‘Pandemic of hate’: Leaders, experts warn anti-lockdown protests linked to far right

Of note:

Online conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and protests against public health orders are helping to spread dangerous ideas laden with racism and bigotry, says a network monitoring hate groups in Canada.

The executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network said since last year people espousing hateful beliefs have linked themselves to conspiracy and anti-lockdown movements around the novel coronavirus.

“We have two pandemics: We have the actual pandemic and then we have this pandemic of hate,” Evan Balgord said.

“Things are kind of getting worse both online and offline … with maybe one pandemic, we have kind of a solution for, but the hate thing, we don’t have a vaccine for that.

Federal New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh was the latest on Monday to note a connection between anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests and far-right extremism.

His comments came as rallies against COVID-19 health orders are being staged across the country while many provincial doctors battle a deadly third wave of the pandemic.

“To brazenly not follow public-health guidelines puts people at risk and that is something that we’ve seen with extreme right-wing ideology, ” he told reporters.

These demonstrations have been met with frustration from some in the public over what they say appears to be a lack of police enforcement, and a few premiers have promised stiffer fines for COVID-19 rule-breakers.

The far right has become adept at integrating populist grievances into its own narratives and exploiting them to enhance membership, said Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, in a recent interview.

As a result, members of the far right have turned up at virtually all of the recent anti-lockdown gatherings, “trying to lend their support to that movement, and thereby garner support and sympathy, or solidarity, with their more extreme movement,” she said.

Mr. Balgord said such events make for “fertile hunting” for new recruits because hateful ideas are not being policed, and once someone believes in one conspiracy theory, it’s easy to believe in others.

“We now have a greatly increased number of people who are coming into close contact with racists and bigots of all stripes with more conspiracy theories,” he said.

And more than a year into the pandemic, Mr. Balgord said, organizers behind anti-lockdown protests in Vancouver, Toronto and the Prairies know figures from the country’s “racist right” are involved in their movement.

More recently, he said, some protesters have started showing up with Nazi imagery to depict themselves as being persecuted by the government.

“The racist right that we monitor and the COVID conspiracy movement are inseparable from each other at this point. We monitor them as if they are the same thing because they involve all the same people,” Mr. Balgord.

He said the network’s information is based on what it observes and the far-right figures it follows, but there is a lack of data tracking how conspiratorial thinking around COVID-19 has moved across Canada.

After Mr. Singh’s comments, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet played down the idea of a connection between the protests and far-right extremism, saying arguments suggesting a correlation were politically motivated.

“I am absolutely certain — absolutely certain — that people which have been involved in such discussions in the last hours and days know very well that there could be no link between … two things that should not be what they are, but are not related,” he said.

The NDP leader said he sees a link between those refusing to follow public-health advice and the ideologies of the extreme right because both show a disregard for the well-being of others and put people at risk.

“There is a connection, certainly.”

Mr. Singh said declining to listen to COVID-19 health orders is dangerous and needs to be called out.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi earlier called such demonstrations “thinly veiled white nationalist, supremacist anti-government protests” on Global’s “The West Block.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-pandemic-of-hate-leaders-experts-warn-anti-lockdown-protests-linked-to/

Alarm as German anti-maskers co-opt Nazi resister Sophie Scholl

Of note:

Sophie Scholl, the German resistance figure executed by the Nazis who was born 100 years ago on Sunday, has become an emblem of courage and a national hero for many.

But the legacy of the young woman sentenced to a brutal death for distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets has recently been co-opted by Germany’s anti-lockdown movement, to the dismay of historians and the Jewish community.

At a demonstration in April, one woman had a placard featuring a picture of Sophie Scholl draped on string around her shoulders.

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace,” it read — words famously pronounced by the resistance campaigner.

Even one of her nephews, Julian Aicher, has prominently spoken at corona skeptic demonstrations, including on a stage decorated with white roses — evoking the name of Scholl’s resistance group.

In a country where right-wing extremism is seen as the number one threat to security, and where a record number of xenophobic and anti-Semitic crimes were recorded in 2020, historians say the misappropriation of Scholl’s memory is deeply alarming.

Some also warn that democracy itself is being attacked at a time when living witnesses of World War II have dwindled significantly in numbers.

“By trivialising the Holocaust and dictatorship, these activists are endangering democracy,” said Ludwig Spaenle, Bavaria’s anti-Semitism commissioner.

– Fourth favourite German –

On February 22, 1943, Scholl and her older brother Hans, both members of a small resistance group called the White Rose, were beheaded in the Stadelheim prison in Bavaria following a summary trial.

They had been found guilty of distributing pamphlets on the grounds of Munich University, having converted to the resistance after being exposed to the horrors of the Third Reich as members of Nazi organisations in their teens.

Sophie Scholl, born on May 9, 1921, has become the most famous face of the resistance movement, with surviving photos showing her distinctive cropped hair and determined smile.

Hundreds of schools and streets now bear her name, and in 2003 she was named the nation’s fourth favourite German behind Konrad Adenauer, Martin Luther and Karl Marx.

The country’s political class also like to evoke the memory of the young biology student who stood up to the Nazis.

