From Brazil to the USA, from Hungary to New Zealand, right-wing extremist ideas and groups pose a serious threat to democratic societies. In this context, the continued support of US President Donald Trump from parts of his base, despite the decline in his approval numbers and the uproar in the US Capitol on January 6th reflected the continued development of a global threat. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden emphasized after a right-wing terrorist killed over 50 people in two mosques in her country: “There is no question that the ideas and language of division and hatred have existed for decades, but their form of dissemination is the tools of the Organization – they are new. “If there is hope of resolving these divisions and promoting equality, the rule of law, an inclusive civil society and respect for human rights, the United States must work with other countries and multilateral organizations to form a coalition to fight growth and expansion Right-wing extremism.
Almost 20 years after the 9/11 attacks and the ensuing start of what American leaders have dubbed the "global war on terror", the world is facing a new threat. While the international community focused on al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other groups advocating a particular interpretation of Islam to justify their terrorism in the 2000s and 2010s, right-wing extremism grew around the world. Social media platforms and chat rooms provided important media on which people, regardless of geographic location, could exchange ideas, make contacts and learn from each other in order to enable connections that might otherwise have been difficult to establish.
While right-wing ideologies and groups are not new in many parts of Europe, the increasing immigration from Muslim countries, the increasing movement of individuals within the European Union, and the mainstreaming of right-wing extremist ideas from populist politicians in response to the rise in immigration that took place in the 2010s are common a push to the right. For example, the right-wing Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik carried out his brutal and fatal attack in Oslo and on the island of Utoya in July 2011. In his manifesto, he described the need to protect Europe from Muslim rule and multiculturalism. In response to the attacks, Norway changed its laws to redefine the requirements for a terrorist conviction, agreeing to share fingerprint information from criminal investigations with the United States and the EU so that other countries can monitor the actions of people crossing the borders and launched a nationwide strategy against hate speech in 2016. The strategy included recommendations from the United Nations, which included both international and national approaches. Norway's societal approach to combating extremism ensures that citizens are actively involved in promoting the country's values in countering threats.
While Norway was still working on its response, great right-wing terrorism hit the United States. In 2015, Dylann Roof killed nine black people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Similar to Breivik, he believed that white people should be protected from the dangers of other groups. For Roof, that included Jews, Latinos, and Blacks. Roof also advocated key features of right-wing extremist ideas that focused on nostalgia for a historic white past of grandeur to counter perceived white victimization in the present.
Although the US response to the attack did not result in a nationwide reckoning of right-wing extremism, as did Breivik's strike in Norway, it sparked dialogues and initiatives at the local level in South Carolina indicating steps taken on the right Page could also be undertaken at the national level. The 2015 murders forced South Carolina residents, activists, politicians, and scholars to grapple with the state's long history of racism and discrimination. Civil rights activists and the University of South Carolina have teamed up to create the South Carolina Collaborative for Race and Reconciliation, encouraging local communities to address racism and the history of the state by building stronger alliances and relationships across racial lines.
The fatal attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019 underscored how right-wing extremism had continued to grow worldwide. Much like Breivik, the Christchurcher Sagittarius, who named the Norwegian in his own manifesto, referred to protecting white people of European descent from immigration, Muslims, and other threats that he termed "white genocide." The New Zealand government took quick action against right-wing extremism after the attack. It changed the country's gun laws to ban the type of semi-automatic weapon used in the attack, and it showed visible support for New Zealand's Muslim community. New Zealand worked with France and tech companies to find solutions to eradicate terrorist and violent extremist content on social media platforms, based on the laws in force in the countries that supported the Christchurch Call when the plan became known, as well as industry standards and international human rights law, including freedom of expression. The attack also resulted in a nationwide survey of the country's values and the treatment of its various communities. In a report released in December 2020, the Royal Commission of Inquiry reveals the failure of the country's security forces to pursue the right-wing extremist threat and hatred, discrimination and ill treatment of Muslims and other groups in New Zealand regarding the attack. The report makes a number of recommendations, including strengthening engagement with these communities and restructuring the security agencies responsible for fighting terrorism.
It is not just direct attacks that mark the spread of right-wing extremist ideology. During the 2000s these ideas became mainstream as they permeated political parties and influenced politicians.
