The Impacts of Modern Day Media on Right-Wing Populism

With the final reading response of the semester, we have come full circle: In Week 2 on Defining Terms, I wrote the following: 

Defined as “a set of ideas focused on a fundamental opposition between the people and the elite,” I believe populism has in part gained prominence due to increased online connectivity. The media landscape today…allows for a broader range of opinions and values. 

Week 11’s readings echoed the above idea that populist parties have utilized online environments to connect and mobilize a broader audience of potential voters. Hatakka notes the rise of right-wing populism in Europe has coincided with online far-right activism. According to Mudde, this is no mere coincidence: today’s media landscape has provided access and coverage for populist politicians that were not formerly available. 

While an engaged populous is good for democracy, there are dangers with the modern day networked society. As indicated by Slavíčková & Zvagulis and Doerr, “new racism” has emerged and consequently facilitated hate speech in the media. Slavíčková & Zvagulis’s study considers how new racism is found in the wording of news stories, including journalistic skewing and the absence of minority voices. Doerr’s take on new racism instead looks at media imaging, specifically arguing how visual devices like political cartoons reinforce anti-immigrant discourse. This likens back to the Matthews article, as he argues European right-wing populist parties such as UKIP, Front National and AfD have used the media to spread anti-immigration messaging, in particular racist messaging against Islam. 

Hate speech is certainly not new to Europe: Göle harkens back to the destruction of the Mostar Bridge— a symbol connecting the Muslim and Christian communities in Bosnia—was strategically shelled as a not so subtle religious statement by Croatian gunman while fighting the Bosnian Muslims. However, the “connective action” online phenomenon described by Hatakka offers much different conditions for media networking as what came before. Now, the internet has eased the ability for people with similar political interests to meet, organize, debate and expand their outreach like never before. 

While increasing online engagement is often positive for society, Freedman argues the current liberal approach to media policy has enabled the far-right to exploit communication systems. Notably, populists have effectively spread political messages based on sentiment over fact. This is important, as Feldmen argued in Week 2 how notes how nationalism morphed into fascism by going beyond politics and building a king of “political religion.” As we see populist leaders have continually played on people’s emotions, Freeman emphasizes the dangers of the policy inaction to mediate racist populist messaging and skewed media environments. 

At the conclusion of the semester, I still believe my words from Week 2, that “under a democratic democracy, we will not see the likes of fascism in the West reborn.” However, after Week 11, I believe the knock-on effects of a run-away media landscape dominated by right-wing, anti-immigrant rhetoric cannot be ignored. 

A Tale of Two Parties: Left vs. Right Wing Populism in the 2019 British Election

On November 6, 2019, the 57th Parliament of the United Kingdom (UK) was officially dissolved. With support from the House of Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the Conservative Party called an early election to take place on December 12, 2019. While the next UK election was scheduled for May 5, 2022, policymakers across the House agreed a general election was required to break the political impasse over Brexit.

Unusual timing notwithstanding, eyes are turned to the 2019 British election as yet another battlefield between left and right wing populism in Europe. On the left, we have Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the so-called “populist wearing a cardigan,” pitted against the aforementioned Boris Johnson of the Conservative Party on the right. 

So what do these two parties—who appear to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum—have in common? For one, both leaders have adopted an increasingly populist tone. Corbyn speaks of “going after the tax dodgers, dodgy landlords, bad bosses, and big polluters, because we know whose side we’re on.” Johnson has been compared to the likes of Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Donald Trump in the US, who are “right-wing, conservative, nationalist and authoritarian” political leaders. In the British battle of two populisms, it has become increasingly important for voters to understand the differences (and striking similarities) between the right and left wing iterations of this global phenomenon 

Boriss Johnson, Conservative Party Leader and current Prime Minister of the UK

Scholars have established a minimum definition of the far/radical right based on three central factors: nativism, authoritarianism, and populism. According to this definition, can we therefore categorize Johnson as a far-right leader? Not quite. 