Annalena Baerbock, the Green party’s candidate to become Germany’s next chancellor after Angela Merkel retires in the autumn, has named Scholl as one of her “heroes”.

Carola Rackete, the former captain of the Sea-Watch 3 migrant rescue ship, has said if Scholl were still alive, she would be part of the Antifa left-wing political movement.

But at the other end of the political spectrum, the far-right AfD also claimed in 2017 that Scholl would have given them her vote.

And now the resistance campaigner’s image has been hijacked by protesters against coronavirus restrictions in Germany, who have often sought to compare themselves with victims of the Nazis.

– ‘Vaccination makes you free’ –

Some protesters have been seen wearing yellow stars similar to those Jews were forced to wear under the Nazis, carrying the words “not vaccinated”.

Others have worn concentration camp uniforms and carried placards with the words “Impfen macht frei” (“Vaccination makes you free”), a reference to the “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work makes you free”) inscription at the entrance to Auschwitz.

“I feel like Sophie Scholl, because I’ve been active in the resistance for months,” one protester told a rally against virus restrictions in Hanover in November, leading to widespread condemnation.

“Followers of conspiracy theories like to imagine themselves as victims, while demonising and delegitimising the democratic field,” Samuel Salzborn, the city of Berlin’s point man on anti-Semitism, told AFP.

According to Jens-Christian Wagner, a German historian who specialises in the Nazi era, the appropriation of Sophie Scholl by the anti-mask movement shows a loss of “historical awareness” among parts of the German population.

There are “almost no remaining witnesses” to the Nazi era, Wagner told AFP.

“They can no longer defend themselves when they are instrumentalised or when the far right rewrites history and the present by reversing guilt. It worries me,” he said.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has said it will monitor the “Querdenker” (Lateral Thinkers) movement, a particularly vocal anti-lockdown group, over concerns it poses a threat to democracy and has ties to right-wing extremism.

Source: Alarm as German anti-maskers co-opt Nazi resister Sophie Scholl

Germany Sees 72 Percent Increase in Anti-Immigrant Crimes

Of note:

Germany recorded a 72.4 percent increase in anti-immigrant crimes in 2020 – up to 5,298 total cases – as officials warned Tuesday that the country is experiencing a dangerous rise in far-right violence.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in total, far-right crimes rose 5.65 percent in 2020, and accounted for more than half of all “politically motivated” crimes.

“This shows again that right-wing extremism is the biggest threat for our country,” Seehofer said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

In February 2020, the country saw its deadliest anti-immigrant attack when nine immigrants were killed near Frankfurt, Germany, after a gunman opened fire and called for the “complete extermination” of many “races or cultures in our midst,” the AP reported.

Authorities have since raised concerns that the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AFD, which placed third in the country’s 2017 election and has grown in influence, has played a role in stoking a climate of hatred toward immigrants and the government.

German security agencies have warned of the growing threat of violent far-right extremism. In July 2019, a regional politician from Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s party was killed by a neo-Nazi; three months later, a gunman tried to force his way into a synagogue on Yom Kippur, killing two people.

Seehofer said antisemitic crimes in Germany were up 15.7 percent in 2020 over 2019 with 2,351 total incidents — 94.6 percent of which were committed by a far-right suspect.

Of the total, 62 were acts of violence while the majority were antisemitic hate speech and other related crimes, frequently on the internet or over social media, Seehofer said.

“This development in Germany is not only troubling, but in view of our history, deeply shameful,” he said.

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said the German numbers highlighted a broader issue.

“This is a wake-up call, not just for Germany, but for the whole world,” he said. “These figures should ring alarm bells, because we are seeing similar trends across the Western world.”

Many in the AfD have expressed support for, and participated in, the regular protests in Germany against lockdown measures, organized by the Querdenker movement. The demonstrations have become increasingly violent, and the country’s domestic intelligence service last month said it had put some members of the movement under observation.

The protests have brought together a broad range of demonstrators, including people opposing vaccinations, those who deny the existence of the coronavirus, mask opponents, conspiracy theorists and others.

Seehofer said the protests have also attracted neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists, and have regularly become violent, targeting police and the media. Seehofer said of the 260 reported crimes against journalists, 112 were related to protests against coronavirus restrictions.

“I want to say here very clearly: These acts of violence are no longer about exercising a constitutional right (to demonstrate), but are acts of violence of a criminal nature that I condemn in the strongest possible terms,” he said.

Source: Germany Sees 72 Percent Increase in Anti-Immigrant Crimes

Pauline Hanson built a political career on white victimhood and brought far-right rhetoric to the mainstream

Of note. Bernier tried (and continues to try) to play a similar game:

Pauline Hanson and her party have only achieved modest electoral successes. Yet, she is undoubtedly Australia’s most successful populist politician and has had a profound impact on the way the country talks about issues like multiculturalism and immigration.

Hanson’s entire political career can be seen as a denial and rejection of the realities of whiteness in Australia – that is, the unearned benefits and privileges afforded to white people in settler-colonial countries.

Hanson has benefited from – and helped to shape – the normalisation of racism and xenophobia in Australia. She has pushed the boundaries of what can be “acceptably said” in public discourse and has had a disproportionate influence on the national debate.

