This year’s annual State of Hate report by HOPE not hate runs to over 60 pages. It’s what one might describe as a ‘bumper edition’ of a yearly report into racial hatred, fascism and neo-Nazism in not just the United Kingdom, but continental Europe as well.
As we predicted last year, violence and antagonism have increased. So too has the oft-repeated misconception that the far right has been on the increase. What we witnessed in 2016 was actually the mainstreaming of some of the more ‘palatable’ views of the extreme far-right, with prejudicial views on Muslims, immigration and other minorities ignited by issues such as Brexit and absorbed into more mainstream political discourse.
Disagree with them or not, neither Theresa May nor Nigel Farage have called for the extermination of immigrants, asylum seekers and fellow politicians – as those within the extreme far-right have often done.
This extreme far-right has hardened but hardly grown. Over 60 fascists were sent to prison last year with combined sentences totalling in the hundreds of years. The main cause of incarceration was violence.
The two big talking points connected to the extreme right were, of course, the murder of the MP Jo Cox and the banning by the Home Secretary of neo-Nazi gang, National Action (NA).
In an email to a journalist before Christmas, as well as describing the reporter as a “cuck” (short for “cuckold”), National Action’s leader Ben Raymond complained that no civil rights organisation had jumped to his group’s defence, or had offered to help with a judicial review.
This follows the banning of the neo-Nazi organisation by Home Secretary Amber Rudd under anti-terrorism laws. She described National Action (NA) as “a racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic organisation”. It is the first time a group engaged in extreme right-wing activities has been proscribed post-war.
With such attitudes so typical (according to Raymond) of lefty, liberal “cucks”, it is no wonder that his gang of teenagers spends so much of its time attacking such people and threatening them with violence.
On such matters (the group’s obsession with violence) Raymond also protested that National Action was suffering as a result of the actions of the neo-Nazi Thomas Mair, who murdered Jo Cox.
“At the time of the attack and following the conviction we made clear statements distancing ourselves from this individual,” bemoaned Raymond. This was bizarre, given the group had adopted the tag line “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain” as its own. It was also the only comment Mair ever made in his defence.
If this raised eyebrows, so did tweets from the group’s accounts lauding Mair and celebrating his actions. By this time, those of us tasked with poring over every banal and childish utterance the group made had already concluded that Raymond, who is in his late twenties, was out of touch with his own organisation and that many of its followers and adherents had outgrown the childish posturing of their erstwhile leader.
If you were to ask me whether I believed National Action was a terrorist organisation (and arguments about what constitutes terrorism aside) I would have honestly said I did not believe so. Are their views any worse than other groups, say like the National Front (NF) or the British National Party (BNP) with whom the group shares lineage and kinship? I would also have said no.
Calls to violence
At the time of National Action’s banning order, we “cautiously welcomed” the proscription. For a start, there is no “underground” for the group to be driven by the banning order and there is no doubt that the group had shifted dramatically from the rather tedious art school project that began over three years ago, when it described itself as a “youth movement”.
In the past month evidence has come to light that suggest there are members of the organisation who have been involved in the preparation of materials that could be used for terrorist acts. Although we are forbidden by law from naming the individual(s) involved in one court case, one news organisation is currently preparing a court challenge so that individuals involved can be named in the pubic interest.
Groups like NA carry with them (both ideologically and physically) a very real desire to “strike back” against the “cucks”, the Jews, the gays, the Muslims, the antifascists and lefties that (as they see it) make their dreams impossible. Although the language is quite different, this explosive cocktail of failure and impotence was also present in veiled threats made by Britain First’s leader Paul Golding when he was released from prison in early January (after breaking a court order banning him from entering a mosque without prior permission).
The leaders of these groups are encouraging impressionable youngsters, usually via the internet, to consider carrying out attacks which they themselves are afraid to do. Having said that, Britain First’s Paul Golding – somewhat of a pariah on the far right – is the first leader of a far-right political party to be jailed in this country since the British National Party’s founder John Tyndall was sent to prison in the mid 1980s.
In the case of National Action, targeting individuals, threatening public figures, glorifying terrorism, staging martial “exercises” in the countryside, and calling for Jews to be hunted down and “eradicated”, are ‘jokes’ that are no longer funny (if they ever were) as NA’s former leader Ben Raymond claimed.
It’s just a shame the police didn’t act against National Action two years ago, when the joke was already wearing very, very thin.
Matthew Collins is Research Director for HOPE not hate. He tweets: @MattHopeNotHate