Inside the Call of Duty games hosted by British far-right group to 'recruit young people' into twisted white nationalism

VIDEO games are a great way to connect with people during lockdown – and the far-right knows it.

With gaming enjoying a huge boost thanks to the pandemic, prominent British neo-Nazi Mark Collett is pushing his hate group on Call of Duty which could be being used as a tool to recruit young people, according to an extremism expert.

Collett, 41, is hosting public tournaments on Call of Duty: Warzone and promoting them online through his organisation, Patriotic Alternative.

The far-right group, which Collett founded after previously running the Youth BNP, pushes racist conspiracy theories and anti-lockdown sentiment to attract new members.

Collett, who has been banned from several social media platforms, featured in a 2002 documentary called Young, Nazi and Proud expressing admiration for Hitler and calls AIDS a "friendly disease because blacks, drug users and gays have it".

And anti-racism advocacy group Hope Not Hate describes Patriotic Alternative as a "fascist, antisemitic white nationalist organisation". 

Call of Duty: Warzone, which has more than 85million players worldwide, isjust the latest battleground where heinous far-right groups are attempting to reach new, young members.

The game is marketed with an 18 age certification in the UK, but players as young as six have fanbases playing Warzone on streaming sites.

“This issue of young people being recruited into these groups is huge, and I think the UK is one of the places where it’s been most evident,” says Cristina Ariza, an analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change whose research focuses on far-right extremism.

After a neo-Nazi boy became the UK's youngest ever terrorist by committing terror offences aged just 13, experts are warning parents to keep their kids safe from extremist groups targeting them online.

'School in the morning'

Patriotic Alternative sells itself as a respectable "community building and activist" group – but some of those tuning into its Call of Duty tournaments appear to think they're in a safe place to express reprehensible ideas.

Anyone with a PC, PS4 or Xbox One can play Warzone for free, and anyone can join Patriotic Alternative's tournaments using details available online.

Players taking part in the game or even just those wanting to watch can do so via a livestream hosted on Collett's YouTube channel and other places.

In a recent tournament, viewers used references to far-right figures like Adolf Hitler and British Union of Fascists (BUF) leader Oswald Mosley in their account names while posting coded – as well as explicit – racist messages.

One user's account took the name and picture of Arnold Spencer Leese – the British founder of the Imperial Fascist League who advocated gassing Jews in the mid-1930s and who criticised the BUF for not being anti-semitic enough.

Another user with an anti-Semitic username replied with: "Isn't American football dominated by non-whites? It can't require that much IQ".

The same account, along with at least two others, used the term "joggers" – code for the n-word used as a reference to the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was chased and shot dead last year while out jogging in Georgia, US.

Some of the users couldn't even keep their despicable race hatred out of discussing the game itself.

One suggested that purchasable in-game content was evidence of the makers' "Jewish ways".

Another unfamiliar with the format of the battle royale game asked: "Can you buy ammo with the shekels [the currency of Israel] you find on the map?"

While it's not clear how old the players in the tournaments are, or the thousands of viewers who've watched Collett's livestream, some were anxious for the game to start because they had "bed times".

One even complained they had to leave early because they had "school in the morning".

Kids convicted for terror

These gaming tournaments come at an extremely worrying time for the far-rights' apparent appeal to British youngsters.

A 16-year-old from Cornwall has just been sentenced to a 24-month youth rehabilitation order after he was found to be the head of a British cell of the neo-Nazi group Feuerkrieg Division (FKD) run from his grandma's house.

There's no suggestion he was linked to, or influenced by, Patriotic Alternative or Collett.

He was just 14 when he was arrested and had committed his very first terror offence aged 13 – making him the youngest terrorist in British history.

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, downloaded manuals on how to make napalm, bombs, and even AK-47 assault rifles using easily available parts.

And he'd also recruited autistic 17-year-old Paul Dunleavy into the group, who was jailed for more than five years in 2020 for plotting a terrorist attack.

Dunleavy had developed an "unhealthy interest" in other extremist attacks like the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand and called Atomwaffen Division member James Mason a personal hero – along with Adolf Hitler.

His conviction came in the same month as that of 18-year-old neo-Nazi Harry Vaughan, an A* grammar school student who avoided jail after admitting terror offences.

Atomwaffen, which aims to overthrow the US government, has been linked with at least five murders and terror plots, and has links with UK's Sonnenkrieg Division, which has had teenage members.

Propaganda videos for Atomwaffen Division have also been found easily accessible to kids on TikTok.