In doing so, she has also created the political space for other far-right figures like Fraser Anning to emerge and become more a part of the political mainstream.

The birth of One Nation

Hanson first emerged on the political landscape in 1996 when she was disendorsed as the Liberal Party candidate for Oxley following racist comments she made about Indigenous people in a letter to the Queensland Times.

She contested the election anyway, running as an independent on a self-described nationalist, populist and protectionist platform, and won the seat with a large swing against the Labor incumbent.

In her maiden speech to the House of Representatives, Hanson claimed to speak on behalf of “mainstream Australians” and promised a “common sense” approach to politics.

Most controversially, Hanson warned Australia was “in danger of being swamped by Asians”, called for the abolition of multiculturalism and railed against Indigenous rights, so-called “political correctness” and “reverse-racism”.

The times suited Hanson. After 13 years of Labor government, John Howard and the Liberal Party looked to exploit a sense of resentment and grievance on the issues of multiculturalism and immigration, which arguably opened up the space for Hanson and helped to legitimise her views.

Indeed, in a 1996 speech delivered to the Queensland Liberal Party, Howard celebrated the idea people felt able to speak a little more freely and could do so without living in fear of being branded as a bigot or racist.

Hanson’s One Nation party was formed the following year and performed well at the 1998 Queensland state election, winning 11 seats.

Hanson’s downfall and political resurrection

One Nation’s initial success, however, was short-lived. Hanson failed to win the newly redistributed seat of Blair at the 1998 federal election. Her party then began to suffer from internal divisions, poor leadership and Hanson’s personal and financial scandals.

She was subsequently convicted of electoral fraud in 2003. (It was later overturned on appeal.)

After a number of failed federal and state campaigns (including under the rebranded Pauline’s United Australia Party), Hanson finally succeeded in being elected to the Senate in 2016, along with three other One Nation candidates.

This represented a high point for the party at the federal level and gave it considerable influence over government policy.

Hanson’s populist, nativist beliefs

Hanson can best be described as a populist radical right politician, alongside such figures as Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and Viktor Orbán.

For populist figures, politics are seen as a struggle between everyday, ordinary people and a corrupt, illegitimate and out-of-touch elite.

But more importantly, the populist radical right also uses the language of “us-versus-them” and portrays immigrants and refugees as existential threats to the safety, security and “culture” of a particular society.

In Hanson’s view, non-natives must either assimilate and embrace “Australian culture and values” or “go back to where they came from”.

Hanson has consistently drawn on a sense of grievance and victimhood – in particular, white victimhood. She has espoused a belief in the existence of so-called “reverse-racism” or “anti-white” racism since the outset of her political career.

Hanson has even gone so far as to claim the most downtrodden person in this country is the white Anglo-Saxon male.

The mainstreaming of the far-right

Hanson’s resurgence in 2016 occurred in a very different political climate than her first stint in parliament in the late 1990s.

Political scientist Cas Mudde refers to the 21st century as the “fourth wave of the far-right”. It is a time when far-right ideas are becoming increasingly tolerated, debated and normalised in the mainstream and the boundaries of what can be said are shifting.

Emboldened by years of normalised Islamophobia in Australia and the electoral successes of far-right parties globally, Hanson’s maiden Senate speech warned Australia was now in danger of being swamped by Muslims, who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own.

She called for a “Trump style” immigration ban, a Royal Commission into Islam and the “banning of the burqa”.

Hanson’s resurgence has clearly cemented Muslims as the new “dangerous other”, though her racist attitudes towards First Nations people and Asian immigrants have also remained a constant.

Her claims of “anti-white racism” have also gained traction in the mainstream. For example, when Hanson put forth a Senate motion declaring “it’s OK to be white” in 2018, a surprising number of Coalition members voted for it and later defended it on Twitter.

It was only later, after a vocal outcry, that the Coalition backed down and claimed the votes were made in error.

The media have played a key role in the mainstreaming of Hanson and One Nation by consistently giving them a platform to voice far-right ideas.

Hanson’s legacy and impact on society

There are a couple of ways to think about Hanson’s legacy and impact on society.

The first is to gauge her direct influence on government policy through her role as a parliamentarian. There’s no doubt she has wielded considerable influence as one of a number of senators to hold the balance of power in recent years.

Yet, despite some success in influencing legislation and her recent appointment as deputy chair of the family law inquiry, Hanson has been largely unsuccessful in seeing her signature policies realised.

And while acknowledging Hanson’s role in mainstreaming far-right ideas, it’s important to note these ideas have existed before her maiden speeches and will exist well beyond her time in politics.

Exclusively focusing on Hanson’s individual acts ignores the systemic nature of racism and the role of the mainstream political class in reproducing and upholding these racist structures.

When assessing Hanson’s legacy, it may be comforting to view her as an aberration and reflection of a bygone era, but she remains very much a product of the Australian settler-colonial story.

It’s perhaps more accurate to think of Hanson as a symptom of racism and xenophobia in Australia, rather than its cause.

