A well of hatred

Thomas Mair, the suspected assassin of British MP Jo Cox, might very well be a loner. That doesn’t mean he’s alone.

Øyvind Strømmen

Mair's alleged shouting of 'Britain first' led to a certain focus on the radical right-wing party carrying the same name. They moved to distance themselves from the murder, condemning it and urging media to act responsibly. On their own Facebook page, they also pointed at Mair's history of mental illness. Note the comments below.

Mair’s alleged shouting of ‘Britain first’ led to a certain focus on the radical right-wing party carrying the same name. They moved to distance themselves from the murder, condemning it and urging media to act responsibly. On their own Facebook page, they also pointed at Mair’s history of mental illness. Note the comments below.

16 June 2016. Jo Cox, a British MP representing Labour, was attacked outside the one-story red-brick library in Birstall, a village in West Yorkshire. Witnesses have described how a man wearing a grey jacket and white baseball cap stabbed Cox with a knife and shot her several times with “an old-fashioned-looking gun”. According to some witnesses, he yelled “Britain first” as he attacked.

Bernard Carter-Kenny, a mine rescue service veteran, aged 77, jumped from his car and tried to stop the assailant. Carter-Kenny was also stabbed, but was able to retreat to a nearby sandwich store, while the assailant fled the scene.

According to Sam Watson, a witness quoted in The Guardian, the street outside the library  descended into chaos. Some people started screaming, others ran towards where the MP lay. “She was on the floor and people were surrounding her,” said Watson. “People were coming out of the shops, from around, from the library.” Soon the police arrived, and shortly thereafter a suspect was apprehended nearby. Paramedics and a doctor tended to the MP, but at 1:48 pm she was pronounced dead.

It was the first murder of a British politician in office since Conservative MP Ian Gow was assassinated in a car-bomb attack carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in July 1990.

The suspect in the Cox killing, Thomas Mair, lived a 15-minute walk from the Birstall library. Neighbours and relatives soon described the unemployed gardener as a quiet and reserved loner. Newspapers wrote about a history of mental problems, including depression. Mair’s half-brother, however, told the Mirror that Mair’s only mental problem was obsessive- compulsive disorder, which he has had for years. He said Mair “keeps cleaning himself all the time”. The half-brother also said that Mair has never expressed any views about politics, or “shown any racist tendencies”.

A report in The Guardian told another story: that police found samples of Nazi paraphernalia and far right literature when searching Mair’s house.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an American civil rights organization noted for its anti-racist and anti-extremist work, soon published receipts that appeared to show that Mair had purchased books and magazines from the bookstore of the National Alliance, an American neo-Nazi group founded and led by William Pierce until his death in 2002. Amongst the books were Ich kämpfe, an illustrated handbook given to new members of the German Nazi party during WWII, and the Improvised Munitions Handbook, a United States Army technical manual first published in 1965 that describes how to manufacture improvised weapons and explosives from easily available materials.

Read more:
The impact of a racist fable (on William Pierce’s novel The Turner Diaries).

The current leader of the National Alliance, Will Williams, has blamed a former employee, Randolph Dilloway, for the leak. According to the SPLC itself, Dilloway provided thousands of pages of documents, database files, transaction records and digital media to the law center after having been threatened at gunpoint at the West Virginia compound of the National Alliance.

splc-na-order-thomas-mair-may99

One of the receipts acquired by the SPLC, showing an order of several weapons and explosives handbooks, as well as on Ich Kämpfe and on a subscription on the National Alliance magazine Free Speech.

More evidence of Mair’s connections to the far right include letters he sent to the pro-apartheid magazine South African Patriot in Exile. In one from 1999, Mair wrote: “I was glad you strongly condemned ‘collaborators’ in the White South African population. In my opinion the greatest enemy of the old Apartheid system was not the ANC and the Black masses but White liberals and traitors.”

According to the SPLC, Mair also attended a meeting of British right-wing extremists held in London in 2000 to promote the white power music label Resistance Records. According to the law center’s source, former FBI informant Todd Blodgett, Mair was “loosely affiliated with the Leeds chapter of the National Alliance” at the time.

The front page of one edition of the South African Patriot in Exile

The front page of one edition of the South African Patriot in Exile

This has been disputed by Mark Cotterill, a long-time activist of the British extreme right who has also lived in the United States, where he not only campaigned for David Duke’s 1999 congressional bid but formed an ran the American Friends of the British National Party. According to Cotterill, writing on the website of the National Alliance, the meeting in question was held in 1998, not in 2000, and Mair was not present. “The meeting was for the top/key players in the scene,” wrote Cotterill. “Mair was not even IN the scene.” Cotterill also wrote that the National Alliance did not have a UK branch: “Around that time – 1998-2000 – the NA may have had 20 to 30 members in the whole of the UK, and that’s tops. They were not organised as chapters and in most cases did not even know each other.”.

Cotterill acknowledged that Thomas Mair might very well had “an interest in racial-nationalism”, but insisted he was “what some in our movement used to call an ‘arm-chair nationalist’, but now would more likely be called a ‘keyboard warrior’”.

