Tracing the Irish far-right on Telegram
(edited with a couple of additions 15/05)
On 12 May, in the centre of Dublin, there was a protest against an area where refugees had been sleeping rough. It ended:
With the area the people had occupied burned and with protesters and their supporters self-congratulating:
Take a moment to admire the grassrootsyness of this announcement.It was never gonna go any other way.
DUBLIN SAVES IRELAND’S HONOUR
Or, to about 50,000 readers, Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, proclaiming:
This is why Dublin locals took action against the migrant shanty town.They protect their women and children at all costs. No chanting communists or migrants wielding sticks will prevent them.
(Sources in each case below.)
This is not, unfortunately, the only Friday night anti-immigrant activity happening in Ireland at the moment. In my own hometown in the north, there has been a series of protests outside a hotel housing — almost certainly — refugees from war and natural disaster.
There are similarities. As the Dubliners proclaim themselves ‘grass roots’ so do so-called ‘concerned residents groups’ protest hotels; as British interlopers take an unwanted interest in goings on in the south (see below), so they do in the north. And in both cases, local affairs seem refracted through an odd culture wars framework — the ‘Irish for Irish people’ gang somehow, and bizarrely, are also the anti-trans, anti-vaccine, anti-Ukraine, pro-Trump, etc.etc. people. This is, or at least seems to me, a new and unnatural import.
This made me curious: what’s going on? Why this sudden rise in anti-immigrant sentiment presented in this alien way? And so I started exploring the Irish far-right ecosystem on the messaging service Telegram. Below I present some things I found. My main aim is just to put some data out there and to enable those interested to look at my sources. But I’m also concerned about whys and why nows, and will propose some views about that.
I’ve written this super quickly so there’s definitely mistakes, caveat lector.
I collected about 4700 messages from a bunch of channels stretching back over a year. I used the following method: starting with a random member of the Telegram Irish far-right, I used the Telegram api Pyrogram to read 500 of their messages; from that, I made a list of any post that was a repost, and noted the op account. Then I added that new account to the list and searched for channels it reposted, thus making a sort of set of concentric circles of people centered on the random member where at least the inner circles were pretty reliably far-right accounts.
I did that a few times but combinatorial explosion means you can’t do it too many times (in fact, having written this it looks to me like the sheet I concentrated on has less breadth — fewer distinct channels — and more depth (more posts for each channel). That’s perhaps not ideal but I reasonably confident most of the big Irish right Telegram channels are here). I’ll present the most recently got posts, but first a couple of preliminary notes:
- From this, you can source the above messages: in each case, to get a message in the sheet, type t.me/Account/ID. You’ll need Telegram for big media files.
- There are at least two visible problems: certain messages return ‘None’ text for reasons I can’t discern. It captures text messages and media captions, which are the main ones anyway
- The reacts stuff is completely broken, ignore that.
- I reiterate the parenthesis: the particular document I’m looking at perhaps fails to give an adequate representation of the breadth of viewpoints: more work is needed.
Armed with this sheet, I had a few questions. Concerned about something similar happening in my town, I wondered: is there any tell-tale signs that indicate things are about to heat up? Concerned about the seeming presence of foreign (British) people and their grievances in the north, I wondered whether we might see the same in the south?
In order to try to answer that, I tried to find the very first post about the issue and then worked my way through them going forward in time. (Incidentally, yet another caveat: I found I think an earlier one not on my sheet but it has alas been lost to my internet history. I’ll update if I find it again.)
The First Posts?
On the 10th at 1am, account Late Stage Ireland, username orlaredchan (banned on Twitter, incidentally, which shows why you shouldn’t rely on only on platform) writes, to about 3000 readers:
There are now two areas where asylum seekers have set up camps in Dublin. One is at the International Protection Office off Mount St Upper and the other is down an alley which they’ve barricaded off Sandwith Street Upper about half a kilometre away. Locals aren’t happy and have been recording confrontations.
Curiously, you can hear one asylum seeker in the clips above responding to one local man with the NGO talking point that Ireland has a diaspora of 80 million people which they claim requires us to accommodate unlimited numbers of foreigners.
Anyone could take these men into their homes and get them off the streets but for all the talk from the 35% of people (https://t.me/OrlaredChan/6639) who say we need to welcome ever more asylum seekers to Ireland, few it would seem are willing to lead by example and share their homes with them
Late Stage Ireland
There are now two areas where asylum seekers have set up camps in Dublin. One is at the International Protection Office…
That afternoon, already, Tommy Robinson has gotten in on the action. To a large audience of 32 thousand or so, he writes:
Parts of Ireland now resembling shanty towns.And still the government keep importing.
