A new, white nationalist political group focuses on issues of free speech as a part of its manifesto.
This week’s instalment of our exploration of free speech and the far right and radical right investigates how Patriotic Alternative (PA), a relatively new, white nationalist political group emblematic of the traditional far right, approaches the question of free speech.
Generally speaking, the further right a group falls on the political spectrum, and the less mainstream that group is, the less focus they will give to the question of free speech. This can be understood in two ways. Firstly, discussions around freedom of speech and its manipulation are often only a realistic concern and focus for more establishment-oriented political entities, such as Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. Secondly, the traditional far right are aware that their ideas are abhorred by much of society and, while they would ideally like their views to become mainstream, they are more focused on more niche far-right topics such as, in the case of PA, repatriation.
That being said, to understand the direction the new far right is taking in today’s contentious political world, it is crucial to understand how a group such as PA approaches one of the most hotly debated topics at present.
PA was created in 2019 by former British National Party publicity director Mark Collett as a mostly online and social media-based organisation (despite efforts to form local branches, at the time of writing, PA has been unable to register as a political party).
PA is a racist far-right organisation with antisemitism at its very core. They aim to combat the “replacement and displacement” of white Britons by people who “have no right to these lands”. In this regard PA follows the broader trend in recent years amongst many in the far right of rebranding white nationalist ideology as a defence of ‘indigenous’ Europeans against their ‘Great Replacement’ from non-Europeans. This idea was popularised by the identitarian movement and, in a similar fashion, the earlier ‘counter-jihad’ movement with its ‘Eurabia’ conspiracy. However, PA are ideologically aligned with and have emerged out of the traditional, fascist far right and so these conspiracies go further and hold that it is Jewish elites, particularly, who are orchestrating the ‘replacement’ of white Britons.
According to Deputy Director Laura Tyrie (AKA Laura Towler), PA has two simultaneous efforts: politics and community-building. On the podcast put out by far-right US publisher Counter-Currents Publishing, Tyrie noted that PA “Can’t promise we can fix things from the political side but we can promise to build community” through efforts such as camping trips for like-minded supporters and large scale conferences.
Like much of the traditional far right, PA desires political power, but recognises they will not achieve mainstream status anytime soon, and so focuses on creating a community to share their extremist views.
PA, and the far-right figures who join its orbit, are on the record commenting on contemporary issues surrounding free speech. PA’s recently released manifesto argues that:
“Freedom of speech will be enshrined for all British citizens. Current restrictions on Freedom of Speech will be lifted immediately and all those in prison for speech crimes will be freed immediately and all those who hold criminal records for speech crimes will have their criminal records wiped clean.”
According to Tyrie, furthermore, PA calls for free speech regulations that are based on actual physical damages (though she does not specify what these damages are) not “hurt feelings”; thus positioning PA as sincere defenders of free speech (irrespective of the simplicity and weaknesses in their conception of free speech revealed by these statements).
On platforms such as his Twitter account and his BitChute channel, Collett has shared his views on free speech, spreading a rhetoric of self-victimhood and, furthermore, outward hypocrisy. In a 2019 BitChute video, Collett argues there is a Jewish-led attack against free speech on the internet, saying:
“the journalist in question, and when I use the word journalist I do so in the loosest possible terms…Gabriel [the reporter] is Jewish, and the political editor of the Sunday Times has also [written for Jewish publications]…and these two men have used their position in UK newspaper[s] to silence an independent content creator [Collett].”
He goes on to claim that the articles about him should not have been published anyway, as they contain inaccuracies, yet Collett seems perfectly content spreading a web of lies in the video itself. We see evidence of further hypocrisy on his Twitter feed where he argues that “The difference between free speech and hate speech is determined by one factor – who is being criticised!” and shares a photo of an American flag being burned with the title “free speech” and the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag being burned with the title “hate speech”, seemingly arguing that his beliefs are unfairly considered to be hate speech. Collett’s Twitter feed is, furthermore, full of warnings against legal and cultural limits on free speech, referencing the likes of Alison Chabloz and Tommy Robinson.
More recently, however, PA has made public statements more explicitly highlighting the hypocrisy in its free speech stance. At the spring 2020 PA conference, Tyrie noted that as opposed to all other groups, “we have truth” and thus the positions of PA should be further amplified. In regards to the recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, Collett has tweeted at length about BLM “thugs” and Fenek Solère, a blogger on the PA site, bragged about:
“having spent an hour or so this afternoon (Sunday) quietly dismantling a display of Black Lives Matter paraphernalia outside my local museum where stencilled black fists had been sprayed on cardboard signs and ludicrous accusations about systemic racism had been spray painted on bed-sheet-like banners that had been tied to the railings. How I smiled in the bright summer sun as a white woman of indeterminate age wearing a rather garishly painted home-made African face mask looked on aghast as I tore up her handiwork and deposited it unceremoniously in the nearest bin…”
If PA truly stood for free speech, the group and its leaders would not condone the dismantling of a perfectly legal peaceful demonstration with which they did not agree.
Finally, Scottish far-right vlogger Colin Robertson (AKA ‘Millennial Woes’), who has spoken at PA conferences, has openly advocated undermining others’ speech. Notably, Robertson has previously claimed that he is “pro-slavery” and advocated for removing women’s right to vote; yet when he was removed from Twitter on 28 September 2018, Robertson had much far-right support, claiming that Twitter was infringing on his free speech (sparking the hashtag #FreeWoes) and arguing that Twitter is simply afraid of controversial “truths”.
Free Speech as a Focal Point
Though free speech is less of a focus of PA’s platform than some other issues such as repatriation, the group, like much of the traditional far right, does believe that they should have the right to speak and amplify their message – and that of the likes of Robertson – more than the groups they hate. They do this through official platforms, such as their manifesto and public conferences, and through less formal means such as blog posts and social media engagement.
In following the work of PA, it is pivotal that HOPE not hate measure how this group uses free speech as a tactic.