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Defend Europe, an anti-immigrant group that attempts to disrupt humanitarian search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea, recently chartered a boat that was stopped in a Cyprus port, where several members were arrested for forging documents and engaging in potential human trafficking. Since then, pro-Trump media trolls associated with the campaign have been conspicuously silent.
The members were stopped in and deported from a sea port in the self-declared Turkish state of Northern Cyprus Thursday after spending two days in detention for document forgery and potential human trafficking of 20 Sri Lankan nationals who were aboard the C-Star, the campaign’s ship. Turkish Cypriot authorities deported nine crew members, including the ship’s captain and a German “second captain” believed to be neo-Nazi Alexander Schleyer. The authorities also transferred the director of the company that owns the ship, Sven Tomas Egerstrom, to Greek-controlled Cyprus for further questioning.
Refugee Rights Association advocate Faika Pasha told The Associated Press that some of the Sri Lankans on board reported having paid a trafficker to be taken to Italy and confirmed that five Sri Lankans remained in Cyprus to claim asylum. (Defend Europe claims the Sri Lankans were actually bribed by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to claim they were seeking asylum.)
Defend Europe is a campaign by anti-immigrant, “alt-right” activists to disrupt humanitarian search and rescue missions of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. The effort is the brainchild of Generation Identity, a pan-European “Identitarian” movement known for its members’ high-profile political stunts.
Since the arrest and deportation of the C-Star’s crew members, Defend Europe has been doing some damage control on Twitter, claiming the ship was “released” and that “lies and #fakenews from NGOs have been exposed once again.” The next day, the account pinned an image of the group’s alleged goals on its feed, one of which was to “save migrants in danger of drowning and making sure they get to the nearest non-European safe port.”
However, Generation Identity’s Austrian co-founder, Martin Sellner, has repeatedly claimed that Defend Europe’s goal is to take migrants from North Africa back to Libya -- a violation of the non-refoulement principle of the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention against sending refugees back to their county if they would be in harm’s way. In June, Sellner said, “We want to face those human trafficking ships on the sea. We want to disrupt their doings. And, of course, if you meet an account of people in distress on the sea, save them but bring them back to where they started from.” He reiterated his stance a month later, saying that Defend Europe will “do everything in our power to make sure that they go back to Africa, where they belong.”
Since the detainment of Defend Europe members and their subsequent expulsion from Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, the movement’s right-wing media allies and pro-Trump trolls have been noticeably mum. As of this piece’s publication, Brittany Pettibone, who has actively been reporting in support of Defend Europe from Catania, Sicily, had tweeted only twice on the subject since the incident, both times promoting Defend Europe’s conspiratorial narrative that NGOs are propagating fake news and “hiding something” about their alleged collusion with international human trafficking rings.
Even more notably, Lauren Southern, a Canadian media troll who made a name for herself denying the existence of rape culture and demonizing minorities and who has been actively involved in the Defend Europe campaign, has not tweeted a single time about the recent incident (though she has retweeted in support of Defend Europe). Online payment service Patreon recently suspended Southern’s account for violating the crowdfunding platform's terms by soliciting donations for the Defend Europe campaign; Southern has since resorted to using PayPal. PayPal previously froze Defend Europe's account, saying in a statement, “Our policy is to prevent our services being used by companies whose activities promote hatred, violence or racial intolerance."
Peter Sweden, a previously vocal Holocaust denier who reversed himself in mid-July, has been similarly silent on the recent controversy surrounding Defend Europe. Sweden has bragged about disrupting search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean and has also been interviewed by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, taking the opportunity to fearmonger about crime in Sweden.
Katie Hopkins, a columnist for British news site MailOnline who regularly appears on Fox News to voice her Islamophobic, anti-immigrant views, has also been silent on Twitter about the C-Star’s deportation from Cyprus. Hopkins recently tweeted a photo of herself with Sweden, which she later deleted. Her involvement with the Defend Europe campaign has been documented by the anti-extremism research and education group HOPE Not Hate.
