Are Populism’s really so different?

By: Cyrus Hutnyk

This week’s readings focus largely on comparing the intersections between left-leaning and right-leaning cases of populism. The two ends of the populism spectrum are actually more aligned with one another than one might expect given our preconceived understanding of what it means to separate things politically by the left or right-leaning ideologies. In the Rooduijn/Akkerman as well as Rieschi works that were assigned for this week, we can see that the right and left of populism aren’t that far apart. Rooduijn and Akkerman create the basis of an argument through a study that looks at the use of populist strategy and tactics historically, and how they are essentially utilized equally in the scope of both right and left-leaning populism. I find that while the arguments in the Mudde/Kaltwasser and other articles are able to outline the ways in which the different populisms are distinguishable from one another using terms like inclusionary and exclusionary, that presenting the practices and behaviours within the ideology in terms of their intersections creates a fuller picture Even if you distinguish right populism as exclusionary and right populism as inclusionary, boiling things down to the literal actions and behaviours driven and inspired by or done for populism make more sense in trying to define populism.

The argument that Firschi makes especially that has to do with the multiple different “styles” of xenophobia that can exist and are attributed to both the right and left is an excellent microcosm representing the similarities and intersections of differently leaning populisms. By and large while there are differing arguments put into perspective on whether these two ideologies are close or far to one another, it can boil down to a persuasive argument or fascinating evidence that can end up swaying an opinion on a subject where I don’t believe there is an objective truth or answer.

Anti-Genderism and it’s intersection with Right-Wing Populism

By: Cyrus Hutnyk

This week’s content looked at Anti-Genderism and largely how Right-Wing Populism ties into the conversation on the issues. Notably, the reading from Paternotte and Kuhar go into detail outlining the differences between these topics and makes clear that these are not the same, despite might what be the expected association. At first glance, even before doing any reading I make the connection straight away seeing only the words “anti-genderism” next to “right-wing”. As a rule of thumb I understand the further right leaning a person is the more they might subscribe to ideologies like anti-genderism, alongside a whole host of other hateful thought patterns. I associate right-wing ideologies and stereotypical thought to be largely associated with hate and enforcing often religious beliefs on to others, which is often a key point in the discussion on anti-genderism. The discussion concerning the divergence of the two topics is interesting because of how often associated aspects of each are associated with the other. Anti-genderism is understood to have grown from Catholic and Evangelical origins; religious origins, with the parallel being that right-wing arguments and ideologies often hold religion close the heart of them. Obvious examples being that of arguments against abortion or in homophobic or trans-phobic thought.

This subject matter is very important and very topical, understanding anti-genderism alongside many other right leaning ideas about gender and sex are unfathomably harmful and serve only to hurt innocent individuals who don’t fall within the worldview of those who subscribe to these ideas of right-wing populism. Despite the arguments that these are separate issues present in the readings it is important to identify and understand the intersection of these topics to best comprehend and work to abolish issues of hate and bigotry.

Op Ed. #2: The internet and a new kind of shift in racist thought in the west

By: Cyrus Hutnyk

            Racist thought has been prevalent and an issue of varying degrees of severity over the last century with great frequency, whether you look to the terrible systematic racism in the structure of the United States that continues to negatively impact largely non-white people and people of lower income, or to the most drastic in cases of Nazi Germany under Hitler and the massive killing of Jewish people that occurred throughout World War II, the issue of racism in its different forms remains consistent. This being understood though, shifting attitudes and forms that racism takes are equally present in periods of upheaval for various nations. Sometimes this appears as a change in leadership, as present in post-war Germany. In Christopher A. Molnar’s work “Greetings from the apocalypse” that we analyzed in this week’s readings we see the shift from a case of racism having to do with a genetic level of racism promoted by oppressive government and relentless propaganda, to a racism coming from a cultural standpoint, attitude and regulation coming from a place of fear and social upheaval after the radical changes in Germany post-World War II.

            In a more modern setting, the age of the internet and a culture of capitalism and intense connection to the internet we can see another example of shifting and developing racism. Despite the western part of the world continuing to develop and (hopefully) evolve past this archaic racist thought, there are still many who not only hold these views but are able to use the internet as a megaphone to project them now more than ever.

            As long as the internet has been present there have been individuals using it nefariously. Websites like 4chan or similar message boards are infamous for their knack to amass people with hateful and harmful ideas into one spot, but equally racist rhetoric is alive and well on every popular social media platform, whether it be Facebook, Instagram, or most importantly: Twitter. Hateful and racist behaviour on Twitter has always been a problem, even more so due to a previous lack of moderation. Sometimes this looks like using racial slurs in tweets, but often it can take different forms, like in the case of Twitter accounts owned by influential people who start to promote or incite violence or hate against others, people like Donald Trump, and more recently celebrity figures like Kanye West who started spreading misinformation on the murder of George Floyd and tweeting anti-black rhetoric.

            These social media platforms tend to have a dangerous ability to amplify these messages, they get more traffic, more likes, more replies, more shares. Despite this Twitter was beginning to do some clean up, but have recently been bought out by capitalist Elon Musk, best known for his racist work environments and massive intake of government subsidies on his companies SpaceX and Tesla. Musk promises to unban users like West and Trump and welcome them and their ideas back on to the platform. He tweets often about turning Twitter into a truly free-speech platform. Problem with that is that Twitter already is that the only speech that is against the terms of service is that which is hateful and bigoted. What exactly are his intentions when he says he wants to create free speech on the platform? This is exactly the way that racism begins to shift, instead of how in the post-war Germany example, where racism thought changes its origin and attitude from genetics to culture, racism in the west is moving to a much less manageable digital space, where those in power either hold the hateful ideas, or want to promote the ability of users to spread them.

