The Media Makes the Message

Des Freedman’s Populism and media failure discusses many ways in which media policy allows for far-right populist movements to utilize the platforms for their own benefits. He looks at how big media companies hold a monopoly over different media outlets, how many people who write for medias outlet come from certain economic backgrounds, and he discusses the way in which there is no true independent, bi-partisan media outlet because of elites in-charge that so greatly oppose far-right populist action, which in-turn provides them with a platform for them to utilize. Freedman’s solution to this issue is clear, redistribution of the monopoly.

This solution overall makes sense in terms of policy failure. Social media is used more and more everyday, and information is consumed on a much larger scale that it ever has before. Freedman does say that this rise has increased the way in which far-right populists are given even more room to interact with the people. Though what is interesting is that his analysis is very focused on economic divide. I think that there should be focus on how generational divides affect the way in which policy is made, and how it would affect this solution of redistribution.

Different generation interact and consume media differently. I think it interesting to look at how younger generations use social media and acknowledge the faults in these policies, versus those who are less incline to understand how media can make room for a far-right populist voice.

This is not to say that there is nothing wrong with policy, because there is. But how does generation play in the execution of these policies, or how do different generations of consumers interact and are aware of these faults. If there are not solutions to this policy failure, then how does being aware and understanding these failures while consuming media affect the success of far-right populists use of media? And how does ‘cancel culture’ that is used more by the younger generation fit into how different generations interact with policy failures?


Reinforcing the “Global Islam” Enemy: Western populism’s influence in the Iranian protests

Western populism is influencing the events in Iran and thus reinforcing a “global Islam” as the enemy. The definition of populism is complex as it is not fixed; it shifts and adapts according to the region in which it arises. Thus, it is difficult to specify a homogenous definition of Western populism, but as Cas Mudde writes, “the key enemy has become Islam.” What links Western populism is the distinct “us” versus “them” of the Islamic population.

The current government in Iran is theocratic. This theocratic state was a result of what can be considered a populist uprising, also known as the Islamic revolution of 1979. The elements of populist tactics are seen in the call for a referendum to decide the fate of the Dynasty previously in power, or to call for the establishment of an Islamic Republic government, the mobilization and protests by primarily the population’s youth. Though the protests that Iran is currently facing seem to be influenced by the prominent “us” versus “them” discourse of Western populism.

The protests began as reacting to economic problems, though this does not deter from the fact that the protests show prominent Western influence. Mudde distinguishes populism as the corrupt elite versus the pure people. This is a rhetoric that has taken hold by the protesters. Recently, the Islamic republic in Iran caused an internet blackout in what prominent human rights activists are calling a means to control the mobilization of the people. It has also been claimed to be a tool to isolate Iran and the events from the rest of the world in the face of intense violence. This discourse is populist in nature, as it features the corrupt elite versus the pure people. As the government is an Islamic theocracy, this narrative of the corrupt elite paints corrupt as Islam against the people. It portrays this system of governance as violent, against the people, and representative of an archaic people.

This notion that Islamic culture is archaic is used to ‘other’ Muslims minorities in Western populism. It is also being used to mobilize the people against the theocratic regime in Iran. It can be seen in the discourse surrounding the #whitewednesday movement, where women challenge the mandatory wearing of the hijab. Masih Alinejad, founder of the #whitewednesday, is very active on social media platforms and is very critical of the Iranian government. As she has been exiled, the internet gives her access to critique and challenge the Iranian government, a trait that has become increasingly important within populism – to deter from the fake news by controlled media outlets. This critique is reliant on the hijab as a signifier of the oppression of women. This #whitewednesday movement illustrates this Othering of the theocratic corrupt government in repressing the pure people. It is a way for Alinejad to “[give] a voice to voiceless people.” It is playing into the idea that the Islamic government is oppressive, thus feeding into this Western populist narrative of the Islamic Other.

This is not to say that these women are rejecting Islam or that these women should not be critical of their own autonomy. What this movement shows is that it is greatly influenced by populism; critiquing and challenging the authority of an Islamic theocratic regime, thus consciously or unconsciously challenging and reinforcing the Islamic Other. There is significant lack of discussion around the voices of women who do not oppose the mandatory wearing of the hijab. This then shows the influence of Western populism, as the hijab has been a physical identifier of the Islamic Other. Therefore, a lack of focus on the desire does not fit into this dichotomy of the western “us” versus “them” narrative.

