Words Matter: How the Czech Print Media Enabled ‘Othering’ of it’s Nation’s Citizens

By Austin Pellizzer

In this final week of reflections for the Populism and Authoritarianism in Contemporary Europe class, we looked at how both old and new media has shaped national narratives. One prominent example of this is the Tess Slavíčková and Peter Zvaguli article Monitoring Anti-Minority Rhetoric in the Czech Print Media: A Critical Discourse Analysis. In this work, the authors describe how they used analytical steps via AntiMetrics to track hate speech within Czech Print media against its Roma citizens (153). By analyzing three points: 1) hate speech and media, 2) hate speech and public opinion, and 3) hate speech and body politic (153), we see how media outlets can utilize linguistic aspects and recollections of accounts to polarize inter-ethnic conflicts and create a type of ‘othering’ amongst its population (157). However, while this article was able to shed light on a facet of research imperative to understand, three questions regarding this method have come to mind. 

Firstly, with this article coming out in 2014, a year before the migrant/refugee crisis that shook the EU and continent, the authors alluded to the idea that the Czech Republic’s far-right was weak (156). Would this have changed in the wake of the humanitarian events of these past years? Secondly, when measuring this phenomenon of hate speech in national media (152), how did the researchers define the term? Since hate speech continues to be a highly controversial topic, the definition has been one of contention. Thus, it would be beneficial for the reader to get a sense of their measurement of this term and how they came to a clear and definite consensus. Lastly, with the Czech population deeming the ‘other’ to be the Roma population (152), would this ostracizing be now directed to the migrants or both? Considering the many gaps in this article due to the timeline and explanations, it is clear that Slavíčková and Zvaguli’s work would need to be updated to fit this contemporary and ever-changing environment.

Thought Policing and the Battle of ‘Disinformation’: How Political Debates and the Exchange of Divers Ideas are Needed Now More than Ever

By Austin Pellizzer

This week’s articles and video media sheds light on conspiracy theories and how this has made its way into the mainstream of American politics and across the pond into the European political community. Looking at the Hungarian populist governments’ use of conspiracy theories to push anti-Semitism and islamophobia (184) in Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism: The Case of Hungary and the ‘Soros plot’ by Ivan Kalmar, these ideas can grow into an Ethno-nationalist scope with detrimental consequences (185). With such nationalist happenings, this inevitably spreads both intolerance and hate in the name of preserving particular values and ways of life (186). On the other hand, both Politico and Vice’s materials talk about the need to battle ‘disinformation’ related to more well-known and global movements from the right, which can have detrimental consequences to one of the most sacred freedoms to democratic nations, the freedom of speech. 

The Politico article by Mark Scott titled Qanon Goes European looks at the 2017 fringe political movement Qanon which has made the mainstream news in more recent years. Scott, in detail, looks at how European populist parties (particularly in the UK, Germany, and Italy) have used many of these Qanon theories from Trump’s 2017 Presidential Election to the recent Covid Pandemic to shape this phenomenon which found its beginning on the social chat site 4chan. While it is essential to consider how these movements can have serious consequences, like the Capital Hill Riot of January 6, which brought Qanon believers together, the idea of having to silence and de-platform individuals and organizations in the name of combatting ‘disinformation’ is problematic of an in itself. Demonstrated in the Vice video, How this TV Chef Turned Covid Truther Helped Qanon Boom in Germany, brings to light the need to combat this ‘disinformation’ within the political sphere. However, while this idea might sound like something needed to preserve democracy, it is in many ways doing the exact opposite. 

With collective action predominantly coming from the political left concerning social media platforms and politicians bent on censoring people based on the idea of spreading ‘disinformation’ related to topics like Trump and the Covid-19 pandemic, this will only lead to more people embracing alternative beliefs as a whole. If companies and politicians alike genuinely want to have a united political dialogue and discourse to improve society, it is in their best interest to end the censoring and silencing of one side based on having diverse ideas and beliefs which is only human. Instead, what is needed is to open the doors of dialogue for a free exchange of ideas and debate, which will inevitably lead to the truth prevailing and mending political wounds of past years. 

