Podcast: The Detail

Alt-right: underground - for now

Far right groups have largely gone underground since the Christchurch terror attacks.

It appears that police, political and media scrutiny has unnerved some people and groups who were previously active. RNZ reporter Gyles Beckford, whose Insight documentary on the subject aired last night, went down the rabbit hole of hate to follow them.

They’re groups such as Western Guard, The Dominion Movement, and the National Front Right Wing Resistance.

Beckford says the environment and tone of this country has changed since the mosque shootings, and those who once felt comfortable expressing their extreme points of view publicly have decided that discretion, in the current environment, is probably the better part of valour.

Web sites have been taken down, Facebook feeds sanitised, comments deleted, and people have dropped from public view.  But Beckford says the views that they hold have not disappeared – and in all likelihood they haven’t disappeared for too long either. They are ideas such as that multiculturalism and cultural diversity are white genocide. They live on in the bowels of anonymous web chat rooms, of the likes of 4chan, 8chan, Gab, and Stormfront, are largely driven by like-minded thinkers overseas.

“They’re not that organised but they are in contact,” he says. “They’re likely using more secure apps such as Whatsapp.

“If anything they’ll find comfort in being an online minority …. And that will encourage them.”

They’ve improved the way they dress and their standards. They now turn up at “free speech” forums. They’ve become mainstream.

Beckford says many shun violence and explicitly say that on their websites, but there’s no doubt they build an environment where extremist views are welcome. They’re more sophisticated, and not so easy to pin down as the old skin heads. “You might think we don’t have it in this country, that we’re relaxed and easy going … but there’s an underbelly of a class of people who are organised and will become more active in due course.”

Beckford found equal measures of people who feel the mosque shootings are positive for their cause, and those who think it will lead to a backlash against them and greater controls on their activities, and what they’re able to say.

Many are anti-global finance, have a distrust and hatred of social justice warriors, green politics and what it stands for, and multi-culturalism in its various forms. They are young, disaffected, largely white males who feel their financial futures are imperilled, and that society is trending against them, and who lay the blame for that with various groups.

Beckford says another sector is new conservative Christian groups who’ve taken a lot of succour from what’s happening in the United States since Donald Trump was elected.

Delving into this world of hate-filled forums, where people openly talk about extermination, shooting people, wiping out communities of interest … and espouse racism and white supremacism took a toll on him.

“You’d think that after 30 odd years in journalism I’d have seen it all …. But I was shocked by the hate and the sheer naked aggression and violent tendencies that were espoused,” he says.

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