First Responder: Bye Bye Britain

While Brexit might have come as a shock to the rest of the world, history teaches us that its sentiments have been around for a long time.  This weeks readings and videos circled around the idea that Brexit has historical roots, with a long past of Britain feeling anxiety about their economy and immigration.

A major factor in Britain’s decision to leave the EU, is its fear of immigration. In Enoch Power’s speech, “river of blood” we begin to see how the anti-immigration sentiment is one that is present in the past. We see how the fear of immigrants and the idea of losing national identity has been something that has effected prior times as well.

Britain’s involvement in the EU has also been historically problematic according to the Meon and Selter article which highlights how Britain was not apart of the European coal or Steel community and that they still used the pound as currency. This disconnect is also a factor in rising tensions between Britain and Europe.

What I found interesting about this week’s readings was the Hobolt article, and the explanation of how Brexit occurred due to many differences in its demographic. Some of these factors include difference in age and education. This idea of old and new mentality and its impact on citizen’s political opinions was fascinating to me, and something I can see in other cultures as well. We can see how many older citizens feel nostalgic to times when Britain was a superpower. This idea of importance of nationality and superiority is something that we have discussed in our class, and it is interesting to see it played out in our time. Just as though immigration has been a fear of the past, it is a fear that is still evident in the present.

Will Britains exit from the EU lead to more nationalism amongst its country? Could this been seen as a problem? What does Britains need to stop immigration over its economic security say about how its citizens feel about immigrants? Is this an example of the “fear o the other” sentiment that we have discussed at length in class? In Brian Lewis’s video, he discuses right wing politicians used strategies such as support of same-sex marriage as a tool for political gain. Is it fair for the government to alley with groups such as same-sex supporters as a political tactic? What does this say about the government and its willingness to do whatever it takes to win a vote? Is this democratic?

Op/Ed #2: Decline of newspapers could jeopardize democracy in Canada

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Photo: Huffpost

Last month the new Canadian Federal Budget set out $50 million for news companies and journalism hoping to aid in the decline of news outlets. While most Canadians agree that a trusted media and an informed public are key to democracy, the public does not seem to be interested in keeping this vital part of representative government alive. Based on a report done by the Earnscliffe Strategy Group, 3/4 Canadians say there would be a threat to democracy if news from TV, radio and newspapers disappeared. However since 2010, 225 weekly and 27 daily newspapers have been shut down or have merged operations.

Last year the Public Policy Forum released a report entitled the Shattered Mirror which discusses the importance of maintaining a news presence in an age of social media and online news. It stresses the importance of having real news in order to make educated decisions about the government and to keep the powerful accountable. The policy reform contains twelve actions on the part of the government. The first five are designed to improve the economic landscape whereas the next seven are measures to enhance the supply of quality news.

While the Shattered Mirror provides important suggestions for the government this will be done in vain if Canadians continue to lose interest in the news. Today, Canadians’ demand for news remains at approximately $29 per person, relatively low to countries such as France who spend around $73 per person, and Norway whose number sit around $180. This lack of interest is concerning as democracy relies on accurate and reliable journalism and it is the citizen’s responsibility to seek accurate news and remain well informed.

In a country as free and liberal as Canada, its citizens are taking media outlets and journalism for granted. The loss of the free press greatly affects societies. Take Soviet Russia for example, which was impacted by a harsh censorship initiated after the Bolshevik Revolution. Due to this, Soviet citizens did not have access to media or literature about the true state of their nation, or anything that resembled a critique of the Soviet Union. Under Stalin’s rule there was a lack of reporting on the secret police which lead to many of his political opponents to be obliterated without the general public having any idea.

Journalism is also important for the preservation of democracy. After WWII, the US occupation zone of Germany placed an emphasis on the importance of reestablishing the free press, which they believed was vital to denazification and recreation of democracy. Journalism was used to make sure that the government would be kept in balance and that there was counter-arguments and truth to threaten propaganda. The free press is just as important to conserving democracy today in Canada.

The total loss of journalism is linked to the total loss of democracy as demonstrated by many authoritarian countries. Can you think of a totalitarian country that does have free press? When there is no journalists to report accurate information to its citizens they lose complete control, and often this leads to the government being able to leave its citizens without vital rights and liberties. This is not something we want to see happen in Canada.

The downfall of print newspapers may assure in a new era of online media, however the difference in quality of the news will directly impact society and therefore is not a reasonable alternative. Newspapers are based on truth and neutrality, often taking several days, weeks or even months to research, fact-check and verify. However online news does not have these same safeguards. Due to this, giant online news platforms such as Facebook and Google produce news that is not well researched and often reinforced prejudices. In fact, studies show that approximately 83 per cent of online news found on these platforms is false.

