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Right-wing terrorism is terrorism motivated by a variety of different far-right ideologies, most prominently neo-fascism, neo-Nazism and white nationalism. Modern radical right-wing terrorism first appeared in Western Europe in the 1970s and it first appeared in Eastern Europe following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Right-wing terrorists aim to overthrow governments and replace them with nationalist or fascist regimes. Although they often take inspiration from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany with some exceptions, right-wing terrorist groups frequently lack a rigid ideology.
German economist Armin Falk et al. wrote in a 2011 article that Right-Wing Extremist Crime (REC), which includes anti-foreigner and racist motivations, is associated with unemployment rates; as unemployment rates increase, REC also increases.
Right-wing populist politics
Thomas Greven suggested in 2016 that right-wing populism is a cause for right-wing terrorism. More simply put, populism supports the advancement of "the average citizen", and not the agendas of the privileged elite. Greven defines right-wing populists as those who support ethnocentrism, and oppose immigration. Because right-wing populism creates a climate of "us versus them", terrorism is more likely to occur. Vocal opposition to Islamic terrorism by Donald Trump has been obscuring right-wing terrorism in the US, where right-wing terror attacks outnumber Islamist and left-wing attacks combined.
In the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings, expert in terrorism Greg Barton, of Deakin University in Australia, wrote of the "toxic political environment that allows hate to flourish". Saying that although right wing extremism in Australia is not nearly as serious as the European neo-Nazi movements or the various types of white supremacy and toxic nationalism seen in American politics, both major parties attempted to win votes by repeating some of the tough language and inhumane policies which appeared to reward right-wing populists. "The result has been such a cacophony of hateful rhetoric that it has been hard for those tasked with spotting the emergence of violent extremism to separate it from all the background noise of extremism", he said.
According to Moghadam and Eubank (2006), groups associated with right-wing terrorism include white power skinhead gangs, far-right hooligans, and their sympathizers. The "intellectual guides" of right-wing terrorist movements espouse the view that the state must "rid itself of the foreign elements that undermine it from within" so the state can "provide for its rightful, natural citizens." Years later, the March 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings highlighted right-wing radicalism around the world.
In Australia, experts, police and others have been commenting on the failure of the authorities to act effectively in order to combat right-wing radicalisation, and the government has vowed to put right-wing extremist individuals and groups under greater scrutiny and pressure, with the home affairs minister Mike Pezzullo making strong comments to a parliamentary committee. A week after the Christchurch, New Zealand Al Noor Mosque and Lineood Islamic Centre attack, it emerged that the perpetrator, Australia-born Brenton Harrison Tarrant had three years earlier been active on the Facebook pages of two Australia-based white nationalist groups, United Patriots Front and True Blue Crew, praising leader neo-Nazi Blair Cotrrell as they all celebrated Trump's victory in the 2016 election.
In the US, Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino and former NYPD officer, writes of the growth of white nationalism, saying that the political climate of polarization "has provided an opportunity for violent bigots, both on- and offline. Times of change, fear and conflict offer extremists and conspiracists a chance to present themselves as an alternative to increasingly distrusted traditional mainstream choices." He quotes former FBI agent Erroll Southers' view that white supremacy “is being globalized at a very rapid pace", and urges the government to hold hearings to investigate homegrown extremism. Sociologists at the University of Dayton point to the origin of white nationalism in the US and its spread to other countries, and they also note that the Christchurch attacker’s hatred of Muslims was inspired by American white nationalism.
The Anti-Defamation League reports that white supremacist propaganda and recruitment efforts on and around college campuses have been increasing sharply, with 1,187 incidents in 2018 compared to 421 in 2017, far exceeding any previous year. Far-right terrorists rely on a variety of strategies such as leafleting, violent rituals, and house parties to recruit, targeting angry and marginalized youth looking for solutions to their problems. But their most effective recruitment tool is extremist music, which avoids monitoring by moderating parties such as parents and school authorities. Risk factors for recruitment include exposure to racism during childhood, dysfunctional families such as divorced parents, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect, and disillusionment.