For one, authoritarianism refers to a rules-based society that restricts individual freedoms, dissenting opinions, and an independent judiciary. With a Brexit campaign slogan of “by any means necessary” and a Supreme Court ruling of 11-0 that his suspension of the British Parliament was unlawful, Johnson is certainly not afraid to challenge the rule of law. While this may be a sign that liberal democracy is under attack, populism has been kept in check from morphing to the radical right as a result of the UK’s strong, democratic institutions. Without authoritarian rule, Johnson’s right wing ideology, however provocative, is not radical. 

As for nativism and populism, it’s a bit more complex. It’s no coincidence that the rebirth of populism arrived after the impacts of the 2008 financial crisis led to an economic slump. As a result, both disgruntled workers and traditional right-wing supporters were able to unite for change. Notably, right-wing populism is often held accountable for turning the “us vs. them” populist rhetoric against immigrants. By closing borders and returning to the glories of the nation state, the result has been an “Othering” of foreigners, and in particular immigrants who would put strain on the national services like healthcare. However radical this may seem, the Conservative Party has stopped far short of the kind of racial exclusion that premeditates fascism. 

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party Leader

While right-wing populism has taken Europe by storm, UK voters would be wise to give due attention the growing wave of left-wing populism embodied by the Labour Party and Corbyn. Perhaps viewing the success of his European counterparts, Corbyn has shifted Labour farther left and embraced populism by identifying a different us vs. them than Johnson. Corbyn’s Labour Party has instead campaigned against the “established elite” embodied by the Conservatives. 

It is important not to confuse left-wing populism with socialist movements. While building its base from those discouraged from the divide between the have and have-nots, it does not seek to end capitalism or the class conflict.  

Where does this British leave voters? Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair warns the  “populism running riot” has pushed the two main parties to extreme ends of the political spectrum. At the same time, the left and right options available to voters have become more similar today. According to scholars, both right and left-wing populism have followed a similar populist playbook: 

  1. Encouraging an emotional sense of injustice 
  2. Mobilizing the masses 
  3. Transforming the media landscape
  4. Headed by charismatic party leaders

In the case of the UK, the House of Commons is dominated by a two-party system. While contenders like the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Liberal Democrats still vie for seats, in reality this leaves the majority of British voters without a moderate option for 10 Downing. The populism embodied by Johnson and Corbyn therefore does not enable meaningful political decision-making by citizens. 

It appears that what began as a movement for “the people” has therefore left the majority of British voters feeling unaccounted for. One saving grace is in order to build a Parliamentary majority, both the Labour and Conservative Party will likely need to form a coalition government. The post-election onus may therefore be left in the hands of the SNP and the Liberal Democrats to real in the populist extremes to provide stable governance for the UK. 

Defining Terms Round 2: Radical Right vs. Extreme Right

By Christine Collins

Another week, another set of definitions to consider. Castelli Gattinara draws together terms from other academics to establish a minimum definition of far/radical right based on the centrality of three factors: nativism, authoritarianism, and populism. 

Nativism places the needs of ‘real’ citizens above those of immigrants. They hold a homogeneous view of the nation, viewing foreign people and ideas as a threat to the collective whole 

Authoritarianism refers to a strictly ordered society based on ‘law and order’ 

Populism divides societies into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups: ‘the pure people’ and ‘the corrupt elite’ 

Throughout the readings, I was constantly checking my understanding of the radical right vs. the extreme right, terms I have used interchangeably throughout my life and throughout this course. This harkened back to our fine combing of the differences between fascism and right-wing populism from Week 2. Of relevance to this week’s themes, the Matthews article made the distinction that Trump is not a fascist because he doesn’t want to overthrow the democratic system. 

This consideration of democracy and its place in society linked to Castelli Gattinara, in that he distinguishes the ‘extreme’ from ‘radical’ far right actors. Both see the end goal as authoritarianism.  However, Castelli Gattinara emphasizes those under the radical category deem it reasonable and even necessary to step beyond basic political reforms to achieve their goals. In other works, extreme right wing actors are ideologically opposed to democracy. 

