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Monday 16 January 2012

Anti-Nationalist Website Popularity: Who’s scraping the Bottom of the Barrel?

Having taken a look at the relative popularity of British and English nationalist websites, it is time to peer into a realm which we do not find agreeable, for there much frothing and fury is to be found: the world of anti-English and anti-British politics. Given the mainstream disdain for nationalism I will not be looking at websites belonging to the BBC, The Guardian or the Labour Party for example, for despite being persistently anti-British (in particular anti-English) the primary reason for their existence is not stated to be the ‘struggle’ against nationalism. Instead, this piece looks at sites belonging to self-styled ‘anti-fascist’ organisations/campaigns, as well as Muslim political groups and the parties of the Trotskyist Left. For the sake of a fair comparison, the three-month trailing traffic averages were taken on the same day as those relating to the websites covered in the earlier article British Nationalism on the Web: Who’s up and Who’s down – 9th January 2012.

The first thing to note is that generally speaking this group of sites attracts less traffic than nationalist sites, although in a number of instances their Facebook followings are very significant. Two anti-English campaigning organisations will be tiresomely familiar to readers: Hope Not Hate (HNH) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF). Once these two worked closely together, but then had a spat over tactics and fell out. Despite UAF’s massive financial muscle afforded by its TUC backing, its website is less popular than that of HNH (you may be surprised to learn that at times its popularity has even trailed that of Durotrigan): their global traffic rankings being HNH 765,262 and UAF 1,458,466. Nationally, UAF edged ahead slightly, being ranked at 54,474 compared to 57,436. Being globalist internationalists however, neither body would attach significance to this second set of figures, surely? Compared to the global popularity of the nationalist websites, these two lag way down the list behind the BNP, British Freedom Party, EDL, BNP Ideas, UKIP and Britain First. In terms of Facebook ‘friends’ however, both HNH and UAF score highly, with the former having 50,436 (behind the BNP only) and the latter 15,579 (placing it also behind the EDL).

Facebook is of course the social networking site par excellence and its defining feature has, I think, something interesting to say about nationalism and public reticence (or fear): one’s likes and dislikes are available for everyone to see. Thus, whereas it is socially acceptable to be seen to be ‘anti-racist’ and ‘anti-fascist’, generally speaking it is not socially acceptable to be seen to be nationalist or anti-Islamist. The Facebook phenomenon thus leads to a distorted overrepresentation of the level of support for what are seen to be ‘socially acceptable’ groups compared to those that are assigned pariah status by the mainstream media. It could, for example, be risky to state that you were a ‘friend’ of the EDL or a nationalist group on your profile as your employer or one of your colleagues might see it with potentially damaging repercussions.

Having mentioned Facebook and the EDL, let’s look at the latter’s sworn foe that sprang up as a negative copycat organisation/campaign: the Muslim Defence League (MDL). The MDL doesn’t have a website of its own, but its Facebook page is almost as popular as that of the EDL’s, clocking in with 25,308 ‘friends’, just 1,800 behind. The Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPACUK), which was set up to increase Muslim political participation and representation across the country has both a website and a Facebook page, and proves to outstrip the popularity of the Trotskyist political parties by a mile. Out of the sample under examination, MPACUK has the highest website ranking at 317,632 globally and 21,593 in the UK. This places its traffic between that of UKIP and Britain First on a global level, but behind them within the UK. Its Facebook following of 6,408 places it slightly ahead of the English Democrats, makes it more than twice as popular as the British Freedom Party and three times as popular as UKIP. 

Turning now to the Trotskyite rump parties, it is clear that in terms of the internet they are easily outpaced by the bulk of nationalist sites (and indeed by many nationalist blogs). The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) attracts a global traffic ranking of 1,940,152, but fails to generate enough traffic for a UK ranking. The Respect Party comes in at a derisory ranking of 20,402,382, placing it close to the Freedom Democrats in respect of its unpopularity, yet how many times have we seen the scowling face of its leader Salma Yaqoob on Question Time?! With respect (pardon the pun) to Facebook, the SWP manages to attract 3,745 ‘friends’, placing it someway behind the English Democrats but ahead of the British Freedom Party. Respect by contrast, has 257.

Generally speaking, anti-nationalist organisations, campaigns and parties are not generating as much traffic to their main websites as nationalists, but in terms of their Facebook following, the two big anti-nationalist campaigns/bodies HNH and UAF do exert a significant degree of public appeal. What is striking is that despite its relatively small size and limited activist base, the SWP manages to have an undue influence upon political life in the UK. There are lessons it would seem, that could possibly be learnt from elements of its strategy and tactics. Who in the long term will win the propaganda war?

We should of course be cautious with respect to overinterpreting the significance of such figures, for if they genuinely reflected the public's political mood, then the BNP, British Freedom Party, EDL, BNP Ideas and UKIP would be the largest political parties/groups in the country, for their websites all outstrip the popularity of those belonging to the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. Quite clearly this is not the case, but instead bears testimony to the dull and predictable content of the sites belonging to the big three.

Anti-nationalist Symbol of the Trotskyist Fourth International 

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