In 2010 Viktor Orban became Hungary's Prime Minister. During his tenure, he has voiced ideas against refugees and immigrants, arguing that Europe is being overtaken by other cultures and groups, especially Muslims. With the power resulting from control of the state, Orban and his party have undermined democracy by changing laws to put loyalists in public service, attack academic institutions, restrict press freedom, and the concept of a unique Hungarian national Promote identity. Orban even praised Trump for his "America first" platform. In response, thousands of Hungarian citizens marched in protest against the government when an Orban spokesman blamed George Soros for the demonstrations. Opposition parties recently joined forces to challenge Orban and his party's rule in the 2022 election.
In 2014 Narendra Modi and his right-wing party won a majority in the Indian elections. Prior to his victory, the US government had refused Modi a visa because he suspected he had support and indifference to attacks by extremist Hindu mobs on Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002 when he was prime minister there. Despite its recent acceptance by the international community, Modi has encouraged the most extreme factions of his party and with allies brought extremist ideas into the mainstream in order to advance the idea of India as a Hindu country despite its great diversity. Politicians from his Bharatiya Janata party have also sought to promote a portrayal of the Hindu victim to justify support for anti-democratic measures such as the 2019 Citizenship Change Act, which excludes Muslims from a list of persecuted religious groups from neighboring countries that is in favor of the Indian Citizenship could be an option. To challenge Modi and the government's actions, hundreds of thousands of Indians have mobilized to provide counter-narratives to their propaganda and disinformation. Indian news site AltNews reviews politicians, articles and other information and identifies misleading and false reports in order to educate the public.
Jair Bolsonaro's rise to president in Brazil in 2018-2019 has shown how right-wing extremist ideas have evolved. During his campaign, Bolsonaro campaigned for a platform to restore Brazil to its former glory through attacks on government institutions and minorities as well as violence against criminals, activists and opposition parties. He has been able to expand his support across the country through social media. Bolsonaro was also a supporter of Trump and even supported Trump during his re-election campaign. As a result of Bolsonaro's attacks on Brazilian democracy, marginalized groups in Brazil are increasingly engaging in politics to redefine the country's civil society. Black women in Brazil are running on platforms that focus on human rights and dignity, anti-racism and equality
These examples all show that the time has come to recognize right-wing extremism not as isolated incidents that are parochial to certain countries, but as a global and evolving phenomenon. If the United States and the international community do not quickly mobilize resources to unite against this threat, they may lose an important opportunity to contain its spread. The actions that individual countries, local governments, journalists and ordinary citizens have taken to combat right-wing extremism over the past decade provide examples of what an international effort could look like.
After the uprising in the US Capitol, the elected US President Joe Biden has the opportunity to win over the international community to fight right-wing extremism. The Biden government should work with partner countries to expand the scope and mission of the Global Counterterrorism Forum to address right-wing extremism and its various permutations. This will not be easy as the United States and other countries face historical and national prejudice and trauma affecting race, religion, and ethnicity, and must make difficult and strategic decisions on how to move forward. But it is necessary.
Combating disinformation will be one of the keys to combating right-wing extremism. Social media, chat rooms, and websites (along with algorithms that track a person's internet behavior) enable people around the world to construct their own reality and reinforce existing beliefs while being vulnerable to the influence of various groups and individuals. Anti-democratic ideas can spread faster and find an audience across national borders. Biden had the right idea when he proposed that an international conference on democracy be held to discuss the world's challenges. However, such a conference will make little progress if disinformation is not part of the discussion and the action plan. This is where an existing network such as the Global Counterterrorism Forum could come into play, which has experience in facilitating the exchange of ideas, improving international digital competence and providing a unified front.
As the world's population becomes younger, it is imperative to develop international approaches to address extremist ideas that make individuals, societies and institutions vulnerable. Between the economic shocks of 2008 and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, young people are calling for a move from Chile to Hong Kong. As a result, the Biden government should work with the United Nations to better serve these generations by supporting organizations that promote inclusive civil society, democracy and equality. That should help to protect them from falling victim to extremism.
The fight against right-wing extremism will not be easy as many politicians and parties have incorporated elements of their ideas into their platforms, but democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights around the world are worth the fight.