“Toxic Ideology”: English Neo-Nazi Given Four Years For His Extremist Views

We often discuss how defending free speech often means defending those who we find thoroughly  grotesque or offensive.  In that sense, Nicholas Brock, 52, is the ultimate personification of the price we pay for free speech. The neo-Nazi was given a four-year sentence for what the court called his “toxic ideology” based on the contents of the home he shared with his mother in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  In my view, the only thing more troubling than Brock’s hateful views is the decision to criminalize the holding of such views.  It is an example of the continued erosion of bright-line protections of free speech in the United Kingdom and other European countries. Judge Peter Lodder QC declared “I do not sentence you for your political views, but the extremity of those views informs the assessment of dangerousness.” That is a fine distinction that allows for sweeping criminalization of political viewpoints.

When police searched Brock’s room they found a chilling montage of hateful symbols as well as weapons.

Documents he had included ¿The Anarchists¿ Cookbook¿ showing how to make explosives

That is included SS memorabilia, a Ku Klux Klan recognition certificate as well of a picture of him armed in a balaclava in front of a swastika flag. They also searched his computer and found downloaded videos of ISIS beheadings and unedited video footage filmed by far-right terrorist Brenton Tarrant shooting 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019.

In other words, Brock is the disgusting individual with Nazi and violent fantasies. However, he was charged under the nebulous criminal provisions used to punish those with offensive views rather than actions. Police charged him with three counts of possession of material likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing a terrorist act.

However, Lodder at least had the honestly to make plain that Brock was being jailed for his views.  Lodder lambasted Brock, declaring

“[i]t is clear that you are a right-wing extremist, your enthusiasm for this repulsive and toxic ideology is demonstrated by the graphic and racist iconography which you have studied and appeared to share with others… Your bedroom was decorated with SS memorabilia, a framed Ku Klux Klan recognition certificate in your own name was hanging on your wall….You stored documents such as the offensively titled ‘N***er owner’s manual’, you had video clips of Ku Klux Klan discussions about race war, of cross-burning, of decapitation, and a propaganda video of Combat 18, a race-hate neo-Nazi group. The police discovered racist ‘memes’, a copy of the Christchurch mosque murderer’s livestream video and a news clip of the proscribed terrorist group National Action. In addition, your stored photographs of you wearing a balaclava and holding firearms in poses reminiscent of the Combat 18 propaganda, and of you in company with other neo-Nazi sympathisers who were making a Nazi salute.

The degree of your devotion is indicated by your decision to cover your upper body and arms with tattoos of symbols associated with neo-Nazism, SS death head skulls, swastikas and of individuals infamous in Hitler’s Germany.”

What is most striking is that Lodder makes clear that it is harboring these views, not disseminating them or taking action that is the crime.

Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes, Head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) acknowledged that others might collect such items for historical or academic purposes but Brock crossed the line because he agreed with the underlying views:

“From the overwhelming evidence shown to the jury, it is clear Brock had material which demonstrates he went far beyond the legitimate actions of a military collector…Brock showed a clear right-wing ideology with the evidence seized from his possessions during the investigation….We are committed to tackling all forms of toxic ideology which has the potential to threaten public safety and security.”

The prosecution erases any clear line between criminal conduct and criminal thoughts.  Brock gathered these materials and videos from public and legal sources. It was his collection — and clear agreement with the underlying ideologies — that led to his prosecution. The same material might be permitted for someone who collected such material for research or historical interest.

Free speech dies in the absence of bright lines of protection. The different treatment afforded faculty creates an obviously chilling effect on free speech.  Avoiding the chilling effect of potential punishment for speech is a core concern running through Supreme Court cases.  For example, in 1964, the Supreme Court struck down the law screening incoming mail. A unanimous court, Justice William Douglas rejected the law as “a limitation on the unfettered exercise of the addressee’s First Amendment rights.” It noted that such review “is almost certain to have a deterrent effect” on the free speech rights of Americans, particularly for “those who have sensitive positions:”

This case is part of a general erosion of free speech in the United Kingdom. We have been following (here and here and here and here and here and here and here) the worsening situation in England concerning free speech. The problem is trying to draw such lines rather than embracing free speech as protecting not just popular but unpopular and even hateful speech. Once you start as a government to criminalize speech, you end up on a slippery slope of censorship. What constitutes hate speech remains a highly subjective matter and we have seen a steady expansion of prohibited terms and words and gestures. As noted in a prior column, free speech appears to be dying in the West with the increasing criminalization of speech under discrimination, hate, and blasphemy laws.

