The Hitler Bell and a small German town’s missteps in trying to re-contextualize their past.

The Hitler Bell should be silenced and moved to a space where it can be preserved in the proper context, like a museum.

By Bing

Over the past couple of years, there has been heavy debate about whether monuments to controversial historical topics, like the Confederacy, should be altered or removed and if doing so would be “erasing history.” In 2017 Herxheim am Berg, a small village of around 700 in southwest Germany, became a focal point in this ongoing discussion when it was brought to public attention that their church belltower contained a bell with Nazi-era inscriptions. The bell had Hitler’s name, a swastika, and the phrase “ALLES FÜRS VATERLAND” (everything for the fatherland) inscribed on it. The ensuing controversy raged for quite some time and even resulted in a former mayor resigning after arguing that removing the inscription would alter the bell’s sound. In February 2018, the town’s council decided in a 10 to 2 vote to keep the bell in place, a decision that was reportedly met with applause.[1] The village council concluded that removing the bell would be “fleeing from an appropriate culture of remembrance,”[2] instead, they decided to put up a plaque and keep the bell as “an impetus for reconciliation and a memorial against violence and injustice.”[3]

                The actions taken by the Herxheim town council were the wrong ones. While their wishes to keep the bell intact to preserve it for history as an artifact from 1934 is reasonable, the way they have chosen to memorialize it and their decision to leave it in its original context are deeply problematic. They show that there are still people who have positive feelings of Germany’s National Socialist past, resist re-examinations of their history, and do not understand the effects and implications of public history.

                One of the reasons to keep the bell was due to the resistance shown by Herxheim’s citizens. Take, for example, former mayor Roland Becker, who resigned after making positive comments about the actions of the Nazi regime. He said that he is proud to have a bell with those inscriptions on it because, “when you talk about these things, you have to see the whole picture, and say yes there were atrocities, but there were also things he introduced which we still use today.”[4] He backtracked after that statement, insisting that the statement came from a conversation with an elderly village resident and not his own opinion. While he said this to protect himself, it reveals that his constituents are at least partially motivated to keep the bell because of lingering positive feelings towards Hitler and the Nazis. In cities like Berlin, the constant re-examinations of Germany’s history are impossible to ignore.  Unfortunately, it seems like this critical re-examination is not important in Herxheim. As Becker himself said, “some of the new citizens who moved here later on might not know about [the bell], but the majority of the [town’s] inhabitants have known that this bell is hanging here.”[5] That the bell was known by the older generations and long-time town residents, but never addressed even amongst Germany’s de-Nazification and critical self-examination of its history, speaks volumes. The town’s residents listened to the bell ring every fifteen minutes for the 70+ years since the fall of Nazi Germany, content to leave it as a semi-secret but ever-present reminder of those years.

The bell tower where the “Hitler bell” continues to hang between two other church bells. Out of public view like this is no way to have a memorial.

                The way that the council decided to memorialize the bell is misguided—context matters. If the intent of keeping the bell is to preserve history, it should be in the proper context. Statues and public monuments like this are supposed to provide the community around them with a sense of collective memory and influence their feelings about the subject of the memorial. This bell was created to commemorate the greatness of Adolf Hitler and the fervent nationalism of the 1930s. Without a doubt, those who originally installed it did so for the purpose of it ringing out in support of Hitler and his ideas for generations to come. Leaving this bell in place allows it to serve the same function it was created for, and every time it rings, it is still ringing for the ideals it was meant to represent. No matter what plaque they put in the church, leaving it in place makes it a touristic destination for any neo-Nazi’s who want to see a remainder of the Third Reich still performing its duty.

                The bell would be much better memorialized in a museum or another spot on church grounds outside the bell tower. This has been done with other historical bells, like the liberty bell, allowing for preservation and encouraging historical reflection. Other churches in Germany with similar bells have done so,[6] and it shows a much greater understanding of the politics of memory than the actions taken by the Herxheim town council. They were happy to keep it hidden away for years, but it is public now, and the way they treat it sends a message about their relationship to its history. Leaving the bell in place to keep ringing shows that there are still those who, while they admit Nazi atrocities are wrong, are content letting nostalgia and underground support for their fascist past simmer below the surface. The bell and the past that created it may be hidden away from public view, but they are still there to be heard if you listen.


