Many experts have expressed their view that the Corona pandemic has led to an increase in radicalization. While numbers in terrorist attacks, at least in the West, are down, hate speech on social networks is spiking. But hate does not equal extremism, nor violent extremism. Radical postings, while highly problematic, are not all terrorist.
When we try to measure the extent of radicalism, we have to be aware that official policies and dynamics of society limit the phenomenon. The more radicalism, the more political steps are taken. This is always so, and it is necessary.
On a worldwide scale, not all individuals prone to violence and groups of terrorists, however, are arrested. Is there a stronger tendency offline to prepare acts of violence these days? Impossible to judge from a heat map of terrorist events, or foiled plots.
The picture regarding the internet seems clearer. But as action to take down extremist content continues, impossible to know the degree of ruthlessness in shares by radicals and by potential terrorists across the different electronic platforms.
It is hence difficult to judge to what extent Covid-19 has fostered overall extremism, linking quantitative and qualitative criteria, and comparing online to offline. But hate speech is up.
Thorsten Koch, MA, PgDip
27 August 2020