Why does GPAHE track and expose far-right extremist groups?
Far-right extremism is rising globally, a driving factor for why GPAHE was formed. We work to expose far-right extremism because these movements are an existential threat to flourishing, inclusive democracies that promote dignity, equality, and fundamental freedoms and support human rights-expanding agendas. We believe, and research shows, that inclusive democracies are most likely to protect all communities and human rights.
We also focus on the far-right because of its close ties to bias and hate-motivated violence, including terrorism and hate crimes, and, in the worst cases, genocide. In June 2020, the U.S. State Department announced that white supremacist terrorism is “a serious challenge for the global community.” That same conclusion has been reached by other American government agencies including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the National Counterterrorism Center. Foreign security organizations such as Europol and governments including the UK, Australia, Germany, and others agree that the threat from white supremacist violence is unmatched. Additionally, far-right extremist movements advance discriminatory policies that restrict basic human rights of numerous communities and stand in the way of making progress on other critical issues such as climate change. Overall, we view the far-right as a global danger to communities and democracy itself.
Changing demographics in Europe and North America, driven largely by immigration, is a significant factor in the rise of far-right extremism in countries with a history of white supremacy. For example, within a few decades, the U.S. and Canada will see their white populations fall below 50 percent, something most of us welcome, but is also a key driver of far-right extremism. Immigration is unleashing racist arguments that a more “successful” white past is being erased and intentionally reconstituted with communities who do not belong. The movements pushing these hateful ideas will likely become stronger in the years to come as they have a historical foundation and sympathy that other extremist movements will never achieve, and the demographic shift is inevitable.
In other countries, such as India and Brazil, far-right extremism is being driven by populist movements that demonize and scapegoat certain communities to build their political base. In Brazil, this involves President Jair Bolsonaro’s attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and Indigenous peoples. For India, this involves the BJP party’s demonization of Muslims and Dalits, for example. And in Hungary, LGBTQ+ people have been dehumanized, had their rights restricted, and are facing hate incidents. These far-right movements have defined themselves as polarizing and divisive and found electoral success. There is no reason for them to change their trajectory in the near future. Far-right extremism is a scourge that will continue to plague us. Countering it is of the utmost importance.
How does GPAHE define far-right extremist groups?
Because far-right extremist movements inspire violence and endanger inclusive democracies, we share research on far-right groups and movements in various countries. Entities covered by our research have generally embraced beliefs and activities that demean, harass, or inspire violence against people based on their identity traits such as race, religion, ethnicity, language, national or social origin, caste, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
These beliefs often present in the form of “hate speech,” which the UN views as “an attack on tolerance, inclusion, diversity and the very essence of our human rights norms and principles. More broadly, it undermines social cohesion, erodes shared values, and can lay the foundation for violence, setting back the cause of justice, peace, stability, sustainable development and the fulfillment of human rights for all.” The UN has concluded that over the past 75 years, “hate speech has been a precursor to atrocity crimes, including genocide, from Rwanda to Bosnia to Cambodia.” In addition to hate speech, far-right extremists inspire or commit hate crimes, spread disinformation, and advocate for policies that harm people and restrict their rights based on their immutable characteristics.
GPAHE’s definition for far-right extremism groups is closely related to how extremism is defined by supranational and national-level governmental institutions. For example, our definition tracks closely with the definition used by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for categories of hate crimes, meaning the types of biases that provide the motive for such criminal activity. The FBI defines such crimes as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), made up of 57 participating countries in North America, Europe and Asia, defines hate crimes similarly: “Bias motivations can be defined as prejudice, intolerance or hatred directed at a particular group sharing a common identity trait, such as race, ethnicity, language, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, gender or any other identity traits.” In a similar vein, the United Nations’ Plan of Action on Hate Speech specifies “growing xenophobia, racism and intolerance, violent misogyny, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred around the world” as “a precursor to atrocity crimes, including genocide.” The UN warns that these movements “lay the foundation for violence, setting back the cause of peace, stability, sustainable development and the fulfillment of human rights for all.”
GPAHE also tracks organizations that threaten democracy in other ways, including those that are rabidly antigovernment and conspiracy based. Frequently there is overlap between these groups and other far-right groups. Far-right movements have particular and idiosyncratic characteristics depending on country or region, and GPAHE views local and regional expertise, language skills, and cultural competency as essential to its research.
