The Null Device


A piece in the Age about the Blackshirts, the militant "men's group" who want adultery to be punishable by death and seek to achieve this by intimidating women who left their husbands, and their founder, former fixture of the rock'n'roll scene John Abbott.
He now lives with his parents, attends church and plans Blackshirts' campaigns. He quotes the Bible, laments the loss of his children, but defends his decision not to see them. They will be reunited in heaven, he says. "The whole family will be reinstated. That's what heaven's about; there there's no pain."

The Blackshirts could be said to be the extreme wing of the reactionary wave washing through Australian culture, that started with One Nation and went on to the Howard government and its bring-back-the-Menzies-era paternalism. If they get sufficiently big and threatening, we could see the government co-opt some of their less insane policies (such as abolishing no-fault divorce laws, or "reforming" the family court system).

There are 17 comments on "Blackshirts":

Posted by: gjw Thu Dec 19 23:57:22 2002

While I'm dissapointed that the authorities haven't come down harder on the Blackshirts, especially when they get down to the business of harassing people, I doubt their ideas would be embraced by a conservative Australian government. One Nation put on a popularist "we're just speaking up for the silent majority" image. The Blackshirts, on the other hand, are obviously fascist, and obviously on the fringe. Certainly, 51% of the population won't be giving them any support to start with.

Posted by: acb Fri Dec 20 00:52:09 2002

According to the article, they have a lot of sympathy from more moderate "men's groups". And Abbott says he's planning to establish cells nationwide. If they do that, and have some intimidating rallies and other actions, the government may decide that it cannot ignore them, and the best way to coopt them and take the wind out of their sails is to acquiesce to moderate versions of their demands.

All this stuff about the death penalty for adultery may be Abbott's sincerely insane belief on one level, but on another level it's an ambit claim to help negotiate for things like bans on no-fault divorce.

Posted by: mark Fri Dec 20 05:26:01 2002

Everybody, sing along with me now... "Waiting To put on a blackshirt!"


Posted by: Ben Fri Dec 20 05:26:10 2002

Nice to see they picked up on the rock and roll connection that somehow eluded the papers almost every other time they've covered it... I guess the fact the interview was actually AT the Dane Centre made it difficult to miss!

Posted by: tony Fri Dec 20 07:31:01 2002

I have cable at home and was watching a BBC World program called 'Australia Direct.' It airs at 6.30 am on Mondays in the middle of each calender month.It gives a very different view of our local issues.

The blackshirts had 10 minutes of coverage. (As did Fred Nile and his antics a little while ago).I don't really have a point...I just think it's interesting that an international news gathering agency thinks that the blackshirts are a newsworthy item.

Exremist groups seem to be proliferating in this country...or have they always been here?

Posted by: acb Fri Dec 20 07:36:58 2002

Maybe that's the international view of Australia, a land of bigots and fundamentalists; a backward, benighted place like Mississippi or South Africa. Something smug educated liberals everywhere else can point to to be reassured of their relative open-mindedness and sophistication.

Posted by: Graham Fri Dec 20 10:47:13 2002

Look, crazy bastards like the League of Rights have been around for yonks. A century ago, this was the mainstream - The Bulletin's slogan was "Australia For The White Man", the Commonwealth's first act was to disenfranchise aboriginals, and Billy Hughes traded on this sort of nonsense to an extent that would make Hanson look like Robert manne.

Aussie-bashing is still considered acceptable amongst the British chattering classes, encouraged by professional ex-pat Uncle Toms such as Greer, Humphries, Robertson and James, but when Poms actually come out here they see things are a bit different. (Most of the Barmy Army, for instance, aren't just masochists out here for the Ashes tour, many are on working visas [and some working without one] and tend to see a fair whack of the country. At least the ones who get beyond clubbing in Kings Cross.)

Yep, there are extremist turds in Australia, but they're everywhere else, too. In America, for instance, they're entrenched in the political system, see the Lott deba

Posted by: Graham Fri Dec 20 10:47:44 2002


Yes, I've finished.

Posted by: jb Sat Dec 21 06:51:19 2002

These men's groups have been around for a long time, especially since the 1980s when the child support scheme was reformed, and I don't think that they'll ever get anything more than fringe support. (Does anyone else remember Mr Abolish Child Support And Family Court, who was a serial election candidate a few years ago?) The reason is that about 95% of their raison d'etre is anger at specific women who wronged them in various ways, so they find it impossible to enter into any sort of general debate about the family law system.

On the other hand, if anyone planned to establish no-fault divorce or child support, I think that the real "silent majority" would make its opinions known pretty quickly.

Posted by: jb Sat Dec 21 06:52:09 2002

shit! that's "abolish" no-fault divorce etc.

Posted by: acb Sat Dec 21 16:13:01 2002

Given the Bush-like levels of popularity Howard enjoys, I suspect he could get away with a lot, including "reforming" the family law system in such a way that turns it into an engine for enforcing his 1950s-era "family values".

Posted by: Ben the REAL Ben Sun Dec 22 01:24:16 2002

I don't think Howard's all that popular. It's just that the ALP are even less popular because they are largely frozen out of the media. The issues the media has been jumping up and down about (immigration, defense, 'terrorism', flag burning etc.) are perceived as commonwealth issues.

Howard has been careful never to call a double dissolution, as he knows it could well backfire on him.

Posted by: acb Sun Dec 22 14:57:39 2002

Or he might just call the national security card and get those unpatriotic greens out of the balance of power, giving him both houses much like the Republicans got in the US.

Posted by: Ben the REAL Ben Mon Dec 23 23:01:22 2002

If they wanted to, I'm sure half the MPs are ineligible to sit in Parliament. The constitution is quite clear that anyone receiving or who has received any payments from the commonwealth (including social security and esp. the various family payments) is ineligible to sit in Parliament. Ditto with the dual nationality persons. The only person they used it on in recent years was a One Nation (ex) senator, who hadn't cancelled her British citizenship. Which I find a bit odd because a fair number of MPs still hold British, Italian, Greek or Israeli citizenship.

And of course if they can be bankrupted they are also ineligble to sit.

Posted by: Graham Tue Dec 24 02:41:14 2002

Hmm... Make serving in parliament an unpaid gig. You might have a point there. Of course, bribery would go through the roof, but that's all well and good in a vigorous capitalist system...

Posted by: acb Tue Dec 24 03:55:59 2002

Wasn't the rationale of paying MPs to allow people who weren't born into privilege to serve in parliament?

Posted by: Graham Tue Dec 24 14:35:34 2002

Something like that. Sort of like amateur sport, actually. The amateur tradition of the Olympics tended to be biased towards those with the spare time to pursue training, typically those of the upper close. One might feel that the compass has turned full circle with professional athletes being paid rather high wages, of course.