It is this challenge of Islamic authority that rose to power through populist means, being challenged by Western populist discourse, such as the notion of archaic Islamic culture oppressing the people, that allows for the Othering of Islam in an Islamic state. This in turn reinforces a global Islamic enemy.

Providing Legitimacy

To understand the similarities and differences of how populism plays out in different contexts, is to understand the pragmatism of populism. The way in which it plays out in different countries is not fixed, rather it adapts. The articles for this week look at how populism needs to be broken down and disentangled from the idea that it takes the same form in all countries.

David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar look particularity at how anti-gender campaigns are  utilized by populists, and that they should not be conflated together. It is important to look at the use of anti-gender campaigns as a tool used by Populists, but it is not specific to populist movement. That is is used by evangelists, Populists and the left. The way it is used is dependent on the climate in the the region. This is seen particularly in how anti-gender campaigns in Brazil are a result of catholic versus evangelist rhetoric, with less use by populists, contrary to a more Western European use.

Zack Beauchamp’s interview with Cas Mudde, discusses in particular the difference between the conceptualization of nativism between Western Europe and Eastern Europe in the context of Anti-Semitism. Mudded regards nativism as a key element to populism, but is clear in making the distinction, in this case, how in different areas this element of populism is used. That for the heavy influence of Communism following the Second World War illustrates the differences of East and West Populist approaches.

Ina Schmidt looks at the German Pegida movement and how it is, as she calls it, a “hybrid populist movement.” That is had populist foundations, but it also draws elements from the Nouvelle Droite’s concept of ethnopluralism, and the Autonomous Nationalism use of  “patchwork identities,” violence, and media in the group’s mobilization.

An interesting concept that Jan-Werner Müller discuses in his interview on The Dangers of Populism, is the concept of providing legitimacy. That in order for populism to rise, it needed conservative backing. What these reading have then discussed is the importance of the way in which populism rose in particular regions as well as the political and religious climates in these places. That populism is malleable and exists on a spectrum. It is this spectrum that shows the need and desire for providing legitimacy. That this legitimacy is both the similarity and the difference of how populism plays out in different contexts. It does not have to be specifically a conservative backing, rather it is dependent on the region in which it trying to take hold.

Progressive and Populist?

In Fatima El-Tayeb’s article she brings up the symbols that have been used to “other” Muslims from what white western Europeans considered to a requirement for immigrating to their country. She looks at how these symbols, particularly the hijab and honour killings are symbols illustrate the repressive and sexist aspects of Islam. That these are viewed as non-European and threaten the values of what it means to be European.  That when immigrating to a (western) Europe they should fully assimilate to these values. El-Tayeb,  focuses on how this is done specifically with Queer Muslims, she writes that they are viewed as having to repress their own sexuality because of the repressiveness of the Islamic faith, and that they can only be liberated from this with the assimilation into European culture.

What is interesting about this, as El-Tayeb points out is how this thinking, while their “investment is…more that doubtful,” by nationalist parties across Europe have used these sentiments to fuel their anti-Islamization of their cities. It goes back to the question posed for these readings: How might progressives as well as populists reinforce similar platforms?  It is interesting that that in Western Europe, the argument being made for anti-Islamization is based off topics like the freedom of expression of sexuality and sexism when it is not typically a stance that nationalist parties focus on, it rather more progressive. There is once again this concept that we see this transnational union of Europe, using minority groups of people that are more inline with the European values (essentially white values). This is done for the purpose of pushing anti-Islamic sentiments. 

This is something that can be seen in the other readings. Nilüfer Göle makes the same connection as El-Tayeb, though it is surrounding the discussion if Turkey should be apart of the EU. He focuses on the use of repression of women through their hijabs, burkas or Niqabs as a reason for illustrating reasons Turkey would not fit among the EU. We see others pulling from progressive ideas, and values to fuel anti-Islam ideas. In Gloria Wekker’s article where through an analysis of emails sent in by white dutch citizens who fight back on the claims that Zwarte Piet is a racist figure. She notes that while those who oppose Zwarte Piet publicly are typically Surinamese, Antilleans, and Africans it is Muslims that the blame gets put on for trying to “change their country.” Here it is seen that progressive protests give an opportunity for the Dutch to critique Muslims and their “inability to assimilate”.

This leaves me with some questions, if progressive stances can reinforce populist platforms what does that say about many of the progressive stances illustrated in these readings? Does it have to do with the fact the Europe is a continent and Islam is a religion, not a designated groups of people? And finally, what does it mean to be European?

Works Cited

Fatima El-Tayeb, “”Gays Who Cannot Properly be Gay.’ Queer Muslims in the Neoliberal European City” European Journal of Women’s Studies 19/1, (2012): 79-95.

