According to a new report by anti-fascist researchers, fascist fitness groups have become propaganda cells to promote racial division in the UK, fueled by anger over migration and the rising cost of living.
The more extreme fringes of the right-wing movement believe in the inevitability of “race war” and use online fitness discussion groups to recruit and spread far-right views under the banner of health and good to be, says campaign group Hope Not Hate.
Its annual ‘State of Hate’ report documents a resurgence of the anti-migrant far-right in the UK caused in part by the end of lockdown, the rising cost of living, the British withdrawal from Afghanistan and disenchantment with the current government.
He said far-right groups established in the UK were using discontent over migration as a rallying point for recruitment, with 125 known protests outside hotels and accommodation used by asylum seekers the year last.
Many protests have taken place in the north of England, home to the leadership of the best-known far-right political party, Britain First. Extremists have also demonstrated on the south coast of England, where more than 28,000 people arrived last year in small boats from northern Europe.
The report says migration, combined with politicians’ continued distrust of lockdown policies, during the Covid-19 pandemic, has provided far-right groups with a big opportunity to secure new followers.
Hope Not Hate chief executive Nick Lowles said: “After years in the political wilderness, the crises we have collectively faced over the past two years have emboldened cynical far-right activists to exploit our fears. and our uncertainties and to return to traditional campaigning methods.
“As hostile rhetoric around migration continued to dominate the headlines and conspiracy theories began to steadily infiltrate the media and mainstream politics, an environment increasingly conducive to authoritarianism and populism s is developed.”
Hope Not Hate said the fascist fitness boom follows a trend seen elsewhere in Europe, turning an individual self-improvement project into an ideological movement.
The groups mix “extreme fascist ideology with self-improvement and camaraderie”, which can bring people into the movement.
“Ominously, others see it as a preparation for violence against minorities, anti-fascists and race war,” the report said.
Members post pictures of themselves on Telegram with weight loss goals. The posts are mixed with far-right posts and postings of far-right images.
One administrator wrote, “When you lift alone, you lift with Hitler,” according to Hope Not Hate.
He cited the case of a fitness group on Telegram with about 30 members that pledges to “fight degeneracy through honor, tradition and brotherhood” and organizes an annual hike for group members. The members are ultimately supposed to fight another member of the group as part of the Regime.
The group said it is fueling a long-term trend among the far right that their goals cannot be achieved through the ballot box and want “the total overhaul of the system and the start of a race war”.
He said the language in far-right forums was becoming more extreme. Last year, 18 far-right activists and supporters were convicted of terrorism offenses in the UK, twice as many as in 2020.
Updated: March 09, 2022, 00:01