Eastern Europe and its Collective Historical Memories: Useful Means or Political Tools

By Austin Pellizzer

This week’s topic of a multicultural Europe has left me with many questions to ponder about the politics of memory and contemporary history. The most notable article which I believe sparked my interest is Dan Stone’s article, On Neighbours and Those Knocking at the Door: Holocaust Memory and Europe’s Refugee Crisis. Stone clearly and eloquently discusses how Eastern European nations of Poland and Hungary have had issues with remembering the past concerning their complacency in the Second World War and the Holocaust (231). In the same breath, the author points out how the authoritarian governments of communism in the mid-20th century used the Holocaust not just to push their ideologies of Socialism vs. barbaric fascism (236) but also to carry out selective historical memories, which has shaped their far-right politics today (233). In the contemporary age, this comes head-to-head in the wake of the 2015 refugee and migrant crisis which shook the EU (231). 

With the waves of migrants and refugees coming to the EU’s gates in search of a better life, Stone demonstrated how this comparison echoes the same sentiments of history between the Jewish refugees and post-war Europe (233). While he explained how it is essential to distinguish the horrors of the Holocaust and modern European attitudes to refugees (242), many questions still seem unanswered when looking at this nuanced and complicated issue.

Firstly, Stone describes how the communist nations of the East used the Holocaust to push their ideological agendas (236). With never acknowledging the horrors that took place over seventy-five years ago, I believe that for Eastern Europe to become more liberal and accepting, they need to recognize the communist past and how many of the era’s sentiments and traumas continue today. Secondly, the author discusses how the EU has spent millions on border enforcement versus implementing a more comprehensive migrant policy to let these populations into the Union (240). In this case, to what extent are nations and supranational organizations expected or obligated to accept refugees? In that same breath, what is the sustainable balance between compassion and economic and social sustainability for both member-Sates and organizations alike?

With these questions only touching the tip of the iceberg, it is imperative to ask how and what could be changed to ensure both parties can prosper to the best of their abilities within the European continent.

The Nouvelle Droite and Western Europe’s Far-Right Alliance

By Austin Pellizzer

This week looked at the political phenomena of far-right student movements, specifically the Nouvelle Droite of France. Roger Griffin’s article, Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy in the ‘Interregnum’discusses the movement founded in 1968 as an influential cultural and social movement for the nation’s young adults (35). The author notes that it is problematic to oversimplify and use interwar outlines of fascism to characterize the resurgence of fascist ideologies in the post-war era (38-39). However, one idea stuck out concerning contemporary fascist movements in a pan-European lens. When it comes to newly democratic and transitioning states, Portugal comes to mind. 

In the 1970s, Portugal became one of the latest states to democratize after decades of authoritarian rule. Riccardo Marchi’s 2016 article, The Nouvelle Droite in Portugal: A New Strategy for the Radical Right in the Tradition from Authoritarianism to Democracy,  elegantly discusses this exact phenomenon. When the Salazar dictatorship came to an end in 1974 (236), this French political movement which was considered a ‘re-brand’ of far-right politics became adopted in Portugal among its students and citizens (234). With these unique fascist parties being a counter-movement to the growing threat of communism and Marxism concerning the newly independent African nations of ex-Portuguese colonies (243) and the threat to democracy in Western Europe from the Soviet-controlled East, one overarching theme kept coming to mind. 

In Western Europe, many far-right political parties associated themselves with the ND to some capacity to fight against the threat of socialism. Keeping this in mind, would it be possible to see far-right political parties today like AfD or Front National join forces to combat and counter the threats they see like globalization, supranational organizations and migration? Or was this phenomenon of multi-national movements under one name simply to combat the threat of communism and at the same time to re-brand their far-right ideologies?

Works Cited

Griffin, R. (2000). Between metapolitics and apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s strategy for conserving the fascist vision in the ‘interregnum.’ Modern & Contemporary France, 8(1), 35-53. DOI: 10.1080/096394800113349

Marchi, R. (2016). The Nouvelle Droite in Portugal: A new strategy for the radical right in the transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Patterns of Prejudice, 50(3), 232-252. DOI: 10.1080/0031322X.2016.1207924

Dissidence, Democracy and Dictatorship: The Struggle for Freedom in Europe’s last Authoritarian State

By Austin Pellizzer

With the Coronavirus pandemic continuing to make headlines in the European news for the last year, the fight against Europe’s last dictatorship continues to rage on despite being pushed out of the media limelight. For many Belarusians, the ongoing aspirations for democracy, human rights, and freedom continue to burn deep and unite citizens. 

