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Extremist Ideology Spreading Like an Oil Spill in Europe

Santiago Abascal, leader of Spain’s far-right Vox party. The party could soon be in government, after the 23 July 2023 general elections. Credit: Shutterstock

Santiago Abascal, leader of Spain’s far-right Vox party. The party could soon be in government, after the 23 July 2023 general elections. Credit: Shutterstock

MADRID, Jun 22 2023 (IPS) - The abuse of human rights has sharply increased with the steady rise of the right and far-right parties in the wealthy industrialised countries, whose extremist ideology is now spreading faster than ever in Europe.

Indeed, most of the European Union 27 member countries are now either formally ruled by or strongly influenced and supported by extremists and populist parties, which publicly negate basic human rights, while masking their policies of suppressing public services like health, education, pensions, and protection of workers.

 

Life of citizens to be handled by private corporations

Let alone, their negation of the existing deadly gender violence, the right of women to equal opportunities, and the devastating climate catastrophes which impact the very same Europe, let alone all international laws regulating the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

It’s like a ladder of incremental extremism - You start at the bottom with a stereotype, move on to emojis and memes that lead to harmful speech. Harmful speech leads to hate speech, a torrent of hate builds up, and results in the incitement of violence. And then you have actual violence

And they are active in most European countries, from Scandinavian and Baltic States, to Italy and Greece, through Hungary, Poland, Czechia, France and Austria, let alone the United Kingdom.

Spain is one of very few European countries still ruled by a progressive Government, although it is feared that the right and far-right parties will take over after the 23 July 2023 general elections.

 

The myth of white supremacy

Their trend to further promote the myth of ‘white supremacy’ is not new, but rather a reflection of what is being done by European descendents in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Such a myth goes against what they call ‘minorities,’ e.g., anybody who is not White and Christian.

They call it “the defence of our national identity.”

In short, the spread of hate speech, stigmatisation and racial discrimination is now being widely “institutionalised” in European countries, those whose governments signed –and their Parliaments ratified– all international, legally-binding declarations, treaties and laws defending the protection of human rights.

For such purposes, they further spread hate speech, which reinforces “discrimination and stigma and is most often aimed at women, refugees and migrants, and minorities,” as described by the United Nations on the occasion of this year’s International Day for Countering Hate Speech (18 June).

With hate “spreading lightning fast on social media and mega spreaders using divisive rhetoric to inspire thousands, hate speech “lays the ground for conflicts and tensions, wide scale human rights violations.”

 

‘Dark age of intolerance’

On this, Mita Hosali, Deputy Director of the UN Department of Global Communication (DGC), said young people are often seen today as vectors of such toxic trends as online hate speech.

“Increasingly, we are entering this dark age of intolerance, fueled by polarisation and mis- and disinformation, and there are all kinds of ‘facts’ swirling out there,” she cautioned.

It’s like a ladder of incremental extremism,” Hosali said.

“You start at the bottom with a stereotype, move on to emojis and memes that lead to harmful speech. Harmful speech leads to hate speech, a torrent of hate builds up, and results in the incitement of violence. And then you have actual violence.”

Tech companies must now show effective leadership and responsibility around moderation to set up guard rails for respectful online discourse, she said.

“It really boils down to leaders, whether they are political, business, faith, or community leaders,” she said, emphasising that such efforts must also start within the family and ripple across all circles of influence so that ordinary people fight back against hate speech.

According to the world’s largest multilateral body –the UN–, the devastating effect of hatred is sadly nothing new.

However, “its scale and impact are amplified today by new technologies of communication, so much so that hate speech has become one of the most frequent methods for spreading divisive rhetoric and ideologies on a global scale.”

 

Social exclusion fuels terrorism

The consequences of such a growing social exclusion spreading in Europe and elsewhere are dire.

On this, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, on 19 June 2023 stressed at the UN’s Third Counter-Terrorism week that terrorism affects every region of the world, while preying on local and national vulnerabilities.

“Poverty, inequalities and social exclusion give terrorism fuel. Prejudice and discrimination targeting specific groups, cultures, religions and ethnicities give it flame.”

 

No one is born to hate

Hatred, conspiracy theories and prejudice infiltrate our societies and affect all of us. We are flooded by information – and disinformation – more than ever before both on- and offline. “But no one is born to hate.”

Nevertheless, ‘toxic and destructive’ hate speech has now grown much faster and wider than anytime before.

 

Migrants, the easiest victims

In the right and far-right campaigns in defence of what they call “our freedom,” “our Western civilisation,” “our democracy,” “our values,” and “our Christian faith,” they turn migrants, now more than ever before, into the easiest prey to chase.

In fact, like the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, among other Western wealthy powers, the 27 members of the European Union on 8 June adopted a strongly criticised by major human rights organisations, which further restricts the basic human rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

 

Death of migrants, ‘normalised’

The number of migrants who died and are still hopelessly missing as a consequence of the 14 June shipwreck off Greece coast of a fishing vessel carrying between 450- and 750 migrants, is still unknown.

Anyway, it just adds to a long series of migrant deaths in only one sea: the Mediterranean.

Although the number of dead migrants in the Mediterranean is far from being credibly counted, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Missing Migrants Project documented 441 migrant deaths in the Central Mediterranean in the first quarter of 2023, “the deadliest first quarter on record since 2017.”

 

The most dangerous maritime crossing

The increasing loss of lives on the “world’s most dangerous maritime crossing” comes amidst reports of delays in State-led rescue responses and hindrance to the operations of humanitarian non-governmental organisations’ search and rescue (SaR) vessels in the central Mediterranean.

Not only that: Italy, like other South European States, still argues that the non-governmental, voluntary humanitarian vessels dedicated to search and rescue migrants in the Mediterranean, are involved in… human trafficking.

 
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