The Promotional Tactics of Neo-Nazi Groups and Extreme Far Right Parties

Tina Askanius is a media scholar and a researcher in media and communication studies. She’ll participate in the Q&A session after “Golden Dawn Girls,” which will be screened at the Swedish Human Rights Film Festival on Sunday.

She holds a PhD in media and communication studies from Lund University where she graduated in 2012 with the thesis Radical Online Video. YouTube, video activism and social movement media practices. Her main interest in this topic is online media in different kinds of progressive social justice and climate change movements. Specifically the role that digital media and social media play in mobilizing political activities.

Recently, she has been looking into the previously mentioned processes but in a very different political context which concerns digital media practices in extreme-right activism and propaganda. In January 2018, she started working on the research project Digital radicalization, analogue extremism? (Wallenberg 2018-2022), with her colleagues in sociology of crime. This project deals specifically with the role of online media in the jihadi/takfiri movement and neo-Nazi movements in Sweden.

What research have you done about the rise of extreme far right groups and Neo-Nazi parties throughout Europe?

A couple of years ago I did a research project with a colleague of mine, Yiannis Mylonas, where we looked at ways in which different far right groups in Denmark and Sweden were looking to the rise of the Golden Dawn in Greece both as a source of inspiration but also as a source of fear and, as a worst case scenario, of how far or bad things can turn out in Scandinavia if radical changes are going to happen.

We looked at the ways in which Golden Dawn was being used and constructed as this epicenter of the financial crisis, but also as part of the solution of how neo-Nazi movements in Scandinavia saw possibilities to build alliances and draw on the strategies and inspirations from their colleagues or fellow Nazis in Greece.

The Director, Håvard Bustnes, during the making of the documentary “Golden Dawn Girls”.

What made you interested in participating in this film festival?

I loved the trailers that I have seen so far. I think what attracted me specifically for the movie Golden Dawn Girls was the take of the movie, which is something I want to know more about myself. I think the fact that this takes a female perspective and that it tells the story from the perspective of three females is very interesting and it relates to some of the stuff I want to do myself, which is to look at role of women in the Neo-Nazi movement in Sweden but also ISIS. This is something we tend to neglect or ignore in this movement and I think it’s important to discuss. I’m happy that the trailer of Golden Dawn Girls seems to take women as its starting point.

Do you think a lot far right groups are trying to promote themselves more towards women?

I think it’s a part of a normalization process. There is a quote in the trailer where one of the women says that they want to show that they are normal people with normal families. I believe that in order for Nazism and the ideology to become mainstream or normalized, they need to reflect or project that kind of image of them as an ordinary people with ordinary families and lives. It’s something super interesting that I see reflected in my own observations of the Nordic resistance movement where that is the image they want to project, that they are normal people with a political agenda. There is an increasing everyday chit chat in their radio and web programs where it’s not so much about politics but instead about being a dad, family guy, what have you done over the holidays etc. If I compare to the Nordic front and Nordic resistance movement in 2013 to the Golden Dawn, there has been a huge discursive shift in terms of the role of women and the fact that women voices are present. There is this focus on the family and everyday mundane trivial stuff in what image they are trying to project. I do think that the inclusion of women into the project and discourse in the online universe of their propaganda is an important part of that.

What type of tactics do you think far right and neo-Nazi groups such as the Golden Dawn use to promote their agenda, digitally speaking?

In general terms,  if we look back a couple of decades then there has certainly been the strategy to become more open and spread content and activities directed towards mainstream online fora. There are activities and discourses that are being circulated in posts behind firewalls, paywalls or member subscription-only walls and that is out there on everyday social media like Facebook and Twitter. Right now, the extreme far right groups are abandoning Facebook and turning to other types of media like the Russian developed VK. There is a move towards other types of social media but there is still open, easily accessible media rather than obscure corners of the internet where white supremacy and Neo Nazi discourse in the 90s or the early 2000s were relegated to. The important strategy is therefore the coming out to the mainstream social media and in that move, normalizing and mainstreaming their agenda.

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Golden Dawn Girls will be screened on Sunday 18 March at 15.30 at Kino. The Q & A with Tina Askanius starts right after the film.

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