The role of the media
Social media platforms have been one of the principal means by which right-wing extremist ideas and hate speech have been shared and promulgated, leading to extensive debate about the limits of "free speech" and its impact on terrorist action and hate crimes. In 2018, researchers in the US identified the YouTube recommendation system as promoting a range of political positions from mainstream libertarianism and conservatism to overt white nationalism. Many other online discussion groups and forums are used for online right-wing radicalization. Facebook was found to be offering advertisements targeted to 168,000 users in a white genocide conspiracy theory category, which they removed shortly after being contacted by journalists in the wake of the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. After a Brooklyn synagogue was vandalized with death threats, the term "Kill all Jews" was listed as a trending topic on Twitter.
The perpetrator of the Christchurch mosque shootings recorded a video of the attacks which was shared extensively on social media. The New Zealand government already had laws in place relating to terrorism under which people sharing the video can be prosecuted, and it was announced that this would be vigorously pursued. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also vowed to investigate the role played by social media in the attack and take action, possibly alongside other countries, against the sites that broadcast the video. Facebook and Twitter became more active in banning extremists from their platform in the wake of the tragedy. Facebook pages associated with Future Now Australia had been removed from the platform, including their main page, Stop the Mosques and Save Australia. Far-right activist leaders in Australia urged their supporters to follow them on Gab after being banned from Twitter and Facebook. On March 28, 2019, Facebook announced that they have banned white nationalist and white separatist content along with white supremacy.
Owen Jones wrote in The Guardian about how the press in Britain can play a role in helping to radicalise far right terrorists, quoting Neil Basu, Britain's counter-terrorism chief. Basu cited the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror as particular culprits, while Jones also give examples from The Times, The Telegraph, The Spectator and others, with articles bemoaning so-called cultural Marxism and misleading headlines such as "1 in 5 Brit Muslims" having sympathy with jihadists (The Sun).
In 1993 Chris Hani, the General Secretary of the South African Communist Party was murdered by Polish-born far-right anti-Communist Janusz Waluś who had been lent a firearm by far-right pro-Apartheid MP Clive Derby-Lewis. The Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, a neo-Nazi paramilitary organisation, has often been described as terrorist. In 2010 South African authorities foiled a plot by far-right terrorists to commit attacks as revenge for the murder of Eugène Terre'Blanche, seizing explosives and firearms.
The Argentine Patriotic League (Liga Patriótica Argentina) was a Nacionalista paramilitary group, created in Buenos Aires on January 16, 1919, during the Tragic week events. It was merged into the Argentine Civic Legion in 1931.
The Argentine Anticommunist Alliance (Spanish: Alianza Anticomunista Argentina, usually known as Triple A or AAA) was a far-right death squad founded in Argentina in 1973 and active under Isabel Perón's rule (1974–1976).
During Brazil's military government, some right-wing military engaged in violent repression. The Riocentro 1981 May Day Attack was a bombing attempt that happened on the night of April 30, 1981. Severe casualties were suffered by the terrorists. While an NGO held a fundraiser fighting for democracy and free elections and celebrating the upcoming holiday, a bomb exploded at Riocentro parking area killing army seargent Guilherme Pereira do Rosário and severely wounding captain Wilson Dias Machado, who survived the bomb explosion. The bomb exploded inside a car where both were preparing it. Rosário died instantaneously. They were the only casualties.
The Para-SAR example was revealed by Brazilian Air Force captain Sérgio Ribeiro Miranda de Carvalho in 1968 before it reached the execution phase as it was made public to the press after a meeting with his superior Brigadier General João Paulo Burnier and chief of Para-SAR unity. Burnier discussed a secret plan to bomb a dense traffic area of Rio de Janeiro known as "Gasômetro" during commute and later claim that Communists were the perpetrators. He expected to be able to run a witch-hunt against the growing political military opposition. Burnier also mentioned his intentions on making the Para-SAR, a Brazilian Air Force rescue unity, a tool for eliminating some military government political oppositors throwing them to the sea at a wide distance of the coast. On both of these events, no military involved on these actions or planning was arrested, charged or faced retaliation from the Brazilian military government. The only exception is captain Sérgio de Carvalho which had to leave the air force for facing his superiors retaliation after whistleblowing brigadier Burnier's plan.
