Far-right networks now span the globe

They have proven dangerously effective in marshalling the instruments of a globalised world

People hold the Union Flag whilst attending a Britain First rally as deputy leader Jayda Fransen (L) looks on, in Rochester, Britain November 15, 2014. Picture taken November 15, 2014.   REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
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Attempts by counter-terrorism authorities in the UK to address an alarming rise of far-right extremism are long overdue. On Tuesday, UK Security Minister Ben Wallace said immediate action needs to be taken, following news that 43 per cent of referrals to the UK's anti-terror scheme, Prevent, concern extreme-right-wing militants. Supporters of this ideology are becoming a "global community", deploying similar methods to ISIS, he said. For many years, the far right was viewed as the preserve of loners, cranks and misfits. Today, however, it is slick, well organised and has significant momentum. This is not simply a British problem. Across the world, from Russia and eastern Europe to the US, India and New Zealand, far-right groups are growing in sophistication and reach. Meanwhile, hatred is festering and metastasising online. These extremists might view the world through the prism of exclusionary nationalism, and might want to close borders, but they have proven dangerously effective in marshalling the instruments of a globalised world to spread their beliefs and connect with like-minded people.

Mr Wallace's remarks follow the atrocity in Christchurch last month, when a far-right terrorist allegedly opened fire on worshippers in two mosques, killing 50 and injuring dozens more, while streaming the whole thing live on social media. It exemplified the horrifying violence perpetrated by extremists, while the alleged gunman's manifesto revealed the ways in which politicians, including Hungary's Viktor Orban, have, intentionally or otherwise, fuelled the flames of ethno-religious hatred. On Wednesday, the Australian Senate formally censured Fraser Anning, a senator who used his platform after the Christchurch attacks to blame the migration of "Muslim fanatics". While Western governments are slowly coming to terms with the growth of far-right groups and the threat that they pose – in the US, attacks perpetrated by white nationalists far outnumber those by any other group –  the breadth and complexity of their international networks remains largely misunderstood. In the aftermath of last month's attack, police identified a link between the accused Christchurch terrorist and Austria's far-right Identitarian movement. In truth, far-right groups have been forging links, exchanging ideas and becoming increasingly influential for decades. The overwhelming focus on radical Islam has led authorities to neglect an equally deadly threat.

Addressing growing intolerance online – and preventing the violence it inspires – will require a holistic approach. Social media companies, chiefly Twitter and Facebook, must be quicker and more assertive in their removal of inflammatory far-right propaganda. Politicians and the media must refrain from fostering division. And wider civil society must come together to take a stand against extremism, wherever it rears its head. The Christchurch atrocity caused horror and outrage around the world, but the global far-right extremism has not risen from nowhere. Complacency, at both personal and institutional levels, has given this movement the time and space necessary to coalesce and gain momentum. Preventing other attacks like it will require concerted and collaborative action.