The Medium Makes the Message and Currently it is Extreme Partisanship and Misinformation

By: Bryce Greer

I am going to break the “rules” slightly by pointing to the recent news this weekend of Fox News being sued for $1.6 billion by Dominion Voting Systems over false election claims. Furthermore, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted his website contributed to Capitol Riots as Congress presses Big Tech CEOs over misinformation on their platforms. These examples continue to highlight the significance of this week’s readings, understanding how both legacy media (seen with Fox) and social media (i.e., Twitter) have come to contribute to the growing partisanship in liberal democracy as well as the rise of populism in recent years.

The medium indeed makes the message, and right now that message is advocating extreme partisanship through mainstream media alongside the growing misinformation allowed by the unopposed Big Tech platforms of social media. Des Freedman’s article this week traces this argument quite well, noting how the rise of populism has come from the populist’s effective use of media to push their rhetoric. Although, Freedman also notes a significant anecdote on the compliancy of prestigious mainstream journalism as another factor in the failures of media. The two examples given on Trump’s winning of the election in 2016 and of Brexit’s acceptance showed how mainstream media’s aghast reception to these events revealed their failure in covering nonpartisan news that reflects all views of citizens.

Freedman’s article as it explains the many failures of media, notably how it has shifted to sensationalist stories that expand polarization and allow an indirect (and oftentimes direct) platform for populists, has therefore brought a centralized media network. This, connected alongside the unopposed Big Tech corporations, has placed information outside the hands of the independent media networks that can return to a nonpartisan approach to journalism. The conclusion Freedman argues, may be seen with the European Commission’s proposal for the Digital Services Act, which attempts to regulate larger platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc. but also allow for the growth of smaller independent start ups.

The Digital Services Act, however, I am not so sure of its potential success. Referring to Johannes von Moltke’s lecture on how “the Meme is the Message,” I think as much as democracy can try and regulate platforms and media, this does not accurately handle the local contexts. While platforms can certainly give voices to populists in a problematic and explicit way, smaller platforms like 4-chan, which would continue to likely sit under the radar of government, reveal misinformation like von Molke’s examination of cultural Marxism as exemplified through memes. Tess Slavickova’s and Peter Zvagulis’ paper, although a part of legacy media, also reveals how specific word plays and omission of perspectives can account for misinformation, and this is equally applicable to the local context of memes spread through small networks.

Ultimately in the end, then, there is a limit to the actions that can be done to prevent populism from rising, and as much as the platform can be regulated, there will always be a way for misinformation in the local context to be spread on smaller less regulated platforms. Perhaps regulation can prevent mainstream misinformation, and that would be utopian, but I would argue that perhaps we have allowed the Medium’s current message to be unresolved for too long. This compliancy has left us in a precarious and possibly unfixable state.

References:

Tess Slavíčková and Peter Zvagulis. “Monitoring Anti-Minority Rhetoric in the Czech Print Media: A Critical Discourse Analysis.” Journal of Language & Politics, vol. 13, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 152–170

D. Freedman, “Populism and media policy failure” European Journal of Communication 33 (6) (2018): 604-618

Digital Services Act – EU https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_2347


Johannes von Moltke, “The Meme is the Message” Freie Universität Berlin lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7e7lSGlSWs

The Stepping Process of the Populace Conspiracy Theory and its Weaponizing of it by the Populist.

By Bryce Greer

The populist playbook of conspiracy theories – how does this work? As I reflect on the readings this week, I found myself looking into how conspiracy theories work on the local level (i.e., the populace) as it compares to the political, and elite, level (i.e., the populists). It is a dangerous game and using Kalmar’s structure of a stepping process on the political level (pg. 185), I want to attempt to show a similar structure through the local context.

I took interest in Vice’s interview of Elke and Jurgen Technow, two German adherents of Q-Anon as they explained it as “an idea for good” and a “peace movement.” Melissa Chan’s question of “what if they were wrong” showed what I would perceive as self-awareness to the term “COVIDidiot”, and it made me question the layers to conspiracy theorists further. First, Mark Scott places the main reason for Q-Anon’s spread to be COVID-19. Quoting Johnathon Bright, “if you feel like you’re losing control of your life, you’re more likely to believe in these conspiracy theories.” I would agree in part, however many arguably have lost some extent of control in their life during the pandemic, and perhaps more susceptible, there must be other reasons that can be traced into the recruitment of conspiracy theories by far-right groups.

