One pernicious trend is the rise of ‘green nationalism,’ with far-right nationalists co-opting environmental concern to justify a racist agenda.
Amid the tumultuous backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and uprisings over racial justice in 2020, the British far-right managed to take advantage of a climate of uncertainty to amplify its ideas and drive people into the arms of toxic conspiracy theorists and tech-savvy neo-Nazis.
HOPE not Hate (HNH), a UK anti-racist and anti-fascist advocacy group, released their annual report ‘The State of Hate 2021’, highlighting the alarming rise of hate groups, proliferation of the QAnon conspiracy and of “green nationalism”.
Indeed, a year in lockdown has allowed an explosion of conspiracy theories to thrive. The report states between 15 to 22 percent of Britons believe that pandemic conspiracies are true, with support for the QAnon conspiracy being the strongest outside of the US.
While there has been a major effort by many social media companies to deplatform extremists, it has had the consequence of pushing far-right and conspiracy theorists towards unmoderated “alt-tech” platforms – with Telegram being the popular choice for neo-Nazi terrorists.
Following Brexit, the far-right were searching for issues through which it could muster support and fortify its base. The central one was, unsurprisingly, anti-immigration.
While the far-right in Britain remains irrelevant in terms of electoral significance, measuring their threat by votes alone is myopic. In 2020, twelve teenagers alone were convicted of Nazi-related terrorist offences.
“While organisationally the British far-right remains very weak and fragmented, the number of people who are coming across their ideas is growing exponentially, and, as a consequence to the racist backlash to Black Lives Matter [BLM], we have seen the return of racial nationalism,” writes HNH CEO, Nick Lowles.
In the wake of the BLM protests, elements on the far-right also sought to capitalise on an anti-BLM mood and anti-immigrant politics through the lens of the “culture war”, expressed through emotive debates surrounding “woke ideology” and “cancel culture”.
The far-right group Patriotic Alternative organised 66 events under the “White Lives Matter” banner, while football hooligans and far-right activists organised 25 anti-BLM protests.
One of the concerning areas of growth for far-right ideas the HNH report points out is an insidious attempt by fascist groups to “rebrand themselves with a green tinge”.
While much of the global populist right continues to reject scientific consensus on climate change, there is an emerging segment on the radical right that has managed to co-opt ideas around the environment movement as a veneer for anti-immigrant animus and anti-Semitism.
Radical right-wing environmentalist ideologies are rooted in a broader framework of racist anti-humanism that centres on ideas such as overpopulation and enthopluralism – the belief that different ethnic groups should remain distinct and restricted to their “native lands”.
HNH highlights links to 19th-century movement of nature mysticism that was appropriated by the Nazis, “giving rise to the ‘Blut und Boden’ (Blood and Soil) doctrine…which emphasised a mystical connection between race and land.”
Eco-fascists blame overpopulation of the developing world for emissions and resource scarcity leading to environmental degradation. They see migration as proof of the “great replacement” of the “white race”; in parallel, they blame consumerism of the West for the ecological crisis pushed through the capitalist system by Jewish elites.
Feigning concern over the environment by those on the far-right is then a convenient tool being deployed “to justify their hatreds and to redirect legitimate concerns for vital causes towards anti-minority sentiment,” the report said.
While on the fringes, the existence of far-right environmentalism gained public notoriety in 2019, following the mass shootings in Christchurch and El Paso. Both gunmen had authored manifestos in which they described themselves as eco-fascists.
These ideas are also seeping into electoral politics. In France, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant National Rally party cast aside its denial of climate change in favour of a “patriotic ecology.”
In Serbia, the far-right environmentalist group Levijatan patrols migrant camps and lobbies for the protection of the environment from foreigners.
Meanwhile, the German far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has exploited animal rights as a way to attack Jews and Muslims over traditional methods of slaughter – Kosher and Halal – used in food production.
There is also concern about direct action violence, with eco-fascists “drawing influence from a terroristic style of extreme-right politics that have proliferated online, and on the messaging app Telegram,” notes the HNH study.