A gay former extremist Caolan Robertson has said that leaving the far-right was like leaving “a cult”, and explained how homophobia contributed to his radicalisation.
Robertson grew up in the Republic of Ireland, and moved the the north of England as a child.
He knew he was gay from a young age, but according to the New York Times, when he later moved to London he began to experience more homophobia than ever before, including from Muslim communities in the city’s East End.
This caused him to start building resentment towards Islam, and begin his journey into the folds of the far-right.
When the tragic Pulse massacre took place in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, the shooter’s religion added fuel to his hatred, and he began watching videos on YouTube to learn more.
While he started by watching more mainstream news videos about the shooting, the algorithm began recommending content to him that was gradually more extreme.
By 2017, Robertson was working as a video producer for the far-right, anti-Islam co-founder of the English Defence League Tommy Robinson.
Over the next two years, he created anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim video content for far-right activists in both the UK and beyond, including Canadian alt-right YouTuber Lauren Southern, who once staged a fake gender transition, vlogger Stefan Molyneux, who has claimed that Black people “are collectively less intelligent”, and American far-right InfoWars host Alex Jones, who thinks drag queens are putting chemicals in the water to recruit children and that Anderson Cooper is an undercover CIA agent.
Caolan Robertson escaped the “cult” of the far-right to help fight extremism.
Luckily, in 2019, things changed for Caolan Robertson.
In March that year, when two mass shootings took place at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, he finally realised that the ideas he was putting out could fuel the same violence that sparked his radicalisation in 2016.
Robertson found it extremely hard to extricate himself from the far-right world, he told NewsTalk, and compared it to escaping “a cult”.
Now, he works for BylineTV, fighting fake news, and has co-founded FutureFreedom, an organisation which helps people “radicalised into extreme political movements get out”.
Robertson said he is happy to work with “genuine progressives who believe that people who have renounced their extremist views should be redeemed”.
He continued: “They believe in rehabilitation and they also believe in creating a better world and to stop the far-right, we have to be able to allow people to leave it and to dismantle it.
“I make millions of views a month now exposing the far-right, exposing disinformation, and I feel like I’m actively dismantling the stuff I used to do before but also helping to put my skills towards genuine content that’s progressive, that’s not going to result in real-world violence.”