Political Responses to the Far Right

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EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Political Responses to the Far Right

DATE: 6 pm-7 pm, 8 October 2019

VENUE: The Henry Jackson Society, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London, SW1P 4QP

SPEAKERS: Jakob Guhl, Prof Eric Kaufmann and Dr Paul Stott

CHAIR: Dr Rakib Ehsan

 

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

Ok ladies and gentlemen if you would like to make a start. First of all I would like to thank you for attending our third and final instalment of our event series looking at Far Right extremism and terrorist activity. So in recent years the Western world has been rocked by a number of terrorist attacks which can be broadly characterised as Far Right. And the groups targeted have been very diverse; Jewish worshippers in Pittsburgh and Poway, Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, African-American church goers in Charleston and Hispanic people shopping in El Paso. In the British context we seen one of our Parliamentarians, Labour MP Jo Cox murdered and also the killing of Makram Ali in the Finsbury Park Mosque attack. However, the Far Right is simply not about violence, it is also a body of critical thought and the ideas within it and it gives rise to questions about the ideological and political motivations behind these attacks. What should our responses be to these ideas and ideological motivations which lie behind such attacks, how do we reduce both, the social impact and appeal of the ideological strands found within broader Far Right thought? What sort of action should be taken and what are the sort of improvements that we need to make in the fields of politics, counter extremism policy and social policy? So firstly I am absolutely delighted to have constructed this wonderful panel for this event. So firstly I would like to introduce Dr Paul Stott, my fellow Henry Jackson Society colleague, who sits with me in the Centre for the response to radicalisation and terrorism. And he joined the Centre in January 2019, an experienced academic he received an Msc in Terrorism Studies, a pass with distinction, from the University of East London in 2007. And his PhD in 2015 from the University of East Anglia and his research was titled “British Jihadism: The detail and the denial”. He is a frequent commentator in both the British and international media on issues related to terrorism, security and the political fringe. We are also joined tonight but Professor Eric Kaufmann, who is well known for co-examining my PhD thesis. But he is also a professor and assistant Dean of politics at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is also author of the book “White shift: Immigration, populism and the few of white majorities” and books include “The rise and fall of Anglo-America” which is published by Harvard in 2004, and “The orange order” published by Oxford University Press in 2007. He is co-editor for “Political Demography” and editor of “Rethinking ethnicity majority groups and dominant minorities” and that was Routledge publications in 2004. And he has been, you know his work has been covered by, a wide array of newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic since 2007. And last but not least I’m joined by Jakob Guhl of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue better known as ISD where he mainly works with the digital research team. Jakob has coauthored research reports on recepictal radicalisation between Far Right extremists and Islamists and has also conducted research into coordinated trolling campaigns, hate speech and disinformation campaigns targetting elections. Additionally he has published articles in the journal for deradicalisation, “Demokratie gegen Menschenfeindlichkeit?

Jakob Gulh:

Perfect

*Laughter*

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

And coauthored an essay for an edited volume for the Munich residents theatre about the origins of contemporary political anger. Jakob holds an MA in terrorism, security and society from Kings College London and his dissertation focused on the radicalisation process of converts to Islam who ended up becoming violent extremists. So first we will begin with Dr Paul Stott.

Dr Paul Stott:

Ok, good evening everyone.I’m gonna approach the question of responding to the Far Right from an angle that’s perhaps usually overlooked and that’s the responses of organisations traditionally classified as right of centre but who are not racially exclusive or separatist in either their membership or world view. I’m talking here about the Conservative Party, UKIP and the Brexit PArty. For the purpose of this contribution i classify as far right those Parties supportive classic fascism or Nazism, those who are advocates of biological theories of racism or those seeking or have sought a racially exclusive Britain. Now they may be the odd grey area within that definition, a question mark perhaps as to where you would put the Conservative pressure group “The Monday Club” at the peak of its powers, but I do think it legitimate to draw a political and philosophical distinction in the main between the three parties mentioned above and organisations such as the British National Party, National Front or Generational Identity. It’s my contention that the standard response from Conservative and anti-EU parties to the very far right has been to place in structural and organisational terms a “cordon sanitare” around themselves. This has tended to keep out organised supporters and leaders of racial separatism. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily lead to the taking on and defeating of their ideals it does go some way to differentating them from the Conservative and Eurospectic mainstream. It’s therefore aided the Conservative Party and the anti-EU parties whilst at the same time doing Far Right organisations harm, by putting them outside existing parametres. It is arguably one of the reasons why even now there has been comparatively little Brexit bounce for the very Far Right in Britain. Now in terms of the Conservatives post 1945, they had arguably the Nazis greatest ever opponent in Winston Churchill in their number but they also had any number of representatives who had either doubted the practicalities of opposing Hitler or who hadn’t wished to do so in the first place. And i think that to that backdrop the Party developed in the post war period quite a careful structure for montinering external organisations that from 1948 what was known as the “Voluntary Organisation Section” kept a watchful eye on groups and organisations that interacted with the Party. If you read Mark Pickford’s, excellent book, “The Conservative Party and the extreme right.” you’ll see how perhaps the Conservative Party’s greatest strength, its sense of self preservation, ensured it sought to keep out those who’s values it believed differed from its own. And that strategy has recurred over several decades. You might consider the closure of the Federation of Conservative Students in 1986 after allegations of extremism or the backing away in recent years for the traditional Britain group which i think had been an attempt to bridge arguably the Conservative Party and the Far Right. In 1983 the anti federalist league was formed to oppose the Maastricht Treaty and fight the 1994 European elections. In eventually choosing the name UKIP, it did so at least in part because of the unattractive nature of those organisations with the name British or Britain in the title. So, think arguably from its earliest days UKIP was trying to avoid being an overly juicy target for those from fascist traditions. And they did come to develop a Constitution, paragraph 1.6 of which denied membership to anyone who is or who is previously been a member of the BNP, National Front, English Defence League, UK First Party, British Freedom Party and Britain First. And I think we see that that was a policy developed for good reason when we look at the decline and collapse of UKIP post 2016, which in many ways pivot around arguments about actual or perceived extremism. The attempt by UKIPs leader Gerard Batton, if you like to circumvent this Constitution by bringing in Tommy Robinson as an advisor somebody who couldn’t join or stand for the Party, because he had been a member of three of those proscribed organisations. And i think for these parties of the Conservative/Eurosceptic tradition there’s also evidence that in associating too much with the Far Right they risk punishment at the ballot box. UKIP’s best known figure Nigel Farage resigned in December 2018 and went on to form the Brexit Party. The result of that was that UKIP having been the biggest party at the 2014 Euro elections in the UK, didn’t win a single seat in 2019. Now Breixt Party isn some ways is not a traditional political party. You can’t join it as a member and set policy at the local level. You can be a registered supporter for £25 and from this pool, after a vetting process, political candidates we’ve seen in the European elections and potentially in a general election to come. Brexit party has repeated the prescription approach that UKIP did, banning the same groups from the Far Right but also adding one from the left in ANTIFA, the anti fascist group. This continues a rather odd trend UKIP had started in 2013 when it proscribed members of Hope not Hate from joining, though its thought very few if any openly wished to do so. Now it’s my view that there’s two elements if you like to the contestation that can occur between these Far Right trends and party’s of the centre right and the Conservatives and the Eurosceptic tradition. The Far Right have certainly seen at times in the Conservative Party and UKIP parties they could potentially influence or even take over in terms of particular branches, factions or youth wings. Secondly, there’s a sort of market based battle of ideas where those who may seek political advantage in establishing that there is common cause or ideological similarity between the Conservatives and Eurosceptic parties and the Far Right will seek to do so. And i think if we consider both these areas we head a little bit into if you like the black arts the sort of hidden in politics. In 1997 and 1999 there were attempts by the BNP to send members into UKIP and one of these flurries at the time of the 1997 general election led to a damaging television documentary by the researcher Roger Cook. Competition between the two organisations flared and if you read Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin’s book “Revolt on the Right” they really take the view that UKIP couldn’t compete at the local level with the BNP.

But the decline of the BNP from 2010-14 handed victory in the contest there to UKIP and the Party didn’t really have a rival to its right of substance again nor i would argue today has the Brexit Party. There have also been notable attempts to pin the tag of Far Right extremism on both the Conservatives and the anti EU parties. These haven’t always worked. So the classic historic example is the 1984 BBC Panorama “Maggie’s Militant Tendency” which crashed and burned with the BBC losing a libel case. In 1996 Nick Knowles then of the anti fascist magazine Searchlight, now Nick Knowles MBE of Hope not Hate wrote to the European Movement, a pro European movement/organisation, offering his services. Utilising sources inside these organisations the European movement will be furnished with information not otherwise easily accessible. The report and the drip flow of information will provide your organisation will invaluable ammunition to add to your cause. If you like, the use of infiltrators to develop, damaging intelligence. Now I’m gonna finish by going on to a little bit of analysis because i don’t think anything about a trend guarantees its continuation. If we look at this cordon sanitaire approach, I think it’s much better designed, to earlier political era than now. And I am not convinced in the era of social media one of rapid political and demographic change where people are searching for answers and sometimes finding particularly simplistic ones, on social media that that cordon sanitre approach will continue to work. If you look at the way Generation Identity in particular was targeting UKIP’s youth wing for recruitment in 2017 you can see the dangers here, the central party feared losing control. A further problem is that the target area for those seeking to condemn people on the Right as racist or fascist appears to be expanding. In 2018 there was an attempt to no platform Conservative MP Jacob Rees Mogg in the University of the West of England. The next month similar scenes occurred at the Kings College Libertarian Society, where a social media controversial Carl Benjamin, who later joined UKIP, was interviewing Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Society in the United States. So I think this takes us potentially to much wider changes which we are now seeing certainly on the political Left and a sort of been accelerated by a sense of loss and political disorientation since the double whammy of 2016. Trump’s victory in the United States and Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

So I don’t think it helps our understanding of the Far Right to start expanding our definition of it to social conservatives like Rees Mogg or individualists, contrarians, libertarians like Carl Benjamin or representatives of the Ayn Rand Society. So I’ll finish by arguing that Conservative and Eurosceptic Parties have in the past developed a viable structure for keeping out fifth columnists. Whether it continues to be viable however, is perhaps less certain then others may think. And finally that political distinctions matter. If virtually anybody can be categorised as Far Right we risk a situation where the term loses it utility and virtually nobody can be characterised in that way. Thank you.

Dr Rakib Ehsan: 

Thank you for that interesting segment Paul. Now we will move on to Professor Eric Kaufmann.