Tara McCarthy, who hosts a YouTube show alongside Pettibone and who has said, in a since-deleted tweet, that she hopes “zero” migrants crossing the sea to Europe “make it alive,” has also not commented on the C-Star’s seizure.
According to HOPE Not Hate, pro-Trump propaganda outlet Breitbart, white nationalist site AltRight.com, racial nationalist organization American Renaissance, Nazi website The Daily Stormer, and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke have also voiced support for Defend Europe’s mission. As of noon on July 28, none of these outlets or individuals had responded to the latest developments.
The silence of these pro-Trump trolls exposes their opportunism and cowardice. They engage in high-profile stunts to profit and promote themselves and then back away when the going gets tough, as prominent troll Mike Cernovich did when he attempted to deny involvement in the “Pizzagate” conspiracy. The pro-Trump trolls subscribed to the Defend Europe campaign for donations and foreign Twitter followers, but now they’re stuck in a sordid relationship with a movement that is endangering innocent lives and potentially violating international law. It remains to be seen how they will meme their way out of this one.
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After terror attacks left at least seven people dead and dozens injured in London, right-wing media called for the internment of Muslims, replicating the unconstitutional measures that imprisoned thousands of innocent Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Pro-Trump media outlets attacked CNN by claiming the network was “staging fake Muslim demonstrations” in response to the June 3 London Bridge terror attack. The smear, which started with nativist, anti-Muslim Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins, was quickly called out by CNN as “nonsense.”
Fox & Friends Sunday hosts apologized after two of the show’s guests -- one of whom works for the channel -- floated the possibility of using internment camps to detain terror suspects in the U.K. following the June 3 attack in London.
The day after the attack in London, which killed seven and injured dozens, Fox News’ Fox & Friends Sunday hosted Fox contributor and former U.K. Independent Party leader Nigel Farage and Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins. Both guests invoked the idea of internment camps for terror suspects in the U.K. to respond to the attack. Later in the show, the hosts apologized for their guests’ radical suggestions. From the June 4 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Sunday:
CLAYTON MORRIS (CO-HOST): Earlier on the show, we had a couple of guests mention the word internment, the idea of internment camps, as a possible solution to this. I think I made it well-known my feeling on that, which I find reprehensible, but on behalf of the network, I think all of us here find that idea reprehensible here at Fox News Channel. Just to be clear.
PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): No suggestions of that.
Farage first brought up the notion of internment camps, saying that “unless we see the government getting tough, you will see public calls for those 3,000 [terror watch list suspects] to be arrested.” Farage added, “if there is not action, then the calls for internment will grow”:
ABBY HUNTSMAN (CO-HOST): Nigel, you have the pulse of the people. You were behind the Brexit movement before anyone really knew that that was actually going to happen. We've got these big elections in the U.K. this week. What is the mood? What is the sense where you are of the people in the U.K. about this threat of terror? [Do] they feel like where they are they have a handle on it?
NIGEL FARAGE: We are as a people very slow to anger. We are remarkably tolerant of things. But I do think, bear in mind this is now the third terrorist incident that has happened in my country in the spate of as many months. And the mood that I get now is we want some real action. We don't just want speeches given outside number 10 Downing Street. We want genuine action. And if there is not action, then the calls for internment will grow. We have over 3,000 people on a sort of known terrorist list, and we’re watching and monitoring their activities, but a further 20,000 people who are persons of interest, mainly they’re linked in some way to extremist organizations. Unless we see the government getting tough, you will see public calls for those 3,000 to be arrested. And I’m not sure, I’m not sure that that is the right approach, because the big danger with that is we might alienate decent, fair-minded Muslims in Britain.
HEGSETH: Of course. Calls for internment --
FARAGE: But whatever happens, we do need action.
HEGSETH: -- would be strong talk.
Later, Hopkins reiterated Farage’s remarks about internment, and even went further, saying that the U.K. “need[s] start incarcerating, deporting, repeating until we clean this country up” and that “we do need internment camps”:
CLAYTON MORRIS (CO-HOST): How do you think her speech resonated? Do you think it hit the mark, or did it miss?
