This columnist explains why the far right is more than an American problem — it's a global security threat
Many articles addressing the threat of white nationalist violence have dealt primarily or specifically with terrorist acts or plots in the United States, often stressing that Islamist groups like ISIS (Islamic State, Iraq and Syria) and al-Qaeda hardly have the market cornered on terrorism and extremism. But New York Magazine’s Jonah Shepp takes the subject a step further in an in-depth piece for New York Magazine that describes white nationalism and far-right extremism as a threat not just in the U.S., but globally.
“White supremacist violence has been rising steadily over the past three years, and extremism watchers like the Anti-Defamation League make no bones about the fact that this is directly linked to the election of President Donald Trump,” Shepp warns. But the journalist emphasizes that the U.S. is not the only country where extremists and white nationalists have been making inroads, and he cites Austria and Italy as examples.
In 2017, Shepp notes, Australian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was elected “on an anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, nationalist platform,” and things became even more ominous a few months later when the far-right Freedom Party joined Kurz’ coalition before gaining “control of several key ministries, while its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, became Kurz’ vice-chancellor.”
The Freedom Party, Shepp goes on to say, “has well-documented links to extremist groups, including the far-right youth movement Generation Identity.” And Shepp adds that “the far-right infiltration of the Austrian government has gotten so bad that other countries, including the U.S., U.K., Netherlands and Germany, are becoming wary of sharing intelligence with Austria for fear that it will end up in the wrong hands: namely, Russian hands, as the Freedom Party is simpatico with Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
Meanwhile, in Italy, Shepp writes, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (who heads the right-wing League Party) has been “using his position to authoritarian ends”—for example, he has “bulldozed refugee camps” and “pushed for transparently racist policies like a curfew on ‘little ethnic shops.’”
Drawing a parallel between Austria and the U.S., Shepp asserts that “just like in Austria, it seems the Trump Administration is refusing to treat white supremacists as a top security threat because the Administration, like the Republican Party in general, has become increasingly dependent on their support. White supremacism has been seeping into the GOP base through the conservative movement, the Tea Party and the evangelical community for many years now. With Trump at the helm, the ruling party’s link to far-right extremists has become quite apparent.”
Shepp concludes his piece on a disturbing note, warning Americans, “Don’t look at what’s happening in Austria and say it couldn’t happen here. It already is.”