Why We Need to Talk About Fake News and the Far Right

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

How much do you know about the far-right? The media, often to denounce Trump supporters or 8chan trolls, throw about the term frivolously, but the movements convoluted, extreme ideologies goes far deeper than Ben Shaprio or Milo Yianoppolous. There are sub-cultures and divisions, from your standard white supremacists to an online cult that believes a messianic Trump will bring forth utopia and salvation. For clarification, I am not an expert on the far-right, but their conspiracy theories overlap with my work as a disinformation researcher and over the last year I have become increasingly concerned about their growing influence in the Western world. Far-right disinformation has become even more apparent with coronavirus and the George Floyd protests, with the seeds of extremist conspiracy theories blossoming and altering our future. This article just scratches the surface, so for those that want to know more, follow the research of Bellingcat and Popular Front who break down this bizarre, upside-down world in far greater detail.

Importantly, the far-right is not one homogenous group, however there are overarching beliefs that connect factions together. The most noteworthy is the hatred of the left-wing as well as the entire liberal, progressive system that the contemporary West is based on; the far-right are inherently anti-establishment, or at least anti this establishment. Terms like ‘liberal elites’, denounce left-wing, status-quo figures like Obama and Clinton, often depicting them as hypocrites for preaching peace whilst simultaneously carrying out wars. By defying liberal dogma, such as PC culture, illiberal elites like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, are able to convince ordinary people that they are on their side, unconstrained and able to say what they think and subsequently appear more honest. The word ‘elite’ has been so grossly appropriated by the right and far-right, that it has taken on the sole meaning of ‘liberal elite’, freeing the wealthy right-wing from hypocrisy.

As a result, this extreme liberal hatred has boiled over, leaving behind two conspiratorial narratives: the nefarious liberal elite controls the world and White Genocide. Both theories have their roots in post-WW1 Germany when the Stabbed in the Back myth entered many right-wing circles. They believed Germany’s defeat was due to protests and strikes at home by communists, socialists and anti-war activists that forced Germany to surrender, rather than their failure on the battlefields. Communists were gaining popularity and had veered very close to power in the newly established Weimar Republic, so it was favourable for the nationalist right-wing to diminish them through acerbic slander. The landscape was perfectly cultivated for propaganda and since many prominent communists and socialists were Jews, the poisonous anti-Semitic seed grew alongside people’s distrust of the far-left. White Germans were angry, poverty-stricken and indignant, so naturally it was easy to blame minorities, who were reproached for not being loyal to Germany during the War. This led to the conspiracy theory that left-wing Jews were deliberately bringing Germany to her knees as revenge for the past, which helped fuel Hitler’s election. Shortly after, Hitler inseminated the public with the White Genocide theory, an idea formulated by American author and eugenicist, Madison Grant, which manipulated Germans into believing they were part of the Aryan race, and were under threat from inferiors who weren’t ‘pure’, Germanic white. This gave the Nazi’s a legitimate excuse to ‘protect’ their superior race, resulting in the extermination of Jews, Slavs, Afro-Germans, Roma and Sinti, all perceived to be a threat to the Aryans.

Disturbingly, Nazi conspiracy theories are still pertinent which is clearly seen by the attacks on George Soros. If that name is familiar, it’s because he is blamed by the far-right for literally everything. In 2018, Fox News accused Soros of funding the ‘migrant caravan’, whilst recently he allegedly created COVID-19 and is funding the riots in the US. Certainly Soros and his institute Open Society Foundations wield a lot of influence and provides support for global pro-democracy and human rights organisations such as The Organisation for Black Struggle, but the precise language with which the far-right criticise him stinks of Nazi Germany rhetoric. Soros ticks all the boxes: Jewish, progressive and a multi-billionaire member of the liberal-elite. Some have even gone so far as to fully revitalise the Stabbed in the Back myth and accuse Hungarian born Soros of wanting to destroy America, his adopted country.

However, to fully understand why the far-right despise Soros so much, have a read of the leaked posts from Iron March, the now defunct Neo-Nazi website. Due to his support of refugees and internationalism, the billionaire has been framed as a perpetrator of White Genocide and its offspring, the Great Replacement. These two beliefs have resulted in an alarming increase in the number of terrorist attacks by the extreme-right across the Western world. Last year, the Christchurch mosque attack left 51 dead, which inspired the El Paso attack on Latin Americans, killing 23. In Germany, 2 people were shot dead in Halle and a few months later 9 people of migrant background were murdered in Hanau. Since 2017, far-right terrorism has occurred more frequently and killed more people than Islamic terrorism in Germany and the USA, both far-right extremist breeding grounds. Yet response has been futile and the violence will inevitably spill out into many other Western countries in the coming years.

