Home >Opinion >Columns >The rise of the far right bodes ill for the world

On Friday, two major events took place. First, the Taliban was formally crowned the ruler of Afghanistan. Second, in the quiet city of Auckland in New Zealand, a man went on a stabbing spree at a supermarket while raising religious slogans. Thankfully, the cops were present and he was shot dead immediately, or else he could have proved more fatal. Those who measure the size of attacks by the number of casualties know that such incidents are not small. The intentions behind it are diabolical. There is an apprehension that more such incidents may happen soon because there are other people with such satanic thoughts. For reactionaries, such incidents act as a stimulant.

Let’s start with the US. The Capitol, the iconic building that houses the Congress, was occupied by a mob on 6 January. These were the people for whom the defeat of Donald Trump was actually their own defeat and the defeat of their own country. The most successful democracy in the world had never seen such a tragedy before. Unfortunately, America is not the only loser. Similar hot winds are blowing across countries in Europe that are considered liberal. Neo-Nazism is spreading fast there.

German interior minister Horst Seehofer recently revealed that racist violence had risen by 5.7% in the past year—the highest jump since Germany started counting such incidents. The government is not able to figure out ways to prevent this ideology and these incidents. As Angela Merkel prepares to leave after 15 years in power, elections are to be held later this month. Moderates fear that the influence wielded by the ultra-nationalist Alternative for Germany (AFD) and other parties like it could grow. Under Germany’s welcoming refugee policy, Merkel had sheltered about 1.5 million people in the past five years. This is the biggest reason behind the AFD’s rise.

France is also moving in the same direction. In the past few years, a far-right group called Génération identitaire has made headlines. Its activists not only protested in the streets but also put up videos on YouTube to warn the youth—‘be careful or get finished.’ The terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, the refugee influx and covid curbs provided it with tremendous push. Though the outfit was banned in March, officials are not convinced that it will die a quiet death.

The man who targeted mosques in Christchurch and killed 51 people in 2019 was communicating with this outfit. The shooter not only announced his intentions prior to the attack but also broadcast it live on Facebook. The live broadcast was seen by 200 people and then it became viral. Even if governments try to ban such footage, reactionaries find another way. A video game glorifying the attack was subsequently banned. According to Cyber Security for Democracy, social media accounts of extreme right-wing groups and their video games are getting more likes and shares on social media. Last year, the number of people who liked or shared extreme right-wing content doubled from 200 to 400 per thousand followers, while left-wing accounts could not garner even half the followers. The performance of centrist accounts was even worse; their followers were reduced to around 50.

From the early days of the internet until 2015, the number of radical right-wing attacks worldwide was recorded at 1,700. Over the past five years, it has increased by 60 points annually. Sadly, the number of teenagers and youths involved in such activities is high. The UK’s cyber teachers had recently identified 400 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 who called themselves neo-Nazis. According to security agencies, thousands of teenagers searched the internet for separatist or terror content.

The disease is also spreading in Australia. The government recently declared the Sonnenkrieg Division (SKD) as a terrorist outfit and issued an arrest warrant for its members. According to the intelligence agency, more than 40% of the searches on the internet over the past year by people associated with the SKD and other far-right groups contained content related to terrorism.

That is why there is global pressure to ban such content on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Though some steps have been taken, there are so many big and small social media platforms through which incendiary materials are reaching the new generation in the cyber age. From Israel to Iran, from Burkina Faso to Brazil, there is a storm of far-right ideas. In such a time, it is for sure that news, videos and photos coming out of Afghanistan will add fuel to this fire. Alas, there is no way to deal with this deadly force at the moment because the very politicians who have the responsibility to fight it are trying to profit from this trend.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal.

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