[1] “Herxheim: ‘Hitler-Glocke’ Bleibt Hängen,” Der Spiegel, February 26, 2018, sec. Panorama, https://www.spiegel.de/panorama/gesellschaft/herxheim-hitler-glocke-bleibt-haengen-a-1195540.html.

[2] Isaac Stanley-Becker, “Rewriting History or Attending to the Past? Monuments Still Confound Europe, Too.,” Washington Post, August 19, 2017, sec. Europe, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/rewriting-history-or-attending-to-the-past-monuments-still-confound-europe-too/2017/08/19/1bbaf734-8413-11e7-9e7a-20fa8d7a0db6_story.html.

[3] “‘Hitler Bell’ to Remain in German Church as a Memorial,” BBC News, February 27, 2018, sec. Europe, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43210993.

[4] Justin Huggler, “German Mayor Resigns in Row over Nazi Bell,” The Telegraph, September 7, 2017, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/07/german-mayor-resigns-row-nazi-bell/.

[5] Margaret Evans · CBC News ·, “Church Bell Inscribed with Hitler’s Name Prompts Soul-Searching in German Town | CBC News,” CBC, September 14, 2017, https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/nazi-bell-germany-controversy-1.4287318.

[6] Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com), “German Church Replaces Controversial Nazi Bell | DW | 29.09.2019,” DW.COM, https://www.dw.com/en/german-church-replaces-controversial-nazi-bell/a-50635389.

F.C. Barcelona: When a Football Team Becomes the Voice of Catalonia’s Independence

D.Khaznadji

In his official presentation earlier this week, Xavi Hernandez, the new coach of the superpower club F.C. Barcelona, stated: “Visca Barca y Visca Catalunya!” (Long live Barcelona and long live Catalonia).

While Barcelona is the capital of the autonomous community of Spain, why exactly did Xavi associate the well-being of F.C. Barcelona with Catalonia’s? What is the reason behind this seemingly overt political declaration? The answer lies in the club’s complicated history with its struggle for independence against a dictatorial regime. As a result of that history, “Barca” became a source of Catalan pride and a true symbol of resistance.

The club was founded in 1899 by Hans Gamper, who changed his first name to Juan after being seduced by the city of Barcelona. Barca quickly became successful in the following years, but politics soon got involved.

In the 1920s, the dictator Primo de Rivera was ruling over Spain, and the Catalans were never big fans of the central government. Noticing the sense of identity people took from supporting Barca, Gamper changed the official language of the club from the royal Castilian Spanish to the Catalan language. In 1925, when the crowd booed the Spanish national anthem before a game, de Rivera made his move and forcibly removed Gamper from office, who fell into depression and killed himself in 1930.

The years of the Spanish civil war were particularly painful for Barca as well. In 1936, the president of the club Josep Sunyol was murdered by pro-fascist because he supported Catalan independence. This episode is central to the memories of Catalans and Barca supporters. Today, with “Spain suffering economically and calls for independence on the rise, the club’s position as a nationalist symbol could grow ever more important alongside its triumphs on the pitch”.

Even today, it is not unusual to hear political chants in Camp Nou, Barca’s home stadium. Indeed, at precisely 17:14 of a game, you might hear the crowd shout “Independencia! Independencia!”. The timing here is very significant, for it was in 1714 that the Catalans lost a crucial war against the kingdom of Castille and signaled the beginning of their definite subordination to the central government.

F.C. Barcelona is thus a symbol of anti-fascism and democracy. Its tumultuous relationship with the central government in Madrid resulted in the club’s political significance. Its motto “Més que un club” (more than a club), has a heavy meaning and represents well Barca’s bond with the Catalan quest for independence.

F.C Barcelona’s business structure itself is a glimpse into the Catalan view of government. Unlike other big European clubs like Paris, Manchester, or Chelsea, which are either owned by rich Qatari statesmen, Saudi statesmen, or wealthy businessmen who call all the shots, Barcelona is owned by 143,000 members, who make decisions about the club through a democratic process:

“The club is an example to be followed,” Barcelona member Marta Ferre said. “We, as members, have the right to decide about our future, and the residents here in Catalonia want the same thing.”

