Why a fascist group aimed at young males ran a "Miss Hitler 2016" competition
In the wake of the Brexit result, you may have spotted people on the streets dressed in black from head to foot, often wearing masks, holding banners and handing out stickers with "National Action" printed on them.
If you didn't witness them yourself, you would have done well to avoid images in TV and online news.
They are fascists, hard-right Nazis who seem to no longer be scared to go out onto the streets and spread their message.
But this a very specific strain of fascism, National Action – one of the organisations featured heavily in news coverage around fascist marches since the Brexit vote – is a group aimed solely at young, white, working class, disenfranchised males.
The group attracts the interest of this demographic with beautifully designed imagery, appropriating imagery from goth and punk culture... they're trying to make fascism, racism and xenophobia cool.
Here's what their blog looks like:
They specifically want the isolated loners. They want to brainwash them.
They canvas on the streets, recently releasing a video where they attracted interest and had discussions with young white men in Bath. Bath is an affluent city where key Brexit battleground issues such as immigration and joblessness are low... barely registering as legitimate concerns.
One of the issues of a strategy which revolves around brainwashing young men into joining a group made up almost entirely of men is that it doesn't give National Action's members the thing they often crave the most – a girlfriend.
In resposne to this, National Action recently held a "Miss Hitler 2016" competition aimed at giving some of their young female members a chance to "express their beliefs".
It was covered by a number of tabloids in a typically "oh my god isn't this thing whacky" way, in some cases probably doing more to spread National Action's message than to show it for what it is – a transparent attempt at creating a cult-like message that joining National Action solves problems for young men, as well providing friends, it can provide them with a loving, devoted, girlfriend too.
This is what National Action think of their Miss Hitler campaign:
"Our Miss Hitler competition went viral, not only was it covered by the Sun (twice), the Star, the Evening Times, the Daily Record, the Daily Mail, and the Mirror but it made international news. At the current time around twenty Italian, Romanian, Israeli, German and Spanish News sites also carry the story and the Yahoo News article carries over 5000 comments. The provocative title did it’s [sic] work; naturally to have portrayed the contestants as human – girls who love their families and their men, and about how National Socialism was about love of country, tradition, and culture would have been too subversive – but Miss Hitler 2016 is our single most viewed article on the site this year, so we are delighted with this result."
(From the NA blog – which we won't link to).
At present there is only one prominent female member of NA known by name, and there have been rumours printed on anti-fascism website Hope Not Hate that she has been kicked out of the group due to complicated love triangle involving a prominent male leader.
The group claim their numbers are growing, and certainly their appearances in various different cities around the UK would suggest this is true. Currently it's an incredibly small movement, but they are getting braver in their public appearances. Their members are taught the basics of mixed martial arts in training courses in the Welsh valleys. Like Scouts... but if the Scout Master was a skinhead with some impressive MMA moves and a penchant for hating foreigners.
But these guys don't want to be known as a violent group, their members are instructed to only use violence when in self-defence, and they don't drink or take drugs like the EDL, with whom National Action have come to blows with in the past in a bid to prove that their version of fascism is the best version of fascism.
Yes, this is a group of Nazis who hate other Nazis.
It's all a bit odd.
But their core target demographic is sadly there for the taking right now. The number of young, working class, white men who voted to leave the EU either citing concerns over immigration, or claiming to be disenfranchised with the current state of politics, is huge.
Thankfully a Miss Hitler competition is far too overtly fash and probably not cynical enough to encourage anyone who isn't already converted to the cause.
National Action didn't reply to a request for comment from JOE.