Since the August 9, 2020, Presidential election in which Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko won by a landslide with 80% of the vote and cementing his 6th term in office, citizens immediately took to voicing their opposition. Within the first week of the civilian protests, tens of thousands marched in what some experts called the largest demonstrations to occur since independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. With Lukashenko holding the office of the presidency since 1994, the tides of technology, access to information, and opposition leaders continue to test the limits of what a leader can do to keep his regime in place. 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends his inauguration ceremony in Minsk, Sept. 23, 2020. (AP Photo)

One of the biggest threats to Lukashenko’s rule is the growing wave of technology and how the Belarusian youth have used it as a tool to push back against the violent crackdowns by the state. Platforms such as Telegram are used inside and outside its borders to share news regarding ongoing police violence. Not only has social media made it easier for Belarusians to connect even within nationwide internet blackouts, but also, it has been a tool to help promote opposition leaders to the Lukashenko Government.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, 38, is seen as the nations popular opposition leader with support from pro-democracy protesters and youths all over the nation. (BelarusFeed Photo)

A notable public figure who has helped lead the charge for democracy and human rights in Belarus is none other than 38-year-old Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Tikhanovskaya, a teacher and stay-at-home mother took the stage as one of Lukashenko’s opponents in the 2020 Presidential election after the arrest of her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky who was a leading presidential candidate. After sending her small children out of the nation to safety, she saw the opportunity to step into her husband’s shoes and take charge of the opposition movement. When the national election took place, it is reported that Tikhanovskaya only receiving 9.9% of the vote. However, Tikhanovskaya disputes it being closer to 75% of the vote based on the amount of public support she had gained in polls and social media popularity. With this disputed election result and international outcry over fraudulent and corrupt elections, she continues to push hard and stand not just for her family but also for the people of Belarus. Although the protests in August of 2020 have had overwhelming public support and international recognition, the movement in more recent months seems is at threat of losing momentum and traction among its supporters.  

People take part in a protest against the presidential election results demanding the resignation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and the release of political prisoners, August 16, 2020. 
(Reuters Photo)

With reliable and accurate polls scarcely available, it is difficult to pinpoint how these protests have won over citizens throughout the nation. However, one of the closest and reliable sources from the Berlin Centre for East European and International Studies (a nonprofit funded by the German Foreign Ministry) states that support from solely urban Belarusians that look favourably on these social uprisings is at 45%. This underwhelming support from a critical sector of the population is also being paired with the dwindling attendances at street demonstrations as Tikhanovskaya conceded in mid-February that they ‘lost the streets’ concerning her movements efforts. With Lukashenko carrying out harsher crackdowns and holding support from  Moscow and his Government Officials, the efforts for social and political change are coming closer to deteriorating. 

If internal actors continue to fall short of uniting all citizens, Belarus is in danger of failing to become a more welcomed and integrated member of the European family. While on the other hand, the likelihood of Lukashenko ever relinquishing power after this attempt at democracy becomes a more far-fetched aspiration in the hearts and minds of all Belarusians alike.

De-Radicalizing and Remembering: Coming to Grips with the Nazi Past and Collective Violence in the Present

By Austin Pellizzer

Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, historians have been in constant debate about how a nation should remember horrific events of war, especially the Holocaust. However, before looking at a more contemporary vision, one should look at the earliest steps used to combat the evil ideology of nazism at the end of the war.

In Werner Sollor’s article “Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text.”, Sollor describes how allied forces tried to de-radicalize and rehabilitate German society in the forms of questionnaires (139). These 131 question documents were used by the American forces to screen citizens for future employment in the new German state (142). However, this calls into question how effective it is for foreign actors to impose particular methods of de-radicalization onto groups (149). While it is true that Sollor discusses that it was, in fact, the German Marxists who coined this term of “denazification” (153), it was still used on mass by the allies. This article also points out a lack of oversight, trustworthiness, and resentment towards the Americans for demonstrating grandstanding gestures on a defeated enemy (149). Because of this, Sollor believes this action was a failed attempt at trying to change a society’s ideology through these particular means (140). 

In the same breath, Dan Snow’s podcast with Professor Mary Fulbrook addresses the idea of contemporary remembrance of these tragedies. In this talk, the topic of how one can become complacent and a critical actor in a killing machine was of great interest. However, one question which was brought up and in need of an explanation is as follows. What can be done in the contemporary age to try and deter society from adopting radical ideologies, becoming radicalized, and complacent in mass murder?

