It was gratifying to see James Goddard of the far-right UK ‘yellow vest’ protesters have his means of crowdfunding taken away this week, when PayPal took the decision to block his account.
But it’s important to remember that he is just one node in the UK’s far-right network, that revolves around co-founder of the English Defence League Tommy Robinson.
This network eschews tactics of the traditional far-right, like marches, in favour of a media-savvy approach that is cheeky, subversive and imbues a sense of belonging – a ‘Diet Fascism’, egged on and informed by ‘alt-right’ successes in the US and the influence of Steve Bannon.
Completely central to this network is the use of live-streaming, online video and crowdfunding tech. Once put in place, it doesn’t need shadowy backers. It simply uses donations, garnered from online appeals in regular videos. A perpetual motion machine of hate.
The grift – and it is a grift – works like this. The figure in the network creates short, snappy videos for YouTube or Facebook that highlight issues involving one of a few select targets – Muslims, the media, social justice warriors. And each video ends with an appeal for donations to ‘continue their work’.
These donations can add up quite considerably as a video amasses thousands of shares, and cross-promotion is rife, ensuring that everyone gets a piece of the pie – once they’re within the circle. The YouTube and Facebook platforms undoubtedly help in dispersal too.
We’ve heard Steve Bannon’s infamous outburst that ‘Tommy Robinson is the backbone of this country’, and he most definitely is the heart of the UK operation – he has the charisma, contacts and posting schedule that ensures a huge viewing audience.
Robinson, of course, not only has the support of blogs like Politicalite, but has the weight of UKIP – and their social media personalities like ‘Sargon of Akkad’, ‘Count Dankula’ and Paul Joseph Watson behind him, amplifying him when expedient.
James Goddard was a junior member of the current crop of pay-per-protesters, and by far the least accomplished in reach.
But he and his cohorts know that both Facebook and PayPal’s lax approach to upholding their terms of service gives room to operate. They know that they can count on the support of Robinson and social media personalities like Paul Joseph Watson to step in if they’re removed, creating a contrived ‘free speech’ debate.
One might think that this network is less dangerous than groups like National Action and other proscribed groups, but it is exactly the reach and ‘stochastic terror’ that they spread in their demonisation of Muslims and other groups that is more toxic.
So what do we do? Ignoring them won’t make them go away – they have a confined, bolted-on audience on Facebook. They’re also very good at toeing the line in regards to the law. So, follow the money. If you see them post racist material, lodge a report with PayPal or Facebook.
It will be difficult, and it will be protracted, but if we can convince Facebook and PayPal to be stricter in their application of bans, we can starve the network of funds they need to operate. The money is what drives it – it may be the main motivation.