Thursday, 26 February 2015

Exposure: How does the Steadfast Trust's response stand up?

In my previous post I summarised how the Steadfast Trust had been presented by the recent Exposure documentary. Just to recap, here is the charity's response to the programme and its accusations:

"Tim Hawke has been suspended pending an internal investigation, and Darren Clarke suspended from our supporters' list.
The Trust does not share or support the offensive views expressed, some by people unknown to the charity. We cannot be held responsible for the views, actions or political affiliations of our supporters. 
We always work within charity law and all donations are used to further our registered objectives.  The Steadfast Trust is not and never has been political in its aims and we are perplexed by the suggestion it has become the focal pint for the far right. 
Tim Hawke attended the event to identify whether it could benefit from a grant, he disliked what he saw and told trustees he would not attend in future. 
We have criteria that English Community Groups must follow. Only a fraction of groups are sanctioned by us. Tim Hawke says 'burn the mosques' was a comment on the page of one group, and he decided the trust could not be associated with it. Mark Taylor's comments on skinheads were made in jest and the event referred to did not happen."

There are two points I will give to the Steadfast Trust here.

One, the documentary was misleading in making its allegation that the Steadfast Trust is "a new focal point for the fascist far right", implying that all the old members of the BNP, the NF and the rest are now rallying around Steadfast. While the organisation has certainly picked up supporters from such groups, and it is definitely the focal point for a specific subset of the far-right (the subset which I have termed "Englisc" nationalism), it is not a major focal point for the British far-right as a whole. That is a worthwhile distinction.

Two, the documentary's presentation of Tim Hawke's "burn the mosques" discussion is suspect. It begins halfway through the conversation, with the narrator summarising what came before; we are left to take his word for it. So, it is quite plausible that Hawke's words were twisted by the documentary.

Beyond these two concerns, however, the word which I would use to describe Exposure's segment on the Steadfast Trust is "unsurprising." I have written multiple posts on this blog analysing the Steadfast Trust and its satellite groups, and time and time again I have provided evidence that the charity (former charity, now - it has been re-registered) is knowingly associating itself with racist groups. I will recap some of my findings in this post.

Mark Taylor: the man behind the Steadfast Trust?

The documentary portrays trustees Tim Hawke and Mark Taylor as the two joint leaders of the Steadfast Trust; my own research suggests that this is the case.

If so, it would be reasonable to assume that - now Hawke is suspended "pending an internal  investigation" - Mark Taylor is in charge of Steadfast. Perhaps it was Taylor who drafted the above statement, Taylor who is currently manning the Steadfast Facebook page, and possibly even Taylor who will be investigating Hawke.

Mark Taylor

So, just who is Mark Taylor and what does he stand for? Well, RationalWiki has an article on Taylor which argues that he was the owner of a now-defunct YouTube account called "Seaxwielder"; I added my own thoughts to the evidence here.

To summarise: Taylor and "Seaxwielder" are both Steadfast activists; have both lived in Kent; have both used the pseudonym "Scyld"; and are both artists. Capping it off, "Seaxwielder" linked to Taylor's website on his profile:

The likelihood that Taylor was the man behind this account is definitely worth our attention when we consider the racist material posted by "Seaxwielder":

This is far stronger than the prejudice shown by Hawke in the documentary. Taylor would appear to be the more overtly racist of the two men, which makes the charity's suspension of Hawke hard to take seriously. From my point of view the suspension appears to be a case of Hawke falling on his sword so as to save the charity's reputation.

The extremist connections of the Steadfast Trust

The charity's official claim is that it did not endorse the Maldon event, and finds the fascist presence "abhorrent":

I think it is true that the Maldon meet-up was never endorsed by the Steadfast Trust - certainly, I can find no mention of it on the Steadfast website. But this is irrelevant when we consider that the charity had, on multiple other occasions, knowingly aligned itself with racists.

Consider this posting, in which it openly invites members of the ASF and Woden's Folk to a Battle Abbey event:

I've written about Woden's Folk and its founder Wulf Ingessunu at length here. It is hard to say where to start when summarising the views of this neo-Nazi cult: the more you scratch the surface, the more absurdities you find.

Briefly, they believe that Hitler was a divine avatar who fought a "holy war" against "dark forces"; that the 1980s TV series Robin of Sherwood was a divinely inspired work of prophecy; that white people did not evolve from apes, but rather have a "vegetative basis"; and that the two world wars were caused by Loki. At least one member also believes that Mars was once inhabited by an intelligent lifeform which is currently worshipped by Zionists.

The ASF (Anglo-Saxon Foundation) is rather more straightforward: it is a racist forum filled with white supremacists. Here are some typical postings by three of the forum's regular members:

Supporters of this movement will tell me that it is unfair (nay, positively anglophobic) to dismiss the entire forum because of a few objectionable posters. But a cursory glance over the board will demonstrate that these objectionable posters comprise the entire membership: even the forum's owner, Seaxan, thinks that Jews should be expelled from England.