Munich bans use of Nazi ‘Jewish star’ at coronavirus protests

Sad that it has had to come to this:

The city of Munich banned the use of Nazi-era Stars of David at coronavirus protests on Sunday after participants were seen wearing them in recent weeks.

Several protesters in cities across Germany have started wearing six pointed, yellow stars with the word “unvaccinated” emblazoned on them. From the color to the font, they’re nearly identical to the badges Jewish people were forced to wear across Nazi-occupied territories during the Holocaust.

Read moreHow are Germany’s coronavirus protests different?

Other anti-lockdown protesters have also dressed up in stripped prisoner uniforms — drawing comparison to concentration camp prisoners — and held up signs reading: “Masks will set you free” or “Vaccination will set you free.”

The slogans reference the “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work will set you free”) signs that hung above several concentration camps, where millions of Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

Demonstrators are using the highly questionable protest tactics to voice their opposition to mandatory coronavirus vaccines — despite the fact that the German government has repeatedly said it will not implement such a program.

Politicians slam anti-Semitic tactic

Felix Klein, Germany’s commissioner for the fight against anti-Semitism, said that wearing the altered Jewish stars was a “calculated breaking of a taboo,” reported local public broadcaster Bayerische Rundfunk.

The tactic has been used increasingly in protests in Germany, Klein said. In using symbols of the Holocaust to provoke at protests, he added, the demonstrators downplay the victims and their suffering.

Other politicians have called for more cities and states to also ban the use of Nazi-era stars at protests and to label them as a form of incitement.

Rüdiger Erben, a Social Democrat lawmaker in the state parliament of Saxony-Anhalt, said that the symbols have also appeared at protests in his state and that they have nothing to do with freedom of speech or freedom of assembly.

Whoever puts on one of the stars is acting “as an anti-Semite of the most repulsive kind,” Erben told news agency epd.

Protesters have been gathering for weeks in cities across Germany to demonstrate against the government’s restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Although participant numbers are starting to dwindle, politicians and analysts have grown increasingly concerned about right-wing extremist radicalization at the demonstrations.

Source: Munich bans use of Nazi ‘Jewish star’ at coronavirus protests

ICYMI: Germany sees rise in anti-Semitic, political crimes

Of note:

Germany saw a rise both far-right and far-left crimes in 2019, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday.

The country’s police recorded just over 41,000 cases of politically motivated crime last year, representing a rise of 14.2% compared to 2018, when there were just over 36,000.

More than half of all cases could be attributed to the far-right scene, the statistics show, with 22,342 cases, representing a 9.4% increase. The politically motivated crimes recorded ranged from verbal abuse, spreading racist propaganda, hate speech, to assault, arson, and murder. There has also been a 23% rise in far-left crime, focused particularly in the eastern city of Leipzig.

At the press conference, Seehofer was at pains to allay concerns that police or authorities were losing sight of far-right violence.

“The biggest threat comes from the far-right, we have to see that clearly,” Seehofer said,

Authorities also recorded 2,032 crimes motivated by anti-Semitism – a rise of 13% over 2018, and the highest since those statistics were collected. Some 93.4% of those crimes were carried out by far-right perpetrators. Seehofer said there was a similar figure – 90.1% – for Islamophobic crimes, which have also risen by 4% to 950 cases.

More propaganda, more murders

Next week marks the first anniversary of the murder of conservative politician Walter Lübcke, head of government in Kassel, central Germany. Far-right extremist Stephan E. initially confessed to the murder, though he withdrew the confession earlier this year and replaced it with a partial confession implicating an accomplice.

Far-right killings continued in February this year, when nine people of immigrant background were murdered by an extremist in two cafes in the central German city of Hanau.

The figures show that 36.8% of far-right crimes involve “propaganda offenses,” 13.7% involve “racist hate speech,” 4.9% property damage, and 4.4% violence against people.

Georg Maier, interior minister of Thuringia, who joined the press conference as the current chairman of the state interior ministers’ conference, was particularly forthright on the far-right threat.

“What we experienced in 2019 and 2020 represents a new dimension of threat against our democracy,” Maier said. “This danger is coming from the right. Three murders in 2019, and in 2020 already 10 murders with a racist and far-right extremist background. It had been a long time since we had the murder of a political representative in Germany, and that makes very clear how big the challenge for us is.”

Last week, Seehofer attended the first meeting of a newly established Cabinet committee, chaired by Chancellor Angela Merkel, to fight right-wing extremism and racism. “It was a very, very good and deep discussion,” Seehofer said. A cabinet report on new measures is planned for next spring.

The far-right and anti-lockdown protests

Maier, a Social Democrat who said his own campaign posters had been defaced with swastikas, said he had noticed an increase in “far-right structures,” both in the form of concerts, martial arts clubs, and online groups.

He said that organizers were using concerts to raise money for political campaigns and mentioned that far-right had even opened bars to create another revenue stream.

He went on connect such developments to a more polarized political atmosphere, and suggested that recent demonstrations against social distancing measures had been deliberately “undermined” by the far-right scene.

The data was released as police in Germany on Wednesday raided 25 premises linked to 31 suspected members of anti-government Reich Citizens Movement — a movement that overlaps with far-right extremist groups.

