2021 Roundup: The rise of the radical right
The politics of fear and division. How the rise of the radical right has grown to be a serious terrorist threat, with its list of enemies only growing.
Racism or populism?
We all know what fear looks like. During the last decade, it seems some nations in Europe and parts of other Western countries are thriving in it. A growing radical right-wing faction that is hell-bent on protecting and preserving the identity of its nation from those who, according to them, threaten its very future existence. In the US, disagreement with other political parties has grown from dislike to threatening fear. When asked if the opposing party’s policies threaten the nation, a majority replied affirmatively.
Be it left-leaning policies that they consider to have deviated from their values, or attitudes towards an influx in migration, the rise of the radical right and its fierce opposition has been more than apparent. One thing in common with all far-right factions that are developing is their support by some government officials; Right-leaning politicians enable this rhetoric while unaware of how far their support will go on to cause chaos. A great example? The US Capitol attack on January 6 was incited by Donald Trump supporters.
In a study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), numbers indicated that 1 out of 3 Republicans was in favor of the statement, "because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country."
To name a few these include the radical right, far-right, or alt-right. Underneath each of these pseudonyms lies one denominator, a variation of white nationalism. In some but not all cases, Xenophobic, authoritarianist, populist sentiments. For obvious reasons, seldom do any far-right groups include people of color. How does a nationalist sentiment turn into a rebirth of militant violence and a mounting danger?
Where it began
The true origin of the right-wing can be traced back to France in 1789, when the National Assembly was formed after a crowd stormed the Bastilles to direct the revolution and draft a new constitution.
According to David A. Bell, a Princeton University professor of early modern France, members were divided on how much power the monarch would have. Those who believed the king should have an absolute veto literally sat to the right of the assembly's president, while those who believed he should not, sat to the left. Therefore, change was associated with the left, and tradition remained on the right.
Germany's lessons un-learned
Authorities in Germany recorded 1,029 violent hate crimes ("right-wing politically motivated") in 2014 and over 900 violent assault incidents.
The dilemma that comes with the far-right in Europe is the possible rekindling of a past dangerous flame. Particularly in Germany, intelligence officials estimate there are over 21,000 far-right extremist activists in 2014, including 50 percent characterized as “violence oriented.”
In a nation that once propelled Nazism and paid a hefty price - both literally and figuratively, diving into a nationalist ideology once again could be catastrophic. About 25,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide continue to receive a monthly pension for "damage to health" under Germany's Federal Compensation Act (BEG) as of mid-2019. In 1956, the German parliament adopted a law that addressed several reparations for Nazi atrocities not addressed by Allied restitution laws.
Volksvernetzung – Incitement of hatred
Germany has a tough ruling on hate speech, which includes any spread of Nazism, racism, or discriminatory ideas to be punishable if they are found to be "disturbing the public peace."
To provide stronger protection to victims of hate speech and hate crimes, the German Federal Parliament approved the Act Combating Right-Wing Extremism and Hate Crime in 2020.
According to official data, 10240 hate crimes were committed in 2020. Of those crimes, 9420 were motivated by racism and xenophobia.
The Alternative for Germany (AFD) is a right-wing populist party notorious for its negative views of the European Union, Islam, and immigration. The party gained momentum when Angela Merkel announced Germany would allow thousands of refugees into the country. Of the 32,200 right-wing extremists identified by police in 2019, 7,000 were affiliated with the party's extremist right-wing faction called "Der Flugel.”
In February 2020, a far-right extremist fatally shot nine people in two hookah bars in central Germany, and another planned a massacre in 2019 at a synagogue.
In 2019, a lawmaker who was actively supportive of Merkel's refugee admission program was assassinated.
In reaction to the influx of refugees, 995 violent incidents occurred at refugee shelters in 2015 and 2016. In May 2015, members of the neo-Nazi "Oldschool Society" were arrested. They allegedly planned to attack refugee shelters, mosques, and schools.
Not all violent crimes that are perpetrated by members of the right-wing extremist groups are necessarily politically motivated, which makes actual numbers possibly higher.