Continuing the Vice video, although only seeing a brief time of the Technow’s, the couple held specific emotive values to the theory due to child abuse being reported in the Q-Anon narrative. Nothing seems to suggest that they fit into the fringe groups of anti-Semites and the far right but nonetheless they fall into an area coopted by these groups. This is where Berlin’s resident Mirko and his story fits the stepping-process. To Mirko, “the problem with conspiracy theories is that people are interested at first. Maybe they even think it’s funny. But step by step, they get deeper into it and are infected.” Here is the beginning of it, although it does not explain every detail.

On the local level, when one enters the belief of conspiracy theories, it can start somewhat harmless, although misconstrued. Mirko, however, also brought up the Epstein affair which led me to think about the more mainstream, and nonpartisan, conspiracy theory “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself,” which arguably holds some credence to become as mainstream as it was. One scholar, in the video, notes that conspiracy theories strive by creating a master narrative of many others – and by placing credible theories in alongside anti-Semitic theories, the deeper one dives the closer to the fringe they go. This leads us to Michael Walter as he notes how he was ostracized by his friends, families, and church because he knew “the Truth.” Ultimately, he now is stuck in an echo chamber as his only support comes from those that believe the same theories.

And this, of course, is how the populist can use the populace in their conspiracy theory playbook. Through every push into the theories done on a local scale, harmless for some and hate-fueled for fringe anti-Semites and far-right followers, ostracization and deep-seated infection into more fringe theories leaves the populist to push their rhetoric. Returning to the second week and our definition of populism, it begins by having distrust for the media and the elite, and that is how conspiracy theories start in its nonpartisan origins for some of them. The recruitment into the far-right, of course, comes by populists using this distrust and linking themselves to localized conspiracy theories to further push fringe theories into the mainstream. The populist uses the populace and allows the conspiracy theory to grow through disinformation. How do we fix this? Well, I think it must start by depolarizing media and breaking the distrust – although arguably I think that may feel quite utopian in belief.

References:

Ivan Kalmar, “Islamophobia and anti-semitism: the case of Hungary and the ‘Soros Plot” Patterns and Prejudice Vol. 54 (1-2) (2020): 182-98.

How this TV chef turned COVID truther helped QAnon boom in Germany. VICE News, (23 October 2020)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1yOqtbWrdg&ab_channel=VICENews

Scott, M. QAnon goes European. POLITICO.  (23 October 2020) www.politico.eu/article/qanon-europe-coronavirus-protests/

Buckling European Identity with Postcolonialism: Start by Acknowledging Al-Andalus

I want to start my reflection by drawing attention to the title of Nilufer Gole’s reading this week: “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam.” I found myself shaping my view of this article quite closely with what I experience in Medieval Studies; as we saw in first week, the study still struggles to escape its Eurocentric time-space setting. Gole’s understanding of postcolonialism, and even arguing beyond the mirror of postcolonialism, buckles the outdated European Identity that still lives. One example given by Gole is Al-Andalus (although not explicitly named in the article), the Islamic region of Spain for over 400 years, as well as a region that continued to have a large Muslim population for another 400 years before they were expelled by Christians. Notably, it is a history that is contested today, especially by the far-right Vox in Spain currently and it links into the Othering of Islam.

