How Jo Cox’s killer and Donald Trump were radicalised by a global web of Nazi power

How Jo Cox’s killer and Donald Trump were radicalised by a global web of Nazi power

  • Nafeez M Ahmed
15 min read
Nafeez M Ahmed

Mounting evidence shows that Thomas Mair, who has received a ‘whole life’ sentence for his brutal “terrorist” murder of Labour MP Joe Cox on 16 June, was radicalised by neo-Nazi ideology.

But an in-depth investigation commissioned by the hate crime charity Tell Mama (available here) reveals that this ideology has found succour with an astonishingly powerful trans-Atlantic network of far-right political parties and organisations.

So powerful is this far-right network, according to the Tell Mama investigation, that it has alarming connections to mainstream political parties across the world, from the Republican Party in the US, to the Conservative Party in Britain, along with several ruling parties in key European countries.

And despite its hatred of the European Union, ironically, the network has grown its reach by parasitically exploiting the EU system.

And with the election of Donald Trump to the American presidency, this network has just grown monumentally stronger. Here’s how.

Mair’s far-right connections

I was commissioned by Tell Mama to undertake a series of investigations into the network dynamics of far-right groups in February this year. After a stringent editorial review, the final draft of the series was finalised and we had begun planning the publication process in early June.

Then Jo Cox was murdered. The brave Labour MP had been slated to launch Tell Mama’s annual report on anti-Muslim hatred later in June. She had already pre-booked a room in parliament for the event.

Thomas Mair’s affinity with far-right organisations and neo-Nazi ideology is now widely acknowledged.

Yet much of what is being reported barely scratches the surface. My investigation for Tell Mama, Return of the Reich: Mapping the Global Resurgence of Far Right Power (2016), suggests that the fascism which motivated Mair has been incubated by a global neo-Nazi network with significant access to the corridors of power in the West.

At least three different eyewitnesses to Cox’s murder — Clarke Rothwell, Aamir Tahir and Graeme Howard — said that Mair had shouted “Britain First” or “Put Britain First” during the murder. Britain First is the name of a far-right organisation founded by Paul Golding, a former member of the neo-Nazi British National Party (BNP).

We know that Mair is specifically connected to two far-right organizations: the National Alliance (NA) in the United States and the Springbok Club, a white nationalist pro-apartheid South African group that functions in exile in the United Kingdom.

Records obtained by the leading US civil rights law firm, the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), show that Mair was “a dedicated supporter” of the National Alliance, formerly the most powerful neo-Nazi organisation in the US.

According to the SPLC, $620 of invoices for goods that Mair purchased from the NA’s printing imprint, National Vanguard Books, include subscriptions to National Alliance periodicals, along with manuals instructing readers on Chemistry of Powder & Explosives, Incendiaries, and a 1999 Improvised Munitions Handbook on how to make a “Pipe Pistol For .38 Caliber Ammunition” from household materials.

Mair had also been a regular subscriber to S. A. Patriot, published by Springbok, a South African pro-apartheid club describing itself as against “multi-cultural societies” and “expansionist Islam.” Mair’s name is mentioned in a bulletin uploaded to a January 2006 blog post attributed to Springbok, describing him as “one of the earliest subscribers and supporters of S. A. Patriot.”

Yet both the National Alliance and Springbok have wide-ranging connections to a trans-Atlantic network of far-right groups with neo-Nazi heritage.

My investigation for Tell Mama confirms that this network continues to coordinate entryism into mainstream political parties, with a significant degree of success. This has permitted their core neo-fascist ideology to find innovative ways to gain public appeal, under the cover of seemingly legitimate political campaigning.

The National Alliance and the extreme right of the Republican Party

A 1999 report by the SLPC identifies the National Alliance, of which Thomas Mair was a longtime supporter, as part of a network of white supremacist organisations in the US — including the Klu Klux Klan, the National Association for the Advancement of White People, and the America First Party — involved in the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a successor umbrella organisation to the racist Citizens Council of America (CCA).

The CCA had originally been set-up in the 1950s to campaign against the civil rights movements’ demand to end racial segregation between white and black communities in schools.

In its newer incarnation post-1985, the CCC’s members included leading Republican Party politicians. Reporting in the Washington Post, Thomas Edsall had identified many of these CCC supporters, including Congressman Bob Barr, Senator Trent Lott, Governor of Mississippi Kirk Fordice, Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, and numerous state legislators.

