In a quiet, early Thursday morning last week, Malaysians were awoken to news that the United States Capitol Hill were raided by pro-Trump supporters waving Trump flags, Confederate symbols, pro-Nazi messages, and various other symbols of right-wing extremist groups amidst an ongoing proceeding to certify Trump’s election defeat. The mob took siege of the building housing congressmen and went on a vandalizing spree destroying properties, breaching offices of high ranking officials even going as far as firing shots in the building. The violence lead to the deaths of 4 individuals, one of which was a female Trump supporter who was shot by the Capitol police.
Right-wing extremism is not mutually exclusive to any country, race or continent as it stems from the notion that one’s particular race/group is superior to others. The coordinated attack on one of the country’s most important government institutions was an example of unchecked right-wing extremism and they happened to be a subset of Trump’s conservative base. To pinpoint exactly why an individual joins a particular extremist group would prove to be difficult. Rather, if we look closely, we can see that most of these groups tend to be filled with angry messages of hate and separation. Moments of economic downfall or catastrophe further perpetuate the anger and frustration of these members adding fuel to the cause.
To understand how the thinking spreads like wildfire in today’s modern age, we first need to understand how social media works. Popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram utilize algorithms that consistently feed users content that they enjoy, meaning, if you interact with a particular type of content, the algorithm will recommend similar content to you. This has disastrous implications where it creates a bubble for extremist ideologies, fake news and propaganda to be significantly amplified within the bubble.
To further implicate matters, Trump repeatedly acknowledged the existence of the far-right within his support base thus, seemingly gave the group a green light to continue operating. Instances such as his response towards the George Floyd protests in which he pledged a crackdown on the protestors, promising arrests and military force, further consolidate the extremists’ ideology. These set of circumstances culminated in the insurgency of the Capitol as a result of the far-right reaching critical mass.
In the wake of the insurgency, we ought to take heed of dangerous ideologies sprawling domestically and implement proactive measures to curb it. Since we’ve identified that at the very core, two roles that might feed into the rise of extremism, we must have measures dealing with social media and high authority that could potentially act as catalysts. Although we have laws in place to disallow any efforts to incite racial disharmony, we the public must also remain vigilant and keep an eye out on our friends and family and doing acts as simple as not forwarding that hate message on Whatsapp is suffice to fight extremism.
Idzham Haqim Mat Rasid
Secretary of International Affairs & SDG Bureau
Malaysian Youth Council