Far Right Grifters: A Brief Introduction
Better access to smartphones, social media platforms, livestreaming services and fundraising tools have catalysed a significant shift in the way that fascists organise and spread their hate. Specifically, these tools have paved the way for an emerging network of far-right ‘grifters’.
Dictionary.com defines a ‘grifter’ as ‘a swindler, dishonest gambler, or the like.’ This definition can be applied to many on the far right following the ‘social media influencer’ model, who may once have been content to knock on doors and annoy people in town centres with poorly-designed leaflets. They grow their following by broadcasting themselves performing cheap stunts: ‘patrolling the coastline’ to ‘hunt’ hypothermic refugees arriving by boat, or harassing people at left-wing demos. Sometimes they organise, attend, and document demonstrations with such ludicrously vague and euphemistic objectives as ‘defend our children’. A lot of the time they just spend a few hours arguing with other grifters over a YouTube livestream – a few minutes of watching any of these broadcasts, and you’ll be begged repeatedly to “LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE, GUYS” before being directed to a handy donation link in the video description. This is the life of the far-right grifter: a self-promoter with a smartphone, a YouTube channel and a PayPal account.
Often, these ‘PayPal Patriots’ will leverage their channels to spread disinformation, agitate their base, attack their enemies, and in some cases eventually convert their followers into members for established far right groups. The key difference between a grifter and a typical political broadcaster is the focus on garnering donations from their follower base. The bigger the base, the more money – grifters focus on galvanising a large, dedicated audience who share their biases, creating a feedback loop of misinformation and hatred between the grifter and their audience.
One prime example of a far-right grifter is the daddy of swindling money from disillusioned, middle-aged xenophobes (who often treat him as if he’s their weird surrogate son), Tommy Robinson. Tommy’s ability to convert the cult of personality into cash by spreading anti-Islamic hatred was once worth hundreds of thousands. His style was later aped by Britain First, whose begging letters are notorious and something of a laughing stock even amongst the right. Notably, even leader Paul Golding’s former right-hand man Andy Edge has turned coat and started exposing just how relentlessly his former idol was scamming his loyal followers.
As the reputations of both Golding and Robinson continue to swirl down the drain, a new wave of grifters are quickly taking their place. More individualistic in their pursuits for recognition and glory (and pounds) within the movement, they operate as a looser network of personalities, regularly shifting alliances. They often use each other’s platforms to advertise their personal brands, appearing on one another’s livestreams or tag-teaming when outdoors pursuing refugees or leftists on demos. Some of them claim to be ‘citizen journalists’, others like to style themselves as producers of alternative media, or as educators and commentators. Some already have leading roles with established organisations. Often, their channels will be boosted by established right-wing media organisations like Politicalite, Breitbart, Red Ice TV and Rebel Media.
While they might boost each other’s profiles, they also often have very nasty public spats. These have typically been down to egos and factionalism and commonly result in insults, threats to family, doxxing each other etc. However, infighting has been particularly prevalent in grifterdom lately because of the civic nationalist vs ethno nationalist tug of war that has been rumbling on due to people from the Tommy Robinson faction moving towards neo-nazi Patriotic Alternative – a clash of ideologies as well as egos.
What they do all have in common is the pursuit of a large follower base to translate into financial gain, sociopolitical capital within the far right movement, and in some cases membership numbers for far right groups they’re associated with. Whether gleefully chasing around traumatised refugees, spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories, or even just trying to flog shite Mosely-themed ethnonationalist tea – grifters use anger and hatred to fuel their own personal brand and fill their own pockets.