In my last article, I discussed the positive impact of social media after thousands came out in support on Twitter to push #BringBackOurGirls into the media eye. Yet I can’t heap full praise on social media, as it’s also brought about the rise of a rather odious group of theocratic, nationalistic racists – Britain First.
I’m sure many of the people who are reading this have seen a Britain First post pop up on their Facebook timeline, as many share their images without realising they are effectively sharing a picture created by a far-right racist group. The ones that are being shared are pictures that contain kittens or elderly veterans, essentially hiding their fervent nationalist ideology through cute images.
However, if one looks deeper, the images start to get, well, weird. For some reason, the people behind Britain First have a fascination with the crusaders – often images have a sword-wielding, cross-bearing crusader as the centrepiece. Although someone should tell them that the crusades weren’t exactly a resounding victory for the Catholic forces, it’s worrying that they use the image of a crusader, with the obvious intention that they want to take up arms against Muslims.
And indeed, they do often engage Muslims in the streets – for reasons beyond me they managed to get their hands on a Land Rover that was formerly used by the British Army. They drive around London, pretending to be soldiers, and handing out crusader-ridden paraphernalia in areas with high immigrant populations. Luckily, the flat-capped donned members are usually greeted with rightful ridicule and scorn, but nonetheless they seem to keep on getting members.
They’ve even been able to muster together a ‘defence force’. As scary as it sounds, this defence force is composed of largely bald, overweight men wearing raincoats and flat-caps. Their idea of defence is to occupy mosques with a can of some form of lager in hand, demand to see the Imam and then promptly get told to leave, which they do. It all reeks of the usual stupidity that is rife within far-right street movements.
However, although their uniformed foot soldiers aren’t exactly threatening people outside of East London at this moment, their leadership is something that worries me. Britain First is composed of two key figures, Paul Golding - the chairman, and Jim Dowson. Both have links with groups like the BNP and EDL – but Dowson also has links with violent far-right pro-life groups in America and paramilitary loyalist groups in Northern Ireland. Dowson was the puppeteer behind the massive pro-union flag marches that we saw in Northern Ireland and seems to be calling the shots, a sort of shadowy figure who rarely agrees to interviews and works in the background. It makes it scary thinking that a group led by these two men has almost reached 500,000 likes on Facebook and in some cases gets picture shares that reach over a million.
Even though they use moronic terms like “cultural Marxists” and “Left-wing traitors” we shouldn’t ignore this group. Their power may only be confined to social media for now, but their popularity is increasing – and they are known to be violent. Hopefully the general public will ultimately be able to see through their heinous deceptions to the aggressive, crusading ideology that defines this small, bigoted minority. Social media can do great things – it has the potential to change the world for the better – but we must be wary of the mindless hysteria it can also foster.
By Rory Claydon