Governments have been too slow to catch up with media-savvy fascists
Sellner and the Identitarian Movement, whose Austrian branch he heads, have a history in performing provocative stunts to garner attention. In 2016 a group of identitarians stormed a play put on by Syrian and Iraqi refugees, pouring blood on themselves and yelling slogans. In an even more elaborate and objectionable stunt, the group hired a boat to impede NGO vessels attempting to rescue refugees from the Mediterranean. The five-figure sum needed to finance such a project was readily provided through internet donations from fans. More recently, Sellner has reduced the scale of his stunts in order to remain within the limits of Austrian law. This new strategy allows for the broadcasting such stunts – normally involving the unfurling of xenophobic banners in public places, with the occasional addition of paganistic fire rituals – to a wide audience per Facebook-livestream. A rapidly growing social media following, online donations and the sale of reactionary-themed merchandise have opened new doors for Sellner and allowed him to grow his online presence.
On 25 March, Sellner’s house was searched by Austrian police when it emerged that he had received a 1,500 euro donation from Brenton Tarrant, the Christchurch killer, over the internet in early 2018 (Sellner echoes Tarrant’s belief in the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory). Instagram and other social media platforms have banned Sellner, and the Austrian government is taking steps to dissolve the Identitarians. Following the Christchurch shooting, Sellner was also denied entry into the U.S., where Pettibone has been trying to rally transnational support for his movement in the face of Austria’s crackdown. These new measures may prove effective, but they come alarmingly late. Sellner’s case shows us that governments must begin taking the far-right’s online presence seriously, or risk becoming complicit in its explosive growth.