These and other CCC members were senior Republican politicians holding leadership positions across the US Congress and Senate. Yet the CCC repeatedly extolled the supremacy of the “white race” and the risk of its destruction at the hands of “black blood” in its publication, The Citizen Informer.

In just the last few years, leading Republican Party politicians have taken CCC donations — though some decided to give the cash back after it emerged that the CCC’s racist ideology inspired white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof. CCC President Earl Holt III, for instance, has donated some $65,000 to Republican candidates, including those who entered the Republican presidential race, namely Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum.

According to The Atlantic:

“Holt’s contribution records read as a who’s who of conservative candidates in recent years — including Mark Sanford, who represents Charleston in the House.”

The Associated Press similarly exposed the NA’s direct little-known ties to the libertarian wing of the Republican Party.

Will Williams, a leader at the NA for two decades as an aide to its racist founder, William Pierce, left the group in July 2003 as its membership base began to collapse after Pierce’s demise. He quickly became a campaigner for Republican Congressman Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, which eventually placed him on the Tennessee Republican Party primary ballot.

The NA also has ties to the neo-Nazi BNP. Its founder, Pierce, had a longstanding friendship and alliance with former BNP leader John Tyndall. In November 1995, Pierce spoke at a BNP conference in London, where at one point participants began chanting “Free the Order!” — a reference to The Order, a violent white nationalist group in the US.

After his return to the US, the British government banned Pierce from the UK — unlike the BNP, which continued to carry the vision of his NA. It is well known that Batley and Spen, Joe Cox’s constituency, was once a stronghold for the BNP, a position dramatically weakened by Labour. Back in 2008, a leaked document revealed that Batley had 19 BNP members in the district at the time.

Springbok — from UKIP to Pegida and beyond

The other organisation linked to Mair, Springbok, is connected with other far-right groups in Britain. According to a report in The Independent, Neil Hamilton of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has ties to Springbok.

But UK journalist and blogger Tom Coburg has further documented Springbok’s ties to Pegida, an European anti-Muslim campaign network linked to neo-Nazi groups. Coburg reports that a political split in Springbok resulted in the creation of Springbok-offshoot, the Swinton Circle, whose campaigning focus is anti-Europe.

The Swinton Circle is “actively involved in Pegida, attending demonstrations and meetings with other far-right organisations,” observes Coburg, who adds that Swinton supporters recently participated in a ‘silent walk’ protest in Birmingham organised by Pegida UK. Swinton was specifically requested to join the protest against the ‘Islamisation’ of Europe by Pegida UK in February 2016.

Coburg also points out that despite the ostensible split, Swinton Circle members supported a special Springbok Club event in November 2015 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Rhodesian UDI.

UKIP, Pegida and the Vienna school of fascism

Pegida UK’s leadership includes former English Defence League (EDL) leader ‘Tommy Robinson’ and UKIP parliamentary candidate Anne Marie Waters.

In July 2015, an extensive investigation by the anti-fascist charity Hope Not Hate claimed that Pegida UK was behind a far-right plot to “incite a violent backlash from British Muslims, leading to serious disorder between Muslim and non-Muslim communities”, by hosting a cartoon exhibit featuring the prophet of Islam, Muhammad.

The scheduled keynote speaker for the proposed exhibition was Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) leader and MP, Geert Wilders.

Hope Not Hate’s investigation pinpointed the role of an obscure blog, the Gates of Vienna, in inspiring the Pegida UK cartoon plot.

Among the Gates of Vienna’s inflammatory posts are detailed prescriptions for anti-Muslim paramilitary operations during an internal race war with European Muslims, and even ‘A guide to amateur bomb-making.’

Several Labour MPs were so alarmed by Hope Not Hate’s findings that they urged the need for British authorities to investigate the Gates of Vienna blog, especially as at the time it appeared to be hosted in the UK.

Yet as my investigation for Tell Mama has shown, the Gates of Vienna blog consistently finds itself at the heart of an international mosaic of far-right groups. These groups coalesce under the ideological umbrella of what convicted Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik dubbed the ‘Vienna school of thought’ in his manifesto.

The extent to which Breivik’s violent paramilitary ‘Vienna school’ has cleverly coopted a range of mainstream political parties in the US, UK and Europe has remained unknown, until now.