Colombian paramilitary groups were responsible for most of the human rights violations in the latter half of the ongoing Colombian conflict. The first paramilitary terrorist groups were organized by U.S. military advisers who were sent during the Cold War to combat the spread of leftist politicians, activists and guerrillas.
According to several international human rights and governmental organizations, right-wing paramilitary groups were responsible for at least 70 to 80% of political murders in Colombia per year.
Paramilitary violence and terrorism there was principally targeted towards peasants, unionists, indigenous people, human rights workers, teachers and left-wing political activists or their supporters.
The Contras were a right wing militant group, backed by the United States, that fought against the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua. They were responsible for numerous human rights violations and carried out over 1300 terrorist attacks.
According to American political scientist George Michael, "right-wing terrorism and violence has a long history in America". Right-wing violent incidents began to outnumber Marxist incidents in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s.:29 Michael observes the waning of left-wing terrorism accompanying the rise of right-wing terrorism, with a noticeable "convergence" of the goals of militant Islam with those of the extreme right. Islamic studies scholar Youssef M. Choueiri classified Islamic fundamentalist movements involving revivalism, reformism, and radicalism as within the scope of "right-wing politics".:9
In the aftermath of the Brown v. Board of Education (1954), members of a resurgent Ku Klux Klan perpetrated a campaign of terrorism against blacks, civil rights activists, Jews, and others. Klansmen bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, killing four African American girls, and carried out other murders as well, including those of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (1963), Lemuel Penn (1964), Viola Liuzzo (1965), and Michael Donald. Between 1956 and 1963, an estimated 130 bombings were perpetrated in the South.
During the 1980s, more than 75 right-wing extremists were prosecuted in the United States for acts of terrorism, carrying out six attacks. In 1983, Gordon Kahl, a Posse Comitatus activist, killed two federal marshals and he was later killed by police. Also that year, the white nationalist revolutionary group The Order (also known as the Brüder Schweigen or the Silent Brotherhood) robbed banks and armored cars, as well as a sex shop, bombed a theater and a synagogue and murdered radio talk show host Alan Berg.
The April 19, 1995 attack on the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols killed 168 people and it was the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States. McVeigh stated that it was committed in retaliation for the government's actions at Ruby Ridge and Waco.
Eric Rudolph executed a series of terrorist attacks between 1996 and 1998. He carried out the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing—which claimed two lives and injured 111—aiming to cancel the games, claiming they promoted global socialism and to embarrass the U.S. government. Rudolph confessed to bombing an abortion clinic in Sandy Springs, an Atlanta suburb, on January 16, 1997, the Otherside Lounge, an Atlanta lesbian bar, on February 21, 1997, injuring five and an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama on January 29, 1998, killing Birmingham police officer and part-time clinic security guard Robert Sanderson and critically injuring nurse Emily Lyons.
As of May 2019, the New America Foundation placed the number killed in terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11 as follows: 104 killed in jihadist terrorist attacks, 87 killed in far-right attacks, 8 killed in black separatist/nationalist/supremacist attacks, and 8 killed in ideological misogyny/"incel" ideology attacks. The politically conservative Daily Caller News Foundation using data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), found 92% of all "ideologically motivated homicide incidents" committed in the United States from 2007 to 2016 were motivated by right-wing extremism or white supremacism. According to the Government Accountability Office of the United States, 73% of violent extremist incidents that resulted in deaths since September 12, 2001 were caused by right-wing extremist groups.
A 2019 report found that in 2018, 50 people in the United States were killed in murders by domestic extremists (including both ideologically and non-ideologically motivated homicides). Of these killings, 78% were perpetrated by white supremacists, 16% by anti-government extremists, 4% by "incel" extremists, and 2% by domestic Islamist extremists. Over the broader 2009 to 2018 time period, there were a total of 313 people in the United States killed by right-wing extremists (including both ideologically and non-ideologically motivated homicides), of which 76% were committed by white supremacists, 19% by antigovernment extremists (including those affiliated with th militia, "sovereign citizen," tax protester, and "Patriot" movements), 3% by "incel" extremists, 1% by anti-abortion extremists, and 1% by other right-wing extremists.
