Far-right groups ‘are inciting hate on social media’
The Times | Monday, 20 June 2016 | Click here for original article
Police are being urged to investigate extreme right-wing groups and their incitement activities after a series of hateful messages were published on social media in the wake of Jo Cox’s murder.
Nationalist groups have been accused of glorifying Thomas Mair, Mrs Cox’s accused killer, crowing about the attack and making excuses for it.
It comes amid concern about the rise of the far right in pockets of the UK, notably in Yorkshire, with violence at anti-immigration marches and increasing anti-Muslim hate crimes.
In the days since Mrs Cox’s death scores of members of far-right organisations have taken to social media to make threats to other MPs and to crow about the fate of the 41-year-old mother, who was a prominent campaigner for remaining in the EU.
The northeast unit of National Action, which has campaigned for Britain to leave the EU, tweeted: “#VoteLeave, don’t let this man’s sacrifice go in vain. #JoCox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans.”
The police northeast counterterrorism unit confirmed they were probing a number of “offensive messages on social media and extreme social media content”. A spokesman said: “We are conducting checks on this material to establish whether or not any criminal offences have been committed.”
There have been numerous other disturbing messages from far-right supporters in other areas of the country, resulting in calls for police to monitor and investigate online hatred.
A member of the English Defence League, another far-right group, posted on Facebook: “Many of us have been saying for years that sooner or later “SOMEONE” was going to get killed. No one thought it was going to be one of “them” (left-wing) who was going to be the first victim of the coming civil unrest heading towards Europe . . . BUT he had reached his breaking point (like many of us) and snapped.”
One Twitter user described Mrs Cox as a “traitor” while another said she was a “threat to the UK” and described Mr Mair as an “Aryan warrior”. Another group, calling itself the Notts Casual Infidels, linked to a news story of Mrs Cox’s murder and posted on Facebook: “We knew it was only a matter of time before we take it to the next level. We have been mugged off for too long.”
A man associated with Pegida UK, an anti-Islam group, posted on Facebook: “From today the game changed as a good friend said have a look at today’s date 16/06/2016. Next time the government must listen to its people.”
Matthew Collins, head of research at Hope not Hate, a charity that seeks to defeat the politics of extremism within British communities, said he was concerned that “there are a number of tiny, right-wing organisations that are taking great glory and satisfaction from Jo’s death”.
He added: “I think the police should look at the motives behind some of those people that are continuing to speak so much hatred and division.”
Mr Collins said that although there were many people who did not agree with or vote for Mrs Cox, “they had the decency to recognise the contribution she made to wider society”.
Referring to hateful messages posted on social media, he said: “These people are so on the margins of society that they no longer have any sense of moral decency or moral codes. I think the police should look at the motives behind some of those people that are continuing to speak so much hatred and division and are well aware of what such words have led to. These people are engaged in a whole network of tearing down the moral fabric of society.”
Stephen Kinnock, the MP who shared an office with Mrs Cox, was subjected to “particularly venomous” online abuse last week after an article about his family’s support for the Remain campaign. One email threatened violence and has been reported to the police, he said.
Mr Kinnock said the far right were a “shady bunch” who had many of their “views legitimised by the referendum and the choice of the Leave campaign to go hard on immigration”.
“I get the sense that a lot of rhetoric around the Leave campaign would have been classified as far right only five years ago but now it’s more mainstream. For example, I don’t think any political party would have put up that poster of Nigel Farage’s then.
“There seems to have been a drum beat over the years for venomous rhetoric. A lot of this referendum would have been classified as pretty extreme.
“Many MPs have a siege mentality because of the abuse, so I do think something needs to be done about it, but the question is what. You’ve got to get a balance between free speech and protecting people’s security. The last thing we’d want to do is never hold surgeries, then the bad guys have won.”