Reporting of incidents involving suspects with far-right links
Jo Cox MP was tragically murdered last week in her constituency, the man arrested and charged with her murder is Thomas Mair. He gave his name in court as ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’.
Initial reporting of the attack and motives of the attacker focussed on ‘a quiet man, who did volunteer gardening’ who also had a history of depression. Police are probing his links to far-right extremism after a variety of evidence was brought to light by campaigners and monitoring organisations.
Last year, Zack Davies was convicted of attempted murder after attacking Dr Sarandev Bhambra, a complete stranger, with a machete in a Tesco in Mold. Zack was a Neo-nazi, who screamed ‘White Power’ during the attack and that it was ‘for Lee Rigby’.
When Lee Rigby was shockingly killed by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, it was rightly described as an act of terror and extremism. Zack Davies stated that he was inspired to attack a stranger as ‘revenge for Lee Rigby’. It was described as a hate crime.
Muhaydin Mire attempted to murder a stranger at Leytonstone tube station also last year, police treated the incident as an act of terror. His brother described afterwards how he had contacted police about his brother’s mental health three weeks prior to the attack. Muhaydin had previously spent three months in hospital after being diagnosed with paranoia.
The disparity in reporting some violent crimes as terrorism and others as hate crimes led people to question, when does an incident become terrorism?
Terrorism is defined in the UK (Terrorism act, 2000) as:
“The use or threat of action designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public, or a section of the public; made for the purposes of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause; and it involves or causes:
serious violence against a person;
- serious damage to a property;
- a threat to a person's life;
- a serious risk to the health and safety of the public; or
- serious interference with or disruption to an electronic system
In 2012, Searchlight produced a document ‘Lone Wolves – Myth or Reality’. It examined how police, the National Prosecution Service, courts and media often view far-right terrorists as ‘lone wolves’, that is isolated individuals unsupported by wider movements. It contained over 40 case studies of far-right individuals who committed or attempted to commit acts of terror.
Dr Paul Jackson who co-authored the report said “Those who act alone are often supported by others, either tacitly though the creation of a wider supportive community promoting violence, or explicitly though providing materials useful for carrying out violent extremism. Though individuals may act solo, they are supported by a community. Consequently, any farright violence carried out by solo actor terrorists is an extreme product of the wider cultural milieu of far-right activism.”
Zakk Davies was a member of an openly neo-nazi group called National Action, who promote lone wolf activism and had a wealth of Nazi material in his home.
Dr Bhambra’s brother, Dr Tarlochan Singh Bhambra said "We are in no doubt, given the racial and political motivations, that this should have been rightly defined as an act of terrorism. By his own admission, the defendant Zack Davies had extreme neo-Nazi views and is a member of a white supremacist organisation.
"Sarandev was singled out because of the colour of his skin. The media have a responsibility and an obligation to report these aspects of the trial and bring to the fore the major implications of this."
Southern Poverty Law Centre reported last week that Thomas Mair had bought several publications from US based neo-Nazi group National Alliance.
Today the Home Affairs Select Committee have suggested they will investigate the danger the political far right poses. Keith Vaz MP said “The rise of far-right extremism needs to be studied and acted on with much greater determination and members of the committee have asked that we do so urgently.” He added: “There are strong arguments as to why we should look at this issue.”
Only a few weeks ago, Britain First, released a statement saying that they would “target” politicians including Sadiq Khan, Sajid Javid and others where they “live work and pray”. In the statement Britain First reveal they view all Muslim elected officials as “occupiers”.
Violent acts by politically motivated extremists should take into account how the perpetrators have become radicalised and be viewed as terrorism. Far-right groups use violent language and incite action. Hate speech and ideas have a powerful influence on those that follow those groups and on the wider community; those exposed to these influences often share them with others. Social media has emerged as a key recruitment tool for extremists and can help ‘legitimise’ and strengthen existing prejudice.
Did a lightbulb just go off on the Britain First Facebook page? pic.twitter.com/a9nwWrtuxN
— Sunny Hundal (@sunny_hundal) June 16, 2016