Pandemic and Online Recruiting Fuel Extremist Organizing

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Anti-shutdown protests around the country have tapped a wide range of political groups, but the disruption wreaked by the coronavirus has become the battle cry of white supremacists and other potentially violent extremists, The New York Times reports. Embellishing Covid-19 developments to fit their usual agenda, extremists spread disinformation on the transmission of the virus and disparage stay-at-home orders as “medical martial law” — the long-anticipated advent of a totalitarian state. “They are being very effective in capitalizing on the pandemic,” said Devin Burghart, a veteran researcher of white nationalists who runs the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, a Seattle-based research center on far right movements.

Various violent incidents have been linked to white supremacist or anti-government perpetrators enraged over aspects of the pandemic. Last month, the Department of Homeland Security warned law enforcement officials throughout the United States of the mobilization of violent extremists in response to stay-at-home measures, according to a senior law enforcement official and a congressional staff member, who were not authorized to discuss the warning publicly. There are some 125 groups on Facebook, more than 60 percent created this year, in the so-called “boogaloo” movement that predicts and calls for a civil war, according to a report from the Tech Transparency Project of the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit watchdog group.

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