The Rise of the Modern Far Right

The Rise of the Modern Far Right

Breanna Reynolds, Writer

On January 6th, 2021, a mob of pro-Trumpers stormed the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. in an attempt to stop the election results from going through Congress. In other words, it was an attempt at a domestic coup. There were two pipe bombs found. One was at the RNC building and the other one was at the DNC. Five people died and a total of sixty Capitol police officers were injured. This was the first time the confederate flag has ever been flown in the Capitol building. Some very notable people were seen inside, including Nick Fuentas, a white nationalist podcaster, “Baked Alaska” (real name Tim gionet), a holocaust denyer and political streamer, the “Q Shamen” (real name Jack Angeli), a man who frequents far-right rallies to try and spread the Qanon conspiracy theory and who was seen dressed like a viking. There was also a currently unidentified man wearing a shirt saying “Camp Auschwitz: Work Brings Freedom” on the front and “Staff” on the back, and no less than six elected republican officials. Some republican members of Congress have been accused of giving ‘tours’ to rioters the day before the attack. And if that wasn’t concerning enough, Representative Ayanna Pressley had her office’s panic button ripped out at some point before the 6th and the situation is currently under investigation. 

This entire event made the Watergate scandal look like a civil debate. So, how did we get here? What’s happening in the country that made so many people motivated to try and overturn our own democratic system? To understand that we need to understand the mindset behind extremism and terrorism. According to the CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies), between the years 1994 and 2020 there have been 893 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. 57% of those attacks were committed by right-wingers, 25% were committed by those who were left-wing, 15% was committed for religious purposes, 3% were committed by ethno-nationalists, and 0.7% were labeled as “other”. 

Right-wing attacks, obviously making up the majority within the states, were mainly committed at abortion clinics between the 1990’s and 2014. From 2014 to today, most attacks were targeting individual people and religious establishments (synagogue, mosques, temples, etc.). Attacks against government employees and/or the police have remained consistent with no major noticeable pattern. Between January 1st and May 8th of 2020, 90% of all terrorist attacks were committed by the far-right. For the left-wing, the second most common type of terrorism, was mainly committed in the early 2000’s and were mostly committed in the name of environmental protection or animal rights. What I really need to press is that this is not a “both sides” issue, there is an obvious difference in number here. There has been exactly one death connected to “Antifa” within the last twenty-five years. To say that the same issue with violence needs to be addressed across the political field would be intellectually dishonest. 

Why is the American right-wing more prone to violence? Let’s look at how the modern far-right developed into what it is now. It all started in the early to mid 2010’s with an online movement known as “Gamergate”. It started when Zoe Quinn, an indie game developer, was publicly accused by her then-boyfriend, programmer Eron Gjoni, of cheating on him with a journalist from the website Kotaku to get better reviews for her game “Depression Quest”. Both Quinn and Kotaku denied this but it was too late, an entire conversation about ethics within video game journalism had been started. Though if it had stayed as just that I wouldn’t be writing about it now. There were many men within the gaming community who saw this as an opportunity to attack Quinn for her gender. Soon game critic Anita Sarkeesian got pulled into the situation because she mainly talked about sexism within video games and the larger gaming industry. Both Quinn and Sarkeesian were victims of constant death threats, rape threats, doxxing (the act of someone posting personal information online such as an address or phone number), and they were even forced to leave their own homes for their safety at one point. The FBI opened up a formal investigation into these threats. There were two men who directly confessed to sending threats but no one was charged for the event. 

This led us into the “anti-SJW” era of the skeptic community on YouTube. The acronym “SJW” stands for “Social Justice Warrior” It was used as an insult towards social justice advocates who they saw as advocating for problems that don’t exist. The “skeptic community” was a group of creators on the platform who started off making video responses towards religious arguments. This gained some of them a rather large following during the early 2010’s when the argument about including creationism (the anti-evolution belief that the world was created by God in 7 days and that human life started in the Garden of Eden) in schools was at its peak. They were usually responding to actual theologians or religious establishments in videos where they’d break down their arguments in clever and well-researched ways. When it moved into the anti-SJW phase things changed. 