For extreme right-wing “keyboard warriors”, Stormfront.org is the place to be. The white supremacist website started off as an online bulletin board system – a so-called BBS – in the early 1990s, before being launched as a website in November 1996, almost a year before Google Search was launched. It remains one of the most influential hate sites online.

In the report “White Homicide Worldwide” (PDF), the SPLC describes “a typical murderer” drawn to Stormfront.org as a frustrated, unemployed, white adult male who projects his grievances on society and searches the Internet for an excuse or explanation unrelated to his behaviour or the choices he has made in life; who then follows “a predictable trajectory” from “right-wing anti-government websites and conspiracy hatcheries” to “militant hate sites that blame society’s ills on ethnicity and shifting demographics”:

“Assured of the supremacy of his race and frustrated by the inferiority of his achievements, he binges online for hours every day, self-medicating, slowly sipping a cocktail of rage. He gradually gains acceptance in this online birthing den of self-described ‘lone wolves’, but he gets no relief, no practical remedies, no suggestions to improve his circumstances. He just gets angrier. And then he gets a gun.”

If Thomas Mair was indeed a keyboard warrior – thus far little is known about any online activities of the suspected attacker, and there has been no indication that he had a Stormfront account – he would hardly be the firstof th em to turn into a real-life killer. The SPLC report connects Stormfront.org alone to a number of violent crimes ­– from Buford O’Neill’s attack on a Jewish day-care centre in August 1999 to a 14-year old’s killing of his 18-year old brother in 2002, allegedly because he thought his older brother was gay.

The report includes examples of domestic violence, as well as hate crimes and outright terrorism. Wade Michael Page – a white supremacist who killed six people in an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin – had been involved in the U.S. neo-Nazi scene for years and was also part of the white power music scene, playing with bands such as Definite Hate and End Apathy. Unsurprisingly, he was active on Stormfront.

The perpetrator of the double terrorist attack in Norway on 22 July 2011, Anders Behring Breivik, registered an account there in October 2008, calling himself “year2183”. His later manifesto would refer prominently to year 2083. He made only four posts, however, including a long list of various nationalist and ultranationalist organizations and political parties in Europe, as well as an introductory post in which he claimed to be living in Sweden and to be working on a “book about the Islamisation of Europe and how to cope with these upcoming problems”. He also wrote, “Feminism, corrupt/treacherous politicians, a corrupt/treacherous media, pro-immigration Jewry and a corrupt academia is the hole in the ‘dike’, while Muslims are the water flooding in.”

In August 2012, Breivik was sentenced to 21 years in prison, albeit in a form of preventive detention that requires a minimum of 10 years of incarceration and the possibility of extensions for as long as he is deemed a danger to society. A Stormfront user posted a link to an article on the trial on the site, receiving mixed reactions. “Another one of our brothers is now a P.O.W [prisoner of war,” one commenter wrote. “Someone killing white teenagers is no brother of mine,” another replied, only to be chastised by a third poster: “They were not at all white. They were a multicultural crowd, some were sons and daughters of the very politicians who organise the genocidal mass invasion of immigrants into Europe. He chose his target deliberately because they were brainwashed with cultural marxism.”

Don Black himself, the founder of Stormfront, also responded, saying that describing Breivik as a “brother” made a mockery of “our real heroes”, and that comments like these made him want to “pull the plug on this place and never look back. We attract too many sociopaths.”

“He killed the wrong people, he should have gone after the government that allows and encourages multiculturalism, not its victims,” responded one user. “If he was truly intent on going psycho, it would have been nice if he’d hit a big mosque or something,” wrote another, while several portrayed Breivik as a Zionist.

For those spending some time on the Stormfront forum, there is a recognizable pattern. In a more recent discussion thread on Breivik, he is described both as “a hero for sure” and as “zionist filth”; as both “probably a Mossad/Freemasonic puppet” and someone “who did the right thing”. There’s a climate of hatred at Stormfront.org.

It is no surprise, then, that the reactions to the murder of Jo Cox followed a confused, yet recognizable pattern amongst the users of the site. “That man is a National Hero,” wrote one user, while another mused that the attack on Cox was probably performed under a false flag, and that leaving the United Nations “is pivotal to the downfall of the globalist [J]ews”. The same poster, however, stated his belief that the “demonic witch deserves what she got”, adding that he wished her entire family had been killed.

Yet another poster described the murder as the act of a savage. “Struggle on, mate,” was the reply he got. “This woman was a cultural-marxist, rapefugee-enabler”.

Other comments claimed that Jo Cox was Jewish, and that Thomas Mair was Jewish, too, that he was a patsy, that she was a traitor and “an invader enabler” or that it all had to do with a mentally ill individual. “She was White, but she was also short, ugly and, most importantly of all, a traitor both to Britain and the White Race,” wrote someone.