France's Christian secularism
France is not characterized by a faction of the extreme right-wing, but a blunt, government-backed right-leaning philosophy. The French constitution guarantees that all citizens "regardless of origin, race, or religion are treated equally before the law." This may come as a surprise to some, seeing as France has unleashed what seems to be a secular war against many religious practices.
Its policies have mostly targeted Muslims and adopted highly anti-Islamic rhetoric. In 2017, 36 percent of voters voted for Marine Le Pen even after she compared Muslims to Nazis that occupied France during WWII.
In 2020, 235 attacks on Muslims were recorded, a 53 percent increase from 2019.
France has always been more secular than many of its European neighbors. What sets their attitudes towards Islam differently is their own biased roots in Christianity. Le Pen and other leaders in the National Front say Islam is a threat to the Christian roots of France. Additionally, thanks to the U.S. rhetoric with the war on terror, Muslims are more easily targeted.
The language of love?
Eric Zemmour is a far-right TV commentator and presidential nominee in France. He has twice been convicted of inciting hatred and calls Islam an existential threat to France.
According to Zemmour, he decided to run “so that our children and grandchildren don’t suffer barbarity so that our girls won’t be veiled … so that they can inherit a France as it was known to our ancestors.”
France blocked the Council of Europe campaign against anti-Muslim speech that promotes diversity among women and freedom to wear the Hijab (headscarf). In April of this year, the French Senate passed an amendment that bans girls under the age of 18 from wearing the headscarf. In 2011, face-covering was banned in public spaces, preceded by the banning of the hijab or headscarf in schools in 2004.
It would seem that by supposedly "protecting" their own youth from being veiled, they have decided to deprive anyone of making a different choice.
Making [Great] Britain great again
The Brexit vote is what makes the UK unique in this trio. Many believed that remaining in the European Union would result in "swarms" of mass sexual attacks from refugees and immigrants entering the UK.
According to the British Parliament, “The Home Office classifies terrorist prisoners by ideology in their relation to their membership to proscribed groups believed to be involved in terrorism.” It defines the extreme right-wing as individuals from politically extreme right-wing proscribed groups such as National Action.
The US failed policies in Iraq and Syria produced ISIS, one of the goriest terrorist organizations of our time, armed partially with CIA-funded weapons. ISIS became globally renowned for numerous suicide bombings and terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East.
Whereas immigrants used to be a mere annoyance to certain European nationalists, they had now become a clear depiction of what loose borders meant to them.
Studies found links between English nationalism and voting in favor of Brexit. During the Brexit campaign, Britain's four most prominent far-right factions all became more present online. After the murder of Jo Cox, the English Defence League, British National Party, and Britain First were all discussed in a more favorable light.
Results suggest that voting to leave the EU is the British equivalent of voting to "Make Britain great again". The referendum results also suggest a correlation between voting in favor of leaving the EU and the perceived effects of immigration on the British economy.
Only 3 weeks ago, Ben Raymond, the co-founder of the now-banned National Action that is rooted in Nazism, was sentenced to 8 years in jail. He was also found in possession of a manifesto by Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, as well as a guide to making homemade explosive devices.
In June of 2016, Jo Cox, a member of the UK parliament was shot and killed by a far-right terrorist due to the MP’s stance on remaining in the Union and her stance on Syrian refugees. Unsurprisingly, her murderer was reported shouting “This is for Britain!” as he stabbed her.
In 2020, the number of incarcerations related to far-right crime climbed by over a third.
The future looks white?
It is difficult to predict the future of the far-right in Britain due to the UKIP party which is growing thanks to the recent influx of extreme members. The party is currently seen as the epicenter of the far-right in the UK and prides itself on patriotism, national democracy, political democracy, economic democracy, liberalism, and traditionalism.
What makes the party troublesome is its affiliation with notorious far-right personalities like Tommy Robinson. Robinson is the founder of the anti-Islam English Defense League and has become the adviser to the party.
Critics argue that UKIP’s latest decisions are a desperate grab of power to remain relevant, seeing as of the 24 MEP’s elected in 2014, only 7 remain.
