Worthing – Haven for White Supremacists?

white poppy, peace, green leaves

It’s been a strange October. Black history month – more apparent in schools than around town; Stoptober campaign for becoming smoke-free; and then the shocking Tim Wills affair.

Tim Wills was an elected councillor in Worthing – and a member of the white supremacist organisation ‘Patriotic Alternative’.

The synopsis given in the Change.org petition that was set up in early October to remove Wills from Worthing council (where he stood for Marine ward) tells the story and explains the issues. Here are extracts from the petition:

On 8th October 2021, Wills was revealed by Hope Not Hate to be an active member of Patriotic Alternative, a racial nationalist and fascist organisation that seeks the removal of ethnic minorities from the UK. On the instant messaging service Telegram, Wills wrote:

“No more listening to the lies they spread, it’s the day of reckoning for the blood we share!”

He also wrote:

“My view is Covid is a loss maker for us, we just need to centre on white genocide […] because many of our white race are convinced about vaccines, but not about our replacement, and need to be informed about this?”

Of his position as a Conservative Councillor, he wrote:

“Trying to infiltrate and influence those in power is our initial best way forward as we have no chance of political power any time soon, sadly. My view is Tories are best of a rotten lot as still have a right wing minority who are on side.”

“Trying to infiltrate and influence those in power is our initial best way forward”

Tim Wills, on private message board Telegram, 11th June 2021.

Wills also urged fellow members to “Remember the 14 words”, a reference to the 14-word white supremacist slogan “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”, a call to arms formulated by white supremacist terrorist David Lane, who was sentenced to 190 years in prison for his role in the murder of a Jewish journalist.

This article on ADL explains the hateful origins of the ’14 words’ white supremacist slogan.

Terrorist Tactics and the Gamification of Extremism

The group ‘Patriotic Alternative’, of which Wills was a member, appears on Princeton University’s TRAC terrorism’s list of 4000 terrorist organisations to watch; and has been subject to wide analysis by academics and political analysts. It is noted for its sophisticated recruitment methods, the massive disjunct between its outward-facing communications and the inward-facing rhetorics and its high competence in social media. The gamification of extremism has arrived.

The gamification of extremism has arrived

The entry into the public realm of proof of the rumours which had been circulating for a while about Wills’ involvement, led to a public campaign in Worthing to have him removed from office. This did not happen and he was simply suspended from Council and from the Conservative party. This was surprising to some, given that the organisation he was outed as a member of – Patriotic Alternative, founded in 2019 – is very well-known for its extremist views, meaning that the group has been de-platformed by Facebook and Instagram. And you know that’s gotta be serious, because all kinds of horror get by those platforms and are even facilitated by them, as the current whistleblower enquiry has shown us. When even FB shuts you down, you’re nasty and no mistake.

When even Facebook shuts you down, you’re nasty and no mistake

PA is also notorious for the track record of its leaders, people with long public histories of far-right activism and hate speech. You can read more in William Allchorn’s analysis here.

Building a New Worthing?

Apart from the most important issue – the danger and hate, this has also not done Worthing’s public image any good, as outsider comments like this show. We’ve been trying to build a new Worthing – but the world outside watches, sceptical.

After more news coverage, several public demonstrations, a petition and sustained pressure from local groups, Wills finally resigned on 15th October, as this short press release explains.

In the wake of the affair, which is of course not yet over, a new ‘community cohesion‘ committee is being set up. We now wait to see what Worthing Conservatives will do next – and what substantial action the council will now take (for it seems a bit unlikely that nobody at all knew anything whatsoever about Wills’ views and activities). There’s widespread concern about how widely these kinds of extremist views are shared among the wider Worthing public and even, as we now know, within our local political leadership.

In the week when councillors will be laying wreaths for remembrance and hope and memorialising moments when great hopes for peace seemed to be within reach, like the 1945 one that our kids get taught about in school as England’s victory over a far-right agenda, the Tim Wills affair leaves an aftershock and a sense of deep shame. It was uncomfortable to see our BAME elected representatives realising the contempt and hostility that they had been held in by Wills, a person they would have sat with, spoken to, spent time alongside at meetings and council events.

We are fortunate that we have many Worthing locals who won’t stand for a takeover by extremism and who will work to keep investigating and challenging hate speech and divisive action.

No Fascists in Worthing – in 1945 or in 2021

Atilla the stockbroker has made a little song to cheer us all up a bit and help us remember that, just as 1945 celebrated no fascists in Uk, we can hold strong to a determination that there will be no fascists in Worthing, in the 2020s or beyond.

No Fascists in Worthing. That’s something to hold fast to, this coming remembrance day.

Remembrance for all victims of war, a commitment to peace and a challenge to attempts to glamorise or celebrate war

May peace, equality and community be ours as we move along in our town – shaken, but ready to make things better.

November 16th 2021 update

As investigations continue into what kind of culture and ideas are the norm among our Conservative councillors, another representative – Russ Cochran – has had his Twitter account examined and found to contain hate speech. We really need to sort this place out.

Published by Caroline

After 30 years as an academic anthropologist doing ethnography in India and the Gulf, Caroline now avoids airports and spends a lot of time walking, cycling or quad skating around for conversations and stories in their adopted home of Worthing. Caroline writes, coaches postgrads, and does public sector consultancy work and project evaluation, using creative research methods.

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