The Far-Right and QAnon Aren’t Going Anywhere During Biden’s Term: Study

Credit to Author: Mack Lamoureux| Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2021 16:50:15 GMT

The extremists who grew and festered during Donald Trump’s time in power aren’t going anywhere, a new report says, and some, like QAnon, may become even more dangerous.

The report, from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) which will be released on April 30, takes a deep look into how the far-right, including the QAnon movement, militia, and the Proud Boys, have reacted since the January 6 insurrection attempt and the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

“The main takeaway is that the body of extremism that swelled under Trump’s presidency isn’t going away any time soon simply because he’s no longer in office,” Blyth Crawford, one of the studies co-authors, told VICE News. “Instead these groups and individuals have been driven underground online where they’re still active, although somewhat more hidden from the political mainstream.”

Crawford said some of the extremists are even moving onto “more extreme messaging since Trump left office.”

Some on the far-right are having a pretty bad time since the Biden administration took over. The report notes the Proud Boys in particular are having an “intense downward trajectory throughout 2021 and during the first 100 days of the Biden administration” for multiple reasons, including infighting and the social network Parler going down. However, the report states, they’re “down but not out,” and several splinter groups have entrenched themselves even further right, so the groups should still be considered a “bridge between the less radical facets of the MAGA movement and the extremist fringes.”

QAnon has likewise been targeted by tech platforms following the Capitol Hill riot, forcing the group to congregate on alternative platforms. This has led to a “balkanization” of sorts with communities being built on lesser-known alt-tech sites. The strength of these communities has yet to be studied but the authors raise the concern that they’re now in closer proximity to more extreme groups, like neo-Nazis, who may view QAnon believers as a recruitment pool or as useful idiots.

“QAnon—or whatever the conspiracy will metamorphosize into in the coming months and years—will continue to pose a threat,” write the authors. “This is not only because conspiracy theorists, the apocalyptic, and the anti-government crowd will seek out new avenues to fulfil their needs, but also because QAnon is and has been merging with or being recruited by more radical or extreme movements that inhabit the alternative media spaces into which QAnon adherents were forced.”

“QAnon and other conspiracy-minded threat actors will continue to pose a novel threat not only from the perspective of violent extremism, but also to critical infrastructure, public health, and democratic institutions,” they add later.

The report predicts right-wing militias like the Oath Keepers, who are firmly entrenched in the stolen election narrative, will act more defensively than offensively during the Biden administration. Interestingly, the authors regard the militia movement as being in a “fourth wave” (the first arising from Ruby Ridge and Waco in the early 90s, the second wave coming with the election of Barack Obama, and the third being when Trump was elected and the movement shifted its sights away from the federal government and towards the political left). The authors describe this fourth wave as once again being against the federal government, who they view as illegitimate and aligned with a New World Order government. The authors caution that within this fourth-wave militia movement exists the Boogaloo Bois—a movement consisting of young men steeped in online culture who are thirsty for a second civil war—which “represents a faction that is particularly receptive to opportunities to conduct violent actions.”

“Various members’ involvement in the insurrection and the movement’s trajectory during the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency suggests that (the militia movement) is far from gone,” says the report. “The subtle shifts associated with an emerging fourth wave, now that Trump has left office, may just be visible.”

One of the most unique portions of the report is the author’s examination of transphobia permeating every facet of the far-right. “Anti-trans narratives are one of the most prevalent and common narratives within Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremist ecosystems and yet are one of the least studied,” the authors write. They look at the fury at the appointment of Rachel Levine, a trans woman, as assistant secretary for health, the anger that surrounds transitioning children, and the idea that transgenderism is some sort of ploy by “Cultural Marxists”—a concept found in all the examined communities, as well as with much of the mainstream right.

“Far-right transphobia poses a particularly acute threat, because often it constitutes a more extreme reflection of narratives already common within more mainstream Conservative movements, and which are likely to be utilized by the far-right to recruit more followers,” the authors write.

Crawford and her co-authors cover a wide array of narratives—like anti-semitism, misgyony, and COVID conspiracies—driving the far-right in the over 100-page report. One idea they return to repeatedly as being key in the ecosystem is that the election was stolen. This narrative continues to ”erode trust in democratic processes; as the midterm elections approach, the potential for further acts of violence will increase,” the authors say. Hannah Rose, one of the reports co-authors, told VICE News, “multiple previously distinct far-right narratives converge into a mass movement with increasingly shared goals and enemies.”

“United around anti-government ideologies shared hostility to liberal democratic processes and institutions, and COVID conspiracy theories, Biden’s inauguration and the start of a four-year progressive policy agenda have only fortified this broad church of domestic extremists,” she said.

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