Predictably, it was their Facebook page which broke the news on Sunday that Britain First, the latest half baked incarnation of the far-right to momentarily capture the populist social media zeitgeist, had “invaded multiple mega mosques across central Scotland, including Glasgow Central Mosque in the Gorbals.” This followed their earlier, and astonishingly unfulfilled, threat to turn up to Friday’s anti-UKIP demonstration in Edinburgh with a battalion of ‘ex-military volunteers and armoured patrol vehicles’ to protect their fellow-patriot Nigel Farage from ‘left-wing thugs’.
As someone who’s kept half an eye on the far-right in the UK over the past few years, this all took me a bit by surprise. Last I remember, Britain First were just another pathetic wee sect among a myriad of such groups, constantly wracked by inflated egos and infighting, arising as they did from a BNP split-off in 2010. And little seems to have changed in the intervening four years, as they’re much the same pathetic bunch they always were – except, it would seem, for a couple of crucial factors.
Firstly, they’ve taken some social media lessons. As the graph we’ve generated below shows, their Facebook page has increased its likes by 1400% in just five months, going from 22,500 in early December to a staggering 315,000 today, far surpassing anything the EDL have ever come close to despite, at one time, their vast media exposure and regular street presence. Indeed, at their current rate of growth they’ll have surpassed the Labour and Conservative Party pages (combined) in about a week.
This appears to have primarily been achieved by spamming facebook with hundreds upon hundreds of lowest common denominator memes which can just about all be categorised as Muslims = bad, our brave boys = good and hanging = BRING IT BACK, all familiar favourites from the big far-right book on How To Make Britain Great Again, along with helpful life tips like ‘don’t leave your dog in a hot car’. So it was that on Sunday, much like everything they post, their pronouncement that they’d ‘invaded’ Glasgow Central Mosque went viral. Alas, like most things they post, its basis in reality turned out to be pretty tenuous too, with the Mosque telling worried enquirers that they’d had “no trouble” whatsoever that day.
Britain First’s promise of “more updates” did eventually follow, with a series of photos showing ubiquitous ‘party leader’ Paul Golding in selected locations, like standing on er, Maryhill Road and sightseeing in Stirling. We’re led to believe that they did venture to the Central Mosque, where they stood in the entrance foyer and were apparently offered coffees from a Kenco machine. An uncaptioned photo shows Golding sternly posing for the camera next to some bemused looking older Muslim men, forcing some of the party’s “anti Muslim grooming” leaflets on them, as well as copies of the “British Army Bible”, which is much better than the normal bible cause it’s full of guns and tanks instead of all that boring Jesus shit. We’re not sure exactly what Britain First are defining an ‘invasion’ as, but whatever it is ‘one man in a mock paramilitary jacket briefly posing for a picture in a foyer’ is surely stretching it. Nevertheless, can you imagine the uproar if an organisation purporting to be a wing of the Yes campaign was storming around in pretend army jackets, threatening minority groups and stirring up racism – the newspaper editorials, the outraged politicians?
At least on this occasion they had actually showed face. Last week, the internet erupted with news that Britain First would be despatching a crack squadron of armoured vehicles and ex-squaddies to do battle with the leftist thugs who were promising to give Nigel Farage a raucous reception in Edinburgh. Sadly for all concerned, their battalion of cardboard tanks failed to make the trip north and it was left to the usual ragtag bunch of SDL knuckledraggers to swagger about behind a line of cops while outnumbered 70 to 1. You may think I’m saying ‘cardboard tanks’ as a joke, a way of diminishing their street fighting credentials and making them appear like a mob of pathetic posers with silly jackets… But that would belie the fact that they actually turn up at demonstrations with a CARDBOARD CUT OUT of their glorious leader, fundraiser-in-chief and the man who started it all, Jim Dowson. If you take a another careful look at the photo at the top of this page, you’ll see that Jim Dowson appears to be an incredible 7 foot tall and also made of er, cardboard.
Dowson remains a fairly two dimensional figure IRL too though, a cartoon baddie who at one time virtually owned the BNP. That was until he realised that instead of spending all his time and money propping up a desperate bunch of bigots and losers, he could set up his very own party full of bigots and losers. Dowson set up his Britain First cult in 2010, amid one of the BNP’s many tedious bouts of infighting that has left the party in the state of total disarray it’s in today. Self-styled leader of the BF’s paramilitary wing and fantasist in chief, Paul Golding, is another former senior BNP figure. Britain First was set up as an explicitly Christian far-right party, with Golding conveniently discovering his faith just before he took up his post. With links to right-wing paramilitaries in the north of Ireland, Dowson was a key figure in the Belfast flegs protest in 2012-13, as hardline loyalists waged war on the city authorities’ decision to stop flying the Union Jack every day of the year. Dowson is also familar to pro-choice campaigners as an anti-abortion extremist, who has been pivotal in the anti-choice movement in Ireland.
Britain First’s recent surge is in part due to the upcoming European Elections, in which they’re standing candidates, and due to the vacuum which has been left by the collapse of the BNP and, latterly, the EDL. Dowson and Golding’s strategy hinges on confrontation and provoking publicity through whatever means possible. In their current campaign, this means charging around the country trying to get into fights with any Muslims they can set eyes on and, in Wales, going on the ballot as “Britain First – Remember Lee Rigby”, due to a spectacular fuck-up by the Electoral Commission which has caused huge distress for the dead soldier’s family. Dowson is a shrewd operator – his primary role in the BNP involved setting up a call centre to take donations, allowing him to rake it in while the party went bankrupt – and there’s every reason to believe that his latest operation is as much about extorting cash from gullible facebook racists as it is about provoking a war with Muslims to fulfil the party’s doomsday prophesy.
We can only hope that Britain First soon implodes in bitter infighting and financial problems in the great tradition of Britain’s extreme-right, although with their spiralling popularity on social media and new found viral reach, there should be no complacency. In reality though, most of their outpourings are on a similar level to what’s printed daily in the right-wing tabloids, and their rapid growth is clearly attributable to the climate that’s created and the racist politicians in the mainstream who constantly pander to it. Britain isn’t First, it’s the Absolute Worst.
More far-right fun:
Confessions of a Not Proven Bin Raker
No one could agree what to Say Naw to in Edinburgh on Monday
Last Orders for the Lodge?
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What is it with fascists and dogs?