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ExtremismUnprecedented levels of cross-border cooperation among extreme right groups: Report

Published 26 October 2017

New research released the other day by ISD, a counter-extremism NGO, reveals increasing collaboration among extreme far-right groups globally. The report shows how extreme right groups have been opportunistically, and effectively, bridging ideologies and adapting their tone to manipulate legitimate social grievances – immigration, freedom of speech, and terrorism – in order to reach and radicalize mainstream parties and movements.

Extreme right Russians rally // Source: yahoo.com

New research released the other day by ISD, a counter-extremism NGO, reveals increasing collaboration among extreme far-right groups globally. The report, titled The Fringe Insurgency: Connectivity, Convergence and Mainstreaming of the Extreme Right, shows how extreme right groups have been opportunistically, and effectively, bridging ideologies and adapting their tone to manipulate legitimate social grievances – immigration, freedom of speech, and terrorism – in order to reach and radicalize mainstream parties and movements.

ISD says that its researchers spent three months undercover on previously under-researched online forums including 4chan, Gab, and Discord, to examine the tactics being used by extreme right groups to mobilize around key events. In particular, the researchers examined mobilization around the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, attempts to manipulate the German elections, and the “Defend Europe” movement to block refugees entering Europe — all of which used to raise the profile and support for extreme right narratives.

The research shows how extreme right groups are employing sophisticated technology and tactics, which were originally developed to protect and unify communities, to quickly cooperate across borders, radicalize, and disrupt democratic processes. These include crowd-funding platforms, custom-made social media platforms, and even the use of leaked military and intelligence resources from GCHQ and NATO to run campaigns against their own governments.

ISD analyzed fifty platforms around the world, identifying thousands of pieces of content created and distributed by extreme right groups including British counter-jihadists, German Identitarians and American white supremacists. This analysis shines light on the extreme right’s strategy to create a mass movement through the radicalization or “red-pilling” of normal people or “normies,” particularly focusing on the radicalization of generation Z .

Key findings from the report:

· Extreme-right groups across the globe are actively collaborating to achieve common goals, such as keeping refugees out of Europe, removing hate speech laws and getting far-right populist politicians to power.

· Campaigns around the Defend Europe mission in the Mediterranean and the Charlottesville rally received financial and operational support from numerous European and North American countries. Alternative online platforms, some created explicitly for use by the extreme right, provide mechanisms for transnational knowledge exchange, fundraising, and coordinated information operations.

· Their strategic, tactical, and operational convergence has allowed the extreme right to translate large-scale online mobilization into real-world impact. Through coordinated grassroots activities, they have been able to influence elections, attract worldwide media attention and intimidate political opponents. Reconquista Germania, an extreme-right channel on the app Discord set up to disrupt the German election, counts over 5,000 members from across the globe.

· High levels of opportunism characterize today’s extreme right, as seen in the cooperation between ideologically disparate strands such as racially and culturally oriented nationalists. Extreme-right groups actively seek to overcome ideological and geographic divergences for the sake of expanding their influence, reach, and impact. Their communication materials are tailored to different audiences and highlight topics ranging from white nationalist activism to freedom of speech protection.

· The most extreme fringe groups attempt to penetrate new audiences and mainstream their ideologies by using less extreme groups as strategic mouthpieces. Their aim is the creation of a “mass movement” through the radicalization of “the normies” (average people who consume “mainstream” media), in particular Generation Z.

· Extreme right networks use military and intelligence resources such as leaked strategic communication documents from the GCHQ and NATO to run campaigns against their own governments. By staging sophisticated operations in the style of military psychological operations (or “psy-ops”), they seek to disrupt democratic processes in Europe, as in the latest example during the German election, where coordinated extreme-right efforts dictated social media conversations and the top trending hashtags for a period of two weeks.

— Read more in Jacob Davey and Julia Ebner, The Fringe Insurgency: Connectivity, Convergence and Mainstreaming of the Extreme Right (ISD, 2017)