Policy Brief

The Far-Right and COVID-19

The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) that emerged first in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and claimed the lives of almost half a million people across the world, has become a threat to human health, national economies and national security all around the world. Scientists are working around the clock to develop a vaccine for the virus, but the prospects are still uncertain. Covid-19 is now more than a health crisis and poses a security risk to all countries. For instance, cross-border criminal groups and farright groups are using the pandemic as an opportunity. While criminal groups take this chance to steal medical equipment, sabotage online meetings or steal data, far-right groups use it to spread their propaganda, increase their visibility, and engender a “rally around the flag” effect.. This report will, thus examine how the far-right groups take advantage of the pandemic for their disinformation and propaganda efforts, the narratives and methods they employ and the measures and steps that can be taken to counter such efforts. 

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, far-right groups endeavored to take advantage of it to benefit their cause and push their agenda. Far-right groups, widely sharing their common racist and populist tendencies, can also differ from each other with the specific ideas they add to this mix, including xenophobia, white supremacy, accelerationist, Islamophobia, antiSemitism and Neo-Nazism.1 With violent and non-violent variations, these groups, in order to gain support and a foothold, usually capitalize on economic and political crises, the existence of marginalized and vulnerable communities, social fault lines and the gap between people and their governments. They also use protests and street violence when possible to spread their messages and to recruit new people. Since the first emergence of Covid-19, farright groups made the virus an important part of their agenda and propaganda efforts to increase the impact of their discourse and activities. When Covid-19 turned into a pandemic wreaking havoc around the world, these groups ramped up their conspiracy theories and panic and fearfueled discourses to target certain ethnic and religious groups. To this end, they used online and offline propaganda materials, used social fault lines, and sought to spread disinformation to create wider chasms between different groups in the society. In the next section, this study will provide examples of such tactics by far-right groups and offer suggestions as to how these phenomena can be warded off.