Right Wing Extremism has been on the rise these past few years and it appears to be growing substantially. The threat of right-wing extremism has grown more visible in recent years, as the 2019 Global Terrorism Index suggested that ‘far-right terrorism incidents have increased 320 percent in the past five years.’ This spread of right-wing extremism propaganda has become a growing concern, especially in Western Europe and America, where white supremacists and neo-nazis have found ways to mainstream hateful and violent narratives, mostly through sites such as Reddit, 4chan, and Discord and even protests and riots. The trend follows many new right-wing movements into which people are manipulated because their cause sounds logical and revolutionary and we need to be aware of such trends before they become a normative part of society.
The ‘New Right’
The New Right movement represents a ‘modernized’ version of the classical right-wing extremism, in which terms like ‘ethnic identity’ and ‘ethnopluralism’ (also known as ethno-differentialism – advocacy for ethnic separatism and assimilation at a national level, where the citizens of a nation are ethnically homogeneous, but each nation is ethnically different) are used as a way of differentiating, and more so discriminating certain ethnic groups. One example can be found in the USA, with the alt-right movement (Alternative Right), in which groups and individuals believe that “white identity” is under attack by “political correctness” and “social justice”. The alt-right uses social media to spread hateful propaganda, mostly through posts and memes that avoid racial or racist language and instead bring light to anti-establishment thinking and rebellion, which, of course, are terms that sound attractive to young, impressionable teenagers. Extremists weaponize irony to spread hate, and teenagers – mostly teenage boys – fall for it. From YouTube videos and comments to 4chan forums and subreddits, the alt-right pipeline is a dangerous road that many teenagers take and rarely come back from it. Those that fall for these hate-spreading posts and memes often continue to harbor this hate, as it makes them part of something bigger than themselves. This is how easily right-wing extremism can spread its wings, and how easily people let it slide.
In Europe, the ‘Identitarian movement’ (ID) is a well-known movement that uses the Greek symbol lambda (λ), a symbol of resistance. This racist, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant movement originated in France and spread to other European countries, influencing thousands of people across Europe. Identitarians are usually skilled in concealing their agenda and seem to portray themselves as a tolerant bunch, usually using ambiguity in their reasoning, to try to avoid alienation from the general public. They spread conspiracy theories, such as the ’Great Replacement’ – a theory that states that welcoming immigration policies are part of a plot designed to replace the culture of white people in the West. The Identitarian movement has been active in Germany since 2012 (The Identitäre Bewegung), and although it only has 600 members, they are under surveillance by security agencies as they pose a threat to democracy and it is assumed that its goal will require the use of violence.
Right-Wing Terrorism and ‘Accelerationism’
Spreading conspiracy theories and posting on social media may not fully satisfy the ideological wants and needs of a determined right-wing extremist, so it is possible for them to take it a step further. This can lead to the adoption of an ideology in which they take their hatred a step further and decide to carry out terrorist attacks for instance. That ideology is called ‘accelerationism’ and circulates in the global white supremacist movement. Accelerationists believe that other right-wing movements are moving ‘too slow’, and they try to take the matter into their own hands, mostly by exercising violence towards minorities. Their goal is to overthrow democracy and install a fascist government. Many recent attackers align with this mindset, imagining that they are doing it for a good cause. Some act as ‘lone wolves’, like Anders Breivik, the perpetrator of the 2011 Norway attacks, in which 77 people were killed at a summer camp of the youth wing of a social democratic party. Another infamous attacker, that shook the world in 2019, is the Christchurch shooter from New Zealand. The shooter chose a mosque as his target and left 51 dead and 40 injured, most of which were Muslim. The details are gruesome, and the attack left a lasting impact on New Zealand, one that still lingers to this day. It instilled fear, terror, and questions about safety, because how could they continue going to houses of religion that are supposed to be safe havens when their lives could be easily taken away by a person with too much hatred in their heart?
Both attackers were not shy to spread their bigotry online before their attacks and even released manifestos before their killings. In the manifestos, the Christchurch shooter mentions that he was inspired by Anders, and Anders mentioned other attackers before him, which is why people are fearing that right-wing ideologies that are mainstreamed online could be signs of an impending strike. Can the governments do something before things like this happen? How can people differentiate between a troll on the internet and a person that wants to take matters into their own hands one day? The rising trend of extremist attacks and the interconnectedness between them needs immediate action to combat it at its source. Western agencies need to focus on penetrating far-right networks to prevent future attacks and to do this, they must recognize that extremism has now moved towards online domains and look into self-radicalization. Self-radicalization is a cognitive process in which one person embraces radical beliefs, that mostly adhere to terrorist ideologies. Self-radicalization falls in line with right-wing radicalization, as they lure unsuspecting victims into their world, ‘educate’ them and eventually manipulate them into believing such ideologies. Eventually, they begin to plan and organize various types of attacks.
The role of the internet and Social Media
As previously mentioned, the internet plays an important role in the outspread of right-wing extremism. As such, the internet is full of conspiracy theories that are partly spread by right-wing trolls and partly by naïve users that promote, unknowingly, racial stereotypes and antisemitism. It is why many people have come to believe that the world is ruled by an ‘elite’ of people and in the existence of ‘lizard people’, theories that are antisemitic at their root. Social media algorithms boost this type of content, as it is ‘scandalous’ and generally attractive to young people that believe in far-fetched and illogical theories.
Extremists use the lawless and unmoderated internet to quietly target minorities and reach broader audiences. Their campaign manifests itself under the surface of internet discourse, where fake news and memes take dominance. Right-wing extremists use subversive exposure, a method of engagement, by using deception as a way of normalizing extremist right-wing ideas to lure ignorant people, such as teenagers (especially gamers), into their groups, without making it clear that it is a radical group. The right uses memes to create inside jokes that have supremacist undertones, and the memes are shared on popular sites such as Twitter and Instagram. The memes are not meant to turn someone into an extremist, but to purposefully get people to think about what they have been previously taught and to look into alternative facts. The normalization of right-wing extremism views begins by virtue of being ‘harmless’ jokes, which is why the memes generate interaction. As they are only meant to provoke laughter, the intention of these internet posts is often ignored. Even the Christchurch terrorist engaged in sharing memes and discourse online, and he often made that clear in his manifesto. This is not to say that every right-wing meme is shared with a malicious purpose, one that can easily turn people into radicalists, but it is certainly of concern. There are not many things that a normal internet user can do to stop the spread of propaganda, but people need to be aware of it and report it if it is possible.
The purpose of this article was to shed light on right-wing movements that many people are not aware of and more so to inform about the easiness with which they are spreading. Right-wing extremism is dangerous, and the rise in influence has not been met with an appropriate response by governments. While there are not many options for tackling this problem, if more people know about the root of the problem, it can be easier to combat it.