The group was suspected of making fake documents, including passports, driver’s licenses and birth certificates. The raids took place in the states of Hesse and Baden-Württemberg.

A faction of the group was officially banned by Seehofer in March for its anti-Semitic and right-wing sympathies.

Source: Germany sees rise in anti-Semitic, political crimes

‘A Perfect Storm’: Extremists Look For Ways To Exploit Coronavirus Pandemic

As they seek to exploit all issues:

For months, authorities say, 36-year-old white supremacist Timothy Wilson amassed bomb-making supplies and talked about attacking a synagogue, a mosque or a majority-black elementary school.

Then the coronavirus hit the United States, giving Wilson a new target — and a deadline. The FBI says Wilson planned to bomb a Missouri hospital with COVID-19 patients inside, and he wanted to do it before Kansas City’s stay-at-home order took effect at midnight on March 24.

“Wilson considered various targets and ultimately settled on an area hospital in an attempt to harm many people, targeting a facility that is providing critical medical care in today’s environment,” the FBI said in a statement.

The attack never happened. Wilson died in a shootout March 24 when federal agents moved to arrest him after a six-month investigation. It was an extraordinary domestic terrorism case, yet it got lost in the nonstop flood of news about the coronavirus pandemic. Extremism researchers warn against overlooking such episodes; they worry the Missouri example is a harbinger as far-right militants look for ways to exploit the crisis.

Already, monitoring groups have recorded a swell of hatred — including cases of physical violence — toward Asian Americans. Dehumanizing memes blame Jews for the virus. Conspiracy theories abound about causes and cures, while encrypted chats talk about spreading infection to people of color. And there is the rise of “Zoombombing” — racists crashing private videoconferences to send hateful images and comments.

“We know from our work in the trenches against white nationalism, antisemitism, and racism that where there is fear, there is someone organizing hate,” Eric Ward, executive director of the Western States Center, said in a statement. The Oregon-based monitoring group recorded about 100 bias-motivated incidents in the two weeks after the alleged Missouri plot was foiled.

Here are some areas extremism trackers are watching as the pandemic unfolds:

Hate crimes

A March FBI assessment predicted “hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus disease,” according to an intelligence report obtained by ABC News.

The report, prepared by the FBI’s Houston office and issued to law enforcement agencies nationwide, warned that “a portion of the U.S. public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations.” That idea has been reinforced by political leaders including President Trump, who has referred to the “Chinese virus” and variations that reference China or Wuhan rather than the clinical terms used by health officials.

Asian Americans say they have experienced hostility, with a dramatic increase in reports of racist incidents. A handful of them were violent attacks that are under investigation as hate crimes. For example, federal authorities say hatred motivated a 19-year-old Texas man who was arrested in a stabbing attack that targeted an Asian-American family at a Sam’s Club. The suspect told authorities that he thought the family was spreading the coronavirus.

Some Asian Americans have expressed fears that violence could increase once stay-at-home orders are lifted. A coalition of advocacy groups has appealed to Congress to denounce racism and xenophobia linked to the pandemic.

“This is a global emergency that should be met with both urgency and also cultural awareness that Covid-19 is not isolated to a single ethnic population,” Jeffrey Caballero, executive director of the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, said in a statement. “Xenophobic attacks and discrimination towards Asian American communities are unacceptable.”

Recruiting out-of-school kids

Millions of young Americans are home from school, bored, and scrolling through social media sites for hours every day. To white supremacist recruiters, they’re prey.

Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an American University professor who writes extensively about far-right extremism, said the increase in unsupervised screen time at a time of crisis creates “a perfect storm for recruitment and radicalization.” PERIL, the extremism research lab Miller-Idriss runs on campus, is scrambling for “rapid response” grants to develop an awareness campaign and toolkit for parents and caregivers about the risks of online radicalization in the coronavirus era.

“For extremists, this is an ideal time to exploit youth grievances about their lack of agency, their families’ economic distress, and their intense sense of disorientation, confusion, fear and anxiety,” Miller-Idriss said. Without the usual social support from trusted adults such as coaches and teachers, she said, “youth become easy targets for the far right.”

Anti-government flashpoints

Militias and self-described “constitutionalist” factions, categorized by federal authorities as anti-government extremists, are making noise about stay-at-home orders. Some armed groups reject the measures outright, calling them unconstitutional or overreaching. Another subset is openly defiant, as if daring authorities to use force and turn the issue into a high-stakes standoff.

Over Easter weekend, Ammon Bundy, who led an armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2016, held a service that drew some 200 people to a warehouse in Idaho. Photos showed worshippers, including children, unmasked and sitting in close quarters.

If the perceived constitutional infringements worsen, Bundy has told his supporters, then “physically stand in defense in whatever way we need to.” That kind of provocation could turn ugly quickly, warn monitors of the anti-government movement.

Calls for violence

Extremism monitors are keeping tabs on so-called accelerationists, a subset of the racist right that believes in using violence to sow chaos in order to collapse society and replace it with a white nationalist model.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an extremism watchdog group, has said, “Accelerationists consider themselves the revolutionary vanguard of the white supremacist movement.” In chat forums, they’ve discussed using the virus to infect people of color, staging attacks on medical centers and other forms of violence they hope will trigger a domino effect leading to the breakdown of society.