As I demonstrated here, both Tim Hawke and Mark Taylor are members of the Anglo-Saxon Foundation - in fact, Taylor used to be one of its moderators. They are therefore well aware of the levels of racism to be found at the forum; despite this, they are perfectly willing to invite the ASF members to their events.

Darren Clarke, one of the activists spotlighted in Exposure, posts at the ASF under the name "Edmundy". The Steadfast Trust suspended him from its list of supporters in the wake of the documentary. As with the suspension of Hawke, this smacks of damage control: the Steadfast Trust openly invited members of a racist forum to its event, so it can hardly be surprised that one of those members turned out to be racist.

We can find more evidence of Steadfast colluding with the ASF in the documentary itself, although the makers did not pick up on it. Remember the sequence showing a Steadfast stall manned by Taylor and Hawke...?

Notice that one of the t-shirt designs on sale features the URL This is the address of the Anglo-Saxon Foundation. The charity was deliberately promoting Seaxan's racist forum.

Another hate group with which Steadfast has aligned itself is the Northants English Welfare Society. I examined this organisation in depth here, demonstrating that its frontman Walter Greenway is a Nazi sympathiser and rabid anti-semite. This is just one of his pro-Nazi postings:

The charity once named the Northants English Welfare Society as an organisation which "can benefit from help in the form of financial grants and advice / assistance from the Steadfast Trust". For an idea of how close Steadfast is to Greenway's racist group, just look at this joint stall:

As we can see, the racism and fascism demonstrated at the Maldon event were not some isolated occurrence. The Steadfast Trust has a proven history of knowingly aligning itself with racist groups, including outright pro-Nazi organisations.

The supporters respond

The Exposure documentary provoked the ire of Steadfast supporters even before it aired. One anonymous blogger hailed the documentary as "desperately pathetic", even though it wasn't due to be screened for another four days. A number of news websites summarised the documentary prior to its broadcast, resulting in comments such as these:

After the documentary was aired, heated discussions broke out on the Steadfast Trust's Faebook page; most of the comments have now been deleted.

At least one supporter lost faith in the charity after seeing its seedy underbelly:

Others, however, began defending the Steadfast Trust, sometimes with conspiracy theories. These two decided that the racists seen in the documentary were probably actors hired to discredit the charity:

"Æthelflæd Seaxmaiden", however, took a different tact and declared that trustee Tim Hawke is actually a plant who was deliberately sabotaging the charity. She also smugly dismissed the undercover cameraman as a "red", although quite how she can have deduced his views on economics is unclear:

The aforementioned Northants Enbglish Welfare Society chimed in with support. Ironically, this posting from a neo-Nazi group was followed by a comment from Lee Ingram arguing that the Steadfast Trust should issue a statement clarifying that Nazis aren't welcome:

Poor, naive Lee. He seems genuinely unaware that the Steadfast Trust has been deliberately inviting neo-Nazis to its events: if it took a principled stand against racists, it would lose most of its support base.

Speaking of Lee Ingram, his "English Advocates" Facebook page expressed its outrage at the affair, pleading that the Steadfast Trust is "a tiny charity... with no Government funding" - as though this means that it is somehow beyond criticism:

Note the implication that Nazi sympathisers within the English nationalist movement are part of a conspiracy. This is a curious sentiment coming from English Advocates, a page that has previously linked with approval to the openly neo-Nazi website Metapedia:

Finally, possibly the most interesting post comes from the Stormfront member Atrociter. I've written about this man before - he once claimed to have spent the day with a Steadfast trustee, indicating that he is pretty close to the charity.

He was apparently in the Maldon group shown in the documentary, and complains that Exposure never showed them joking about a white man wobbling on his bicycle being a "human sacrifice" (this, apparently, is meant to justify their hostility towards a passing mixed-race family). He also makes the reasonable point that the Islamic extremism seen in the same documentary was a graver concern than the Steadfast Trust, before unexpectedly showing his support for the fundamentalist Hindu group:

He also shows some familiarity with the undercover reporter:

Ironic that a Steadfast Trust supporter can object to the charity being associated with white supremacy... while posting at Stormfront.

In conclusion, Exposure may have represented the Steadfast Trust unfairly in some cases. In other cases, however, it was much less harsh than was deserved - think of how much mileage it could have got out of the Steadfast/Woden's Folk connection, for starters.

I'd say that while certain aspects of the documentary are questionable, it was broadly accurate as a whole. The Steadfast Trust has a history of knowingly aligning itself with neo-Nazis and similar extremists, and has now paid the price. I won't shed a tear.

In the next post in this series, I will talk about the second charity examined in the Exposure documentary: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh.

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