What does GPAHE mean by a “group” or “movement”?
To be included in our country reports, an organization must have a process through which followers identify themselves as being part of the group, usually existing outside of a pure online space. We also track and report on far-right online movements, usually those with a substantial following and online activity. We also collect extensive data on the online presence of these movements and use that research in our efforts to hold tech companies accountable.
Where does GPAHE get its information?
GPAHE researchers rely primarily on open-source information, including journalism, official government documents and reports, court records, publications, websites, and social media accounts of the groups in question (we often share apparent violative content with tech companies). We pay particular attention to a group’s official statements and those of its leaders as evidence of far-right extremism. Because GPAHE is an American-based organization working in many other countries, our research is vetted by country experts and those with appropriate cultural context and language skills when possible.
What are the specific types of groups GPAHE monitors and exposes?
The organizations and networks exposed by GPAHE broadly fall into the ideological categories described below. In many cases, an organization will fall into more than one category, which is indicated in the Global Far-Right Hate and Extremist Groups country reports. As GPAHE’s research expands into other parts of the world, we expect to add other categories to our list.
- Antigovernment: These groups identify federal governments and national level institutions as tyrannical. They despise supranational governing bodies, like the UN or the European Union, often decry globalization as well, and see all of this as part of a plot to decimate national sovereignty and infringe on individual rights. These movements, which are predominantly found in Western democracies, are often typified by a mix of hatred of central governments with various conspiracy theories about elites seeking to impose a “New World Order.” In many cases, such groups do not consider themselves bound by national-level constitutions and laws and believe they have a right to determine what laws or institutions they will abide by. They are inherently opposed to rights-expanding inclusive democracies.
- Anti-Immigrant: These groups oppose the immigration of Black and Brown people into their countries and argue that these populations are inherently inferior to the white population. They reject, exclude, and often dehumanize persons based on the perception that they are interlopers to the community, society, or national identity. They argue that non-white immigrants are more criminal, less intelligent, and incapable of assimilating successfully into traditionally white societies.
- Anti-LGBTQ+: These groups oppose LGBTQ+ rights, usually employing religion or religious interpretations as a shield for their bigotry. Their advocacy involves intentional actions to reduce the rights, freedom, and equality of LGBTQ+ people. They often view attempts to protect and expand the rights of the LGBTQ+ community as fundamentally opposed to their “religious freedom” and describe advances in LGBTQ+ rights as eroding their retrograde views of the traditional family and their own rights. Some use demonizing rhetoric and defend their prejudice and hate by pointing to harmful pseudoscience that portrays LGBTQ+ people as threats to children, society, and public health. Some advocate that LGBTQ+ people undergo “therapy” to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, a practice the UN has called tantamount to torture, and oppose gender affirming healthcare.
- Anti-Roma: These are organizations or individuals who have particular disdain and hatred for the Roma and advocate for or advance policies that attack the rights of this population. They demean and dehumanize the Roma people as diseased, criminal, and having other pathologies. They often portray Roma populations as unrooted, unable to assimilate, and foreign to majority populations in the countries where the Roma have lived for centuries. Additionally, many advocate for the Roma community to be forcibly removed.
- Antisemitic: Though neo-Nazi movements are most identified with antisemitism because of the horrors of the Holocaust, there are also many other movements that specifically vilify and demean the Jewish community without identifying with Hitler or the Nazi regime. These organizations denigrate and dehumanize Jews as a group, portraying them as scheming, manipulative, diseased, or a threat to various societies. There is a long history of antisemitic conspiracy mongering, reaching back centuries and accusing Jews of such things as killing Christian children and drinking their blood, the so-called blood libel. Most notable is the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which accused Jews of plotting global domination and still circulates among far-right extremists. Additional conspiracies may accuse Jews as being the behind-the-scenes drivers of various events, such as the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, among others.
- Anti-Woman: All such groups argue for the restriction of women’s rights and against legal equality with men. They are particularly concerned with restricting reproductive freedom, with some, such as the “incel” movement, legitimizing violence against women in general. In most of these movements, women are portrayed as intellectually inferior and achieving their greatest success and happiness in the home and through traditional roles. Many of these groups, especially those advocating versions of white supremacy, also place primacy on the importance of women having as many children as possible. The most militant of these groups advocate for the subjugation of women, often using demeaning language in their advocacy and supporting such notions as “corrective rape.”
