Why we must call out the ‘alt-right hip­sters’

Last month, head­lines an­nounced the ar­rival of the ‘hip­ster fas­cists breath­ing new life into the far right’. And, while many were quick to de­nounce the cov­er­age as glam­or­is­ing racist ide­ol­ogy, Grazia’s Anna Sil­ver­man ar­gues it’s im­por­tant to name and sham

Grazia (UK) - - News - Visit great­get­to­gether.org

IT’S A CLAS­SIC hate story: im­mi­grants ar­rive and the far-right get fu­ri­ous. So far, sadly, so nor­mal. But a new bully on the block has emerged – a racist group called Gen­er­a­tion Iden­tity, who are harder to spot be­cause they hide un­der a ve­neer of re­spectabil­ity.

Gen­er­a­tion Iden­tity (GI) tar­get young, univer­sity-ed­u­cated types with their anti-is­lamic rhetoric and con­spir­acy the­o­ries that claim white peo­ple are be­com­ing a mi­nor­ity in Europe. Un­like the skin­heads of the past, GI are im­age­con­scious and make an ef­fort to look pre­sentable. Be­cause of their façade, the me­dia has spent the past few weeks pro­fil­ing them as well-dressed hip­sters, fo­cus­ing on their skinny jeans and New Bal­ance train­ers.

But paint­ing them as ‘cool’ plays di­rectly into their hands. In­stead of pro­fil­ing them as fash­ion-savvy hip­sters, we must warn peo­ple against the group try­ing to put a stylish face on ex­treme ide­olo­gies. Since launch­ing in Bri­tain last year, they have quickly be­come the most ac­tive far-right group in the UK. I tracked down the leader of Gen­er­a­tion Iden­tity Ire­land, a woman in her thir­ties called Damh­nait Mckenna, to fact-check some of the group’s most dan­ger­ous vit­riol.

When I ask what she thinks of the rise in hate crime in the UK, she replies, ‘ That’s a loaded ques­tion… There is no rise in hate crime.’ But Si­mon Mur­doch from Hope Not Hate, an ad­vo­cacy group fight­ing racism, says their re­search shows wor­ry­ing lev­els of anti-mus­lim sen­ti­ment. ‘Hate crimes have spiked dur­ing and im­me­di­ately af­ter the Brexit vote, af­ter ter­ror at­tacks last year, and re­main stub­bornly high. It has passed be­yond the far-right fringes and into main­stream opin­ion,’ he says.

Damh­nait goes on to say that she be­lieves we are fac­ing ‘a de­mo­graphic cri­sis across Europe where our peo­ples are be­com­ing a mi­nor­ity in their own coun­tries’. But Si­mon ex­plains the the­ory is based on pre­dic­tions that ex­perts have re­peat­edly called un­re­li­able. He says this only highlights their racism even more ‘ by as­sum­ing that non-white mi­grants in­trin­si­cally pose a threat to GI’S eth­nic and cul­tural her­itage’.

But as much as we dis­credit the group, wor­ry­ingly, their mes­sage ap­pears to be gal­vanis­ing some young peo­ple. Si­mon ex­plains they re­cruit from the mid­dle classes which they be­lieve will give the group ‘an air of re­spectabil­ity’. Damh­nait says GI cur­rently have a back­log of ap­pli­ca­tions, and it’s a youth move­ment, with most ac­tivists

in their mid-twen­ties. ‘ We weed out the “old right” ide­o­log­i­cally based ap­pli­cants. We pre­fer those who are well-read and stu­dious in char­ac­ter,’ she says.

So­cial me­dia plays a big part in their re­cruit­ment process. They in­flu­ence peo­ple who might not have been reached by rad­i­cal groups in the past. Now, tools like Face­book and Twit­ter mean they have to­tal con­trol over the line they push out. If we leave them to it, this line goes un­chal­lenged. They also re­cruit Bri­tish mem­bers and send them to mil­i­tary-style train­ing camps abroad – meth­ods shared by the banned neo-nazi ter­ror­ist group Na­tional Action. But, un­like Na­tional Action, GI’S eu­phemistic lan­guage makes it harder to see them for what they are – white su­prem­a­cists.

In­stead of talk­ing about the colour of peo­ple’s skin, they dress their racism up as ‘cul­tural dif­fer­ences’. But the tropes are sim­i­lar to those used by fas­cists of the past – try­ing to cre­ate a ‘pure’ race and whip­ping up fear. They say they’re pre­serv­ing Bri­tish cul­ture, but we know all too well where lan­guage like this can lead. As well as the hate crimes on our streets, there was the mur­der of Jo Cox, the MP who was bru­tally killed by the far-right ter­ror­ist Thomas Mair, for Bri­tain’s sup­posed ‘free­dom’.

Speak­ing to Grazia, Jo’s sis­ter Kim Lead­beater says, ‘Jo was mur­dered by a man who was ob­sessed with far-right, fas­cist ide­ol­ogy. We know the in­de­scrib­able hurt that can be caused by in­di­vid­u­als with ex­trem­ist views and I wouldn’t wish any other fam­ily to have to go through what we have.’ While there is noth­ing we can do to take away the hor­ror of what hap­pened to Jo, Kim says we can de­cide how to re­spond to it. ‘My en­ergy now goes into do­ing what I can to cre­ate strong com­mu­ni­ties, where peo­ple have a sense of be­long­ing, and where ha­tred and ex­trem­ism can no longer fes­ter.’

The re­port­ing of groups like GI has been crit­i­cised in the past few weeks for giv­ing them a greater plat­form. But while we must be care­ful not to glam­or­ise them, it is vi­tal that their ex­trem­ist views don’t go un­chal­lenged. ‘ We need to shine a light on the toxic views and be­liefs un­der­ly­ing this group’s at­tempt at mak­ing a slick image for it­self,’ says Si­mon.

Kim be­lieves we need to hold more events to bring com­mu­ni­ties to­gether – like the Great Get To­gether, which she set up in Jo’s mem­ory last year. ‘It’s our way of show­ing that ex­trem­ism of any na­ture will never win if we come to­gether to re­ject it,’ she adds.

Left: protest­ing against the alt-right, as Trump sup­port­ers gath­ered for a ‘Stand Against Com­mu­nism’ rally in Seat­tle last May. Above: MP Jo Cox

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.