Why the media should avoid hyping fringe far-right protests

All Football Fans/Firms Against Islamisation (AFFFAI) intend to march against a proposed mosque in Dudley on June 13. The Express & Star and Birmingham Mail reported with a measure of certainty that a Facebook event list will accurately reflect offline attendance.

But there’s an inherent danger of hyping a fringe far-right movement intoxicated on a fatalistic Islamophobia. Instead, Chief Supt Johnson, of West Midlands Police stressed caution: “Although there are no fixed numbers at this time, two previous protests have attracted significantly fewer attendees than organisers claimed would attend.

“West Midlands Police’s well-rehearsed protest plans are flexible and the force will have the necessary available resources to safely manage any size turn-out”.

The group rejects the ‘far-right’ label but it borrows the language and iconography of larger groups within the movement. Take for example the page admin’s ‘liking’ the comment ‘Will be there NFSE’ – the English Defence League’s slogan of ‘No Fucking Surrender Ever’.

A promotional image for their march is an edited version of Infidels of Britain material.

Promotional material from the AFFAI campaign.
Promotional material from the AFFAI campaign.
In contrast, materials from the Islamophobic Infidels of Britain.
In contrast, materials from the Islamophobic Infidels of Britain.


Nor is their rhetoric any different:

A march against sharia law ,sharia patrols, halal, burkas, beheadings, the list goes on. Islamisation must end now. Talking time is OVER! Firms and fans are coming together for a ONE TIME ONLY event. Join and be part of British folklore! “Part of the Europeans Against The Islamisation Of The West” *PEGIDA*”

Pegida and Hooligans gegen Salafisten (Hooligans against Salafists) demonstrate the European influence. Individuals are also invited to ‘spread the word’ and spend £25 on a variety of t-shirts to promote the event. The group takes advantage of various social media platforms and websites in an effort to crowd fund and pull in support.

Yet, there’s an inherent danger of buying into promotional ‘hype’ for a heavily fractured but motivated movement. This march intends to reinvent the wheel and undue hype potentially encourages the hardened and potentially violent ideologues to attend. Communities and other groups will rightly self-organise in response.

The failure of Pegida UK is a cautionary tale about believing the hype of a group that could never replicate the conditions in Dresden. But in the online sphere it has the capacity to foster a disturbing echo chamber.

Will AFFFAI follow a similar trajectory? Perhaps. But we must stress caution and reject those who seek to divide communities.