By recentering Islam and decentering Europe, this specific postcolonial movement may indeed be the solution needed in the current politically climate to be able to show the interconnectedness of Islam to Europe. Seen in the New York Times article, Renaud Camus’s “great replacement theory,” or equally seen by Viktor Orban’s “Christian” Hungary in the Guardian article, the far-right holds close to a European identity. Gole expresses yet another example with the EU denying Turkey as a European country. It is certainly problematic, and Fatima El-Tayeb best summarizes why by explaining the thinking of a coalition of queer activists, feminists, conservatives, nationalists, and white supremacists alike. As she argues “what they have in common is an understanding of Islam as not a religion, practiced in a variety of forms, but as an all-encompassing ideology, stripping its adherents of all individuality.” (82)

The Othering of Islam, often from Western perspectives, fails to showcase the individuality of all who follow the faith, emphasis here on faith as the ideology exists only through Islamism. El-Tayeb’s study on queer Muslims, for example, proves how specific studies can combat the European (Western) identity that places the West in a position of modernity over the East – specifically showing Said’s theory of Orientalism. Queer Muslims and their coming out shows the connection of Islam to Europe and proves individuality away from this believe that every Muslim is traditionalist. On the Christian side, here too is postcolonialism working to counter the “Christian Europe” identity. Dan Stone’s article on Holocaust Memory and the European refugee crisis shows how the current climate has the likeness to the Holocaust, and although not the same, it is critical for many to avoid falling into that environment, especially with the Othering of refugees. Orban as an example also shows hope by Christians like Pastor Gabor Ivanyi as he calls out that Hungary is not a Christian-state for actions that no Christian should ever do. Just as one example, outside of academia, Ivanyi shows the separation from European Identity.

Thus, as a question for a multi-cultural Europe? I point once again to al-Andalus as proof, just as Gole suggests, to show how medieval Europe already was multi-cultural and interreligious. Islam already exists interconnected with Europe – the issue is that some do not want to except that. In which case, European Identity should buckle the further scholars move forward in decentering Europe and recentering Islam.

References:

Julian Coman, “The Pastor and the Populist: Hungary’s New Faith Faultline” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/29/pastor-v-populist-viktor-orbanhungary-faith-faultline

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.

Norimitsu Onishi, “The Great Replacement and Renaud Camus” (September 20, 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/world/europe/renaud-camus-greatreplacement.html

Dan Stone, “On Neighbours and Those Knocking at the Door: Holocaust Memory and Europe’s Refugee Crisis.” Patterns of Prejudice 52, no. 2/3 (May 2018): 231–43.

Espousing the Cultural New Left into the New Right: A Case Study on the Nouvelle Droite in the Post-War Period

I think fundamentally it is important to start by saying that just like the Left, there are many forms and thoughts that come from the Right and their ideologies. This is what particularly stood out in this week’s reading as we investigate the ambiguous nature of the Nouvelle Droite as a school of thought that can now hold a political influence for the contemporary far right. The ND’s line was between what Roger Griffin described as a mirror of “anti-fascist fascism” that then mixes into the ideology that took influence from the New Left movement in 1968. Griffin outlined how despite looking Left, for a contemporary reader, ND was inspired by Armin Mohler’s thesis on the “Conservative Revolution” which held sympathy for non-Nazi German fascism. What separated Benoist’s New Right, however, was his understanding of the new fear of fascism in the world post-WW2. Using the wave of postmodern thinkers in 1968, and as my title alludes to, Benoist managed to couple New Left thought into his own New Right, despite its extreme right ideological disguise.

To hold ground in the new anti-fascist world, Benoist saw how the culture post-war was becoming predominantly more liberal and progressive, and he himself used Gramsci’s theory that it was “cultural hegemony in civil society,” those that control dominant values, “that promised long-term dominant power.” This was then applied to his New Right, designing a “politically-correct” form of right-wing politics by using the new cultural ideas of the Left to fuel his space. By stepping away from the negative terms of fascism, racism, and others that have been applied to Nazism or Italian fascism, and rather redesigning similar ideas into a more pan-European understanding, Benoist was able to use the new postmodern ideas like anti-colonialism, to push his still nationalist platform.  

Perhaps, his line of thinking in using New Left was brilliant. By using the liberal environment, ND became a transnational phenomenon for its methodology in use by the far right. Portugal stands as an example by agreeing to the right-wing Gramscian ideology and using this to push individual far-right ideas. In both France and Portugal, the new method of applying right-wing politics was through cultural means, especially by designing journals and news sources to define the New Right’s attempt at creating its own dominant viewpoint. In one case, it could be seen with Benoist’s Nouvelle Ecole and in Portugal, it was with Futuro Presente. Indeed, by placing themselves into the cultural world rather than just political, the New Right has made their transnational “school of thought” remain influential today.

