By Lauren McCoy
In our seminar discussions, we have previously considered how within fascist discourses, specific terms become empty signifier that collapse multiple strands of thought and become embedded with an ethical dimension. Within the multiple misappropriation and incorrect uses of terms within anti-genderism, the comparison of abortion to the Holocaust among Polish nationalist struck me as especially interesting. While I can understand how academic terms can become removed from and expanded beyond their original definition – as with the case of Gender analysis – I thought part of this misuse might be rooted in their lack of use in public lexicon prior to their misappropriation. As the Peto and Butler article highlight, Gender studies was largely invisible in national consciousness prior to it being used by right politicians across Europe, allowing these groups to create a new, alternative understanding of these terms.
Yet this isn’t the case with anti-abortion protesters use of the Holocaust. When first considering this issue, I thought it was strange how an event with such a strong image and understanding within public memory could become misused, especially with the many memorials and novels/films that reaffirm a specific historical narrative regarding the Holocaust. Perhaps the answer lies in Poland’s unique and complicated public memory and complicated relationship with the Holocaust, which may have contributed to their ability to manipulate the image and emotion evoked by the Holocaust. Yet still I’m left wondering – what are the qualities that connected the terms and ideas that become misappropriated by alt-right discourses? While reoccurring ideas can appear within fascist rhetoric (including anti-immigration, white supremacy, a support for “traditional” values regarding the family and gender roles), since fascist do not rely on factual or historical evidence to support their claims, it seems like even the most well-understood ideas can become warped. Do alt-right groups latch onto any terms that become widely circulated (for instances, I thought it was amazingly ironic that gender ideology is described as “ideological colonization” by Pope Francis, maybe reflecting increasing discussions surrounding the impacts of colonialism?) or is there another quality that they also latch onto? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!