How Right-wing Extremism Was A Major Part of Almost All the Top News of 2021
A repeat of the previous year, 2021 was defined by impacts related to the ongoing pandemic. It could also be summarized as another year of toxic politics and polarization. In fact, the common theme that strikingly is found in most of the year’s top news is the role of right-wing politics and their exacerbating of each issue.
In our number one news for the year, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, it has been hindered, stymied by toxic politics. The vaccine has been rejected by about one-quarter of the nation’s population (mostly, by right-wing conservatives and conspiracy theorists) despite the ease with which each resident in the U.S. has had access to it – it’s free and is administered conveniently, even at local grocery stores. To the skeptical political right-wing, their refusal to get vaccinated is an extension of their attitude toward the pandemic itself, which they view as a hoax, a made-up threat not greater than the common cold, and a means for government to take away American freedoms.
Not accepting science is nothing new in history. People have been believing whatever they want for eons. But if it takes at least 90+% cooperation of the community in order to finally beat this deadly virus (herd immunity), and you have one-quarter of a population resisting compliance due to toxic politics, we have a real problem. A problem that enables the virus to survive long enough to mutate into variants and cause ongoing infections and deaths on the health side, and further delays economic recovery.
In spite of President Joe Biden’s promise to more aggressively tackle Covid-19 (which he did), and lead a rollout of vaccines safely, for free and easily accessible (which he did), unfortunately, hopes of putting the pandemic behind us in 2021 was squashed due to right-wing demagogues who chose to continue to politicize the greatest public health threat in decades. But Biden also showed weakness to right-wing elements by going soft and postponing national vaccination mandate on federal workers.
The U.S. Capitol siege, our second top news item for 2021 – that link between right-wing extremism is too self-evident to explain further. The perpetrators, the downplaying of it, the roadblocking to thwart a congressional investigation – they’re all right-wing driven.
In a new ABC/Ipsos poll, an overwhelming majority (72%) of Americans believe the people involved in the attack on the Capitol were “threatening democracy,” while 1 in 4 Americans believes that the individuals involved were “protecting democracy.” Broken down by party identification, Democrats are nearly unanimous (96%) in believing that those involved in the attacks were threatening democracy. Republicans are more split, with 45% saying it was a threat and 52% saying those involved in the riot were “protecting democracy.”
In our fourth ranked news for HFC, besides the fact that the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize happens to be a Filipino, Maria Ressa of Rappler digital news (a major reason why it ranked very high on our list), that award was largely a message from the Nobel committee to the world that there is an insidious movement by right-wing populists worldwide, in their leaders and zealots, to undermine freedom of the press, to muddy facts with disinformation and misinformation on social media, and to intimidate, to imprison, and often to murder professional journalists around the world. The right-wing once again this year has been a danger to democracies around the world in their animosity toward and their efforts to erode media’s credibility.
Our fifth top news story of the year is Asian hate crimes continuing in 2021. In fact, the number of hate incidents and crime against Asians has increased this year from A I 2020. We all know why Asians have become targets in the first place. Former President Donald Trump scapegoated Asians for the worldwide outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. Racists have used that excuse to justify hate crimes onto Asians that Stop AAPI Hate (organization tracking anti-Asian violence in the US) has said exceeded 4,533 by mid-2001.
HFC’s sixth top news of 2001 (that is placed higher by many mainstream media) is perhaps the greatest threat to the US launched by right-wing elements. Despite a 2020 presidential election that has been proven to be free and clear of cheating or inaccuracy by independent and bipartisan election officials, former President Trump’s “Big Lie” that the election was stolen prompted Republican-dominated state legislatures to enact voter suppression laws in red states throughout the U.S. Election experts say that new state laws adopted would specifically make it more difficult for minorities, immigrants, blue collar and service workers with less flexibility in working hours and the elderly to vote.
While partisan politics have been a dominant feature of DC political culture for decades now, prior to Trump, the nation’s elections process was largely sacrosanct (after the Jim Crowe era), meaning that both political parties respected its process, did not cast doubt on it, and definitely did not try to obstruct it with blatant voter suppression laws…until 2021!
Unnecessary continuation of 2020’s turmoil
Right-wing politics on its own was not a news event or issue that warranted a top ranking in most media news roundups for 2021. But it was a real phenomenon that spoiled opportunities to leave the upheavals of 2020 behind us – the pandemic, attack on free press and spreading of disinformation, and anti-Asian hate crimes. And instead of helping to move our country toward normalcy and resolution, right-wing extremists added in 2021 to the existing problems with resistance to vaccination, attacking our nation Capitol, and worst yet (because of its long-term impact) by creating laws that suppress voter participation.