Even players like Gerard Piqué publicly voiced their support for Catalonia’s independence, which caused him to get booed by fans of the Spanish national team. All of this points to the political role that F.C Barcelona plays in Spain. As the club reached unprecedented success in the last two decades, its vitrine of the Catalan struggle attracted even more supporters. Fans of Barcelona all around the world feel a connection with the club’s history. As I fan of this club myself, I know what I am talking about. At a young age, I got caught up in the rivalry with Madrid, the “King’s club”. This is the sort of thing you cannot escape if you decide to embark on this journey. Barcelona is Catalonia, and even you are only attracted to Barcelona’s sports results, you will inevitably get to see the politics involved.

Today, F.C. Barcelona is in the middle of a huge sporting and financial crisis. The appointment of Xavi as head coach is seen as the dawn of new age. The expectations are extremely high for this former player, who reached legendary status as he lifted virtually every trophy he possibly could. Xavi is considered to be the one who will re-establish the famous Barcelona way of playing, which used terrorized the biggest teams in Europe. The desperate quest for a strong identity on the pitch reflects this need for a “Barcelona exceptionalism”. In other words, the strong sense of distancing themselves from the mainstream and uniquely asserting themselves. This is what the Catalan struggle has been about: a fight against the establishment in hope of realizing a dream that would echo in the four corners of the world for generations to come.  

France’s Anti-Vaccination Movement

Alison Miller

The Gateway Drug to Populism – The Anti-Vaccine Movement

France has a long history tied to the modern vaccine movement, and a population that is heavily skeptical of vaccines of all kinds. Despite being the home country of one of the fathers of vaccination, a recent survey of French citizens showed that 33% of the French population surveyed do not believe in the efficacy of vaccines.

It might be easy to blame the export of the American anti-vaccine movement as solely responsible for France’s anti-vaxx dilemma, but France has been perfectly capable of brewing their own anti-vaxxers. The movement has incorporated imported American ingredients (the use of the English “Big Pharma” versus a French translation) with French anti-elite practices and anti-vaccine watershed moments, including health scandals from 1991, 2009 ,and 2010, and of course the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is a transnational movement, however, and much like populist ones, there are fundamental elements found in every version that are then adapted to particular locations. Issues of bodily autonomy, anti-intellectualism, and anti-elitism are found in every anti-vaccine movement, but these are flexible enough to fit right into French culture where flexibility is needed.

Populism and Vaccine Hesitancy

Given the similarities in populist and anti-vaxx movements ideologies, its unsurprising that early research finds close correlation between them. While anti-elitism and anti-intellectualism have already been mentioned, these groups often both include conspiracy theory, as well as creating in and out-groups, and, in extreme cases, resorting to violence.

The similarities also include blaming immigrants for national failures. This includes when the Front Nationale’s David Rachline placed the responsibility for the 2017 resurgence of preventable diseases at the feet of French immigrants, an argument against a new law the French government put forward calling for more mandatory childhood vaccines. Marine Le Pen herself waded in, reusing one of the anti-vaccine movement’s most frequent quips about vaccination, “nous connaissons assez peu les conséquences à long terme” as a retort against the bill. Both figures ignored the real cause for the outbreak (erratic and insufficient vaccination rates among the European population) in favour of creating a new anti-immigrant narrative.

COVID-19

COVID-19 has unsurprisingly exacerbated the anti-vaccine issue, as government mandated lockdowns, masks, and vaccines spark populist demonstrations in France. The anti-vaccine movement primed people to engage in these demonstrations, as the anti-vaxx movement had already introduced people to many of the same ideas present in both movements. The degree to which there is cross-over at these events is evident in the presence of far-right nationalist groups, including France’s version of UKIP – Les Patriotes.

These anti-vaccine and anti-vaccine passport demonstrations have also drawn on another populist fall-back: Anti-Semitism. Signs with anti-Semitic visuals, as well as the use of the yellow star the Nazis forced Jewish People to wear to identify them, and comparisons of vaccine mandates to the Holocaust and the Nazi occupation of France have all sprung up as part of the backlash against the Covid-19 vaccine mandates.

Despite the demonstrations and threats of violence, 76.6% of the French population is now vaccinated, a substantial step up from the concerns in January 2021 of the short-comings of the vaccination programme. This has taken effort at a lot of different levels, including television appearances promoting vaccination by President Macron, government vaccine mandates, and grass-roots level groups such as Les Vaxxeuses working anonymously on Facebook to promote accurate vaccine science.