“These far-right extremists are arguing that the pandemic, which has thrown into question the federal government’s ability to steer the nation through a crisis, supports their argument that modern society is headed toward collapse,” wrote Cassie Miller of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Miller wrote that, for now, the fallout is already so chaotic that the accelerationists are content to watch, reckoning, “the situation seems to be escalating on its own, requiring no additional involvement on their part.”

Miller cited a white supremacist podcaster who told his followers: “It seems to be going plenty fast, thanks.”

Source: ‘A Perfect Storm’: Extremists Look For Ways To Exploit Coronavirus Pandemic

Neo-Nazis from U.S. and Europe build far-right links at concerts in Germany

Of note. As if we don’t have enough to worry about these days…

As the deafeningly loud, rapid-fire music known as “hate rock” blasted out, hundreds of white nationalists, skinheads and neo-Nazis nodded their heads and swigged their drinks.

Among them was Keith, 46, a welder from Las Vegas, who for the second year in a row had traveled from Nevada to Germany to attend several far-right events.

“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,” Keith told NBC News in June.

However, he was not there just to enjoy the music. He said he was also hoping to share ideas and strategies with like-minded people — a small part of what Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said was becoming an increasingly interconnected international movement with “clear links” between Europe and the U.S.

“You can’t just sit at home and eat cheeseburgers anymore. It’s time to mobilize,” said Keith, who did not wish to have his last name published, for fear of reprisals back in the U.S.

Events like the one in Themar, a small town in central Germany, are reluctantly tolerated and strictly controlled by the authorities. Both federal and local police could be seen monitoring the gathering, and riot squads with water cannons were braced for trouble nearby.

Keith changed his clothes before venturing to the event. At a privately run hotel before the event, he had been dressed from head to toe in clothing full of white power symbolism, and he wore a necklace showing Odin’s wolves and Thor’s hammer.

His big steel-capped boots, with 14 lace holes representing a popular white supremacist slogan, were scuffed from “brawling,” he boasted.

He said he was prevented from wearing them outside because German police considered them a weapon.

The country’s laws also ban the display of Nazi imagery and any action that could be deemed an incitement of hatred. To avoid arrest, many attendees walked around with Band-Aids on to hide their swastika tattoos.

“You’ll notice there’s a whole lot of people with scratches or bruises around here,” Keith said, adding that while he had given Nazi salutes many times, he would not do so in Germany because he would likely be arrested

Like other events of its type, it was held just outside the town, cordoned off to keep it separate from the local community. Keith and his fellow attendees then faced a gauntlet of searches and Breathalyzer tests from the authorities and jeering from a handful of anti-fascist protesters.

Separated by police and metal barriers, one of the demonstrators blew bubbles at them, while another taunted them with a beer can on a fishing rod.

As they have at many events of this type, police had banned the sale of alcohol, citing violence at similar events in the past. In March 2019, journalists and police officers were attacked at a far-right rock concert in Saxony.

Once inside the event in Themar, attendees, including a number of Americans like Keith, were greeted by Patrick Schroeder, who runs a weekly internet TV show espousing far-right views. He handed them free red baseball caps emblazoned with “MGHA,” shortform for “Make Germany Hate Again.” They mimick the “Make America Great Again” hats used to promote Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“We make it look like the Donald Trump party when he was elected,” said Schroeder, who has been dubbed a “nipster,” or “Nazi-hipster,” by the German media.

While the German government does not regularly publish the number of far-right events and concerts, the Interior Ministry has provided them when asked by members of Parliament. The last time they were made public, the figures showed that there had been 132 events of this type from January to September 2019.

There was a “major increase” in the number of violent crimes linked to the far right in Germany in 2017, according to the latest report from the Interior Ministry. The rise in right-wing extremist offenses motivated by anti-Semitism during the reporting year was also “noticeable,” it said, without providing figures.

In the U.S. meanwhile, the FBI recorded 7,036 hate crimes in 2018 — the latest figures available — of which 59.6 percent were racially motivated. That was a 17 percent spike in hate crimes overall, and there was a 37 percent increase in anti-Jewish incidents — the most common kind.

While it is unclear how many Americans attend events like the one in Themar, “there’s a great deal of cross-pollination” between the far right in Europe and the U.S., said Greenblatt.

“There are clear links between white supremacists in the United States and their ideological fellow travelers in Europe,” Greenblatt said in an interview, adding that the alt-right in the U.S. and Europe’s far-right Identitarian movement were both young and sophisticated and used the internet and social media to spread their messages.

“Both these movements have a lot in common,” he added. “They are anti-globalization, they are anti-democratic, they are anti-Semitic to the core, and they are highly opposed to multiculturalism and diversity of any sort.”

European white supremacists were marching in 2017 at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where counterdemonstrator Heather Heyer was killed when a car was deliberately driven into a crowd, he said.

A few months later, American white supremacists marched at the Independence Day rally in Poland, he added.

