Anyone looking at the protests in Melbourne from outside needs to be careful in rushing to judgement about what individuals, groups or ideologues are responsible for the fracas that unfolded in the city streets in front of the headquarters of the CFMEU.
It looks messy because it is, but no simplistic label or analysis can be applied to a situation that has evidence of a range of ideological influences.
These protests are often a salad bowl of activism and different causes will be peddled by individuals or groups that seek to promote extreme ideologies that play upon fears that certain forces are in control of a particular country.
Professional and not-so-professional agitators can find their way into these protests and some of those have drunk the cool aid served by online forums in which the creation of chaos as a way of disrupting the social order to bring about change.
They will co-opt narratives from the media and contemporary social issues to legitimise world view. How many variations are there on a one world government, new world order, or a particular class of individuals that control things in a secretive fashion?
There are enough variations, including the QAnon cabal of child traffickers, sitting on the political fringe flapping their gums about so-called powerful puppeteers to the point where they brainwash themselves and – unfortunately – others along the way.
Some of the agitators usefully post material on encrypted messaging services that provide some insight into what range of demands or ideas are creating the cauldron that people in Victoria have seen bubble furiously in recent days.
The request for people to wear work gear, including boots, to Tuesday’s protests was posted on those forums. It is frankly not that hard for people to look the part if they chose to attend the rally regardless of their particular ideological affiliation.
A list of demands was circulated online by the protesters and amplified by various social media accounts. Demands such as an insistence of the end of lockdowns, the sacking of premier Dan Andrews and other individuals, reopening of all construction sites and the distribution of ivermectin, vitamins C and D, and zinc.
The latter plays into the campaign being run by various people for medical authorities to permit the use of ivermectin for the treatment of the coronavirus, and several politicians at a federal level have attached their brand to that cause.
This demand to distribute ivermectin, which does have some human treatment uses unrelated to COVID, also fits into the anti-government streak that many of the folks who bathe in the pools of online propaganda posses.
The fact people are facing economic hardship as a consequence of lockdowns is also causing people to spend more time at home and, of course, finding those dark, dingy places online in which to wallow during their enforced absence from what they would understandably regard as productive work.
It is important for observers of these protests to not come to a swift judgement on the composition of protesters involved.
You may well find that there are bad actors crafty enough to manipulate those who are vulnerable, wound up and spoiling for an argument to get more rowdy than they might be otherwise.