It revolved around two main social justice topics, feminism and racial justice. Neither of these fields had a very strong online presence in the same way those who were religious did. The main type of content being responded to was Buzzfeed, ‘trendy’ women’s magazines online such as Cosmopolitan, and miscellaneous videos of people in public or in colleges. The problem was, none of these were academics like the theologians or churches were. One of the most popular topics was that of the wage gap. The claim that women make 78 cents to a man’s dollar. This can be broken down very easily, this is the product of individual choices commonly made between the genders. Women often go towards lower paying jobs (such as teacher or other forms of child care), women work less hours, women get promoted less, if jobs could get away with paying women less why would they even hire men? 

For responding to the point made in buzzfeed videos it’s really good but they never get into what a feminist scholar would. Why are those jobs paid less? Why do they tend to go for those jobs? Why do women work less hours? Why do women get less promotions? Are these all capable of being explained through biology or is there a social factor involved? They stopped when feminist academia started. It was even worse with most other subjects. This wouldn’t have been a problem had they not been most peoples only exposure to feminism. It kept the conversation shallow and caused some people to claim that the label feminist itself was useless now. 

Fox News did a similar thing but on purpose. My mind immediately goes to 2017, Fox brought on a woman who claimed that “Eating meat promotes toxic masculinity”. She came on, was obviously not used to being on air, talked over herself a bit, and generally didn’t look like she knew what she was talking about. The segment ended with the Fox crew bringing out an entire ham and eating it on the table in front of her. Please note, Fox News is very well funded and one of the biggest mainstream news programs, they have the resources to bring on somebody who knows what they’re talking about. But they don’t because they don’t want you seeing any form of intelligence on the left, their whole schtick is that liberals are irrational. 

No one reasonable would listen to Tucker Carlson and I don’t say that as an opinion, I say that as a legal fact. In September, 2020 Fox News won a court case against a defamation lawsuit when their lawyer argued that no “reasonable viewer” would ever take Carlson seriously. They know what they’re doing. When people had no good representation of things like feminism they naturally assumed that all they were seeing was all that it was. This is where we see the far-right start to recruit. 

In September, 2020 Fox News won a court case against a defamation lawsuit when their lawyer argued that no “reasonable viewer” would ever take Carlson seriously.”

It’s often referred to as the “alt-right” pipeline. You start by watching the anti-sjw content on youtube and the algorithm will pick up on this and they start sending you more and more content like it. You go from run of the mill Conservative content and then you start getting recommended content a little further right but it’s fun to watch and they make some good points. And then you start watching content that’s a little further right than that and you maybe start talking to people in a discord server a content creator has. 

Christian Picciolini, a reformed skinhead and founder of the “Free Radicals Project”, says that people being indoctrinated will often start by “testing the waters” in a way. This usually comes in the form of using slurs and once they get comfortable they start using and spreading around propaganda. You then start to slide into the territory of being directly bigoted (hating Muslims, transgender people, black people, etc.) and this often results in someone out of those groups being verbally and/or virtually harassed by the person being indoctrinated. If this pattern keeps up it’s becoming more common for physical attacks to be done. Antisemitic hate crimes rose by 14% in 2019.

The far-right has also been trying to rebrand in a way that separates them from the aesthetic of the KKK and the Nazis. Instead of “White Supremacists” they’re a white nationalist (they’ll say they don’t want a genocide, just an ethnostate), or a race realist (they’ll say that they’re just listening to ‘science’ (ie. race science) and that they can’t be a white supremacist because they acknowledge that azkanazie jews and Asians are above whites in IQ levels), or a member of the alternative right. Instead of using the idea of white people being superior as a form of propaganda they try to create a form of nonexistent victim-hood. Claiming that white people are an endangered minority that needs to be protected. The white genocide and great replacement conspiracy theories are the most in-your-face example of this. 

These conspiracy theories are what give heat to the 14 words slogan (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”) and gained popularity when pushed by pseudo-journalists like Lauren Southern. Southern started out online when she held up a sign saying “There is no rape culture in the west” at one of the women’s marches. She then went on to create several white supremacist propaganda pieces. She created a ‘documentary’ about a supposed white genocide going on in South Africa from black Africans attacking white farmers. This is not something that is happening or has happened. She later made another ‘documentary’ called “Borderless” that’s meant to highlight the supposed decline Europe is in from taking in refugees. 

