Extremist movements in Australia: a study of individual ideology

Published September 2023 by Professor Paula Jarzabkowski, Dr Corinne Unger & Dr Katie Meissner

This work was co-funded by Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation (ARPC) as part of their thought leadership program

Executive Summary

This case study examines how the Sovereign Citizen movement was reported in the Australian media over a two-year period. It is intended to help readers think through the processes through which protest activities and causes are legitimised or delegitimised by the media, as
a proxy for public sentiment.

The case study should be read as a companion to our two research reports:

  1. ‘Terrorism and violent protests: where do these disruptive events meet?’ 
  2. ‘Is the social legitimacy of protest in Australia in flux?’ 

These reports explain that, despite the blurred boundaries between some terrorist activities and other acts of civil violence, society’s responses to these activities can vary according to the perceived legitimacy of the underlying cause. While a variety of protest groups were included in our earlier reports, this case study focuses on the Sovereign Citizens movement, with its underlying premise of denying the laws of a country.

We explain the distinct nature of the Sovereign Citizen protest activity and how it is legitimised or delegitimised through media reporting. The case covers three waves of media reporting related to specific protest activities attributed to the Sovereign Citizen movement. We then pose some questions for discussion to facilitate use of the case study and the earlier reports as learning resources.

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Contact Professor Paula Jarzabkowski to learn more about the research.

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