As LAFA and other antifascists have been warning for a while now, the Covid sceptic/denialist movement is an increasingly dangerous organising hub for a range of seemingly unconnected reactionary movements. An event in Islington’s Angel Church held on the evening of Friday 4th February serves to highlight this problem. A group largely based in Manchester called “Make More Noise”, acting alongside a new organisation named “The Common Sense Support Network”, hosted an event titled “Do Mandates Make Sense”. The aim of this event was to push conspiracy theory thinking into left-wing circles, and to forge alliances between Covid-denialists and Transphobic activists.
Make More Noise (MMN) are mainly known in their local political scene for being a collection of transphobic campaigners, and subsequently have been excluded from local feminist events. The newer Commonsense Support Network (CSN) are believed to essentially be a front organisation formed by some of their members and activists from the more generalised anitvaxx/anti-mandate/covid sceptic/denialist scene. LAFA researchers stumbled across this event, and while at first glance it seemed to be a fairly run of the mill repetition of the existing norm of TERFs and antivaxxers intermingling, a slightly closer look revealed a number of things that made this event worth monitoring. Accordingly, LAFA and some other dedicated antifascists decided to send intrepid operatives in, via the daring infiltration tactic known as “clicking on the event listing”. This ended up yielding a series of worrying clues as to where both the TERF scene and some bits of the UK antivaxx movement might be headed.
Then there is the matter of the venue itself, the Angel church, which is interesting in its own right in this context. Suffice to say, antifascists keeping a close eye on the antivaxx movement may have heard of this place before. More on this later.
At this point it might help to make a few clarifying remarks:
- The large rallies of anti-vaxxers and anti-lockdown protesters that have occurred throughout the last couple of years are not homogenous and neither is the movement. The common linking thread in the denialist landscape is that all members generally seek to deny some aspect of the reality of Covid, and then apply that denialism to their politics. Most typically within the movement this manifests in the form of conspiracy theory beliefs, often trending towards more specific beliefs such as entry level antivaxx ideas, with more extreme positions beginning resemble the Qanon belief system emerging later.
- The same is true of the transphobic political movement in the UK. Whilst all TERFS are transphobes, not all transphobes are TERFS, as to be a TERF is a much more specific ideology. That being said, MMN is very much a TERF group specifically.
- Both movements tend to be characterised by having a large pool of adherents, and then smaller but more coherent organisations swimming in that water, recruiting and propagandising, like greedy fish snapping up morsels. Over time as the movements mature, some organisations die off, and others grow more stable. This is common in almost all political movements.
Fridays meeting was notable because it was designed by its organisers to explicitly recruit both from the transphobic pool and from the covid denialist pool and to forge the two ideologies together more coherently. The organisers aranged a panel of speakers and a Q&A session, with a range of panellists who alternated between talking mainly about transphobic politics and focussing on anti mandate, antivaxx, or generalised conspiracy theorist commentary. Attendees were told that the event was a broad church and was for everyone, in order to encourage debate, and to push against government tyranny, and that we should all be allies in this fight, etc. In other words, the audience was rhetorically primed to view all of the points of view espoused by panellists as being one coherent common-sense mindset, hence the name of the CSN group. If you’re reading this and thinking “But wait, the phrase “common sense” is just a rhetorical device for framing socially conservative or reactionary ideas as being popular and acceptable!” then you would of course be correct.
More specifically, this was pitched in a manner designed to appeal to a left-of-centre audience, whilst largely being based around unevidenced and often highly reactionary points of view and political ideas, particularly when many panellists and audience members made remarks about Covid based encroachments on civil liberties, described themselves as socialists, and some organisers mentioned their roles in Trade Unions. Yet another new front group called “Left Lockdown Sceptics” was also mentioned at the meeting, with its first major event to be held a week later.
Rhetoric at the event touched on the following topics:
- Forging a common-sense based coalition aimed at joining together people from various disparate viewpoints in a grand fight for their view of reality and truth.
- Pedobaiting slurs levelled against transgender people.
- Regular references to Big Pharma and scare rhetoric about Covid vaccines being an experimental drug.
- Claims that corporate driven identity politics has taken over the left.
- Claims that antivaxx protesters are the only group within the public fighting against government tyranny.
- Claims that trade unions have betrayed workers by not opposing vaccination policies and have been taken over by enemies of the working class.
- Claims that the Yogyakarta Principles, a set of human rights guidelines, were developed by a cult of lobbyists to attack women (This claim is a niche belief of committed TERFs, and was the subject of a speech at last year’s LGB Alliance conference).