New America's tally shows that since September 11, 2001, 87 people have been killed in right-wing extremist attacks. Incidents causing death were:
* Count of "victims killed" and "victims wounded" excludes attackers.
A report in The Washington Post, published on November 25, 2018, showed violent right-wing-related incidents up, and left-wing-related incidents down. Total domestic terrorism incidents was down to 41 in 2001, from a high of 468 in 1970, but then went up to 65 in 2017. Of those 65 events in 2017, 36 were right-wing-related (with 11 fatalities), 10 were left-wing-related (with 6 fatalities), 7 were related to Islamist extremism (with 16 fatalities), and 12, including the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, were categorized as "Other/Unknown" (with 62 fatalities, including 58 from the Las Vegas incident). The report found that 2018 was a particularly deadly year, with 11 people dying in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, 2 others in an incident in Kentucky, and two more in a shooting in Tallasshee. All three incidents were right-wing related.
The Post reported that the upsurge in right-wing violence began during the Barack Obama administration and picked up steam under the presidency of Donald Trump, whose remarks after the Unite the Right rally in Charlotteville, Virginia in 2017 that there were "some very fine people on both sides" is widely seen as giving confidence to the right that the administration looked favorably on their goals, providing them with "tacit support". A former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, is quoted as saying that "[political leaders] from the White House down, used to serve as a check on conduct and speech that was abhorrent to most people. I see that eroding. ... The current political rhetoric is at least enabling, and certainly not discouraging, violence."
According to analysis by the newspaper of data from the Global Terrorism Database, 92 of 263 domestic terrorism events – 35% – that occurred from 2010 to 2017 were right-wing related, while 38 (14%) were Islamist extremist-related, and 34 (13%) were left-wing related. Not only that, but a criminologist from John Jay College stated that right-wing attacks were statistically more likely to result in fatalities.
In the town of Toulon, a far-right extremist group called SOS-France existed. On 18 August 1986, four members were driving a car carrying explosives, apparently in an attempt to bomb the offices of SOS Racisme. However it exploded while they were still in it, killing all four of them.
Neo-Nazi members of the French and European Nationalist Party were responsible for a pair of anti-immigrant terror bombings in 1988. Sonacotra hostels in Cagnes-sur-Mer and Cannes were bombed, killing Romanian immigrant George Iordachescu and injuring 16 people, mostly Tunisians. In an attempt to frame Jewish extremists for the Cagnes-sur-Mer bombing, the terrorists left leaflets bearing Stars of David and the name Masada at the scene, with the message "To destroy Israel, Islam has chosen the sword. For this choice, Islam will perish."
In 2015, in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, six mosques and a restaurant were attacked in acts deemed as right-wing terrorism by authorities. The acts included grenade throwing, shooting, and use of an improvised explosive device.
In 1980, a right-wing terrorist attack in Munich, Germany killed the attacker and 12 other people, injuring 215. Fears of an ongoing campaign of major right-wing terrorist attacks did not materialize.
In addition to several bank robberies, the German National Socialist Underground was responsible for the Bosphorus serial murders (2000–2006), the 2004 Cologne bombing and the murder of policewoman Michéle Kiesewetter in 2007. In November 2011, two members of the National Socialist Underground committed suicide after a bank robbery and a third member was arrested some days later.
In August 2014, a group of four Germans founded a Munich-based far-right terrorist group, the Oldschool Society. The group, which held racist, antisemitic, and anti-Muslim views, eventually attracted 30 members. They stockpiled weapons and explosives and plotted to attack a refugee shelter in Saxony, but the group's leaders were arrested in May 2015 before carrying out the attack. In March 2017 four of the group's leaders were sentenced to prison terms.
