The private gaming community used by a YouTube star-turned-UKIP-candidate to recruit supporters for his European election campaign is rife with white supremacism, anti-Semitism, support for the Christchurch mosque terrorist, and discussions about murdering members of the European parliament.
Sargon of Akkad, whose real name is Carl Benjamin, is UKIP’s candidate for the South West region of the UK, and one of the party’s most high-profile prospective MEPs having gained legions of online supporters through YouTube.
On Friday April 12, Benjamin posted a video to his Sargon of Akkad YouTube channel, which has almost one million subscribers, where the gaming developer and self-proclaimed “anti-feminist” announced his candidacy for European parliament.
Pinned to the top of the video’s comments, Benjamin said people could “join” his campaign by clicking through to a server on Discord – the US-based group chat platform likened to Slack or Skype, but for gamers. “Do not be a civilian, be a citizen,” Benjamin urged supporters.
People who clicked from the YouTube video were given an invite by Benjamin to join a Discord server called “Athens”, which has almost 15,000 members. Benjamin’s election channel within Athens is named #sargon-mep-help-offers. It works like a traditional chatroom and is used for organising Benjamin’s campaign.
Over the past few days, that particular channel has been filled with hundreds of messages posted from users claiming to be both inside and outside the UK, offering to help with Benjamin’s campaign and asking how to make donations.
Outside the election channel, but within the “Athens” server that Benjamin directed his supporters to, are other channels of discussion containing violent material.
In one discussion in a channel called #the-temple-of-veethena-nike from March 2019 about the new copyright law approved by the European Parliament, members talked about killing pro-EU politicians.
One user wrote: “Maybe start assassinating fucking Eurocrats, preferably the unelected ones on top. But alas. That would be murder. And be wrong. Totally.”
Another user replied: “We should strip them of their humanity first. If they're not recognised as humans, it's not murder.” They added: “First step is forcing them to wear some kind of branding on their clothes.”
A third user asked: “So we decapitate the parliament members?”
The first user responded: “Send messages. Hang em on street-lights.”
Another user in the same channel then addressed concerns that Benjamin’s political opponents could use messages posted outside his MEP channel against him. They wrote: “Nah, Sargon's enemies are lazy enough to just slander the man with an article and go about their day. None of them are intelligent or driven enough to actually dig up dirt on here.”
The stated rules for membership of “Athens” contained in a channel called “tourist information” tells users: “THERE IS NO NSFW AREA IN THE SERVER”.
Despite the warning, users have expressed support for the Christchurch terror suspect Brenton Tarrant accused of killing 49 people in attacks on New Zealand mosques last month.
On March 30, one user, referencing the man responsible for the 2011 Norwegian attacks, wrote: “Knight Exemplar Brenton Tarrant was a Hero… he received sanction from Knight Justiciar Breivik, the head of the sovereign order of the Reborn Knights Templar.”
Another user wrote: “by the way you don't have to be honourable in how you kill them.”
And a third said: “just use nerve gas at that point”.
In another chat log from March 28, several users discuss sharing the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto.
“Do y’need a copy of that manifesto” one user asked, before being told by another user: “In future, don't offer on here. Don't want to get in trouble with Discord for spreading it. Whole situation regarding the circulation of the manifesto is pretty shit, tbh.”
A third user responded: “The crazy thing about all this is, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be trying to censor the manifesto this hard if they weren't aware that Tarrant had a point. Because he did.”
And a fourth said: “It's pretty fucking terrible that this dude had a point. It's also pretty fucking terrible that what he did got that point across as well as it did. It's also pretty fucking terrible that not much of anything else would have worked this well.”
The #the-temple-of-veethena-nike forum is also filled with extreme anti-Semitism and racism.
On March 11, one user wrote: “There is a reason over 100 nations have had to remove Jewish people. have you ever heard the saying "If it smells like shit everywhere you go, maybe its time to check your own shoe"? perfect analogy for the Jews.”
On April 6, a user in the same channel wrote, “... I want to hang all Niggers and Jews.”
On April 12, a user wrote: “... a Final Solution needs to be done for the (((Jews)))”.
Benjamin did not take part in the discussions and did not post similar views himself.
After BuzzFeed News put the comments to UKIP and Benjamin, several of them were deleted.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Benjamin distanced himself from the comments. He said there was a team of moderators removing “unsavoury contributors” from the Discord server but “due to the size of the server” some comments were missed.
"There are over 12,000 members of the Athens server. We are concerned about alt-right infiltration, and we have moderators who remove unsavoury contributors who make statements endorsing the far-right. Due to the size of the server, some comments are missed by our moderation team.
"These comments are always removed, and the entire 'investigation' by Buzzfeed is clearly a political attack on my candidacy."
Discord has also been contacted about the messages on the “Athens” server. In an interview with BuzzFeed News in 2017, Discord CEO Jason Citron said the platform was committed to “free speech” and it was “inevitable that there will be actors using the product for things that are not completely wholesome”.
Over the past few days, Benjamin’s online activity has been put under the media spotlight, with questions being asked about UKIP’s decision to recruit controversial YouTubers to run as star candidates in the upcoming European elections.
Benjamin gained notoriety several years ago during Gamergate. According to an analysis by the Data Society, Benjamin has since become one of the most influential people popularizing far-right ideas on YouTube.
Along with Scottish YouTuber Count Dankula and former InfoWars editor Prison Planet, Benjamin joined UKIP last year during the new party leader Gerard Batten’s push to embrace prominent online personalities.
At the same time, Batten’s courtship of far-right online personality Tommy Robinson – who was eventually brought in as an informal adviser for the UKIP party leader – led to former leader Nigel Farage quitting and setting up a competing party called “The Brexit party”
On Sunday, BBC host Andrew Marr confronted party leader Batten about a tweet sent from Benjamin to Labour MP Jess Phillips who had posted about rape threats she had received online – Benjamin had tweeted at her: “I wouldn’t even rape you, Jess Phillips”.
Batten said he thought Benjamin’s tweet at Philips was “satire” before going on to suggest the YouTuber’s followers are the types of people the party was trying to reach out to.
“He is a classical liberal Carl Benjamin if you had him on and interview him,” Batten said.
“He’s precisely the type of person that Nigel [Farage] would have liked when he was leader because he can open up access for us on social media that we now want to reach out to.”
Update: Following publication of this story, Discord told BuzzFeed News they would investigate the Athens server and could shut it down if it is found to have breached the platform's terms of service.
The company said in a statement via a spokesperson: "Discord has a Terms of Service and Community Guidelines that all users are required to adhere to. These specifically prohibit harassment, threatening messages, hatred, calls to violence or any illegal activity.
We are investigating this server for violations of Discord’s Terms of Service and will take action against any offending users or servers, which can include shutting down an offending server or banning users. We will continue to be aggressive to ensure that Discord exists for the communities we set out to support."
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex Wickham is a senior reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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