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The Sarah Everard Case: misogyny, conspiracy and whataboutery

Safya Khan-Ruf - 13 10 21

The grim details of what happened to Sarah Everard were revealed at the Old Bailey last month, and her murder has increased calls by campaigners to make society safer for women. However, amongst the far right, her murder resulted in anger against feminism, whataboutery using Asian grooming gangs and criticism of the COVID lockdown. 

“Crisis actors the lot of them… Go research the killing of Sarah Everard. Then tell me if she was real or made up to pass legislation,” commented one Telegram user in Stephen Yaxley-Lennon’s (AKA Tommy Robinson) group.  

Anti-Feminism 

The idea that this was an orchestrated attack on white men appeared to be a recurring belief in far-right Telegram groups. The white nationalist group Patriotic Alternative (PA) wrote on their website that this was an imaginary crisis by a “malicious feminist crusade” that had been whipped up by those “motivated out of pure malice” or the “unfortunate victims of progressive indoctrination”.  

While gender equality views seems to be generally improving in the UK, anti-feminists remain vocal and organised online, and these views are entrenched within the far right. One user in a far right group on Telegram described feminism as “sabotaging white civilisation”. Sarah Everard’s murder prompted calls for change to make women safer on the streets – but on far-right social media platforms, her death was seen as being instrumentalised by feminists with an agenda to destroy white men.  

recent report co-written by HOPE not hate, states that the manosphere is broadly united by the belief that feminism promotes misandry’ rather than equality for women. “Whilst many of the ideas and issues that occupy the manosphere are inherently misogynistic, others, such as concerns about male homelessness and suicide, are issues of legitimate societal concern. However, instead of meaningfully engaging with these topics, the manosphere seeks to blame such issues on feminism, progressive politics, and women in general, often using conspiratorial language.” 

What about Asians 

Many far right users pivoted from the Sarah Everard case to asking ‘what about’ Asian male grooming gangs. PA stated, “It is true that females in Britain have recently found themselves at risk of grooming, sexual assault, rape and murder. The so-called grooming gangs which are in reality rape gangs predominated by Pakistani Muslims have brought terror across our country.” A Home Office report recently concluded there is no one ethnic group that is over-represented in cases of child sexual exploitation and that Asians being more represented was a far-right myth.  

This has not prevented users of far-right Telegram groups discussing the cover up of Muslim grooming gangs and compared it to the police response for this case. Sarah Everard’s murder provided an excuse to pivot to child sexual exploitation – an issue where the far right have had some success in tapping into public anger. The PA Telegram group shared a post musing that the outpouring of grief over the murder by a white man was because women in London have for a long time been receiving “leers, insults and sexual assaults” at the hands of “non white men they wanted in the country” and that they could “never speak out about it”.  

The hyper focus on non-white men fits with the far-right narrative that the white indigenous population is being replaced by arriving populations of brown migrants that intend to steal white women. Far-right activist James Goddard questioned on Telegram whether the reaction would be the same if the murderer had been non-white, while one user in Tommy Robinson’s Telegram wrote, “Imagine if these grooming gangs were white males. This would be in the spotlight constantly. Sarah Everard (RIP) was murdered by that deranged police officer and there were serious calls to put men under curfew.” 

One far right activist, Steve Laws, asked on Telegram, “Where are all these women’s/girls rights groups when thousands of young girls are being groomed & raped in the UK. We all know why they don’t stand up for the girls, because the men that commit the crimes are not white. #AllGirlsLivesMatter” 

COVID 

Another focus point in far right groups on Telegram was on government and police power, and how that could be used against ordinary citizens. Wayne Couzens used COVID lockdown rules to abduct Everard and this was seized as another reason why COVID restrictions were bad and had to be resisted. One user in the group posted, “If we keep giving away our power to these tyrants, then they will start murdering us with their perceived, over-zealous power and fraudulent Acts of Parliament they have been granted by a treasonous Government!  No-one will be safe….” 

One of the greatest concerns across far right groups on social media was the government imposing COVID vaccines on the population. Disinformation is rife around the pandemic, with conspiracy theories and plain falsehoods being spread around the source of the vaccine and the results of taking it. Sarah Everard’s murder was therefore used to prove what ‘listening to the police and government’ would cause.  

It is important to note that far-right views on the murder of Sarah Everard are not an aberration within society. There was a spectrum of anti-feminist opinions on far-right social media platforms but these echoed bad takes and misogyny heard within the mainstream. While not as awful as believing her murder was a stunt or that this was a play to attack the white man, there is a connection with asking questions like ‘what was she wearing?’ when a woman is attacked. 

The far right could not instrumentalise this tragedy the way they have in the past when an attacker happens to be an immigrant, or brown or ‘other’ in any way. However, the transparent way they switched from the murder of a young woman to how much they, the far right and white men, were the victims in this story is telling. Their denial of the facts of the case and pivot to Asian grooming gangs with an unhealthy dose of conspiracy also showed the confirmation bias in their thought processes – dismissing anything that did not fit with their narrative.   

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