Des Freedman and How to Fix Media Policy – Andrew Devenish

In “Populism and media policy failure”, Des Freedman in my opinion correctly points out many issues which enable and support the growth of populist and far-right movements in the US and the UK. In particular, he cites “policy silences” and “policy failures” in four main areas where there has not been enough done by government policy to encourage a healthy environment for media and journalism. These four issues are the failure to tackle concentrated ownership, the failure to regulate tech companies, the failure to safeguard an effective fourth estate (investigative journalism), and failure to nurture independent public service media. In my opinion, Freedman’s analysis of the policy failures and silences in these four areas are spot-on and highlight real, important issues that help enable the growth of populist movements too much. However, Freedman’s solution to these problems leaves something to be desired.

Essentially, Freedman wants a total shift in the approach to media policy and calls this new approach a “redistributive” media policy. However, it’s unclear what this actually means. For instance, when Freedman correctly points out issues with commercial media (they go where profits can be found), and public service media (funding can complicate things and journalism can get too close to government), he doesn’t elaborate on how a “redistributive” policy would solve these problems. He is happy to say in his conclusion what problems would be solved by this new policy paradigm but neglects to explain how they would be solved. This paradigm would be “designed to cater to the needs above all of disaffected citizens” but it is once again unclear what that would entail. Would media companies be publicly owned, or commercial entities? How would these companies under this new paradigm operate to ensure that they properly serve the public’s interests? Perhaps it isn’t Freedman’s goal to make policy recommendations, but after he so astutely points out many areas where policy can be improved, his solutions are rather less satisfying.

Op/Ed 2: Religion, Populism, and Authoritarianism – Andrew Devenish

Since its founding in 1923 as a democratic nation after the fall of the religious Ottoman Empire, Turkey has officially been secular. Unique in its geographic region, Turkey has a long tradition of secular politics despite its overwhelming religious majority of Muslims. However, that has been changing recently.

Turkey was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, forming the Republic of Turkey and serving as its first President for many years. Despite Turkey’s secularism not being written into its constitution at the time of its founding, secularism was a strong principle of Ataturk’s, so he amended the constitution in 1928 to include a mandate of secularism. This was an extraordinary feat – just a few years earlier the Ottoman Empire had reigned, which was a fundamentalist Islamic empire which had controlled vast territory as a caliphate, and which was now, only six years after its fall, constitutionally a democratic, secular republic. Ataturk accomplished all this within a few short years after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, but his work is now at risk.

In the past, whenever Turkey’s government strayed too far from its secular roots or overstepped its authority, there has been a military coup. Whether it’s a good or bad thing for the military to overthrow the government (it’s bad), these coups have done their jobs. Turkey has had five successful coups since the country’s founding, but the last one was in 1997, with a failed coup occurring recently, in 2016. Over the recent years, Turkey has been leaning further and further into its religious side. This doesn’t come as a total surprise – any nation with a 98% majority of one religion, as Turkey has with Islam, would likely cater its laws and practices toward that vast majority. However, this goes against Turkey’s original secular ideals. Especially since its current leader, Erdogan has come to power, Turkey has faced much criticism over the state of its religiosity. As an authoritarian, Erdogan exercises the use of religion within his state, which promotes religious fundamentalism. The government has built mosques and religious schools, changed the education system to include more instruction in Islam, and politicians and national leaders frequently use religious language to garner support. The Turkish government is acting as though Islam is an official religion and supporting it publicly. For example, when the Turkish president says that Muslims discovered America, before Columbus did (the Vikings discovered it long before anyone else), by saying that Columbus saw a mosque in what is now Cuba, that is the head of state for a secular nation promoting Islam. He is not saying the Turkish people or Turkey discovered America, he is saying Muslims did it. These invasions of religion into the responsibilities of government flies in the face of the purpose of secularism. But it’s working. Turkey is nearly 99% majority Muslim. That is an incredibly high percentage of people that are religious, so it’s something all politicians can appeal to. The move away from secularism for Turkey is a calculated populist move – pairing religion with populism is extremely effective. What better way to appeal to the common person than with a common religion? We can see how well it works by looking at election results. Erdogan’s own party, the AKP, has consistently won elections with large majorities for nearly 20 years. Erdogan isn’t just a religious authoritarian, he’s a populist that uses religion to fuel his populism. But Turkey’s populist leader isn’t just pro-Islam, he is also anti-Christian. Outside of the Muslim majority, the next largest religious denominations are Christian, which make up around 0.2% of the population. According to a US watchdog, Christians in Turkey are facing increased religious persecution. This is just another example of the authoritarian populist Erdogan’s government getting involved in religion and overstepping its traditionally secular authority.

