Underground UK far right activism on the rise


Far right terrorism is on the rise in Britain, according to a report from HOPE not Hate. Instances of far-right motivated hate crimes have increased in the past year, and these groups now pose a dangerous, organized terrorist threat. This trend of ‘xenophobic populism,’ as defined in a recent discussion held by The Open Society Foundation, can be seen across Europe, and even globally. More details on that broader discussion have been written by my colleague Cameron, but there is a very real, very specific threat right here in Britain.

While group membership of traditional far-right extremist groups like UKIP and the British Nationalist Party is lower than it’s been in years, the recent far right movement is changing form and focus. Many prominent voices for the far right have gained audience via the internet, particularly on social media. According to HOPE not Hate’s report, 3 of the 5 far right activists with the largest online reach in the world are British.

With the growing importance of social media as a tool for mobilizing individuals and spreading messages, there could be frightening consequences of such quick, anonymous dissemination of ideas and opinions. As online activist movements like Black Lives Matter have gained online traction in recent years, there is a growing online presence of those in opposition to their messages of equity, justice, and inclusion for non-white people across the globe. Even with some of these far right groups being banned, their presence on certain social media outlets, and even underground presence, continues to increase. For example, Britain First, a fascist party promoting the ban of Islam in Britain, was banned from Twitter but has almost 2 million likes on Facebook (more than the Labour, Conservative, UKIP, and LibDem parties’ respective pages).

These far-right “activists,” and individuals inspired by them, are largely moving away from the general nationalist rhetoric of the past, and towards a more specific islamophobic message. Many recent far right terrorist attacks, including the 2017 Finsbury Park attack, have exploited the image of ‘Muslim extremism’ as motivation for their domestic terrorism.

These islamophobic and generally xenophobic ideals have gained significant traction since Brexit, and the racially charged surrounding debate. Additionally, the election of Donald Trump in the US has fanned the global flames of xenophobia and racism.

While it could be said that the far right poses less of a political threat now than it has in the past, the threat of physical violence and extreme terrorist attacks is very real and puts all BME communities, particularly Muslim communities, at an alarming risk. As the far right movement grows larger and more organized, it is vital for organizations like OBV to form coalitions with other organizations to present a strong united oppositional force to hatred, racism, and white supremacy.

Dominque Brodie