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Weaponization of Prejudice as Wind Beneath Right-Wings

The panel addressed very important and current topic, the growth of right-wing extremism and speakers discussed the influence of state and media on the spread of terrorism, hate speech and misinformation. Special focus was on groups particularly affected by the rise of extremist violence and the spread of ideas that support the violence. Participants agreed that one of the ways in which political parties in Europe came to power in certain countries was closely linked to the spread of right-wing extremist ideas.

As key timeline for the growing emergence of extremist movements, groups and the direct violence, panelists marked the period between the global economic crisis of 2008 and the beginning of the migrant crisis of 2015.

Sasha Havliček, Director and CEO of Institute for Strategic Dialogue, spoke about increasing good cooperation of groups that can be described as right-wing extremists at the international level. She especially emphasized the role of online space, which she marked as the biggest channel for spreading extremist ideas today, noting on the spreading of misinformation and extremist aspirations through social networks.

Right-wing extremism is expanding its audience more and more by adapting both the language and the way in which they address people. Extremist groups and hate groups were early adapters of technologies, so they can reach further than ever before.

In her opinion, the biggest problem was the failure to respond to the rise of far right movements and ideas caused by not recognizing the dangers and nature of the threat on time. The problem of infiltration of neo-Nazis and extremists into state security services, such as the army and police was also mentioned.

Her position in case of current presidential elections in the United States was that even if the current president was to lose, that would not contribute to the reduction of the far right movements. It would lead to their intensified action instead in the form of protesting the election results, insistence on the electoral fraud and similar.

Željko Jovanović, Director of the Open Society Roma Initiatives Office, referred to the problems faced by minorities during the proliferation of extremist movements and ideas, especially the Roma community. In his view, the prejudices against minorities and the labeling of minorities as threats by both political elites and the security sector is a key issue. The role of the migrant crisis in maintaining these prejudices was especially emphasized. According to Jovanović, the spread of hatred against Muslims and people of color leads to the threat for all minorities, including the Roma.

He highlighted the role of governments in upholding the hate speech against minorities and expressed concern over the increase of number of parties coming to power thanks to propaganda against Roma or other minorities. Minorities are a particularly good tool for the growth of sensationalist ideas of right-wing extremism, he added. Roma are not integrated and accepted by the wider community anywhere in Europe, which makes them especially vulnerable to pressure and violence, just like the migrant groups.

By protecting the Roma, we are not only doing something good for Roma, we are actually protecting European security and national security.