One contrast I saw in the readings pitted Beauchamp and Castelli Gattinara’s ideas on the Othering used by right wing groups. As defined by El-Tayeb and Wekkers, Othering Is the act of grouping people who do not fit the ideals of a social group and, as a result, looking to that group as inferior. For Beauchamp, radical right wing ideology is a race game, grouping the Muslim, foreign threat as the outsiders in Europe. Castelli Gattinara offers a different perspective, considering the Other less biological and more cultural. For him, far right groups Other immigrants on the basis of their supposed unshared values on gender equality, free speech and secularism. 

I’d challenge this belief there has been a shift from biological to cultural racism. In my view, while “differing values” is a justification right-wing groups will give for their Othering, at the end of the day, European exceptionalism is first-and-foremost linked to race. Beauchamp addresses this to some degree in his discussion on Eastern Europeans, recognizing how some, but not all, are accepted by Westerners. I’d argue we saw the act of Othering play out when comparing the two most recent refugee crises in Europe: displaced Yugoslavians were resettled into Western European countries, while migrants coming from Muslim-majority countries have experienced much weaker integration today. While these differing welcomes may be as a result of cultural differences, I believe that race and a lack of shared skin colour is a far more convincing explanation.  

Exploring the Dangers of Collective Identity and Othering in European Society

By Christine Collins 

According to Stone, collective memory refers to the “images and representations of the past that circulate in society and shape a group’s self-image.” When considering this week’s theme on how myths surrounding European identify are challenged with the increased polarization of the rhetoric surrounding mass migration, this definition emphasizing the selective nature of collective memory rings true. 

The selectiveness of collective memory to fit a particular image is showcased by Göle in her comparison of the commemorations (or lack of thereof) of the Berlin Wall and the Moster Bridge. While both structures are historically interconnected, the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolized the end of Communism, and is thus celebrated. By contrast, the destruction of the Mostar Bridge— a symbol connecting the Muslim and Christian communities in Bosnia—was “stripped of its symbolic and historical significance” after being shelled by Croatian gunman while fighting the Bosnian Muslims. In choosing to honour a monument symbolizing a Europe freed from Communism while forgetting the continent’s history with Islam, we are presented with a European self-image that overlooks inconvenient moments of its history. 

Depending on national, international, or transnational contexts, collective memory can take different forms and emphasize certain aspects over others. As articulated by Marhoefer, a Holocaust memorial in Berlin commemorating the persecution of gay men was argued to be a “falsification” of history if it simultaneously portrayed lesbian women. Since women did not face the same persecution as homosexual men under Nazi Germany, there were debates on whether they should be included in this collective memory. Ultimately, in 2012, the video memorial was changed to show both female and male same sex couples kissing. However, we must consider how the intersectional, diverse makeup of modern-day Berliners would support this inclusion as a result of their present outlook and values. Based on arguments made by El-Tayeb, it is reasonable to assume this same inclusion would not be extended to homosexual Muslims in Amsterdam. 

Stone further builds his analysis of collective memory by considering why, after swearing “never again,” Europeans have failed to draw connections between the Holocaust and the Syrian refugee crisis. Stone agrees with other historians that the current refugee crisis does not parallel the atrocities of the mass genocide of Jewish people. However, he astutely notes that a consequence of this differentiation is that Europeans have distanced themselves from the Syrian refugee crisis, and thus excused their underwhelming response. One reason for this could connect to El-Tayeb and Göle’s articulation of the Othering of Muslims in Europe, creating an “us vs. them” dynamic routed in collective identity.

So while it is important to respect the diverse histories of secular groups in Europe, at the same time, we must be aware of the impacts memory may play in shaping future actions—political or otherwise—that impact our current society. 

