April 17, 2019

IntelBrief: The Far Right Seeks to Normalize Its Ideology

Members of an ultra-right-wing movement called 'Catalan Identitarian Movement' shout slogans during the Catalan National Day in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018  (AP Photo/Santi Palacios).
  • In Europe, groups on the political far-right are attempting to mainstream and normalize their ideologies to recast themselves for the modern era.
  • The Identitarian Movement is transnational, with linkages across Europe and increasingly in North American and Australia.
  • The Identitarian Movement and similar groups base their propaganda around themes including the ‘Islamization of Europe’ and present a clash-of-civilizations narrative that implicitly encourages political violence.
  • In Germany, the Identitarian Movement has links to official political parties and has maintained a presence in far-right marches, including the one in Chemnitz.


All across Europe, political groups on the far-right are attempting to mainstream and normalize their ideologies to recast themselves for the modern era. In Germany, for example, there has been a serious move to rebrand as ‘the new right,’ an attempt to distance themselves from the Neo-Nazis and skinheads of the past while still normalizing aspects of their hateful ideology to include a strong anti-immigrant message. This message is occasionally couched in softer terms like ‘re-migration,’ which advocates ‘sending people back’ to countries from where their ancestors hailed. The Identitarian Movement and similar groups are part of this move to normalize xenophobic and nativist ideology. The Identitarian Movement is transnational in nature, with linkages across Europe and, increasingly, North American and Australia. The American branch is known as the American Identity Movement (recently rebranded from Identity Evropa) and allegedly claims members currently serving in the U.S. military. The movement bases its propaganda around anti-immigration and Islamophobia and presents a ‘clash-of-civilizations’ narrative that implicitly encourages political violence. Elements of the group’s Fascist ideology oppose NATO, rail against American imperialism, and advocate a range of anti-capitalist sentiment. Chapters of the organization in both France and Austria reportedly received money from Brenton Tarrant, the terrorist responsible for the Christchurch, New Zealand massacre. This movement has expressed admiration for politicians including Viktor Orban of Hungary; Matteo Salvini of Italy; and the U.S. President Donald Trump.

In Europe, where the movement has chapters in Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Denmark and the UK, among other places, the propaganda is tailored to local audiences to reflect parochial grievances. The movement does not advocate violence but carefully walks the line, often speaking in terms of a clash of civilizations. Its members seek to incite fear with anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment and its propaganda often features well-known conspiracies related to so-called ‘globalists.’ The movement and its members frequently use phrases like ‘mass immigration’ and ‘population replacement.’ Its social media output laments the failure of multiculturalism and urges its followers to ‘defend Europe.’ In 2017, one of the Identitarian Movement’s most well-known figures, an Austrian named Martin Sellner, raised over $100,000 to sail a ship into the Mediterranean Sea, ostensibly to prevent migrants from reaching Europe, although it was mostly viewed as a publicity stunt designed to garner maximum attention for the movement and its objectives.

In Germany, the Identitarian Movement has links to official political parties and has maintained a presence in far-right marches, including the one in Chemnitz in the eastern part of the country. The movement retains meaningful connections to political parties in Europe, including the far-right Freedom Party in Austria and the Alternative for Germany (AfD). It has even expanded into other sectors by developing a clothing label, think tank, and publishing house. There are approximately 500 members of the Identitarian Movement in Germany (sometimes referred to as Generation Identity) and the group attempts to maintain an active presence on YouTube, Twitter, and the popular Russian social media site Vkontakte, or VK. Recruiting efforts have been targeted at young academics and politically active individuals who can blend into the mainstream— even if it is more toward the fringes of the mainstream. A so-called ‘Summer University’ hosted by Generation Identitaire, a French progenitor organization of the Identitarian Movement, brings together ideologues from across the world to learn from what makes the affiliates successful in their respective countries while also offering an opportunity to network and build stronger transnational connections.

On the group’s website, it warns that immigration will inevitably ‘turn us into minorities in our own countries in a few decades.’ By ‘us,’ they are primarily talking about White Christians who are defending the frontiers of civilized Christendom from modern-day hordes of Muslim invaders, in this case, immigrants from war-ravaged regions: North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. When politicians adopt the language of groups like the Identitarian Movement, they normalize the talking points of hate. How countries respond to the politics and demographics of migration will be a decisive factor in the ebb or flow of the popularity of extreme far-right groups. Competing factions are aggressively promoting their viewpoints to advance their own agendas and ultimately impact critical public policy decisions surrounding migration that will shape the geopolitics of Europe and elsewhere in the West over the course of the next decade.


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