Attached to his post is the video of Late Stage Ireland in the top left (he doesn’t give credit).
This very weakly suggests the following to me: local people note their grievances; these grievances get picked up and magnified, and that magnification serves to worsen the atmosphere and make violence more likely. Let’s continue to see if the data bears that out.
There is then over a day with, as far as I can tell, little about this on Telegram. This seems improbable, so if people notice omissions let me know. Things start again on the evening of the 11th, as my sheet goes from empty to full of highlighted stories:
Eyeballing it, you can see another popular Robinson post and a post by ‘Ireland Archive’ which gets shared a lot. About 24 hours before Friday night, we see a very prescient comment to ‘expect more’ trouble.
Scrolling a bit more, more yellow:
Look, incidentally at two things: the timestamps (the leftmost one; ignore the one beside it) showing that all these messages came in the wee hours, and the outsize influence, in terms of views, that Robinson’s messages on the topic got.
It seems that the story that one of the people staying at the camp is a criminal suddenly explodes on the morning of the 12th and perhaps serves, together with the press the story got previously, to call people to action.
Incidentally, the story here is clearly a nonsense. You can see the main claims above: that among those staying in Pearse Street there was one Musa Dogan who is i) ‘wanted in 150 countries’ for ii)‘terrorism’ as well as iii) ‘arson, bank robbery, kidnapping’ who was iv) ‘attacking concerned locals with a spiked railing’ v) having been let into Ireland without being checked.
Let’s take them in turn. The source for i) appears to be this article which actually says he’s wanted “in more than 150 countries associated with Interpol”. A quick google indicates there are 184 Interpol countries. 184 is more than 150. A simple explanation is that the request for his arrest went via Interpol and thus to all its member countries. It’s not like he got in trouble in all these places!
But still — wanted by interpol, that’s bad surely. Especially if it’s for terrorism. But an extremely perfunctory google sheds light: he is wanted by Turkey. He is wanted for having been a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The fact that he has never been handed over is because human rights agencies think he’s at risk of mistreatment including torture in Turkey.
In fairness, it should be noted that per Wikipedia, KPP is:
designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, the EU and some other countries; however, the labeling of the PKK as a terrorist organization is controversial, and some analysts and organizations contend that the PKK no longer engages in organized terrorist activities or systemically targets civilians. Turkey has often viewed the demand for education in Kurdish as supporting terrorist activities by the PKK. Both in 2008 and 2018 the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the PKK was classified as a terror organization without due process. Nevertheless, the EU has maintained the designation.
Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that the local dialogue concerning the person is not sensitive to this complicated context. Concerning iii), that he’s wanted for other crimes — I think this is just made up. I can’t find information concerning v), and as for the iron bar, that probably refers to this video:
Make of that what you will — there’s clearly some truth to the claim but also ‘attacking locals with a spiked railing’ can conjure images of unprovoked attacks on unsuspecting people and that’s clearly not what happened. Overall, then, the story that seems to have animated the group doesn’t stand up.
More stories during the day, and then the evening:
Scroll up a bit more and you get the self-congratulatory messages we started with.
Let’s consider briefly the odd culture wars stuff — the pro-Trump anti-trans (etc.) messaging that is prevalent on these channels. Here are some examples, all from Irish accounts, all from 14 May:
All they needed was to create the illusion of a pandemic by euthanising the elderly as Dr. Gerry Waters has explained. . There was no pandemic in 2020, the figures reflect that. Here is a break down of deaths by county from CSO figures and Rip.ie figures. The real pandemic is now as we are experiencing 20% excess mortality on 2019.
If wanted communism id go to fucking north Korea
Remove the politicians connected to the WEF, remove the ones who are gay, remove the ones with pronouns and Pride flags in their bios, remove the ones who can’t define woman.
‘We need to be taken care of first!’ Chicago community where 97% voted for Biden react furiously after finding out 500 migrants are heading their way — as some claim they have been bumped off housing waiting lists.Chickens coming home to roost.
This is just very weird. Faced with an arbitrary post from an Irish and from a British or American far right person, in many cases you’d be hardpressed to say who it came from. There’s been a sort of globalization of culture wars whereby cultural issues get transplanted from their original context into new ones in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.
It would be overly neat to try and give a theory. The data, such as it is, is more important. Nevertheless, I think there are two things worth attending to: the role of big-voiced outsiders willing and able to fan the flames, and the way events can accelerate, especially when seemingly pertinent news breaks.
(Sheet: https://we.tl/t-QVFzaBPo4j. Python script: available (having been tidied) if wanted.)