Last year, Home Office figures showed a huge jump in the number of under-18s referred to the government's counter-terrorism programme Channel due to concerns they were involved with the far-right, Sky News reports.

Some 682 children were referred for that reason in 2017-18, compared with 131 in 2014-15 – more than a fivefold increase.

Of those referred, 24 were kids under the age of 10.

'I embraced racial holy war'

As a former neo-Nazi who now helps people escape far-right groups, Nigel Bromage knows all too well how young kids can be when they start being recruited by extremists.

Now in his 50s, Nigel was just 15 when he was given a leaflet at school promoting a group called Birmingham Against the IRA.

Disgusted with the Irish Republican Army's terror attacks, Nigel wanted to take a stand against them – but he didn't realise the group he was joining was really a front for the National Front, a far-right political party.

Over time he became increasingly radicalised and eventually left the National Front to join even more extreme, explicitly neo-Nazi groups like Combat 18, where he ended up on its national council.

“I even embraced a religion which was promoting things like what they call RaHoWa, ‘racial holy war’," Nigel says.

“I’d gone from somebody who hated extremism and terrorism to eventually getting involved with organisations which just advocated direct action as a way of getting their political aims achieved.

“It just shows you how the grooming process works. You go from one single issue, and you’re groomed and groomed and groomed to take on these ideas.

"Eventually, no matter what’s put in front of you, you will accept.”

Nigel's wife left him over his participation in the group, which started to make him question his choices, and he eventually called it quits after a particularly shocking incident in Birmingham.

After a Combat 18 meeting, 15 members of the group began verbally abusing a black man in the street.

As the thugs harassed the man, Nigel saw a woman and kids crying at a nearby bus stop.

"I quickly realised it was his wife and his children. My decision then was, do I walk away, because I wasn’t going to get involved in this awful attack? Or do I do the right thing?” 

He intervened, using his status in Combat 18 to call off the mob who were "baying for blood" and get the family to safety.

It led to the unravelling of his extremist beliefs, and he now helps others leave far-right groups through his independent non-profit organisation, Exit UK.

Eventually, no matter what’s put in front of you, you will accept

He's also previously worked as an Intervention Provider in cases of people referred to Channel, part of the Prevent strategy which aims to identify people before they become terrorists.

The youngest person he's supported was nine.

'More worried now than we've ever been'

Nigel believes there's a very clear reason a group like Patriotic Alternative would be hosting Call of Duty tournaments.

"It’s a really easy way to recruit young people,” he says.

“If you have a common interest like baking or film clubs and gaming, they’ll then have a common interest to talk about and get involved with.

"That’s really about creating that sense of community and bringing people into the organisation.

“Without that initial interest, like gaming, they wouldn’t get access to that sort of audience.

"It’s just a tool really to bring people into the movement – but unfortunately it’s a really successful one.”

Nigel adds that 70 per cent of the people he supports are recruited into the far-right online – and he's concerned that lockdown is giving us more time than ever to come into contact with extreme propaganda.

“If I’m honest, from our point of view, we’re more worried now than we’ve ever been," he says.

"It’s not about numbers. You don’t need large numbers to have an effect on people.”

Cristina Ariza has similar fears, saying lockdown has accelerated an existing trend of the far-right focusing their recruitment efforts online.

“The defences that we usually have up are a bit diminished now because of the long lockdown," she says.

You don't need large numbers to have an effect on people

“It has the possibility of emphasising and intensifying a lot of these trends that are already happening.”

A spokesperson for Activision, the company which publishes Call of Duty: Warzone, said: “We do not tolerate racism, hatred or harassment of any form. We condemn hate-speech behaviour in the strongest terms.

"Millions of people play Call of Duty around the world. It is saddening and troubling that anyone would use any video game to espouse hate.

"The actions we have taken to confront racist behaviour include banning players for racist and hate-oriented names, implementing new technology and making it easier for players to report offensive in-game behaviour.

"We will continue to invest in and deploy additional measures aimed not only at enforcement of our policies, but also prevention and education.”

A Patriotic Alternative spokesperson said: "Hope Not Hate are far left, anti-White activists therefore their opinion on us should be disregarded by any decent person.



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"Exit UK's statement is also tiresome. They're labelling decent, patriotic people as 'far right'."

A YouTube spokesperson told The Sun: "YouTube has clear policies that outline what content is not acceptable to post and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us."

They did not comment on whether Collett's channel would be taken down. It was still active at the time this article was published.







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