Works Cited

Mary Fulbrook, Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice podcast, 2019.

W. Sollors,“Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text.” German Life & Letters. Vol 71, Issue 2 (2018): 139-153.

Gender and Genocide: How Women in Germany Contributed to the Nazi Killing Machine

By Austin Pellizzer

 In the book Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower, Lower discusses in-depth the way women as a whole were not just complacent in the slaughter of millions of people under the Nazi regime, but rather, they played an instrumental roll in perpetuating the Nazi system both at home and abroad in the East (6). 

By giving women heavily controlled agency (11) to serve the State in significant ways such as on the Eastern front, in the medical corps, and or behind a desk, there were also social expectations they needed to uphold (21). Hitler believed that the roles of women were both in the movement and the home. He stated, “What man offers in heroism on the field of battle, woman equals with unending perseverance and sacrifice, with unending pain and suffering,” …”Every child she brings into the world is a battle, a battle she wages for the existence of her people. The National Socialist Community of the Volk was established on a firm basis precisely because millions of women became our most loyal, fanatical fellow-combatants” (22). As we can see, there were sharp contrasts and gendered roles prescribed from the highest levels of the Reich. These women were expected to fall in line with the Nazi policies and suppress their feelings. While also producing the perfect Aryan offspring (22) to support the thousand-year Reich.

With this, one question stuck out to me throughout the chapters that dealt with the ideas of performative gender and To what extent did these women have to walk a fine line between being a mother and embodying female Aryan ideals while taking on a hardened and ‘masculine’ trait of being ruthless and a murderer? Did these women have to police themselves to ensure one did not perform more of one gendered characteristic over the other? Did these women change their demeanour based on their social environments? And, what were society’s perceptions of these evil women who committed such unspeakable atrocities?

Works Cited

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

‘Jewish Space Lasers’: Disiplin for Some, But Not for All in the United States Congress

By: Austin Pellizzer

With the ousting of Georgia’s Congresswomen, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene from several US House committees this week following recently surfaced antisemitic and conspiratorial remarks made from social media, one thing is certain. The Democrats are quick to point fingers at others without looking in the mirror first. On Friday, The House voted to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene from committees after controversial comments surfaced that she had made and interacted with back in 2018-19 concerning different conspiratorial movements such as the Qanon movement and making antisemitic remarks about ‘Jewish space lasers’ from 2018. With these comments being outrageous and problematic for any person in elected Government to have, I could not help but think if Rep. Greene is to be vilified, why don’t we see these actions also directed at several populist Democratic figureheads who have over and over again espoused dangerous and antisemitic rhetoric all the same? 

Making their first appearance in Congress in the 2018 Midterm Election and again in the 2020 Presidential Election, prominent left-wing Democratic populist figureheads  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib won their respective State races. Their youthful energy, progressive attitudes, and diverse backgrounds made them some of the most popular Democratic figureheads within the last decade. That being said, a more sinister and problematic attitude has been a recurring and very prominent theme since these women have taken office. Antisemitism disguised as anti-zionism. 

One of the most outspoken darlings of such vehement hatred towards the Jewish State is Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Starting back in 2012, Rep. Omar tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”  Since then, she has been caught time and time again spouting antisemitic tropes. In 2019 she once again came under fire for saying in a speech, “So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” alluding to the antisemitic trope of Jews having dual-loyalties to different governments. While these comments rightfully stirred up controversy and public uproar, Rep. Omar did have to apologize but surprisingly still holds committee seats on the Education and Labour committee and Committee on Foreign Affairs. However, she is not the only one to have a checkered past riddled with conspiratorial and antisemitic views. 

Another member of the so-called ‘squad’ who has also been in the hot seat for pushing conspiratorial and antisemitic tropes in the Democratic party would be Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Rep. Tlaid, a Palestinian-American has a history of making such claims. Such as in November of 2020, she deleted a tweet that said “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a common slogan anti-Israel opponents use to not just unequivocally call for Israel to cease military or State presents in the West Bank or Gaza, but rather to eliminate the Jewish nation. While in another instance and more recently, she commented on President Biden’s pick of Tony Blinken as the new US Secretary of State as saying, ‘So long as he doesn’t suppress my First Amendment right to speak out against Netanyahu’s racist and inhumane policies. The Palestinian people deserve equality and justice.’ due to the fact Secretary of State Blinken is Jewish and is the son of Holocaust survivors. These examples highlight a few of the many examples of the antisemitic and hateful rhetoric that has virtually done unpunished by her Democratic colleagues.

