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Searchlight is a British magazine and organisation dedicated to tracking, analysing, and reporting on the far right, in Britain and worldwide. Since its foundation, its editor has been the anti-fascist activist Gerry Gable, who founded the magazine along with Reg Freeson, Joan Lestor and Maurice Ludmer.
It began in 1964 as an investigative organisation and press agency before launching a regular magazine in 1975 with Gable as editor. It has a long history of reporting on far-right and neo-Nazi organisations, which often includes infiltrating them and/or persuading members to change their minds and provide information. It has also played a prominent role in combating antisemitism and Islamophobia. This includes investigating Generation Identity, the London Forum, and neo-Nazi paramilitary training camps in Britain and Europe.
The former Searchlight Information Services, founded in 1986, became anti-racist campaigning organisation Hope not Hate. Since Hope not Hate split from Searchlight in 2011, the latter's focus has been on "investigating the intellectual and paramilitary far right".
As well as the magazine, it has expanded into other areas such as the Searchlight Educational Trust.
It has a partnership with the University of Northampton, which has resulted in books including Far-right.com about the far right's use of the internet and social media; the university is also home to the Searchlight Archive, which contains the organisation's significant collections of far-right materials.
It has no political alignment, but the Trade Union Friends of Searchlight works with the trade union movement to combat racism and the far right.
Splits and spats
Gable worked for the BBC in 1984 on a program about far-right infiltration of the UK Conservative Party, based on information from Searchlight. However the program Maggie's Militant Tendency was unfortunately not entirely accurate and the BBC was forced to pay libel damages to Neil Hamilton and Gerald Howarth.
Later, in the 1990s, right-wingers criticised in the magazine began a campaign of bringing dozens of vexatious libel actions against not only the magazine and its journalists but also radical bookshops, distributors, and even printers, in an effort to silence the magazine. While some of the magazine's claims may or may not have been untrue, the tactics of targetting distributors and bookshops, often tiny shoestring operations without the resources to defend themselves, meant that allegations could not be tested in court. In one case a bookshop was forced to settle despite never selling the publication because it could not afford to fight in court.
Hope not Hate
There were sometimes-bitter arguments between it and rival anti-racist organisation Hope not Hate (HnH), which was originally closely aligned but split from Searchlight in 2011. Gerry Gable remained in control of Searchlight while HnH founder Nick Lowles led Hope not Hate.
Gerry Gable (1937–) is perhaps the man most associated with the magazine. He was involved in its founding as an organisation in the 1960s and the launch of the magazine in 1975. Before Searchlight, he was a member of the Young Communist League and the Communist Party of Great Britain and briefly worked on the party's newspaper Daily Worker before quitting over the party's opposition to Israel. In 1964 he was convicted of "entry by artifice" into the home of Holocaust-denier David Irving, tricking his way in with two accomplices pretending to be telephone engineers in an attempt to access and steal Irving's documents (Irving has claimed Gable was charged with the more serious crime of burglary and bemoaned Gable for making his life hell for 30 years. Awww.)
Gable continues to be involved in the magazine, as well as with other anti-racist campaigning including on the Metropolitan Police's Hate Crime Independent Advisory Group and the board of anti-Islamophobia charity Tell MAMA.
- Not to be confused with The Searchlight, magazine of the Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies
- Gerry Gable, Jewish Lives Project, Jewish Museum London, accessed 17 Feb 2020
- About, Searchlight, acccessed 17 Feb 2020
- About Us, Fear and Hope: Hope not Hate educational project, accessed 17 Feb 2020
- Fascism is a disease… meet the cure: Gerry Gable, Times of Israel, Jan 31, 2017
- Anti-fascist articles prove rich pickings, The Independent, 22 June 1996
- Tragedy of a serious split between anti-fascists, Martin Bright, Jewish Chronicle, Aug 9, 2012