Britain First: An Analysis
Britain First: An Analysis
What is Britain First?
First, do some digging for yourself! Check out their Website and Facebook Page
In their own words, "Britain First is a patriotic political party and street defence organisation" that allows people to "join forces with [fellow] patriots" (1). Established in 2011 by former members of the British National Party, Britain First advocates for the renewal of traditional "British" culture and campaigns against mass immigration and the perceived Islamization of Britain (1). Recently they have gained notoriety for their public anti-Islam protests, "invasions" of mosques, and "Christian Patrols".
Britain First is the brainchild of Jim Dowson, the former chief fundraiser for the British National Party, whose position with the party ended in October 2010 following tensions within the party and rumors of an alleged sexual assault. A polarizing individual, his political record is also tainted by his involvement in, and subsequent arrest for, organizing multiple illegal parades turned violent clashes in Belfast. A former Calvinist minister, Dowson is a Scottish Christian fundamentalist and anti-abortion activist (leader of the UK Life League) with connections to Loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland (5). In an interview with Channel Four News, Dowson expressed his belief that there is a holy war taking place on the streets in Britain. During this interview, his agenda was evident: to win (3).
Another key figure is Paul Golding, the current chairman of Britain First and a former BNP councillor, who is responsible for the militant "Britain First Defense Force". Equipped with newly purchased armored Land Rovers, this paramilitary-style uniformed team are responsible for numerous "mosque invasions" across Britain. They are also charged with inciting a riot on London's Brick Lane. Active recruiters of former members of the armed services, the group attempts to legitimize themselves with flag ceremonies, battle standards, a military structure (battalions and companies), and combat training. Most of their activity is concentrated in East London. This includes driving their "military" vehicles around predominantly Muslim areas, entering mosques and asking to speak to the Imam, handing out bibles and Christian leaflets to Muslims, and staging protests by drinking alcohol outside of Mosques. Golding himself leads most of these "patrols" and "invasions" (2). Following the retirement of Jim Dowson in July 2014, The Daily Mirror reported that Dowson had left because he disagreed with the party's "mosque invasions" (10). While Britain First subsequently reported that this was a lie, stating fatigue and the safety of his family as the reason for his retirement, Golding announced the end of the "invasion" campaign (1).
The mission of Britain First is to be the first "professional, patriotic, nationalist campaigning organization", and it promises to have "no nonsense, no stupidity, no compromise, and no rest until we get our country back". In doing so, the party hopes to "save this country and our people from the EU, politically correct, multicultural insanity that is now engulfing us" (1).
Why does Britain First matter?
Whilst one might suspect that the extremist group described above would fail to garner widespread support, the reality is in fact much different. As of Tuesday, December 9th 2014, the Britain First Facebook page has 597, 801 likes and the number is quickly rising. This makes the page more popular than the pages of the Liberal Party, Conservative Party and Labour Party (11). In May, a buzzfeed article reported that the page had 3.3 million interactions in one week and was gaining 8000 followers a day. Furthermore, the article posited, "fans of Britain First are five times more likely to engage with Britain First on Facebook than fans of more mainstream [British] political parties" (9). More recent research suggests these numbers have grown exponentially since then. Hope not Hate, an anti-fascist organization attempting to "provide a positive antidote to the politics of hate", reports that an estimated 2 million people are interacting with Britain First content online each day (8). As such, Britain First is arguably Britain's most popular political site. Matthew Collins, the director of research for Hope not Hate, warns "Britain First is the most dangerous group to have emerged on the British far-right scene for several years" (8).
The success of this group necessitates that we think critically about the methods they are using and the intentions behind them. No matter where you lie on the political spectrum, you should be concerned about this group. There is nothing inherently wrong with supporting an anti-immigration policy, but it becomes problematic when a group uses racialized propaganda to garner support for it. Britain First attempts to incite fear and hatred towards immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants, and prioritizes certain "British" citizens over others. Race, gender, and religion manifest themselves in Britain First's ideal British citizen and these sentiments are only thinly veiled behind their social media facade. How many of their half a million "likers" agree with, or even know about, the extremist messages hiding in-between pictures of the queen? Whilst this answer is difficult to ascertain, one fact remains clear: a large and growing number of people are being exposed, knowingly and unknowingly, to Britain First's toxic ideas.
- "Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights", Jessie Daniels
- "The future of (the) race: identity and the rise of computer-mediated public spheres", Dara Bryne