Far Right Mobilisation In Ireland And Facebook: Stop Hate For Profit.

The following briefing document was prepared by the Far Right Observatory in late 2018 and early 2019. Part of this work examined the role of the Facebook in increasing radicalisation and online hate organising.

The document was provided to the leader of the Green Party Eamonn Ryan, now current Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport ahead of a personal meeting with Mark Zuckerberg in April 2019 along with two other TD’s.

It is our understanding that this briefing document — outlining the impacts Facebook is having here in Ireland — were handed directly to Mark Zuckerberg in that meeting. In the brief we extended an invitation to Facebook to meet with us to discuss our extensive research. However, Facebook have made no attempt to contact us in the intervening period since April 2019.

Now in June 2020 we see a global reaction to Facebooks inaction in the Stop Hate For Profit campaign.

Far Right Mobilisation in Ireland and Facebook.

● In 2019 these pages number over 40 (forty) with a total of 130,000 Facebook profiles liking these pages. A base figure from 2015 monitoring was 3-4 pages.

● We are observing that Facebook as a space for radicalisation and polarisation at a scale never seen before in this country. We recommend meeting Facebook representative to discuss our evidence and concerns

● Responses by Facebook own reporting structures around racism, homophobia, white supremacist, ethno-nationalist content from Irish based Facebook pages is at best haphazard and inconsistent. At worst Facebook is facilitating the growth of hate movements in Ireland.

● Facebook failed to tackle far right misinformation and organising on Facebook during the Repeal referendum in Ireland in 2018. We expect - that without transparent and effective actions by Facebook - that in the 2019 European and Local elections, Facebook will once again become an effective tool for the dissemination of lies, fabrications and racist, homophobic and anti immigrant sentiment.

● Facebook needs to take visible and effective action to stop such radicalisation.

● A full list of pages/URLs can be provided upon request.

Introduction

Context

Far right activity has emerged in Ireland in the context of austerity; plummeting trust in institutions – public and the media; a growth in new technology; a vacuum left after the water charges movement; and losses on the right in the two recent referendums. Although still small, emergent strands include micro political organisations of the far right in Ireland and emerging individuals and Facebook pages building up brand identities solely on the basis of racist, Islamophobic and ethno nationalist sentiment. There is an interplay between communication platform and publishers and we see Facebook as a primary recruiting ground for support for emerging disparate far right groups. We are happy to provide further evidence from our analysis in any future meeting with Facebook

International Linkages

Trump, Salvini, Orban and Brexit has emboldened far-right activity across Europe. English is the linga franca and ethno-nationalist have adherents in most European countries. New connections and conversations are now taking place. Talking points however, are not organic, but deliberate and orchestrated analysis, and framing happens outside of Ireland with stock phrases imported and reproduced. A coded language emerges with phrases such as ‘Cultural Marxism’, used by terrorists such as Anders Briviek and the white supremacist murders in New Zealand. We are seeing the explicit promotion of cultural marxism and white supremacism by right wing groups and Facebook is failing to remove these or take any meaningful actions against these pages

These are used to emulate far right discourse and show a shared common philosophy. Worryingly, international far right figures are increasingly interested in Ireland, indicating it is being viewed as potentially fertile recruitment ground.

Far Right Narratives and Themes

There are legitimate concerns over mainstream politics, the role of public institutions and a remote media. These concerns however, are being exploited as a wedge to drive forward far right narratives and mobilise people. Blaming a corrupt elite (Politicians, Media), creating an external enemy (EU, Soras) and an internal enemy (Migrants, Muslims) are recurring themes. While there is significant overlap, the themes identified below are consistent with experiences of other countries.

Meta Narratives

Traitorous elite versus the pure people A meta narrative and closely associated with Fascism. Framing general population as ‘stupid’ and specific target groups as traitors and deviants, while positioning themselves as ‘truth’ holders. Their role is to expose the ‘deviants’ and encourage public policing.

Globalism - as opposed to globalisation - is a specific far right trope, with ‘globalists’ held responsible for individual developments - from immigration to abortion - in a push to impose a ‘new world order’.

Irish Cultural Purity/ Nativism - Promoting fear, sits alongside the dominate ‘take back control’ framing. The dilution of Irish culture and the need to protect ‘native Irishness’, with fear of change and nostalgic and romantic view of Ireland evident.

Specific Themes

Islamophobia/ anti-Semitism - Ireland is being ‘lslamicised’ and colonised (a new plantation) upholding Irish culture and purity narratives. Escalating in 2018 and linked to Repeal the 8, and UN Global Compact, George Soros and his OSF foundation accused of interfering with shaping public opinion. This is driven by anti-semitic tropes.

