BBC News 24 has reportedly announced that police want to talk to blogger Paul Ray about possible links to Anders Breivik. This comes a day after the Guardian carried an item in which Ray – who vigorously denies any link – expressed his willingness to speak to the authorities in the UK about the matter.
As I’ve written previously, I don’t think there is any link: Breivik claims to have met a shadowy group of “Knights Templars” in 2002, while Ray has shown an interest in Templars since only 2007 (some of his blog entries are back-dated to 2001, which may cause some confusion here). There is a general vicarious identification with Crusaders in segments of the “anti-Jihad” right (including the English Defence League) and it is most likely by far that Breivik and Ray have simply both drawn from the same stock of romanticised medievalist motifs. This includes Breivik’s reference to his mentor as “the Lionhearted”, and Ray’s blogger name being “Lionheart”. Breivik also mentions a Serbian who was living in Liberia; Ray thinks this may be a deliberate attempt to make a link with his own support for Charles Taylor, but support for Charles Taylor as a Christian president battling Muslims is commonplace on segments of the right.
Attention will no doubt continue to focus on Ray and his political views. Back in 2008 he became something of a free-speech martyr on the right when it was learnt that he had been arrested on suspicion of stirring up racial hatred, based on sanguinary statements on his blog (Sadly No! has a useful round-up), and that he was seeking political asylum in South Carolina; however, support from the likes of Phyllis Chesler evaporated when it was discovered that he had made statements of qualified support for the BNP (Pam Geller claims she repudiated him in 2007). His view of the BNP was that God was moving it away from racism, although I’ve heard him on an American radio show explain that there’s nothing wrong with the word “Paki” and that “Paki Muslims” were responsible for his woes. His arrest did not in the end lead to any charges.
Ray played a part in the creation of the English Defence League, although he was quickly sidelined and created his own breakaway “St George Division”. He also moved to Malta, where his means of sustaining himself financially remain mysterious, and he became friends with Nick Greger, an ex-neo-Nazi (now reformed and with a black wife) who in turn is friends with the exiled Northern Ireland loyalist leader Johnny Adair. Ray and Greger at one point claimed that Adair would help them to reclaim leadership of the EDL; Ray has suggested that two of the EDL’s leaders are of Irish Catholic ethnic background and that there is a link with the IRA (this accusation explains why EDL leaders have been so keen in turn to claim a link between Ray and Breivik). Ray announced the launch of the “The Ancient Order of Templar Knights” in late 2009, to the irritation of an American blogger who uses that name; it is highly unlikely that there are more than a handful of members.
One complicating factor is that someone has tried to create the impression that Ray is a neo-Nazi. In August 2009 I received an email from someone faking Ray’s identity and using a similar email address. The message directed me to a website which had reposted some of Ray’s blog posts along with a new posting praising the neo-Nazis of Stormfront; whoever did this obviously wanted me to write a bogus exposé, perhaps to cause trouble for Ray or perhaps to make me look foolish. A few weeks later, the real Ray complained on his site that someone had planted fake messages in his name on a website called RevolutionMuslim. It seems to me that a thorough police investigation exploring all avenues ought to check out who created this bogus site, and why. I have my own suspicions, based on other bogus communications I have received.
By his own account, Ray was a petty criminal and drug addict in his youth, although he changed his ways after converting to Christianity. According to a Dunstable on Sunday news report from c.2000 (not online), he worked for a time with the police as a speaker in local schools warning against drugs, while running a computer business. Ray blames the failure of this business on local Muslim gangs, and this seems to have been his catalyst for becoming involved in political activism.
He first came to wider public notice in 2006, after claiming to have infiltrated the International Solidarity Movement while on a visit to Israel. Ray joined several foreigners who had come to Israel to be part of the ISM on a trip to Jericho in the West Bank, where they allowed themselves to be photographed posing with guns; Ray then forwarded these photos to Lee Kaplan’s Stop the ISM, which publicised them and described him as a “Stop the ISM operative” (The ISM responded here, stating that the individuals in the photos had acted on their own initiative, and “had not attended ISM’s mandatory intensive non-violence training and were new to the country” ). Ray later claimed that his actions also amounted to an exposé of Antifa, as Paul Stott explains (and debunks) here.
As well as “Ray”, Paul Ray uses the names “Paul Cinato” and “Paul Sonato”, and while undercover in Israel and the West Bank was “Paul Andrews”; “Ray” is reportedly his mother’s maiden name.
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