ExtremismBlind Networks in the Extreme-Right

By Ben Lee

Published 16 June 2020

A potent combination of technology and a fractured extreme-right is producing innovative organizations that are harder to police. Anonymous networks can draw on a pool of ready-politicized recruits and offer internet-bound activists an opportunity to get involved in physical activism at minimal cost and seemingly with little risk. The scope for more coordinated forms of direct action seems limited under this organizational arrangement, but this type of activity is a good opportunity for those looking to make the leap from digital-only to real-world activism.

A potent combination of technology and a fractured extreme-right is producing innovative organizations that are harder to police.

In April 2020 two men aged 20 and 22 were arrested after posting racist stickers in public spaces across the city of Sheffield. The stickers featured various slogans critical of the government’s handling of coronavirus and linking it to immigration; they also referenced the group Hundred-Handers. Sheffield is not an isolated instance and Hundred-Handers material has seemingly been posted publicly as far afield as the United States, the Netherlands, Canada, and Germany.

Historically, the extreme-right has fluctuated between periods of greater and lesser unity and is currently going through a fragmented period. The limited extreme-right groupuscules that have emerged have been subject to increased state scrutiny and are in some cases broken up by state action. In the United Kingdom, extreme-right group National Action and spin-offs including Scottish Dawn, NS131, and System Resistance Network have been legally proscribed.

The vulnerability of organizations to state action is well-known within the extreme-right and several solutions have been offered. One-time extreme-right ideologue David Myatt suggested that the extreme-right in the United Kingdom should be divided between political and paramilitary wings, with a firewall between the two. U.S. activist Louis Beam developed the concept of leaderless resistance, suggesting that ideologically well-versed activists could act independently of one another and still achieve a common goal.


What is an extreme-right groupuscule?
An extreme-right formation often with limited membership and niche ideological and stylistic appeal. Small and self-contained, groupuscules are hard to police or ban effectively. Groupuscular organization is maintained through a network of informal contacts and shared information channels, especially online. German neo-Nazi groups, as well as the U.K.-based National Action, have been analyzed as groupuscules.


More recently some extreme-right groupuscules have experimented with technology to create blind networks. Using encrypted messaging applications, members take instructions from an anonymous central channel and also take steps to conceal their own identities. The result is a blind network in which a central handler can issue instructions to members who then carry them out and report back – entirely anonymously. Although this model seems unsuited to high-cost and high-risk forms of activism, as it may limit the development of personal trust and group loyalty, it has been used in support of low-intensity, real-world activism.