Terrorist group founder now running online neo-Nazi T-shirt business

Emilee Geist

The Blackguard online shop run by National Action co-founder Ben Raymond (screengrab) The co-founder of a far-right terrorist group has set up an online business selling neo-Nazi T-shirts, The Independent can reveal. Ben Raymond, who started National Action in 2013, distanced himself from the group after it became the first […]

The Blackguard online shop run by National Action co-founder Ben Raymond (screengrab)
The Blackguard online shop run by National Action co-founder Ben Raymond (screengrab)

The co-founder of a far-right terrorist group has set up an online business selling neo-Nazi T-shirts, The Independent can reveal.

Ben Raymond, who started National Action in 2013, distanced himself from the group after it became the first far-right association to be banned under British terror laws.

More than a dozen people have been jailed for membership of the organisation, and other followers mounted terror plots, but Raymond has never been prosecuted.

He can now be revealed as the operator of an online retailer called Blackguard, which sells T-shirts and posters covered in neo-Nazi designs.

A post on the retailer’s Twitter account said its mission was “esoteric [mystical Nazism] design with professional style”.

“This ensures products that can be comfortably displayed on any occasion,” said the tweet posted on Saturday. “Apparel is to be worn in public – no more bedroom jihads!”

The account, which promised “much more to come”, has been interacting with far-right extremists.

When one user asked whether Blackguard was run by Raymond, he replied “yes” from his personal Twitter account.

He did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

The T-shirts on sale display swastikas, swords, guns, the Nazi black sun symbol and references to occult Nazism.

Some feature figures including the Nazi ideologue Savitri Devi, who was among the founders of the World Union of National Socialists, and cult leader Charles Manson.

An expert told The Independent the eclectic images “fit perfectly with the cults that neo-Nazi groups and the far right have developed”.

Dr Paul Jackson, an associate professor in history at Northampton University, said the meaning of the designs may not have been noticed by social media firms and website operators because they are “not so in your face or as aggressively demonic” as others.

The Blackguard online shop run by National Action co-founder Ben Raymondscreengrab
The Blackguard online shop run by National Action co-founder Ben Raymondscreengrab

“They are smuggling symbols and images through in a way that you might get away with,” he added.

“It’s striking but it’s not necessarily immediately obvious what you’re looking at.”

Dr Jackson said the designs would be readable to an “online world” of white nationalists familiar with the symbolic meanings behind them.

When a Twitter follower suggested a design depicting a soldier with prominent SS symbols, the Blackguard account replied: “I will need to make it a little more circumspect.”

Raymond created much of National Action’s propaganda before it was banned as a terrorist group in 2016, and court cases heard that he designed stickers for splinter organisations that were set up afterwards.

Dr Jackson said National Action had attempted to create a “new look and style” for neo-Nazism in the UK, following similar pushes by international groups including the US Atomwaffen Division.

Alongside the neo-Nazi T-shirt designs, Blackguard’s Instagram page contained references to the eco-fascist “pine tree gang” movement and Asatru paganism, which has been co-opted by the far right.

The account’s handle was “Blackguard graphic design” but the name displayed was Benito Raymondo. Benito is also the first name of Italian fascist dictator Mussolini.

Raymond and Alex Davies founded National Action as university students in 2013, recruiting young and vulnerable followers with online propaganda, demonstrations and publicity stunts.

'National Action is a racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic organisation which stirs up hatred, glorifies violence, and promotes a vile ideology, and I will not stand for it,' Amber Rudd tells parliament
‘National Action is a racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic organisation which stirs up hatred, glorifies violence, and promotes a vile ideology, and I will not stand for it,’ Amber Rudd tells parliament

In 2016, it became the first far-right group to be banned under British terror laws, making membership an offence punishable by 10 years imprisonment.

The government called it a “racist, antisemitic and homophobic organisation” that glorified violence and radicalised young people.

A total of 15 people have so far been jailed for membership of National Action and its successor groups, after it split into regional factions that operated under new names until they were also proscribed.

One former member, Jack Renshaw, was later jailed for plotting to murder his local MP, while another made a pipe bomb and police have found numerous stashes of knives and weapons.

Courts heard evidence naming Raymond and Davies as co-founders and showing them communicating with members after the ban.

A 2018 trial of National Action members heard that one supporter told another that Raymond had designed stickers “for all the ex NA groups”.

Neither man has been charged with an offence and they both deny any wrongdoing.

Big Cartel, an ecommerce platform that hosts the Blackguard shop, did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

Its homepage displays a Black Lives Matter slogan and says: “Big Cartel is committed to being an anti-racist company and transparent about our efforts.”

The Blackguard Twitter account also remains online after the tech firm claimed it was “not in violation of Twitter rules”.

Blackguard’s former Instagram account was deleted after The Independent asked the social media firm for comment.

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New neo-Nazi terrorist groups will emerge as bans ‘not effective’

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