Fears COVID-19 could make the far right more dangerous than ever
27 May 2020 at 5:29 pm
There are concerns the crisis will be used to radicalise young people
The COVID-19 pandemic could bring a potentially deadly wave of right wing extremism into Australia, anti-racism advocates warn.
Australian not-for-profit All Together Now said it has witnessed a rise in “alarming” online behaviours, including anti-Asian racism and anti-Semitism, and the circulation of conspiracy theories with racist undertones.
The NFP has launched a three-point policy platform aimed at preventing the growth of right-wing extremism during COVID-19 and the subsequent economic downturn.
Managing director Priscilla Brice told Pro Bono News she was worried about the economic effects of the crisis on young people.
She said unemployment could lead to feelings of isolation and being abandoned by society.
“Young people will be a target for far right extremists, who tend to capitalise on crises like this,” Brice said.
“They are doing everything they can to recruit people. They’re appropriating the memes and conspiracy theories that are being shared around at the moment, regardless of whether they’re race based.
“That’s why we think the far right are even more dangerous now than they were before.
Brice said Australia has “dropped the ball” on anti-racism generally, noting there hasn’t been an anti-racism campaign funded by the federal government since around 2015.
She warned of dire consequences if action wasn’t urgently taken.
“The most extreme consequence that could happen would be an event like the Christchurch attack last year. Obviously, we don’t want that to happen again,” she said.
“And we fear that if we just let this keep going without the federal government taking steps to [prevent it], then there is a real danger of another terrorist attack on Australian soil.”
Brice noted that in February this year, the ASIO chief said in Australia “the extreme right-wing threat is real and it is growing”.
All Together Now is calling for several immediate policy steps, including a new anti-racism strategy and a national anti-racism campaign.
“There should also be funding to counter violent extremism activities. And when I say that, I don’t just mean the security aspects of countering violent extremism, which they do fund adequately,” Brice said.
“What I mean is that we don’t have an adequately funded program to counter violent extremism on the community level – we need a community focused program.”
Brice lauded RMIT ABC Fact Check’s efforts debunking COVID-related racist memes and conspiracy theories, and said this work must continue and be more widely distributed.