Web trolls take over Ukip?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

Given their intensity online, an interesting fact about right-wing web trolls is how little they have so far managed to do on their own. Without help from state actors such as Russia, it would seem they are incapable of getting anything done in the real world. If they are able to take over Ukip, that would be a first sign that they are able to accomplish something in the real world. So far, web trolls with hundreds of thousands of subscribers on YouTube have failed to get even 10,000 people to sign-up for Ukip. This is more a sign of weakness than strength:

The best-known new arrival is Paul Joseph Watson, who has 1.2m YouTube subscribers. Calling himself a small-government libertarian, Watson works for Infowars, the US conspiracy theory website that has claimed the Sandy Hook primary school shooting was a hoax.

Another is Carl Benjamin, who posts videos as Sargon of Akkad and has attracted condemnation for alleged misogyny – he described some of Harvey Weinstein’s victims as “gold-digging whores” – and taunts about rape on Twitter, from which he is banned.

Finally there is Mark Meechan, on YouTube as Count Dankula. A self-styled comedian, he is best known for being fined £800 after he posted a video of his girlfriend’s pug raising its paw in response to comments such as “gas the Jews”.

Ukip has confirmed all three have been accepted into the party. Another online activist, the , has applied for membership but it remains unknown if this will be approved.

The group’s motives remain unclear, and are partly based on a joke. Meechan began the process by pledging to join if a tweet was retweeted 10,000 times, while Benjamin posted a video saying he was doing so “for the bantz”. But they have pledged to take the party over, with 1,000 new members arriving in their wake, according to Ukip sources.

Some of Ukip’s old guard are unimpressed, having already seen the interim leader, Gerard Batten, move the party towards a hard right, anti-Islam stance and associate himself with Robinson.

But a party spokesman said the new arrivals were welcome: “Many of them seem to be young and libertarian – it reminds me of the more socially liberal members we had in our youth wing about eight years ago. We lost a lot of them when the gay marriage law was passed.”

Nathan Ryding, the chair of Ukip’s youth wing, Young Independence, said the arrival of the online activists “allows us to be seen by a much younger audience all over the country”. He added: “They are all libertarians who believe in freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Ukip is the only party that seems to actually support those freedoms.”

The sudden new alliance highlights wider shifts in right-leaning politics in the past few years, much of which has taken place online.

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