Covid vaccination centres vandalised in France - BBC News

Image courtesy of BBC News

Piłsudski’s Poland: The Role of Collective Memory in Far-Right Nationalism

M. Guthrie

As November 11th approaches, with it comes not only the history of great personal sacrifice and trauma – but also that of deeply ingrained nationalism. This legacy pervades current European relations, with nationalist movements taking hold in a number of countries. What has been widely recognized as a solemn occasion, one which signifies the signing of the Armistice and the end of the First World War, has since become a source of ideological contention.

Poland’s recognition of November 11th presents itself as an interesting outlier of sorts. Serving as the nation’s Independence Day following occupation during the war, the day serves as a reminder of the importance of the Polish national identity and independence – though has been taken to rather extremist lengths. In particular, the annual Polish March of Independence has drawn all sorts from the woodwork, inadvertently making it what has been deemed as “one of the largest far-right gatherings in the world.”

Poland court approves far-right ′independence march′ in Warsaw | News | DW  | 08.11.2018
Far-right supporters march on Polish Independence Day. Image sourced from: https://static.dw.com/image/46219108_303.jpg

Amassing tens of thousands of participants, the event attracts far-right extremists not only from Poland itself, but from all corners of the globe – coming together to support their fellow nationalists. Frequently dissolving into violent clashes, the March has become a deeply unsettling event rife with hatred towards those who do not meet the values of the unified Polish identity.

However, the Polish government has done little to contain the event in recent years – even amidst growing concerns regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from attempts to ban the March by the Polish court, as well as recent comments made on Twitter by Warsaw’s mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski (who deemed the gathering as “an unlawful assembly,”) the general response surrounding the event has been lukewarm.

Though given the nation’s overarching sentiments surrounding issues such as the refugee crisis, immigration, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, perhaps this is unsurprising. The presence of such ideological beliefs within Poland’s government has allowed far-right thought to flourish. For this reason, November 11th serves as far more than just a celebration of national history and achievement, instead coming to represent the deeply ingrained nationalistic tendencies at play within the country.  

So, independence from what exactly?

Each year, crowds flock to Piłsudski Square in the nation’s capital to commemorate not only the end of the First World War, but also the end of occupation by the Central Powers – Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. Free from this external intervention, Józef Piłsudski was named Temporary Head of State in 1918, going on to re-establish Poland as the independent nation-state it is today.

During his five years in office, Piłsudski worked to establish a stable house of governance, the Seym (or Sejm), developed and revitalized the national military, and established a number of allies – developing connections with Lithuania and the Ukrainian Peoples’ Republic (now Ukraine). Piłsudski even went on to serve in the nation’s best interest in the years following his retirement. Suffice to say, Piłsudski has maintained his position as a central figure in the nation’s history, serving as an inspiration for nationalists to pin their ideologies upon.

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Piłsudski (fourth from left), Head of Polish State from 1918-1922. Image sourced from: https://kafkadesk.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Pilsudski-May-Coup.jpg

With this historical origin in mind, it is unsurprising that swathes of the population have continued to uphold the strong sense of identity and ideals established by Piłsudski and his successors – with President Andrzej Duda evoking the memory of Piłsudski in a recent statement.

“We can safely say that those victors who not only regained the Republic of Poland for all of us, but who were also able to defend it in difficult moments, are still a model for all Polish soldiers, for Polish officers, and I do not hesitate to say – for all Poles.”

Breaking or Building Barriers?

While there had been some debate as to whether the event will happen this year, it appears that organizers fully intend to push on with the March –  going against government regulation and fears regarding rising COVID-19 numbers. Violence clashes with police are to be expected, as in previous years the Independence March has dissolved into chaos that has injured officers and members of the public alike. In 2020, far-right extremists reportedly set fire to a housing complex after seeing a pride flag hung in the window.

Far-right extremists espouse hate at a rally in Poland. Image sourced from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/poland-defends-weekend-rally-organized-far-right-1.4400147

Perhaps most worrying is that there is a demonstration for women’s rights set to take place along the same route – presenting an even further threat to Polish women, whose bodily autonomy has already become the subject of much debate after a near-total ban on abortion.  

Despite aforementioned attempts to stop this year’s Polish March of Independence, President Andrzej Duda and the Polish Government (in both their inaction and ideology) have ultimately allowed the nation’s far-right perspectives to run rampant, further advertising vicious ideologies of nationalism and extremism to the broader public.