And in a sense, this may explain the appeal to the far-right today. Le Pen’s “softening” of the National Rally may espouse the ND’s use of liberal ideas to attempt to create a new and separate cultural hegemony, one that is pan-European but allows for far-right groups to hold their nationalist values. With the ND, it has allowed groups today to avoid the words that link back to fascism but also allow the remnants of fascism to still hold within their own policies. In a horrifying and alarmist tone, maybe the ND’s Gramscian understanding has helped create a vagueness around the new far-right and has allowed the thoughts to become more mainstream now that liberal democracy continues to crack in its foundation.

References:

Tamir Bar-On, “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite.” Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 45, no. 3 (July 2011): 199–223.

Roger Griffin, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum.’” Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 8, no. 1 (Feb. 2000): pp. 35–53.

Riccard Marchi, “The Nouvelle Droite in Portugal: A New Strategy for the Radical Right in the Transition from Authoritarianism to Democracy.” Patterns of Prejudice vol. 50, no. 3 (July 2016): 232–52.

Why COVID-19 Could Signal a Further Rise of the Far-Right in the 21st Century || Opinion

By: Bryce Greer

By reconstructing our memory of the 1918 Influenza epidemic, we can prepare to combat the ever-more potential rise of the far-right in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Like many others trying to escape boredom in their time of isolation due to COVID-19 lockdowns, I looked more and more to the internet. Here, I happened upon a news article by Crawford Kilian that stood out for its almost prophetic warning to our current pandemic despite being written in 2017. Although, realistically, Kilian was not a prophet. Instead, what he does is show the importance of reconstructing our memory of the 1918 Influenza pandemic.

I bring up his article today as a plea for us to continue looking to the past to prepare for the near future. In recent headlines, I have noticed media claim that the far-right is taking massive blows due to COVID-19 revealing their incompetence. While there is an element of truth to such claim, I fear, in perhaps an alarmist tone, that we underplay the threat of the far-right with these statements. One look to the 1918 Influenza pandemic may be enough to show how COVID-19 can lead to long-term gains for far-right movements.

Back in May 2020, researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York published a report claiming that the 1918 Influenza pandemic had supported the rise of Nazism. Statistics had shown that regions that suffered greater mortality-rates due to the virus also had higher turn-out rates for far-right parties in the years following. Similarly, it was noted that there was an increased anti-immigrant outlook in regions due to the uniqueness of the new virus, coupled with a weaponizing of the “Other” by parties like the Nazi Regime.

Richard Evans, a historian focused on Germany, has recently noted that Nazi Germany weaponized the fear in the language of “virus” by comparing Jews to terms like parasite or plague. The rhetoric seems shockingly familiar – perhaps Trump’s claim of a “China Plague” rings a bell. Just as was done with the 1918 Influenza pandemic, now we see an increase in anti-immigrant outlook among the populace once again.

Take for example Canada. Opinions have surfaced critiquing the Canadian government for their “open house” policy through air travel into the country. While the article states that statistically only 1.3% of cases come from airports, and there is strict policy on who may currently enter, one look to the comments can see people turning the blame of the virus on foreigners. The rhetoric is wrong, and yet the damage is already harmful.

Due to COVID, polls have shown that 20% of Canadians have grown a more negative attitude to immigration due to fear of the pandemic. While some can try and claim that this could be simple fear of the pandemic, last week, Vancouver reported that Anti-Asian hate crime has increased by 717% in the last year. This is one city, and an arguably progressive one as well. Clearly, nationalist, and anti-immigrant, outlook is growing. This will ultimately fuel the far-right.

And so, as experts highlight the massive blows due to the incompetence of far-right populists, I want to direct attention to the growing fear of the “Other” whether seemingly connected to the pandemic or not. Secondly, I also want to express the words of Cas Mudde, a political scientist focusing on populism in Europe. “Trump is the exception but not the rule.” Coming to generalize the far-right on the incompetence of Trump’s clear mishandling of the pandemic fails to show the nationalist element of the far-right. In Europe, there is a different story.