We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

— The Alt-Right

When I hear about her my mind immediately jumps to a video where she walks through some streets in Paris with scary music in the background and you’re meant to notice that there’s a lot of non-white people and hijabis. There were people in the comments being very dramatic about it, talking about how “France has fallen”, the other half of the comments was people from France pointing out that she was walking down the poorest area of Paris and that she doesn’t have room to talk about “respecting European culture” when she’s a Canadian women who got kicked out of Spain for firing flares at a refugee ship a week earlier. 

Another big propaganda piece is “The Camp of Saints”, a 1973 novel written by Jean Raspail. It’s a fictional dystopian book where the western civilization is destroyed after they take in a large number of 3rd world immigrants. If that were not enough by itself in the beginning of the book, before the actual story starts, Raspail writes a ‘warning’ about how white people will be a global minority by 2000. I read the entire thing as a Good-reads assignment in English class last year and I can assure you that, not only is it as racist as it sounds, the writing itself is poorly done. Reading it was like getting a filling done at the dentist but the good reads reviews were full of people calling it prophetic. This book wasn’t only recommended by people like Lauren Southern. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former Chief Strategist and executive chairman of Breitbart News, Stephen Miller, the Trump’s senior policy advisor, and Steve King, a GOP Congressman, are all known fans of this book. 

The modern far-right revolves around the ‘protection’ of western civilization. This is now a mainstream idea. During the BLM protests the right-wing narrative was about them “burning down cities” despite very few buildings across the nation being victims of arson and some of them even being done by ‘Boogaloo bois’ (a far right anti-government group) attempting to make BLM look worse. You can buy Donald Trump inspired shirts that say “The West is the Best” from several different websites. The Proud Boys organization is centered around “Western Chauvinism”. Jordan Peterson, Canadian psychologist and right-wing celebrity, has a series of lectures specifically about the ‘greatness’ of the west. There are kids in this school, in my grade who have tried to use Info Wars as a source before which is a propaganda outlet run by Alex Jones, a man who’s been described as “the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

If you idolize ‘the west’ consider asking yourself, what is the west? Obviously it’s a geographic region but none of the people toting this talking point are talking about how great South America is. Is it about the Ideas? About Greek and Roman philosophy? Most of ancient Greece is in the modern day Middle East, those thoughts have inspired their societies just as much as they’ve inspired ours. The only reason we have so much knowledge of Roman Society now is because Irish monks and scribes preserved it while the rest of Europe fell into the dark ages. But the English brutally oppressed the Irish for over 800 years, nearly killing the language and making many aspects of ancient Celtic society unknown to this day, would that not cause some sort of disdain towards the English for attempting to help “destroy the west”? If it’s the ideas of the enlightenment then why is one of ‘the wests’ greatest enemies liberalism, the main philosophy that made it so great? Modern day Norway has so little in common with modern day Poland despite both being western. So what is “western society”?

It’s just a dog whistle to mean white. Whether people realize that or not is a different topic. There’s no other answer when you look at what it could mean and how it’s used. Dop whistles are very commonly used by the far-right. A dog whistle is defined as “a subtly aimed political message which is intended for, and can only be understood by, a particular group”. To fully understand we can look at the Southern Strategy, an election strategy used by the Republican Party to get southern voters to shift from the democrats by appealing to their racism towards African Americans without having to openly acknowledge it during the civil rights movement. Richard Nixon did this in a way by promoting “law and order” and “states’ rights” instead of directly mentioning race. In later years Ronald Reagan talks about “welfare queens” in Chicago. The racist white voter is going to understand that they’re referencing black people but this gives them deniability. 

 

“You think he was talking about black people when he said ‘law and order’, why do you think all black people are criminals?”

 

“It’s not about The Civil Rights Act or The Voters Rights Act, it’s about the federal government not having power over the states.”

