Martin Sellner: A history of 'non-violent' violence

Martin Sellner
Martin Sellner, a man of contradictions. Photo credit: Getty

Martin Sellner says he doesn't condone violence, a claim that is incompatible with his ideology. 

In a recent interview with Newshub's Patrick Gower, Sellner repeatedly asserted he's a peaceful person. That's why he felt compelled to return money donated to him by the alleged Christchurch shooter, giving half to the victims of the mosque attacks.  

Sellner is keen to distance himself from the man accused of murdering 51 people in cold blood, yet he has a long history of admiring and participating in fascism - an inherently violent political ideology. 

In 2006, a 17-year-old Sellner stuck a swastika poster on a synagogue. He and a friend said they'd been inspired to do so after the arrest of Holocaust-denier David Irving.

Before he was 20 years old, Sellner had actively helped prominent neo-Nazis disrupt left-wing demonstrations. He'd also attended memorial services for soldiers who fought in the Wehrmacht.

Now 30, the genial Austrian with the trendy haircut claims his Nazi-supporting days are behind him. But just last week he was permanently banned from entering the UK, his extremist views deemed harmful to the country's interests. 

Historians have said fascism is notoriously difficult to define because of its ideological inconsistency and willingness to adopt and discard ideas at random. But something that never changes is its passion for violence as both a means and an end - and it's this dependence on violence that forms the core of Sellner's belief system. 

Sellner is the leader of Generation Identity (GI), an "Identitarian" group with three core aims according to its website: "stop the Islamisation of Europe", "oppose globalisation" and "stop and reverse the Great Replacement". 

The Great Replacement is a theory claiming a "pure" white Western world is being overrun by migrants from Asia, Africa and - in particular - the Middle East, who then corrupt European culture through their insidious 'otherness'.

"We, as patriotic Europeans, have to acknowledge that the current demographic situation is unfavourable for the indigenous population," GI's website reads. 

It's been called a "conspiracy theory" designed to whip up disaffected white people into a frenzy of paranoid bigotry, and has been found to have little basis in reality. 

On Tuesday, AM Show host Duncan Garner brushed off Sellner's ideology as "deeply conservative views many will find acceptable". Conservatism is generally understood as a dislike of taxes and a nostalgia for traditional family values, rather than the mass deportation of people based on their faith. 

Sellner told Gower his supporters should "stop posting on the internet and get on the streets, show their face in a peaceful way. Show that they are against mass migration and against Islamisation."

American geographer Reece Jones argues it's impossible to oppose migration peacefully, as militarised borders are violent and oppressive by nature. 

The desire to force an ethnic or religious group out of the country in which they live is an inherently violent one, as there's no feasible way this goal can be achieved without rounding people up and dragging them away against their will. 

Restricting human movement is therefore a violent act, whether states are removing people from a country or preventing them from entering one.

"Every border implies the violence of its maintenance," UK writer and activist Ayesha A. Siddiqi has said.  

The world is watching said violence unfold on the US-Mexico border right now, with asylum seekers separated from their children and physically restrained in facilities so poorly resourced they're forced to drink from toilets

Sellner's own "Identitarian" group has actively engaged in violent tactics in an attempt to preserve mythical European purity. In 2017 GI members were involved in an attempt to prevent rescue boats bringing migrants to land - the same stunt that helped propel Lauren Southern to international notoriety. 

No one was hurt or killed in the demonstration, but GI's intention was to have people drown at sea rather than set foot on European soil, a vehemently violent sentiment.

Politico reports GI members attend annual military-style training camps, and use phrases like "air strike" and "sniper attack" as analogies for online harassment.

Disavowing violence is a savvy PR move for Sellner - much like the friendly librarian glasses - but it also intentionally clouds his true vision for the world.