Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

The Neo-Nazi 'resistance' group fuelling a rise in hate

A Swedish far-right group has emerged as one of the main players in an online realm where British fanatics have plotted to join a race war.

The Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) has been identified as a ‘key actor’ using social media and encrypted communications, replacing other groups that have been banned or ‘de-platformed’ from web channels.

Highlighted as one of the world’s most ‘networked’ hate groups, the NRM’s members are actively seeking to further their agenda in Scandinavia and beyond, according to the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), which is researching the growing transnational shape of the neo-Nazi movement.

The white supremacists are based in Sweden but have the aim of creating a far-right Nordic republic, also including Norway, Denmark and Finland and have spread their reach into the UK.

The NRM clashed with riot police on the streets of Gothenburg in 2017 and the same year three men with ties to the group were imprisoned for bomb attacks on a refugee centre and a left-wing bookshop, though its leadership denied responsibility.

The movement is active on social media app Telegram, where far-right group Britain First also has a channel, research by shows.

The NRM organises broadcasts aimed at the UK and other European countries and promotes a podcast hosted by a British fascist, which at least one of its members has appeared on.

The channels were open on Telegram – which offers end-to-end encryption – as of Tuesday, with a profusion of offensive and hateful content, including its ‘action’ against drag queens.

Other posts in English made references to ‘the struggle’ against liberal democracy – which the group perceives as oppressing white culture – and pictures of members at outdoor camps and practising martial arts.

Links between social media content and real-world crimes and atrocities have been drawn by the CEP.

Senior analyst Joshua Fisher-Birch told ‘Individuals may become interested in violent right-wing extremist ideology and participate in radicalizing online communities, whether on communications apps or web forums.

‘As larger groups face difficulties such as infiltration by activists and monitoring and disruption from law enforcement, individuals may plan for attacks either on their own, or more likely with the assistance of other individuals either known to them through the online space, or based on personal connections.

‘Additionally, individuals inspired by the Christchurch terrorist, Brenton Tarrant, present a threat. These actors may attack Muslims, Jews, or other racial, ethnic, or religious groups, who the attackers claim are replacing the “original” inhabitants and changing the character of the country. 

‘Even groups that claim not to support violence can be dangerous and play a role in radicalizing by spreading racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, or anti-immigrant ideology. Individuals might take violent action even though the groups that produce and distribute the propaganda might claim to want non-violent solutions.’

A toxic mix is being fuelled by a highly-charged and polarised political atmosphere in the US, where the American far-right has found ‘common narratives’ to share with extremists overseas, according to the CEP’s research.

No borders on the internet

The Washington-based think tank has identified extreme far-right groups as representing an ‘increasing security threat’.

The group states: ‘NRM is one of the key actors that is often highly regarded by other members of the scene.

‘The NRM is also one of the most transnationally networked organizations, whose members travel frequently within Scandinavia and beyond.’

It comes amid a rise in extremist far-right hatred surfacing online.

In October, a British teenager who idolised Adolf Hitler and was researching how to convert firearms for a race war was found guilty of terrorism offences.

The 17-year-old, from Rugby, Warwickshire, who had been conversing with other fanatics via online channels, is due to be sentenced on Friday.

Another teenage neo-Nazi, Harry Vaughan, received a suspended sentence yesterday after police found bomb-making manuals and extremist propaganda on his laptop.

The 18-year-old, from Twickenham, south west London, was given a two-year jail term at the Old Bailey.

Fisher-Birch said: ‘Individuals can share information online over encrypted communication apps, on message boards, and through file-sharing services.

‘This can improve an individual’s capacity to commit acts of violence by making it easier to share information such as bomb-making guides and manuals for homemade weapons.

‘There are no borders on the Internet.

‘An individual in the US can share information for building a homemade firearm with someone in the UK.’

The CEP is calling on governments and social media companies to be aware of the ideologies at play, monitor platforms and remove harmful content.

‘The threat is absolutely real but also relatively small,’ Fisher-Birch said.

‘There is a threat that individuals may be radicalized by online extremist communities and commit horrific acts of violence.’

Leading criminologist Dr Imran Awan, of Birmingham City University, has identified ways that far-right groups are seeking to ‘equip and recruit’ fanatics for real-world action.

Dr Awan has defined eight different types of anti-Muslim trolls who scour social media to perpetrate racial and religious hatred.

‘This social media thread is disturbing and reveals how quickly groups such as Nordic Resistance Movement are able to amplify their message on social media,’ he said.

‘As I have identified eight different types of internet trolls on social media this fits the pattern of those who use coordinated responses to create real-world tension offline. 

‘They are not the first or last group to do this, we’ve seen a steady rise of cases on social media platforms such as Telegram where members of the far-right are using social media to equip and recruit people towards their propaganda and racist ideology.’

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, Head of UK Counter Terrorism Policing, is dealing with a growing number of cases.

Mr Basu’s case load involving extreme far-right groups has risen from six per cent in 2014 to 10 per cent this year.

He told BBC Panorama in June how his team has disrupted eight plots to maim and kill. ‘I still think it’s what I would call a toe-hold in the United Kingdom for the right-wing threat,’ he said.

‘What I don’t want is for it to become is a foothold.’ has approached Telegram for comment.

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