Professor Eric Kaufmann:

Good, yeah, I’m gonna sort of pickup on some of the comments that Paul made particularly around this issue of concept creeper expanding definitions of terms like hate and racism. And I think that’s very important because one of the themes of what I am gonna be talking about is how there is a great risk of over policing and over reach. And the reason for that risk is because that is very much in the Zeitgeist of progressiveness today as was just mentioned, that there is a temptation to want to define things like, a white person wearing a Chinese prom dress as racism. That instinct to try and label things as racism as part of a certain kind of politics and i think it risks contaminating the quest for rooting out genuine extremists. And I will try and explain why in a minute. A bit of a backdrop though, in terms of what i have been writing about on the rise of the populist right, its sort of democratic populist right. I think we can understand the rise of the populist right against the backdrop of demographic shifts in the West which in some cases are gonna be quite dramatic, so in Canada where I’m from the, roughly speaking, in 2006, 80% of the population was of European decent, that will be down to around 20% in 2106 according to statistics Canada projection roughly speaking. That’s the scale, now its not gonna be quite as fast in Britain or the United States but certainly by the end of the century we will see this majority/minority scenario in most of the immigrant receiving Western countries, major Western countries. And so the question is how do we manage this shift? If you look at populist right voting the number one issue is, if you want to isolate a populist right voter, its immigration attitudes, but also how important immigration is as an issue to an individual compared to other issues, what we call salients. So the rise of the populist right in Europe correlates with rising salience according to the Eurobarometer data for 2005-16 in nine out of 10 West European countries. So that’s a pretty strong relationship, the best way that we have for understanding this phenomenon is the demographic shifts which are symbolised by immigration rates which then, part of the population, not everybody, part of the population who prefer for psychological reasons stability, order over change and difference, that part of the population interacts negatively with this change and it becomes a fertile recruiting ground for the populist right. But of course what we are talking about is violence and the Far Right and i think its very important to again draw these distinctions between a legitimate, even if you disagree with it, democratic alternative which is expressed through electoral politics and an illegitimate street politics expressed through violence and intimidation. And here one of the problems again I’m gonna raise is this issue of overreach by parts of the progressive commentariat who I think have constructed almost a moral panic around the rise of hate speech and racism connected to Trump and Brexit in particular. And we see this in a number of interesting ways, if you look in the United States you can see the number of Americans who claim that racism is a problem in the United States has sort of soared since Trumps election but it is only Democrats, amongst Republicans its dropped. And actually if you look at peoples personal experiences that experience of racist incidents has gone down as well but even there it splits along Partisan lines, so amongst Asians and Latinos who voted for Donald Trump there is a much lower level of reported hate crime than Asian’s and Latinos who voted for Hilary Clinton. In this country the British Sikh report shows clearly there’s a three times higher reporting of hate crime amongst Remain voting Sikhs compared to Leave voting Sikhs. Now that’s in my view very tricky to explain on the basis, paid criminals targeting Remainers over Leavers but it seems to me its much more a matter of perception and the way people percieve incidents differently. So I its very important for us to sift out perception and different kinds of reporting from hard measures. And actually one of the useful data sets Jacob Ravndal from the Centre for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo is in my view the most rigorous of researchers in this area who says we have to use the same methodology, we have to look at violent incidents, because those will be recorded the same way consistently over a period of time and we have to make sure that those incidents are allocated to different causes such as racial hatred or whatever or anti gay or antisemitism in a consistent manner and if you do that as he writes “My research shows that in Western Europe between 1990 and 2015 there was an inverse relationship between electoral support for anti immigrant parties and right wing terrorism and violence”. In other words anti-immigration party support goes up then violent attacks, right wing attacks, go down. That’s the relationship he’s found and he’s found no overall increase in Far Right attacks across the West, this is US, Western Europe. It’s very important I think to take a rigorous approach because again I think we can get carried away with narratives and moral panics which I think talk about rising tides of hate because of Donald Trump or whatever. It’s important to keep that in perspective and I think if we do keep it in perspective we can see this is not some kind of run away problem.

Having said that I do think there are a couple of straws in the wind which would indicate that this could become an issue or bigger issue. One of which this is, again, this issue of demographic shifts which are gonna be ongoing in our century and of course the increased prominence of cultural or ethnocultural issues politically but in addition we also have to remind ourselves that the people who are committing these crimes are members of the white majority, which is after all a majority and therefore more numerous than any particular minority like say Muslims and therefore even if its a small percentage a really tiny percentage its a tiny percentage of a larger pool of people so there could be more frequency of attacks. So I don’t wanna say it that this is not something to be worried about, it is there are violent attacks and we have to be worried about it. But its just also important to not succumb to moral panics over this. And again this is where i think there’s been a report now from the Commission for countering extremism which came out yesterday, it’s a Government report, I think they did some things right and they did some things wrong. I think where they were right is they didn’t commit too clearly to a definition of non-violent extremism, I think that’s important, they took a lot of soundings. Where I think they went wrong is too much emphasis on qualitative research. Qualitative research is subject, in many cases, to confirmation bias and motivated reasoning, it is not anywhere as rigorous as a multi-varied quantitative approach where you are actually using the same measuring technique over a number of years. Very little in that report was drawn from this sort of quantitative evidence or anything experimental. I told them – I was trying to implore them to do some experiments where, for example, you show a particular piece of text to one set of survey respondent, then you show another set of survey respondents nothing and you look at the effect on opinion. That kind of research has not been done, needs to be done because it could well be that a lot of what we might think of as non-violent extremism really doesn’t have an attitude on changing attitudes at all. We know for example that violent video games don’t change people’s attitudes, we know that pornography doesn’t lead to sexual violence despite the panics that did occur around that so we have to be very forensic about what is causing increased violence. But more than that, I think there’s a danger, as I mentioned, this idea of progressive overreach where on campus – and we’ve heard about some of the ways in which ‘racism’ and ‘hatred’ have been expanded in their meaning to encompass discussing reducing immigration as in some way triggering to certain groups without actually doing the survey research on those minority groups. First of all, find out if that’s true, this is interpreted very much through white liberal eyes in particular, or activists’ eyes, it’s very important, I think, to get away from that. Always try to go to representative survey data or experiments where we can find out exactly what the impact of these particular conversations is.

