National Security | Military Ethics | Global Far-Right Extremism | Counter-Terrorism | Antisemitism

Infected by Hate: Far-Right Attempts to Leverage Anti-Vaccine Sentiment

The purpose of this article is to alert and educate on a new phenomenon that first appeared worldwide in November 2020, as countries started developing COVID-19 vaccination plans. Far-fight extremists, white supremacists in particular, identified pre-existing concerns in the general public regarding the potential vaccines’ effectiveness, safety, and purpose. In an effort to leverage these concerns, the far-right actors have engaged in a targeted campaign to introduce and amplify disinformation about the potential COVID-19 vaccines via online platforms. These campaigns have utilized five main themes. First, content increasing chaos and promoting accelerationism. Second, content to improve recruitment and radicalization. Third, content connecting COVID-19 or the proposed vaccines to pre-existing conspiracies in the movement. Fourth, content fostering anti-minority sentiment. Fifth, they have begun producing content advocating individual-initiative (lone wolf) attacks against COVID-19 manufacturers.

Authorities must be cognizant of this phenomenon and think of ways to prevent it. Failure to recognize and appropriately respond may result in increased recruitment and mobilization within the far-right movement. Similarly, failure to curtail this type of rhetoric will likely increase the public’s hesitancy to go and be vaccinated, increasing the difficulty of eradicating COVID-19. Additionally, far-right extremists are likely to continue suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines are part of a larger conspiracy in order to persuade potential supporters to engage in individual-initiative (lone wolf) attacks. As a result, COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers and distribution venues are likely to be potential targets.

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