Breivik, who massacred 77 students in July 2011 as part of his professed crusade against Islam, is a self-confessed neo-Nazi. He cited the Gates of Vienna blog 86 times in his manifesto, referring to it as one of a handful of sources forming the basis of his so-called ‘Vienna school.’

One of Gates of Vienna’s most prominent contributors is ‘Fjordman’, the pseudonym for Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen, whose online writings were linked to 114 times by Breivik.

Fjordman strongly distanced himself from Breivik in his public writings after the 2011 Norway terrorist attack, but on the Gates of Vienna blog just one month before that attack, he complained that Western politicians were complicit in “a policy of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing targeting the white majority population” and added:

“Yes, the Islamic creed by itself is inherently violent. No, it cannot be reformed, and Islam in any way, shape or form does not belong in the West. Islam, and all those who practice it, must be totally and physically removed from the entire Western world.”

The name of the Gates of Vienna blog comes from the Muslim Ottoman empire’s siege of Vienna in 1683, which the site believes continues today through “Islam’s” efforts to “overrun Christian Europe.”

It puts forward the idea that due to this onslaught, an apocalyptic race war with Europe’s Muslims is inevitable over coming decades, and therefore citizens must prepare themselves now to fight back — the blog does this while ostensibly opposing Nazism and terrorism.

Yet it is precisely through this tactical opposition to Nazism that the Vienna school of fascism has spread its tentacles.

The Danish People’s Party and the extreme right of the British Conservatives

My analysis of the Gates of Vienna blog and its plethora of international networks confirms that its neo-fascist ideology has even been adopted by major political parties. Among them is the Danish People’s Party (DPP).

In 2009, DPP MEP Morten Messerschmidt conducted a video interview with regular Gates of Vienna contributor, psychologist Nicolai Sennels.

Sennels is also a DPP parliamentary political candidate, and a founder of the Danish branch of Pediga, which has ties to Pegida UK.

In the interview Messerschmidt told Sennels that in 20 years, the EU would be overrun by a civil war with Muslims, exactly as articulated by Gates of Vienna:

“Europe will be increasingly marred by autonomous Islamised areas. The riots we are observing today — in Nørrebro, Vollsmose in Denmark as well as in no-go zones of other EU countries — will no longer be mere riots, but will evolve into genuine insurgencies with demands for independence, complete implementation of Sharia etc. Europe will — perhaps not as soon as 20 years — see a development similar to that in the Balkans, where in Kosovo, for example, the Muslims have succeeded in driving out the Christians and declare an independent republic… I believe the European citizens will come to their senses and throw off the tyranny.”

Messerschmidt’s interviewer, Sennels, has himself promoted racist theories on Muslim genetic inferiority bearing startling resemblance to Nazi eugenics. Among his racist theories is the idea that nearly half of all Muslims in the world are inbred, and therefore genetically inferior:

“Massive inbreeding within the Muslim culture during the last 1,400 years may have done catastrophic damage to their gene pool. The consequences of intermarriage between first cousins often have serious impact on the offspring’s intelligence, sanity, health and on their surroundings.”

My investigation found that these abhorrent views represent just a fragment of the entrenched racism that can be found across the DPP, stretching all the way to its top leadership.

Yet the DPP is now a powerful political force. Its former leader and now values spokesperson, Pia Kjærsgaard, is the Speaker in the Danish Parliament — despite having once said at an annual party meeting that:

“In the Danish People’s Party we do not hide the fact we are against having Denmark turned into a multi-ethnic society.”

Yet the DPP is formally allied with the UK Conservative Party.

The party is a key member of the Tory Party’s European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) in the European Parliament.

In fact, convicted racist DPP MEP Morten Messerschmidt, who has openly sympathized with the Vienna school, is Vice Chair of the Tory-led ECR.

The Vienna school and the extreme right of the Republican Party

When Messerschmidt was interviewed for the Gates of Vienna blog in 2009, he had attended a conference in Washington DC jointly organised by the International Free Press Society (IFPS) and Center for Security Policy (CSP).

The SPLC describes IFPS as “an anti-Muslim coalition” run by a “European racist”; and classifies the CSP as an “anti-Muslim hate” group.