And finally, this idea of the risk of over policing because, again, there are organisations like the SPLC or the Anti-Defamation League who have an incentive for their donors to talk up the threat here. So, the ADL would include the Parkland shooting as a far right attack, for example, a way in which this kind of thing distorts the sort of trends that [inaudible] talks about. So there is a sort of moral hazard there but in addition we have this problem, again, in the wider radical-progressive culture about concept creep or expanding the meaning of these terms and creating a moral panic. Now there is a problem, absolutely, but I think it’s very important for counter-extremism not to go the way of trying to over police, because if you over police you are just as likely to generate a blowback because there’s already a narrative out there of elites silencing speech, whether it’s through the tech companies, whether it’s through the media etc. You don’t want to feed that monster if you don’t have to. So, I think it would be very mistaken to sort of, overplay this hand and try to clamp down on many categories of what are seen as non-violent extremism. Carl Benjamin is an example, so he’s been kicked off of Twitter – how much time do I got?

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

 Three more minutes.

Professor Eric Kaufmann:

So, that’s an example of where that there becomes a case of martyrdom. So, if you create these martyrs, if you create a climate in which the view is: ‘the establishment, the system, the elites are all against us, they won’t let us speak, they wanna muzzle us’, that feeds a kind of conspiratorial mind-set and that I think I actually dangerous and so you wanna calibrate it – you have to go after the people who actually talking hate, who are calling for violent attacks against minority groups absolutely. But, on the other hand, you know, we talked about a number of groups whose ideas we may actually deplore but if those ideas are simply about attachment to own group or attachment to the country in the way that it is in its current form, fine, we can have a discussion – the best way to defeat that is to have a discussion. You wanna talk about Generation Identity and great replacement? Let’s talk about the great replacement on an argument point by point. What are their points? Rather than just dismissing it and saying ‘racist, we’re gonna silence you’, lets say ‘ok, you wanna talk about a Jewish or a liberal conspiracy? Let’s look at the evidence’ and take it down point by point rather than simply saying ‘you’re gonna be silenced, you’re off social media, we’re not gonna talk to you, we’re even gonna criminalise you’, I actually think that’s a negative way to go. The best way to defeat bad ideas is with good ideas.

And lastly, just to plea on the research side to use some more rigorous methodology and that’s not just because we’re quants, but really in this kind of research area there is such a temptation to for people’s politics to influence their findings when you look at the qualitative research to cherry pick anecdotes and see what you wanna see. Experiments in psychology tell us this is a huge problem, this idea of motivated reasoning. So, in order to get around that theories must be falsifiable, measurable, concepts must be measurable and valid. A concept like racism must accord with what people out there think of as racism, it cannot be a socially constructed thing which is completely bent out of proportion compared to what people would agree are the parameters of this concept. Also, the use of survey experiments – I have just not seen any of these; let’s road test some of these hateful messages and see how they affect people’s views of minorities and their policy positions. That would be interesting, there needs to be investment in that kind of research. If you’re gonna look at content analysis, again, not enough to just cherry pick the content from [inaudible] or the El Paso shooter and say ‘oh look he liked Candace Owens, it’s gotta be Candace Owens who’s doing the radicalising’. You can just look at dogs that bark (that’s what we call selecting on the dependent variable), you’ve got to compare the dogs that barked with the ones that didn’t bark in order to understand why the dogs bark and you have to be able to refute alternative hypotheses, you can’t just go in there with a master view and impose it on the data. So, just a plea for a bit more rigour in some of this research.

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

Thank you very much Eric. Thank you. Now we move onto Jakob’s segment of the event.

Jakob Guhl:

Yeah, wonderful. Well, I think I’m here to sort of represent liberal overreach perhaps.

[Laughter]

Jakob Guhl:

