Mulhall, J. & Khan-Ruf, S. (eds)-2021
The year 2020 will forever be marred by the global pandemic which spread around the world, locking us in our homes, hiding our faces behind masks and tragically taking hundreds of thousands of lives. As we enter 2021 the death toll continues to rise though the arrival of numerous vaccines has provided a much needed glimmer of hope. However, while a thin shard of light has begun to lift the seemingly unending darkness of last year, the ramifications of the pandemic will continue to be felt for years to come; not least the impending economic crisis set to grip the world economy. Yet, it has by no means been all bad news. In the face of such tragedy we have seen communities come together, neighbours and strangers helping one another and examples of heart-breaking sacrifice, love and hope. 2020 was also a year of anger with millions of people around the world hitting the streets to chant “I can’t breathe” in protest against the murder of George Floyd. Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in over 60 countries across all seven continents, including Antarctica, raised the issue of racism and systemic inequality up the political agenda. Statues fell, street names changed and national conversations about racism, imperial and colonial legacies filled column inches and TV screens. In Europe BLM protests have often taken on a domestic inflection, reflecting local issues such as the death of Adama Traoré which became a central element of protests in Paris. What started on the streets of Minneapolis in May birthed a global moment of protest. Unsurprisingly, for the European far right both the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests were seen as opportunities. Though much of the European far-right has failed to exploit the pandemic as much as they hoped, it has ushered in a new age of conspiracy theories as people seek comfort in simple and monocausal explanations for a world seemingly out of control. Huge anti-lockdown and conspiracy theory demonstrations have been seen across Europe with especially large events in London and Berlin. The long-term effects of this are hard to quantify but there is certainly a danger that conspiracy theory communities online are providing new trajectories of radicalization, especially towards more overtly antisemitic conspiracy theories. When it comes to BLM, the European far-right has erupted in conniptions, rejecting any discussion of racist societies and in some cases, pivoting towards increasingly overt racial politics, a tactic that is unlikely to pay dividends for them in the long term.