Cut Off Fascism and Neo-Fascism Will Grow In Its Place: Regrowth Destabilization ; the ‘Other’

Wesley M.

The Far-Right’s subtle attempt at re-legitimizing their movement into acceptability within mainstream politics has met with marked success. Why have the democratic governments struggled greatly against this rising tide of neo-fascistic groups when the fascists were defeated in 1945? Well to answer, I’ll explore a quote from a 2014 Marvel film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, specifically where Armin Zola is describing how the Fascist/Nazist terrorist organization HYDRA has returned from within the democratic security organization S.H.I.E.L.D.

What we did not realize was that if you tried to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly.  After the war, S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded, and I was recruited. The new HYDRA grew, a beautiful parasite inside S.H.I.E.L.D. For 70 years, HYDRA has been secretly feeding crises, reaping war.

There’s a lot to unpack within this for explaining how the real-world fascist movements have regrown within our current era.

The first thing is this line “What we did not realize was that if you tried to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly.” Referencing how fascists post-1945 changed tactics from fighting the system, to instead work from within the system in order to re-establish their own legitimacy in the public eye and one day regain their former power from the willing masses. This working within the system strategy became a heckuva lot easier because of how many fascists were able to evade justice after World War II due to Cold War realities necessitating the reintegration of various fascistic officials into a democratic societal structure to help with the war effort against the communist forces of the Soviet Union (for example see Operation Paperclip on Wikipedia). This decision by the victorious powers inadvertently allowed many fascists the opportunity to be able to successfully reintegrate into society.

Upon reintegrating then the fascists had to 1. capitalize on or 2. create the necessary conditions that would ensure their return to power (This will be explored below). For capitalizing on necessary conditions one has to look no further than the French’s Nouvelle Droite (ND) giving various French far-right leaders the focus on cultural hegemonic preservation, specifically preserving “‘authentic’ regions of Europe against the onslaught of non-European immigrants.” Contemporarily this refers to European difficulties accepting Islamic culture, which combined with the migration crisis of the past decade, has allowed for far-right neofascist ideas to seem acceptable within many European countries, such as Hungarian fascist leader Viktor Orban legally promoting repression and anti-immigration loss against his ‘Other’ Muslim migrants.

The second relevant quote’s part is where Zola says “The new HYDRA grew, a beautiful parasite inside S.H.I.E.L.D. ” This can be used to explore how fascists have been able to undermine democratic institutions from within in a wide variety of countries. In postwar Italy for example neofascists were able to achieve deep state influence from 1970s-1990s behind the scenes as well as directly through their wide network of supporters in key positions within the Italian government, military, civil service, which in turn recompensed their lack of public power. This turns us to the final relevant part of the quote is “For 70 years, HYDRA has been secretly feeding crises, reaping war.” This is relevant because it can be used to explore how fascists have been able to use the destabilization within the democratic structures over the past several decades in order to destabilize society. For example postwar Italy had un-persecuted fascists retaining  political connections, allowing neofascists to use the high level of influence let them orchestrate various conspiracies against the Italian democracy from within, while preventing any politically left party gaining power, with the eventual result being Italy’s government being exposed as corrupt, which in turn allowed for the re-legitimization of the Italian far-right within the public political sphere as an acceptable alternative. In addition a more contemporary example would be how a destabilized France has far-right Marine Le Pen seeking support of other far -right leaders like Orban to support her on topics such as France’s problems with migrants and the EU to shore up her power bases before the election.

Looking at the world today, have geopolitical issues such as migration become so fearful and have democratic institutions become so ineffective “that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security” which could lead to neofascist/far-right groups gaining power en masse? The answer is worth pondering as the upcoming French and Hungarian elections loom.

Bibliography:

“Operation Paperclip.” In Wikipedia, November 11, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Paperclip.

Amyot, Grant. The shadow of fascism over the Italian Republic. Humaff 21, 35–43 (2011). http://link.springer.com.proxy.library.carleton.ca/article/10.2478/s13374-011-0005-9.

Chadwick, Lauren. “Why Are France’s Far-Right Politicians Paying Visits to Viktor Orban?” Euronews, October 29, 2021, sec. World. https://www.euronews.com/2021/10/29/why-are-france-s-far-right-politicians-paying-visits-to-viktor-orban.

Griffin, Roger. “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum.’” Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 8, no. 1 (Feb. 2000): pp. 35–53. https://doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2011.585013.

