This is Part Three of Hate Online, a series examining the online presence of the far right in Ireland. The previous parts can be read here and here.
In recent years YouTube has become a mainstay of conspiracy theorists and the far right. Although the production quality of content varies from amateurish to professional, the platform is invaluable to activists and extremists alike.
Ireland is not immune to the far right’s use of YouTube as a propaganda tool. And it has at least one notable far-right activist in the form of Rowan Croft, AKA Grand Torino, who uses YouTube to spread misinformation and earn an income.
Croft, who previously served in the British military and currently lives with his mother in Dublin, regularly uploads videos where he attacks what he believes is the increasing liberalisation of Ireland and the “Cultural Marxist” agenda.
And in leaked voicemails obtained by The Beacon, he tells his supporters about his intention to form an anti-immigration lobby group.
A far-right script
Croft currently has over 19,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel and has uploaded over 200 videos in the last year alone. His videos range from interviews with members of various European far-right parties such as Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and La Lega, to videos promoting the Q-Anon conspiracy theory. Croft has also uploaded videos in which he attacks asylum seekers and the LGBTQI+ community.
And he has visited towns around Ireland where he believes direct provision centres are due to be located in order to “report on” the issue.
Croft portrays himself as a concerned citizen and, according to his Facebook page, a “citizen journalist”. But the YouTuber is acting from the same script that other far-right YouTubers have perfected over the last few years. And this is a script that has proven effective and in some cases, lucrative.
Conspiracy theories and racism
During an interview with Ben Gilroy late last year, Croft bemoaned the lack of unity amongst the parties of the Irish far right. He opined that Irexit, Renua, and other far right parties should “come together, coalesce together, and get one personality”. This, he argued, would offer “something tangible that the people can get behind”. And it would present “an opportunity”.
Croft is also an advocate of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory and regularly tweets about the issue. In one case he wrote to journalist Philip O’Connor that:
For quislings like Philip. The population replacement plan is a far right conspiracy theory. But for one inconvenient fact. It is official UN policy.
O’Connor had merely pointed out the fact that the “Great Replacement” is indeed a conspiracy theory.
He has also attempted to draw a link between immigration and Ireland’s housing and homelessness crisis. Croft argued that:
With native Irish birthrate < replacement & 1 migrant arriving here every 45mins, where do you think demand for housing is coming from? This is what globalism does to a small island with limited housing stock. Suck it up, buttercup!
During a discussion with two representatives of Germany’s AfD he insisted that the arrival of asylum seekers and migrants is putting pressure on Irish culture. He declared that:
the new cultures that are coming in are seen to be given more prominence, better advantages. And it doesn’t make for a happy situation
Earlier this year he travelled to Courtown, Co. Wexford after an alleged sexual assault had taken place there. Croft said he was there to “investigate” the issue. During the video he uploaded while in Courtown he discussed the housing of asylum seekers in the area in an apparent attempt to link them to the attack. There is no evidence that links asylum seekers to the attack.
In another video the Dublin man described immigration into Ireland as a form of “plantation” of the country. During the same video he claimed that the government is buying homes for asylum seekers in order “to disperse the planters into various locations throughout Ireland”. Croft insisted that this “is a war”.
In a stream with an American YouTuber Croft intimated that he has access to firearms even if it is illegal. He tells his interlocutor:
Just because we don’t have the right to bear arms doesn’t mean we don’t have them.
During the same conversation he says Ireland is a “young nation” and therefore there is a chance of Irish people turning “feral again and becoming the barbarians that we were”.
The LGBTQI+ community
Croft has also taken aim at the LGBTQI+ community. When a children’s book-reading event hosted by drag collective Glitter Hole was cancelled due to homophobic backlash, he attacked the organisers and the group in question. In a video he described them as “disgusting” and maintained that:
the majority of people are family orientated. They didn’t want this degeneracy brought into their children’s lives.
He went on to say:
I only want to see a man wearing makeup under a big tent, and he’s a clown. And any other man dressed as a woman, with makeup, in front of children is degeneracy. Plain and simple.
Croft claimed that he was speaking out on behalf of “family-orientated men”. Later in the same video he insisted that drag queens and transgenderism lead to a “slow road to paedophilia”.
On Twitter he has promoted the bizarre conspiracy theory that a “gay mafia” has “infiltrated the [Catholic] church with the help of Satanists”.
And he has attacked Leo Varadkar for his sexual orientation and ethnic background. During a livestream Croft contended that Varadkar is
a half-Indian sodomite, not even Irish
A wider agenda
One of the more troubling aspects of Croft’s modus operandi is that he travels around the country to towns and villages where it has been proposed to locate direct provision centres. Croft has visited Rooskey, Moville, Lismore, and Carrick-on-Shannon, where it was believed asylum seekers were to be housed. In the case of Rooskey and Moville, in the aftermath of his visits the hotels earmarked as direct provision centres suffered arson attacks.
Croft’s apparent reason for travelling around the country in this way is to “report on” the issue of asylum seekers and direct provision. He also interviews locals who are unhappy with the fact that a direct provision centre is to be placed in their locality. But this appears to be only part of the reason for his traversing of the country.
The Beacon has received voicemails that Croft has left his supporters in his Telegram group. He regularly communicates with them and has left dozens of messages.
