White Supremacists, Incestuous Hacks and an Irate Melanie Phillips

By Wilby, Peter | New Statesman (1996), August 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

White Supremacists, Incestuous Hacks and an Irate Melanie Phillips


Wilby, Peter, New Statesman (1996)


When an attack comes from people with brown skins, we know what to make of it. It is an example of "Islamic terrorism", and part of a worldwide conspiracy to overthrow civilisation as we know it. Brown-skinned folk must be closely monitored. Islam's holy book and the statements of Muslim leaders of all sorts must be scrutinised for anything that appears to encourage or excuse violent acts.

When a Nordic white supremacist kills scores of Norwegians in what may turn out to be Europe's biggest single act of terrorism next to the Lockerbie bombing and the 2004 Madrid atrocities, our responses - or at least those of the media - are instinctively different. While any Muslim killer is potentially an al-Qaeda agent, Anders Behring Breivik must be an unhinged loner and misfit. The category "Christian terrorist" does not exist and so neither the Pope nor the Archbishop of Canterbury is called upon to dissociate himself. "Links" to the English Defence League are alleged, but though the league is considered racist and inflammatory, it is rarely presented as an existential threat to western liberal democracy.

Right-wing killers, it is assumed, are not internationally coordinated and do not attend jihadist training camps. They do not, therefore, present a serious danger to "our way of life". Whatever the truth that ultimately emerges, Breivik should at least cause us to question those assumptions.

Extremists in our midst

We in Britain may have been spared a similar atrocity only by luck. Police regularly find white supremacists in possession of rocket launchers, grenades, pipe bombs and manuals on how to use them, and some senior officers have warned that elements on the extreme right would like to stage their own "spectacular". Most people recall David Copeland, the former BNP member whose nail bombs, planted in London in 1999 and aimed at gays, blacks and Bangladeshis, killed three and injured 139. But how many have heard of Robert Cottage, Martyn Gilleard, Neil Lewington, Terence Gavan and Ian Davison?

Cottage, a former BNP candidate, was jailed in 2007 for storing explosive chemicals in anticipation of a civil war. Gilleard, an organiser for the British People's Party, which has fielded candidates in local elections, was jailed in 2008 for possession of bullets, swords, knives, nail bombs, manuals on how to make bombs and sub-machine guns. Lewington, a neo-Nazi, was jailed indefinitely in 2009 after police discovered a bomb-making factory in his flat. Gavan, a former BNP member, was jailed on terrorism charges in 2010 after bombs, shotguns and pistols were found at his house. Davison became the first Briton to be jailed for making a chemical weapon in May 2010. His Aryan Strike Force recruited 350 people over the internet with the aim of establishing white supremacy in white counties.

None of these cases was prominently reported in the national. …

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