Racism on our streets is a repugnant sight but this author has campaigned against the extremists for 20 years without the need for violence. Vigilante violence is never acceptable, leading to harm against bystanders, victims of mistaken identity and the vulnerable. That is why it is so serious when extremists like Abaddon Books’ Commissioning Editor David Thomas Moore (who is attending FantasyCon 2017 this year) normalise or advocate violence. HWS Events, which is organising the event, has made a statement about this after receiving legal correspondence from MHN, reminding attendees of its harassment policy and right to exclude anyone who threatens violence.
“Is it okay to punch Nazis?”, asks the far Left. The question is seductive, bringing to mind the first recent Captain America film or perhaps Indiana Jones, exciting stories of a world at war in a simpler time. Abaddon Books’ Commissioning editor David Moore poses the question on his Facebook timeline in a somewhat loaded form, “Is it okay to punch the Sith?” In a wartime drama or a science fiction fantasy world the answers might seem simple – but the real world is no longer at war and the questions are no longer simple at all. Looking at the replies to the question, what David’s followers understand is “Is it okay to punch people whom I disagree with?” And the troubling answer they give is, “yes”. A specific example given is Donald Trump’s presidency.
Disturbingly, Mr Moore has also posted on Facebook giving examples of the sort of people he disagrees with. One such individual is Vox Day, a right-wing science fiction author and the owner of Castalia house. Vox (real name Theodore Beale) is certainly to the right of Mr Moore politically but he is an outspoken critic of modern Nazis. Nonetheless, Mr Moore shared a faux-Newspaper describing him as a terrible human being. As it is in the same timeline as Moore’s views on violence, I can see how it might be unpleasant, even threatening for Vox to be mentioned.
Moore’s Twitter timeline (his account is @abaddondave) is littered with examples of his comment on the perceived merits of “punching” “Nazis”. Most recently, he shares with approval this post by Professor Angus Johnston of City University New York, who writes on Twitter as @studentactivism.
The source tweet is here, archive here. So what was this “good and important addition”. Well, it is a series of posts comparing a Nazi wearing a swastika to street violence. In fact much of Professor Johnston’s timeline is the same. It is a set of tweets about vulnerable people defending themselves for assaults and harassment, in each case compared to the mere wearing of a political slogan. Interspersed with these sympathetic examples of violence, Professor Johnston tweets claiming he is not condoning violence.
The context of the discussion is an incident in which a man wearing what appeared to be a hand-drawn swastika wandered the streets of Seattle harassing members of minorities and throwing a banana at an African American. This person was swiftly tracked down by left wingers and beaten up. His headphones were stolen.
The story seemed odd to me because no neo-Nazi group has taken credit for the incident. All of America’s far right groups presently have a strategy of peaceful protest and in any event would never advise a member to go out alone in regalia. Furthermore, most people would fear far worse than a punch if they started throwing things at people and shouting racist slogans on the streets of an American city – being shot, for example.
I have done my best to look into the person’s background, and as far as I can tell they are a lone eccentric. The Seattle “Nazi” lives alone in short-term accommodation now in jeopardy due to their involvement in controversy. The person agreed to a recent interview with KUOW News, speaking in a rapid and largely monotonous tone of voice. The impression I got was of a lonely, vulnerable man most likely suffering from some disability.
The people cheering at his being beaten and robbed are beyond despicable. Individuals with learning disabilities, pervasive developmental disorders, psychosis or other conditions act out in anti-social ways all the time seeking attention. There is no moral difference between the Seattle Nazi punchers and the convicted abusers at Winterbourne View Hospital in the United Kingdom. In my opinion, they are abusers.
However, what about real Nazis? Not lone social outcasts but the organised marches seen in Charlottesville earlier this year? What is an appropriate response to them? As a political activist in the United Kingdom, I have been involved in elections where the British National Party (BNP) fielded candidates and we opposed them.
In 2008, I was a Borough Councillor for the Labour Party in Haldens in Welwyn Garden City. In the nearby ward of Welham Green, the Conservative incumbent Peter O’Brien had resigned after child pornography was found on his council laptop (he was later convicted, pleading guilty). The BNP fielded a candidate in the resulting by-election. The Conservatives and Labour went out and politely campaigned. That is all. The Conservatives won, holding the seat (archive here). The BNP came third after the Liberal Democrats (archive here), with the BNP candidate Mark Fuller persuading only 8% of eligible voters to support him. Bridie Croft, a Labour activist I had never especially cared for, came 4th with only 88 votes and as a loyal Labour Party member, I kept my laughter private.
No one got punched.
Democracy triumphed! Democracy, let us recall, being the system of government where we resolve policy differences without violence. Despite the ousted former representative of their main opponent having literally been arrested in possession of humongous quantities of paedo-porn, the BNP came third.
The recent extreme left vogue for political violence has harmed far more sympathetic people than the Seattle Nazi of course. A few weeks ago on 13 September 2017 a 60-year-old feminist was punched during an incident at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park in London (archive here). The woman, Maria MacLachlan, held the wrong flavour of feminist views for extreme left activists and so she was punched in the face and bundled to the ground. Police are investigating.
Aside from lax definitions of “Nazi” leading to assaults on the disabled and elderly women, there have been cases of mistaken identity. Associate Professor Kyle Quinn of the University of Arkansas was subject to terrifying harassment after vigilantes wrongly identified him as having attended the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally at which Heather Heyer died (archive here).