 

It’s a way to gaslight the political opponent and it’s still used frequently. On 4chan they got even more specific and starting thinking up ways to make the opposition look silly as well. Like the ‘ok’ hand sign or Pepe the frog. They start using it as some sort of right-wing symbol and if someone picks up on it and starts talking about it they can just pass it off as “Those crazy SJWs will call anything racist” to those who are less internet savvy. 

All of this eventually leads back to Stochastic Terrorism. A form of terrorism not involving organized groups and is instead inspired by “public demonetization of a person or group”. It’s the fancy name for “lone wolf” terrorism. On August 9th, 2019 in El Paso, Texas a man walked into a Walmart store and shot 46 people, killing 23. The man who did this had previously posted a manifesto on 8chan titled “The Inconvenient Truth” that showed support for the christchurch shooter, talked about cultural and ethnic replacement”, and used similar language to many of Trump’s speeches when concerning a supposed “migrant invasion”. 

Jeremy Joseph Christian stabbed three men, killing two, on May 16th, 2017 after they intervened with him screaming harassing two black girls (one visibly Muslim) on a train. During his court appearance he screamed “You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism!”, “Death to the enemies of America!”, and “Leave this country if you hate our freedom – Death to Antifa!”.

Kyle Rittenhouse crossed state lines at 17 with a gun he wasn’t legally allowed to have to help a group in Kenosha, Wisconsin ‘defend’ property at a BLM protest on August 25th, 2020. He shot a man in the head after getting a plastic bag thrown at him and, after being chased by a crowd of people trying to disarm him, proceeded to shoot two more. Killing two people and injuring a third. Many people actually came out to defend Rittenhouse, claiming that he was just defending himself from a mob. I was always under the impression that you lose the self-defense plea when you just shot a man in the head and I didn’t think that one of the people who got shot trying to stop him having a handgun changed that. For many of the online right a “good guy with a gun” suddenly only applied when the people originally being shot were not politically opposed to them. 

After Rittenhouse was arrested his mother gave several interviews, including one saying that her son was “helping people” in Kenosha and another threatening to “take down” Biden after he used a picture of her son in an ad warning against white supremacy. Kyle Rittenhouse himself has pleaded ‘not guilty’ and claims that he does regret shooting people in Kenosha, claiming he was protecting himself. In November, 2020 he was released on a $2 million bail after money was donated on a Christian crowdfunding website. He was recently seen in a bar with members of the “Proud Boys” group wearing a shirt saying “Free as f–k”. I have seen people make this terrorist into a martyr, I have seen people at protests ‘cosplay’ him, I’ve seen people call him a patriot. 

In June, 2020 Facebook removed ads from the Trump campaign that contained a picture of an inverted red triangle (a symbol used in Nazi concentration camps for political prisoners), the first sentence had exactly 14 words, and there were exactly 88 ads bought. During the 2020 election cycle Trump promised to preserve the “suburban lifestyle dream” and claimed that suburbia was “under siege” by low-income housing and crime. Trump tirelessly pushed a conspiracy about mass election fraud with no proof, the case was thrown out of over 50 courts. This didn’t come from nowhere and there were a lot of people warning about how dangerous the far-right would become in the near future. 

According to security officials, widespread disinformation and acceptance of conspiracy theories leads to “mass radicalization” and an increased chance of violence. Mary McCord has stated that “This tent that used to be sort of ‘far-right extremists’ has gotten a lot broader. To me, a former counter-terrorism official, that’s a radicalization process,” her sentiment is charred by many others. From what we can tell, over seventy four million Trump voters believe some form of conspiracy theory. A survey done recently says that 77% of Trump supporters thought that Biden won the 2020 presidential election through fraud. Elizabeth Neumann, a previous head of an office that kept track of violent extremism through the Department of Homeland Security, has said “Unless we help them break the deception, we cannot operate with 30% of the country holding the extreme views that they do.”

And that’s an abridged explanation of how we got to where we are now. I left out a lot of information for the sake of the length of this article. I didn’t mention the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally. I didn’t write about the alarming number of experts who believe we’re seeing a rise on fascist ideology in America. I didn’t even get to explaining the Qanon conspiracy theory. We are at a very divided time politically but at this point I’d rather be divided than have the country united despite these dangerous beliefs being so rampant. 

 

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