“This sort of research wouldn’t have passed the ethics panels at a university,” Hope Not Hate’s senior researcher, Joe Mulhall, told me. But he and Hermansson insisted that scholarly and public interest justified the slackening of those ethical lines. “The [racist] movements have a front of house and back of house,” Mulhall said. “They present one image to the world and another internally,” and to get at the latter, Hope Not Hate had to be dishonest.
“There are ethical concerns in the whole project,” Hermansson said. “We wouldn’t justify going into any organization [like this]. They are promoting violence against large groups of people, and that leads to violence and murder.” By that standard, of course, one could excuse lying and misrepresenting oneself to many, many groups that the researchers themselves consider odious. Since the odious groups are highly likely also to be the ones who would batter a legitimate researcher, it’s hard to see how the benefits of Hope Not Hate’s methods have been measured against their costs.