Pandemic fuels rise in neo-Nazi views among 'well-educated, middle-class' suburban men - Australian police officer

The COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled a rise in far-right violent views among seemingly normal middle-class men living in the suburbs, South Australia's top anti-terror police officer says.

The profile of neo-Nazi extremists has changed from a skinhead with tattoos to a 25-year-old man who is "reasonably well-educated [and] middle-class".

South Australia Assistant Commissioner Noel Bamford said that recently there were more people from the "National Socialist-type movement" who would attend protests with the sole purpose of inciting violence.

The pandemic has also caused a spike in "hate mail", especially to senior dignitaries, he said.

"There's been a lot of anti-vaccination sentiment, a lot of anti-lockdown sentiment, and that's translated into this ideological-motivated approach to anti-government," Asst Cmmr Bamford told Australia's The Advertiser.

"It's a phenomenon that none of us have seen before. But it's understandable how it can happen. People just get lost in what they're reading on the internet, don't have that social interaction and aren't getting a balanced view of the world."

He said that while it was healthy to have debates over different beliefs in a democratic country, it becomes a problem when "you move into that violent extremism area" and start to incite people to commit violence against others.

Asst Cmmr Bamford said the biggest threat to South Australia is that they become complacent and think that an attack won't happen, whether that be based in religion or ideology.

Citing the 2019 Christchurch mosque shooting and the US Capitol attack in January last year, he said that a "lone-wolf" incident - from those who self-radicalised online - and a cell of terrorists were of equal concern.

Shooter Brenton Tarrant is one of those, effectively identifying himself as a lone wolf who was inspired by an extreme right-wing movement.

"My biggest concern is that we will let our guard down, that we won't be on the lookout and we won't have the right strategies in place to ensure that we have a safe environment," Asst Cmmr Bamford said.

"It'd be very easy for us to go 'the pandemic is the biggest thing that we've ever had and violent terrorism, violent extremism, it's a thing of the past' - it's not."