The 2009 IFPS-CSP conference included key figures in the self-styled ‘counter-jihad’ movement including several luminaries frequently cited in Anders Breivik’s manifesto, such as Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and Pamella Geller of Atlas Shrugs (both banned from Britain by Home Secretary Theresa May in 2013).

In particular, the key organiser was Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan defence official who heads up the CSP.

Gaffney rose to notoriety when the Republican Party’s then presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump — now President-elect — quoted fraudulent statistics produced by Gaffney’s CSP, to justify the idea of banning all Muslim immigration to the US.

Gaffney also has two colleagues on Trump’s national security advisory team: Walid Phares, a long-time CSP contributor, and Joseph Schmitz, a CSP senior fellow and former Pentagon official.

Gaffney himself had previously been appointed as top national security advisor to failed Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

Gaffney has repeatedly organised similar events, providing far right figures from Europe extraordinary access to the extreme right of the Republican Party. Politicians that have benefited from this access include Dutch PVV leader Geert Wilders and UKIP’s Lord Malcolm Pearson.

Thus, through Frank Gaffney’s disturbing European connections, the two leading Republican presidential candidates were, in fact, tied to neo-Nazi parties in Europe.

President-elect Trump’s personal affinity with neo-Nazi sympathisers is particularly evident in his appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions to the position of Attorney-General — despite the fact that Sessions has previously expressed sympathies for the Klu Klux Klan.

Sessions is deeply embedded in the neo-Nazi white supremacist movement. He has closely associated with far-right anti-immigrant organisations founded by John Tanton, a driving force in America’s white nationalist movements and a major player in the CCC. In 1993, Tanton declared:

“… for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

The incoming US Attorney-General is known for frequently quoting from Tanton’s groups, showing up at their press conferences, and has even received recognition and campaign contributions from them.

Sessions is also close to Frank Gaffney. In 2015, he received the “Keeper of the Flame” award from Gaffney’s CSP.

Anti-Nazi neo-Nazis in the UK, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, and France

The Gaffney connection ties Trump and his cohorts directly with increasingly popular neo-Nazi parties in Europe. Gaffney’s partner organisation, the IFPS, where he sits on the board, is directly tied to the neo-Nazi Vlaams Belang (VB) in Belgium. In 2007, the IFPS organised a ‘counterjihad’ summit in Brussels with direct assistance from the VB party on “logistics” and “security” for the conference.

VB Party leader Filip Dewinter himself appeared as a speaker at the event, along with IFPS board members Robert Spencer, Pam Geller and Sam Solomon.

Solomon has a direct connection to UKIP’s leadership. The UKIP connection throws, perhaps, some light on Nigel Farage’s slavish fascination with Donald Trump.

The previous year, Solomon published a pamphlet called A Proposed Charter of Muslim Understanding — commissioned by Gerard Batten, an MEP for UKIP on the party’s national executive committee. Batten also wrote a foreword for the ‘charter’, which he still expects British Muslims to sign as proof they are not jihadists.

Solomon’s pamphlet was launched by UKIP in the European Parliament and House of Lords, and a press release about it was published on Ukip’s website.

Yet Solomon’s board membership of the IFPS puts him in direct connection with the neo-Nazi VB party.

IFPS’ vice president is Belgian journalist Paul Belien, who is married to Alexandra Colen — a longtime MP for Vlaams Belang from 1995 to 2013, when she stepped out of the party.

Colen’s father, Alex Colen, was a Nazi collaborator during the Second World War, who served in the Nazi German Waffen-SS division. When Colen was first elected to the Belgian parliament, she did so as an MP for VB’s predecessor party, Vlaams Blok, a party of Flemish Nazi collaborators who actively participated in the deportation of Jews.

In June 1992, Filip Dewinter, who is now the leader of the party’s successor, Vlaams Belang, published a 70-point programme calling for the forced repatriation of the majority of ethnic Belgians, including millions of Belgian citizens. The party was banned in 2004 by a Belgian court under the 1981 anti-racism law, in the wake of revelations that former Nazi SS veterans met regularly at the VB’s Antwerp office.

The subsequent launch of the rebranded ‘Vlaams Belang’ party saw it adopt a strong pro-Jewish stance. However, in De Standaard, Dewinter admitted his strategy:

“The changes in the name of the party, the modernisation of the statutes and the structure of the party, the remodelling of the style and use of language… and the updating of a twenty-five year old declaration of principle have nothing to do with content but everything to do with tactic.”

