Far-Right Conspiracy Beliefs Are Becoming More Mainstream in the UK

Exclusive data from HOPE not hate shows the alarming proliferation of far-right conspiracy theories.

Far-right views and conspiracy theories involving anti-migrant and anti-vax sentiments are proliferating through society at an alarming rate in the UK, according to a new report from campaign group HOPE not hate. 

The group’s annual report, State of HATE 2022, says far-right beliefs are spreading in the UK, largely driven by social media and the far-right adopting anti-vax and anti-lockdown views during the pandemic.  

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In 2021, 18 far-right supporters were convinced of terror-related offences in the UK, double the number in 2020. Of this number, six were teenagers. 

Exclusive data shared with VICE World News shows that 63 percent of people believe the risk of young people being radicalised by political extremists is greater than it was 10 years ago, with 83 percent believing social media companies should do more to clamp down on extremist content. 

The report, released today, surveyed 1,500 adults in the UK in January in order to collect data on far-right views. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has proliferated a belief in conspiracy theories. According to the report, 8 percent of people believe it is definitely true that “Elites in Hollywood, government, the media, and other powerful positions” are secretly engaging in large-scale child trafficking and abuse, while a further 28 percent think it is probably true. This has risen from 7 percent believing it is definitely true in 2021, and 15 percent saying it is probably true, according to last year’s report. 

The report also details other COVID conspiracy theories taking hold across the UK. According to the report, 29 percent of people think COVID-19 is likely to be a biological weapon created by China – with 6 percent thinking it is definitely true and another 23 percent thinking it is probably true. Five percent believe it is definitely true that COVID-19 has been intentionally released as a “depopulation” plan of the UN or New World Order.

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Many of these conspiracy theories are disseminated through Telegram, which provides a platform for many far-right conspiracy theorists who have been removed from more mainstream social media. 

The report comes at a time when far-right beliefs have firmly entered the mainstream. In February, Labour leader Keir Starmer was harassed by anti-vax demonstrators outside of parliament days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeated a far-right conspiracy theory as fact in Parliament, something that bolstered far-right groups on Telegram. 

Anti-immigrant sentiment has also seen a renewed focus from for the far-right, as the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban caused a mass displacement of people. Far-right groups have exploited fear around migration, many of which have been stoked by politicians such as UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, who created alarm around an “invasion” of migrants.

The report cited a rise in racism and anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the UK as well, specifically anti-trans hate

Nick Lowles, CEO of HOPE not hate, said: “After years in the political wilderness, the crises we’ve collectively faced over the past two years have emboldened cynical far-right activists to exploit our fears and uncertainties and return to traditional methods of campaigning.”

“We are particularly worried about the growing numbers of young people being attracted to far-right politics and dangerous conspiracy theories,” he said. “This trend has been happening for several years, but it has been accelerated by COVID conspiracies and the increasingly aggressive anti-lockdown movement.”


Tagged:

Far right, conspiracy theories, Hope Not Hate, anti-vaxx, worldnews

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