Brexit men launch anti-EU website
A British businessman who has poured millions into anti-EU campaigns is launching a right-wing news website on the model of Breitbart, a populist US site, which is also expanding in Europe.
Arron Banks's website, called Westmonster, went online on Thursday (19 January), one day before Donald Trump’s inauguration in the US.
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It published stories on Brexit, on burqas, and on Polish immigrants.
Its blurb said it was: “Pro-Brexit, pro-Farage, pro-Trump. Anti-establishment, anti-open borders, anti-corporatism.”
It said that Brexit and that Trump’s victory in the US were “one hell of a beating” for “the establishment” and a “victory for ordinary people”.
Banks bankrolled the unofficial Leave.eu campaign before last year's UK referendum, and has donated large sums to Ukip, the eurosceptic party formerly led by his long-time ally Nigel Farage.
With Brexit talks to start in March and with far-right parties the VVD, the National Front, and the AfD to contest Dutch, French, and German elections, Westmonster said this year “might just be even bigger” than 2016 in terms of “radical political change”.
Farage, in a column on Westmonster's front page, said Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders could cause a “shock” in The Netherlands and that British diplomats should meet with French far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
One Westmonster story was entitled “Brits want Burqa banned!”.
It cited a YouGov poll saying that 50 percent of British people wanted to ban the full Islamic veil. It said Germans also wanted it banned, adding: “Not surprising, given [German chancellor] Merkel’s disastrous open-door immigration policy.”
The stories used provocative language.
One attacked the “wall-to-wall bitching and whining from Remoaners”, referring to “Remainers”, or pro-EU voters. Another one attacked the “ultra pro-EU House of Lords”.
Westmonster urged people to “Be part of the movement!” by signing up to its email “Red Alert”.
It gave little information on its ownership or its writers.
According to the BBC, it is 50-percent owned by Banks, with Michael Heaver, Farage’s former press adviser, to edit the site.
Westmonster aimed to generate traffic by targeting the 800,000 people who follow Leave.eu on Facebook, the BBC said.
It aimed to aggregate news from other sites and to interview celebrities and right-wing MPs.
Its links to Trump will be on show in Washington this weekend, where Banks and Farage are to attend Trump’s inauguration and to host him at a party in the Hays-Adams Hotel, the BBC added.
Westmonster’s launch comes amid plans by Breitbart, a far-right and pro-Trump US website, to expand its operations in Europe.
Breitbart, which used to be run by Steve Bannon, who is now Trump’s chief strategist, is to launch websites in France and Germany ahead of the forthcoming elections.
It launched its first European site in the UK in 2014, which championed Brexit and Farage, and it is expected to cheer on the National Front and the AfD.
Its British website has grown by 135 percent year on year and has 15 million monthly page views and a large social media following, according to The Economist.
Earlier this month, its US site reported that Muslim men chanting “Allahu Akbar!” had clashed with police in the town of Dortmund and that German authorities had hushed it up.
Dortmund police debunked the story, but Breitbart did not take it down.
Westmonster and Breitbart’s European ventures coincide with a Russian anti-EU propaganda campaign.
British, German, and US spy chiefs have described Russian influence operations as a threat to French and German democracy.
They warned, in separate statements, that Russian state hackers, backed by state media such as as RT and Sputnik, and by internet trolls and bots would to try sway the results of the EU countries’ votes the same way that they “meddled” in the US elections.