Reciprocal radicalisation or cumulative extremism. These recent terms relate to a symbiotic political relationship whereby the extremism of one group fuels the narrative of the other.
According to James Hardy’s report published by the CARR Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, researchers have shown that the effects are a ratcheting up of violence inspired by the acts of diametrically opposed groupings, as with the 34 attacks on mosques following the brutal 22 May 2013 Islamist murder of Lee Rigby in London.
To date, much scholarship has focused on the relationship between radical-right and Islamist extremists, despite little empirical evidence for the actions of right-wing extremists directly inspiring the actions of radical Islamists, except in anomalous cases. By contrast, it is absolutely the case that Islamist extremists have inspired radical-right racism and even political violence.
Great Britain has exhibited a gradual ratcheting up of radical activism in recent months. Galvanised by American protests against the gruesome killing of George Floyd, UK protesters began to advance in the conflict. Yet far-right groups saw the desecration of statues – exemplified by the toppling of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol – as well as graffiti on war memorials and the Churchill statue in Parliament Square, as an attack on UK values and history.
Much like in the US, the two sides have now been thrown into direct conflict, as elements of the British radical-right used the protests to mobilise supporters. Hundreds of far-right activists made the trip to London in June to join protests in defence of statues, with Paul Golding, leader of the right-wing extremist group Britain First, stating they had turned out to “guard our monuments”.
In the United States, seemingly as a by-product of the Black Lives Matter movement, some far-left activists have fed into radical-right narratives.
Unlike the majority of left-wing activists, Antifa militants have used violence in some confrontations with the far right, as seen recently during a counter-demonstration against a ‘free speech demonstration’ staged in San Francisco.
Furthermore, riots, looting and periodic civic unrest in places like Portland have buttressed an increasingly mainstream right-wing perception that the views of Antifa and the Left, in general, are somehow incompatible with contemporary US society.
The recent protests have thrown these sides of the political divide into direct conflict, with members of both groups being accused of inciting the other.