Alan Lis: The rise of right-wing terrorism

Although many associate terrorism with Islamic extremists, which – quite understandably – have attracted the lion’s share of media’s attention in recent decades, it needs to be remembered that they are not the only perpetrators of such. While the focus of media that has been put mostly on Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other groups of such type is justified for the fact that the current wave of terrorism, as terrorism expert David Rapoport claimed, is religious in its nature with Islam being the most important religion in it, right-wing terrorists cannot be forgotten and ought to be acknowledged as a serious threat.

Amongst the most common drivers of right-wing terrorism one undoubtedly can find the anti-immigration views of its perpetrators, as well as their belief in the supremacy of their race over the others, and hatred towards people of other religions. Especially the first one is commonly pursued by far-right nationalist political parties, which have risen to prominence in many countries over the last couple of years.

Right-wing populist rhetoric encompasses also creating a dimension of ‘us’ versus ‘them’, which degrades ‘them’ to have fewer rights and generally be of lesser ‘value’ from ‘us’. Inevitably, such extremism of views leads to an eruption of violence and results in deadly attacks. The spread of such radical thinking has become much easier than it used to be in the past due to the advances of social media and communication platforms that have enabled propagation of such on a far broader scale and with far greater speed.

Recent months and years have been exceptionally rich in violent terrorist attacks motivated by right-wing extreme ideology, to the point that some experts now openly recognize right-wing terrorism as more of a threat coming from terrorist attacks committed by Islamic radicals, particularly in the case of the United States. More significant recent examples include the mail bombing attempts of October 2018, where a perpetrator with far-right extreme views, known also for his support for right-wing conspiracy theories, sent pipe bombs to several individuals involved in a critique of President Donald Trump via the US post. Fortunately, none of the parcels’ receivers was harmed. Additionally, in the very same month, the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting took place and left eleven people killed.

However, not only the US has experienced right-wing terrorism in recent years. Example of Andreas Breivik and attacks he perpetrated in Oslo and on the Utøya island, Norway, constitute one of the most-or indeed the most – disastrous examples of right-wing terrorist attacks committed in Europe, and killed over 70 people. What is also tragic is that Breivik has been a source of inspiration for others who share his radical views. The perpetrator of the recent Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand, Australia – born Brenton Tarrant, claimed in his manifesto that Breivik and his actions had a significant influence on him. This attack came as a shock in the open to multiculturalism New Zealand. As it was live-streamed on Facebook, it may have served the purpose of inspiring new recruits to perpetrate similar attacks.

The attack carried out by Tarrant had yet another devastating consequences. The Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, which targeted Christians, are said by many to have been carried out in retaliation for the Christchurch attack. The ties between the perpetrators and ISIS are being investigated, as Amaq – the ISIS’s news agency – claimed after the attacks that their perpetrators were Islamic State fighters. This relation between those two terrorist acts illustrates that Islamic and right-wing dimensions of terrorism are somewhat interlinked and mutually fuel each other – perpetrators of one commit violence and by that motivate the other side to carry out a lethal response, encouraging the circle of violence to continue.

President Trump, when asked back in March whether in his opinion white nationalism was a threat, had dismissed it, saying it was a terrible problem, but applying only to a small group of people. Unless leaders of the most powerful states in this world come to an agreement about the ways to tackle this peril and get on board with countering violence motivated by right-wing and nationalist ideologies, they will remain a strong appeal for many, and as such a deadly threat in many countries.

Furthermore, both the role of social media in spreading such and the easiness that characterize communication between right-wing radicals need to be dealt with. Right-wing terrorism will also require intelligence and security agencies to partly shift their attention from Jihadi perpetrators of terrorism to far-right extremists. As claimed by the New Zealand’s PM, Brenton Tarrant was not on the radar of either Australian or New Zealand intelligence agencies. In order to avoid, or at least reduce right-wing terrorist attacks, this would need to change.