Don’t be scared. Well, looking at the counter-extremism commission’s report yesterday, I mean it’s similar to maybe – you Eric [inaudible] your concerns about it, you weren’t happy with everything. There was something in there that sort of aligns with some of our thinking which I’m very curious to see if this, sort of, falls into what both Paul and Eric have been referring to as ‘overreach’ which is that there’s a focus explicitly beyond just violent manifestations of extremism. There’s the recognition that there’s wider harms associated with extremist movements, not just of the extreme right or far right but that there’s also, obviously, on the Islamist side as well. The term ‘non-violent extremism’ [inaudible] get that one out there, is perhaps misleading, I mean it kind of confuses tactical uses of violence or non-violence with strategic outcomes really. Non-violence reminds you of Martin Luther King, of Gandhi, Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Identitarian movement may not tactically use violence but the outcomes that they are aiming for would be very very difficult to reach without, sort of, people who are not part of their in-group just voluntarily acquiescing to them, or by them using state force if they are acquired, or systematically diminishing their rights. So, I think the non-violent extremism – which I think we sort of have David Cameron to thank for – can be a little bit misleading, it’s a difficult term I find. But, sort of, beyond the counter-extremism report and the issue of non-violent extremism I want to talk about five issues – obviously this doesn’t cover all the ways in which one could be tackling the radical right and extreme right. I think one should also just say this right at the beginning that there’s no silver bullet for this, there’s tremendous dependency on different contexts: different national contexts, historical contexts, and I don’t think any country or [inaudible] has been proven to, on mass, de-radicalise far or extreme right actors. But a couple of things that are quite important – and both of the speakers who went before me have already touched upon this – it is really really important that we have a coherent framework of terms when we refer to these things. Both of you have mostly used the term far-right, occasionally with far-right extremism behind it which, within my understanding would still encompass the radical right and the extreme right, both broadly characterised by a perception that differences between different groups of people are natural and justified but, beyond that, with quite significant tactical and ideological differences between them. Most crucially the extreme right in principal rejects democracy, while the radical right is happy to work through it and often kind of sees itself as the true representatives of the principle. So, I think it’s really crucial both government bodies and also the wider public develops a coherent understanding of these terms, of the threat these different movements present, that there’s, in turn, based on these common understandings, an increased funding into research of radical right movements as well as extreme right movements because – as we all know this is part of a justified historical development – but there has been a lot of emphasis ever since 9/11 on researching Islamist extremism and Jihadism, not wrong, a tremendous amount of research has been done. Not quite the same level of understanding exists for radical right movements and specifically extreme right radicalisation, I think we are lagging behind them.

So that is, kind of the first step, let’s get the framework straight. Then the next step is what are the approaches we can take to deal with these movements. One thing – and this was revealed in the research looking at jihadist networks, especially around the foreign fighter phenomenon – these are not geographically spread out over Britain or over any other country, they geographically cluster and they are related to local grievances. Radicalisation is very much a local phenomenon and the far right and the extreme right are absolutely no exception for that. Listening to people’s grievances and proactively engaging with local grievances that may be very difficult to see from the outside and may be very difficult to see from London, Berlin and Paris is enormously important, especially with communities who aren’t in, sort of, regular touch with frontline practitioners, so that these can be identified and addressed. It doesn’t necessarily mean that grievances are always, sort of, justified and legitimate, they can be absolutely nuts but it is very important that people find that people have a strong attachment to them and it’s very important that it’s not only Tommy Robinson that addresses grooming gangs but there’s a wider conversation around these. Switching from the local to the international – this is, I hope will become clear, not necessarily a contradiction because, even though local radicalisation is often based on local grievances and happens in local clusters, there is a growing internationalisation of both the far right but also of the extreme right. This is not entirely historically new but I think it has been fuelled by the use of social media, taken on a new dynamic and we see that Tommy Robinson’s ‘Day For Freedom’ last year leading up to his protests was about as international as the United Nations General Assembly in New York, it as a true internationalist alliance of nationalists. Through social media these ideas, occasionally conspiracy theories, grievances are shared and it’s quite fascinating to see, for example in the case of Brent Tarrant of course, that he was very much referencing terrorist attacks that had happened all over Europe, was referencing grooming gangs and was referencing, of course, the great placement theory that’s originally of French origin even though some of the research [inaudible] has done has revealed that it has migrated much beyond, sort of, the French ecosystem on social media and now about a third of all usages of ‘great replacement’ or ‘grand replacement’, excuse my French, are coming already from English speaking sources. So it’s very important then, I think – and this is to some extent happening and I hope will continue eve through some of the political turmoil of Brexit – that there’s a cross department coordination between different government bodies, between the FCO, between the Home Office who have a lot of – who could conduct a lot of fruitful cooperation there. That is, sort of, the purely British level and then beyond that, I think, some of the challenges obviously vary between countries but this internationalisation of the far right and of the extreme right I do also think necessitate strong international coordination against this and something along the lines of a counter-Daesh like body that sort of develops coherent and proportionate responses in line with human rights would be quite welcome then.

A slight Segway to the tech sector which was also sort of, briefly talked about in the context of the liberal overreach. Radicalisation [inaudible] also been shown in a lot of the studies looking at Islamist extremism rarely happens exclusively online, but if you look at the stark data it is increasingly rare you find cases where people have not been engaging with extremist content online, have not been in contact with other extremists online, so the role of it seems to be increasing and some of the stark data also suggests that radicalisation processes have accelerated with the growth in usage of social media. So it’s, I think, quite an important field to be working in, digital policy work is something that is increasingly on our radar at the institute, and it is also sort of, sadly one of the areas where some of these very – where these ideas around freedom of speech, the equal playing field of exchanging ideas and the best ideas emerging can run into some very rough dynamics that might subvert these. There’s, I think, both anecdotal but also increasingly more systematic analysis, for example, recently from the Institute for Technology [inaudible] in Switzerland, that there is a radicalisation path where the algorithms can contribute from people migrating from you know, sort of centre right positions and the more al-light side towards alt right positions on YouTube and so I think that is quite worrying. One of our talking points is essentially that we primarily would want to defeat extremism, terrorism through competing, through offering the better narratives, the better alternative narratives, counter-speech against it, amplifying civil society voices, but to some extent the very platform architecture and the algorithms of social media undermine this process and so I think there’s definitely a need to encourage responsibility in platform design for the big social media companies. Mentioning the big social media platforms, in the tech sector it’s additionally extremely important to not focus on single platforms. There’s been a lot of debate and push back and pressure on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, rightfully so but what we are seeing is increasingly because they have been introducing stronger measures, have been in a more strict way enforcing their community guidelines, are in certain countries under legal pressure, political pressure – in Germany you have an actual legal duty now to remove illegal content – that some of the most extreme actors have been migrating to what we call ‘alt tech spaces’: the 4chans, 8chans, towards encrypted messaging platforms, towards forums that are more ideological coherent, more ideologically extreme and therefore also offer a greater risk of radicalisation.