Ulta-Nationalism or Fascism? Defining Terms in the 1968 Nouvelle Droite

By Christine Collins

Bar-On attributes the transnational success of the Nouvelle Droite (ND) outside of France to three key factors. One of these is the prestige of the ND leader, Alain de Benoist. An intellectual, philosopher, political commentator and—perhaps most importantly—an ultranationalist, Benoist was able to “capture the hearts and minds of the masses” through his personal appeal to the average Frenchman, and eventually Europeans transnationally. 

Leaders like Benoist are able to more easily challenge the status quo through their cult of personality and rally around the flag approach to leadership. We see this success reflected in many right-wing leaders ranging from Mussolini to Hitler to Le Pen to Trump. However, despite the cults of unity inspired by such individuals, we must practice caution in our naming conventions when distinguishing ultra-nationalism from fascism.  

Benoist claimed that fascism may reappear in society with “another name, another face.” So can we consider the ND the second coming of fascism? According to fascist experts Allardyce and Paxton, maybe not. Contemporary historians have defined fascism as: 

  1. The revolt of the masses
  2. The moral crisis of civilization
  3. Totalitarianism
  4. Modernization process

The May 1968 developments in France certainly give strong reason for checking boxes one and two. However, despite the characterization of the ND movement as a right-wing Conservative Revolution, the last two points are a bit more difficult to sell. On this distinction, I agree with academics like Wegierski and Sacchi: while the core values of the ND were certainly very right-leaning, experts like Allardyce and Paxton are right to confine fascism as a term to describe the political movements from 1919-1945 exclusively, no matter how tempting it may be to do otherwise. 

When describing the aims of GRECE (the ND’s principle think tank), Bar-On highlights how reimagining the ideology of the ultra-nationalist movements away from ethnic concepts of the nation and militaristic expansion was one of the goals of Benoist and the ND. This account pokes holes in the arguments made by Griffin linking the ND to fascist ideologies. As noted in Griffin’s colourful introduction, such connections are a bit of a stretch, and not widely accepted in academia.  

Marchi attributes the success of the spread of the ND school of thought across Europe in part to leaders’ ability to shape the ND agenda to their own political strategy. This thinking links back to our previous class discussions on gender and sexuality in authoritarian regimes: homosexuality was permitted and even encouraged in the Soviet Gulags while at the same time being outlawed in broader society; homosexuals were further persecuted in Nazi Germany, but lesbians were able to survive under the radar. In both these cases, leaders shaped nationalist ideologies to suit their particular needs.

In the example of the ND, it is reasonable to assume that right-wing leaders across Europe were not attracted to embracing all aspects of the ideology. It appears their support of the ND can be attributed to their interest in the legitimacy associated with labeling a political movement, be it the ND of 1968 or fascism from 1919-1945. In cases like this, we are reminded of the importance of defining terms, as these labels tend to stick without regard for their accuracy. 

The Social Impacts of Nazism’s Legacies

By Christine Collins

Leading up to and during World War II, Germans faced an “us vs. them” mentality. We saw this in Hitler’s drive East in order to secure lebensraum the German people had a right to claim. Further, as discussed in previous weeks, there was strong characterization of the superiority of the Aryan, German race. This attitude was embodied by Rudolf Zimmerman, a Gestapo officer convicted of war crimes under an East German trail. A partially literate ethnic German from the farming community of Hohenbach, Fulbrook notes that Zimmerman likely enjoyed his newfound authority in the Nazi regime. Under non-war circumstances, the better educated Jews of Mielec were individuals he would have previously felt inferior to. Given the chance to gain relative power, Zimmerman took it. 

Why then, would an individual like Zimmerman feel such remorse during this war crimes trial? I believe we find the answer in comparing social factors leading up to and following the war. Prior to World War II, the German government worked hard to build up sentiments of superiority in the German people. We saw this demonstrated in Nazi leisure-time organization Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy). This program used travel to other, less prosperous countries to contrast low living standards elsewhere to the superiority of Germany’s way of life under Hitler. This is one of many ways that German’s supremacy was pushed on society. It was through social factors like this that individuals like Zimmerman were exposed to ideas of superiority that led them to embrace Nazism.