Ignacio Garriga, the regional candidate of Catalonia for Spain’s far-right Vox, was a vocal critic against Salvador Illa, of the Socialist Party, for his mismanagement and failure to deal with COVID. Illa had resigned as health minister, and from the weaponizing of the pandemic, Garriga had made a new move for Vox into Catalonia’s parliament securing eleven seats in the recent election. Previously, the party had no hold in their government. Vox’s support has come from pandemic burnout. Not only in Catalonia but also in France can we see the far-right Marine Le Pen’s popularity soar in the pandemic, now on par with Macron in voter support.

While some far-right falter, others take the mantle and strive. In the short-term, there are sacrifices, but in the long-term, COVID is bound to bring about further economic recession and a greater anti-immigrant outlook, policies that the far-right easily weaponize. For that, I think we may soon need to address the second wave that is the far-right not so long after surpassing the waves of COVID.

Traumatic Realism in Memory and Coming to Terms with Comparisons to the Holocaust

By: Bryce Greer

I want to preface by saying that I take my reflection in a slightly different way then most of my other responses to other week’s readings. This week spoke different volumes to me when discussing memory in history.

Back in high school, maybe when I was 14 or 15, I remember my high school history teacher bringing in a guest speaker. It pains me that I do not recall her name, but what she talked about- her experiences of the residential schools in Canada- have been deeply rooted into my memory. The Indigenous woman, who stood before me in the classroom, spoke of her trauma on a history that I had never been previously taught. It was her voice and her story that I came to recollect in my own memory when reflecting on the readings this week. It is why I want to reflect on traumatic realism in memory as something that I think can speak to one of the lessons from the atrocities committed by Nazism with regards to the Holocaust.

The use of the phrase “traumatic realism” I take from one of Michael Rothberg’s book titles as a way to primarily have a conversation with his article “Comparing Comparisons” this week. In the article, he discusses the Historikerstreit and the debate around the uniqueness of the Holocaust, something recently returned in the contemporary alongside the rise of the far-right. I could not help but see the political use of the Holocaust by both the Left and Right today as something that highlights the exact issues when coming toward the debate. And Rothberg sums it up well on how we need to approach the debate: comparing an atrocious genocide to Auschwitz is not “unthinkable [but] how one does it and why are where the crux of the ethical and political matter lies.”

To me, there is a political game being played around the current debate of the uniqueness of the Holocaust. To look at it simply, the truthful answer is that the Holocaust is unique. The violence, the suffering, the trauma, it is all unique. On a global scale: colonialism, the Gulag, and the current Chinese internment camp of Uyghur Muslims all hold their own uniqueness to the violence, suffering, and trauma. Where the comparison of these atrocities lie is by understanding the histories through the stories of those who hold the memories, the traumas, as they come forward to speak about them. It takes sympathetic ears to see how trauma is something shared in each of these histories.

Mary Fulbrook had noted in her book that the evolution of memory culture was abused outside the stories, creating a sense where those who were “uniquely” suffering or suffered the most, became this desirable status in a perverse twist. (366) Yet the trauma in memory is unique to every individual, and hearing the story sympathetically is the way forward for the listener and the speaker in continuing the memory. Sympathy to these traumas should not be ranked. The story of Hugo Spiegel in Helmut Smith’s reading is unique to him, and as I read and come to learn of his story, it will become one that I remember as he spoke of his trauma following the Holocaust. Now, when I look back at the Indigenous woman who spoke to me only 8 years ago, I see her unique story compared to his as both memories of a past downplayed to simplicity. One must escape bureaucratic history-making for comparison, as it is the memory of these stories that can show comparative sympathy to both victims of the past and those that still suffer today.