Repeated mentions of multiple entry-level conspiracy theorist hot-button issues based in tech-scepticism were also prominent, such as:
- Jeff Bezos running the world.
- The digital economy being a conspiracy to turn us into Matrix style slaves using Geofencing and a cashless economy.
- The “massive push towards green stuff”, including the development of cycle lanes and electric vehicles being a plot to trap people in dystopian smart cities.
- Google and Facebook “americanising” the employment system and destroying workers rights.
These are particularly interesting because they highlight one of the key ways that such groups intend to spread their political position: through manipulating existing popular distaste for hyper-capitalist economic policy shifts, conspiracy theorists create a narrative where their beliefs are the true answer to capitalist alienation. This is a key element of how they appeal to Left wing sympathisers. After all, many of the last 4 talking points have more than a grain of truth in them. The key here is that this grain of truth is used as a wedge to push other, much more insidious, ideas. Sometimes this can be found in efforts to persuade new recruits, but “thin end of the wedge” tactics are useful in various ways for the movement. The mention of the Yogyakarta principles during one point in the evenings discussion was particularly interesting in this regard as it precipitated a debate about tactics. This part of the discussion included several speakers advocating for a strategy of pushing within civil institutions to spread their politics, including the use of court cases to establish legal precedents, and using their membership of unions to push for the workers movement to become more friendly to Conspiracy theorist ideology.
The meeting was attended by a range of people with history in the antivaxx movement and the TERF scene, and while many self described as disgruntled leftists, several of those turned out to have connections and sympathies with far right groups and beliefs on their social media profiles. On an individual level this wouldn’t be worth remarking on: after all, antifascism isn’t about cancelling people for bad tweets, despite the claims of our movements detractors. Rather, the prevalence of right wing material in these profiles shows us a lot about the state of their political movement as a collective body. A brief rundown of some of the more noteworthy people there may be illuminating:
Organisers and panellists
- Worley is a Make More Noise organiser.
- Her speech was predominantly anti-trans, connected Keira Bells series of Court cases being overturned in the courts with vaccination rollout for school kids. This became a common talking point at the event.
- Her introductory talk started out by linking transphobic talking points to antivaxx ones, claiming that both movements are about protecting the children, and about defending “reality” and language from people in the medical and pharmaceutical establishment who seek to change it.
- One of our attendees noted that at one point she said “No matter how much evidence you throw at me, it will not change my beliefs”, which sort of sums it up really.
- Organiser with an organisation called The New Normal, and has connection to various Covid denialist groups.
- Frequently shares posts about ” The Great Reset”, experimental gene therapy, plus other tropes.
- Recently got “an ASBO” for filming empty hospitals. We aren’t clear on if this was an actual ASBO or any one of a range of legal orders that the courts might throw at an anti-vaxxer.
- Speech at the event was predominantly anti-vaccine/anti-mandate.
- Very prominent as a minor celebrity in conspiracy theorist telegram channels.
- Social media posts are a weird amalgam of feelgood leftie memes mixed in with references to “globalists”, sharing far right group content such as Heritage party tweets, conspiracy theories, and memes normally found on the weirder sort of Telegram channels.
- Anti-trans organiser, lives on a boat, has somehow managed to make owning a boat (that she describes in one of her social media accounts as a viking longship) uncool.
- Husband is an ex-boxer and anti-vaxxer called “Baz Carey” who was there along with her two kids.
- Her speech went on to question the veracity of Covid-19 death statistics, as well as various talking points about the NHS vaccination mandate and remarks about ” Big Pharma”. This was then connected to the rise of Puberty blockers, making the rhetorical link between the evils of the vaccine and the evils of the megacorporations turning the kids gay with transgender steroids and idpol.
- Speech was very long, anti-vaxxer focussed, with lots of anti-trans references woven in. Mentioned being involved with efforts to halt reform to the Gender Recognition Act.
- Regularly retweets right-wing accounts – Peter Sweden, Darren Grimes, Avi Yemini, Jair Bolsonaro, Jordan Peterson.
- Is a photographer and takes photos of anti-trans events, including some of Posie Parker, a transphobic organiser noteworthy for her drift into hard right wing positions and extremely hardline rhetoric.
- Part of organising the event, she was on the door taking tickets and cash.
- Stood briefly to rant about LTNs- Low Traffic Neighbourhoods- this is a regular right wing talking point and was a major propaganda subject for multiple far right parties over the last few years in London local politics.
- Involved with LGB Alliance.
