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Pre and post-pandemic extremist messaging

Dr Nasreen Amin Senior Consultant 10/03/2021

While we may officially be post-Trump, Far Right messaging will be all the more alive post-pandemic

During Covid-19 the Internet has been vital for us to remain connected. However, more time spent on the World Wide Web means an increased likelihood of young people coming across online extremist messaging. Far Right extremism in particular has hit the news recently a fair few times, with charities and think-tanks viewing it as a global threat.

It feels like when we mix again, we may already have a recipe to re-mix towards a better social fabric...

Our research with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change explored qualitatively and quantitatively on the extent to which extremist ideologies resonate among young people aged 18 to 30 in May 2019. We explored both the impact of Islamist extremism and Far Right extremism on young Brits.

Our survey and regression analysis of 1,000 young British white non-Muslims (before the pandemic) showed that where the majority are not drawn to Far-Right extremist ideas, agreement with extremist ideologies is likely to be linked to:

  • how they receive and process certain media,
  • their disagreement with government policies,
  • experience of discrimination, and
  • the feeling of a lack of agency for their future.

Looking at that list now, as we have a roadmap towards a post-pandemic life, it seems like these factors have never been felt so keenly amongst young people. They’re spending a lot more time looking at online media, the Government’s policies regarding Covid-19 may have confused or disenfranchised young Brits, the blend of social-distancing rules and austerity are exacerbating class and community divisions, and they’re probably feeling pretty feel lethargic and uninspired by the whole global shutdown situation.

Where, pre-pandemic, the Tony Blair Institute utilised our research to recommend that policymakers need to recognise the scale of the problem, I wonder if resonances with Far-Right messaging has become deeper and pervasive in our current world. Their policy recommendations do feel right for our Covid-19 times, however, including promoting initiatives that teach young people to talk about difficult issues and supporting schools in sharing spaces, events, and experiences, which should be expanded to parents. It feels like when we mix again, we may already have a recipe to re-mix towards a better social fabric.

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change produced two reports in September 2020 based on this research:

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