Canadians need to redirect their interests towards the news and support journalism. By keeping citizens educated, they gain skills to spot fake news, authenticate sources, and read through bias. Most importantly they keep the government accountable. Remember, democracy dies in the dark.

Sweeper: Sacred vs Secular in a Multicultural Europe

This week’s lecture and readings were all about multiculturalism in Europe, and how we tend to fall into certain narratives because of our own biases. This may be why it is so difficult for us to recognize a multi-cultural and multi-denominational Europe and why we tend to overlook the long historical past Europe has had with Islam.

The readings discussed the many different responses to multiculturalism. In the Wekkers’ article we see the rise in criticism of the Black Pete figure which leads us to believe that people are more open minded. Yet the anti-immigrant sentiment from right-wing parties in the Beauchamp article may lead some to think otherwise. In class we discussed the Bershidsky article which gave an interesting take on the high rates of sexual violence among asylum seekers in Germany. The readings and lecture asked us to consider looking at Europe as something influenced by many cultures in a multipolar world. One example is how Islam has had a long historical presence in Europe that we often to not discuss. One reason for this could be that it was often believed that European modernity was mature, yet Islam more backward thinking.

This bring us to a point that our class discussed in detail. The relationship between secular and sacred. The idea that a modern society may be separate from a public life.

While we may believe that religion does not have to play a role in everyday life, we can see religion in many aspects. From political norms, to holidays and school systems, there is no doubt that our society incorporates religion into the public sphere, especially when it comes to Christianity. So why are we so uncomfortable with outward displays of religion? What is it about religious signs that makes us so uncomfortable? Is it the a sign of a religion, or perhaps a sign of the “wrong” religion?  Is Europe becoming more multicultural?

First Responder: No Justice for Chile

What happens to a dictator or members of their regime when it is overthrown? For those of you thinking about the Nuremberg trials, it may surprise you that the same type of outcome does not always happen for different regimes. In this weeks readings, both Teresa Meade and Temma Kaplan outline Chile’s fascinating political historical past– and how their former dictatorship walked away “scot free.”

Teresa Meade’s article, Holding the Junta Accountable: Chile’s ‘Sitios de Memoria’ and the History of Torture, Disappearance, and Death, discusses the interesting dilemma Chile found itself post-Pinochet (their former dictator). The new government lead by President Lagos failed to properly prosecute members of the former regime, many of who were still in positions of power. This lead to a lack of recognitions for the atrocities which were committed by the former government.

Temma Kaplan’s article, Reversing the Shame and Gendering the Memory gives a more chilling look into the realities of living under Pinochet’s rule, and the many atrocities women such as Nieves Ayress experienced. While many passages are difficult to digest due to their upsetting content, it is important to not only look at the experiences many had, but how the victims were often ostracized, ultimately giving the government more power in the end.

Finchelstein provides us with a background between the ideologies of both fascism and populism that can help us analyze what has happened in the past, both globally and in Chile. He discuses how both hold authoritarian notions, however fascism rejects the democratic process while populism works with it in order to establish power.

Politics are constantly in a state of change, Finchelstein poses the idea that populism is an evolved version of fascism, could this be true? Would you argue that Pinochet was a fascist or a populist? What were the benefits that the new government had to not punish the former government? How does this impact its people? What is the importance of properly acknowledging the past? How would you have acted in President Lagos’s place? What are the implications of not holding authoritarian powers accountable for their actions? Will this effect Chile in the future?

North Korea uses unified Olympic hockey team as propaganda against the US: Op/Ed

This week in the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, North and South Korea’s joint women’s hockey team will play, marking the first ever unified Korean team. After months of negotiation between both North and South Korea, this symbolic gesture is a diplomatic push by the North to ease tensions after a year of growing fears and war rhetoric.

While this gesture is meant to relieve pressure over North Korea’s nuclear weapon programme, we are seeing the presence of anti-unification protests in Seoul. Protesters worry that the show of unity will threaten South Korea’s democracy, and that the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un is only using the Olympics to politically advertise the two nations at peace. However this gesture is no more than an opportunity for North Korea to create a wedge between South Korea and the United States.

The Olympics offer North Korea a unique opportunity to boost its propaganda, and create an alliance with the south, making it more difficult for the US to continue their military threats.

To fully understand the gravity of this decision it’s important to look at why North and South Korea were separated in the first place.

Imperial Japan ruled over Korea from 1910 until 1945, when they were forced to surrender after World War II. Korea became a victim of the Cold War as it was divided along the 38th parallel, with US troops occupying the South, and the Soviet Union occupying the North. On June 25, 1950 North Korea launched a surprise attack on the South, starting the Korean War that would last three years, and cause US intervention. When an armistice was finally reached in July 1953, 2.5 million people had died. Since then, tensions between North Korea and the United States remain high, especially between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.

