The far-right, Black Lives Matter and domestic terrorism

New research from the United Nations’ Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (UN-CTED) has shown a 320% increase in the number of acts of violence linked to extreme right-wing groups in the last five years. A “greater exchange of views between like-minded individuals” online has provided fertile ground for “extreme right-wing groups to improve their tactics, develop better counter-intelligence techniques, solidify their violent extremist views and broaden their global networks.” Alongside this is the potential for these ideologies to spread to other fringe elements of society and expand their ability to recruit. The UN-CTED report notes that “These synergies allow more obscure misogynist groups-such as incels (involuntary celibates) – to act as a bridge to violent extreme-rightwing groups and individuals.”

The Cyjax Social Media Intelligence (SOCMINT) team recently conducted research into far-right groups and their views on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. We also explored the ways in which the far-right will capitalise on opportunities to stoke racial tensions when they arise. Some members of the far-right see BLM as having the potential for societal disruption, benefitting them, whilst others view the movement as an existential threat.

Several users across social media vented their frustration that BLM protests had been largely supported by corporations and in the media. Many claim that the mainstream media is the biggest recruiter for the BLM movement, providing sustained airtime and numerous column inches. This has spawned several conspiracies as to why this might be the case. One of these that has gained significant traction states that the BLM movement is designed to push for a more ‘globalist’ (an anti-Semitic trope that has been adopted by the far-right) agenda funded by wealthy individuals who have an interest in seeing the white race depleted.

Another sinister conspiracy shared amongst more extreme members of the far-right, is that that the BLM movement has been orchestrated by ‘the Jews’. Proponents of this theory support their view by claiming that media outlets who support BLM often have Jewish ownership or close ties to Israel. This is as far as the ‘evidence’ goes, however, with little further exploration of these ideas and a general acceptance that they will not be challenged or analysed too deeply by other users of the channels. A list detected on one forum outlined “Companies that want white people dead” and included Adidas, Amazon, Bank of America, Cisco, and Conde Nast.

In some forums, images of white protestors are supposedly analysed to identify “traits” of potential Jewish heritage; elsewhere, conspiracists present ‘research’ into social media accounts supportive of BLM in order to identify Jewish links. Again, these people believe that it is in the interest of a mythic and unified Jewish polity to see a white minority in the West: this is based in the idea that the West is the last hurdle for Jewish domination of the entire world. Extreme elements of the right-wing are calling for a database of white people who actively support BLM.

Other users believe that Jewish support of BLM is an attempt to ensure that US President Donald Trump gets re-elected. This last theory runs contrary to the popular perception that the BLM movement has severely damaged the Trump administration:

A third conspiracy shared on far-right forums which until recently had not gained significant traction, is that the BLM movement will try to coax other social justice groups into ‘ridding the West of its history’. This would be achieved by slowly removing statutes and changing school syllabuses to show Western history in a negative light. The catalyst for this theory’s increased popularity in the UK occurred in the wake of the removal of a statue of Edward Colston a former slave trader and benefactor of many buildings in Bristol. Forum members bemoaned the removal of the statue: many believe that the colonial success of the Western states should be celebrated and that statutes of historic black people should be destroyed instead in order to protect the ‘purity’ of Western history.

Even though many in the far-right see the BLM movement as a potential threat, there are others who have begun to propose methods of improving the right’s position in society. One way they believe that BLM can help is the potential for a spike in COVID-19 deaths after the protests: that if large numbers of BAME people – for whom the risk of death from infection is significantly higher – protest during this global pandemic, there would be more minority ethnic deaths that would, in turn, strengthen the white race. Others encourage BAME individuals to emigrate to the countries ‘they are from’. The demographics of Western countries has been a perennial concern for white supremacists: they now hope that the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the BLM movement will strengthen the white race in the West.

Another perceived opportunity stemming from the BLM movement is the so-called “red pilling of normies”. The far-right across the West has claimed that the broadcasting of pictures of burning police stations swelled their ranks. Images of white people supposedly being forced to kneel, or police officers washing the feet of black protestors, have been used by the right to garner more support. On Twitter, images of BLM protestors looting and harassing the police are used to radicalise new members. These users are then quickly moved onto other platforms on which the far-right predominates, such as Gab and VOAT. Others have urged fellow users not to protest against BLM on the streets and to remain at home so the right gains more respect. They say that even though being inactive may appear counter-intuitive, in the long run, it would help support the cause.

Our research into far-right groups and their perception of the BLM movement has shone a light on numerous unsubstantiated theories used to justify their animosity to ethnic minorities. It should be clear from the snapshot provided above, however, that while many will tie themselves in logical knots to attempt to justify their theories, these groups are dangerous and fully prepared to use violence against BLM and other members of society that they oppose.

In the UK, organisations like the extreme right-wing National Action – labelled “racist, antisemitic and homophobic” by then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd – exercise a pernicious influence over the young. Groups like these use the internet to radicalise potential members in the same way that foreign terrorist organisations do. The group was banned in 2016 after a series of rallies and incidents, including praise of the murder of MP Jo Cox. While many in the group pose little or no threat, there are others who are closer to serious domestic terrorists in their intent to mass-casualty attacks.

As such, by providing some information here on the far-right and its activities online, we are in no way looking to provide another outlet for their hate. Monitoring these groups is an important way of gaining an understanding of their motivations and tracking their activities. In turn, this will enable the formation of a robust counter-narrative and assist in traditional law enforcement operations.

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