Whenever white perpetrators of domestic terrorism are profiled in mainstream media, we lend them titles such as “mentally unstable”, “attacker”, or “gunman” when instead we should be calling them what they are: terrorists. Most recently, Darren Osborne was today convicted of carrying out an attack near the Finsbury Park Mosque, killing one person and injuring over eight people. He has reportedly been described as “troubled” but “not a racist”, despite ranting in court that Muslim men were “mass-raping white girls”. Although both the Prime Minister Theresa May and Sadiq Khan called this a terrorist attack in their official statements, it was widely reported simply as “The Finsbury Park Attack”.
Since 2017, arrests in the UK on the basis of terrorism-related offences have been at an all-time high. Domestic terrorism has gone up five-fold since 2016, the highest increase of which was the arrest rate of white people in relation to homegrown domestic terrorist offences, which went up by 92% in the past year alone. The defence minister among others have blamed this increase on the rise of domestic terrorism spurred on by the increase of far-right and neo-nazi groups.
I began researching one such group: the White Pendragons, upon hearing about their latest “protest” at The Fabian Society conference earlier this month. The group was described by the majority of news outlets as “pro-Trump Brexit supporters” who simply “interrupted” the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s speech on gender equality.
Initially, I assumed that they were just another far-right group advocating racism thinly-veiled as politics and policy. In reality, they are a bizarre, backwards-thinking group who bought £45 tickets to the speech (after setting up an alleged “decoy” protest on the same day at Madame Tussauds) and then proceeded to attempt a citizen’s arrest on Sadiq Khan on the grounds of treason.
“Peaceful protest groups don’t bring weapons, terrorists do”
The whole incident was live-streamed to Facebook, and as they were ushered out by police officers, I was shocked to see that their protest “prop” of choice was a set of gallows mounted on a trolley. This significant detail is notably absent from much of the coverage: another example of one-dimensional (and let’s be honest – lazy) journalism which is part of the larger problem of misreporting incidents such as this. As journalists, we need to name racism when we see it, and report accordingly.
This was not a peaceful protest, nor was it an action for the people; whilst the White Pendragons shouted that Sadiq Khan was a member of ISIS, a traitor to England, and terrorist sympathizer, they seemed not to note the irony in performing their own acts of and normalisation of terrorism whilst making these same claims against Khan: threatening to publicly hang the civil servant.
Peaceful protest groups don’t bring weapons, terrorists do. To call the White Pendragons a political party or even a movement would be outrageous. I trawled through hundreds of pages of their ideas and manifestos, but it seems that the organisation’s key principles are riddled with oxymoron. Graham Moore (the Pendragon’s Leader) talks about denouncing anything politically correct that halts free speech and action, and then suggests that internet trolls also be included in those he believes should face a firing squad.
“It is physically painful to listen to The White Pendragon’s conspiracy theories, pseudo-politics, and Islamophobia”
The group claims to support the common law of the people and they continually spout hatred for the “corrupt 1%” running the US and UK governments, who make profits at the expense of the working class. On paper this sounds fairly reasonable – but in the same breath as making these claims, during a Facebook live stream, Moore outlines the group’s desire to build the highest security prison in the world which will only transfer prisoners between said prison on St Helena’s Island and Guantanamo Bay. The idea of a British Guantanamo Bay seems to genuinely excite Moore, he almost purrs when he says; “What a great island…”. It is physically painful to listen to The White Pendragon’s conspiracy theories, pseudo-politics, and Islamophobia: in a livestream to members after the failed citizen’s arrest and execution, they call Sadiq Khan and his team “Muslim closet Jihadis”.
I’ve had first-hand experiences with the alt-right through protesting fascist and racist groups from the age of 14. I’ve been spat on, harassed, followed, threatened and had glass bottles thrown at me by the groups like the English Defence League (EDL) and UKIP. I’ve spoken to some members of these groups who have nothing but ignorance and hate in their hearts, and many others who seem spurred on only by misinformation, misreporting, and feelings of being generally ignored.
The latter group is what worries me: it’s the reason Trump won, and why Brexit happened. Despite wanting to take back control of their own countries, these groups and individuals seem to believe that billionaires and profit politicians like Nigel Farage and Donald Trump are the answer, ignorant to the fact that they are simply putting faith into the very thing they wanted to destroy to begin with.
“We need to start actively discouraging this kind of radical terrorism masked by language as “simple alt-righters””
Brexit created clear divides between many citizens, but as time progressed, it seemed to become clearer as to why and how this had happened. Conservative and right-wing leaders supplied falsified information and claims, preyed upon people’s fears, and directed campaigns filled with simply incorrect information to working class people just wanting to improve their own quality of life.
Using laws and punishments from the 1800s isn’t going to fix our future. Neither are firing squads and hangmen. We need to start actively discouraging this kind of radical terrorism masked by language as “simple alt-righters”, before it has a chance to continue increasing. Groups like the White Pendragons aren’t “pro-Brexit supporters” or “right-wing activists”, they are terrorists. Darren Osborne conducted a racist attack on the Finsbury Park mosque, motivated by his documented hatred for Muslims. Both, in different ways, are a symptom of white supremacy and nationalism based in fear and lies. Unless all allies begin taking notice and resisting, this symptom will only get worse.