What stood out to me from all these readings is how the ‘Othering’ of different groups of people has been used for political purposes. Events like the migrant crisis are used to stoke fear of racial and religious others damaging the mythical idea of being ‘European.’ This fear can be potent politically. As shown in the readings, it can even be used to influence more left-leaning issues. For example, portraying Muslims and migrants as anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT mobilizes people who care about those issues to pay attention to parties pushing immigration politics when they may not have before. It can turn groups who may have otherwise supported each other politicly against each other. Having an ‘Other’ is a strategy for political power. The more it is “us vs. them,” the better.
I found the article about the ‘Soros plot’ especially fascinating because it shows how this type of politics has evolved. For obvious reasons linked to its collective memory of the last century, overt anti-Semitism has become vary taboo in Europe. Popular memory depicts the Nazis as evil, and their most evil act is the holocaust and their anti-Semitism. These powerful associations mean that when people think about anti-Semites, they think of Nazis and evil. Anyone in the public sphere will naturally want to avoid these comparisons and try to stay far away from saying anything anti-Semitic. As a result, anti-Semitism’s role in politics has changed. The ‘Soros plot’ shows that anti-Semitism still exists but has ether shifted focus to become more subtle, like the focus of George Soros instead of a general focus on all Jews. Alternatively, it has moved underground and into the realm of conspiracy theories.
These “us vs. them” politics are a seemingly essential part of populism. And, unfortunately, Covid has only strengthened the link between these ideas and populism with the rise of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers and the popularity of the Q conspiracy theory in America and Europe.