Europe has a major blind spot: the online reach of its far-right extremists.
The Continents far-right groups are digitally savvy; they know how to distort public perception, drive the political agenda and intimidate journalists. Theyve disrupted democratic processes and put pressure on politicians to back down on migration policies.
Newly revealed connections between Austrias offshoot of Generation Identity — one of Europes fastest growing far-right movements — and the man charged with killing 50 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, suggest they are also inciting violence and terrorism.
The attackers so-called manifesto referenced a conspiracy theory dubbed “The Great Replacement.” The theory — which claims that white populations are being gradually replaced with migrants — has been at the heart of identitarian campaigns for years. Just a week after the Christchurch attack, Austrias Generation Identity group — known as Identitarian Movement Austria — held a protest against “The Great Replacement” in Vienna, calling for “remigration” and “de-Islamization.”
The groups demands go beyond calls to deport criminals, extremists and rejected asylum seekers, which would be in accordance with migration law. “Remigration” is, in fact, a euphemism for the mass deportation of all European residents with a migrant background or non-white skin.
In a manual called “The Art of Redpilling,” Sellners movement provides instructions for step-by-step far-right radicalization.
What makes this ethno-nativist ideology so dangerous is its invention and promotion of the idea that its members face an imminent existential threat from an outside group.
Generation Identity does not publicly endorse violence, but its members prepare for combat and their training materials read like a call to arms. Every summer, members of the movement from across Europe organize military-style training camps in rural France. Their manuals use militarized vocabulary such as “sniper mission” and “massive air strike” when describing online attacks.
One of the leaders of Identitarian Movement Austria is a former neo-Nazi named Martin Sellner. If the Islamist extremist Anjem Choudary is the foremost European hate-preacher to inspire Islamist terrorism, then Sellner can be considered his equivalent for the far right.
Sellner, whose house was raided by intelligence forces last week after reports emerged that the Christchurch attacker gave money to the movement, has spearheaded sophisticated radicalization efforts across Europe. The far-right activist — who was also a mentee of Holocaust denier Gottfried Küssel — counts over 90,000 YouTube subscribers and 16,000 followers on Telegram.
A woman grieves the Christchurch terror attack last month | Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images
In a manual called “The Art of Redpilling,” Sellners movement provides instructions for step-by-step far-right radicalization. It recommends leveraging widespread grievances related to free speech or gender equality as a starting point, before gradually introducing new recruits to identitarian ideologies: “You sow the soft redpill seeds and then you water them constantly. An honest question to start with, a news piece here, an email there, and in the evening an anecdote over beer.”
Generation Identity also trains its members in the tactics of deception and manipulation.
Their successful playbook for online “Media Guerilla Warfare” has seen their transgressive campaigns go viral and reach a global audience. Leading members of Generation Identity have told me they want to create offshoots across the world, from Australia to Canada.
The ideology of the pan-European movement has transcended the fringes of society since its start in France in 2003. Far-right populists across Europe — from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) to the Italian League and the Spanish Vox party — have brought the language and policy recommendations of Generation Identity into the mainstream. These political movements share the ideological premise of an impending “invasion of the Occident.” Their smear campaigns against the “lying press” and minority communities cross-pollinate and strengthen one another.
In Austria, the movement has been allowed to grow largely thanks to a lax approach from the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), a member of the governing coalition whose politicians have now come under fire for their links to Generation Identity.
There is no shortage of evidence exposing the FPÖs marriage of convenience to the movement. Pictures show leading party officials — from leaders of the parliamentary club to vice mayors — side by side with identitarians at protests, campaign events and parties. Austrias vice chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, and FPÖ City Council Member Ursula Stenzel have even retweeted Generation Identity campaigns. Like Generation Identity, the FPÖ has called for “remigration.”