How do you solve a problem like the African Gang Crisis? Like the problem of Maria, Nazis are not the answer.
A not insignificant part of the conundrum is that unlike Maria’s incompatibility with life in a dour abbey, the African Gang Crisis doesn’t really exist.
The Apex Gang hit the public consciousness in March of 2016, when a Facebook-organised brawl between teens of African, Islander and Caucasian descent marred (depending on your perspective) proceedings at the Moomba Festival. The disappearance of the latter two groups from the narrative remains unsolved.
A few days later, largely melanin-deprived youth from rival Glen Waverley high schools faced off outside a cinema (blazers off so you knew it was serious). In a Nine News report, Peter Hitchener explains that police believed most of the participants had links to the Apex Gang. ‘There is no link that we’re aware of that links this to an Apex Gang event,’ explains Acting Inspector Melissa Webb in the same report.
By April, nearly any crime could be tied to Apex. In an interview with the victim of a 2015 home invasion, Neil Mitchell suspected there was ‘a bit of a franchise now, and thugs were learning from thugs.’ Just like Baker’s Delight. The victim hadn’t seen the ethnicity of the invaders but said they sounded Australian.
Soon enough, Melbourne’s tabloid print and broadcast media would breathlessly report almost everything as it related to Apex.
All female crime gangs were Apex ‘sister packs’, home robberies bore similar traits to the Apex Gang (in that a home was robbed), one ransacked garage was dubbed with the tell-tale tag APEX – a classic ruse which hasn’t worked since the Tate-LaBianca killings, but apparently sophisticated enough to fool credulous Australian journalists.
Even when no Apex member (or Apex-linked/affiliated/connected/associated individual) could be tied to a crime, the group could still get a guernsey: police did not believe that Apex were involved. Just don’t forget about Apex.
Meanwhile, the crimes of Rotary and the Lions Club went unchecked.
Fast forward to 2018, which some believe to be an election year in Victoria, and the African Gang Crisis is being used as a cudgel by the LNP, at a state and federal level, with which to beat the Andrews Government. A tough on law-and-order campaign is a bold move considering Victoria’s declining crime rates and Matthew Guy’s well-reported links to alleged organised crime figures, but nobody could accuse the brain geniuses of the LNP of possessing a shortage of short-sightedness.
From the relative safety of Sydney, Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton (a former Queensland Police officer and current Mr Potato Head) lobbed a volley of grenades claiming that Victorians were scared to go out to dinner, that Victorian judges were too soft, and that Bill Shorten had failed to support legislation requiring aspiring citizens to integrate with Australian society – the last point particularly unfair when you consider that Australia is essentially a 230-years long home invasion.
An aspiring Sudanese soccer spiv threw in his two cents only to have his story skewered. Craig Kelly, Liberal MP and occasional Ustase MC, proposed that signs be placed at the Victorian border warning interstate motorists of the criminal hellscape they were about to enter. When police intelligence leaked suggesting that a fight and an out-of-control party were connected to a group of Sydney basketballers of South Sudanese descent, Daniel Andrews turned the tables on the federal government, suggesting that the issue was caused by their failure to fund a national crime database.
Nobody suggested that all these basketballers needed was a down-on-their-luck lawyer (of which both Labor and the LNP are in no danger of running out of) to teach them the value of teamwork and fair play and to bring home that trophy in the final minutes.
By anyone’s reckoning, it was a situation which did not require the oar-stick-inage of Nazis. Nevertheless, they persisted.
The True Blue Crew, a Melton-based gang which grew out of a somewhat Juggalo-heavy friendship group, called for a meeting to form a vigilante crew to respond to African gang crime as it happened (sort of like the police, but illegal).
Barred from their initial venue once the proprietors became aware of the nature of the meeting, it ended up taking place at The Lads Society, a ‘social club’ run by members of the neo-Nazi United Patriots Front.
The most charitable thing you could say about this scheme is that by directing all their energies toward this one specific project of hunting Africans, they might be distracted enough from business-as-usual to accidentally make a positive effect on the overall crime rate.
Or so you might have thought. In perhaps the most extraordinary case of Hear-All-Sidesism in Australian media history, Seven News described the group meeting as self-described patriots setting up a kind of ‘neighbourhood watch’ to deal with an ‘immigrant crime crisis’ and reported unchallenged the claim that Victoria Police had been ‘rendered unable to cope with rising crime.’
In December 2016, Blair Cottrell of the UPF tweeted that the ‘Day of the Rope’ was not far off – a reference to a scene in the neo-Nazi wank fantasy The Turner Diaries, in which tens of thousands of ‘race traitors’ (those who lived with Blacks or Jews) are hanged from lampposts. Such an extensive pogrom would no doubt put even more of a strain on Victoria Police resources, but this went unremarked upon in Seven’s report. Also unreported were Blair’s well-publicised convictions, ranging from aggravated burglary and arson to the belief that every Australian school child should be given a copy of Mein Kampf. Annually.
Faced with criticism that Seven had given a neo-Nazi a free run, Seven News director (and former Herald Sun editor) Simon Pristel issued a response which missed the point so hard that it probably landed somewhere around those Caucasian youth from the third paragraph: ‘Seven News has reported on many meetings in the past couple of weeks held to discuss the African gang violence crisis, including governments, community leaders and police. Sunday’s meeting was newsworthy so it was reported.’
There is no doubt that the formation of racist street patrols is newsworthy, however we may never know why Channel Seven felt the need to woo these neo-Fascists with such soft balls. Possibly it was in the interests of keeping them sweet to guarantee that next exclusive interview, maybe it was to keep things interesting for their next awful Underbelly knock-off. It might even have been part of a complex conspiracy that goes right to the top of the Australian sporting goods industry designed to sell more baseball bats to go under beds. Cui bono!
Or perhaps this was no different to any other tabloid television journalism which aims to stoke fear and panic in the hearts of viewers – just slightly more galling for coming wrapped in brown paper packages tied up with swastikas.