PRESENT AND VOTING
The Rising Aggressivity of Conservatism: A Story of Resurgence
As the world faced unseen horror through the hands of the Axis powers in World War 2, disdain towards the far-right ideologies of the Axis became commonplace among both the common populace and influential political actors. At the time the war was nearing its end, countless people on both sides had fostered a newfound disgust for those ideologies. Subsequently, following the victory in the Second World War, the Soviets had found a new opportunity to spread communism. Communism being intrinsically opposed to far-right ideologies and the novel hate for these ideologies in the democratic countries placed far-righters as a small minority in a very significant portion of the world. As a natural conclusion of their disadvantage in numbers and heavily shunned rhetoric, the far-righters of the time were seldom able to speak, and even then, only in whispers. Yet, as the 21st century progressed, they started to become more numerous, courageous, and aggressive at an unprecedented rate. Unsurprisingly, this fascinating development has become a topic of interest for many sociologists, political analysts, and journalists.
Undoubtedly, much of the rise in the aggressiveness of conservatives is tied to the increase in number. As the proponents of a view increase in number, the confidence with which they endorse their ideas will similarly increase. Still, this does not explain the daring acts of contemporary extreme right-wingers, as they display far braver actions than what could be explained by a simple numerical surge. Right-wing terrorism has become increasingly more widespread, and often much more dangerous than its non-right counterparts. Almost all countries have widely accepted far-right newspapers, and almost all social media websites host generously sized communities of far-right people. In addition, the presence of the extreme right has also permeated the political space of many developed countries, baffling many as to how openly racist politicians can still gain traction in first world countries. The recent breakthrough of the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has made them the largest opposition party in the federal parliament of Germany, with 89 seats of 709, the very first time since the Second World War that an extreme German nationalist party has held seats in the Bundestag. This resurgence in the epicenter of World War 2 clearly warrants some thought as to how the political space underwent this change.
Any political transformation in a democratic country is intrinsically tied to the transformations of the political positions of the country’s people. Indeed, there is a rise in the number of extreme right-wing people in Europe. As usual, coming into sudden contact with a foreign society is the cause of rising xenophobia. This time, the Syrian migrant crisis was the point of no return. The Islamophobia that has been brewing in the Western world since 9/11 erupted when Western people forcibly came into contact with Muslims after the migrant crisis. The effect was amplified by the prevalence of the experience, as well. The sheer amount of countries undergoing a similar process meant that any person shifting to an extreme right position could easily find support in both domestic and foreign communities. Thus, the world saw a noticeable increase in the number of extreme right-wingers in almost all countries.
Yet, the individual numbers in each country have lost their position as the sole indicator of the danger these groups pose to the country as technology has progressed. The widespread availability of the internet meant the widespread availability of platforms to share and discuss extremist ideas. Thus, communities contained in one country started interacting with international communities and the strength they gained by numbers was amplified. As time progressed, these communities also became a haven for those wishing to gain information or share experiences on how to orchestrate a terrorist attack and increased the perceived possibility of conducting such an attack in impressionable people’s minds. The perpetrator of the El Paso shooting in 2019 had stated that he was inspired by the Christchurch shooting earlier that year and that he moved to prevent a "cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion"(1). Both shooters were also 8chan users, which is a very prominent alt-right forum. And 8chan is only one of the many alt-right forums on the internet which brings together extremist people with terroristic tendencies, there are many more such spaces which might very well breed such terrorists in the future.
Fascinatingly, right-wing terrorism, which often positions itself as a reaction against Islamic terrorism, is well on its way to eclipsing Jihadist terrorism in terms of damage inflicted. The amount of cases of alt-right terrorism is much greater than that of Islamic terrorism in the United States of America, and it has only shown signs of growth whilst Jihadist terrorism has very much declined. The two graphs below both illustrate this issue.
by Boran GÖHER
The rising number of right-wingers and the availability of the internet are not the only causes of the increasing number of daring acts, the political presence of the alt-right parties also encourages the aggressive behaviors displayed by their supporters. There is now a right-wing party in almost parliament of Europe, with unignorable numbers of seats. This arrangement allows their ideologies to wield more power than before, greatly increasing the audacity of their supporters. In countries where extreme right parties are in the governing coalitions or are the sole party running the government, extremist conservative actions are often swept under the rug or belittled, and the government might even delay or entirely stop the expected course of action the country might be expected to take. Simply looking at the percentage of foiled attacks for each type of terrorism in Donald Trump’s reign tells a great story. Right-wing attacks were foiled only 37.5% of the time, while Jihadist attacks were foiled at almost double the rate, to be exact 72% of the time. (2) This alone is a great indicator that Trump’s government placed disproportionately little resources towards combatting conservative aggression. But if instead of one desires to see direct praise of unjustified aggressiveness and fearmongering, they could simply look at the relatively recent Charlottesville events where Trump praised an angry anti-Semitic mob stating that “You also had some very fine people on both sides,” and proceeded to defend to the statue of slaver and confederate general Robert E. Lee, comparing him with the Founding Fathers of America. (3)
All these factors increase aggressivity, but in turn, aggressivity increases the support of the public as well. Being a reactionary movement, much of the success of the alt-right is owed to the bluntness of its proponents and politicians. The feeling that a politician is “saying it like it is” is a commonly expressed one in alt-right circles around the globe. Of course, the terrorism activities that individuals adhering to these ideologies are repulsive to most but including a high dose of aggressiveness in your actions seems to be a politically profitable stance, thus it continues to permeate the political space of many countries.
In conclusion, the recent popularity of extreme right-wingers that was kickstarted by their sudden exposure to foreign cultures in the begging years of the 21st century has become a supporting point for their rising aggressivity, but this aggressivity also feeds back to their popularity. Analyzing the example of the countries where alt-right parties are in power shows us that if this political trend continues, we might be in for a period where right-wing terrorism is much more prevalent. Still, we must not forget that there are reactionary movements against the alt-right as well. Perhaps in a few years, the ideology will enter a new decline, or perhaps it will prove more durable than its opposition and move to a much more dominant position. As of now, it is difficult to predict which way the tide will turn, but that does not change the fact that what one can learn from analyzing the fall and rise of the right-wing in recent history will prove to be very useful information.