KATIE HOPKINS: It missed the mark. I mean, we were relieved, I think, I was relieved that she didn’t come out and say the stuff that our London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been saying.
HOPKINS: At least Theresa May came out and said “enough is enough.” What she hasn’t done, what she didn’t do, is tell us what we need to hear. And that is that things are going to change completely. That tomorrow, 3,000 people on the watchlist are going to be rounded up. We need to hear that 650 jihadis that returned to the U.K. are going to be incarcerated and deported. And we need to hear that Saudi-backed mosques and extreme hate preachers and imams within those mosques are also going to be shut down and deported. That’s what regular British people want to hear, what I want to hear. And it is not enough to say we will win against terror, because if this is terror losing, then victory is meaningless because this is horrible.
MORRIS: Talk about the nuts and bolts of this. Nigel Farage on the show a short time ago bringing up the word “internment,” bringing up the specter here in the United States of internment camps -- Japanese internment camps. You’re mentioning deportation and rounding up and mass incarceration. What would that look like? Do you think that Theresa May, do you think that the British government would actually do that?
HOPKINS: I don't think they've got the stomach to do that. I don’t think they’ve got the political will to do that. I also see how they pander still relentlessly to these preachers who are on the wrong side of this argument. People who are against the prevent strategy for counterterrorism. People like Cage to speak out always in defense of Islam and how great it is. Islamic preachers who speak out about the fact that what we need to be worried about is Islamophobia. We’re not worried about that. We do need internment camps. Before, I would’ve bought the idea that, no, this gets more people radicalized. You know, that’s not the solution. But we’ve gone beyond the tipping point. I tell you this country cannot take another attack.
Farage and Hopkins are both notorious Islamophobes on whom Fox News regularly relies for its post-terror attack fear-mongering about Muslims and immigrants. Farage is a staunch Trump ally, former Breitbart contributor, and anti-Muslim agitator who has accused British Muslims of having a "split of loyalties" and falsely claimed Sweden is the "rape capital of Europe” because of Muslim immigration. Farage frequently appears on Fox to push anti-immigrant rhetoric. Hopkins frequently uses her Daily Mail column to push xenophobic misinformation. Hopkins, who is currently being sued for libel, has called migrants “cockroaches” and falsely accused a Muslim family of being terrorists. In a recent report from Sweden, she claimed without evidence that the country’s news is filled with reports of rape and assault of young women, discussed an unsourced alleged rape of a 12-year-old by an unaccompanied minor immigrant, and told the impossible-to-substantiate story of a girl “terrified of going out alone” because she lives “near a busy shopping centre which draws migrants from no-go zones,” which do not exist in Sweden. Her vitriolic xenophobia has made her a favorite of the "alt-right."
Fox has a pattern of hosting anti-Muslim guests to fear-monger about refugees and immigration, and, since the election of President Donald Trump, attempting to justify his anti-Muslim policy proposals in the wake of terror attacks, even when it doesn't make sense. Most recently, after the terror attack in Manchester, Fox hosted the architect of the post-9/11 torture program to blame civil rights and invited Farage to use the attack (which was committed by a U.K. native) to justify Trump's Muslim ban. One Fox & Friends host has even admitted that the show only covers terror attacks when they appear to implicate Muslims.
This is not the first time the idea of internment camps to deal with Islamist terrorism has been floated on a Fox show. In 2016, Fox guest Carl Higbie cited Japanese internment camps as a precedent for Trump’s calls for a Muslim registry. And in 2010, then-Fox contributor Liz Trotta seemed to defend the use of Japanese internment camps when discussing outrage over a blog post by Martin Peretz about Muslims.
Right-wing media personalities launched Islamophobic attacks following the June 3 attack in London that left seven people dead and injured dozens, such as calling for the internment of Muslims in "World War II-style internment camps," suggesting the United States “close down the mosques” and claiming the U.K. “let in too many Muslim immigrants.”
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“Alt-Right” Outlets Infowars and Breitbart Regularly Cite Its Content
The U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail is mounting a crusade against refugees and immigrants in Europe. The tabloid’s fearmongering, xenophobic claims of immigrant criminality -- which are often completely false and unsourced -- have positioned the outlet as a favorite among American conspiracy theorists and white nationalists.