If Turkey is to return to the secular society envisioned by Ataturk nearly a hundred years ago, something must be done. The government’s involvement in religion as well as the rhetoric used by politicians and leaders like Erdogan must be stopped if Turkey is to regain its position as a secular and democratic leader in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. A military coup may not be the ideal answer, but this trend will only continue if the power of populists like Erdogan are left unchecked.

 

Works Cited

Ackerman, Elliot. “Atatürk Versus Erdogan: Turkey’s Long Struggle.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 26 Oct. 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/ataturk-versus-erdogan-turkeys-long-struggle.

Bekdil, Burak. “Pillars of Turkey’s Islamization: Schools, Mosques, and Prisons.” Middle East Forum, 27 Sept. 2016, http://www.meforum.org/6315/pillars-of-islamization-in-turkey.

Butler, Daren. “With More Islamic Schooling, Erdogan Aims to Reshape Turkey.” Reuters, Reuters, 25 Jan. 2018, http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/turkey-erdogan-education/.

“Christians in Turkey Face Increased Persecution – U.S. Watchdog.” Ahval, 24 July 2019, ahvalnews.com/freedom-religion/christians-turkey-face-increased-persecution-us-watchdog.

“Erdogan Hits Back at Ridicule of Claim Muslims Discovered America.” The Guardian, Agence France-Presse, 18 Nov. 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/18/erdogan-ridicule-muslims-discovered-america.

Raja, Raza Habib. “Is Turkey Transforming into a Fundamentalist Religious State?” The Express Tribune Blogs, 19 Apr. 2017, blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/48916/is-turkey-transforming-into-a-fundamentalist-religious-state/.

 

Comparing the Holocaust to Everything

In analyzing how we treat Europe’s refugee crisis, Dan Stone makes the argument that our actions and the lens we view such things through is heavily influence by World War II and the Holocaust specifically. Stone says that the world never properly came to terms with the Holocaust, and so now it colours the way we think about all kinds of different crises. For example, we might not pay attention to something as much as we should if we deem it ‘not as bad as the Holocaust.’ Stone invokes a 1945 quote from Alan Moorehead that warns that the “danger of indifference” will always be present, bringing up many tragedies that happened over the course of the war which Europeans didn’t care to hear about, unlike the Holocaust, which was huge news. There is a paradox here in how we treat crises or tragedies. For example, we have a tendency to analyze tragedies in regard to how they compare to the Holocaust, which either leads to an incorrect likening of some tragedy to the Holocaust, or if we do not liken some tragedy to the Holocaust, it is downplayed and minimized because it is ‘not as bad as the Holocaust.’ Stone says that it is correct that Europe’s current refugee crisis is not like the Holocaust, but once we begin to insist upon that idea, there is the danger that we don’t respond seriously enough to the problem. For Stone, this seems to stem from the idea that the Cold War was not comprised of the postwar period, and that the postwar period could not happen until the end of the Cold War, so we are only now grappling with the consequences of World War II and the Holocaust, as we try to compare them with every new crisis. However, Stone does not provide any solutions to this problem which he, in my opinion correctly, identifies. How can we properly analyze and take notice of tragedies that went unnoticed by Europeans in World War II and accurately and appropriately respond to the current refugee crisis?