- Conspiracists: These groups trade in outlandish conspiracy theories like Pizzagate, QAnon, birther conspiracies, and others. To be listed here, there must be an aspect of the conspiracy that attacks or maligns an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. In other words, they must be antisemitic, racist, etc. We do not include conspiracies that do not exhibit such bigoted traits, such as Flat Earthers or those who do not believe in the moon landing, in our research.
- Neo-Nazi: These groups above all else are antisemitic and express admiration for Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. While they also usually hate other minorities, they perceive Jews as the cardinal enemy of white populations and their aspirations. These groups often advocate for the extermination of the Jewish population.
- Religious Nationalists: These groups conflate what they see as a more legitimate religion with a particular nationality or nation group, essentially fusing a national identity with a particular religion. Generally, such groups believe the state must adhere to their preferred religion’s tenets and have an official religion. To be listed here, the group must not just advocate for its religious nationalist position, but also advocate against or attempt to exclude or reduce the rights of other religions and peoples who are viewed as inherently inferior by the group or as dangerous to the dominant group.
- White Nationalist: These groups espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, frequently focusing on the alleged superiority of white people and the inferiority of people of color. These groups often believe in the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory and advocate for the creation of white ethnostates from which people of color will be forcibly removed. At times, they are also antisemitic, but not necessarily, and their focus tends to be more on their need to be the determining population in their “historic” homelands. These movements are generally patriarchal as well, preferring male dominance legally and in the family.
Must a group be violent to be added to GPAHE’s country reports?
It has been definitively documented that vilifying or demonizing groups of people on the basis of their identity traits often inspires or is a precursor to violence or even genocidal conditions. Though GPAHE focuses on far-right extremism because of its close connection to terrorism and hate crimes, we monitor a much broader set of organizations and movements that advocate for far-right extremist ideas beyond those that are connected directly to violence or rights-restricting policies. This is because a movement or organization’s ideas, propaganda, or actions may still be violence-inspiring.
An example of this is the transnational white supremacist group Generation Identity (GI), which is best known for spreading the racist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory which asserts that white people are being purposefully displaced with immigrants and people of color in what they consider their rightful homelands. Often, this “plot” is blamed on Jews or globalists. Though members and leaders of GI have not been directly connected to mass attacks, this idea has inspired six mass attacks in multiple countries since October 2018. These included the mosque attacks in Christchurch, N.Z., attacks at two American synagogues, an El Paso Walmart, a synagogue in Halle, Germany, and two shisha bars in Hanau, Germany where the shooter is believed to have been targeting Muslim immigrants. Limiting our research to only violent far-right groups would fail to capture the important role that propaganda or organizing plays from groups without an obvious track record of mass violence.
Does GPAHE research mainstream groups and/or political parties?
Yes. One of the most pernicious aspects of the current growth of far-right extremism is its entry into what used to be considered a relatively extremism-free “mainstream.” In the French context, this protection of mainstream political space was often described as the “cordon sanitaire,” wherein mainstream political parties would not cooperate with the far right because their ideology was understood to be unacceptable or extremist and threatening to democracy.
As the far right has advanced, both in terms of openly racist and other forms of bigoted groups, as well as in the form of populist movements, the line, however narrow, between extremist ideas and the mainstream is being erased. This necessitates close attention to the mainstream, and far-right incursions into it, perhaps in the hope that one day inclusive civic norms will predominate.
Why doesn’t GPAHE cover far-left extremist groups that may have been involved in violence or property destruction?
There are several reasons why GPAHE does not cover far-left extremism. Such groups do not embrace agendas that attack individuals for their identity traits, which is particularly damaging to inclusive democracies, and tears at the fabric of society in especially damaging ways. These movements also do not advance rights-restricting agendas, nor do they function to undermine democratic rule. Additionally, far-left extremist movements have not in recent years engaged in mass violence in the manner that the far-right has, especially in terms of community-targeted violence and terrorism, making them far less of a threat in general.