The Brock case raises comparisons to the German laws criminalizing Nazi symbols and literature. It has proven ineffective in stopping neo-Nazis. Indeed, it curtails the very right that is most effective in countering extremist viewpoints. It is free speech that allows people of conscience to contest the flawed and hateful ideas of bigots. Germany has proven the fallacy of changing minds through threatened prosecution.  While I am obviously sympathetic to the Germans in seeking to end the scourge of fascism, I have long been a critic of the German laws prohibiting certain symbols and phrases, I view it as not just a violation of free speech but a futile effort to stamp but extremism by barring certain symbols. Instead, extremists have rallied around an underground culture and embraced symbols that closely resemble those banned by the government. I fail to see how arresting a man for a Hitler ringtone is achieving a meaningful level of deterrence, even if you ignore the free speech implications.

Most of us share Judge Lodder’s disgust and contempt for Brock and his viewpoints. Free speech allows us to counter such speech. However, people who believe in free speech do not have the luxury of favoring free speech for those with whom we agree. We must defend free speech itself rather than any given speaker. The Brock case is chilling not because of the existence of a whacked down neo-Nazi in Maidenhead, Berkshire but because of his prosecution for being a whacked down neo-Nazi in Maidenhead, Berkshire.

28 thoughts on ““Toxic Ideology”: English Neo-Nazi Given Four Years For His Extremist Views”

  1. I knew I couldn’t take my guns to the UK on vacation. Now, it seems I can’t even go there with pictures of them on my iPhone. Oh well, that sucks.

  2. There is a Supreme Court opinion named Kotematsu where the Court approved the internment in concentration camps of Japanese, Germans, and Italians. They could be citizens and could have been born here.
    Members of the German American Bund were locked up and punished.
    Kotematsu has not been overturned.
    Be careful what you say Donald Trump. Your dad was a member of the German American Bund.

  3. And still no Turley articles Re. the most outrageous of all thought crimes: imprisoning persons whom deny the Western version of “holocaustianity.” Approximately 17 European nations + Canada imprison persons whom reject the most sacred religion of all,” holocaustianity.”

    What you can not criticize is your God.

  4. “TOXIC IDEOLOGY”

    “The neo-Nazi was given a four-year sentence for what the court called his ‘toxic ideology’ based on the contents of the home he shared with his mother in Maidenhead, Berkshire.”

    – Professor Turley
    _______________

    Labeling a political thesis as “toxic” is utterly tyrannical, oppressive and arbitrary.

    Communists (liberals, progressives, socialists, democrats, RINOs) label Lincoln a patriotic statesman while he was demonstrably “toxic,” malevolent and lethal for America (slavery must have been ended by legal means).

    Communists (liberals, progressives, socialists, democrats, RINOs) label patriotic American conservatives as “toxic,” when conservatism, not communism (liberalism, progressiveism, socialism, democratism, RINOism), is precisely what the American Founders and their Constitution established and codified.

    Communists (liberals, progressives, socialists, democrats, RINOs) label the Constitution and Bill of Rights as “toxic.”

    Communists (liberals, progressives, socialists, democrats, RINOs) label Americans, Caucasians, as “privileged” (well, duuuuuh, are Chinese privileged in China, are Africans privileged in Africa?) and “toxic.”

    Americans enjoy freedoms of speech, thought, press, publication, religion, belief, assembly, segregation, etc., and every other conceivable, natural and God-given right and freedom per the 9th Amendment.

    Laws and statutes may not be passed which deny and nullify the constitutional rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities of Americans including the freedom of thought, opinion, belief, ideology, etc.

    Unconstitutional legislation, including laws against “toxic ideology,” must be immediately struck down by the judicial branch – which is its sole and singular charge and duty – as it possess no legislative or executive power.

    Americans should console and support those, now long-suffering, blood relatives and free and self-reliant conservatives in the Communist Republic of Great Britain.

    The global dominion of “toxic” communists (liberals, progressives, socialists, democrats, RINOs) must be abrogated and annihilated.

  5. How tragic that these thought police lack the ability to see the irony of their actions. They are more dangerous than the man they punish.

  6. BLM and Woke ideology in general espouse hateful racist views similar to Neo Nazis and the KKK. We’ve all heard the rhetoric, that whites are born oppressors, that whites get wealthy by robbing the poor. There is also antisemitic sentiment about wealthy Jews of European ancestry that smacks of Nazi propaganda…hence one of the reasons why BLM supports Hamas terrorists. Yet the Left probably reads stories like this and feels itself superior to such a lost soul.

    Remember all those times we’ve read how a Woke professor calling Israel an apartheid state, or saying that whites should die. We’ve all read about the racially segregated dorm rooms, graduations, study groups, and the discrimination against Asians.

    But it’s not right to imprison someone for being a *&^*&. We all feel like our own beliefs are the best ones. Should everyone else go to jail who doesn’t agree with us? Is that going to change their mind? The unfairness of imprisoning someone for their ideas may do more to recruit angry people than any soapbox speech.

    Punishing someone for an opinion is anathema to freedom. The right to say your opinion, without fear of arrest, is a basic human right. It applies to the angelic and the fallen and everyone in between in our society. Let people decide based on what you say if they want to associate with you.

    I hope we fight harder against hate speech laws. I don’t agree with what many people say, but I’d fight to the death to defend their right to say it.