The Nouvelle Droit and Online Discourse – Andrew Devenish

As a political movement and “cultural school of thought” formed in France in 1968, the Nouvelle Droit (or ND) gave a new paradigm for the right in Europe, allowing the right to take inspiration from CR thinkers who supported fascism. While Bor-an says the ND is not a fascist movement, it has connections and roots in fascism. When he was accused of covert racism and fascism by Roger Griffin, Alain de Benoist ardently denied these claims, instead calling himself an “anti-fascist” and “anti-racist”. Benoist does not believe that the way forward for Europe is in socialism or liberalism, and that electoral politics or violence is not the way to power. Instead, Benoist wants to implement a vision of a pan-European “Europe of a Hundred Flags” in which every regional ethnicity would have sovereignty, and the way to achieve this is through a cultural hegemony in which the ND comes to control the dominant values in society.

Bor-an argues that the ND and Benoist, with their “politically correct” language and the CR legacy of an “anti-fascist fascism” have influenced many movements on the right since the 1970s, and I would argue that these ideas continue to influence the right to this day, specifically prominently in online discourse. You can see much of the ND in political discourse online today, with many people using the “politically correct” language of the ND, with less innocuous political ideas hiding behind that language, just like with the ND itself. Specifically, the idea of the “Europe of a Hundred Flags”, is similar to the ideas that are featured prominently in right-wing political discussions online today. This is the idea that every ethnic group deserves its own sovereign identity and political organization, and that immigrants should be expelled so that each country in Europe can be its own homogenous society, with Europe as a continent being “regionally diverse”. However, there is one major difference between the ND and this online political discourse – Christianity. Since the ND is a pagan movement and much of the online right that espouses ND-esque language and views, this is one area where the two groups would have major disagreements, and as Bor-an notes, this pagan orientation is a major reason why the ND has struggled to find allies in the past. However, it hasn’t fully stopped the ND from making alliances in the past, and whether the ND and online right have any actual direct connections or not, they have many similarities in their tactics and strategies.

Shifting Attitudes Toward the Holocaust in the Postwar Period – Andrew Devenish

The postwar decades of the 20th century were a time of great change, both in how perpetrators and victims were viewed by the public. As Germany split into a capitalist side and a communist side, its approach to justice also fractured, changing further once the two halves were reunited in the 1990s. As Fulbrook points out, East and West Germany took very different approaches to prosecuting Nazis that remained in their borders as well as abroad. West Germany was more lenient – it considered “I was just following orders” a valid defense and it prided itself on the ability to show mercy to perpetrators and move on from the horrors of the Holocaust and the war. However, East Germany took a hardline stance against those who committed crimes for the Nazi party, with harsher sentences and no credibility given to the defense of following orders. However, in their own way East Germany also valued the ability to move on from what had happened in the past, as “due consideration” as given to Zimmerman’s change as he became a productive member of society, as well as the apparently real remorse he expressed in his confessions of guilt. Then, once Germany was reunified and a brand-new system had to contend with trials of Nazi perpetrators, there was a renewed desire to see them brought to justice, despite the fact that there were so few left to prosecute after so long.

We can also see shifts in the public perception of such trials over time from audience reactions to Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg as outlined by Moeller, in addition to the insights into the justice systems of Germany explained by Fulbrook. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was great public interest in Germany for things like Anne Frank’s diary and the Eichmann trial in Israel, and Kramer’s film also assisted in bringing these issues back to the forefront of the public consciousness in Germany. Many German critics focused on the lack of authentic details in the film while praising its bravery and important subject matter, whereas in the years immediately following the war, many Germans were too occupied with their own hardships to take a proper look at what hap happened with the Nuremberg Trials. As time went on, the issues of the Holocaust and Nazi perpetrators became more important in the minds of Germans.

