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How Trump supporters are radicalised by the far right

Mark Townsend Home Affairs Editor
·3-min read

Far right “playbooks” teaching white nationalists how to recruit and radicalise Trump supporters have surfaced on the encrypted messaging app Telegram ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The documents, seen by the Observer, detail how to convert mainstream conservatives who have just joined Telegram into violent white supremacists. They were found last week by Tech Against Terrorism, an initiative launched by the UN counter terrorism executive directorate.

Large numbers of Trump supporters migrated on to Telegram in recent days after Parler, the social media platform favoured by the far right, was forced offline for hosting threats of violence and racist slurs after the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January.

The documents have prompted concern that far right extremists congregating on Telegram instead of Parler has made it far harder for law enforcement to track where the next attack could come from.

Already, hundreds of suspects threatening violence during this week’s inauguration of Biden have been identified by the FBI.

One of the playbooks, found on a channel with 6,000 subscribers, was specially drawn up to radicalise Trump supporters who had just joined Telegram and teach them “how to have the proper OPSEC [operations security] to keep your identity concealed”.

The four-page document encourages recruiters to avoid being overtly racist or antisemitic initially when approaching Trump supporters, stating: “Trying to show them racial IQ stats and facts on Jewish power will generally leave them unreceptive... that material will be instrumental later on in their ideological journey.

“The point of discussion you should focus on is the blatant anti-white agenda that is being aggressively pushed from every institution in the country, as well as white demographic decline and its consequences.”

The document concludes with its author stating: “Big Tech made a serious mistake by banishing conservatives to the one place [Telegram] where we have unfettered access to them, and that’s a mistake they’ll come to regret!”

The document is named the “comprehensive redpill guide”, a reference to the online term red-pilling, used to describe a conversion to extreme far-right views.

The document adds: “Not every normie can be redpilled, but if they’re receptive and open-minded to hearing what you have to say, you should gradually be sending them edgier pro-white/anti-Zionist content as they move along in their journey.”

Another white nationalist recruitment guide uncovered by Tech Against Terrorism, which is working with global tech firms to tackle terrorist use of the internet, shares seven steps of “conservative conversion”.

The National Guard prepare to protect Joe Biden’s inauguration, as fears grow of attacks by the far-right.
The National Guard prepare to protect Joe Biden’s inauguration, as fears grow of attacks by the far-right. Photograph: Samuel Corum/EPA

Found on a Telegram channel with 1,732 subscribers, it also advocates white supremacist recruiters hiding their true credentials because most mainstream Trump supporters would be initially wary of strangers espousing extremist views.

“To them ‘Nazism’ is the worst thing possible. So having a swastika as a pfp [picture for profile] or your name being “heilhitler88” will automatically turn them off,” states the guide.

It adds: “Ask them questions such as: ‘What are conservatives conserving? Why are we losing? Is it a coincidence that Hollywood, corporations and media are all against us? Who is responsible?’ (Don’t go into Jews controlling everything, they worship Ben Shapiro [US conservative commentator], they need to come across that idea themselves).”

Adam Hadley, founder and director of Tech Against Terrorism, said Parler’s downfall and the resultant exodus of disenfranchised Trump supporters on to Telegram could escalate the numbers of individuals who could be classified as a threat.

“There is much to be concerned about in the far-right playbooks we have uncovered on Telegram.

“If mainstream social media platforms are too quick to ban users who post material that may be distasteful, but not illegal, we simply push them into the hands of those who seek to radicalise them.”

Hadley added: “At this pivotal moment in the fight against violent extremism, we must ensure our response upholds the very democratic principles we seek to protect, and that we cannot be accused of stifling legitimate political debate.”