It has been widely acknowledged that the far-right is a growing threat in the UK. However, having been blocked from mainstream social media platforms because of their disregard for hate speech laws, it has been difficult to follow the new ideas and issues motivating some of Britain’s most dangerous groups.
One of the major issues preoccupying the far-right is Brexit. Supporters of Tommy Robinson, Britain First and others want Britain to leave the EU as soon as possible – preferably without a deal – and harbour an anti-establishment hatred of Parliament for “getting in the way”.
Speeches from Brexit Party MEP’s are shared and praised on Telegram, while Remainers are vilified as “traitors”. The nationalistic fervour of far-right groups means they are predisposed to support Brexit and, as we revealed last week, it is feared that these groups are using the issue to enter mainstream politics.
In the context of their love of Brexit, figures like Boris Johnson have emerged as cult-like heroes.
Far-right supporters have chanted Johnson’s name at football matches, while Tommy Robinson has declared his support for the Prime Minister in interviews. Meanwhile, leaping to the PM’s defence, Britain First has recently launched a petition for the Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel to apologise for slamming Brexit in front of Boris.
Given that the far-right has an obsession with personality figures like Tommy Robinson, it is perhaps not surprising that the Prime Minister, alongside Donald Trump, has been awarded this status.
Support for Brexit and Boris Johnson both tie into a dislike for “the establishment”. This, to the far-right, is made up of treacherous MPs and the mainstream media or “MSM”, who they believe purposely manipulate the news to push a left-wing agenda.
Indeed, last month, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change found that 12% of tweets from four far-right groups expressed anti-establishment views.
Their report, Narratives of Hate, says: “Anti-establishment views combined with a sense of belonging offered by some of these groups can be a gateway to more extreme and dangerous narratives.”
As demonstrated with the murder of MP Jo Cox in 2016 by a far-right activist, the anti-establishment rhetoric of the far-right can lead to violence. And while another tragedy like Cox’s murder has not occurred in the UK since, with messages like the one below still posted on far-right message boards, it seems hatred for “the establishment” has not abated.
The far-right are agitated about free speech and claim it has been violated by “politically correct snowflakes” who are offended by right-wing politics.
However, anti-racism groups including HOPE not hate have warned that the far-right is exploiting this issue. As they write on their website, “For some on the far-right free speech is not a right, it is merely a tactic.
“With their ideas long marginalised from the mainstream, they are using the notion of free speech to try and broaden the ‘Overton Window’ (the range of ideas the public will accept) to the point where it includes their prejudiced and hateful politics.”
The far-right is also preoccupied with migrants and refugees, who they see as illegal and dangerous. They share posts claiming that migrants are “invading” the UK and corrupting our culture.
Britain First has even set up a vigilante-like team of people to monitor the Dover coastline to repel refugees.
Despite their strong rhetoric and all evidence to the contrary, far-right groups vehemently reject any claim that these attitudes are racist and instead say they are standing up for native Brits. They share posts celebrating England’s past and claim they are protecting the country’s way of life from “outsiders”.
But the most demonised group among the far-right is the Muslim community.
According to research published in the Oxford Handbook of the Radical Right:
“Since the turn of the new millennium, the Islamophobic rhetoric of the radical right has become more and more pervasive, more radical in content, more extreme in scope, and more potent in reach.”
Far-right groups fear Muslim culture. They share stories (and often fake, entirely unverified news) of crimes from Muslims and extrapolate these events to make sweeping judgements about the Muslim community. Problems in society are blamed on Muslims and normal Muslims are labelled “jihadis”. Islamophobic memes are shared as “light relief” amongst the scaremongering.
As with their reaction to refugees, their attitudes stem from a conspiratorial fear that white people are being displaced and British culture is being overthrown.
Therefore, they fear any sign of a Muslim presence in England. So, they make petitions to ban mosques, to demonise the burqa, and to ban halal food.
Pedophilia tops the list of crimes that the far-right attributes to Muslims.
Their belief comes in part from widely criticised research from think thank, the Quilliam Foundation, that claimed 84% of grooming gangs are Asian, and wide media coverage of child abuse cases, such as the Rotherham case.
It also ties into a patriarchal desire to stand up for an idealised family, and general feelings that Muslim culture is inferior to Western culture.
They see themselves as vigilantes who are helping to improve society. Indeed, Tommy Robinson views his arrest for filming defendants in a child sexual assault trial as proof that the establishment is covering up these crimes.
It is right that these hate figures have been thrown off mainstream social media platforms. But we must also recognise that their rhetoric is being inflamed through secretive social media platforms – away from public scrutiny.
We can only beat the far-right by continuing to expose their dangerous ideas, and tackle their hate head-on.