According to interior ministry figures reported in May 2019, of an estimated 24,000 far-right extremists in the country, 12,700 Germans are inclined towards violence. Extremists belonging to Der Dritte Weg marched in through a town in Saxony on 1 May, the day before the Jewish remembrance of the Holocaust, carrying flags and a banner saying "Social justice instead of criminal foreigners".
In the 1970s and 1980s, Italy endured the Years of Lead, a period characterized by frequent terrorist attacks: between 1969 and 1982, the nation suffered 8,800 terrorist attacks, in which a total of 351 people were killed and 768 were injured. The terrorist attacks have been both ascribed both to the far-left and the far-right, yet many of the terrorist attacks remain without a clear culprit; many have claimed that responsibility for the attacks could be ascribed to rogue members of the Italian secret service. Some of the terrorist attacks ascribed to a particular political group may have actually been the work of these rogue agents: this has been claimed, among many others, by Francesco Cossiga, who was the President of the Italian Republic during the years of lead, and by Giulio Andreotti, who, during the same period of time, held the office of Prime Minister more than once.
The Years of Lead are considered to have begun with the Piazza Fontana bombing in Milan in December 1969, perpetrated by Ordine Nuovo, a right-wing neofascist group. Sixteen people were killed, and 90 injured, in the bombing.
In July 1970, this same group carried out a bombing on a train traveling from Rome to Messina, killing six and wounding almost 100. The group also carried out the Piazza della Loggia bombing in 1974, killing eight antifascist activists. Perhaps the most infamous right-wing terrorist attack in post-war Italy is the August 1980 Bologna bombing, in which neo-fascist Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari ("Armed Revolutionary Nuclei"), an Ordine Nuovo offshoot, killed 85 people and injured 200 at the Bologna railroad station. Valerio Fioravanti, Francesca Mambro, and two others were convicted of mass murder in the attacks, although both have always denied any connection with them.
In December 2011, a gunman targeted Senegalese peddlers in Florence, killing two and injuring three others before killing himself. The perpetrator was a sympathizer of CasaPound, a neo-fascist party that Italian judges have recognized as not posing a threat to public or private safety.
On July 22, 2011, Norwegian right-wing extremist with Nazi and fascist sympathies, Anders Behring Breivik, carried out the 2011 Norway attacks, the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II. First he bombed several government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. After the bombings, he went to Utøya island in a fake police uniform and began firing on people attending a political youth camp for the Worker's Youth League (AUF), a left-wing political party, killing 69 and injuring more than 110.
Despite the country being nearly ethnically and religiously homogenous, Polish far-right targets, via propaganda or physical violence, religious and ethnic minorities such as Jews, Romani people, people with darker complexion or Middle Eastern appearance. In 1991, an anti-Romani pogrom broke out in Mława. During the UEFA Euro 2012, Polish hooligans targeted random Russian football supporters. There have been reports of hate crimes targeting the Muslim minority in Poland. Far-right and right-wing populist political parties and organizations fuel fear and hatred towards Islam and Muslims. Hate crimes such as arson and physical violence have occurred in Poland (despite having a Muslim population of only 0.1%, that is 30,000 out of 38 million). In 2016, police arrested a man who they say tried to burn down a mosque in Gdańsk. The man belonged to the neo-nazi group called Blood & Honour.
The Savior was a neo-Nazi militant nationalist organization which claimed credit for the August 2006 Moscow market bombing, which killed 13. Media reports indicate that the market, located near Cherkizovsky, was targeted due to its high volume of Central Asian and Caucasian clientele. Four members of The Saviour were sentenced to life imprisonment, while four others received lesser prison terms.
Far-right terrorist acts surged after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in Spain 1975 and continued until the early 1980s, ranging from assassination of individuals to mass murder.
Both the 2009–10 Malmö shootings and the Trollhättan school attack were conducted by right-wing terrorists along with a refugee centre bombing in 2017. A notable serial killer motivated by far-right motives is John Ausonius. Far-rightists were also responsible for attacking an anti-racist demonstration in Stockholm in December 2013.