Nilüfer Göle, “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam” New Literary History, Volume 43, Number 4 (Autumn 2012): 665-685.

Gloria Wekkers, “….For Even Though I am Black as Soot, My Intentions are Good”: the Case of Zwarte Piet/Black Pete” in White Innocence. Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race (Duke University Press, 2015), pp. 139-167

Nouvelle Droite and the “Multiculturalism of the New Right”

Tamir Bar-On’s Idea of the “multiculturalism of the new right” is a concept that I found particularly interesting. It also reminds me of the discussion that we had a few weeks back about the use and manipulation of other countries by Hitler in David Motadel’s The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt against Empire. An example being the use of British anti-colonial sentiments in other countries to mobilize them for the German Reich, but to do this for the liberation of their own country. This seems very similar to the Nouvelle Droite’s (ND) “multiculturalism of the new right,” as it focus on the differentness of different regions, and countries in their attempt to spread their ideas transnationally. It is interesting to see how these concepts in a way overlap, and much like Roger Griffen points out in his article, the similarities and ideas of German Fascism that the ND draws from.

Bar-On’s writes that the post war there was an increase in the popularity of left-wing politics. This is something that Alain de Benoist, the leader of ND, drew upon to further his goal of spreading this transnational “multiculturalism of the new right.”  He would use the tactics that the new left would use in spreading this goal. de Benoist was vocal about being anti-fascist, he would use terms such as “multiculturalism of the new right,” because he did not want to be connected with the ultra-nationalism of the German Reich, it was seen as “politically correct”. To push this idea that they were not associated with their concepts, but they were choosing their wording specifically to appeal to the promotion of the new right.

It is through these readings on can see the way in which the general conception of politics, and the political landscape of the times shifts the way that the ND present their ideology, in their attempt to promote this idea of transnationalism. This is quite evident in Griffen’s article. It makes one wonder the about the validity of perceived political dichotomies, but also about the how this notion of “political correctness” is used today? How does the ND’s understanding of political correctness differ from modern conceptions of what it means to be politically correct, what is the etymology?

“The good self” and the Fragebogened

It the face of self-defensive accounts and the construction of a “good self” what does this this have to say about the Fragebogened?

Sollors writes that these questionnaires were a failed experiment as they were widely unreliable. There is one question that was discussed on the German only Meldebogen that stuck out. It was in which category would they place themselves on the spectrum of the offenders? Did these people actually believe that they were not to blame because they were unaware of what was going on, if they did would that not affect the outcome of their answers to many of these questions? How much would that have altered the way in which Post-war Germany viewed these questionaries?

Also what constitutes the severity of the action by the offender?

What is known from Fulbrook is that not all victims were accepted as victims and encouraged to speak about their experiences. Roma and Sinti, as well as those experiences of gay men were not met with a willingness or sympathetic audience. What does that say about these questionnaires? They were produced for a society that came almost directly after the war. Not many Germans were willing to talk about the atrocities that happened during the war. This questionnaire was distributed by Americans, were they concerned with what happened to these people? Would what happened to these populations during the war be considered a crime? If they were confessed to would they have even been grounds for refusal of occupation?

Though, like Sollors writes, these questionnaires did not leave room for personal accounts of the war. Or the reasons in which Germans participated actively or passively, some of their answers being coercion, or opportunism. Regardless, in the attempt for the denazification of a post war Germany, by the Americans, there are many ways in which these questionnaires would have failed. Though, what these questionaries do illustrate is the lack of voice, whether it be the voice of the victim or the voice of the Germans being questioned.

Held “Hostage” by the Government: Boris Johnson’s Populist Rhetoric

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, made the commitment that either “do or die” by October 31st Britain would be leaving the EU. Though as that date comes closer, it is evident that that is not going to happen. Rather, after his return from Brussels with a new Brexit Plan, his plan to remain loyal to the October 31st date fell through in parliament. Today the EU has approved the extension of the the Brexit date to January 31st 2020. Johnson is facing backlash on all ends, from those in support of Brexit and those in opposition.

Johnson has proposed for an election to take place in December in the hopes that it will help his campaign and his plans to push his plan through parliament. He wants the votes in the hopes that he can secure a majority government which will in turn make passing his plan easier. It is evident that his concerns are not focused about leaving the EU with no deal, his “do or die” and a promise of a break soon do not leave room for a deal.

No one wants a no deal break.

