COVID-19 & The Far Right: Weekly Round Up

Right Response Team - 17 04 20

Many of the issues from last week remain valid in this weeks update. Antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-East Asian hatred are still common in the wake of the pandemic. Conspiracy theory continues to thrive and this week we have published an exposé of anti-5G Facebook groups that could act as a gateway into darker territories of antisemitism.

While a majority of the far-right now consider the coronavirus a threat, many still spread conspiracy theories around it or instrumentalise it to advance its goals. On far-right forums and websites, there are however those that remain deniers or heavily minimise the issue. We see this most prominently from the extreme ends of the spectrum, from antisemitic and conspiracy theory-oriented elements of the far-right. 

On Telegram and other platforms, those who minimise the threat has been termed “flu bros” referring to the point of view that corona is no worse than common influenza. American nazi Andrew Angling, editor of the website Daily Stormer is one of these and has changed the header of the website to read “It’s just the flue, bro”.

Lockdown reactions

As restrictions on movement have increased further in the UK, far-right activists have increasingly made it a common topic of discussion and target of critique. As with other elements of the pandemic views differ on the lockdown and, looking past those who believe the pandemic to be a hoax, there are at least two broad angles that British far-right commentators have used to critique the social distancing measures and the policing of them.

Activists have used it to further its common talking points of a supposed emasculation and deterioration of society, emphasising the lack of competency by important professions such as police and health care workers because of political correctness and influence of liberals. UKIP leader Gerard Batten, for example, tweeted that “the police have long been under the control of a politically correct leadership. They need to return to their real core purpose of preventing & detecting crime”.

Youtubers Paul Joseph Watson and Carl Benjamin (aka Sargon of Akkad) have released similar video collages viral dance videos by police and health care workers, in an attempt to undermine their professionalism.

At the same time, some have also emphasised the loss of freedom because of the lockdown, painting the measures as draconic and too far-reaching. Lining up with the far-right talking point that current governments are aiming to repress various freedoms. Katie Hopkin’s released a video where she ridiculed the new measures to enforce social distancing and ended the video with “enjoy lockdown, it’s been extended indefinitely”. 

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage also suggested in an article for the Telegraph that tackling police overreach in the wake of coronavirus might be his “next campaign”. This is an interesting turn, given that just a couple of weeks ago he was criticising the government for not taking strong enough action.

Ramadan disinformation

Ramadan which begins on 23 April has also attracted attention of the anti-muslim far right and been the topic of several conspiracy theories. HOPE not hate today published an article on how Daily Mail published misleading headlines that have added fuel to unfounded fears about Muslims and COVID-19. This article was picked up by far-right group Britain First to enforce islamophobic ideas.

While there are legitimate concerns about any large holiday that bringing people together in times of a pandemic, this critique needs to be presented accurately and not play on prejudices.

Additionally, Katie Hopkins and anti-Muslim activist and editor of AltNewsMedia David Vance have both spread a conspiracy theory that the lockdown will end just before Ramadan suggesting that the UK government is suppressing the Christian holiday of Easter last week.

World Health Organisation 

After President Trump’s announcement that US support for the World Health Organisation (WHO) should be withdrawn, many segments of the far-right has sprung on the opportunity to criticise the institution and make widely unsubstantiated claims about it. Trump’s decision earlier this week fit aligns well with opposition to international organisations and collaboration in favour of national alternatives by the far right.

The critique has come in many shapes and sizes but often emphasised the WHO’s supposed alignment with China, painting it as a threat towards Europe and the US and the background of its Director-General Tedros Adhanom. Often suggesting he is a communist and hostile towards the US.


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