By contrast, post-war Germany was much more socially introspective. West Berlin’s Social Democratic Mayor, Willy Brandt, saw the broadcast of the of Adolf Eichmann’s trial (a high-ranking Nazi and SS official known as one of the “masterminds” behind the Holocaust) as an important lesson for Germans. Häberlan further describes the German student protests of the 1960s and 1970s as the “foundation for a democratic political culture ingrained in everyday life” and not an internal conflict to be hidden from the world. 

The film Judgement at Nuremburg further fictionalized monumental trials such as Eichmann’s for broader public consumption. While Moeller notes that reception from American and German critics varied, I think what is most striking is the fact that German audiences accepted a film written and directed by Americans. Speaking at the film premiere in Berlin, Mayor Brandy notes that while the world may judge Germany by its past actions “today it judged [them]…by their behaviour in the present.” Fulbrook further uses the example of Holocaust, a television show staring American actors, as an example where Western interpretations of the war were viewed and accepted by a German audience. 

Through these readings, we see that the legacies from World War II have dramatically transformed the values and outlooks of German people today. The retelling of German’s past has shifted from the post World War I rhetoric of “Deutschland über alles” to a more socially open society today. It is through this newfound openness that, according to Häberlan, Germany now presented as a defender of Western liberalism, a sentiment that certainly would be hard to believe some years ago.

Op/Ed #1 – The boys club has opened, but only to certain kinds of girls: the rise of the populism and female support of right-wing ideologies

From left to right (political ideology notwithstanding): Alice Weidel (German AfD), Marine Le Pen (French National Rally), and Giorgia Meloni (Brothers of Italy). Copyright: The Guardian Design Team

By Christine Collins

In a year packed with nail-biting elections, one political phenomenon has remained constant: the rise of populism. And while its impacts are varied, scholars agree that populism is here to stay. Populism can be understood as a mobilizing discourse characterized by its “us vs. them” mentality. Ultimately, what sets populism apart is that it driven by “the people.” But who are the people? Well, it depends on whom you ask. 

Distinctive and even contradicting at times, it is important to distinguish forms of left and right-wing populism:

  • Left-wing populists can be defined as anti-elitist, fighting for the rights and equality of the common people 
  • Right-wing populists restrict the identity of the people, notably, on the basis of ethnicity and country of origin

One defining trait of right-wing populist political parties is that they tend to be led by charismatic leaders. And in Europe, a number of these leaders are women. 

From Marine Le Pen of the National Rally in France to Alice Weidel of Alternative for Germany (AfD), women are making their mark in this traditionally male-dominated field. While usually this would be a call for celebration, as women have long been outnumbered by their male counterparts in the political arena, the case of women leading right-wing populist parties requires a double-take. Mainly, since these parties are known for female subordination: in Germany, the AfD has reinvigorated an Aryan vision of the nuclear family, composed of the breadwinning father going to work and child-rearing mother in the home. Further, its policies are anti-abortion, and hostile towards gay and lesbian relationships. This raises the question: what motivates women to represent right-wing political movements that shrink away from modern-day feminism? And how are they elected in a traditionally male-dominated playing field? 

To answer the later question, while we may see women’s rise to the top of right-wing populist political parties as an unexpected turn of events, what is perhaps more surprising is who is voting them into power: according to a 2018 study, women across Europe are increasingly drawn to right-wing populist parties. This was demonstrated in the 2012 French presidential race, where Le Pen garnered votes from an almost equal number of men and women. This gender gap is projected to remain narrow, as a 2017 study found that women make up 48 percent of the Front National’s (now National Rally) voting base. 

So what makes right-wing populism so appealing to women? Well, if you can move past the patriarchal ideology, researchers found women voted for parties who promised to strengthen state welfare systems. As European women (especially mothers) are more likely to have lower paying jobs and require state support than their male counterparts, it is reasonable to understand this voting pattern. 

