The extreme right is becoming more visible and more vocal, but they’re not going unchecked. Here we round up some successful strategies deployed to counter them.
Social media has become a forefront of the battleground both for and against extremists and it seems clear that what might grow online spills onto the streets.
Online platforms and ‘real life’ platforms such as universities have come under increasing pressure to shut down far-right or extreme voices. This month, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern announced that she and her French counterpart Emmanuel Macron would spearhead a new and invigorated effort to halt social media playing host to violent messages.
Indeed, there is a precedent of ‘no-platforming’ success as succinctly outlined in this Vox article. When Youtube, Spotify and Facebook acted to limit the reach of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (famous for claiming Sandy Hook was a staged event by paid actors) average views of his videos plummeted. Similarly, Milo Yiannopoulos, the former golden boy of the ‘alt-right’ has been out of a job, and in debt following a spate of no-platforming incidents.
No-platforming is, however, just one tool in the anti-hate armoury and is no solve-all, according to Angelo Carusone, president of the right-wing media watchdog Media Matters. “It doesn’t comprehensively solve the problem unless there’s a whole range of other proactive tactics,” he says.
The first British ban on membership of a far-right group since World War II happened in 2012 when National Action was proscribed.
Written in an insightful and accessible style, this article by Dr Chris Allen, Associate Professor in Hate Studies at the Centre for Hate Studies, explores whether a ban is really effective, or is little more than an enforced name-change for far-right groups.
Banning extreme groups is one tactic to prevent their proliferation but what about more positive, proactive actions?
A report published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on hate crime (formed in 2018) recently concluded there is ‘clear evidence that community cohesion programmes, especially those that build understanding through mixing and contact, improve relations between different communities’ but worried that ‘these programmes are quite limited at the moment’.
Hope not Hate, one of the most prominent anti-hate organisations in the UK, has a string of major successes to their name (not least foiling a far-right murder plot). It combines detailed research with grassroots organising, bringing local communities together to defeat the populist right at the polls. Read an inspiring account of door-knocking with a difference.
Similarly, Small Steps provide community training and support to equip people to tackle far-right extremism. Small Steps team member and ex-EDL leader Darren Carrol recounts his story of how building a relationship with a local Muslim man sparked a change heart and direction.
If in any doubt that face to face is the way to break down barriers, watch this heart-warming video by Amnesty International and try to remain dry-eyed. “Only when you sit down opposite a specific person and look into their eyes, do you no longer see an anonymous refugee, one of the migrants, and notice the human before you, just like yourself”.
Flip the script
As ever, Hope not Hate hits the nail on the head when writing: “We can run all the community events in the world to bring people together, we can try to rationalise the immigration debate with facts, we can fight the media and online platforms to pull hateful content. But none of this will be enough unless we can also offer real hope.”
To achieve any change you need to stand for something, as well as against. The impact of getting this framing right is clear in the successes of ‘Operation Libero’ profiled by the Guardian in this inspiring article. “It’s vital that we’re not just reactive. That we say what we’re really for, not just what we’re against,” says its communications director Silvan Gisler.
And finally, never ones to turn down an opportunity to party, Germans have turned to techno to drown out the sounds of hate.