Understanding the Role of Mass Culture and Media in Far-Right Ideologies

M. Guthrie

Throughout this week’s readings, I was particularly struck by the recurring theme of mass culture being used as a means of reflecting and/or reinforcing authoritarian and fascist ideologies. Throughout contemporary European history, novels, newspapers, films and the like became crucial cultural resources, dispersing information and allowing for reflection on the shared experiences of a group.

While it was commonly understood that these sources worked in strengthening ideas of national identity or character, this media likewise acted as a divisive tool which could be specifically moulded to demonize social and cultural outliers – most notably protecting Europe from the “foreign contamination” of Judaism (Ben-Ghiat, 138). A prime example being the idea of the lasting conception of the Jewish Bolshevik, painting those of Jewish background as a malignant presence in Eastern European society, threatening the stability of authoritarian and nationalist ideologies (Hanebrink, 11-45).

I began to wonder how these tendencies have evolved in recent years to come to reflect the broader trends of globalization and internationalism. Especially considering the ease and accessibility provided by the internet, it is no surprise that individuals across the world can find a resource to support their beliefs, no matter how far-fetched or controversial they may be. In the context of the present-day, what comes to mind are sources like Breitbart News, or Alex Jones’s InfoWars gaining popularity worldwide, not just in the United States.

What I found extremely interesting is that this connection between nationalists in differing nations is not necessarily a new concept and is aided by the very presence of mass culture and popular media. Motadel notes that as early as 1937, figures such as George Orwell described fascism as a rather international movement – citing the Spanish Civil War as a prime example. It originally seemed to be a bit of an oxymoron in my mind, for those valuing a specific national identity to accept and support the help of others. However, if I understand correctly, it becomes more about supporting those who similarly want the preservation of what they feel is the original composition of the nation.

Works Cited

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “Conquest and Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945 (University of California Press, 2004), pp. 17-45.

Paul Hanebrink, A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism (Harvard University Press, 2018), pp. 1-10, 11-45.

David Motadel, “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism — But They Depend on It.” The New York Times. 2019.

One Reply to “Understanding the Role of Mass Culture and Media in Far-Right Ideologies”

  1. I think that what you are saying about fascists encouraging nationalism in other countries as a a reflection of what is going on in their own is apt. I think a lot of what Motadel is writing about is exactly that thing, although with an agenda that worked for Germany in some small part.

    Part of me does wonder if the concept of nationalism for a lot of these groups isn’t also tied into the concept of preventing things like immigration, where a focus on the nation is a turning inward with the aims of a “pure” state attached to that.

    Motadel’s writing is particularly good for this, as there were leaders who were perfectly happy to go along with the anti-Semitism in Germany if it meant that independence could be achieved at home (although certainly people like Bose were frustrated by the racism).

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