And in one message he reveals that he has been travelling around Ireland to link-up with “likeminded men” with the intention of setting up an anti-immigration lobby group.
He tells listeners that he has been working on this “in the background”. Croft goes on to reveal that:
The movement is already in hand. We are gonna need, as you say, people in every… county to facilitate and help organise any members or nationalists that stand up to go for election in council elections or in the general election.
The YouTuber also says that the approaching general election is the one to focus on. Croft has recently announced that he will run in this general election.
“Common sense” and “kicking heads”
In another voicemail acquired by The Beacon, Croft voices his annoyance at the actions of Caolan Robertson. The filmmaker was once in the inner circle of Tommy Robinson AKA Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. In recent months though Robertson has sought to distance himself from Yaxley-Lennon and the far right in general after filming refugees in Greece.
He has revealed that Yaxley-Lennon received substantial financial backing from US “foundations and politicians”. Robertson also disclosed that police officers passed confidential information to Yaxley-Lennon about his critics, including addresses.
Croft, apparently displeased at this, describes Robertson as a “dirty little snake”. He goes on to say:
If the stuff with Caolan is true that’s an awful shame. I mean he’s after scuppering, he’s after fragmenting the right even more so.
Croft quickly takes issue with his own description and declares:
The right? Fucking common sense people, you know what I mean?
And in yet another leaked message, Croft can be heard saying he’ll attack any activists who try to milkshake him. He states:
if I get milkshaked I’ll be knocking heads off.
The YouTuber was milkshaked by an activist in July of this year during one of his own livestreams, with the contents of a coffee cup being poured over him by an anti-racist activist. In the aftermath he said to his viewers that if there was anything in the coffee cup other than a milkshake he would have “choked her the fuck out”.
Croft has also threatened journalists. On Twitter he has posted that Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole,
is a globalist shrill [sic] and a TRAITOR [sic] to Ireland and the first to be given a complimentary helicopter ride come the Storm [sic].
His mention of a “helicopter ride” is in reference to the practice of dictator Augusto Pinochet. The Chilean despot had people killed by throwing them out of helicopters.
But is this merely window dressing? A source close to Croft believes this is the case.
Speaking at length to The Beacon, the source said that Croft doesn’t really believe what he says. Instead, it’s simply a way of earning money and recognition.
They insisted that he is “not a righteous believer in any cause”. In fact, they commented that Croft is “in it for the infamy, for recognition”. One example of this that the source pointed to was Croft’s previous membership of the Social Democrats.
And as for any danger that Croft may pose, they believe this comes from “what he will inspire and incite others to do” as opposed to his own direct actions.
But Croft is not alone. He is part of a wider Irish far-right YouTube network. They make videos attacking asylum seekers, declaring them to be frauds and scammers. Some discuss the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, believing that there is a plan to replace the Irish population with asylum seekers and migrants by 2040.
Others such as Gearóid Murphy, like Croft, visit towns and villages where it has been proposed to house asylum seekers. As previously reported, Murphy has claimed in a video that the government is attempting to “subvert, undermine, and intimidate people” who question Ireland’s asylum and immigration policies.
In the video he also claims that proposed hate speech laws are a form of “totalitarianism”. The legislation, he says, will be used to ban discussion of direct provision and asylum seekers. Murphy said that as a result, “opposition to these plantations in your town will literally be illegal”. And he has also called on people to “marginalise the collaborators”.
In a second video Murphy discusses the conspiracy theory that the Irish people are slowly being replaced. He claims that he doesn’t hold a position as to whether this is a positive or negative development. Instead, he tells his viewers that it’s “about establishing the truth of the matter”.
Nonetheless, he goes on to declare that people who call on him and other likeminded believers to prove their claims do so to “wreck people’s heads and to diminish and dismiss and quell this conversation”. He goes on to call it a “ridiculous standard”.
He closes his video by saying:
The Irish are becoming a minority in Ireland. The Irish will be a minority in Ireland in the next 50 years. There is no doubt about it.
Abusing the platform
This is only a small sampling of the Irish far right’s utilisation of YouTube. According to the Far Right Observatory, Irish far-right YouTube channels have over 300,000 subscribers. This is not an inconsequential figure. The reach of Croft and Murphy may be limited to only a few thousand subscribers but their message is potent. And in Croft’s case it offers him a source of income.
Like Facebook, YouTube allows the far right to recruit and spread lies and hatred. A report from Data & Society pointed out that YouTube is
the single most important hub by which an extensive network of far-right influencers profit from broadcasting propaganda to young viewers.
How social media, and YouTube in particular, functions allows for viewers “to be incrementally exposed” to increasingly “extremist political positions”. And added to this is that far-right content creators fabricate a persona of being “countercultural social underdogs”.
It’s no different in the Irish case, where it’s claimed that the media won’t report on certain issues due to its apparent involvement in the pro-migration conspiracy. By portraying themselves as purveyors of truth, the likes of Croft and Murphy gain supporters and influence.
Like Facebook, YouTube admins seem to look on while their platform is abused by the far right in order to whip up fear, spread lies, and recruit new followers.
Added to this is the simple fact that as the far right attempts to make gains both in Europe and here in Ireland, YouTube will be one of their main propaganda outlets. And this makes it a frontline in the fight against racism, lies, and intolerance.
Featured image via Pixabay – StockSnap