You'd think that times would be tough for terrorists. With no concerts to shoot up or full office buildings to drive into, the pandemic is surely stealing their spotlight as the premier purveyors of fear and death? But as resilient as their nearest genetic cousin, the cockroach, terrorists are keeping busy with the work they can do remotely from home: spreading conspiracy theories and recruiting the chronically dumb.
Misinformation is being particularly well abused by right-wing extremists, the Starbucks of domestic terrorism in that you likely live within walking distance of one. The UN's Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate notes that their indiscriminate embracing of COVID-19 conspiracy theories is serving as "radicalization multipliers" (PDF link), with a significant uptick in users on far-right social media and online channels like the majority Telegram. If you believe COVID-19 is spread on purpose, right-wing terrorists will tell you that's because of the "infected immigrants" coming over here and coughing on your children. Do you instead believe that the entire thing is a hoax set up by the deep state? Then these hyper-patriots will herald that as the first shot in the upcoming "boogaloo" (i.e., Civil War 2) and that it's high time to pick a side.
Of course, this brand of lockdown terrorism is only necessary when dealing with governments that can pay attention to two existential threats at a time. In the developing world, many overstretched authorities can no longer keep track of their roaming bands of AK-wielding jags. Left unchecked, these terrorists alternate between spreading violence like yet another plague and, surprisingly, setting up social security where governments fail to do so, providing food and money to starving people to recruit them to their caustic cause.
This has also been quite a blessing for struggling jihadist industry, which fondly calls COVID-19 "the Crusader's nightmare." Not only are these religious extremists able to spin this plague as a, well, plague sent by God to punish the decadent West, the lack of regulatory oversight has also allowed them to once again start thinking globally and acting locally. The Islamic State's, whose emergency pandemic response has been better than some developed nations, encourages cells to use their enemies' preoccupation with not having enough ventilators to retake territories and barrage the West with more destabilizing attacks.
And these attacks may be something the likes of which we've never seen before. Like all those isolated artists currently creating the next King Lear, the quarantine may have given terrorists a great burst of inspiration. The Council of Europeâs Committee on Counter-Terrorism fears that witnessing many of the world's richest nations completely fuck up their response to the viral outbreak will encourage terrorists to start switching to biological warfare in the future, ranging from deploying mass bio-weapons to the spreading of COVID-19 to targeted groups in what right-wing terrorists are referring to as the "holocough."
Whatever their approach, it does seem that terrorists have been adapting well to the pandemic, seeing it as an opportunity to gain more followers and connive their next atrocity. (It's almost as if extremists were already used to spending long stretches of time with little company in a one-bedroom mess). So if you're itching for life to go back to normal so you can hang out with all your friends at a large event, just remember: you're not the only one.