Op/Ed 1: Turkey’s Authoritarian Leader – Andrew Devenish

As Turkey goes on the offensive in Syria against Kurdish-led fighters, international attention has been tightly focused on its issues. More and more people are being exposed to Turkey’s problems with corruption, censorship, oppression, and authoritarianism. The country was founded as a secular nation after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire but seems to be regressing back into a religious fundamentalist state and cracking down on any and all political dissidents. What lessons can Turkey learn from other authoritarian states in history?

Apparently, too many. Turkey’s current leader, President Erdogan, is an authoritarian. He’s the leader of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, a far-right party that continuously undermines the supposedly secular nature of Turkey’s government and likes to dip its toes into religious fundamentalism. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded Turkey as a secular republic in 1923 but has since struggled with controversy over whether or not it is holding true to its secular founding principles, and Erdogan’s AKP has been overseeing this controversy and in power in most years since 2002. Throughout that time, Erdogan, as the leader of the AKP, has given himself more and more powers through referendums and reforms. As Hitler rose to power, he dedicated more and more governmental powers to himself and eliminated political opponents, concentrating political power in his own office. Erdogan is doing the same thing. For 95 years Turkey was a parliamentary democracy, with the Prime Minister being the most powerful office. That remained true while Erdogan was Prime Minister. Then, when he was elected to the office of President in 2014, then a mostly symbolic position, he began granting himself more powers, becoming more powerful than the prime minister. Then, after a 2017 referendum and a 2018 election, the office of Prime Minister was eliminated entirely, and Turkey has since adopted a presidential system, increasing Erdogan’s own power and diminishing the power of parliament. Historically, it makes sense for an authoritarian to consolidate political power in his own office and eliminate positions that could challenge or check his power, as the Nazis did in the 1930s.

Another classic authoritarian tactic is censorship and media crackdown. The Nazis made use of all forms of media to further their goals. They eliminated dissenting newspapers and directly controlled the press, using propaganda to convince the German people of anything they wished, and keeping tight control to make sure no voices could be heard that didn’t echo what they were saying themselves. The Nazis arrested dissidents and suppressed free speech to keep control of what was allowed to be said in Germany. Erdogan has gone on the record to cite Hitler’s Germany as an example of the kind of state he wants to run, so it comes as no surprise that he would copy the tactics of Hitler when it comes to free speech. Turkey has a history of jailing journalists and dissidents, blocking social media sites and news websites that do not carry an explicitly pro-Turkey or pro-Erdogan message. Turkey also has its own genocide under its belt, with over a million Armenians killed under Ottoman rule in World War I, for which Turkey has never officially apologized, offering only some vague condolences in reference to Armenians that died in 1915.

A supposedly secular, free and fair society has been corrupted and controlled by Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies and is slowly but surely turning into an authoritarian state modeled after many of Hitler’s own ideas. While it isn’t quite time to point to Turkey as a fascist state or a genocidal one, Erdogan’s many similarities to Hitler cannot and should not be ignored by anyone, as they launch a major military invasion of another country to wipe out the Kurds in Syria.

Works Cited

Dearden, Lizzie. “Turkey Quickly Sliding into Authoritarian Rule after Move to Increase Erdogan’s Powers.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 30 Dec. 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/turkey-increase-executive-powers-president-recep-tayyip-erdogan-authoritarian-rule-government-a7501666.html.

“Erdogan Inaugurates a New Political Era in Turkey.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 28 June 2018, http://www.economist.com/europe/2018/06/28/erdogan-inaugurates-a-new-political-era-in-turkey.

Hubbard, Ben, and Carlotta Gall. “Turkey Launches Offensive Against U.S.-Backed Syrian Militia.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Oct. 2019, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/09/world/middleeast/turkey-attacks-syria.html.

“The Press in the Third Reich.” Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/the-press-in-the-third-reich.

Tures, John A. “It’s No Surprise That Turkey’s Erdogan Likes Adolf Hitler’s Government.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Dec. 2017, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/its-no-surprise-that-turk_b_8903734.

