British far-right extremists wasted no time in trying to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – ‘Tommy Robinson’ – has appeared wrongfooted by the Covid-19 pandemic, unsure how to exploit the situation to his advantage.
While his close ally Avi Yemini (who last year was convicted of assault against his ex-wife) has used the TR News platform to promote anti-China rhetoric, Yaxley-Lennon has seemingly preferred to stick to his traditional anti-Muslim and anti-migrant agenda.
While occasionally bemoaning the supposed loss of civil liberties under lockdown, including selling “COVID-1984” t-shirts in his online shop, he has not made scrapping lockdown measures a key focus at any point.
Notably, Yaxley-Lennon has adopted some of the language used by Hindu nationalists in India, including the hashtag #germjihad, to promote the smear that Muslims are spreading the coronavirus, either deliberately or through failure to adhere to lockdown.
He also falsely predicted that the lockdown would be lifted in time for Eid, in an attempt to portray the government as bending to the preferences of the Muslim community, and has objected strongly to the call to prayer being broadcast during Ramadan from certain mosques.
Katie Hopkins has been resolutely anti-lockdown throughout the pandemic, diminishing the lethality of the virus and need for any public health measures beyond hand-washing.
She has declared that she will not accept a vaccine, saying: “My choice is not to be vaccinated, not to drink the Corona-kool aid and to keep being fit and healthy in the sunshine.”
She has also used the pandemic to provoke hostility towards Muslims, by suggesting that they are unwilling to comply with lockdown measures, as well as suggesting that the government is unwilling to enforce the measures on BAME communities.
Hopkins has been vocal in attacking the NHS, too, directing harsh criticism at the weekly applause for key workers and viral videos of NHS staff dancing in hospitals.
Having mothballed the Brexit Party for an indefinite period, Nigel Farage has been seeking new ways to remain relevant throughout this period.
In March, he was heavily critical of Boris Johnson for failing to prevent flights from affected countries, whilst also criticising Health Secretary Matt Hancock for apparently implying that “the economy matters more than saving lives”. Despite this support for stronger government intervention, Farage has since declared that opposing police overreach might be “his new campaign”.
He has recently reported at length on the arrival of migrant boats on the south coast, apparently trying to convert the frustrations of life under lockdown into anti-migrant sentiment, suggesting that lockdown laws are futile without stricter border control.
He has also made a concerted effort to place blame on China for perceived failures in the early days of the pandemic, which fitted in with his previous opposition to Huawei’s role in the UK 5G upgrade.
Farage’s campaign on illegal channel crossings has been heavily promoted by Aaron Banks’ organisation Leave.EU, suggesting the two might have reconciled their public dispute that emerged during the 2019 General Election.
Mark Collett and Patriotic Alternative
Neo-nazi Mark Collet has used the pandemic to push his traditional narratives against migration and the liberal attitudes supposedly bolstering it, accusing the government of being too scared to close the borders for fear of being called racist.
He has made attempts to blame Jewish New Yorkers for flouting social distancing measures, decrying the unwillingness of his colleagues in the British far right to attack Jewish people with as much enthusiasm as they attack Muslims.
His Patriotic Alternative group has used the lockdown to promote ambitions to create a community-based group, encouraging members to use this time to learn about homeschooling and avoid children being “indoctrinated” with ideas that go against their beliefs.
Despite Mark Colett’s previously expressed admiration for Nazi Germany, Patriotic Alternative has also complained about the rise of a so-called “snitch state” in which citizens are encouraged to inform police of lockdown infringements.
The former British National Party (BNP) leader has taken an increasingly conspiratorial tone since the beginning of the pandemic.
Repeatedly comparing the coronavirus to seasonal flu, he has promoted the idea that its lethality is being exaggerated as part of a deliberate plot to crash the economy and install authoritarian measures that will never be lifted.
Unlike many on the far right, he has rejected the idea of blaming China for creating the outbreak or allowing it to spread, choosing instead to claim that the “Anglo-Zionist global elite” have been the pandemic to control populations and benefit financially from the ensuing crash.
Unsurprisingly, he has announced his intention to refuse any potential vaccine, claiming that fresh air and sunshine are sufficient to defeat the virus and boost the immune system.
He has also promoted conspiracy theories around Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Anthony Fauci (the USA’s lead clinician on the virus), Professor Neil Ferguson (the British epidemiologist and former adviser to the Government) and other prominent figures in the scientific community leading the push to create a vaccine.
Griffin’s conspiracies include accusing Gates of being a “bioterrorist” and suggesting the the virus modelling done by Ferguson is part of a plot to allow for authoritarian rule. His outlook on the situation has been broadly similar to that of Gerard Batten, former leader of UKIP.
The ex-deputy leader of Britain First has exploited the pandemic to promote her new political vehicle, the British Freedom Party, launching a community assistance and an advocacy programmes for anyone who feels they have been subjected to (supposedly) tyrannical or unfair policing. This attempt exemplifies how some on the far right might try and exploit the situation in the months and years ahead as the economic situation worsens.
Fransen has also promoted conspiracy theories about the dangers of the virus, claiming that it is less lethal than the flu and that the threat posed by the pandemic is being exaggerated to allow for more authoritarian rule. She has suggested that she would not accept a vaccine, and has pushed the use of the term “Chinese Virus” in order to apportion blame on China for ‘unleashing’ the virus onto the world.
Her attitude is distinctly different from that of her former movement Britain First. It has largely accepted the lethality of the virus and focused more on propagating the smear that Muslims and other minority groups are flouting the lockdown en masse, while simultaneously posting photos of their own members failing to do so.
Paul Joseph Watson
YouTuber, conspiracy theorist and former InfoWars host Paul Watson has come out strongly against the lockdown, making it a running feature in most of his recent videos.
Watson believes that the pandemic is being exaggerated to allow for authoritarian laws to be put in place, using the slogan “COVID-1984” as a title for one of his videos, and has used viral videos of dancing NHS staff to suggest that hospitals are not facing unusually high demand on their services.
Watson has also enthusiastically exploited the opportunity to attack his familiar targets of China and migrants, quickly adopting President Trump’s use of the term “Chinese Virus” and using the anti-migration slogan “Pubs closed. Borders open” as popularised by the neo-Nazi ‘Hundred Handers’ group.
However, he has given Sweden unusual praise for its refusal to institute a lockdown – ironically, it’s a country that he ordinarily derides for its supposed liberal and politically correct stances.