            If we expect to see positive change and reduction in racist thought massive upheavals in allowance for hateful speech need to be implemented. As it stands now bigoted speech and behaviour is looking to be more prevalent and louder than ever before in the digital space, one that is more impactful than ever before itself.

A shifting perspective on racism in post-war Germany

By: Cyrus Hutnyk

This week’s reading by Christopher A. Molnar, “Greetings from the apocalypse” was especially provocative and interesting for me, to take a look at the ethical and moral challenges that the nation faced in the wake of its horrible leadership offers a unique perspective into the process necessary to reestablish itself and make some sort of amends and improvements. Looking at things like migration, antisemitism, race, and how democracy was impactful in Germany are all pieces of the process that the new German leadership had to face and employ. This reading went into the changes in Germany over two decades, and especially highlighted changes in perception as it related to the aforementioned topics.

The author of this week’s reading allows for a greater understanding of different kinds of racism that was occurring, both in culture and biology and how they moved from one to the other. Equally we can see how perceptions and attitudes concerning certain subjects shifted over time. Molnar demonstrates that the racism post war was radically different from that under Nazi reign, having more to do with differences in culture and behaviour rather than coming from a biological or eugenics standpoint. Interestingly, Molnar’s writing shows us that foreign presence in Germany was still a contentious subject, sparking discomfort still. Understanding the differences in public opinion and the presence of racism in Germany in the post-war period shows us a concerning image of a nation on the back of genocide and tremendously harsh and oppressive rule. Though the sentiments are drastically different from those under Nazism, the conversation concerning racism is a dangerous one in a nation with a history like Germany’s. Some of the legislation and financial efforts or decisions in the post war period generate a sense of unease given the past behaviours of the German government.

OP-ED Fascism: Past Present and Future

By: Cyrus Hutnyk

As of September of 2022, the Nationalist Brothers of Italy party in Italy are looking bound to make the move into power as a prominently far-right group looking to lead the nation, a party with its history attached to infamous fascist Mussolini and his fascist rule nearing one hundred years ago. The leader of the Nationalist Brothers of Italy party Giorgia Meloni has a reputation as being against the European Union, migrants, and Italy’s ties to the west among other things, and she and her party are spreading these concerns and beliefs nationally. Despite winning with over a quarter of all votes for Meloni’s party this year, in the past the Nationalist Brothers of Italy has failed to amass anywhere near this much attention, indicative of Italian’s growing attention for far-right or otherwise nationalist ideology or movement. Furthermore it is known that individuals associated with Meloni are supporters or otherwise admirers of Putin which draws troubling parallels and creates anxiety over the future of the relationship between nations.

Benito Mussolini was a politician and journalist who eventually founded and was leader of the National Fascist Party, to then become Prime Minister of Italy up until his removal in 1943 during World War II. Initially Mussolini was a socialist and a member of the Italian Socialist Party, but was removed for his opinions and avocation for military and violent intervention during the events of World War I. This train of thought and ideology eventually led to his now well known fascist rule opposing egalitarianism and class conflict and supporting an extreme nationalism. While the movement that he led was based in radicalism and conservatism, what shone through was taking violent action. Arguments and debate surrounding opposition to fascism began to become silent through constant imprisonment, exile, and removal of people via deadly force. Divides in ideas concerning the implications of fascism arose in the period between World War I and World War II when it became clear the ideology was the difference between being involved in war or not.

Beyond what is or has happened in Italy or other nations across the water, the West can be found to have its own form of right leaning ideologies and politics through its own leaders. Trump has cemented himself in history through his term as president of the United States. His campaign was created and run based on a powerful sense of nationalism crafted through techniques of promising a restoration of the nation to a mystical former glory that it supposedly once held in its shockingly short history. To remedy the problems present and brought up by earlier leadership as well as promise of being above or tearing down supposed enemies of the nation are the tools that can be identified in any other instance of fascist or far-right rule beyond Mussolini or potentially Meloni.

With the impacts and lessons that can be learned from Trump’s time in office, western powers as well as European ones are fearful of a far-right rise, evident in the fervent support of Ukraine in it’s budding territory war with Russia. Liberal powers taking this action also creates the contrast and connection between opposing ideologies and right leaning ideology, not being in support of a foreign war becomes being against the potential of far-right rise, and so on and so forth to republicans becoming more and more far-right or even extremist.

Fascism and far-right ideology is not something that will ever completely disappear, people will always have a diversity of thoughts and ideas, and that should be welcomed and fostered. That being said its about understanding the limits to controversial thought and understanding where the line is that moves into ideas harming people, which is exactly what fascism promises to do historically.

Moving Away From Nazism and Modern Parallels

By Cyrus Hutnyk

This week’s discussion primarily concerned Nazism, moreover the lasting impacts and aftermath that the ultimately devastating ideology had. The authors of this week’s readings each touched on Germany’s experience in this post-war environment and how they had a serious mess to clean up, having to do the the terrible consequences of their former leader’s actions, the massive debts placed on the nation post-war, as well as simply addressing the many atrocities committed. The process of “denazification” as Werner Sollers described it, garnered international attention. Alongside this experience for the Germans was the experience for the tremendously traumatized Jews. Mary Fulbrook describes how Holocaust survivors moved from extreme scrutiny to empathy. These two perspectives offer a valuable insight into either side of this move away from Nazism and how it impacted different groups who were ultimately part of the experience.

This highlight on victim’s testimonies is one that is very interesting and holds modern parallels, both obvious ones with the ongoing presence of Nazi behaviours and far right sentiment in the United States, but equally with the scrutiny of already marginalized communities globally, whether on a basis of sex, race, gender, etc. Perhaps we will continue to see this sort of transformation into societies that value empathy and trust of those victimized in the future, the positive change and strictness that we see in modern Germany can be mirrored elsewhere without a doubt.