The conviction of Thomas Mair for the murder of Jo Cox MP led to discussion in the media of his links to Nazi ideology and groups.
But the analysis mostly obscured more than it enlightened.
Cox was killed because Mair identified her as a supporter of Syrian refugees and a campaigner against racism. It was not a killing carried out by a “lone wolf” but a political act by a man who had a long history of working with far right groups (see below).
Much of the press calls Mair a Nazi terrorist because his bookshelves were stuffed with racist tracts and volumes lauding the Third Reich. But this has much more rarely been linked to organised Nazi groupings that exist today.
When he was arrested Mair said, “I’m a political activist”. But he was not prosecuted under counter-terrorism laws, enabling people to see him as an individual murderer.
Yet when he killed Cox he shouted, “Britain first. Keep Britain independent. This is for Britain.” Britain First is one of the myriad of Nazi groups trying to grow today.
At his first court appearance Mair gave his name as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. As Socialist Worker pointed out before, his language echoed that of Britain First’s deputy leader Jayda Fransen during the London election campaign in May.
She said politicians guilty of “ruining our country” through support for immigration “will face the wrath of the Britain First movement, make no mistake about it!
“We will not rest until every traitor is punished for their crimes against our country. And by punished, I mean good old fashioned British justice at the end of a rope!”
Nazi groups from the BNP to Britain First to their counterparts in Europe and the US peddle racism and violence.
But instead of concentrating on their role, there have been plenty of attempts to explain Mair’s psychological motivation.
One of the lowest points was the Daily Mail's headline, "Did Neo-Nazi murder Jo over fear he'd lose council house he grew up in? Terrorist thought property could end up being occupied by an immigrant family - and the MP wouldn't help him". There you are, it's migrants taking our homes to blame.
The Mirror wrote, “Murderer Tommy Mair became a deranged white supremacist after his mother abandoned him as a child and married a Caribbean immigrant."
Really? Is that the key link?
Nobody can be sure precisely how Mair’s mind worked.
But you can be certain that we live in a society where state racism, organised Nazi groups and the scapegoating of migrants and Muslims produces people who think it might be normal to believe migrants grab your house, or to be outraged that your mother “marries a Carribean immigrant”.
Mair was guilty. But so are the media who will pause briefly to remember Cox and then go back to a daily diet of vicious racism, thereby helping to create more Thomas Mairs.
And the Tories who implement racist laws, attacks refugees and tell people that all our problems are caused by migrants also have blood on their hands.
Thomas Mair's links to Nazi groups
Thomas Mair supported the National Alliance (NA), once a prominent Nazi organisation in the US, for decades.
He bought a manual from the NA in 1999 that included instructions on how to build a pistol. He also had links with the hard right pro-apartheid Springbok Club.
Its online magazine inquired in 2006 about “Thomas Mair, from Batley in Yorkshire [who] was one of the earliest subscribers and supporters of ‘S.A. Patriot’.”
The Springbok Club held meetings with speakers including Neil Hamilton, now Ukip deputy chair.
In 1998, Mair wrote to Alan Harvey, the editor of SA Patriot. He said that “nationalists” in Britain were on the ropes, maligned by the media and set upon by “mobs of Reds and Blacks”.
He added, “Despite everything, I still have hope that the White Race will prevail, both in Britain and South Africa, but I fear it’s going to be a very long and very bloody struggle.”
In January 1997, three years after the election of Nelson Mandela, Mair wrote to Harvey again.
This time he congratulated him for having “strongly condemned ‘collaborators’ in the White South African population”.
Mair added, “In my opinion the greatest enemy of the old Apartheid system was not the ANC and the black masses but white liberals and traitors.”
In May 2000 Mair was one of up to 20 racists, including BNP members, at a meeting in a London pub. They aimed to help the NA’s record label break into Europe.
FBI informant Todd Blodgett said, “From what I could surmise, Tommy Mair was loosely affiliated with the Leeds chapter of the National Alliance."