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

[Inaudible]

Jakob Guhl:

Wonderful, I’ll just have one more point. Lastly, three very quick points around the civil society sector as well as education. Far right actors as well as extreme right actors have developed very sophisticated communications strategies, are very tech savvy, the Identitarians, which Paul has mentioned, have an entire manual on how to proceed with information operations and social media activism. The thing that’s very very important to raise awareness around the nature, scale and tactics used by these movements, then essentially inoculate not just young people with critical thinking and digital citizenship education, but also to apply this more and more to older generations because I don’t think it’s clear to me, and I don’t think it’s clear to very many other people why older people would necessarily be better inoculated against disinformation extremist content online. And thirdly – this is particularly relevant I think in the US context – is support and funding on an ongoing basis for exit programs that are helping extremists transition from these movements. There have been cuts in the US, there are some concerning developments in the civil society sector space in Germany as well where a lot of the organisations working in the, kind of, intervention as well as disengagement space have been somewhat deprived of funding and are fighting for their survival.

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

Ok, thank you Jakub. Well, three fantastic contributions there. I’ll now be opening the floor up for our Q&A session. I’ll be taking questions in blocks of two. I’d kindly ask that you’re sharp with the questions that you ask and before you ask your questions, if you could kindly state your name and your formal affiliation [inaudible]. Gentleman at the back.

Audience 1:

Joe Cook, I’m here under the [inaudible].

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

Thank you.

Audience 1:

I found all the contributions very interesting, particularly the idea of not looking at the established parties. I think of the Conservative Party and maybe even UKIP or the Brexit Party as being things to worry about. I’m getting concerned by entryism [inaudible] and also, in this context – to use a phrase my friend used – the kind of ‘junkyard dog’ approach’ the current advisor, or potential current advisor to the Prime Minister and his language etcetera. Is that giving rise to or legitimising something within the major party of government that is heading towards justifying non-conventional – more violence in a sense, more violent language even within the standard parties. So, I’m concerned by entryism and I’m concerned…

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

 About the use of inflammatory language in mainstream politics essentially?

 Audience 1:

 One final point. What do we learn from history, what do we learn from the Brownshirts…

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

Ok, ok, thank you very much. Any other questions? Ok, so if we can just handle those questions. Paul would you like to address that: concerns over entryism and the use of inflammatory language and how that might be linked to far right…

Dr Paul Stott:

 I think all of the main parties have been challenged by entryism over the years. Certainly great sensitivity in the Labour Party that those excluded in the past have now come back into the Party and I touched on some examples in the Conservative Party and certainly in UKIP we saw a big change in the membership numbers; lots of people leaving and lots of people coming back in. I don’t see huge amounts of evidence that that has led to racial violence or that the far right ideals are necessarily assisted by it. The language one is a really divisive point and I think a really difficult one, not least because in a liberal democracy you should be able – broadly speaking – able to say as you please unless you are openly inciting violence. I do have a problem with how some of the narratives gone on in recent months and some of the inconsistencies. Without wishing, necessarily to pick out one side or the other, you know, if you’re standing up and saying ‘austerity has killed 140,000 people’ and then criticising somebody for saying ‘humbug’, you know, there’s a paradox potentially there. And so that’s one of the dangers that we have and I’m sure people could pick out contradictions in some of the Conservative positions as well.

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

Ok, Eric would you like to add onto those points?

Professor Eric Kaufmann:

 Yeah, I think there is a debate to be had over this idea of mainstream, you know, can radical actors mainstream bad behaviour, for example. I don’t think the evidence is particularly strong that that’s the case, actually. If you look at Steve Bannon being interviewed by The Economist, or Nick Griffin on Question Time, did that lead to some kind of mainstreaming of Nick Griffin and his ideas? No, because he was there, he looked foolish, and couldn’t answer the questions. Better to expose these ideas to critical scrutiny, I think, much better. If you push them to the corner, as we just heard here, they’re migrating onto these 8chan and 4chan platforms where they’re meeting like-minded, very radical individuals. I think you talk about this pathway, by the way Jacob, moving from sort of Conservative to alt-light to alt-right, I think in order to be rigorous you have to look at any movement the other way. Have people been drawn out of the extremism, back up the chain towards alt-light towards alt-right, towards more mainstream positions, because you then have to look at the balance. Where is the balance on this? Because, actually, what you ideally would like us to keep that channel open. Yes there is a risk that some people might be migrating down the channel in the wrong direction, but if you’re getting more people migrating in the right direction then that is actually a good thing. Whereas if you cordon them off into 8chan, I’m not convinced that is the best strategy, but if that is the best strategy I’d like to see some proper data that could show that. I don’t know if you want to argue with that.

