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Sharing Britain First’s Posts Legitimises Their Movement

Britain First protests at the side of a road
Britain First protests at the side of a road • Photograph: Kilburn Herald

There has been a recent spate of the sharing of Britain First content on my Facebook News Feed.

While some of it can be considered harmless, other shares have incited racial and religious prejudice and demonstrated bigotry. The latter can be condemned, but the sharing of the other posts should be avoided too.

Across the world, racial and religious discrimination appears to be becoming more prevalent and posts by offending parties are infiltrating the lives of people more and more. Although, for example, the British National Party suffered heavily in the recent elections to the European Parliament, other organisations, such as the United Kingdom Independence Party, the French National Front, and the English Democrats have gained support. The content of their message usually includes bigotry, in the form of racism, Islamophobia, or classism.

Among these organisations is Britain First, a group which describes themselves as the ‘fastest growing patriotic party’, and whose homepage includes lines such as ‘An army of 5,000 immigrants occupy a stretch of coast’. Their choice of vocabulary subtly instils unfounded fear and hatred in their readers and their followers. For example, ‘an army of immigrants’, suggests that foreign nationals moving to the United Kingdom are doing so purely to invade, change our culture, and damage our livelihoods. Coupled with the use of ‘patriot’, it suggests that by not opposing immigration, you are traitorous to your country. Their political arguments are concerning .

Alongside this, the movement adopts a military-style uniform and has previously stated that it will act as a ‘defence force’ for UKIP. It often makes its way into Mosques, describing the action as an ‘invasion’, attacking the religious sanctity provided by good law-abiding Muslims whilst claiming that Islam, as a ‘violent religion’ needs to be eradicated. They ignore the difference between the many forms of Islam, casting them under the same allusion. In one ‘invasion’, describing themselves as a ‘battalion’, they claim their action was in the name of ‘equality’, protesting gender segregation that can be found in mosques. They are ‘Britain’s Defence Force’.

However, not everything they have to share is abhorrent. Posts that have been shared on to my News Feed condemn dog-fighting and demonstrate support for British forces abroad. These posts are the ‘hook’. They express sentiments that many would agree with, and include sentences like ‘Share if you agree’ or ‘Share if you’re a patriot’. As such, they are shared.

Despite this, sharing any of their content should be entirely avoided. Even if the post does condemn dog-fighting, to share the post is to legitimise the movement, and give it wider credibility than it deserves. By sharing the post, it suggests that you like what they have to say, it incentifies liking their page, and gives their more abhorrent posts a wider audience. As their posts are what you would call ‘populist’, these are also likely to be shared, spreading racism and discrimination from person to person. Put simply, sharing a post condemning dog-fighting can unwittingly lead to shared feelings of hatred towards migrants, certain religious followers, and benefit-claimants, where these feelings did not exist before.

Therefore, it can be regarded as a bit of a slippery slope. The people who have shared these posts are those who I know very well, and I have not previously noticed any hint of them harbouring these sentiments. However, looking through their history on Facebook, I can see how they originally shared these ‘innocent’ posts, but have now progressed to sharing posts with this negative discriminatory rhetoric.

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