References:

Mary Fulbrook. Reckonings : Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Michael Rothberg, “Comparing Comparison: From the “Historikerstreit to the Mbembe
Affair” Geschichte der Gegenwart September 23, 2020
https://geschichtedergegenwart.ch/comparing-comparisons-from-the-historikerstreitto-the-mbembe-affair/

Helmut Walser Smith, “It Takes a Village to Create a Nation’s Memory” Zocalo Public
Sphere https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2021/01/11/post-war-germany-jewishreturn-memory-national-reckoning/ideas/essay/

From Erika Ohr to Catherine, the Cashier: A Look into the Women of the Far Right and their Own Women’s Rights Movement

By Bryce Greer

Erika Ohr, a sheepherder’s daughter, was approached by nursing recruiters in 1938 while she worked as a domestic servant for a priest in Swabia. To her, she felt left out, a stranger, who then was forced to join the Nazi Party’s League of German Girls. Yet while here, she became inspired by two Red Cross Nurses who told their story of leaving behind the farms to make a name by their choice of profession. For Ohr, this was her choice to leave behind her old life. To her, she wanted more. Not unlike Ohr, Catherine, a cashier at a budget supermarket in Paris in the contemporary, wanted more. To Catherine, “the elite in power hasn’t got a clue what life is like for real people.” To Catherine, then, the answer to her “more” was Marine Le Pen and the far-right. In both accounts, the far-right had an appeal for women to make their own choices and to begin their own movement – one that was active but not like what we should perhaps now call a left-wing women’s movement through feminism.  

This week’s readings showed a nuance to women’s rights movements, and equally showed a disillusioned failure by academics in understanding the role of women in the far-right. Rather than just a passive victim, some themselves find their own agency in the right just as well as men, and many still feel left-behind. Ohr’s story in Lower’s Hitler’s Furies is one of many that showed a sense of belonging for women in professions through the Nazi movement. Emphasized by Lower was the idea that the far-right fed on idealism and energy of young people, yet for women this idealism came to surface through a wish of ambitious want in life. The aspiration, Lower now calls cliché in the contemporary, was its own revolutionary movement in the 1930s.

The ambitious life is one that becomes equally valued in the Auxilio Azul Maria Paz movement in Madrid, as written about by Lopez. An all women organization, the Auxilio Azul showcased the active working of women in fascist movements despite the prescribed misogynistic world that fascism sought. Even so, the group, although differing from contemporary belief, were women who fought “to live the quiet, domestic, traditional, Catholic lives… and saw their own reality.” (Lopez, 713) To take into this consideration then, the pro-Franco women in Lopez’s reading were agents of their own movement to sacrifice for the right of others to live “ordinary lives” that were patriarchal in nature.

With Catherine’s story being told alongside the current women in power of the far-right, Chrisafis’s question on why women of the far-right are turning to groups that traditionally opposed feminism, is seen now through Franco Spain or Nazi Germany. This was a time before feminism really found its movement, and yet women still had their own movements for agency and rights. In Lower’s work, it was Jewish men that became a sexualized form of anti-Semitism that allowed women to become their own protector of their body and rights. Today’s far-right continue this blame and add Muslims and any other immigrant to their mix now as well. And despite a misogynistic world of the far-right, women like Le Pen, Hochst, or Miazga have shown the active role they can play to appeal for the far-right and women’s rights. To combat misogyny is universal, and women of the far-right have found their own active movement outside of the “leftist” feminism.

Works Cited:

Angelique Chrisafis, “From Le Pen to Alice Weidel: How the European far-right set its
sight on women” The Guardian January 29, 2019
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jan/29/from-le-pen-to-alice-weidelhow-the-european-far-right-set-its-sights-on-women

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.

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

As One of the Final Defenders of a “Full Democracy,” It is Time for Canada to Leave Behind First-Past-the-Post.

By: Bryce Greer

As of today, the Economist Intelligence Unit has categorized only 23 countries as a “full democracy.” Looking at all that happened in the first month of 2021, with the military coup of Myanmar or the storming of the U.S Capitol Building on January 6th, I do not doubt it. Luckily, here in Canada, we remain a staunch defender to the title of “full democracy,” but do not let that fool you. There are cracks in our own democratic foundation that is letting in the tides of far-right populism. One of these cracks is our current electoral system, First-Past-the-Post (FPTP).

The FPTP system is arguably fueling an environment that will allow for the rise of far-right populism, already noticeable with the new People’s Party of Canada. To elaborate, political scientist Cas Mudde has defined populism as a “response to the perceived lack of options within an increasingly closed political space.” As a result, many in the environment become discontent, turning to non-voting as a solution in many cases, but begrudgingly feeling as though they suffer the “us” (or the people) versus “them” (the elites) rhetoric. If this definition sounds close to home, it should.