Jacob Guhl:

 Well, a couple of things. The benefit to people migrating to 8chan, 4chan, all these platforms, especially in the sphere of influences, they do lose quite a bit of their reach. The hardcore of people tend to migrate with them to the next platform that will ban them, but the casual fan doesn’t migrate, and many of the supporters apart from us researchers who presumably don’t migrate with them either. So, I think their ability to mainstream their ideas are limited, even though, and this is slightly more speculative, there might be the risk of more lightly violent radicalisation, so there is an upside to the entire de-platforming development as well. Also, because you mentioned this more specifically, I think maybe this is because of people’s research interests, but there is this, I’m not sure if you’ve seen it from the University of [inaudible] or the Institute of Technology of [inaudible], that was some of the more rigorous research that adds on this radicalisation pipeline that really both methodologically, and in terms of size has done quite a good job I think of illustrating that, and will hopefully serve us fertile ground for further discussion. There just isn’t quite the same evidence for any kind of alt-right, to alt-light, to conservatism pipeline. There is this one case, I believe he is called Caleb Cain, who had a big New York story, because he listened to a video of a progressive YouTuber [inaudible] contra-pointed them, disavowed those previously held alt-right beliefs. That’s sort of one case, there’s a couple people commenting below that there are similar stories

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

No notable similar trends?

Jacob Guhl:

I kind of want to do it, I’m trying to push forward internally, but I just think the evidence is slightly lacking on that side so far.

Audience 2:

And what about the issue of [inaudible] history and the [inaudible]

Professor Eric Kaufmann:

Well I could just speak briefly to that. Certainly on the populist right side I don’t think the comparison is particularly strong because of a number of reasons. One is the issue of immigration, which is very central to all of the populist right politics we see now is not really the big issue in the 30s. Secondly, certainly the populist right is not antidemocratic in terms of wanting to get rid of elections and return to a pre-democratic age, with a Nazian regime. So the kind of nationalism is not about restoration of long lost, of pride or some sort of recovering from humiliation. You think of Franco and the Nazis, and this was about being defeated in war, blaming it on the Jews or some other out group. That sort of dynamic is quite different today. It’s there to some extent in the East, eastern Europe but not in western Europe.

Dr Paul Stott:

I think I would just echo that, you can’t compare this era to the type of economic collapse that Germany underwent, and the type of hunger which had characterised that era is very different to todays, so I don’t think that those types of motors are present in this era, personally.

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

Would you like to add any in terms of historical lesson or parallels to be drawn?

Jacob Guhl:

Maybe sort of more, slightly very recent terrorism history. I was reminded while you were speaking of Rayndal. He essentially argues as Eric has mentioned the marginalisation of right wing views contributes to greater radicalisation and greater violence essentially. He aggregates this at national level, which isn’t quite ideal, but he does it pretty well. But in the latest Perspectives on Terrorism issue on the far-right, there’s another article by the gentleman called Johannes Enstad who looks at the situation in Russia in the 2000s and 2010s and finds a dangerously high level of extreme right violence, much exceeding that of any kind of comparable European country like Sweden of Germany who have relatively high levels of extreme right violence, was correlated with a very encouraging and very permissive violent environment of radical right opinions, and so, what is seems to be, and [inaudible] acknowledges this, is different conditions leading to the same outcome, and so there’s a bit of a fear that the pendulum might swing too far, there is an environment too permissive of far right opinions that then essentially legitimises, and normalises, and does a the other things that is claimed.

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

Do we have any more questions? So firstly the lady in the front.

Audience 3:

I am a teacher. I was very interested in some of the language that was used, so some of the words like ‘far-right’, ‘nazism’, ‘extremism’, all of those kinds of language which is very much, almost you are connecting to a war, which I think is very interesting use of language. My concern is that it is a little bit inflammatory, and there are many societies currently running today that are peaceful and are not multicultural, say Japan, China, they have no, they’re not Nazis, I wouldn’t describe them as far-right, the average [inaudible] student is actually, they wanted to have their culture on their own, I wouldn’t describe them as far right extremists.

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

So what is the question?

Audience 3:

So, my question is do you think that this language is misrepresenting perhaps legitimate needs? So Maslo is a theorist who talked about the fact that we have to meet our needs in order to self-actualise, and one of those needs is kinship, and is that something that can be openly discussed in a gentle, understanding way, and maybe that might de-escalate some of the concerns that people have, where their kinship needs are not being respected.

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

Thank you very much. Gentleman at the back?

Audience 4

[Inaudible] My names, Brendan [inaudible] some of you have mentioned the far right, the populist right, [inaudible] quote loosely, do you not think we should also be quite sceptical of what we might call the far-left to be [inaudible]

Dr Rakib Ehsan

So essentially that certain terms of being over-used and drained of their historical weight and significance?

Audience 4:

[inaudible] I think there is a tendency on the far left to do that [inaudible] I know this is all about the far right [inaudible] your view on that.

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

Thank you, I’ll take one more question. The gentleman here?

Audience 5:

Just on your stance about more immigrants coming to developed countries over the next, I’m not sure what, 50 years of so, we’re probably going to see more and more of a rise in these Brexit parties, like UKIP, things like that, and [inaudible] bring them into the centrefold of conversation, but how do you do that? You normalise some of their mild prejudice [inaudible] bring them into mainstream politics? So there’s definitely an argument to suppress them [inaudible] do you bring on a different dynamic by bringing them into the [inaudible]

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

Ok, thank you. Eric would you like to start in terms of overusing certain terminology?