In April 1999, David Copeland, a neo-Nazi, planted a series of nail bombs over 13 days. His attacks, which were aimed at London's black, Bangladeshi and gay communities, resulted in three dead and more than 100 injured. Copeland was a former member of two far right political groups, the British National Party (BNP) and the National Socialist Movement. Copeland told police, "My aim was political. It was to cause a racial war in this country. There'd be a backlash from the ethnic minorities, then all the white people will go out and vote BNP."
In July 2007, Robert Cottage, a former BNP member, was convicted for possessing explosive chemicals in his home – described by police at the time of his arrest as the largest amount of chemical explosive of its type ever found in that country. In June 2008, Martyn Gilleard, a British Nazi sympathizer, was jailed after police found nail bombs, bullets, swords, axes and knives in his flat. Also in 2008, Nathan Worrell was found guilty of possession of material for terrorist purposes and racially aggravated harassment. He was described by anti-terror police as a "dangerous individual". The court heard that police found books and manuals containing "recipes" to make bombs and detonators using household items, such as weedkiller, at Worrell's flat. In July 2009, Neil Lewington was planning on waging a terror campaign using weapons made from tennis balls and weedkiller against those he classified as "non British".
In 2012, the British Home Affairs Committee warned of the threat of far right terrorism in the UK, claiming it had heard "persuasive evidence" about the potential danger and cited the growth of similar threats across Europe.
Members of Combat 18 (C18), a neo-Nazi organisation based on the concept of "leaderless resistance", have been suspected in numerous deaths of immigrants, non-whites and other C18 members. Between 1998 and 2000, dozens of members were arrested. A group calling itself the Racial Volunteer Force split from C18 in 2002, retaining close links to its parent organization. Some journalists believed that the White Wolves were a C18 splinter group, alleging that the group had been set up by Del O'Connor, the former second-in-command of C18 and member of Skrewdriver Security. C18 attacks on immigrants continued through 2009. Weapons, ammunition and explosives were seized by police in the UK and almost every country in which C18 was active.
In 2016, Jo Cox, the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Batley and Spen constituency was murdered by Thomas Mair, who was motivated by far-right political views and had connections to several far-right organisations in the UK, US, and South Africa.
On 16 December 2016 Home Secretary Amber Rudd designated the far-right, neo-Nazi National Action group as a terrorist organisation which criminalises membership or support for the organisation. On 12 June 2018, Jack Renshaw, 23, a former spokesperson for National Action, admitted in a guilty plea to buying a 48 cm (19 in) replica Roman gladius (often wrongly referred to in the media as a machete) to murder Rosie Cooper, the Member of Parliament (MP) for the West Lancashire constituency.
In June 2017 Darren Osborne drove a van into a crowd leaving a mosque in Finsbury Park, north London, killing one and injuring others. He was said to have been radicalized in a short period after reading online far-right material.
In February 2019, an unnamed 33 year old was arrested in West Yorkshire "as part of an investigation into suspected extreme right wing activity".
British far-right activists supplied funds and weaponry to Loyalist terrorist groups in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Following the Good Friday Agreement some members of Loyalist groups orchestrated racist attacks in Northern Ireland, including pipe bomb and gun attacks on the homes of immigrants. As a result, Northern Ireland has a higher proportion of racist attacks than other parts of the UK, and was branded the "race-hate capital of Europe".
In August 2016, Phillip Galea was charged with several terrorist offences. Galea had conducted "surveillance" of "left-wing premises" and planned to carry out bombings. Explosive ingredients were found at his home. Galea had links with organisations such as Combat 18 and the United Patriots Front. In 2017 the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the conviction of neo-Nazi Michael James Holt, 26 who had threatened to carry out a mass shooting attack and considered Westfield Tuggerah as a target. He had manufactured home-made guns, knuckle dusters and slingshots in his grandfather's garage. Raids on his mother's home and a hotel room discovered more weapons including several firearms, slingshots and knuckle dusters.
The Christchurch mosque shootings, which killed at least 50 people and injured 50 others in Christchurch, New Zealand, were committed by Australian right-wing terrorist Brenton Tarrant, who was motivated by white nationalism and racism.
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