Withnall, Adam. “Turkey’s President Erdogan Cites ‘Hitler’s Germany’ as an Example of Effective Government.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 1 Jan. 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/turkey-president-recep-tayyip-erdogan-cites-hitler-germany-as-example-of-effective-government-a6792756.html.

Yildiz, Guney. “Turkey Offers Condolences to Armenia over WWI Killings.” BBC News, BBC, 23 Apr. 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27131543.

The Passivity of Women in Fascist Society – Andrew Devenish

In Francoist Spain, as in Nazi Germany, there was a specific kind of woman that was socially acceptable and a specific role for women that was promoted by the state. Both societies encouraged women to focus their energy on keeping a household, nursing, and supporting the male soldiers, or male population in general. The proper, acceptable woman was the woman who did not venture outside of these defined gender roles. Nazi Germany banned women from practicing law and discouraged them from seeking out traditionally male professions, lauding women as heroes for having many children. According to Lopez and Sanchez, official Francoist propaganda stated during the Spanish Civil War that women were helping the war effort by “carrying out… nursing, charity and social services, sewing clothes, writing loving yet chaste letters to the soldiers, keeping the home warm and orderly for the moment that men should return victorious”. Although many women did take a more active role in supporting the Nationalist cause, and there were prominent women in Nazi Germany who did not strictly adhere to the state-supported gender roles, the official messaging of these fascist societies explicitly promoted traditional gender roles and minimized the more active parts women might have played in these societies.

But it wasn’t just the official propaganda that pushed this message. Many who look back on these societies, including historians, tend to do the same thing. Lower points out in her book that the history that she is writing has been barely touched on by other historians, and the number of women who actively participated in Nazi society and enabled genocide is most likely far higher than previous estimates. In the postwar period when Allied prosecutors investigated crimes committed in Nazi-controlled territories, women were scarcely prosecuted or investigated, and only a few were ever indicted. The same is true of Francoist Spain. Lopez and Sanchez say that many studies and books written about this time period in Spain also minimize the role that women took in supporting Nationalist causes, especially in regard to the Auxilio Azul Maria Paz. There is a widespread tendency, both by contemporaries and those looking back, to minimize and undermine the roles that women took in fascist societies. In these societies themselves, a passive role for women is officially promoted, and when looking back at them, what active roles they may have had are minimized or overlooked.

The Romanian Ideal Masculinity and the German Pragmatic Masculinity – Andrew Devenish

If we can take Nazi Germany and the fascist movement in Romania under Codreanu as representative of fascism in general, then gender, and more specifically masculinity, seems to be very important to fascism. While the Sandulescu reading focuses on the ideals of masculinity and the “new man” in Romanian fascism, the fascist ideal of masculinity, Kuhne touches on the practical implementation of those concepts of masculinity under the Nazi regime, especially among soldiers, and with the concept of comradeship, or Kameradschaft.

According to Sandulescu, Codreanu’s “new man” is the ideal in his fascist movement of the type of man that is going to save Romania. He is heroic and strong, and every mean in the Legion is supposed to try and become him, through education by the Legion. The goal of this education is to produce the right kind of masculinity for the fascist movement.

Kuhne talks about the ideal fascist version of masculine in a more practical sense in his article. Nazi Germany also had a proper masculinity that one was not supposed to stray from, and an important component of that masculinity was comradeship. Distinct from friendship, comradeship came about in the military and was emphasized as a collective sense of self for the German soldiers. AS Kuhne points out, this often resulted in more “feminine” displays and behaviours than one might have expected from a society that had very rigid views of masculinity, and explicit rules about what was acceptable for that masculinity. Therefore, what can be seen is the practical implementation of the German fascist masculinity juxtaposed with the ideal described by Codreanu for the Romanian Legionary fascist masculinity. While the German soldiers’ comradeship allowed for some flexibility and fluidity in what was considered acceptably masculine, and was a collective idea, Codreanu’s “new man” was a more individualistic masculinity, emphasizing how each man had to step up and be a hero, and did not allow for any flexibility or fluidity in its “ideal” form as written by Codreanu.