North Korea’s use of the Olympics as a political tool is not a new tactic. In 1980, the US boycotted the Moscow Olympics in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In reaction to this, Pyongyang boycotted the 1984 California Olympics in solidarity with the Soviet Union.

Domestically, North Korea has used the Olympics as a propaganda tool for decades. They began competing in the Winter Olympic Games in 1964, and the Summer Olympic Games in 1972. They have earned 56 medals in total, 16 of them gold. However, sporting events in North Korea are almost always shown at a later time, so that the government can choose to only broadcast favourable games. When North Korea is not in a favourable position, the results are often never broadcast and the population left in the dark.

The unification of Korea is highly unlikely at this time due to cultural, historical and economic circumstances. Therefore this display is merely a show from North Korea to the US. This should come as no surprise from the vastly unpredictable country. North Korea’s radical nationalism and fascination with violence as a political strategy is an example of how fascist regimes are a danger. North Korea, as well as many other former fascist countries such as Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, have used propaganda as a political tactic. If the vital US ally South Korea begins seriously talking with North Korea, the US administration may be forced to soften their position on North Korea policy, even though the two countries are far from becoming a union. While Kim Jong Un seems to be offering olive branches to his neighbours, he makes no effort to show signs of denuclearization. Therefore, while spectators may cheer on the unified Korean athletes, it’s important to note the true political background of the situation.

First Responder: Hitler’s Furies

While many of us think of World War II and Nazi Germany, we rarely focus on the role that women played during the war. While one may believe that women kept to themselves and stayed out of the battlefields, in actuality many of these women did the exact opposite. In Wendy Lower’s: Hitler’s Furies, German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, she discusses how women in the Third Reich are largely a historical blind-spot, and many of them actively participated in the genocide of millions of Jews — while getting away with it.

Lower touches on some interesting points about what it was like to be a woman during the war, and their role in society. For many, the role of women was to continue the Aryan race and ensure the success of the German people. This is why mothers were glorified and others were taught how to find the perfect Aryan husband. Yet for many women this was not enough, and the need for adventure grew. For some this lead to travel and for others this lead to genocide.

What I found most impactful was how Hitler’s Germany created such a patriotic climate that women felt justified in participating in violence. Whether this was being a bystander or actively crushing jewish infants sculls, women were just as guilty of favouring duty over morality as the male Nazi counterparts.

As we have discussed in class, one of fascisms’ key components is its extreme nationalism, and Lower’s book is an excellent example of how far this nationalism can cause someone to act. Does this make Trumps “Make America Great Again” slogan problematic? Where is the line when patriotism goes too far? Another concept we discussed in class is the fetishization of youth which Lower also touches upon, since the terror regimes fed on the idealism and energy of young people. How are young people today being influenced by political agendas? The women in this book were effected by many different factors such as the political environment, and the economic crisis. Were they a product of their time? Or is fascism itself powerful enough to create such loyal and patriotic followers? Could this possibly happen again in the future? Finally, why do we tend to not look at women’s roles in the past? Is this still a problem today?

Sweeper: History, A Glamourized Tale?

This week’s lecture and readings focused on the Middle Ages and the 20th-21st century’s imagination, which can taint historical accuracy. Our group touched upon many different ideas, one that intrigued me the most was the idea that what we believe to be entrenched in our society is important to study, because many times this box that we are put in is created by people. Therefore what we think is an absolute can actually be quite arbitrary.

To put this into better context, our group focused on the Geary reading which talked about nationalism throughout time. Our group discussed how nationalism was widely ignored until it could be used for political gain. We started noticing that people tend to reuse the past for specific reasons, something that was also touched up in the Kaufmann reading. What interested us was how we first thought that nations were the way they were because of a shared culture amongst its people. However, we soon learned that in many situations, nations were build by conquest, where one more dominant culture takes over and weakens other cultures until they fade and become homogeneous. We related this to British culture invading what would be Canada, and dominating first nations people.

Just as the Medieval Ages is tainted by romantic imagery, so is our idea of nationality. So I will leave you with some questions to ponder. Does Canada have a Medieval past? When does Canada’s history start? Finally, why is Parliament gothic?


Hello! My name is Anita, and yes I am a little late to the party due to some technological issues. However, what I lack in technological savvy I make up for in curiosity, primarily in the past! For the first three years of my undergrad I majored in Law, however while accidentally taking a history coarse in the winter semester of 2017, I discovered that history was one of my passions (once again, better late than never). I am currently double majoring in Law and History with a minor in Sexuality Studies. After my undergrad I plan on attending Law School.

I have always been intrigued by the idea of fascism. It may have started from reading books like George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, or my grandpa’s war stories about Nazi Germany. Either way, I am extremely excited to learn more about fascism, and populism which I am not as familiar with. I believe we are living in an extremely interesting time politically, but can’t wait to see what the past can teach us!