In the readings this week there is a very common theme of populists and the far-right using anti-gender propaganda to push their conservative narratives. We can see examples of this in both the Patternote reading and the Zuk&Zuk reading. Patternote points out an important aspect of how “by seeking to produce a moral panic, anti-gender activists try to legitimize their particular claims, establish the validity of the issues raised, stir up concern among the general population and attract media attention.” (Patternote, 11) In the Zuk&Zuk case study of Poland, we can see how this notion of scapegoating that Patternote mentions play out in a real-world context. The far-right in Poland consistently uses the anti-gender movement to critique and challenge changing society because “from the point of view of nationalists, then, defenders of gay rights have emerged to become just like anarchist opponents of the social, state and moral order and, even worse, like barbarians attacking civilization.” (Zuk&Zuk, 571). This is not just an issue isolated to post-communist European countries, as The Guardian article points out. Since the rise of Brexit and far-right ideology in North America, England is seeing a huge spike in hate-targeted crimes against people in the LGBTQ+ communities. The article states that “The rate of LGBT hate crime per capita rose by 144% between 2013-14 and 2017-18. In the most recent year of data, police recorded 11,600 crimes, more than doubling from 4,600 during this period.” That is a staggering, and unacceptable statistic. In conclusion, from the readings this week, it is clear anti-gender movements are used by far-right organizations and politics as a ‘veil’ for their primary goals/intentions.
To quote Brubaker from the second week, populism is the successful use of “politics of fear”. The effective ability to categorize and separate a population into insiders and outsiders creates a dynamic of constant anxiety that fuels a desire for stability. In this respect, the new and the uncertain go hand in hand with one another; why else would populist leaderships seek to shut down or re-appropriate prestigious institutions if they disagree with their conceptualization of reality? It provides not just a rallying point for discourse on the nature of these foreign and different ideas, it also allows for a managing of the future messaging on a given topic. This is also not a new phenomenon, as it has been demonstrated in how Italian populists took control over the news media within their nation to secure a platform of expression and dialogue.
In much the same way, we see the use of “Creating uncertainty, managing fear and building an atmosphere that makes everyone feel that he or she can become a victim always requires some demonised enemy.” The simultaneous attack on academic institutions and gender dynamics through the effective othering as a means of ‘re-establishing’ a hierarchy from the past in times of turmoil and uncertainty as a means of creating stability. Through this charismatic approach to the modern issues, populist can engage and spur their supporters into the approaches that further this dichotomy. It establishes the precedence for more than institutional attacks, but personal ones as well. As seen in the case of the United Kingdom, failure to address the deep-seated issues that cause a distrust of what these people consider foreign; can have massive reaching impacts of bodily harm to both the individual and the public.
Rogers Brubaker, “Why Populism?” NUPI Podcast (51 minutes) https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/why-populism-rogers-brubaker/id1200474003?i=1000449389000 .
Andrea Peto, “Report from the Trenches: The Debate around Teaching Gender Studies In Hungary, 10 April 2017. Heinrich Böll Stiftung – Green Political Foundation, https://www.boell.de/en/2017/04/10/report-trenches-debate-around-teaching-genderstudies-hungary .
Anna Cento Bull, “The role of memory in populist discourse: the case of the Italian Second Republic” Patterns of Prejudice, 50:3 (2016): 213-231.
Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’: Analysis of the ‘Anti-Gender’ Discourse of the Catholic Church and the Nationalist Right in Poland.” Critical discourse studies 17.5 (2020): 566–588.
Sarah Marsh, Aamna Mohdin and Niamh McIntyre, “Homophobic and Transphobic Hate Crimes Surge in England and Wales” The Guardian, 14 June 2019, https://www. theguardian.com/world/ 2019/jun/14/homophobicand-transphobic-hatecrimes-surge-in-englandand-wales
In the anti-genderism movement, the far-right is picking another opponent and this is not a surprise. We can see through time the folk devils have often changed, from Jews and antisemitism in the WWII years, to democracy and the West and now land on genderism, not that it has never been a topic for the far-right but now it is a more publicized enemy of the right in today’s backsliding European countries. In Poland, the church takes a role in the issues with abortion and genderism (Zuk and Zuk, 567), but it may be the case that even if the church was absent from the discourse in Poland, as it was in France (Paternotte and Kuhar, 8), that this type of rhetoric would continue.
The factors that unite these issues are closer than the circumstances that make them different in each country. The fear and hate that unites the far-right against a common enemy, the fear of change and deviances vs. whether or not the government is far-right and can condemn genderism, if the Church is playing a role, etc. In each case, the underlying factors are the same even if the catalysts change depending on the context for a respective group.
David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 6-19.
Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’: Analysis of the ‘Anti-Gender’ Discourse of the Catholic Church and the Nationalist Right in Poland.” Critical discourse studies 17.5 (2020): 566–588