Great Britain

UK far right promoting sexual violence against women, report finds

Sexual violence is increasingly being promoted by the British far right, according to new analysis documenting how misogyny is used to steer individuals towards adopting racist and antisemitic views.

Investigators found that pro-rape comments were “not uncommon” among the UK extreme right and that a culture has taken root that endorses sexual violence. Analysing misogyny and anti-feminist channels on the messaging app Telegram, a key online platform for the far right, they found sexual assault was a “prominent theme”.

The report, from anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate and the Antisemitism Policy Trust, reveals how the far right has become adept at exploiting a perceived loss of status among white men. It follows last month’s shootings in Plymouth when gunman Jake Davison killed six people after expressing deeply misogynistic ideas.

The investigation into the death of schoolteacher Sabina Nessa has also thrown into the spotlight the safety of women as they go about their daily lives.

“The online antisemitic far right is exploiting misogyny and anti-feminism in new ways and forging fresh connections, meaning this overlap is an increasingly pressing area of research,” the report said.

Elements of the far right also framed feminism as part of a Jewish scheme which they used to explain their grievances, including a perceived “war against men”.

Influential figures include Tor Gustafsson Brookes, also known as Catboy Kami, an Australian far-right troll who rose to prominence last year for his misogynistic and racist stunts, including mocking the death of George Floyd.

His English-language group on Telegram has more than 10,000 members and hosted than 4m posts in just over a year, including numerous rape “jokes” and rape threats.

Researchers closely examined the “manosphere” – a loose network of sites, forums, blogs and vlogs concerned with masculinity, oriented around the belief that feminism promotes misandry rather than equality for women.

They also examined 73 English-language antisemitic far-right Telegram channels and chat groups, which provided 5,684,738 text messages, and found that misogynistic content was “prevalent”. Misogynistic keywords were detected in more than 85,000 posts, with the word “rape” among the most common, occurring in almost 46,200 posts, and “rapist” in a further 3,900.

Many posts referred to the sexual assault of white women and children by minority ethnic groups, a longstanding far-right trope that enables white men to play a patriarchal “protector” role. On the extreme fringes, meanwhile, analysts uncovered an “increasingly common promotion of weaponised rape and sexual sadism”.

Although the subculture remains relatively small, researchers say it has spread extensively on extreme online spaces like Telegram and has drawn in teenagers in the UK.

The recent emphasis on sexual violence partly stems from the Order of Nine Angles (ONA), a longstanding Nazi satanist network founded in the UK. ONA’s philosophy has increasingly influenced pre-existing Nazi terroristic organisations, including the AtomWaffen Division (AWD) in the US and the Sonnenkrieg Division (SKD) in the UK.

SKD, proscribed as a terror group in 2020, celebrated domestic abuse, rape and murder, and itself emerged from a splinter of National Action (NA), a UK-based terror group banned in 2016. Prominent members of NA are known to have associated with ONA and have convictions for sexual offences.

Pro-rape discourse has spread across the wider pro-terror Nazi subculture, with one of the clearest examples being the RapeWaffen Division (RWD), a small, now defunct AWD splinter that operated on Telegram.

This group obsessively promoted sexual violence, and in private chats, users solicited and shared videos of women subjected to sexual abuse, alongside other acts of violence and murder.

The group’s founder has given followers practical advice on locating and subduing victims in order to sexually assault them.

In June 2020, an American soldier who engaged with RWD, Ethan Phelam Melzer, was indicted for a plot to murder “as many of his fellow service members as possible”. Melzer engaged with RWD on Telegram.

More broadly, the report reaffirms the far right’s support of strongly patriarchal gender norms that have long been integral to far-right politics.

“Retrograde attitudes remain entrenched in certain sections of society, and online anti-feminists remain vocal and in some cases organised, creating space for the legitimisation of misogyny,” it said.

Polling of 16- to 24-year-olds commissioned by Hope Not Hate last year found a prevalent belief that feminism holds men back; more than a third of young people regarded it as an ideology that disadvantages men.

The same poll also found an openness to antisemitism among many young people; 14% of all young people polled, and 19% of young men, claimed they believed that “Jewish people have an unhealthy control over the world’s banking system”.

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