As the world struggles to stop the deaths, the extreme right celebrates COVID-19 | Coronavirus pandemic

<pre><pre>As the world struggles to stop the deaths, the extreme right celebrates COVID-19 | Coronavirus pandemic

The new coronavirus has already infected hundreds of thousands of people, claimed more than 20,000 lives, and caused a level of economic, social and political disruption that has not been seen in decades.

But for many hardliners on the extreme right, it is a welcome crisis.

The toughest "accelerators,quot;: the violent neo-Nazis who want civilization to fall apart, hope that COVID-19 will be their secret weapon.

"The situation is ripe to be exploited by the extreme right,quot; Cynthia Miller-Idriss, The American University sociologist and expert on the extreme right told Al Jazeera.

In addition to fueling "acceleration and apocalyptic ideas," Miller-Idriss said, "The uncertainty created by the pandemic creates fertile ground for claims about the need for change or the solutions that the far right is seeking to offer."

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

"(COVID-19) could be precisely what we need to achieve a true national uprising and a strengthening of revolutionary political forces," wrote Simon Lindberg, the leader of the Swedish branch of NRM, on the movement's website.

"We cannot build a society that will last thousands of years in the future on the rotten foundations of today," Lindberg added, "(but) instead we must build it on the ruins of its creation."

NRM, described as a neo-Nazi "worship"by a former member, it has been temporarily banned by the Finnish courts pending a final decision on the legality of the movement.

According to Norwegian police, the 22-year-old perpetrator of an attack on a mosque in August 2019 had been in contact with NRM.

Other far-right groups see the pandemic as an opportunity to further push xenophobic and racist messages.

In Germany, members of the neo-Nazi group Die Rechte (The Right) claimed that the German borders should have been sealed weeks ago to all "non-Europeans."

Another German neo-Nazi group, Der Dritte Weg (The Third Way), said the virus was being exploited by German leaders as a "diversionary tactic,quot; to distract itself from an apparent "flood,quot; of refugees and migrants from the Middle East.

In Ukraine, a figure from the country's far-right movement, Azov, turned to the Telegram messaging app to claim that the spread of COVID-19 "is generally not the fault of whites,quot; and stated that ethnic minorities in Italy should be the only ones responsible for the spread of the virus there, where more than 8,000 have now died.

And it was on Telegram, the online messaging app that has come under fire for allowing overtly violent content on its platform, where the most ardent right-wing fans of COVID-19 can be found.

"The neo-Nazi acceleration Telegram channels have increased their calls for destabilization and violence related to COVID-19," Joshua Fisher-Birch, a researcher with the US-based Anti-Extremism Project, which monitors movements, told Al Jazeera international "extremists,quot;. .

"These channels are treating the current situation … as an opportunity to try to increase tension and advocate for violence."

Much of this content is available to anyone online, even those without a Telegram user account.

A popular neo-Nazi channel urged its members to cough on door knobs in synagogues. Another urged followers infected with COVID-19 to spray their saliva on police officers.

And another channel praised a man stopped in New Jersey in the United States for coughing up a grocery store employee and alleging he had COVID-19.

"Exalted to holiness," the channel wrote in a comment now removed in a news story about the incident.

The term holy or holiness is a common eulogy for perpetrators of violence on neo-Nazi Telegram channels.

Much of this content is shared as an attempt at humor or trolling, but a member of the target audience may choose to act and commit an act of violence.

Joshua Fisher-Birch, researcher with the US-based Anti-Extremism Project. USA

But calls to spread COVID-19 go beyond Telegram.

In recently leaked chat logs On Discord, an online chat app, members of the Feuerkrieg Division discussed deliberately infecting Jews and others if one of the members caught the virus.

The Feuerkrieg Division is a small neo-Nazi group with a presence in the United States and Europe whose members have planned to carry out attacks. Several members of the group, including teenagers, have already been arrested in recent months for their activities.

Police have taken note of what the far right has to say about COVID-19.

in a memorandum This week to the US law enforcement agencies. In the U.S., Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen wrote that anyone in the U.S. USA intentionally spreading COVID-19 could be charged under anti-terrorism legislation, given that the virus "appears to meet the legal definition of a 'biological agent & # 39;".

Rosen reportedly did not say whether such actions had not yet taken place or whether her warning was merely a precaution.

Far right fantasies

Some far-right fantasies about COVID-19 have already spread to the real world.

Well-known far-right figure Timothy Wilson, 36, died in Tuesday after a shooting with FBI agents in Missouri in the United States. Wilson had planned to attack a hospital that cares for patients with COVID-19.

According to reports Wilson was neo-Nazi Telegram channel administrator known for encouraging violence.

Wilson promoted anti-Semitic attacks and conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 outbreak on the canal, claiming that the pandemic was an "excuse to destroy our people,quot;.

Fisher-Birch of the Anti-Extremism Project cautions that, while it is difficult to gauge the level of danger of far-right rhetoric, it still needs to be taken seriously.

"Much of this content is shared as an attempt at humor or trolling," Fisher-Birch told Al Jazeera, "but a member of the target audience may choose to act and commit an act of violence."



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