The Barrow Street conspiracy

On Saturday 10 August roughly 460 people descended on Barrow Street in Dublin. This street houses the European headquarters of Google. And for the last 4 weeks former journalist turned far-right activist Gemma O’Doherty has protested outside the building. O’Doherty had her YouTube channels removed by the company after she violated their rules on hate speech. She had also attempted to circumvent a temporary suspension it had initially placed on her account, thereby resulting in the complete termination of her accounts. 

Although O’Doherty’s daily protests have regularly attracted only around 20 people at best, it has become notable for her comments attacking minorities. Also notable for their presence are members of Ireland’s far-right National Party, including its leader Justin Barrett. O’Doherty has said that she agrees with many of the party’s policies, declaring that her and Barrett are “singing off the same hymn sheet”. 

Protesting against hate

An initial counter-protest took place on 26 July which was attended by a number of people victimised and targeted by O’Doherty. Following on from this, an anti-hate speech protest was held. Having gathered outside a garda station in Irishtown in order to highlight gardaí inaction in dealing with O’Doherty, the protestors then moved to Barrow Street.

A number of speeches were given by activists and politicians, including Hazel Chu who has herself been targeted by O’Doherty. She pointed out that “we want people to take hate off the street”. And although the demonstration was good-natured it was marred by the behaviour of far-right activists who were kept a safe distance away from the anti-hate speech protestors by a line of gardaí and stewards.

A conspiracy of their own making

At least three of the assembled far-right members were seen giving the Nazi salute towards the crowd of anti-hate speech protestors. One of them was particularly noteworthy because at one stage he walked directly in front of photographers and videographers and gave the salute. The photograph and video quickly went viral. And online the far right went straight into conspiracy theory mode. 

On social media and elsewhere, it was initially claimed that the photograph was faked. The image, it was said, was “photoshopped” in order “to slander Irish Nationalism”. This theory quickly changed from being a faked photograph to the man in question being a “plant” or “Agent Provocaterur [sic]”. It was then argued that the man “doesn’t look Irish”, therefore presumably giving those assembled around him plausible deniability in their own eyes at least.

It is now being claimed that the man was in cahoots with a specific left-wing activist. And that the latter gave a signal that initiated the salute in the first place.

Denying reality 

This denial of reality is telling. Even when shown the proof of something, if it doesn’t fit their narrative it can be dismissed out of hand or denigrated as being “fake”. In fact, video available online shows that the saluter was there in advance of the counter-protestors alongside the assembled far-right activists. And he can be clearly seen Sieg Heiling on more than one occasion.

The problem is that the saluter had the temerity to be uncouth with his hatred. As journalist Stieg Larsson noted, when the far right and fascists in Sweden wanted to gain wider support they took the skinheads and obvious racists away from their frontlines. When Mikael Jansson took over the Sweden Democrats (SD) in 1995, Larsson wrote that “one of his first actions was to ban the wearing of uniforms at public meetings”. 

What’s more, the party “sidelined the most obvious madmen and militants”. Instead, Jansson and company “replaced them with elegantly dressed and comparatively house-trained activists”. It clearly worked. And although the SD is under different leadership today, it is now the third-largest party in the Swedish parliament. 

A far-right victory?

The main issue the far right has with the saluter, then, was his uncouthness. Hence the spiral into conspiracy theories to try and blame the left for his actions. Some will undoubtedly believe this narrative in the way that only true believers can do so. It’ll also make others doubt what really happened.

Regardless, it shows the lengths that the far right will go to in order to twist reality to suit its purposes. And it has the advantage of the mainstream media largely refusing to report on it. This allows the far right to spread its lies online and elsewhere while the media looks on and does nothing.

Featured image via Twitter – soundmigration

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