The deal is what will make the transition out of the EU as successful for Britain as possible. Johnson is more focused on the break, rather than the success of the break, as seen in his “do or die” rhetoric. Regardless of being for or against Brexit, the deal provides the people of Britain with the opportunity to situate themselves in a Britain outside of the EU.

It is in the face of the Boris Johnson’s failure to live up to his “do or die” claim that Brexiteers have come to criticize Johnson who was supposed to be a pioneering figure for Brexit. As a Brexiteer himself, he had already faced opposition from the those who would like to remain in the EU.

Boris Johnson knows that he is losing momentum, he wants to fuel anger. He wants people to back him in the polls in December if the election takes place, as this would help in pushing his Brexit plans through parliament. Johnson is no stranger to utilizing populists concepts within his own rhetoric. Populism is the idea of “the people” against “the elite” and the elite making decisions for the people. Johnson is known to stand behind this ideal and has built a rhetoric around this ideal. Using the terms like the “surrender bill” and the government holding the country “hostage” he attempts to build up anger against the government in the hopes that it will call for an election, and that he will keep the support of the people if that election were to occur. Even through this rhetoric we can see that:

Boris Johnson is not a successful populist.

However, he is using populist rhetoric to persuade the country to continue backing him, regardless of their growing contempt for his failure to pass a deal within parliament. In the wake of his desire for an election, this rhetoric will not be successful. For one, he does not fully believe in it as he seems to be more concerned with leaving the EU than leaving with a deal. It is also difficult to unite the country against the government when the people themselves are not united. There is great division within the country, as illustrated in the protest orchestrated by the People’s Vote Campaign in London on October 19th; a campaign that fights for the voice of the people in decision making, pushing for a new referendum. The people’s voice is divided and everyone is frustrated with Johnson. His populist rhetoric approach is strengthening this division, rather than the division of the people and the government.

Johnson seems to believe that fear mongering with his populist rhetoric will help him gain the traction that he desires to end up with an election on December 12th. This is not the case. Johnson’s dance with populism has hindered his ability to maintain a backing that would urge for this election date. It is a last attempt at trying to show that he will “do or die” and get a deal passed to leave the EU. One will have to wait to see the success of this rhetoric when he proposes to amend the fixed terms act tomorrow, as he failed to get a majority of the government to an election on the 12th of December.



“A Feminine Brand of Toughness”

In Wendy Lower’s book Hitler’s Furies she writes that the expectation for German women in the Nazi regime was “a feminine brand of toughness”. I thought that this was an interesting way to understand the role that women played within fascist societies. As this “feminine brand of toughness” is also seen in Lopez and Sanchez’s Blue Angels. It was the idea that women were expected to prescribe to a certain image, of what women were expected to be. Though they were supposed to transcend that role to benefit their society, without infringing upon its ideologies. They were required to walk the line of what was considered feminine and masculine.

What stood out the most in Lower’s book was no longer only looking at the actions of these women as victimization and coercion, rather to acknowledge the agency that these women had. Women were still very much expected to be mothers, and maintain the “female identity”. Though this was branded as being tough, to use their femininity for a greater goal, in this case the purpose of providing more children for the Aryan Germany. Women were rewarded for having children. It was also this brand of tough femininity that procured women in a way to police the bodies of other women. Using their position in a typical feminine occupation like midwifery to decide whether those children survived. These women, genuinely believed in the goals of the reich, and utilized their femininity for that purpose.

Lopez and Sanchez, discuss in their article that when men recounted the participation of women they did it due to an extension of their femininity. They helped the men because it was in their nature, as they were caring and innocent. Though, we later see that the utilized their perceived femininity to become spies, or for their goals that were inline with the ideology.

These women were aware of their perceived identities as women, and they were not concerned that it hindered then, rather they were an identity that allowed them to achieve their goals, which happened to aid fascist sentiments. One can assume that women were coerced into the roles that they played in the crimes of war, though, that is not necessarily true. The utilized male perceptions of their femininity. Feminine was not bad, but something to strive towards, because it provided these women a place within their societies, feminine was tough. In turn feminine was a choice, as well as their feminine “actions” within these societies.

Works Cited

Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies (Houghton Mifflin, 2013).

Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez. “Blue Angels: Female Fascist Resisters, Spies and Intelligence Officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9.” Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 53, no. 4, (Oct. 2018), pp. 692–713.

