Friday, March 27, 2020

The Neo-Nazis and COVID-19

For many far-right hardliners, it's a crisis to be welcomed. The hardest-core "accelerationists" - violent neo-Nazis who want civilisation to crumble, hope that COVID-19 will turn out to be their secret weapon.

"The situation is ripe for exploitation by the far right," Cynthia Miller-Idriss, American University sociologist and expert on the far-right, told Al Jazeera.  Aside from feeding into "accelerationist and apocalytic ideas", Miller-Idriss said "the uncertainty the pandemic creates creates fertile ground for claims about the need for change or the solutions the far right purports to offer."

A leader of the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM), a neo-Nazi movement based in northern Europe, said that he welcomed the pandemic as a necessary step to help create the world that his group wants to see.

"COVID-19 might be precisely what we need in order to bring about a real national uprising and a strengthening of revolutionary political forces," Simon Lindberg, the leader of NRM's Swedish branch, wrote.  "We cannot build a society lasting thousands of years into the future on the rotten foundations of today," Lindberg added, "but instead we must build it upon the ruins of their creation."
Other far-right groups see the pandemic as an opportunity to further push xenophobic, racist messages. In Germany, members of the neo-Nazi group Die Rechte (The Right) claimed that German borders should have been sealed off weeks ago to all "non-Europeans".
Another German neo-Nazi group, Der Dritte Weg (The Third Way), said that the virus was being exploited by German leaders as a "diversionary tactic" to distract from an apparent oncoming "flood" of refugees and migrants from the Middle East.

In Ukraine, a figure in the country's far-right Azov movement took to messaging app Telegram to claim that the spread of COVID-19 "generally isn't the fault of white people" and stated that ethnic minorities in Italy should alone be blamed for the spread of the virus there - where now more than 8,000 have died.

"Neo-Nazi accelerationist Telegram channels have increased their calls for destabilisation and violence related to COVID-19," Joshua Fisher-Birch, a researcher from the United States-based Counter Extremism Project, which monitors international "extremist" movements, told Al Jazeera. "These channels are treating the current situation … as an opportunity to try to increase tension and advocate for violence."
One popular neo-Nazi channel urged its members to cough on doorknobs at synagogues. Another urged followers infected with COVID-19 to spray their saliva on police officers.

And a further channel praised a man arrested in New Jersey in the US for coughing on a grocery store employee and claiming he had COVID-19.

"Exalted to sainthood," the channel wrote. The term saint or sainthood is common praise for perpetrators of violence.

In recently leaked chat logs on Discord, an online chat application, members of Feuerkrieg Division discussed deliberately infecting Jews and others if one of the members caught the virus. Feuerkrieg Division is a small neo-Nazi group with a presence in the US and Europe.
Well-known far-right figure Timothy Wilson, 36, died on Tuesday after a shootout with FBI agents in Missouri in the US. Wilson had been planning to attack a hospital caring for patients suffering from COVID-19. According to reports, Wilson was an administrator of a neo-Nazi Telegram channel known for encouraging violence. Wilson promoted attacks and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 outbreak on the channel, claiming that the pandemic was an "excuse to destroy our people". 

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