Experts Warn That Toxic Political Rhetoric is Triggering Growth of Far-Right Networks

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Experts have warned that the growth of the far-right has resulted in the development of loose networks online who create and share extremist material. These networks have allegedly been fuelled by mainstream political rhetoric. 

Head of UK counter-terrorism, Neil Basu, has stated that seven out of 22 attempted terrorist plots successfully foiled since March 2017 were linked to far-right ideology. According to Basu, far-right terrorism has increased from 6% of the counter-terrorism caseload two years ago to 10% today. He stated that whilst it is a small problem, it is growing quickly, with some children as young as 14 found to be involved in the extremist activity. 

Utilising messaging apps as well as social media platforms including 8chan, Gab, and Telegram, the far-right groups aim to generate interest and support for their ideology. Youtube channels run by the likes of Tommy Robinson, who has, at the time of writing, 381,000 subscribers, can act as gateways for like-minded individuals to connect online, leading to the creation of closed chat groups where right-wing propaganda can be created and shared with ease. 

‘Yellow-vest protester’ James Goddard, known to some for his harassment of the then Conservative MP Anna Soubry, was seen outside the 2019 Conservative party conference in Manchester encouraging people to join him by repeatedly lecturing pro-EU protesters and dubbing them “traitors”.

Jacob Davey, a researcher for the Institute for Strategic Dialogue Think Tank when speaking to The Guardian said “There’s clearly been a response to Boris Johnson and some of the rhetoric from his government in far-right circles. It has stimulated them”. 

In the Commons, Boris Johnson received a significant amount of backlash following his dismissal of Labour MP Paula Sherriff’s pleas for the Prime Minister to moderate his ‘inflammatory’ language. According to Sherriff, pro-EU MPs have received death threats which often quote Johnson’s words, including “betrayal”, “traitor” and “surrender act”. 

Joe Mulhall, a senior researcher at Hope Not Hate, stated to the Guardian that “Some of the language we see more widely now such as ‘traitors’ and ‘betrayal’, this is absolutely the language of the far-right”. 

The Mail on Sunday released a quote from a government spokesman saying that the two MPs who had drawn up the bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit were under investigation over possible engagement in “collusion with foreign powers”.

As a result, Dominic Grieve, pro-remain Conservative MP received a death threat on his way to the Conservative party conference. Grieve stated that “There is a direct causal link between the two, indeed the death threat came accompanied by the Mail on Sunday article”. 

The rise in right-wing extremism is not, however, only associated with Brexit. Whilst it is true that Brexit has caused a nationwide divide and created the perfect environment for extremists to come to the surface, other dominant themes inspiring extremism are white supremacism, cultural nationalism or anti-Muslim hatred.

It is often found that scaremongering as a result of the international spread of conspiracy theories is at the root of this rise in right-wing extremism. One notable conspiracy theory is “the great replacement”, a false claim that European people will become outnumbered by Muslims. 

Individuals who are joining far-right groups tend to be male and aged between 15 and 25, who use encrypted communications in an attempt to hide their identities online. Whilst direct incitement is rare, there is a pressing concern that some individuals may eventually become radicalized. 

In 2016, National Action, a neo-Nazi group, became the first far-right group to be banned since World War II. 23-year-old Jack Renshaw, an alleged member of National Action and a convicted pedophile, was jailed for life in May 2019 for plotting to murder Labour MP Rosie Cooper and a police officer with a machete.

As of last year, MI5 became the main intelligence agency investigating the rise in far-right networks since it has become the fastest-growing terrorist threat the UK faces. 

Image: The Independent