Assessing the Threat of COVID-19-Related Extremism in the West
International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 8/5/2021
… With the recent upsurges in Covid-19 cases, it is far from certain that the pandemic is behind us. And what is more, this is probably not the last time governments will have to take measures that have a direct and deep impact on people’s lives. This time people feel threatened by attempts to contain Covid-19, but the next time around the problem may be the outbreak of another infectious disease, or perhaps another refugee crisis. Or maybe the efforts to counter climate change will incur the wrath of people who feel the measures are aimed against them. Thus, as the first countries are beginning to emerge from their lockdowns it would be useful to take stock of a year and a half of protest and resistance. https://icct.nl/publication/assessing-the-threat-of-covid-19-related-extremism-in-the-west-2/
IIT ANALYST COMMENTARY: A January 27, 2021, National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warns that “[domestic violent extremists (DVEs) motivated by a range of issues, including anger of COVID-19 restrictions … have plotted and on occasion carried out attacks against government facilities”. The NTAS bulletin notes that “violent extremists citing misinformation conspiracy theories about COVID-19” threatened violence against electric, telecommunications, and healthcare sectors in 2020. The threat is not merely aspirational. According to the FBI, a 36-year-old man killed in a shootout with agents was the target of a “months-long domestic terrorism investigation” into a plot to blow up a Missouri hospital. The suspect reportedly considered several targets but feelings of aggravation toward COVID-related restrictions ultimately led him to accelerate his plans and select the hospital. Teun van Dogen, Senior Research Fellow and Programme Lead of Current and Emerging Threats at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, asserts that notions of the ‘in-group’ versus the ‘out-group’ exist in COVID-related extremist narratives. He explains that “the in-group is ‘the people’ and the out-group is the political and economic elite that is using, or even staging, the pandemic as an excuse to introduce measures to subjugate the people”. Dogen argues that COVID-related misinformation and conspiracy theories that motivate violence, “[pose] a threat to democratic institutions by eroding the factual basis that democracies need in order to function properly”.