Kalmar, Ivan. “Islamophobia and anti-semitism: the case of Hungary and the ‘Soros Plot” Patterns and Prejudice Vol. 54 (1-2) (2020): 182-98. https://doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2019.1705014.

Moeller, Robert. “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” German History Vol. 31, Issue 4 (December 2013): 497-522. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerhis/ght065.

Russo, Anthony, and Joe Russo. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 2014. https://www.amazon.ca/Captain-America-Soldier-Blu-ray-Bilingual/dp/B00KHD5FK0/ref=tmm_trd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=.

A Murderer could Pass The Fit-and Proper Person’s Test

“Sportswashing launders the reputations of thugs and despots, but it also diminishes our democratic institutions.”

Nicholas McGeehan, co-director of Fair\Square

Declan Da Barp

Once a proud club, that finished runners-up in the early years of the Premier League, Newcastle United has been in the doldrums of English football. Much like the surrounding area, the football club was subject to a lack of investment that left it floundering. That was until Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the Public Investment Fund purchased the club for £300 Million.

In an instance, the Magpies became the wealthiest club in world football. This sent the people of Newcastle pilgriming to St. James’ Park, some with tablecloths on their heads and Saudi Arabian flags, to celebrate what they see as the revival of their club.

Hours after the Purchase of Newcastle United hundreds flocked to St. James’ Park, their place of worship. A place that for so long only provided pain. [Lee Smith/Action Images Via Reuters]

This was the exact reaction that bin Salman was hoping to illicit. It is one of a growing number of examples within the English Game of sportswashing.

The global reach and appeal of the Premier League have attracted the attention of nefarious actors who aim to purify their image through the game. It is time that real regulations are put into place that prevents the financial doping of clubs for authoritarian gains.

Sportswashing works and that is what is so dangerous.

Sportswashing is rather hard to define but in its simplest terms, it is the attempt by an individual, corporation, or state to cleanse its global image through sport. Or to borrow a phrase from Nicholas McGeehan, co-director of Fair\Square an organization that researches human rights abuse, and promotes accountability and the rule of law,
“Sportswashing launders the reputations of thugs and despots, but it also diminishes our democratic institutions.”

The term has a long history dating back to the fascist dictators of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

In the Premier League itself, the practice dates to as early as 2003 when Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea. While his reasons remain opaque, the Oligarch transformed a floundering Chelsea into one of the most powerful teams in the sport. His liberal attitude to spending, including two billion Pounds in his first decade, has received widespread praise.

Roman Abramovich lifting the 2012 Champions League Trophy. [Alex Livesey/Getty Images]

Abramovich has been a key Putin ally since his rise to power and has maintained his wealth while many oligarchs, including former business partner Boris Berezovsky, have lost theirs.

Despite the claims of corruption, there was no regulatory process to prevent the takeover, the first “fit-and-proper-person test” was introduced in 2004. While it promised to be a document that would prevent bad-faith actors from entering the game through ownership it is weak and spineless.

How can a man who has been deemed to have ordered the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi be judged as fit and proper?

“It has destroyed his (Salman’s) reputation, he’s desperately trying to use these types of deals to repair his image,” Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancé, told the Athletic after the takeover.  

The Premier League insists that the PIF is not Saudi Arabia; this is although the investments are controlled by bin Salman himself and the board appointed by royal decree. The takeover itself has been in talks as early as April 2020. 

Bin Salman at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final speaking with Gianni Infantino, head of FIFA. A match that other authoritarians attended such as Putin (seen in shot) and Viktor Orban.

The initial hold-up, a licencing deal between BeIN Sports, the Premier Leagues’ primary broadcasters in the Middle East – there was no issue with the PIF and bin Salman passing the owner’s and director’s test. This shows the true preoccupation of the Premier League, money. There were no issues welcoming a murderous, human right abusing regime, but rather ensuring that the broadcasting of the sport within the region was the only concern.

On October 6, 2021, the issues surrounding BeIN were resolved the Premier League welcomed its newest investor.

This indifference creates an environment for others whose aim is to manipulate, obscure, and pollute football with populism and authoritarianism. One that without proper regulation, that includes a more nuanced view of global issues – frankly one that takes seriously human rights – that the Premier League can be shielded from more bad-faith actors.

Abramovich was an early adopter but sportswashing is alive in the English game, and the League has turned a blind eye to the reality of it.