Fascism’s Approaches to Leisure and Tourism – Andrew Devenish

The fascist approach to building a national community seems to have been very important for Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. Under these regimes, both nations mobilized tourism as a way to attain specific goals set by the regime for their populations. However, while these approaches are similar in concept, their goals and implementations were very different.

The theme that unifies these countries through their approaches to mass leisure and tourism is about building a unified national community. However, Mussolini and Hitler went about it in very different ways. Baranowski argues that the state-run organization Strength through Joy, or the KdF, had goals of giving Germans positive experiences of the Third Reich, improving standards of living and even expanding upon the idea of standards of living, and notably fostering an “egalitarian” racial community without class divides. The idea was that sending workers and low-income people on cruises and vacations with other classes of people would result in inter-class mingling and hopefully blur those class divides or get rid of them altogether, while fostering an identity more centred around race so that all “racially acceptable” Germans could think of themselves as equal subjects of the Third Reich, and therefore be more endeared to the Nazi regime.

De Grazia paints a different picture of Italy, however. Italy also wanted to use leisure and tourism to further the regime’s specific goals, but it was less about getting rid of class divides and sponsoring racial community. This tourism and leisure industry was also constructed, and the purpose of the Italian OND was similar to the German KdF, but the OND was focused more on linking rural communities more tightly to urban communities, and tying both to the state, and fostering ideas of national community rather than racial community.  The OND wanted to engage the Italian population – they wanted an active public rather than a passive audience, and they wanted to strengthen ideas of the Italian national community and cultural unity, in the same way that the KdF fostered racial community between “racially acceptable” Germans. Both of these fascist regimes employed tourism and mass leisure agencies to guide these industries toward specific, focused regime goals, in similar ways, but to different types of goals.

The Nazi Co-operation with Anticolonial Nationalists – Andrew Devenish

David Motadel argues in his article, The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt Against Empire, that the co-operation between Nazi regime leadership and the significant anticolonial nationalist exile community in Berlin has been under-studied and under-acknowledges by historians. Motadel believes that such co-operation was more significant than most acknowledge, who believe the explicitly racist policies and racial supremacist nature of Nazi ideology left no room for such alliances between regime leadership and anticolonial leaders from the Global South. In 1941, it became official strategy in Berlin to provide assistance to anti-imperialist movements in India, North Africa, and the Middle East, yet Motadel focuses mostly on the interactions between the Nazi regime and the anticolonial community within Berlin. Motadel’s argument that these interactions are significant seems to be at odds with the military strategy of the Nazis. For example, Germany recruited heavily from their colonial prisoners of war using propaganda and came up with Asian, Indian, and Arab volunteer brigades to fight on the front lines, and it was official policy to support nationalist movements in nations under the colonial control of Germany’s enemies in order to destabilize these empires.

Motadel even writes that Hitler lamented that he had not done enough to support these colonial nations at the very end of the war. To me, these seemed like the most significant aspects of Nazi co-operation with anticolonial nationalist movements, yet the majority of Motadel’s article focuses on the political leaders of many of these movements in Berlin. The Syrian rebel leader Fawzi al-Qawuqji in Berlin is quoted by Motadel as saying, “With the German retreat on all fronts, our negotiations have been less active, and we have lost hope of achieving what we hoped for.” This suggests that the more significant aspect to the movement was the war effort. After all, if the Nazis couldn’t win the war, how could they provide aid to these nationalist movements afterward? Al-Qawuqjii needed Germany to win the war to advance his interests, so without the war effort the various organization and congresses, meetings and discussions between anticolonial leaders in Berlin, and between these leaders and the Nazi regime couldn’t amount to any success for their goals. I would like to see more from Motadel on the impacts of the anticolonial nationalist community in Berlin, and have him explain in more detail how they are more significant than they have historically been given credit for.