On January 19, a propaganda video depicting three masked neo-Nazis burning an Aboriginal flag, performing Sieg Heil salutes and reciting a white supremacist manifesto began circulating on social media. The video was poorly filmed and produced, reeking of a desperate effort to gain publicity and followers for a new extremist group.
Yet it began to gain traction with mainstream news outlets, largely because it singled out Greens senator Lidia Thorpe, who is also Indigenous. The senator’s name, alongside a vicious racist slur, was written on a sign behind the men. Soon, terror experts were warning of the potential for the video to incite attacks or further harassment of Thorpe, a development the anonymous neo-Nazi propagandist who uploaded the video greeted with glee in subsequent online postings.
But this neo-Nazi, who uses the online alias “John Dixon”, also made a mistake. Among hundreds of vicious and violent online posts – including those referencing the Christchurch terrorist – he left a breadcrumb trail of clues pointing to his true identity.
These clues led to an Australian mobile phone number and an approximate home address in outer suburban Melbourne. Further data mining fully lifted John Dixon’s black mask: he is a Victorian man and former Melbourne University Young Liberals office holder named Stefan Eracleous.
A deep dive into Eracleous’s online posts, court cases and interactions with other neo-Nazis provides a case study of what ASIO’s director-general, Mike Burgess, warned this week is an expanding and deeply disturbing trend: the descent of young Australians – some as young as 13 – into extremism.