At the same time, right-wing populism is defined by its fiercely anti-immigration rhetoric. This likens back to nationalist movements of the 20th century, where the drive towards a collective unity coupled with a sense of superiority set fascist ideologies apart. As only certain women benefitted from fascist regimes—Aryan, middle-class—so too does modern-day right-wing populism only advantage select women. In this case, “the people” are more narrowly defined based on ethnicity and country of origin. 

To those who view the surge in female representation and participation in politics as a nod to gender equality, think again. Although leaders such as Weidel and Le Pen may look the part, they routinely co-opt the notion of women’s rights as it suits their right-wing agenda. While every woman must be protected in her right “to wear shorts or a miniskirt,” this same privilege does not extend to those wishing to don a hijab in public spaces. So when making your way to the ballot box next election, be mindful that a vote for a female leader is not necessarily a vote for feminism, especially if their name shares the banner of a right-wing populist party.   

Competing Definitions of Gender Roles in Nazi Germany

By: Christine Collins

As debated during the Week 5: Consent, Coercion, Acceptance, Opposition seminar discussion on gender and sexuality, definitions of the ideal German woman varied greatly from 1930-45. Women’s newfound roles in Nazi German were the cause of much discussion: on the one hand, Lower writes how women were called to fill their patriotic duty by filling an unprecedented number of positions in the civil service while men went to the frontlines; on the other, Marhoefer shared how Nazi ideologues railed against the “masculinization of Aryan women,” going so far as to recount women who kept their hair short as “un-German.” The readings from Week 6: Challenging Assumptions continue the discussion of gender roles the ways men and women were treaty differently during the Third Reich. 

On the subject of gender, I was intrigued by Lower’s use of language in Hitler’s Furies. Specifically, her word choice surrounding gender roles in Nazi Germany. In describing the story of Brigitte Erdmann, Lower notes that she was honoured by the title of Frau, not Fräulein as a marker of her newfound femininity and sexuality. This is followed by a contrasting account of another woman who wrote back to her parents from the East, expressing her loyalty to Nazi Germany as a “manly” honour. This leads to some confusion, as the reader questions what gender roles are embraced, and which are unwelcome, in Nazi Germany. 

Lower recounts stories of women experiencing one, or both, of the two extremes of German femininity: liberated woman, or traditional housewife. At points, Lower describes women as pawns in the male dominated war machine. As women were naïve, they were malleable, and were manipulated to further authoritarian power during Hitler’s Third Reich. However, this contrasts the main premise of the novel, which is to shed light on the untold stories as women as perpetrators of violence during the Holocaust. By describing both sides of German femininity—even if only to compare and contrast— I believe Lower muddies the waters of her main premise, which is to challenge the readers pre-conceived notions on female involvement in genocide. 

Women in Nazi Germany were able to use gender as a scapegoat for their non-intervention. In Lower’s findings, both Ilse Struwe and Annette Schücking hid under the cover that they were a drop in the ocean of soldiers in the East and asked, “What can one do, after all?” Well, I’d argue that as demonstrated in the case of one Bavarian solider turned authoritarian ruler, one man can quite certainly do a lot. After reading Hitler’s Furies, I’m left unsure as to how much one woman could have done. 

In giving women an out for their actions, whether based on societal norms or their naivety, Lower weakens the argument that women should have been held to a similar standard as their male counterparts in the aftermath of the war. 

Gender, Sexuality, and the State

By: Christine Collins

Ideas on gender and sexuality differed between Soviet Russia and Fascist Germany. One consistency weaved throughout the readings is how authoritarian regimes embraced varying forms of gender and sexuality not on the basis of morality and social norms, but rather to serve broader political purposes. 

Attitudes towards homosexuality in Russia have remained unwelcome in regimes from Stalin to Putin. As noted by Healey, despite Soviet toleration for homosexuality in Gulags, other prisoners recount these male-on-male relationships “with near universal disgust.” Notwithstanding the re-criminalization of homosexuality by Stalin in 1933, queer relations were accepted in Gulags and even tolerated over heterosexual relations since they did not disrupt the Soviet economic model. Conversely, it was observed that homosexual relations preserved order, and went so far as improving labour productivity. It can therefore be understood that homosexuality was tolerated in Stalin’s Gulags while at the same time rejected by the Soviet Union as a result of its contributions to economic output, and therefore broader communist ideological goals. 

