Italian fascists have been promoting the banned neo-Nazi group Scottish Dawn ahead of Italy’s general election this weekend, prompting claims that extremists are trying to influence the vote in favour of far right parties.
Italy goes to the polls on Sunday amidst a tense political atmosphere and following a poisonous immigration debate, a campaign that has seen hostility directed towards some of the 600,000 refugees and migrants who have arrived in Italy in recent years.
Far right parties such as Lega Nord have preyed on some people’s fears over foreigners and multi-ethnicity and recent racist incidents included a drive-by shooting by an extremist who targeted six Africans.
The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), based in London, said that Italian extremists have been promoting Scottish Dawn on 4chan and Telegram before going into closed chat rooms to discuss strategy.
Scottish Dawn was designated a terrorist group and banned by the UK Government last year after a joint investigation by The Ferret in tandem with the Daily Record.
Our undercover filming caught Scottish Dawn members in an Edinburgh pub revealing their links to the banned neo-Nazi group National Action.
The Home Office later banned Scottish Dawn, saying it would not allow National Action to “masquerade” under different names.
ISD – which monitors the far right internationally – said that Italian extremists have been sharing propaganda and a Scottish Dawn video with Italian subtitles.
"Several Italian extreme-right groups on Telegram are sharing materials, memes and coordinating their strategic communication efforts to influence the election in favor of Lega Nord and Brothers of Italy." Jacob Davey, researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
Jacob Davey, a researcher at ISD, said: “Several Italian extreme-right groups on Telegram are sharing materials, memes and coordinating their strategic communication efforts to influence the election in favor of Lega Nord and Brothers of Italy.
“They are also exchanging knowledge with other extreme-right activists from abroad, and are drawing on Scottish Dawn material for their attention
“Generally, we see a high level of international collaboration around both meta-political and militant mobilization efforts, and this is a trend which we are witnessing the acceleration of.
Davey continued: “The groups appear to be self-organising collectives of grassroots activists, some of whom are associated with the neo-fascist group Casa Pound.
“However, as with the web brigades who organised in the run-up to the US, French and German elections the structure of these groups – outside of the web-chats where they organise – is fairly impalpable.
“If you wanted to situate them internationally they have some of the hallmarks of the US alt-right, gathering on the same fringe platforms (such as 4chan and 8chan), using the same influence tactics online, and broadly adopting the same lexicon.”
Julia Ebner, another researcher at ISD, added: “They are sharing Salvini’s (Matteo Salvini is the leader of Liga Nord) schedule and campaign materials and created a Facebook group called “Bataglione Memetico” (memetic warfare) to jointly push Lega Nord’s propaganda into the heart of the online discourse.
“In the Telegram groups there were also Americans with Italian language skills who offered to help with the online influencer operations.”
The Italian election sees the return of Silvio Berlusconi after a tax fraud conviction and the poll could result in a hung parliament.
Last month a 28-year-old called Italian skinhead called Luca Traini went on a shooting rampage in the Italian town of Macerata.
Over two hours he shot five men and one woman, all African.
It was reported that after the rampage Traini made a fascist salute with an Italian flag wrapped around his shoulders, and shouted “Italy for Italians”.
Police who raided his mother’s home found far-right literature, including a copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and a book by Benito Mussolini, along with a flag bearing a Celtic cross, a symbol frequently used by white supremacists.
Meanwhile, a new report by Hope Not Hate mentions Scottish Dawn and warns that the UK is facing a “surging far-right terror threat”.
The report – State of Hate 2018 – warns of further violence and terrorism to come from the far right, warning that the rising threat is largely due to the online activity of neo-Nazis.
“Combined with burgeoning online hatred, directed particularly towards Muslims, we fear further violence from the extreme right in the months to come." Nick Lowles, chief executive at Hope Not hate
HOPE not hate chief executive Nick Lowles said: “We are facing a surging threat from far-right terrorism and violent extremism.
“No-one should be surprised by this upsurge – we have long warned the authorities about the problem of far-right terrorism and violence – and it is vitally important now that police and the government do more to crack down on the peddlers of hate and those pushing a civil war rhetoric.
“Combined with burgeoning online hatred, directed particularly towards Muslims, we fear further violence from the extreme right in the months to come.
Lowles added: “This rising terrorist threat is the consequence of the increasingly confrontational tone of online far-right rhetoric, combined with the almost universal extreme-right belief that a civil war between Islam and the West is coming, as well as the growing influence of hardline European nazis living in the UK.
“These are people who believe they are at war with society, at war with Islam, and in the last 18 months they have put this desire for war into action.
He continued: “Coupled with the collapse of the British National Party, which has convinced some hardliners that there is now no parliamentary route to fascism, and the Islamist terrorist attacks last year which led directly to four terrorist attacks or attempted attacks in response, and a worsening public perception of British Muslims and Islam generally, we must be prepared for more terrorist plots and use of extreme violence from the far right for the foreseeable future.”
A version of this story was published by the Daily Record on 3rd March 2018.