Far-right nationalists have a fun new thing, and that new thing is this: barging their way into offices staffed with people who disagree with them. Why? To prove a point. That point? Unclear, exactly.
Last Friday, our colleagues at the VICE Romania offices in Bucharest became the latest recipients of a surprise visit from a couple of angry ultra-nationalists, in the form of Paul Hitter, an anti-vaccine activist, and Calin Mărincuş, a former kickboxer and current admin of the Facebook page "No Islamisation of Romania".
The pair got access the building by telling the receptionist they were there for a meeting with a VICE manager, which, of course, they were not. Once they were in, Mărincuş accused VICE staff of being "progressive" – as an insult, presumably? – while Hitter grinned and filmed.
Mărincuş then said he was there to find Ovidiu Tiţă, a VICE Romania writer who had interviewed him last July about his taking part in a counter-demonstration against the first ever Gay Pride event in Cluj-Napoca, Romania's second largest city. In that Q&A, Mărincuş revealed that – in his opinion – "homosexuality is a mental illness", "deviant" and "a choice". At the office, the ex-kickboxer didn’t explain exactly why he was so keen to speak to Ovidiu, but we're going to assume it had something to do with his bad opinions being quoted verbatim on the internet.
When he couldn’t find Ovidiu, Mărincuş told a female VICE staffer that she was "beautiful" and "paid for it", before a number of staff started to show him and Hitter to the door. "You’re just a bunch of progressive shills," said Mărincuş, through clenched teeth. "Shame on you. You do not represent young people in Romania."
This punchy but ultimately pointless office invasion tactic was most likely learned from other far-right figures throughout Europe.
In May of 2017, around 50 members of the far-right Identitarian Movement tried to storm the German Justice Ministry to protest an anti-hate speech law. Police managed to stop the group and arrest its leader.
The same month, former EDL leader Tommy Robinson – accompanied by a staffer from Rebel Media, a sort of alt-right Buzzfeed that now employs Katie Hopkins – stormed the London offices of Quilliam, a counter-extremism think-tank which, in 2013, "facilitated [Tommy’s] departure from the leadership of the English Defence League". He was there because a then-Quilliam staff member had written an article for the Guardian about far-right extremism that mentioned Tommy three times – something he clearly wasn’t very happy about.
Earlier in 2017, Robinson stormed the offices of Wales Online to find and question a writer who had called him "far-right" – a classification he refused to accept, despite very publicly promoting far-right ideas for nearly a decade.
Where these intrepid ultra-nationalists are going to turn up next is anyone's guess, but if you work for a media organisation that occasionally criticises hate-mongering, who knows – it could be at your door.
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