Will Williams of the National Alliance also joined one of the comment threads, writing that “Tommy sounds like an upright fellow to me”, before posting a copy of a press release from the organization, in which it offered its condolences to Cox’s family. In another posting, he wrote that “the SPLC has once again gone over the top with this latest attempt to link the National Alliance to an unfortunate act of violence. The British press picked up on it and ran with the SPLC ‘story’. That’s what we’ve come to expect from crooked media who believe that SPLC is a reliable source. Is the Daily Mail still owned by that Jew, Zitter?”

At a court hearing days after his arrest, Thomas Mair gave his name as “death to traitors, freedom to Britain”.

He has been charged with murder, causing grievous bodily harm and possession of a gun and a knife. He is due to enter a plea on 4 Oct., and his trial – being handled under terrorism protocols – is scheduled to start in mid-November. According to Reuters, Mair will not present a so-called medical defence in the upcoming court case.

In many ways, Mair appears to be a textbook example of a lone-wolf terrorist. There has been no indication that others were involved in the attack. His connections to organized right-wing extremism appear rather weak. And yet, his statement in court, the materials found in his home and the alleged yelling of “Britain first” during the attack all give clear indications of an ideological motivation.

But do lone wolves really even exist? It might be worth considering some other examples from the history of extreme right-wing violence in the United Kingdom, drawing on a report published by the British anti-fascist magazine Searchlight that profiled a considerable number of right-wing extremists convicted of various crimes. The examples include:

David Copeland, who set off three bombs in London in April 1999, hoping to start a race war. One of the bombs, targeting a gay pub in Soho, killed three people. Copeland certainly acted alone, but when police arrested him, they found swastika flags on the walls of his room, as well as a copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and a membership card from the National Socialist Movement, in which he had been a unit leader.

Tony Lecomber, the only person injured when a nail bomb he was carrying to the offices of the Workers Revolutionary Party went off in October 1986. Police found 10 grenades, seven petrol bombs and two detonators at his home, and he was given a three-year sentence for explosives offences at the Old Bailey in 1986. “You are not a terrorist in the normal sense of the word, nor were you acting on behalf of some political group,” the presiding judge, Richard Lowry, stated. But Lecomber – who would later receive another conviction, after an attack on a Jewish school teacher in October 1990 – was an active member of the British National Party. He continued to be active in the party until 2006, but resigned after another party activist, Joe Owens, went to the Sunday Herald claiming that Lecomber had wanted him to take part in a violent campaign “targeting members of the establishment who were aiding and abetting the coloured invasion of this country”.

Mark Bulman, who threw a petrol bomb through a window of a mosque in Swindon in mid-August 2006, though the petrol-filled beer bottle failed to ignite. He then phoned the police, saying they would find his fingerprints on the bomb. Bulman had been an activist within the BNP, but had left the party shortly before his attempted arson, forming what he called the 1290 Sect, named after the year Jews were expelled from England. He was later sentenced to five years in custody, having pleaded guilty.

Martyn Gilleard, an East Yorkshire forklift driver who never got to wage his planned race war because police raided his home, allegedly due to a tip-off about child pornography. In addition to such material, the police found an array of weapons, including four nail bombs, as well as a variety of extreme right-wing literature and a diary making it clear that Gilleard was preparing to plotting race war. “I’m so sick and tired of hearing Nationalists talk of killing Muslims, or blowing up mosques, or fighting back. Only to see these acts of resistance fail to appear. The time has come to stop the talk and start to act,” he wrote. Gilleard had also been active on Internet forums, and was active within the openly Nazi-oriented British People’s Party. There were indications that others within the extreme right-wing scene had been aware of Gilleard’s bomb production.

In June 2008, Gilleard was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment, including 11 for terrorism offences and five for child pornography.

Read our report on anti-Muslim violence and hate crimes:
Hating Muslims – an HSI report

Ian Davison, leader of the tiny neo-Nazi group Aryan Strike Force (ASF), who in 2010 was sentenced to 10 years in custody after police found a pipe bomb and a sealed jar containing the highly poisonous substance ricin at his home. His son was also given a two-year sentence in an institution for youthful offenders following a court case focused on whether the Davisons were simply “keyboard warriors” or a genuine threat to the public. Two other ASF members, Michael Heaton and Trevor Hannington, were given shorter sentences.

The trend ought to be clear: lone wolves come from a pack.

Stormfront.org was not the only place where the murder of a British MP sparked celebration among some users. Voices describing her as a “traitor” who had it coming popped up in various social media ­– on Twitter, on Facebook, in blogs, on forums and on the Russian site VKontakte.

A Twitter account seemingly belonging to the neo-Nazi group National Action simply wrote: “Only 649 MPs to go #WhiteJihad #ChurchillAkbar #BritainFirst #NationalAction #DayOfTheRope”. Another group, called the Notts Casual Infidels, posted: “We knew it was only a matter of time before we take it to the next level. We have been mugged off for too long.”

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About Øyvind Strømmen

Øyvind Strømmen is a Norwegian freelance journalist, author and managing editor of Hate Speech International. He has written extensively on the extreme right and other forms of extremism since 2007, and has published the Norwegian-language books Det mørke nettet (2011) and Den sorte tråden (2013), the first of which is also translated into Swedish, Finnish and French.
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