Report: Fluctuating waves of right-wing extremist violence in Western Europe

The translation of the NCTV report ‘Fluctuating waves of right-wing extremist violence in Western Europe. The nature, severity and scope of the threat of right-wing extremist violence in Western Europe, including the Netherlands’ was published today. The report describes the historical and international context of the right wing threat in the Netherlands.

The report shows an increase of right wing violence in Western Europe. In the Netherlands we also see an increase but not of the same level as we have seen in the beginning of the nineties. At that time there was street violence against ethnic minorities, Jewish targets, homosexuals and left wing extremists. Ideological renewal and the use of new online functionalities served to boost the right-wing extremist movement in Western Europe including the Netherlands and cause increasing polarisation between right-wing extremists and their left-wing and islamist extremist adversaries.

The adjustment of right-wing extremism to modern times is no surprise. But the speed of adoption of international developments and themes by right-wing extremists is new. Moreover, the rise of the alt-right movement and its ideas within right-wing extremist online environments in recent years are evidence of how quickly right-wing ideological shifts can take place via the Internet and social media.

The refugee crisis, alongside the long-simmering grievances regarding Islam and jihadism, would seem to have been an catalyst for right-wing extremist violence. In many Western-European countries, violent responses from the extreme right have come on the heels of jihadist attacks. A striking fact is that such violence need not originate from right-wing extremist groups – citizens from outside organised right-wing extremist frameworks are also capable of committing violence motivated by right-wing extremism.

In the Netherlands, rightwing extremist violence is generally not formally organised, and is committed by small groups or individuals who do not necessarily belong to well-known right-wing extremist organisations. This corresponds to the situation and threat assessment of right-wing extremism in most European countries. Despite the almost complete lack of public sympathy for right-wing extremists or any calls to commit physical violence on populist right-wing webpages, the xenophobic messages and the climate being fostered on these pages have in some cases had an encouraging effect nonetheless on xenophobia. The more aggressive tone on the right-wing internetfora could have an activating role on small groups or individuals. Recent developments in de United States have shown what a polarized debate can lead up to.

In the Netherlands this is not yet the case, but AIVD and the NCTV warn for the non-violent threat that is caused by right-wing extremist action like demonizing adversaries. A poisonous (online) debate could lead to extremist violence. The (failed) attack on a mosque in the Dutch city of Enschede fits the European template precisely in terms of both the target and the criminal profile (a small group that had undergone rapid radicalisation). Attacks of this type are still conceivable within the present Dutch context.