Defining male and female gender roles was central to Nazi Germany’s ideology and propaganda efforts. Marhoefer describes how “gender nonconformity put some women at risk…but not all women who had affairs with women transgressed gender norms.” In sum, Nazi Germany was not so much considered with lesbianism as a sexual act, but rather how lesbian social characteristics could contradict female gender-conformity. Nazi ideologues considered women who demonstrated masculine social characteristics as “violating not just gender norms, but racial and political norms as well.” 

The ideal man as described by Kühne was embodied by the solider: tough, in control of his mind, and unconditionally devoted to sacrificing individuality for the state. Why then couldn’t these characteristics be similarly appreciated in German women? What made a woman with a short-haircut decidedly “un-German”? The key lies in the role of women in Nazi Germany: to bear children and raise strong soldiers. One could thereby infer that since lesbians did not serve the state by producing children, they were condemned by fascism for political rather than moral reasons. 

By this logic, an observer may assume that any digression from embodying a strong, independent German man in public would similarly be frowned upon. However, the readings once again demonstrate that gender norms were interpreted in such a way as to create a unified state. Instead of frowning upon a father pushing a stroller as dabbling in women’s work, an SS journal claimed, “a man doesn’t lose a bit of his manliness by [caring for his children], but simply proves his love for his wife and his children.” Considering German identity is a recent phenomenon wherein the Third Reich has attempted to weave multiple histories into a unified state, the image of the united German family works to further political goals rather than question gender norms. Masculinity was thereby interpreted in a manner that encouraged a common, Aryan identity of the German family, thus strengthening the Nazi regime. 

Comparing Tourism in Germany, Italy and Spain

Tourism was used as a tool for fascist regimes to promote a collective identity, improve the standard of living and/or project a strong outward image of prosperity. While the common goal was self-promotion, my impression from the readings was that Germany, Italy and Spain each used tourism to achieve different ends. 

Strength Through Joy (KdF) was a German Nazi leisure organization that was established to bridge the class divide by making “middle class” activities available to the masses. Rather than bringing Europeans into Germany, KdF used opportunities for citizens to travel abroad as a way to reinforce German supremacy. According to Baranowski, visiting other countries with a seemingly lower standard of living worked in the regimes favour to contrast the “superiority of Germany’s way of life under Adolf Hitler.” 

Italy, on the other hand, looked internally when looking to establish a new national identity through tourism. The National Recreation Club (OND) was similar to KdF in that it operated as a leisure and recreational organization for adults in fascist Italy. De Grazia highlights how the OND transformed scenic Italian villages into “national commodities of a new mass leisure.” The regime thereby turned internal excusions to the mountains or countryside as a tool to strengthen a national collective identity, connecting peoples from different regions. While there was some degree of class and regional intermingling on German KdF excursions, Mussolini’s Italy used  domestic tourism as a tool for evoking unity to progress of the “new” Italy. 

Spain also used tourism as a tool to strengthen dictatorial rule, but Franco’s approach differed significantly from other fascist regimes. Instead of sending Spaniards into the world, the regime sought to build the tourism industry within Spain. According to Crumbaugh, tourism in the 1960s Spain created the impression that the task of development was a “collective and collaborative effort involving the active participation of the entire Spanish population.” By bringing the world to them, Spain not only showed Europeans their newfound strength, but further appealed to the average citizen by projecting an economic resurgence under Franco’s rule.

So which approach is best? Is showing your population how the rest of the world lives work to increase their appreciation in the fascist state apparatus? Will promoting internal travel lessen the “us vs. them” mentality between the social classes and geographic regions? Does building a tourism industry that attracts foreign visitors increase a nation’s legitimacy and contribute to positive diplomacy?