Greenblatt said there was a “through line” between a series of atrocities linked to attackers inspired by far-right thinking, including Anders Breivik, now 40, who killed 77 people in Norway’s worst terrorist attack in July 2011.

Breivik told a court that he wanted to promote his manifesto, a mixture of his thinking, far-right theories and other people’s writing. This included sections from a manifesto produced by Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who over a number of years sent letter bombs to several universities and airlines, killing three people and wounding 23 others.

American white supremacist Dylann Roof, now 25, who killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in a bid to promote a “race war” in June 2015, cited Breivik as an influence, as did white nationalist Alexandre Bissonnette, now 21, who shot six people dead at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017. Bissonnette also praised Roof.

After 11 people were gunned down at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018, the suspect, Robert Gregory Bowers, was found to have repeatedly threatened Jews in online forums. British lawmaker Jo Cox was killed in the street in 2016 by a man inspired by far-right beliefs.

In March 2019, a man walked into two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 59 people as he livestreamed the attack on Facebook. He referred to Breivik, Roof and Bissonnette in his writings.

“We are no longer talking about one-off events, but a loosely coordinated chain of far-right attacks across the world, where members of these networks inspire — and challenge — each other to beat each other’s body counts,” said Peter Neumann, a professor of security studies at King’s College London.

These killers want to “launch a race war,” he said, adding: “The aim is to carry out attacks, claim responsibility, explain your actions and inspire others to follow.”

Describing himself as “a white internationalist because I’m international at this point and I’m participating in political activities on more than one continent,” Keith said he did not approve of violence.

But he said he thought the far-right attacks were a “direct result of the terrorist attacks that have happened against Christians and white people throughout the world.”

Keith said he did not believe that Trump was a white nationalist, although he said the U.S. president was “definitely white” and “definitely a nationalist.”

However, he added: “To put the two together is suggesting that he has some kind of desire to be associated with people like myself, and I don’t believe he does.”

Nevertheless, he said it is “great” having a national leader who “makes common-sense decisions in line” with his own beliefs.

Greenblatt said he found it “deeply disturbing” to see neo-Nazis “taking cues from our commander in chief.”

Trump has been criticized on a number of occasions for his use of language and his failure to condemn racist behavior from his supporters.

After Heyer was killed, Trump declared that there were “very fine people on both sides,” although in a later White House briefing he said the “egregious display of “hatred, bigotry and violence” had “no place in America.

Similarly, as the president stood by, the crowd at a Trump rally last year in Greenville, North Carolina, chanted “send her back” about the Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich, collectively known as “the squad.”

Trump later disavowed those chants, telling reporters: “i was not happy with it. I disagree with it.”

Asked about whether white supremacists were taking their cues from Trump, a White House spokesperson told NBC News the the president had consistently and repeatedly rejected racism, racial discrimination, and anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

That should be a real cause for concern, Greenblatt said. “The racists feel like they have someone who is in their corner, and that is a total break from the role of the presidency.”

Source: Neo-Nazis from U.S. and Europe build far-right links at concerts in Germany

White Supremacy Goes Green Why is the far right suddenly paying attention to climate change?

Of note:

As an environmental journalist, I’ve been covering the frightening acceleration of climate change for more than a decade. As a person who believes in the tenets of liberal democracy, I’ve watched the rise of white-supremacist, anti-immigrant and nationalistic ideologies with similar dread over the past few years.

But I always thought of those two trends — looming ecological dangers and the gathering strength of the far right — as unrelated, parallel crises in a turbulent time. Only recently have I begun to understand that they are deeply interconnected, an ugly pairing of forces drawing power from each other.

From France to Washington to New Zealand, angry voices on the hard right — nationalists, populists and others beyond conventional conservatism — are picking up old environmental tropes and adapting them to a moment charged with fears for the future. In doing so, they are giving potent new framing to a set of issues more typically associated with the left. Often, they emphasize what they see as the deep ties between a nation’s land and its people to exclude those they believe do not belong. Some twist scientific terms such as “invasive species” — foreign plants or animals that spread unchecked in a new ecosystem — to target immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities. And here’s what really frightens me: This dynamic is likely to intensify as climate change creates new stresses that could pit nations and groups against one another.

Although the pressures of a warming planet are new, the deployment of environmental language for racist, nativist and nationalistic ends has a long, dark history. Before environmentalism became a mainstream and progressive cause in the 1970s, many American conservationists were also white supremacists, who argued that those they saw as outsiders threatened the nation’s landscape or lacked the values to care for it properly. Such thinking was common in Europe, too. The Nazis embraced notions of a symbiotic connection between the German homeland and its people.

It is not hard to see why such ideas are making a comeback. As the relentlessness of environmental calamity — epic fires and floods, escalating extinctions, warming oceans — becomes impossible to ignore, the right needs a way to talk about it. Nationalistic framings fit comfortably with a worldview many already hold. And for the so-called alt right, they offer the bonus of a cudgel for bashing establishment conservatives as beholden to globalist, corporate interests.

