Mike Stuchbery 💀🍷 @MikeStuchbery_ Journalist / Historian ★ (@BylineTimes/@TheLocalEurope)★ 'Let everything happen to you, beauty & terror, just keep going, no feeling is final.' ★ ↙️↙️↙️ / ⌛ Dec. 14, 2018 5 min read

This is a (developing) thread about a handful of folks blocking a bridge.

More than that, it's about the weird ecosystem of Far Right activists, media outlets and social media livestreaming that has developed. THREAD 1/

We're pretty much all familiar with the #GiletsJaunes protests that originated in France.

They have many driving factors, but these protests do hold a core of genuine popular discontent.

The success of these protests have inspired many activists, including the Far Right. /2

Activists from the French Generation Identitaire have thrown support behind the protests, & are using them as a recruiting tool.

Using a slick social media presence, they have framed the movement as an anti-migration protest.

This has not gone unnoticed over the Channel. /3

There have been attempts to co-opt #GiletsJaunes' use of Facebook groups & livestreaming to push Far Right views in the UK, but none have made an impression until today.

That said, it wasn't much - around 30 activists blocking Westminster & Tower Bridges at different times. /4

At this point, it's worth looking at some of the figures involved in the protest - they can give a clearer picture of its actual aims.

The organizer of the protest was one James Goddard, an activist described by the Independent as a 'wannabe Tommy Robinson'. /5

Goddard, who describes himself as a 'white nationalist', spends his time going from protest to protest, following in the steps of 'Tommy Robinson' - indeed, he's spoken at many demos for Tommy.

His Twitter is full of anti-Islamic material & self-promotion. /6

Indeed, Goddard has been spending a lot of time outside Parliament lately, trying to pick fights with Pro-EU supporters.

These confrontations are bread and butter to activists like Goddard, who look to film them and stream them for views. /7

Goddard has tried to attach himself to a number of causes, but he's had most success in the case of Tracy Blackwell - who was also there.

Tracy tragically lost her son, Josh McGuiness, when a driver who was drunk & high - Jaynesh Chudasama - struck him & 2 others in January. /8

In the following months, under the influence of 'Robinson' and, later, Goddard, she has come to believe her son was the victim of a covered up terror attack - interrupting a speech by Sadiq Khan to demand the 'truth'.

Her Twitter is a litany of conspiracy theories. /9

Most of those coming along were regular viewers of Goddard's livestreams, along with figures such as 'Red Cap Max' who attends nearly every event of this type around London - to be honest, a fairly vulnerable figure. /10

Now, this protest was *ostensibly* about a desire for a Hard Brexit, but it most definitely had a hard right-wing nationalist edge - the chants of 'Youre not British anymore!' help give the game away. /11

Compared to the #GiletsJaunes protests erupting in France, it had very few of the kind of specific demands or goals seen in Paris.

Rather, this was more pantomime - something to be streamed for domestic Far Right supporters. A fundraising tool. /12

I've talked and joked about 'right-wing grifters' plenty in the last year, but there has most certainly been an explosion in the number of Far Right figures who use Facebook's streaming platform & payment providers as a means to support themselves. /13

As an aside, one of these figures to note is 'Tommy Robinson's' right-hand man 'Danny Thommo', who has been developing a fundraising presence online to support his presence at rallies. /14

Let me be very clear - this was a tiny protest, with very little behind it, mostly meant to keep the cash rolling in for figures directing it, like Goddard. It was Far Right panto.

My main issue is the coverage it gets from fringe and mainstream media. /15

Very, very soon after the protest began, tweets began to appear among the usual suspects concerning the protests - Paul here, all day.

Amazingly quickly, both Sputnik & RT UK were on the scene. Ridiculously quickly. /16

Now, I'm not gonna start yelling 'Russia!' - I'm also not gonna begrudge Kremlin propaganda outlets or Paul from making their own news.

What I *do* object to is the mainstream media not doing their homework. /17

Many of the mainstream media outlets that rushed to cover the story were content to report that it was a 'Yellow Jacket' protest with a pro-Leave bent, leaving it at that.

Many of the reports made it sound much, much bigger than it was. /18

None of the reporting I came across spent any time either analysing who was leading or directing the protests - or casting a critical eye on what they had to say.

It's not hard to find stuff about these guys and their motivations. They're not great at hiding it. /19

Amazingly, the best reporting I found was by the Evening Standard, who accurately described the numbers, streaming, time the protest actually lasted, quoted protesters and was brave enough to describe was it was - bizarre! /20  https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.standard.co.uk/news/london/westminster-bridge-blocked-by-bizarre-yellow-vest-protest-a4017751.html%3famp 

So what am I trying to say? I understand this thread's getting pretty long.

Here are some main points.

1. We've got to be wary of taking protests at face value. Today's protesters described themselves as 'Yellow Jackets', but really were an expression of the Far Right. /21

2. Many of these type of protests that we see from the Far Right are more about personalities building a brand - like 'Tommy' - and fundraising, rather than an expression of genuine anger.

Facebook is probably their main broadcast platform. /22

3. In an age where the Far Right is increasingly using this sort of model - involving personalities who crowdfund their activism - mainstream media needs to learn how to spot when they're being taken for a ride. /23

4. We also need to talk about how activists use the Facebook platform, and where genuine political protest becomes something else - something more mercenary and malevolent. /24

I don't have answers to any of these questions. I'm just a schlub on the internet who increasingly worries about the influence of the Far Right, and the role of social media technology in spreading misinformation. /25

For good reporting on today's protest, check out @lizziedearden's feed - she spent time looking at those involved.

Otherwise, when you see these events, ask questions & dig deeper.

You will find you will have to unpack multiple layers to get at the true heart of things. /FIN

You can follow @MikeStuchbery_.


Tip: mention @threader_app on a Twitter thread with the keyword “compile” to get a link to it.

Enjoy Threader? Sign up.

Threader is an independent project created by only two developers. The site gets 500,000+ visits a month and our iOS Twitter client was featured as an App of the Day by Apple. Running this space is expensive and time consuming. If you find Threader useful, please consider supporting us to make it a sustainable project.