This week: lockdown protests, homeschooling initiatives and David Icke.
In the sixth edition of our weekly COVID-19 and the Far Right roundup, we’re looking at increasing attempts to exploit frustration with the lockdown from some on the far right, the small but growing phenomenon of anti-lockdown street protests, and some important progress made in the campaign to deplatform David Icke.
This week saw increasing intensity of opposition to lockdown measures from the UK far right. After proposing a community care assistance programme two weeks ago, ex-Britain First leader Jayda Fransen has this week launched a “free advocacy service” for those who believe they have been subject to “tyrannical and unlawful policing” during the lockdown. Meanwhile, Tommy Robinson live-streamed himself berating the police for setting up a mobile speed camera, demanding to know if such work is “essential” and claiming that they were unfairly targeting key workers.
Exploiting frustration with perceived heavy-handedness by police forces in implementing the Coronavirus Bill is increasingly being used as a tool for far-right activists, many of whom have lengthy criminal records and ongoing legal issues. The far right is perpetually searching for angles that allow them to connect with the general public who are not otherwise motivated by racism and bigotry, so portraying themselves as champions of freedom and civil liberties has potential to expand their appeal. As ex-BNP leader Nick Griffin noted back in March, the pandemic provides an opportunity not just for “online outreach work”, but also practical activities that might “give people faith in their fellow whites”.
Mark Collett of Patriotic Alternative was also highlighting potential lockdown benefits for the far right this week, claiming that it had turned “women who weren’t very handy round the house into homemakers who are learning new skills, learning how to bake and cook”. He also floated the idea of setting up a homeschooling network, to encourage parents who had been forced to take over their child’s education in this period to continue doing so long term, to avoid their children being “indoctrinated with social and political narratives that go against what we believe in”.
Saturday saw a small protest against the lockdown in London, and more have been announced throughout May. The motives for such protests are varied, but many of those advocating for such protests on social media appear to be motivated by conspiracy theories about COVID-19, with some claiming the virus doesn’t exist and that the pandemic is a smokescreen for a governmental power-grab, while others see a global conspiracy regarding a potential vaccine. Such conspiracies often have antisemitic components – the New World Order is frequently mentioned, an old trope that almost always involves allegations of evil schemes by prominent Jewish figures. Some protestors at Saturday’s gathering also carried signs that identified them as supporters of the London Real website, who appear to be positioning themselves as a key broadcaster of conspiracy theories relating to the pandemic (see below).
Icke deplatformed (again)
Notorious conspiracy theorist David Icke had his YouTube deleted this week, shortly after his removal from Facebook. YouTube said that Icke’s removal was due to continued violation of these policies against content that denies the existence of the Coronavirus. Losing these two platforms are a major blow to Icke, who along with his harmful medical advice is also a major proponent of antisemitic conspiracy theories. It remains to be seen whether Twitter, Icke’s last major social media outlet, will allow him to continue with his campaign of dangerous misinformation on their platform.
An attempt by online broadcaster London Real to livestream an interview with Icke also came into difficulties, with YouTube deleting a feed and their own website repeatedly crashing throughout the broadcast. London Real claim to have crowdfunded over £1 million to create a new live streaming platform for the broadcast, but it appears that they have simply switched from hosting via YouTube to using DailyMotion, raising questions over exactly where that money has been spent.