In 2010, IFPS co-chief Paul Belien became personal assistant to another professed anti-Nazi, Geert Wilders — who has frequently shared speaking platforms with VB leader Filip Dewinter.

In June 2014, Wilders further demonstrated the strength of his anti-Nazi credentials when he joined a new coalition in the European Parliament, the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) Group, alongside Marine Le Pen’s French National Front, and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO).

Like the Belgian VB, the FPO began its life as an openly pro-Nazi party, founded by a former Nazi SS officer, Anton Reinthaller, who had served as a Nazi Minister of Agriculture.

But despite its efforts to rebrand itself as an anti-Nazi, pro-Jewish party under the leadership of Heinz Christian Strache, the Israeli Foreign Ministry still officially views the FPO “as a racist faction with neo-Nazi elements within it.”

In fact, the Nazi connections have not died, but strengthened. According to the Jewish magazine Forward, today a third of the FPO’s parliamentarians “are associated with controversial right-wing fraternities, some of which hold connections to neo-Nazi or German nationalist groups.”

According to Dr. Heribert Schiedel of the Documentation Archive of the Austrian Resistance (DÖW), Strache relied heavily on Austria’s pro-Nazi fraternities, Burschenschaften, to re-build the party: “Without [their] help, the FPÖ probably would not have survived.”

In the 1930s, the Burschenscaften had functioned as cover organisations for the National Socialist Party. Now, they continue to harbour neo-Nazis, yet have extensive influence on the FPO.

This evidence puts paid to the mythology that the FPO, and the parties allied with it, have truly renounced their Nazi heritage. As Dr. Heribert Schiedel observes:

“The strategy is clearly that of normalising itself, of becoming socially acceptable. We presume that anti-Semitism remains a fundamental part of the party’s ideology.”

Geert Wilders’s PVV and Marine Le Pen’s NF, both of whom parade themselves as staunchly pro-Israel, are now formally partnered with the neo-Nazi FPO in the European Parliament through the ENF.

And it is widely believed that, following Trump’s victory in the US, Le Pen is poised to win the upcoming French elections.

Poised for victory?

In this lengthy essay, I have barely been able to scratch the surface of my findings. My full investigation commissioned by Tell Mama documents the vast extent of the political reach of this trans-Atlantic neo-Nazi network, and points to alarming evidence that despite very real divisions amongst these groups, there is an increasing willingness to coordinate and collaborate.

That very process of coordination, much of which has taken place by exploiting the structures (and most critically the finances) of the European Parliament, has enabled these parties to pursue surprising relationships with mainstream political parties on both sides of the pond.

To a significant degree, this has involved campaigning on seemingly more benign issues such as nationalism, opposition to Islam, and immigration. Yet whatever the legitimacy of those issues, they have offered convenient tactical cover by which a network of pro-Nazi parties and movements have dramatically expanded their global reach.

By going out of their way to denounce Nazism, racism and anti-Semitism, these groups have been able to mislead legitimate political parties and governments into forging temporary and long-term alliances, enabling their unprecedented expansion.

My analysis of voting trend data in the European Parliament shows that neo-Nazi parties in Europe could well be on the verge of a tipping point in their electoral success. Since 1999, their popularity in the European Parliament has increased exponentially. If this trend of exponential growth continues, these parties are poised to win 37% of the vote in the next European elections in three years time, potentially making them the most powerful voting bloc.

My investigation for Tell Mama thus suggests that the brutal murder of Joe Cox must be viewed as the direct result of the growing reach of a trans-Atlantic neo-fascist political network with roots in traditional Nazi ideology.

This ideology has transformed and rebranded itself under the rubric of the so-called ‘Vienna school’ of fascism. Whatever its pretensions, the ‘Vienna school’ remains a white supremacist ideology that conceals its racist heritage by focusing on the threat from Muslims, migrants, and the Western liberal institutions that supposedly capitulate to them.

The victory of Donald Trump is a precise illustration of how this is happening in the United States — it is symptomatic of a process of far right radicalisation that is rapidly accelerating on both sides of the Atlantic.

Unless the mainstream political parties take appropriate action to shut down the proponents of this despicable ideology in their own midst, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the tragic assassination of Joe Cox offers a grim taste of things to come.

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