- Youtube vid of her speaking at an LGB Alliance event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emCCRdE8SdI
- A core organiser of Make More Noise and a prominent TERF, as well as a longstanding sympathiser with antivaxx politics.
- Manchester based, frequently makes trips to london and leeds
- Regularly attends TERF and antivaxx events, including the LGBA conference in 2021, and various events organised by Posie Parker including some at Speakers Corner
- Started her turn at the mic by jokingly refering to herself as a right wing fundamentalist christian. This is a running “joke” in TERF circles. Perhaps it would have been funnier and less laden with unintended irony if they had picked a different venue, but more on that later.
- Possibly challenging the person who talked about how the government and amazon are going to use electricity and satellites to put us all in the matrix, or whatever the hell it was, for the title of “evenings most embarrassing guest”, as her role in the event was to deliver a performance of conspiracy theorist slam poetry. This nearly killed several of our operatives.
Worley is one of the main organisers and has a long social media history pertaining to the subject matter at hand. For example, her social media pages often used to share conspiracy theory content about Covid19, including posts such as “If vaccines have genetic code from an aborted foetus in them does injecting it make you a cannibal? Asking for a friend…”. This is a highly normal thing to say, and not at all indicative of reactionary political beliefs, such as the Qanon concept of child adrenochrome harvesting. Of course maybe this, and every single other one of her posts, is actually a hilarious joke.
Hicks, meanwhile, has apparently been arrested multiple times for her covid denialist activism. She frequently posts about various aspects fo the movement, including the Canadian Truckers convoy, alongside posts from World Freedom Alliance. Worse than that, her role in the movement apparently earns solidarity from white supremacist and fascist organisations and their affiliates including the For Britain movement, who consider her a paragon of virtue and share her content regularly.
Siggers’ speech included much reference to NHS staff negligence relating to her personal medical problems. In all honesty this is a very fair thing for her to be annoyed at and we are genuinely sympathetic. The specifics come up in this article in which she is interviewed. This echoes a long-standing trope in the antivaxx movement of many believers being committed to it due to genuinely traumatic or damaging interactions with the healthcare system. We would be poor antifascists if we failed to recognise that many people drawn into these beliefs come to that position due to genuinely unpleasant life experiences. While acknowledging that, it still doesn’t excuse them for the consequences and implications of their political positions.
Interestingly, Heidi mentioned in her speech that she is interested in homeschooling and is part of a network for it. This is a common trend in both Religious fundamentalist networks and New Age networks, and while home schooling is in and of itself not harmful, it is often used in a harmful way by reactionary parents. It also correlates with the content of her and other attendees speeches as being very focussed on preserving parental control over children, particularly in relation to healthcare. This crops up both in rhetoric shared by groups like Outreach Worldwide in relation to their campaigns, but also in Transphobic rhetoric surrounding puberty blockers. This is not intended as a comment on her role as a parent personally, which we don’t have direct knowledge of, other than that she took her children to a conspiracy theory event hosted by a group of committed radical cranks, in a space run by a Church whose Pastor is a radical anti abortion activist. The wider conspiracy theory movement is noted for having a weird attitude to children and their role within it, as for example many observers and researchers in the US and UK have noted that parents not only drag their children along to events, but actively use them in propaganda and indoctrination. That being said, the act of taking ones children to protests or political meetings is not inherently bad: rather it is the specific context that one must consider.
Various other attendees were subsequently identified, of varying levels of importance within the movement:
- Hogged the mic a couple of times and shouted over people.
- Regular at anti-trans protests and has spoken at Speakers Corner with Posie Parker.
- Basic-tier anti-vaxxer who kept plugging some dire song and brought his bongo drum to the event. This happens a lot with antivaxx guys: see also Laurence Fox, the apex of cringe covid-denialist dudes, and that guy who made a rap about the vaccines being fake.
Louise Dennis aka Lulu
- Involved with Make More Noise, and other TERF groups.
- Sat with DJ Lippy, AKA Aja as well as Fiona Hine.
Fiona Rose Diamond (aka Fiona Hine)
- Prominent anti-vaxxer, very big in the movement, one of the main figureheads. Claimed to be “the” organiser of the recent large-scale anti-vaxx/anti-mask marches in London. Has drawn the attention of antifascists before, and is involved with various interpersonal dramas in the movement.
- Does stuff for Oracle Films, Covileaks, Worldwide Demonstration.
- Is associated with Francesca Dill (Cheska) of Outreach worldwide crediting her with being a big help in organising the demo. Has also posted photographs of them together with a woman called Lilith, who is one of the main organises of the NHS 100k campaign, an anti-mandate group aimed at NHS workers
Left Lockdown Sceptics
- A representative of Left Lockdown Sceptics attended, gave out flyers, and invited room to their conference on 12 Feb, which is aimed at pushing a range fo Covid denialist talking points into left wing spaces using classic ” thin end of the wedge” material.