The EU, Hungary and Democracy

Kathleen McKinnon

Hungary is facing an election soon, but it is no longer news that the democracy in this European Country is “backsliding.” There is no shortage of issues with the democracy of this country and the rights that become compromised as it continues to move in a populist, right-winged direction. The country for some years, especially with the rise of the Fidesz party and Viktor Orban as its leader, has been heading in a direction of illiberalism and in opposition to core values of the EU, specifically liberal democracy which can easily slip into authoritarianism. For some reason, however, the European Union (EU) allows this to continue- not even in their backyard but right in one of their own Member States. European values are not only democratic but they ensure the protection of the people against tyranny and oppression. As can be seen in some recent moves by the Hungarian government, the slide into a non-democratic state looms closer. 

In light of the recent election, some focus has been put on observing what the Fidesz party is doing which has resulted in noticing some interesting legislation that furthers the illiberal state of the country. It is no surprise that the opposition parties are concerned with the recent vote by the party in government to set a two-thirds parliamentary threshold to dismiss the chief prosecutor. This is in the wake of many changes recently that the opposition parties say are to preserve Orban’s influence if in the upcoming election he is defeated. These efforts could result in Orban nominating an ally as Hungary’s president just before the elections. This means that democracy is further threatened in Hungary as Orban and his party take further measures to create a monopoly on power for their right-wing views even after they leave, if that happens. This type of manipulation of government is a corrupting factor and a worrisome indicator of how slowly but surely the country is losing its democratic features and what’s next maybe the loss of opposition parties altogether. The EU is alarmed at this matter but remains relatively unable to fix the situation through its own pressures. 

Viktor Orban’s party has been a right-wing thorn in the side of the EU and a symptom of a democratic issue in Eastern European Member States. Orban is quoted as saying “They would force us to be European, sensitive and liberal – even if it kills us” this shows how the European identity has been slipping in this country, and despite the benefits it receives from the EU, has become a skeptic of the values they are supposed to share. This is also a symptom that the far right is alive and well in Europe, so much so that the democratic charter of countries is not safe. And after the country has become illiberal, what does the EU have to say? In fact, the EU has been outspoken on the matter but little continues to be done. The EU is built on democracy and democratic values and now faces the new issue of what to do when this important foundation is being compromised. Especially since illiberal regimes have others as their allies within the EU, such as Poland, also outside, such as Russia (even now Hungry will be producing the Sputnik V vaccine). It is hard for the EU to find a mechanism strong enough to change the situation. However, something needs to be done even if little by little and being outspoken against the regime and its mechanisms are not enough. 

The EU has a duty to protect its citizens from illiberalism (everyone who is a citizen of an EU Member State is also a citizen of the EU), democracy was the deal Hungary signed on for when it joined the EU after all. Clearly, unless voted out, the Fidesz party will continue on its anti-EU trajectory and continue with its democratic backsliding as well. The situation shows how the issues of populism happening in the Eastern Member States need to be addressed by the EU, and although not easily done through the mechanisms in place for such issues, this compromises the integrity of what the EU is built on. 

The Anti-LGBTQ Agenda in Poland

Emma C

The 21st century is a time when society has been most progressive in terms of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and overall being more accepting to all. There has been some pushback to this trend with some countries returning to more traditional values and ideas, many of which have right wing governments. One country in particular who has started moving back to the right is Poland with its current party in power, Law and Justice.

The Law and Justice party built their platform on right leaning traditional values. With Poland having a historically large Catholic population, it shouldn’t be surprising that the government would reflect the same values. The Law and Justice party was founded by Jaroslaw Kaczyński and his twin brother in 2001 on the basis of strong nationalistic ideas and radical viewpoints. The main focus of their platform was to build upon the idea of Polish national identity.

In this situation national identity is defined as a set of characteristics, whether it be race, culture, etc with which citizens of a nation use to identify themselves as being a part of their country. The Law and Justice party have built their notion of Polish national identity as being traditional, with gender roles, religion and a Poland first ideology. The use of national identity allows the far-right government to build an “us versus them” condition, where it is Poland, meaning those with more traditional views, against those who want to see a more progressive side to their country and do not want to return to traditional values.