  7. A government program to prohibit offensive speech will require deciding who gets to define what is offensive, developing a clear and unambiguous definition of what is offensive, and suppressing speech based on that definition.

    The thing created out of this process will quickly devolve into an authoritarian movement led by power-hungry elites guided by their own bigotries and supremacist tendencies.

  8. While I agree with Prof. Turley’s opinion in general, this issue is not really appropriate for an American legal expert to discuss because it’s not an American issue. Our ancestors, those of us whose ancestors have been here since colonial times, broke off from England to obtain freedoms they did not have under the English crown. In short, what happens in the UK is the UK’s business, what happens in the US is the US’s business. The First Amendment to the US Constitution has no application beyond the 12-mile limits and the Canadian and Mexican borders.

    1. Exactly and specifically what is “not…appropriate” about Turley and anyone else expressing an opinion on British law? Obviously you glaringly miss your obvious-to-others hypocrisy: while claiming something is inappropriate you do exactly that thing. Is that one of your worse personality defects or is there worse?

      So you’re against freedom of thought and speech, and claim it is not the superior philosophy compared to the opposite?

    2. Sem…..you need to get out more.

      How many articles has Professor Turley posted here about attacks upon free speech….that it is occurring in the UK and Europe as well as here should be all the more concerning to you.

      The Laws are different…..but the concept of being allowed to exercise one’s right to freely express oneself is universal.

      Any time free speech is stifled, attacked, banned, or punished…..nothing good happens as a result.

      Thought Police are the same everywhere….and are evil.

      Turley is spot on with this one!

  9. I am trying to find a full report of this case, so far without success.

    I want to know if the firearms were genuine or not.

    I also need to understand the exact offence of which he was found guilty. His defence counsel argued ‘But this is not enough evidence to suggest that Mr Brock is a terrorist, or in any way does it prove that he was going to commit a terror attack, and that’s what you have to consider.’ (1) Is mere possession of material (for instance, in this case, the Anarchist’s Cookbook) sufficient to incur the penalty of imprisonment?

    Does anyone have access to a full report please?

    (1) https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9393407/Pictured-Bedroom-neo-Nazi-memorabilia-collector-facing-jail.html

  10. The reality in real practice is that (worldwide) judges don’t enforce the 4th Amendment or international privacy laws. In other words there is virtually no risk to any investigator (worldwide) to perform illegal searches. In that reality, why would we want potentially dangerous individuals to go dark so that authorities couldn’t monitor them and counter those viewpoints? Censorship never works, it makes matters worse.

  11. Turley proclaims: “Free speech dies in the absence of bright lines of protection.”

    Um, if you are not too busy, next time you write an article defending free speech, could you share with us an example of a “bright line”?

    I completely agree that this Neo-Nazi should not be imprisoned. On the other hand, as a free speech absolutist, you would object if CNN refused to give him a platform to air his views. This is where we differ. A Neo-Nazi should be ignored, shunned, and ostracized, but the Trumpists would complain that he is being “cancelled.”

    1. “Um, if you are not too busy, next time you write an article defending free speech, could you share with us an example of a “bright line?”
      *************************
      Texas v. Johnson bright enough for you?

      1. Don’t tell me a god-fearing REAL American such as yourself believes that flag desecration should be constitutional! Say it’s not so, Mespo!

        1. JS:

          No it was 5-4 and an ill-considered decision in my view. But it was also a “bright line” that you asked for. Citing something for one purpose doesn’t suggest you endorse it for all purposes. Take your right to express whatever it is you are expressing as an example. Simple logic.

    2. “. . . could you share with us an example of a “bright line”?”

      The one you just gave. It’s called reaffirmation in the act of denial.

  12. I agree with you, Prof. Turley. In the absence of any history of committing illegal acts or an active plan or conspiracy to do so, this is suppression of opinions.

    If the court really believes he is a threat, he could be placed under surveillance, subjected to periodic visits by police or social workers, etc. But making him a criminal is a step too far.

  13. Are we safer knowing who the dangerous people are (allowing them Free Speech rights that can be countered with Free Speech) or do we want them going dark or using code-words not knowing? From any nation’s national security perspective, homeland security officials could better monitor those that could pose a danger. Censoring and punishing speech/association makes them more dangerous.

    Do citizens really want a “Thought Police” punishing citizens not for actions but thoughts? Never forget that American security officials tried to do this to a Christian minister advocating Christian values – Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The agencies tasked with creating a “Thought Police” are driven by politicians, with short term goals, trying to win the next election.

  14. I agree with Prof Turley’s stance on “free speech.” As much as I deplor people who have ideas like those of Brock, I don’t want speech stifled unless, clearly, it has the effect of causing imminent violence. I have dropped my longtime ACLU membership because of the ACLU’s current waffling over whether nonviolent “hate-speech” should be legally permisible. These are legal – Constitutional – questions….whether or not we agree or disagree with the speaker’s views.

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