Gendering of the “Ideal Citizen”

A theme that has run throughout the readings for this class is Fascist regimes using and mobilizing groups of people for the benefit and support of their own ideologies. It was evident in the way the Nazi regime manipulated the colonies of the British Empire to fight in their name when they had no desire to unify those colonies under their ideology. It can also be seen in the tourist trips and showing of the success of regimes in tourism in the hopes of illustrating the glory of living within these regimes.

This is also evident in the reading for this week. Gender and sexuality was also used as a way to promote the “ideal citizen” under fascist ideologies.

In Russia, under Stalin the forced labour camps took extreme measures to ensure that men and women in the camps were separated and women were not reproducing. Homosexuality was re-criminalized under Stalin, however, as the Healy reading points out queer spaces in the gulag were tolerated. They were tolerated because it promoted work and they could keep down the maintenance cost of labor. Post Stalin there was change in the attitudes of the toleration of homosexuality within the camps. It showed that the toleration when it benefited the organization of these regimes and the “ideal” figure and society that they wanted to promote, that it was essentially fine. Especially that it wasn’t excepted at the time but allowed because it enabled the gulag.

Where as in Romania, they idealized this figure of the “new man” in which they framed the ideal man of a new Romanian through education. To ensure that the intellectual riots were suppressed and as well as othering the Jewish populations. They stated that any man could be a “new man” through education, which was done in a controlled area. They used the gendering of the strong, powerful well educated men to entice and control the climate of protest and othering of the Jewish population.

There was significant control that these regimes were implementing through gendered and sexuality lenses. They would promote different behaviours even if it did not appeal to them, or make it exclusive to a certain group of people to ensure the “ideal” society or person.

What I wonder though is to what extent was this actually tolerated. In a way saying that these behaviours were tolerated in spite of a collective attitude towards them. We’re they as tolerated as we believe and what did this tolerating enable these people to achieve within these regimes?

Works Cited

Dan Healey, “Forging Gulag Sexualities: Penal Homosexuality and the Reform of the Gulag after Stalin” Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2017).

Valentin Sandulescu, “Fascism and Its Quest for the ‘New Man’: The Case of the Romanian Legionary Movement.” Studia Hebraica 4 (2004): 349-61.

Beyond Ideology

Was there appeal to Fascism beyond the ideology? While typically fascism is associated with anti-modernism, based on the readings for this week that is not entirely true. Rather, it seemed as though a form of modernism was what was appealing to fascism beyond the ideology.

De Grazia points out that in Italy there was a growing popularity of the radio, theatre shows, and mass sport participation. These things are all considered modern, however they were promoted by the fascist government in Italy at the time. Umbach looks at a variety of different photographs and scrapbooks created by amateur photographers. In Spain. While all of these things are not inherently fascist in nature, each author explore the promotion of them through their individual Fascist regimes. Which would make this modernism allowed within these regimes.

However, I do not think that it is fair to say that the participation in these modern activities is solely based on the idea that they were promoted by fascism or because they were the culture of Fascism. In the de Grazia article, she writes the the sport Bocce, which is something that even today is a sport seen in Italy as whole heartedly Italian, was not “approved of” by Mussolini. Rather was later promoted by the his government because of the popularity among people. People in the countryside did not watch movies because they were not accessible to them, and were only accessible to them after they was an alternative given to them by the government. That does not necessarily mean that that is the only reason they watched the films but could also be seen as an opportunity to experience something more modern.  There is agency in these acts, and it shows that these acts were not necessarily performed due to fascism.

This can also be said for the Umbach article, in the article he looks at the leisurely poses that the subjects of the pictures are taken. Ones taken by amateur photographers, and the ones that are taken for propaganda purposes. He also looks at the way in which Germans would hold themselves in picture on their travels, as well as, the pictures of the roads. Which he linked back to these amateur photographs representing more than a relaxing time, and rather exhibiting the culture of the nazi regime. I find it difficult to make any solid assumptions on the acts of citizens based on their photographs. There is no way of knowing or sure the intentions behind the photographs. That is why I do not think that they were taking these photographs in these ways because they were seen promoted by the Nazi regime. But, because they had access to cameras they didn’t and took pictures of comparatively different things on their journey’s, which in my opinion is why you travel to new places. The culture of fascism does not necessarily mean the culture of the country, but the curiosity of modernity that was allowed.

Works Cited

Victoria de Grazia, The Culture of Consent: Mass Organisation of Leisure in Fascist Italy (Cambridge, 1981), pp. 151-86

Maiken Umbach, “Selfhood, Place, and Ideology in German Photo Albums, 1933-1945” Central European History Vol. 48, Special Issue 3 (Photography and Twentieth-Century German History): 335-365.