The Great Replacement theory doesn’t just belong to fringe groups and lone-wolfs. It has found its way into mainstream politics, even entering the language of Germany’s third-largest political party, the AfD who describe the ‘creeping extinction of European culture’ in their manifesto. In the European Parliament, the fourth largest faction is the Identity and Democracy group, which consists of the AfD, France’s National Rally and Italy’s Lega, amongst other smaller nationalist parties, which all promote varying degrees of the Great Replacement theory by outlining Islam as the main threat to Europe’s Judeo-Christan values. Intriguingly the AfD, National Rally, and Lega all have ties to the Kremlin, who for years have run an extensive and effective disinformation campaign to promote Russia as the conservative, Christian saviour of a decrepit, liberal Europe, overrun by homosexuals and immigrants. The Kremlin and the Western far-right have often been linked, with both enjoying the end goal of dismantling Western liberal-democracy using disinformation as their weapon. For example, one case study by Semantic Visions found that the origins of coronavirus disinformation was linked to a Kremlin backed website, claiming that the disease was created by the USA, whilst a few days later disinformation appeared in the American alt-right news network, this time asserting that China created the virus. On the surface these appear to be contrasting accusations, yet the purpose of disinformation is to undermine the general consensus and the mainstream media, one of the West’s democratic foundations. During the coronavirus pandemic, distrust in the media has grown, not helped by Trump’s repeated attacks on media outlets he doesn’t like and the Tory government aggressively and erroneously ‘fact-checking’ the legitimate criticisms made by journalists in regards to the UK’s coronavirus response. Of course it is good to question what the media say, however to have a complete lack of trust and total denial in what they say leads to a paranoid, confused and easily manipulated population, leaving a void to be filled by ‘alternative-media’, which the far-right are rapidly doing.

Right-wing alternative-media is some kind of madness, riddled with conspiracy theories and disinformation. The notorious InfoWars and Trump’s new favourite, One America News, are like Fox News on crack. However, beyond these somewhat mainstream alternatives is the 21st century’s most bizarre online cult: QAnon. It encompasses pretty much every conspiracy theory you can imagine and simplifies this overwhelming, baffling world into a B movie-script. The narrative is A LOT, so I’ll just give you the abridged version, but you can find out more here. Effectively a covert government agent named Q leaves cryptic clues on the Internet, revealing that Donald Trump is working with secret agents to bring down a corrupt Deep State consisting of paedophilic, satanic liberal elites who sacrifice children and eat their adrenal glands. Despite clearly being bullshit it has gained serious prominence recently; even making it’s way over to Europe where I witnessed Q placards at Berlin’s anti-lockdown protests. Yet again the usual suspects are Clinton, Obama and Soros, conveniently the same targets as Russian media also. Despite being constantly incorrect in its predications and having no evidence, Q appears to be growing, helped by social media and the plethora of videos on YouTube discussing and promoting the topic. One Q channel I found has 14 videos with a total of 15.2 million views. Due to its ambiguity, Q attracts everyone from the alt-right white supremacists to the left-wing anti-establishment, however it is ultimately a far-right ideology that distrusts the left and creates an artificial world in which a racist, authoritarian president is the hero.

The most alarming thing about Q is how mainstream it is becoming. It alters what is normal and shifts the world into extremities. Some members of the group have become disillusioned with the conspiracy and as such have shifted towards more extreme ideologies such as Accelerationsm, which, according to journalist Zack Beauchamp, influenced the Christchurch terrorist and the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen. Although not initially aligned with far-right ideology, the theory has recently been appropriated by white supremacists to justify violence in order to bring down the corrupt liberal Western political establishment. With the largest civil-unrest currently taking place in 21st century America, this is the perfect setting for extremists to practice what they preach. Allegations have been made that White supremacist groups are aggravating the situation for their own agenda, as Mia Bloom points out, either to discredit the BLM movement, increase racial tensions or to simply incite chaos, as evidenced by videos of solely young white men vandalising and destroying property. Nevertheless, Trump blamed Antifa instead, labelling them ‘terrorists’, despite the fact Antifa is not one organisation, but rather a term used for many left-wing and far-left organisations with multiple ideologies who over the years have been the biggest opponents of Trump’s presidency and the far-right. It’s reminiscent of the CCP declaring Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists as terrorists and the Kremlin condemning anti-Russian Ukrainians as Nazis. This is a disturbing development in authoritarianism and if Trump does win a second term, then what other rivals will he go after?

Disinformation and conspiracy theories thrive off distrust, which doesn’t come from nowhere, and clearly a neo-Liberal, capitalist society isn’t working for a lot of people. In many ways, these waves of modern protests from George Floyd, Extinction Rebellion, to the corona-protests, are all part of an anti-capitalist movement. It’s justified to voice anger and complaints about our system because changes need to be made, but at the same time be aware that our criticisms are often used by authoritarian ideologies, from the far-right to the CPC and United Russia, to discredit democracy and Western liberal values. A quick look at 8chan’s ‘Politically Incorrect’ board, or RT’s Russian language website (not the English language one) will show you that. Unfortunately disinformation from these sources won’t stop and it will continue to percolate into our lives. If you are an information junkie like myself you are constantly engulfing news in order to make sense of this world, but be vigilant in what you retweet, read and believe and utilise fact-checking tools. Take mainstream media with a pinch of salt, but don’t distrust it completely, we are fortunate to have some excellent journalists in the UK and it is alarming to see us drop down 2 places on the World Press Freedom Index. Lastly, make sure you are fully confident that your social media posts are accurate. Disinformation on social media has given so much power to the far-right, that the new wave of QAnon supporters cultivated during lockdown appear to be Facebook mums with too much time on their hands. The world certainly is filled with strange realities, but a Jewish liberal elite sacrificing babies isn’t one of them.