Patriotic Alternative, for example, emerged in 2019, founded by a former member of the British National Party. Anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate, in its report on Patriotic Alternative, has described the group as having “antisemitism at its very core”, with several members and even the founder having engaged in Holocaust denial.
On the other hand, the Hundred Handers first appeared in 2018 as an anonymous network dedicated to promoting white nationalism. They operate mostly in the UK, although some stickers associated with the movement have appeared in New York City, and they most recently came to public attention for imitating Extinction Rebellion stickers – but obviously adding their own radical right twist to messages around the climate crisis.
How influential are they?
It is difficult to assess precisely the influence that these groups are having. While actual membership is estimated to be low, their online footprint has been mildly significant at times – research shows that at its peak following of the Hundred Handers on Twitter first and then Telegram exceeded 5,000.
Still, these groups are probably best described as being part of the ‘fringe’, as their impact on the mainstream is still severely limited.
On the contrary, the anti-Muslim (or cultural) branch of the UK radical right has been steadily present for years in the UK, to the point that figureheads like Tommy Robinson have become global representatives of the radical right and even have a degree of ‘brand recognition’, engaging with the likes of radical right populists across the European Parliament, such as Geert Wilders, Pegida in Germany and Avi Yemeni in Australia. Indeed, a recent survey shows that out of the repertoire of radical right ideas, anti-Muslim narratives still have more mainstream appeal than explicitly racist white nationalist tropes.
Researchers at anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate have taken the emergence of groups like Patriotic Alternative to suggest that the UK’s far-right is becoming “more racist” by shifting to openly focus on race, partly as a reaction to the Black Lives Matter movements and migrant crossings over the English Channel. While such issues may act in fact as triggers for spikes of white nationalist activity, it is still unclear, if not unlikely, that this will have an impact on the wider appeal and growth of the movement – given the small scale of their operations and the racist hook of their messages.
How are they advancing their messages?
While the core ideas of white nationalists have suffered little alteration, tactics have continued to evolve and adapt, mixing offline with online strategies.
White nationalist groups have shied away from publicly demonstrating and rallying —as opposed to how this constitutes the bread and butter of anti-Muslim groups like the English Defence League and Britain First—, but they have resorted instead to plastering stickers around towns, vlogging and getting involved in ‘prepper’-type training camps.
Both Patriotic Alternative and Hundred Handers have disseminated racist stickers, normally peddling conspiracy theories about white people becoming a minority in the UK, with messages such as “mass immigration is white genocide” and “it’s ok to be white”. The Hundred Handers have even been known to embed blades in the stickers with the aim to injure whoever tries to remove then.
In terms of locations, these groups frequently target public spaces where the stickers can be rapidly seen, such as bus stops, although there are indications that schools are becoming a priority. Their reach seems to vary: at best recent reports show that Patriotic Alternative’s most successful offline propaganda campaign managed to deliver leaflets to 1,000 homes in Hull.
In the online space, according to Vice, one tactic that white nationalist groups are employing to amplify their propaganda consists in lying through the screening process to be able to call into radio programmes and then flip to promoting neo-Nazi ideas on air. Those segments are then turned into shareable clips that can be distributed on radical right forums or Telegram chats.
Who is joining these groups?
As expected, the membership of these groups is fairly fluid, following a pattern of how individuals in the radical right gravitate from group-to-group. The perfect example to encapsulate this is how the founder of the Hundred Handers is now collaborating with Patriotic Alternative. Moreover, and in the past, he had also been involved with proscribed group National Action and other radical-right activist groups like Generation Identity and For Britain.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.