Some radicals are drawn to apocalyptic climate scenarios, seeing openings for authoritarianism or a complete societal breakdown. “They want to accelerate it,” said Blair Taylor, program director at the Institute for Social Ecology, a left-wing educational center, who has studied such groups. “So after the downfall they can set up their fascist ethno-states, they can be the Übermensch.” Violent actors are grabbing hold of such ideas. The killers accused of targeting Muslims and Mexican immigrants last year in New Zealand and Texas posted online manifestoes weaving white supremacy with environmental statements.

The Australian man who allegedly murdered 51 people at two Christchurch mosques called himself an “ethnonationalist eco-fascist” and wrote that “continued immigration into Europe is environmental warfare.” The suspect in the El Paso shooting that killed 22 — modern America’s deadliest attack targeting Latinos — ranted about plastic waste and overconsumption. “If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable,” he concluded.

If there’s one thing Americans have learned in the Trump era, it is that toxic ideas can move between the fringes and the political realm with stunning speed. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Rally — now the country’s main opposition party — has incorporated worries about the natural world into the party’s anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideology. She espouses an ideal of the French citizen as “someone rooted, someone who wants to live on their land and to pass it on to their children.” By contrast, she says,those who are “nomadic … do not care about the environment. They have no homeland.”

“Borders are the environment’s greatest ally,” said Jordan Bardella, the party spokesman and a member of the European Parliament. In Hungary, the far-right party Our Homeland accused Ukraine of poisoning Hungarians by dumping waste in the Tisa River. Extremist Polish groups hurl similar charges at Germany.

As climate change reshapes our world, we face a future filled with new pressures and constraints on resources, including arable land, food and water. Droughts, floods and storms are likely to push millions from their homes, some toward the relative safety and security of Europe, Australia and the United States.

The upsurge of anti-Asian discrimination that has followed in the wake of fears about the coronavirus offers a glimpse of the ugly sentiments such external pressures can unleash. Without giving it much thought, I used to accept the framing of environmental problems as shared concerns we would have to work together to solve. Now I can see there is another path too, one in which dark forces wield real dangers as weapons to tear us apart, and scarcity fuels conflict, brutality and racism. Our future in a hotter world of rising seas and more powerful storms already felt terrifying. Unless we come together — and fast — behind serious action to check the existential danger of climate change, it could be darker still.

Source: White Supremacy Goes Green

Far-Right Politicians Are Using Coronavirus To Push Anti-Immigration Xenophobia

Sigh….

The spread of the coronavirus has health officials worried about a potential global pandemic. But while governments and international organizations are rushing to stop the virus, far-right politicians in Europe have been eager to exploit it.

Radical right populists like Italy’s Matteo Salvini and France’s Marine Le Pen are using fear and uncertainty surrounding the virus, believed to have originated in China, to advocate for closed borders and anti-immigration policies ― misleading and panicked messages that health officials warn can hinder efforts to combat the virus.

In Italy, there are hundreds of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, as well as multiple towns under quarantine and 17 people dead. Salvini, leader of the far-right Lega Party, has repeatedly attacked the government for its handling of the crisis. He has groundlessly linked Italy’s outbreak to the arrival of migrants from Africa, called for “armor plated borders” and accused Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of failing to “defend Italy.”

There is no proof for Salvini’s claims: Africa has only three confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to monitoring data from John Hopkins University. But his inflammatory statements are a prime example of the longtime far-right trope of associating migrants with disease ― derogatory rhetoric that has been a prominent feature of Europe’s migrant crisis.

These and other attacks, coming as officials struggle to contain the virus, have put additional stress on the European Union’s ideal of border-free travel. Salvini is calling for Italy to suspend the Schengen Agreement, which allows travel between EU nations without border checks, even though health experts doubt the measures would be effective.

Austria’s Freedom Party echoed Salvini’s calls for immigration controls and suggested that the government had failed to prevent the outbreak, while the Swiss People’s Party wants “strict border control immediately.” (Austria’s health minister countered with the assessment of World Health Organization and EU experts that closing borders “makes no sense.”)

In France, Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally, has called for border controls and falsely accused the EU of remaining silent on COVID-19. (EU officials have repeatedly issued statements on the virus and announcedhundreds of millions of euros in health funding.) Le Pen also clashed with Italy’s Prime Minister Conte when she suggested that Italian soccer fans should be barred from entering the country. Spain’s far-right Vox party leader Santiago Abascal similarly blamed open borders for the virus.

Far-right parties tend to thrive in opposition, where their lack of governing experience and extreme policies aren’t tested, allowing them to snipe from the sidelines to gain support. They also feed on periods of unrest and uncertainty, as seen in their fearmongering around events of recent years such as the migrant crisis and ISIS-related extremist attacks. The COVID-19 outbreak gives these parties a chance to both frame governments as ineffective and advocate for the anti-immigration policies they view as a panacea to every societal problem.

Meanwhile, countries with far-right governments in power have taken a slightly different tack, largely downplaying the virus and maintaining that everything is under control.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed that although the virus has garnered the world’s attention, people should not forget that the real threat is from migration. In the United States, President Donald Trump has contradicted health officials and gave a dismissive press conference filled with false information, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday refused to say that the coronavirus wasn’t a hoax.

Source: Far-Right Politicians Are Using Coronavirus To Push Anti-Immigration Xenophobia