According to the Global Terrorism Index, far-right terrorist attacks increased by 250 percent since 2014 in Europe, North America, and Australasia. Additionally, 35 far-right terrorist attacks have occurred in the West for the past 5 years.
The right savior
Although the bedrock of the far-right can be traced to Europe, what exacerbated the phenomenon and brought it to the forefront of the political arena in the western hemisphere is undeniably two words: Donald Trump.
The first traces come from mostly Evangelical Americans whose political interest is first attributed to Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority. Falwell’s call was hostility to abortion rights and homosexuality. Evangelicals consisted of two-thirds of the Reagan vote and endorsed his disapproval of social change, limited government, and anti-communism appeals.
In Donald Trump, America's white evangelical community found a new savior. He was very vocal about his views on same-sex marriage, transgender rights, and mistrust of racial minority groups like Blacks, Mexicans, and Muslims. Trump also shifted the Israeli embassy to "Tel Aviv", long desired by American Evangelicals.
Trump certainly was aware of this and made his maneuvers accordingly. In an address to Liberty University in 2016, he told the largest Global Christian University that they would “protect Christianity” in the US and bashed political correctness.
The statistics in the US are astounding. Of all terrorist activity in the US since 1994, right-wing attacks and plots made up the majority.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, particularly in the last 6 years, the right-wing attacks and plots grew substantially. In 2019 alone, right-wing extremists committed almost two-thirds of all terrorist attacks and plots in the US. Between January and May 2020, right-wing terror was responsible for 90 percent of attacks in the US.
David Brooks of The Atlantic explains how Israeli political philosopher Ofir Haivry told Americans, at the National Conservatism Conference, that they should not fool themselves into believing that a country is formed on lofty liberal concepts such as the Bill of Rights. According to him, a country is a cultural tradition, a shared language, rituals and values, and a collective cultural identity.
According to Haivry, the history of Judaism indicates that you don't need a state or a political system to be a country. Sickly ironic coming from a member of a regime that dubs itself a"country" after 70 years of continued apartheid and oppression of its land's native people.
Whereas Europe has more or less accepted its secular fate, the United States' religious community is in no place to do the same. To them, abandoning their faith is abandoning the nation itself. Compared with 40 percent of people in Britain, only 22 percent of Americans are religiously unaffiliated. The task ahead may be harder than imagined.
In the US, 76 percent of conservatives say America’s best years are behind them, whereas 70 percent of solid Liberals say the best years are ahead.
Whereas Europe is worried about preserving its existence, it seems the US is worried about preserving its history. Will their goals clash or will they form a higher power that will flip the game board in the years to come?
The reality of the aforementioned “migrant crisis” is essentially Europe receiving its serving of Karma decades late. Countries that were once colonized and meddled in, have lost control and imploded, therefore sending a wave of migrants to somewhere less life-threatening and more prosperous.
The main candidate? The same coalition countries that were responsible for their destruction. Mainly the US, UK, and France.
The most pressing question in the crisis poses itself. Is it fair to suggest that countries who were victims of failed colonialism and expansionist game plans should be left to fend for themselves and responsible countries should be left with no consequences?
The irony in the far-right lies in the inconsistency and hypocrisy regarding their nation’s behaviors and refusal to admit where they went wrong. The colonialist presence that many European countries have had in other nations has directly and indirectly been linked to their current migrant saga. In all other countries where Europe and the west meddle, any nationalist cries are considered anti-democratic and any resistance deemed terror-related.
Is the expression and outburst of the far-right sentiment in Europe and the West a sign of their nationalism or is it their denial of responsibility regarding their government's role in other regions of the world? Are their struggles for preservation and supposed survival just the true core that lies under layers of subjugation and need for domination?
One thing is certain, the future of the thriving right-wing nationalism of Europe will depend largely on what happens in the US. Given that the US is extremely fragmented and vulnerable to changing tides, Europe’s reliance on Uncle Sam to provide a framework offers no guarantees nor vision.