Over the winter holidays, controversy broke out over the shocking number of Canadian politicians who travelled, some internationally, despite orders by the government for all Canadians to stay home and avoid unessential travels. Look at the clear hypocrisy: “Rule for thee, but not for me.” Certainly, the “us” versus “them” rhetoric can be expressed openly at news like this. And yet, in many of these ridings where these politicians were voted in, they represented only a minority of the voters due to the FPTP system. There is clear misrepresentation of the people.

Look further at the Canadian Federal Elections. In 2019, Trudeau’s Liberals won the government, albeit a minority, with 33% of the popular vote. The Conservatives, on the other hand, lost despite having 34% of the popular vote. In 2015, Trudeau’s Liberals won a majority while representing 39% of Canadian voters, and in 2011, Harper’s Conservatives won a majority with 39% also. In what sense does this speak “democracy” when many people do not support the party in power? The system is clearly failing in proper representation.

Not only does FPTP create a misrepresented democracy, but it also creates a polarized pseudo two-party system even though Canada is anything but. Every federal election narrows down to whether the Liberals or the Conservatives earn power, both earning roughly the same popular vote. In 2019, this was around 33% each. Looking at the seat distribution, however, and it is advantageous only to these two parties, treating alternatives like the NDP or Green Party to be a wasted vote. Again, consider the 2019 election. The NDP earned 16% of the popular vote, about half of the Liberal’s 33%, yet the Liberals earned 157 seats and the NDP earned only 24. The numbers do not add up. Despite 16% of Canadians voting the NDP, they represent only 7% of the seats in government.

So, as FPTP clearly misrepresents the people, what is the alternative? Well, there are several, although the predominant choice is Proportional Representation (PR) which in its simplest form means that the percentage of voters equals the percentage of seats in parliament. One of the largest critiques of PR, however, is this idea that it gives platforms to populists. Certainly, as we see the PPC represent the far-right, populists may gain seats in this electoral system. Yet, under FPTP, we already see the efforts of populist tendencies that creates examples of democratic backsliding, like false claims of election fraud, according to political scientist Nancy Bermeo.

FPTP is dated, misrepresents the Canadian voters, and can spawn the threat of an undermined democracy. Days following the storming of the U.S. Capitol, the Conservative Party claimed Trudeau was rigging the next election. Others have called him a mini fascist. Through a system that allows for polarized and forced voting of the lesser of two evils, the rise of a populist is not an unlikely possibility. Remember, it was FPTP and not PR that saw Maxime Bernier, a far-right populist, lose by a margin of 2% to Scheer despite only 28% of Conservatives voting him in the first round the 2015 Conservative Leader Election. If he had not split off, perhaps Bernier would have been the Conservative voted due to many wishing for Trudeau to be out. In such world, perhaps we would have lost our proud title that is “full democracy.”

The Collective Identity as the “New Man”: Soldier Masculinity as a Factor of Fascist Unity

By: Bryce Greer

Valentin Sandulescu’s “Fascism and its Quest for the “New Man”: The Case of the Romanian Legionary Movement” delves deep into the history of the Romanian Legionary Movement as its leader, Codreanu, sought for a redefinition of Romania and the “New Man”. Sandulescu does well to highlight the history, detailing the cultural aspect of appealing to the youthful revolutionaries as a way of creating a united front under this idea of a reformed heroic “man” as a follower. Ultimately, in the end, Sandulescu only briefly talks about the educating of the youth into this idea of “new men” and it is here that the “New Man” theory becomes an idealized collective community. Following the author’s footsteps in using ideal-type concepts like general fascism as an analytical tool, I found myself reflecting the deep workings of the Third Reich’s protean masculinity of comradeship to highlight the true search for the “New Man.” In the ultimate end, it is a wish for a united front, “to tame the revolt” as Sandulescu calls the actions of the Romanian Legionary Movement, that becomes deeply rooted into the hegemonic masculine ideals of fascism.

