Allison Morris: Rise of Lone Wolf Fanatics Fueled by Online Hate Spreaders
The murder of Sir David Amess has raised questions about the protection of officials. A 25-year-old man is being held under the terrorism law with detectives having until Friday to question him, but early indications suggest it is a crime motivated by Islamic extremism.
stabbing of the Member of Parliament for Essex during regular surgery in one constituency was shocking at the level of violence used.
It is reminiscent of the murder of Labor MP Jo Cox, shot and stabbed to death by a man who held radical far-right views.
Thomas Mair has been jailed for life for the murder of Cox, which occurred a week before the EU referendum vote. Mair shouted “Britain first” as he attacked the young mother.
Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen, was on her way for regular constituency surgery. Both MPs appear to have been targeted by extremists, albeit people of very different ideologies.
They have been attacked during regular meetings with voters, which is an important part of any public official’s job.
We live in a part of the world where, in our not-so-distant past, politicians were seen as targets.
They worked under threat of death, whether from loyalist paramilitaries or Republicans, and often needed security measures to ensure their safety.
On the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and DUP MP Gavin Robinson both spoke about the recent threats and how they were contacted regarding their safety.
Former prime ministers Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster still have personal security guards although they are no longer elected into the public service.
While this threat thankfully no longer exists in any meaningful way, there is a new kind of danger facing members of the public, much of it stoked by social media conspiracy theorists.
The Sunday Independent reported that the PSNI was investigating the bullying of Nichola Mallon, who was the target of anti-vaccination elements.
Members of one group handed a “letter of responsibility” to the SDLP minister’s office in Belfast last week, accusing it of harming children by endorsing the coronavirus vaccine.
“It’s very upsetting, it’s a very scary experience, especially for my staff. It makes me anxious, ”Ms. Mallon said.
Those with a similar ideology have been picketing the homes of politicians and public health experts in the Republic.
They also sent threatening letters to doctors and teachers.
Last week, I spoke about the rise of the far right in Ireland and its role in promoting Covid plots.
I have never preached to others about vaccines or containment, I am not a medical expert. I leave that to others who are more qualified.
But first, mention the far right in this column and my email inbox got the weirdest ‘legal’ letter I’ve ever received – and trust me when I tell you I get strange letters.
Containing thousands of words, it takes too long to reproduce, but here’s a taste of the tone.
“This is a notice of responsibility for crimes against humanity and the prima facie case involving you in the genocide perpetrated against the adults and children of this country.
“The predicted third wave will be caused by the interaction of 5G microwave radiation emissions with nanometallic contaminants in COVID-19 vaccines, which manifest themselves in all known symptoms of COVID-19 and subsequent deaths.
“Following orders is not a defense in law, as was confirmed at Nuremberg before the execution of those who had done so.”
It was signed by someone called Caoimhin, who seems to have a lot of free time.
As a security reporter, I have received many threats over the years.
Most of them are emitted by sad bags with too much free time. I tend to think of them in their mom’s storage room with matching curtains and duvet covers, creating an online character that is far removed from the reality of their lives.
But others worry me for the safety of my family.
Many of these threats are made on behalf of paramilitary organizations.
However, the recent increase in the number of “lone wolf” attackers, or small groups of people who have become radicalized or too obsessed with certain topics or issues, scares me much more.
Paramilitary groups have leaders and structures. A person armed with a knife and a paranoid plot acts without coercion or fear of consequences. It is also much harder to protect people, whether politicians or public figures, from random fanatics.
There is less chance of any intelligence being detected on such a plane, since most of it is random acts done with minimal planning.
Offering politicians armed protection during constituency surgeries is off-putting to genuine people with real needs and concerns who use such services.
Politicians should be part of the community, not locked behind metal doors.
Rather than wasting already scarce resources tracking politicians, the PSNI would do better to research those who use social media to target public figures, to assess the threat these individuals pose to society, and to act accordingly.
And more importantly, social media companies need to take responsibility for the people they allow to spread hate and disinformation using their platforms as a vehicle.
Direct resources to the perpetrators, not the targets of the violence.