An example of the “us versus them” stance taking place in Poland right now is the othering of the LGBTQ community. The Law and Justice party advertises themselves as being at the front of a crusade to save traditional family values and the LGBTQ community threatens this campaign. The government claims that the LGBTQ ideology is a movement based on foreign ideas formed from Western and foreign influence in Poland. This idea of foreign interference also fuels the “us versus them” battle in Poland, as the government advocates traditional values and says that all other mindsets are a result of foreign influence.

The tactics that the far-right government is currently using in Poland is reminiscent of other far-right groups in history. Parties build their platform on the idea of nationalism and national identity and convince their followers that they are doing what is best for their country. Traditionally these parties are governed by religious undertones, with religious values influencing policies. These policies and alignments can be harmful as state and Church are no longer separate and a party’s religious beliefs can start to govern the country. As in the case of Poland, it is harmful as a right-wing party with a Catholic leader is allowing their religious beliefs to dictate laws in the country, most notably, being that the Catholic religion does not support the LGBTQ community and this influence can be seen throughout Poland through LBGTQ exclusion zones and the government’s public disownment of the community.

Resolutions have passed creating LGBTQ Free Zones in Poland, stating that it is supporting traditional family values and that the LGBTQ community is a threat to the concept of a proper family model. The resolution states that Poland has been shaped by the centuries-old heritage of Christianity and same sex relationships are a threat to traditional Christian identity. Regions covering the population of about 10 million people have adopted the idea of LGBTQ-free zones.

With the government stating that LGBTQ people are a bigger threat to Polish nationalism than communism, it instills fear into people. Fear is one of the main ways that far-right governments control people by teaching them to fear what they do not know or understand, rather than trying to learn about the differences and share facts and information.

With Poland moving back towards more traditional Christian beliefs and values and creating anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, segregation and distrust of the community, it begs the question, will Poland be the only one? With progress towards acceptance in many areas of the globe gaining momentum, it more important than ever to continue the fight for equality and share stories of progress as sitting idly by while countries regress to a place of intolerance, hatred and distrust will only cause more harm and make the fight more difficult for the future. Poland is displaying characteristics that the rest of the world needs to pay attention to in order to support a marginalized community. Allowing those characteristics to turn into policy and mainstream thought will only fuel other countries teetering on the edge of positive change to be drawn back in to the inequitable past.

Notion of Otherness in Europe

D.Khaznadji

The current migration issue sparked numerous debates in Europe, and it has of course provided far-right groups with new fuel for their ideological purposes. Kalmar uses the case of Hungary to show how Islamophobia became a tool for perpetuating attitudes that were rooted in antisemitism. This new “anti-antisemitism”, where far-right leaders distance themselves from antisemitism and embrace islamophobia, can be exemplified by the coining of the term “Islamo-gauchsime”. This term is especially popular in France and refers to the two enemies the far-Right is fighting in Europe: Islam and the left. This is very reminiscent of the term “judo-bolshevism”, which once again refers to the two enemies believed to be lethal to Europe: Judaism and communism. All of this is to say that Kalmar’s argument seemed pretty convincing to me. Today, it is not unusual to see far-right advocates going as far as voicing their support for Israel and at the same time treating Muslims as a problematic community that needs to be dealt with. 

Indeed, being a Muslim in the West can lead to an identity crisis. Trying to reconcile liberal, secular values with the traditionalism established in the private sphere can become exhausting. This leads to the belief that Islam is necessarily incompatible with Europe. What is overlooked here is that Islam is not in contradiction with culture, for as long as it does not oppose Islam’s fundamental rules. Thus, a European Muslim will have a European culture. It might sound obvious but I think it is important to say it. Right-wing groups in France make the mistake of associating Islam with north-African and Subsaharan culture. As Kalmar points out, people like the Bosnians are Muslims indigenous to Europe. History also has examples of a European Muslim state like al-Andalus, which was an example of inter-religious cohabitation. 

Turkey offers a good example of the clash between Islam and secularism. I found it interesting how Erdogan uses the notion of the Black Turk (the pious Muslim from the Anatolian provinces) as being oppressed by the White Turk (the secular, francophone from Istanbul). This racial form of populism allowed him to discredit his opponents in moments of crisis. And even though Turkey has been trying to become part of the EU, it should be noted that other ideologies are also becoming increasingly influential, such as Turkish and Turanism, which can make Turkey move away from Europe and turn to the East, more specifically to its Turkic relatives. 

Evolving politics of the ‘Other’ in Europe

By Bing

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.