Professor Eric Kaufmann:

Sure. We have the first question here which was quite interesting on kinship, I think you’re actually putting your finger on something really interesting when you’re talking about Japan and Korea and these places that are ethnically homogenous. I actually think that is what a lot of populist right voters would like, is to be more like those countries. Now the question is, the problem of course is, you know, given the current makeup of western countries you’ll never going to be able to attain that, and so it’s dangerous to try and go for that. That’s clearly the case but at the same time you can have a discussion over how diverse. So I see, you know, instead of talking about multicultural versus mono cultural, we need to have a discussion about how multi-cultural a society do we want to be, and I think that is a very difficult discussion to have, particularly in sort of, what I would call the liberal institutions like academia and so on. We know in the US case for example that people who are attached to their ancestry, are more likely to have a stronger white identity. There’s a very strong correlation, and that is connected to Trump voting. Again, I think we need to be able to have a conversation about the speed of change, the speed of immigration, and impacts on cultural composition, talking about assimilation, for example, which is another thing that’s very difficult to talk about. So yeah, I agree that I think that conversation needs to be had, but at the same token we need to side line stuff that is picking on any out group, whether Muslims, Jews, whatever, that’s where we, I think, need to focus the cordoning and silencing. We had a question here about normalisation. So the thing is you have to operate with a consistent ethics. So when George Wallace entered the US Presidential race a a third party candidate advocating segregation on racial lines, the main parties isolated him, they were correct to do so, because that’s, you know, denying people equal treatment under the law is so totally unacceptable. But, if you are going to campaign to reduce immigration, I think that’s something that’s quite different ethically, I think that’s actually something of a legitimate position, whether you agree with it or not. The problem is when you apply the same approach to Wallace, that you start applying that approach to a party like the Sweden Democrats, then I think you run into problems. I think we need to focus on hateful stuff against outgroups, but not against slowing down the pace of change, basically.

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

I was just thinking, in terms of research that you’ve done, how prominent are white genocide, white replacements narratives, which are being pedalled by what we would consider far right extremist organisations, would you say that is a quite dominant strand of their ideological thinking?

Jacob Guhl:

Within the extreme right, specifically, yes. Within the extreme right I wouldn’t argue, it is obviously much smaller than the radical right. The radical right, depending on which country you look at, sort of the third to, in some cases second biggest parties, so that’s a fairly sizeable portion of your population. The extreme right, sort of, much smaller, but within these conspiracy theories based around dystopian fear, of an existential threat to the established ethnic, or racial order, that is quite common and something that binds people together. They do differ quite a bit in terms of who is mainly to blame for this, mainly the Muslim immigrants of the non-European immigrants or is the Jews bringing in those immigrants, I mean that is sort of a question of who is the appropriate target for them. But within the fringes of the extreme right, that is quite important rhetoric. Maybe just one last question, so there’s this question I guess around kinship and is it more in group love, rather than out group hate. In group love, and the need for a community, that’s a big human need, it’s a need that extremist groups prey upon, and try to use for their purposes, very much so on the jihadist side as well, I believe it was Max Sageman who once said that Jihadists, even though they seem very hateful might be more driven by in group love for their brothers, essentially, than out group hate. But I think we do, we should, sometimes people on the left look at these movements, find the worst interpretation, the radical right, the extreme right, could have, and think this is what actually drives these movements. I think there is sometimes a temptation of the other side to look at these movements and say, ah, they could have these very legitimate interests, they could have these legitimate grievances and needs. I think we need to look at the other movements, and at the actual movements, and so both the movements surrounding Trump as well as the populist movements in different countries in Europe, I think it’s clearly not just characterised by in group love but by targeting others and out group hostility.

Dr Paul Stott:

I just wanted to say two quick things, firstly on this issue of the far left, I think the far left potentially can be a problem, certainly in terms of freedom of speech, and we’ve got, if I can make a very quick plug, a report coming out next month on the Muslim Brotherhood that I’ve been working on, and one of the things in this country is the overlap between part of the far left, and those islamist type groups. Very interesting this point on normalisation, Patrick, because I think it is worth going back to the 1990s, early 2000s, some of these debates aren’t actually that new, and I think by the late 90s early 2000s it was obvious in a series of European countries that the traditional left parties were in decline, and you had the emergence of populist parties or post fascist parties or some cases fascist parties, who were doing very well in working class areas. And the response then was, well, what do we do? And over time, I’m not particularly sure a successful strategy emerged anywhere, necessarily, for taking on and defeating those ideas. Certainly, if you look at the response in Holland in particular, how do we deal with [inaudible], well you couldn’t really and he was assassinated, if you recall. But also with Wilders, it’s been the cordon sanitaire approach. We won’t work with him, we won’t deal with him, his vote doesn’t go down, it goes up or it stays the same, and that’s been much the case in Austria as well, only there, perhaps some of the ideas have been taken by the main Conservative party. So, I think there is a big issue there in terms of the response, but it’s not as new as people think.

Dr Rakib Ehsan:

On that note unfortunately we have run out of time, I’d like to thank you all for attending todays event, and I’d like you all to show your appreciation for our panellists today, thank you.

*Applause*

HJS



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