Fans are threatening to boycott the Supanova pop culture convention, during which a vendor openly displayed fascist flags and merchandise at Supanova’s recent show in Sydney.
This story originally appeared on Kotaku Australia.
Several participants have posted and confirmed on Supanova’s own Facebook page Kotaku Australia separately that they reported the goods in the stand to the Supanova employees on Friday when the sellers started setting up for the opening the next day. The material included flags and t-shirts with swastikas and ultra-nationalist iconography, including a flag with the text “Pink Fascism” and a bloody knuckle with a swastika in its fingernail.
The term “pink fascism” is rooted in an exposed conspiracy theory that homosexuals were an important factor in the NSDAP or were identified with it. It has gained prominence among arch-conservative movements around the world in recent years. despite the clear and established story the persecution of homosexuals and associated organizations by Nazi Germany.
Other shirts and merchandise at the booth included a shirt that said “Just Hunting Bolsheviks”, another that said “Christian, Australian, Heterosexual, Pro Gun, Conservative, Any Questions” and flags with the Japanese rising sun. A Eureka flag was also featured prominently, recently called the Anti-Immigration Australia First Party logo,
Another shirt advertised a comic called Captain Kelly: Sky Command, an Australian comic with a Ned Kelly-like character fighting “Zombie Nazis for Allah”.
The booth reportedly going by the name of Celtic Panzer and the official Supanova exhibitor list, has already exhibited at Supanova Sydney. The official one Supanova timetable for 2018 and 2019 shows that Celtic Panzer had a spot in the show’s Indie Press Zone in both years, though Kotaku Australia makes no claims or assertions about what the seller has shown over these years.
Photos and reports of the booth began to circulate late Friday evening, both on Supanova’s own page and on other social media channels. Supanova responded to criticism until Saturday and announced on Sunday morning on Facebook that the exhibitor had been “expelled” from the event. “This is now going on with security in place and we aim to have this completed before the opening. although it is possible that this may still be going on after 10am, ”wrote Supanova.
Supanova did not respond to questions from attendees asking why the exhibitors weren’t removed earlier. Posts on social media show that Supanova responded publicly on Saturday to investigate “ASAP,” but more than 10 hours later the booth hadn’t been ejected.
One participant also told Kotaku Australia that Supanova employees asked the stand to remove the flag of the rising sun and the material with swastikas on Saturday, but the stand was allowed to continue operating. A user on social media reported that Supanova employees were told on Friday – the day before the opening of the convention – that the seller was “already banned” even though the booth stayed all Saturday.
Kotaku Australia has asked Supanova several times for a comment and asked for clarification as to which background checks are carried out at providers; what Supanova employees did after receiving complaints on Friday; why the seller was allowed to exhibit all Saturday even though he was displaying material with swastikas; whether the seller has refunded his stand fee and whether he will be able to exhibit in the future; and how a Supanova seller can display such goods at a family-friendly fair. Supanova’s social media team replied on Sunday afternoon, “This is a very busy time” and they would “fully respond as soon as we are physically able”. However, the organizers did not respond to a request for comment on Monday or Tuesday morning.
It’s not the first time Supanova has gotten into controversy. A few years ago Daniel Zachariou, the founder and event director of Supanova, was heavily criticized for a Petition on their Facebook page calls for the abolition of transgender education in schools. It immediately sparked backlash among Australia’s pop culture and cosplay communities – who are traditionally openly LGBTQIA + -friendly – and former high profile Supanova guests called for a boycott.
“As much as I want to support events for gamers all over Australia, I definitely won’t do that if those who run it postulate transphobic shock,” said Liam Esler, one of the co-founders of the former queer-friendly gaming and pop culture convention GX Australia, said then.
Zachariou apologized afterwards, saying that a new diversity panel was being introduced on Supanova shows and that he did not intend to do so promote offensive views. “Both I and the Supanova team are committed to ensuring that it remains an inviting, pleasant and integrative environment for everyone, as it always has been.” Zachariou wrote.
Separately, Supanova also announced that their upcoming Perth show – originally scheduled for June 26th and 27th – has been postponed. The decision was forced on organizers after the Western Australian government closed its borders in response to the growing COVID-19 cluster in NSW. With Supanova’s staff currently in NSW after the event this weekend, the timing meant there was no way for the staff or many of the scheduled guests to return to Western Australia in time for the show.