The Daily Mail, which is the U.K.’s most popular online and print newspaper, is known for peddling junk science, led the latest right-wing assault on climate change science, and has been accused of racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Even the open-sourced encyclopedia Wikipedia has banned its editors from using articles from the Mail to source its pages, calling the publication “generally unreliable.”
The Daily Mail’s Katie Hopkins is one of the paper's writers pushing xenophobic misinformation. Hopkins, who is currently being sued for libel, has called migrants “cockroaches” and falsely accused Muslim travelers of being terrorists. In a recent report from Sweden, she claimed without evidence that the country’s news is filled with reports of rape and assault of young women, discussed an unsourced alleged rape of a 12-year-old by an unaccompanied minor immigrant, and told the impossible-to-substantiate story of a girl “terrified of going out alone” because she lives “near a busy shopping centre which draws migrants from no-go zones,” which do not exist in Sweden. Hopkins went on to discuss an “unexploded hand grenade [found] in a bin outside the police station of a no-go area of town, near a mosque.” But Swedish police would not confirm whether the object found was a bomb, and they described the location where it was found as a town square, not as near a mosque.
After the Mail published Hopkins’ piece, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars reprinted her report with the title “KATIE HOPKINS REPORTS FROM HELLACIOUS SWEDEN, ‘WHERE FEMALES FEAR TO TREAD.’” The anti-immigration hate website VDare.com also amplified her report. In the past week, Infowars has reprinted at least two Daily Mail articles -- the Hopkins piece, along with one about a Swedish policeman who allegedly blamed immigrants for the majority of the country’s rapes and shootings.
Breitbart.com’s London bureau, which regularly traffics in anti-immigrant sentiment, has similarly found a kindred spirit in the Mail’s xenophobic bent. On March 1, Breitbart London cited the Daily Mail in an article about a “Muslim convert” who allegedly “planned to buy a nine-year-old virgin slave girl after he joined [the] Islamic State.” According to The Guardian, the U.K. citizen the article mentions, Patrick Kabele, was in fact arrested in August 2016 for attempting to travel to Syria, but the Daily Mail 's claim that he wrote in his diary that he “wanted to buy a nine-year-old slave girl” can be found only on other tabloid news sites and the blog Jihad Watch, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “Muslim-bashing.” It has not been confirmed by mainstream outlets.
Duncan Gardham, who wrote the piece about Kabele, is another of the Daily Mail authors creating xenophobic content, along with contributor Julian Robinson. The paper's website also has a dedicated tag for news related to the “European Migrant And Refugee Crisis,” which boasts headlines like:
The Mail’s unsourced, misleading, and sometimes completely fabricated claims about supposed immigrant criminality in Sweden do not exist in a vacuum. After President Donald Trump on February 18 mentioned “what’s happening last night in Sweden” before listing cities hit by terrorist attacks, his media cronies defended him by perpetuating the myth of “no-go zones” in Sweden. While no-go zones in Europe are a discredited construct frequently used for anti-immigrant fearmongering, the Daily Mail “reports” on them regularly. Further, Trump’s claims that the United States’ current immigration system threatens jobs and lowers wages, drains government benefits, and makes communities less safe come straight from nativist groups and fringe right-wing media outlets like Breitbart and Infowars, the same outlets that regularly cite anti-immigrant content from the Daily Mail.
These false stories are damaging not only to immigrant communities, which are then unfairly viewed with suspicion, but also to actual victims of sexual assault who are seeking justice -- and to members of the general public on both sides of the Atlantic, who often remember only the first headlines they see, even if they’re not true.
Image by Sarah Wasko.
Trump Has Praised Katie Hopkins’ Columns
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson hosted UK Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins who wrote a column allegedly detailing the many women in Sweden who fear being assaulted by immigrants. Hopkins’ writing and tweets exemplify hate-mongering anti-Muslim bigotry and in the past she has called for the murder of refugees and referred to them as “cockroaches.”