WELCOME TO our new 2020 State of Hate report, our annual review on the state and nature of Britain’s far right, analysing the threat it presents to our nation.
The report – one of our most extensive to date – reveals that there are reasons to be hopeful, but sadly many reasons to be fearful, too.
Our report headlines with two, seemingly contradictory propositions. The traditional far right is at the weakest it has been for possibly 50 years or more – but at the same time hatred is becoming increasingly mainstreamed.
The other key focus of State of Hate this year is the continuing rise of the far-right terror threat, which continues to be a threat both at home – with thwarted plots and numerous arrests – but more significantly is taking on a more global nature and identity, following high-profile attacks in places like New Zealand, the USA and Germany.
We should be vigilant against further terrorism attempts from the extreme right, which currently remain a significant threat.
Our report also explains the current weaknesses of the traditional far right. There are fewer organisations than ever before and those that do exist have been less active and smaller over the past year. There is actually only one far-right group that can be considered to be growing: all the others are in decline or have disappeared altogether.
Language and messaging that was once the preserve of the far right is now increasingly adopted by the political mainstream.
Anti-Muslim prejudice, demeaning rhetoric on migrants and refugees, and notions of a ‘cultural war’ against social liberalism are increasingly being adopted by political and media figures from an increasingly confident political right.
This is partly the consequence of the far right engaging in wider cultural and identity issues, but also because centre-right politicians have tried to embrace far-right narratives to win support. Who really needs far-right propagandists when you have more mainstream commentators like Rod Liddle, Littlejohn, Toby Young and James Delingpole all weighing into the fray?
The ‘cordon sanitaire’ which once kept far-right groups and thought out of mainstream discourse has collapsed, both here and on the Continent.
Belgium’s King Philippe has held an official meeting at the Royal Palace with the head of the far-right Vlaams Belang party. It is the first time a Belgian monarch has met a far-right leader since 1936. In Germany, a significant group of Christian Democrat politicians have called for a deal with the far-right Alternative for Germany party.
The decline of the traditional far right has been happening for some time. As far back as 1999 the British National Party recognised that its strong racist and anti-immigrant message had decreasing traction in a multicultural society where some non-whites were already second or third generation British.
However, this decline has been quickened by the emergence of the internet and the rapidly evolving digital landscape, plus the loosening ties between political parties and people, which has given us all a far wider choice to move between causes and campaigns.
The far right has also been constrained by police action and social media deplatforming. Leaders of many of the more violent far-right groups have been imprisoned, while the action of some social media companies to limit hate speech has massively curtailed the ability of far-right figures to reach audiences and raise money.
When Facebook closed down Stephen Yaxley-Lennon’s [Tommy Robinson’s] page, he lost his ability to reach over one million followers. When far-right party Britain First was taken off Facebook, it lost access to an audience of over two million. While both moved onto the encrypted messaging app Telegram, they can now reach only a fraction of their previous audiences, hampering their visibility and – just as importantly – their ability to raise funds.
But it has been Brexit that has really quickened the far right decline. Brexit has dominated the political discourse over the past three years and the traditional far-right organisations have struggled to get their issues heard amid the Brexit roar. Figures such as Yaxley-Lennon tried to jump aboard the Brexit bandwagon, but after admitting that he hadn’t actually voted in the EU Referendum, he struggled to have any meaningful impact beyond complaining about Muslims and his own sense of persecution.
Last summer, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party was formed and topped the poll in the European elections all within two months. Along the way it claimed to have recruited 150,000 supporters and millions in donations. However, almost as quickly as it emerged it sunk, as Boris Johnson promised to deliver what Farage could only dream about.
There is a heavy emphasis in this report on the continuing threat of far-right terrorism. Twelve far- right activists were convicted of terrorism-related charges last year, and 10 more are already facing trial this year.
The material being circulated by groups such as the Sonnenkrieg Division and the Feuerkrieg Division is truly horrific and far worse than anything we would have seen in previous far-right groups. More worryingly, these groups are deliberately targeting and attracting young people.
In this report we set out the case for the Home Secretary to proscribe a terror-fomenting group, the Nazi-Satanist organisation the Order of Nine Angles (O9A). While we applaud the decision to ban National Action splinter groups, such as Sonnenkrieg Division, we are mystified why a group that has so consistently advocated terrorism, inspired far-right and Islamist terrorists in the past, and been linked to four people convicted of terrorism last year, is still allowed to operate.
One of the most disturbing features of the violent wing of the far right has been its increasing adoption of sexual violence as a political tool. Domestic abuse, rape and even incest has been openly encouraged. Much of this originates with the O9A, which, as we expose in this report, runs horrendous groups such as ‘RapeWaffen’
The far right are enthusiastic and extreme participants in the culture war and have successfully sought to portray themselves as victims of political correctness, the liberal establishment and gender equality. And in this they successfully tap into an anxiety and lack of control over their lives that many feel, especially those who feel most pessimistic about the future and those who have been top of the social hierarchies but now feel they are losing out to others.
The report explores how the ‘manosphere’ has snowballed into an ideology that has taken on a life beyond an online niche. Though its organised elements and online communities are still a fringe issue, it taps into broader reactionary attitudes towards women, feminism and progressive politics.
While much of State of Hate’s focus is on the British far right, we recognise that overseas events and trends have an impact here.
One significant development of 2019 was how the terrorist wing of the far right now increasingly identifies as a ‘community’. It has now become commonplace for far-right terrorists to integrate a form of social media ‘strategy’ into their attacks.
Far-right terror attacks in New Zealand, the US and Germany all followed a similar theme. Manifestos were written and uploaded ahead of time, sometimes announcements of impending attacks were made and most of the terrorists tried to livestream their atrocities.
With a far-right terrorist MO emerging, we are unfortunately likely to see more of these types of attacks in the future.
The mainstreaming of the far right poses serious challenges for both ourselves, the authorities, minorities, educators and wider society.
It is far easier to challenge the hate of a small group, especially when its views are considered unacceptable by the mainstream, than is the case now – when Islamophobia is on the rise (including inside the governing party), antisemitism is reappearing and other forms of hate crimes are also on the increase.
We are facing challenges on more fronts and in different ways than ever before. We need to challenge hate in mainstream parties, while at the same time tackling the young nazi terrorists operating on the margins. We have to tackle online hate and growing division in our communities.
And just as the traditional and populist far right has crashed in recent times, so it could easily rebound.
Disillusionment with the Boris Johnson government, a frustration over Brexit not delivering as expected, or even other issues becoming more important as Brexit wanes, could all have a galvanising effect on the British far right. And when – or if – this happens, especially if driven by a charismatic leader, this will be tapping into a far bigger pool of support than would have been the case in the past.
The face of hate has changed, and will no doubt change again in the future. We must face that evolving threat with courage and a willingness to adapt to the challenges it presents.