One reason I am so moved by the tragic death of Heather Heyer is that it so easily could have been a younger me. Young left-wing activists (of which I was once one) are an excitable bunch. It is easy to see how a group of well meaning young people radicalised by sinister, cynical far-left organisers and whipped up into a mob could have terrified a lone Nazi in his car – causing him to run down the crowd in a panic.
So just to be clear on my opinion: the people normalising political violence in the United Kingdom and the United States have blood on their hands.
In Britain and Europe, advocating violence against members of a political group may also amount to legally actionable discrimination. In the case of Redfearn v United Kingdom the European Court of Human Rights dealt with Mr Redfearn, a member of the BNP. Mr Redfearn was sacked from his job as a bus driver for his party membership. He won his case (archive here). European law protects even members of far-right parties like the BNP. Subsequent UK cases have confirmed the principle.
In the United Kingdom, “belief” is a protected characteristic under s10 Equality Act 2010 (EA). The Act applies to employers, service providers (including shops), public bodies and even clubs. Employment matters can be litigated in the Employment Tribunal and other matters in the County Court. The burden of proof is reversed (s136 EA) – once a Claimant has shown cause the Defendant must prove their innocence. Subconscious discrimination is actionable – per the case of Swiggs and others v Nagarajan HL 15 Jul 1999 (archive here). Creating a “hostile environment” is actionable under s26 Equality Act 2010.
I am concerned about anyone who advocates political violence and so I wrote some legal letters to the organisers of FantasyCon 2017, which Mr Moore is attending. I was concerned that it would only take one unwise, unstable person to act on his views potentially harming some innocent person.
The responses from HWS Events have been fascinating. HWS insists they have taken “legal advice” from “counsel” and there is nothing wrong. For the purposes of this article I will take them at their word. Nonetheless, their legal advisor has some curious attributes. Firstly, HWS refuse to name them even when asked. Secondly, they and their partner the British Fantasy Society keep making very basic legal mistakes (they have not clarified whether they are using the same unnamed “counsel”).
There are several potential causes of action that might accrue from any form of discrimination at FantasyCon 2017. I was interested in two – the first is contractual – the convention has a “harassment policy” they say forms part of the terms of purchasing a ticket (a contract). The second is under the Equality Act 2010.
I quoted a case called Farley v Skinner  UKHL 49, a very basic contract law case normally learned about in foundational contract law. It is about damages for distress. The Chair of the British Fantasy Society, Phil Lunt, emailed me saying (amongst other things) that the award of damages in that case was overturned on appeal. That would be news to nearly every lawyer in the country – including the House of Lords, who upheld the award (their being at the time, the United Kingdom’s highest court). This fact can easily be found on Wikipedia (or Infogalactic). Mr Lunt’s remark would be a fail for even a first year law undergraduate.
HWS cited a number of cases including R(Gentle) v Prime Minister  AC 1356), which is a case about the families of dead soldiers seeking an inquiry into the Iraq war. To me, it appears to be completely irrelevant. HWS for their part insist on the strength of this case that Mr Moore’s political views are not justiciable. However it is not Mr Moore’s political views that I seek to question – it is his advocacy of violence.
HWS also claimed initially that they had 28 days to respond and did not have to respond until after the event, under the Practice Direction on Pre-Action conduct. So I sent them a draft of the claim form and pointed out their “counsel” had misread the direction. Despite their bluster, after I sent them the unsealed form HWS abandoned their “28 days” rubbish and responded the next day. HWS also posted the following on the event Facebook page (archive here) –
That is a start, and makes it less likely I will issue proceedings, but by no means certain. I am still reflecting.
It is worth mentioning of course that Mr Moore describes himself as a “feminist” (archive here). Mr Moore also condemns #GamerGate (archive here), describing Eron Gjoni as a “spurned ex” and asking “But who do you believe?”
As a male feminist, right-on Mr Moore condemns Gjoni for badmouthing his ex. Who would do something as despicable as that? David of course – following the usual rule of behaviour for all male feminists (archive here) …
In same timeline in which he bashes GamerGate, Moore does exactly the same thing as Eron Gjoni – badmouthing an ex. If we are to believe Moore, the relationship ended when his girlfriend attended his house to stay over (presumably for sexytimes). However when she discovered that – contrary to her expectations – he did not have a quantity of illegal drugs on hand, she turned violent!
Aside from the total lack of self-awareness involved in sharing that somewhat … ghetto … anecdote. I am going to go out on a limb and say that is a pretty one sided account. Mr Moore is talking about a woman who ended her relationship with him nearly twenty years ago. Does he really need to share?
Full disclosure – I met David Thomas Moore nearly 20 years ago at University. Nothing that happened then motivates my article either for or against him. My concerns are about his statements now. (Although, I find it darkly comic that he is still badmouthing his ex-from back then).
Turning back to HWS Events and the British Fantasy Society (BFS), it is clear that they are moving in the right direction but I am not sure that they have gone far enough. If readers would like to politely and respectfully make clear opposition to political violence you can write to the public contact addresses for the leadership of HWS and BFS.
- James Barclay – President (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Phil Lunt – Chair (email@example.com)
The contact address for HWS is –
The venue is the Bull Hotel, Peterborough, and there is a contact form here.
A draft of this article was sent to HWS Events, the British Fantasy Society and David Moore. It was explained to all of them that if they disputed any facts then they should respond before publication. HWS Events of course, has the benefit of the advice of counsel. Tracking software shows the email was viewed over 100 times but no denials have been received.