Following Thomas Kuhne’s examination of soldier masculinity in “Protean Masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich,” the idea of the “New Man” becomes an idea of comradery. “Hard” masculinity was hegemonic, as in one had to be stoic, brave, and other heroic traits that define the Romanian Legionary’s “new man.” Just as important, however, was the soft masculinity when it came to male-bonding at a time of difficult happenstances. For the Third Reich, soft masculinity through a sense of brotherhood was normalized, and for the Romanian Legion, it was giving a sense of belonging to the youth that felt they did not fit in to society. To conclude then, the “new man” was the “new men,” wherein the fascist “new man” was anti-individual that routed together the like mindedness of those that wished to fit into the definition of masculinity. The desire for a hegemonic masculinity saw instances of almost feminine familial traits be enacted to define the man as a group, and most often it was seen in the young militants of fascism. For one, it began through unity of men beyond societal settings. Militaristic masculinity was the New Man.

Works Cited:

Thomas Kühne, “Protean Masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third
Reich” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.

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

Weaponizing Cultural Fascism: How Tourism Enabled the Fascist Myth for the Contemporary Far-Right

By Bryce Greer

Vice’s report “Inside Spain’s Fascism Fandom” is eye-opening in the portrayal of Francoism in the contemporary period. Shocking the most was the inclusion of Chen, a Chinese immigrant and Franquista, who after being asked about how he, as an immigrant, would have been treated under Franco’s regime, replied: “Of course. In Spain, in Franco’s time, nobody lived badly.” On the contrary, Franco’s regime saw the use of violence, repression, and assisted in the use of concentration camps, executing immigrants and other marginalized communities that did not fit in his nationalist picture for Spain. It is clear, then, that the contemporary far-right sees a spectacle of 20th century fascism that acts as a veneer over its atrocious histories. The fear should be spread to such idea of a weaponized cultural fascism, one deep-rooted in its use of tourism.

Justin Crumbaugh noted that in the 1960s, the Franco regime restyled itself around its economics, attempting to project a positive identification onto its government. After being one of the few remaining Fascist leaders, this restyle came through the form of consumerist tourism, one that created an impression that it took a collective Spanish population to develop. Hence, tourism created a sense of a Spanish identity, the economic boom led to the soft dictatorial rule, and yet still fascist. Its combination of tourism to information, through films, newsreels, etc., led to a popular appeal to the Franco regime, one that brought Spain to its rightful glory. The created Spanish myth of an economically stable Spain across all classes was brought forward by tourism, yet the beaches of Spain did not look the same as the common village on the regime’s margins. Clear then, was the weaponizing of tourism alongside the culture of fascism to create a sense of a good past, one that leaves the contemporary with a nostalgia to the regime’s claimed glory. Fundamentally, Crumbaugh left me wondering about the margins, but perhaps the similarities to Nazi Germany’s Strength Through Joy (KdF) can answer it.

While Chen claimed that “you can’t put Franco together with Hitler” and that they have different stories, I found the same narrative he holds nostalgia for in Franco’s regime had similar popular appeal in Nazi Germany’s KdF. In its own form of tourism, KdF created the impression of a harmonized class and a united racial community for Germans. Through photographs, and by using undercover surveillance, KdF was able to give to the desires of the working class. On the local level, however, the complaints saw the marginalized communities continue to suffer. There was disunity in social statuses with class tension revealed through the different attitudes given to KdF tourists as opposed to private tourists. Yet, as an organization, it survived through its interplay with propaganda, like the Franco regime.

In the end, I am still left wondering how tourism became used by fascist groups to create a now contemporary nostalgia, however, to explain people like Chen and other far-right individuals, stability through the fabrication of tourism can easily create a spectacle in belief of a return to what they would call “good.”

Works Cited:

Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third
Reich (Cambridge, 2004)

Justin Crumbaugh, “Prosperity and Freedom Under Franco: the Grand Invention of
Tourism” in Destination Dictatorship: the Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boom and the
Reinvention of Difference (SUNY Press, 2009)

Vice International, “Inside Spain’s Fascism Fandom,” Vice. YouTube (Sept. 17th 2020). Accessed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqKSXPiGe7U