While the comments made and shared by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene are troubling and  unacceptable, it is quite interesting to see how the Democratic Party which prides itself on being the party of ‘unity’, ‘healing’,  and ‘progressivism’ seems to show time and time again willful blindness and a lack of discipline when it comes to addressing conspiracy theories and antisemitism within its own ranks.

Scapegoating Works: How Fascism and Communism Used it to Achieve ‘Ideological Utopia’

By Austin Pellizzer

This week’s topic of Consent, Coercion, Acceptance gave us a chance to consider how gender, sexual identity, and other communal traits were used in perpetuating authoritarian and fascist regimes in Europe. Two articles, in particular, stuck out to me when looking at this phenomenon.

In the first example, we have Dan Healey’s article, Forging Gulag Sexualities: Penal Homosexuality and the Reform of the Gulag After Stalin. In this article, we get a historical account of how the establishment of the gulag work camps under Stalin in the 1930s (27) was not just a cruel way for Soviet citizens to be punished for going against party lines (27), but also a tool for the state to police peoples bodies and uphold their ‘socialist ideals’ (32). While it is true that even heterosexual sex was policed and discouraged in such spaces due to incurring “maintenance costs” if women were to become pregnant (30), it is interesting to see how homosexuals were the scapegoat and the threat to the ideal social order of the Communist society (32). However, this persecution did not end with Stalin’s death or when the institutions of gulags become phased out in the 1950s (38). Rather, this institutional homophobia in the Russian prison system was mixed with legal, medical, and experts hands (45) in perpetuating this discrimination throughout the rest of the Soviet regimes and even into the modern Russian prison system. 

The second example in which this week highlights the way fascist and authoritarian regimes used minorities as scapegoats to push their agendas was within the fascist regime of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu’s Legion of Archangel Michael in Romania (352). This was seen in Valentin Sandulesu’s article Fascism and its Quest for the “New Man”: The Case of the Romanian Legendary Movement. Within this model of fascism in the 1930s, Codreanu’s Legendary movement used the Romanian Jewish population to push their agendas (352) and also construct the idea of the “new man” (351). It was the use of persecuting this religious minority with the idea of the Jews not working alongside their fellow Romanian, but rather, they were the agitators and the reasons for Romania’s troubles post World War One (359). The attacks also lead to the boycotts of Jewish products (353) and other discriminatory actions to get revenge on what the Legendaries saw as the problem in the nation, which was “the Jewish problem” (353). 

It is with critically looking at both these cases that we can see how two nations with relatively different political constructs at this time used scapegoating towards their minorities to advocate the betterment of each utopian society.

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.

Spying, Leisure, and Subversion: How the ‘Strength Through Joy’ Program Could Have Worked Against the Nazi Reich

By Austin Pellizzer

In the mid-1930s, with the Nazi regime’s economic, social, and political atmosphere being stronger and prosperous than ever, offering its citizens an opportunity to travel outside its borders became a new and exciting experience for many of Germany’s own. Shelley Baranowski’s article, Strength Through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich, sheds light on the phenomena of how freedom and state surveillance can work hand-in-hand. In 1936, with much of the state coming under suspicion and paranoia of its citizens working to undermine its National Socialist goals (162-63), the world of state surveillance and across-class leisure converged into one (164). These trips were a way for Hitler’s regime to present the myth of Aryan superiority even in the allied nations such as Italy and Portugal (192). The goal of attempting to portray the German Reich as superior in living standards for all citizens (165) demonstrated how the Reich was steadfast in giving the illusion of order and superiority. 

With this generally popular program coming to an end due to the start of World War Two, Baranowski leaves one question wanting and without explanation. To what extent (if at any) did subversive and anti-governmental actions through espionage or other anti-Nazi networks work within this international sphere? Did said networks exist in a broader context? if they did, how did they manage?. While I understand how state-sponsored leisure and international programs would be closely monitoring its members actions, it would be interesting to see if any working-class people who Baranowski notes as having a prone attitude to supporting marxism (195) would have attempted to push back against the state. Lastly, as we see in the later war years, underground networks were a key facet which aided the downfall of this fascist regime across Europe. However, the question is, when did it all start?

Works Cited

Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the ThirdReich(Cambridge, 2004), pp. 1-10, pp. 162-98