “necessary step” to ensure the Liberal party was an “effective opposition” and “ready to govern” come the 2026 state election.

Guilt by assumed association has spread to burn anyone linked to the SfW event

“There wasn’t really any alternative but to do this, the reason being any question of an association, even indirectly, with Nazis, white supremacists, eco-fascists or whatever else is so odious in 2023 — as it should be — that I can’t see a way back,” he said.

In a 15-page dodgy dossier, Pesutto referred to SfW founder Kellie-Jay Keen as someone who is “known to be publicly associated with far-right extremist groups”. Keen responded by denouncing the Nazis as “sad, pathetic men” and slamming Pesutto for apparently basing his research defaming her on an inaccurate Wikipedia page. His words were echoed by Tasmanian Green Party Senator McKim, who upped the ante by giving a speech in which he referred to Keen “and her ilk” as “Trans Exclusionary Right wing Dropkicks”. This is an underwhelming play on the acronym “TERF”; the phrase “dropkick” is unpleasant antipodean slang for women’s genitalia.

Pesutto’s letter calling for the expulsion of Deeming included minutiae combed from Keen’s social media output. In addition to a number of inaccuracies, a profile picture used by Keen which showed a doll in an SS uniform was presented as evidence of her far right sympathies. This was in fact an ironic reference to a derogatory comment made by one of Keen’s far left feminist detractors, who had derided Keen as “white supremacist Barbie”. In the Australian political arena, as on social media, humour is verboten. Much like Twitter’s basement-dwelling misogynist trolls, politicians like Pesutto and McKim are locked in a pissing contest to debase women they dislike.

Despite the insubstantial nature of the evidence, guilt by assumed association has spread like a bush fire to burn anyone linked to the SfW event. Angie Jones, the woman who liaised with the police to ensure the rally could go ahead, has now received death threats.

Jones posted what she admits was a “sloppy, taken out of context tweet” which read “Nazis and women want to get rid of paedo filth, why don’t you?” Following this, she says she was denounced by Victoria’s Labor Party premier Dan Andrews and Pesutto. “Nobody has talked to me, or any of the brave women who spoke at the event,” Jones tells me. “Our premier called women Nazis on Saturday when anyone with eyes and a brain could see we are not and we find them abhorrent. The next day he raised the trans flag over parliament … The collateral damage is the impact on everyday women.”

The footage of meaty young men from the National Socialist Network performing Nazi salutes on the steps of Parliament House is chilling. It is a salutary reminder that whilst the word “Nazi” has been sucked dry of meaning on social media, the small band of hateful, racist extremists for whom it is a more accurate descriptor, do still exist. Many of those at the SfW event have questioned why the police led these dangerous men through the women’s rights rally. 

Politicians have sought to impose the stifling rules of social media on real life

Victoria police themselves shared an opaque statement which stated the force attended a “protest involving at least six groups” and that “officers were required to form many lines between the different groups to protect the safety of all involved, stop breaches of the peace and prevent any physical violence”. 

They declined to offer further comment on who gave the order to escort the group through the SfW rally. This is disappointing, as the ramifications of this decision have led to confused reporting in the news media, death threats sent to women and an attempt to end the career of an aspiring politician.

The motion to expel Deeming is expected to be voted on early next week. Lost amidst the public denouncements and smears, is what she said at the rally. Deeming read out the words of a friend of hers, a Muslim woman who came to Australia because she “knew human rights were advocated for strongly” and that different “beliefs and boundaries” would be respected. After witnessing how women who challenge the transgender orthodoxy are treated, however, Deeming’s friend came to the realisation “she has more rights in her home country”. Looking at the reaction to those who dared to speak outside Melbourne’s parliament, this seems like a fair comment. 

The reason SfW organises events “in the public square” is because too often discussions about women’s rights are censored on mainstream platforms. Rather than consider the rally a wake-up call about the state of free speech online, politicians have instead sought to impose the stifling rules of social media on real life. Doubtless, if the attempt to oust Deeming isn’t successful this time, Pesutto and his cronies will find something else to spaff outrage at. Left cleaning up his mess will be the ordinary women who attended the rally — ordinary people with legitimate concerns who have now been made acceptable targets for hate.

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