New UKIP member and social media figure Mark Meechan (AKA ‘Count Dankula’) has supported the alt-right vlogger Colin Robertson (AKA ‘Millennial Woes’) following his Twitter ban

Meechan, himself a vlogger notorious for teaching a dog to nazi salute in response to the commands “Sieg heil” and “gas the Jews”, streamed his interview with Robertson on his YouTube channel Wednesday last week. Meechan – who has used his channel to encourage others to join UKIP and spoke to applause at their recent party conference – is amongst a coterie of extreme social media personalities recently welcomed into the party.

As HOPE not hate detailed in The Guardian last week, UKIP party leader Gerard Batten has moved the party into undeniably far-right territory, which has caused rifts and walkouts.

In addition to Meechan, other figures accepted into UKIP include fake news conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson, anti-Muslim activist Milo Yiannopoulos – who claimed that Muslim immigrants would bring “lamb chops, yoghurt and gang-rape” to America – and Carl Benjamin (AKA ‘Sargon of Akkad’), known for his highly casual attitude towards hate speech, and who has said “it seems that racism was a causal factor in reducing the crime and poverty in the black community” and that it was “unironically good for the black community in this regard”.

 

Left to right: Mark Meechan (AKA ‘Count Dankula’), Gerard Batten and Carl Benjamin (AKA ‘Sargon of Akkad)

A dangerous trope

Billed as ‘A Chat on Censorship with Millennial Woes’, Meechan and Robertson’s conversation last week centred around the latter’s ban from Twitter on 28 September. Robertson claims this resulted from a reply he posted in a Twitter discussion that read “the fact is that black men are more prone to committing violent crime than white men”.

The claim that different ethnic or racial groups are more prone to violent crime is a trope with various manifestations that all share a long history in the far right. What they have in common, aside from often relying on a misinterpretation of crime statistics, is that they are used to advance racist views about non-white people being somehow intrinsically violent and criminal. Though he has elsewhere disavowed such views and stated he would “probably disagree” about the explanations for such claims Robertson would appeal to, Meechan nonetheless did not pick Robertson up on this when he stated that:

Twitter does seem to have a problem with what’s known as ‘uncomfortable truths’ […] Obviously, like, it is true according to FBI statistics that black males do commit more crime than white males. The reason for that me and you will probably disagree on”.

The day before, Meechan had already shown his willingness to perpetuate this trope after retweeting the following:

Courting the far right

Meechan has previously defended Robertson’s airing of his views when he spoke out against the white nationalist vlogger’s identity being revealed by The Daily Record newspaper in January 2017. Earlier this year Meechan revealed on Twitter that he regularly spoke to Robertson and suggested the two meet.

Meechan maintains that his views are not far right. Nonetheless, his continued willingness to provide these views with a platform and his misguided belief that merely airing false and dangerous ideas will lead to their being simply dismissed, reveals a deep naivety about the realities of radicalisation.

At the end of Meechan and Robertson’s interview, this was highlighted when Meechan answered a question from a viewer. They asked “do you think what white nationalism will become more popular when it’s not censored?” to which Meechan replied:

No, I believe ‘cus people will be able to challenge it. Like, everyone sort of thinks that whenever someone’s… Well for some people that is true, but the majority people whenever they hear information they don’t just instantly believe it. More and more people are actually starting to question and do their own research and when people start questioning things it means they need research which overall raises their intelligence, so basically the intelligence of the population is rising and that’s always a good thing

Quite aside from suggesting that Meechan thinks the validity of the political positions of someone like Robertson might be open questions – someone who has, amongst other things, admitted to being probably “pro-slavery”, has engaged in Holocaust denial and has suggested removing women’s right to vote – the far right rely on precisely this optimism about people discovering the truth of a matter when engaging in research – especially online – to propagandise and manipulate what people discover. In some cases, this has proved deadly.

None of this means Meechan is intentionally radicalising people to the far right. However, whilst Meechan may not hold these extreme views, the likes of Robertson do and by giving him a platform in the name of defending his free speech, he is allowing the far right to further manipulate social media for their own ends and, in turn, promote views that deny the speech of others and mean to cause them harm.