- She was herself involved in going to schools in the UK to “serve notice” to them about vaccinations. Notably, this campaign was mainly dominated by Outreach Worldwide.
- Claims there will be trade union representatives present at the LLS event, possibly from the RMT. This is almost certainly not official and is likely just some random member.
- Left Lockdown Sceptics has loads of terfs in their FB group
Truly, an alliance of towering philosophers to rival ancient Athens. Anyway, we now come to the matter of the venue itself:
Angel Church, Outreach Worldwide, Christian Concern and further dodgy connections
The event took place in Angel Church, a small religious institution in Islington. The Angel Church is a relatively new Baptist church run by a pastor by the name of Regan Blanton King.
King is part of a family of evangelical Christian preachers who are key members of an organisation called the Grace Baptist Partnership. Other members of the King family involved in this organisation include Regan’s wife Rachel, a man who may be his father by the name of Barry King, his wife Frances, Alister Barrett King (possibly a brother) and his wife Abi, and Ryan Burton King (also possibly a brother of Regan) and his wife Uliana. All of the men are pastors at their respective churches and, with the exception of Barry, studied at the University of the Highlands and Islands Highland Theological College.
Regan and Angel church are hip deep in right wing politics and are deeply connected to the Covid denialist movement. Angel Church itself has taken part in anti-vaxxer protests on an organisational level and hosts its own Telegram channels. Some of these channels are generic religious forums, while others are more political, with members of the congregation (including Pastor Regan) filming themselves at anti-lockdown marches. Regan Blanton King has a variety of unpleasant political connections, including his prior employment at Christian fundamentalist political organisation Christian Concern and long-standing anti-choice campaign work. Towards the end of the evenings talk, King got up and announced that the church would welcome the Common Sense Support Network organisation using it more in the future, and stated that it considered itself, as an institution, fully in support of the type of discussion that had been held. He attended the entire meeting and was present from before our operatives entering the venue.
Regan and the Angel Church are intimately connected to the radical antivaxx organisation Outreach Worldwide, who we mentioned in our last report on the subject of antivaxx politics. Several attendees of the meeting also have connections to OW. OW is mainly notable for its attempts to create a coherent organisational network within the antivaxx movement capable of carrying out direct action. Its main effort in this regard was last year’s campaign to harass teachers and students at secondary schools across England and Wales. The group’s leader Francesca Dill, who was the focus of the mainstream media coverage of the group, is at the very least friendly with several attendees of the event, and is an influential organiser as attested by Fiona Hines. Like many groups in the movement, OW are not themselves fascist, but their actions create a fertile space for more aggressive political strands to creep in and flourish – particularly given their focus on an action, conspiracy theory, the religious motivations of their leaders, and their desire to organise people into coherent units.
The fact that this meeting took place at all is not surprising or remarkable. Connections of this type have been known to antifascist researchers for some time. The important thing here is that the connections are beginning to move from merely being interpersonal ones to inter-organisational ones. It is also worth noting that every person in attendance not only saw the alliance between TERFs and Covid deniers as strategically useful, but also openly subscribed to the core beliefs of both. These people all believed each other’s bullshit, in other words. This in turn has the potential to foster the growth of a more coherent and unified reactionary ideology, which might help the anti-vaxx movement become more concentrated on specific tasks and methods. As we’ve seen from the American Qanon movement, organisations and movements can be so absurd as to defy explanation, yet still pose a serious threat. The fact that much of TERF ideology seemed ridiculous in the early 2010s allowed it to blossom into a major part of modern reactionary politics, and general transphobia is now a populist talking point of many explicitly fascist organisations. Similarly, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, anti-vaccination movements in the UK were generally associated with the Wakefield scandal, and thus with general tinfoil-hat nonsense. Despite this, they achieved appeal within a specific subset of the population, which subsequently became highly vulnerable to fascist indoctrination using conspiracy theories for agitation and propaganda. Any sign of growing convergences between these movements, especially if organised religion is becoming involved, is a seriously bad indication, even if it is small. So far these movements remain large but only semi organised, and not yet completely joined into one unit. A coherent ideological coalition between these sorts of groups and militant street fascists would be disastrous.
LAFA will continue to monitor the conspiracy theory movement and transphobic activists in London. We strongly encourage other antifascists to do the same, wherever these movements are to be found.