Far Right Extremism, and Possibilities to Combat its Growth Around the World

Far right extremism, an umbrella term that comprises ideologies and beliefs such as the world’s governments are ran by the “deep state”, QAnon conspiracy theories, the Great Replacement theory, and simply anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Semitic, and white supremacy, has exploded within the last decade. This is a diplomatic issue that every nation should be concerned about. As constituents of countries around the world grow more and more distrustful of their government, I propose that refreshed diplomatic relations be laid in order to combat far-right ideologies in government and delegitimize and prosecute extremist groups.

Extremist groups, like the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers, The Citizens of the Reich, and the Russian Imperial Movement, are legitimized by public officials that also espouse adjacent policies and ideologies like Giorgia Meloni of Italy, Victor Orbán of Hungary, and Donald Trump of the United States. These groups are becoming more organized, which is evidenced by the mass arrests in Germany on December 7, when police and security forces officers arrested twenty-five people accused of plotting a coup against Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, and other major government officials. These mass arrests serve as one of the latest examples of far-right extremists actively at work around the world to subvert established governments and replace them.

Reasons for the rise in prevalence of these groups can be drawn by several narratives. Most likely though, is the concept of globalization and globalism. As the transportation of people, identities, cultures, languages, and more, became easier, the homogeneity of nations became less prominent. While billions of people around the world see this exchange of information as a good attribute of a developing world, many others see it as a negative. As a result, these same groups of people became threatened at the thought of culture and identity erasure and have turned to methods and means to maintain some form of security of cultural values. There is where the umbrella of far-right nationalism and its attached ideologies are not monolithic. Depending on global regions, there are more prevalent ideologies but they can all be tied to worries of a loss of cultural identity and homogeneity.

One of the first concerns that comes to mind for many about extremism of any kind, is public safety. In 2019, the Global Terrorism Index reported a 300% increase in far-right terrorist acts in the five previous years, and in the US, it was the dominant form of terrorism in the previous decade (Institute for Economics and Peace, 2019). Nationalism co-opted by extremism is beginning to break down trust between nations, trust between government and citizen, and trust between neighbors. It is becoming a global issue. Additionally, countries like Russia have become supportive of extremist groups all over the world by taking part in misinformation campaigns that fuel fear and unrest, the bread and butter of extremist groups, no matter the political ideology. It is evident that diplomacy, international cooperation, IGO’s, and treaty organizations are being challenged everyday by non-state groups that wish to subvert them. It challenges the international liberal order that has been in place since the end of the Cold War.

Of course, we also are seeing governments respond to the onslaught of committed or attempted attacks, and demonstrations by extremist groups. For example, this past September, the Department of Homeland Security approved forty-three grants, totaling $20 million, to fight domestic terrorism and radicalization (Department of Homeland Security, 2022). Meanwhile in Germany, top security personnel have recently announced that they are tightening background checks of gun sales and disarming 1,500 suspected extremists. Although this sounds like good policy to combat issues of armed groups, this is an incidental response instead of a purposive response to the issue at hand.

I argue for several changes to perception in order to combat the growing global trend of far-right extremism. Just as you would wish to kill a weed, you must tamp out extremism and radicalization at the root. Too often nations handle extremism after a person has already been radicalized. Instead, nations need to examine how people are consuming information and are then becoming radicalized. If nations are going to continue to dump money into the result of radicalization efforts, they will continue to be killing a weed that will eventually come back. The information that people are consuming, if it is intentionally false or spreads a conspiracy, is labeled “misinformation”. Misinformation is one of the most prevalent ways that people become radicalized in the information age.

Misinformation, in recent years, has become a hot button issue for billions of people. Governments all over the globe are seeing more instances of misinformation campaigns and propaganda by foreign non-state, and state actors. These actors’ have several goals in mind, but one of the most threatening goals, the delegitimization of rival governments has become more and more successful. Misinformation played a large role in the January 6th siege on the U.S Capital, prosecutors in the raid in Germany earlier last week reported that conspiracy theories like Qanon played a large role in the planning. I argue that as enemies of the international liberal order want to break down and discredit the extensive network of cooperation, it is more important than ever to strengthen ties with our neighbors and to begin eliminating sources of misinformation.

Combating misinformation seems like a daunting task, but there are a few steps to help mitigate the misuse of the internet and television to spread false information. First, I argue that governments need to provide more resources, be it financial resources or manpower, that seek to discredit information when it is false, or wholesale remove that information. This looks like Facebook’s attempt at fact checking posts, or Twitter’s attempt to remove accounts, or “bots”, that are known to publish false news stories. Ensuring that social media platforms and television news, the two most consumed modes of information consumption, are under strict regulation to control the likelihood of false information spread is imperative. This regulation can take the form of new policy instituted by governments or more oversight by proper authorities.

The worry about my recommendation, especially in nations where civil liberties are hallmarks of citizenship, is the concern that governments would abuse the power information control. Voices of concern, especially in the Libertarian spheres, will posit that my recommendations invite worry that governments will begin censorship of information that rightfully belongs in the living rooms and pockets of citizens all over the world. Although the information may be false, it is a right, of Americans especially, to consume information how they please. While I understand and respect this viewpoint, we must also understand that misinformation, in the wrong hands, incites violence. The distrust in governments, as seen in my counterargument, is a direct result that misinformation has created, skepticism. This leads us back to the beginning of our conversation; skepticism of established governments has led far-right groups to feed into the “deep state” and “Qanon” theories.

Far-right nationalism and extremism have become an ever-present conversation in the human consciousness all over the world. Misinformation campaigns and skepticism of government have fed the flames of violence and gave legitimacy to groups like the Citizens of the Reich or the Oath Keepers. In order to combat this growing trend, I have proposed two arguments, that governments in Europe and America consider investigating the root causes of radicalization, to eliminate it at its source, instead of fighting the product of radicalization. Two, hold that governments must make the issue of misinformation, and fighting it, a priority policy prescription. Misinformation is breaking the bonds of international cooperation as we know it, and it is beginning to delegitimize established democratic power. The world collectively must make the dismantling of far-right extremism a top concern if we ever want to eliminate it.

Chance Thayer is a senior at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia studying Government and International Politics.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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