Direct Provision/Asylum Seekers – Targeting of planned opening of Direct Provision centres and new Community Sponsorship programme, uses Irish first and ‘purity’ narratives.

Housing/evictions - Historically the work of the left, now increasingly see far right discourse co-opting evictions as a catalyst for recruitment and mobilisation.

Pro Life/Anti-Abortion – A dominant theme since the referendum - linked to traditional values and role of women.

Anti-Feminism – Explicit authoritarian world view, right of traditional conservatism and as social and ideological ‘corruption’ of people’s purity.

Transphobic and Homophobic - Internal and external discourse laden with this framing, even when not the topic of discussion.

Anti-EU - Irexit is part of a bundle of far right themes. It reflects an Irish ethno-national and anti-European perspective upholding white male European values.

Free Speech - Present extreme views in a narrative that links to the right to free speech. This framing allows justification and legitimisation of any and all opinions and statements.

Conspiracy Theories - Escalation in anti-vaccine, fluoridation, chemtrails conspiracies, along with Jewish families running financial world systems.

Anti-Corruption - Resonates with a wide audience given the multiple crisis of legitimacy at state and institutional level. Manifest in the Anti-Corruption Ireland party.

Anti-Elite - The inability of the ‘elites’ to restore security and alleviate anxiety. This agenda fosters distrust and alienation and sits beside ‘traitors’ verus ‘purist’ narratives.

Anti-Mainstream Media - Far right attacks on media focus on their place in a wider national and international conspiracy (the ‘New World Order’), with explicit and implicit accusations of corruption and being run by unseen sinister forces.

Anti-NGO/Civil Society - NGO’s/Community Groups come under attack for being ‘pro-immigration’ (i.e. anti-racist) and likened to the ‘elite’. They are labelled as supporters of state policy because they receive grants. Like the media, they are portrayed as paid actors doing the bidding of outside forces.

Climate & Environment - Climate denial evident in the general discussion, with a focus on anti-carbon tax, anti-wind turbines and 5G, as well as opposition to bog preservation.

Mapping

Additionally, a shared community and common identity through online spaces is emerging. Coordination on messaging and timing of online activity, points to conversations on other platforms - 4Chan, Discord and Gab and forums such as politicalIrish.com. These provide anonymous spaces for conversation, messaging and advance planning by individuals and groups. This coupled with the emergence of individual far right media propagandists - not specifically aligned to any of the micro political parties of the far right - see themselves as driving a greater synergy and alignment between groups. These actors are clear about what they are doing, are more organised and more emboldened.

Means and Methods in Action

Framing: ‘Globalists’ impose a ‘new world order’. Promoting fear, sits alongside the dominate ‘take back control’ framing. Fear of change and nostalgia of an idealised past scapegoating various groups while also positioning as ‘truth’ holders. These frames normalise anti-migrant, anti-feminist, islamophobic, homophobic, transphobic and anti-pluralist discourse.

Strategy: Drive a popular wedge and champion themes which speak to class issues - job security, housing or water charges. Create an incoherent logic and leverage social discontent to promote mistrust. Accuse civil society and public institutions of wasting taxpayers money with hidden and sinister agendas. Vilify mainstream media as liars with vested interests.

Tactics Far right lead activists and politicians tend to studiously avoid overt racism, authoritarian aspirations, abuse or open threats. The tone can be moderate, respectable and reasonable. However, followers and social media comments tend to use hate speech and often have open calls to violence. The far right are often very strategic liars and real world aggressive organising, aims to disrupt, document and disseminate their narratives

Narratives: Present extreme views in a narrative that links to the right to free speech, often using humour and repeating compelling memes and messages. Exaggerated moral narratives reproduce fear scenarios. They use everyday language and offer common sense solutions championing concerns of everyday people. Strategic and nuanced narratives are often replaced by conspiratory ones.

Communicatations: Far right actors use a blend of technologies and online platforms, showing a capacity to produce online material that is sophisticated and social media savvy. Understand the importance of owning cultural space and making culture. Make polemic ‘documentaries’ which feign objectively and ‘balance’ while framing right wing position as self-evident ‘truth’.

Funding: Reproducing international messages at a national level to reach a critical level of mass appeal may attract a large donor base to Ireland. We notice

Conclusions

People make decisions based on emotion and values. Far right messaging and repeated tropes however, suggest a common origin affording a degree of predictability. This provides an opportunity for devising methods, arguments and practices at the points of intersection with mainstream discourse which speaks to people's concerns and engages progressive values.

About Us

Members of the The Far Right Observatory came together in November 2018 out of concern about the rise of far right mobilisation in Ireland. The purpose of the group is to discuss, analyse and facilitate the sharing of ideas, information and resources. A small coordinating group helps steer the loosely organised Far Right Observatory.

Information to combat hate movements in Ireland