The Missing Definition

By Blaise Rego

The article by Catherine Fieschi defines three types of populist from the most salient “the strictly populists”, these populists use dog whistle words to spark xenophobia without being overt in their othering of groups. The other side of her definitions were “the democratic activists”, they are populists who focus their emotions towards a particular law or political figure.

I feel though that she has missed a new type of populist that is more dingoes politically and socially than any of the other groups. I would call this group “the quiet part loud”, these populist forgo social and political norms and quite simply say the quiet part out loud on most things. This has been clearly seen with two recent political lighting rods, Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro. Donald Trump is a particularly important example of this group as he maybe be the original member. During his 2016 presidential campaign Trump’s openly racist vitriol endeared him to constituents who say him as a man who would say what they were thinking. His statements about immigrants from Latin America, demonizing them and demanding that they stop coming to the USA galvanized a part of the population that had felt othered.

I believe that to define this group it would look something like this; this group are figures that play on openly racist or xenophobic tropes or ideas to grow their base. Not only do they other an ethnic/ ideological group but they also other their opponents. These figures state that their opponents are willfully killing their nation and that the leader is the only way to save the state.

The Fight Over Gender

By Blaise Rego

Anti-gender thought and ideas have become mainstream across Europe over the past few years. States ranging from the UK to Hungary have tried to combat the idea that gender should be taught as a construct. There are massive difference’s though on ow and why this occurring.

In countries like Hungary and Poland the pressure of anti gender/LGBTQ+ comes from top down pressure that is initiated by the government in power. Their leaders have made pushes that try to eliminate discussions about gender and sexuality, this has allowed and normalized attacks and violence against this community. In theses communities we have seen resistance in the form on new media as discussed in the pink news article, about the transgender teen in Hungary.

In comparison in the UK the anti gender/LBGTQ+, the push is coming from bellow. swells of anti LGBTQ+ feeling have come to the surface following Brexit and further rightwing leaders coming to power. These leaders don’t wish to push off a larger swath of the population so they are not as extreme as eastern European leaders in their anti-gender and LGBTQ+ rhetoric so the swell of violence comes from the population. A greater swath of the population has begun to view discussions later as the “enemy”, stating that it’s a woke liberal agenda that is destroying conservative views.

this is the same and result as we see in Poland and Hungary but with this main difference being that where the push of this anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment comes from is inverse. This is an uninspiring result that is worrying for the future of gender discussions going forward.

The mailability of the European identity

By Blaise Rego

This weeks reading looked at how European identity deals with the changing dynamics of the 21st century and the issues that come of it. The notion of European exceptionalism, one that was seemingly put to bed following the rise of the USA, had begun to rise once more in the face of modern issues.

The media prescribed this week had two different pieces of content about “Q” and the conspiracy that surrounds it and how it has morphed in Europe. The conspiracy has become more global in scale while keeping Trump and the American cause in the centre. It demonstrates how fringe groups in Europe have begin to look to the Untied States for support, this flys in the face of what we would assume European nationalist would want. By this the citizens are looking to be culturally colonized as they see the answer to their problems (migration, elites and covid). The subversion of the dominant European and be seen in the turkic activities and identity in Africa.

In Africa, Turkey looked to move in and be a leading investor and help in development. Turkish politicians use the malleable identity of being European without being taken as a white Westerner. This is seen in the quote where the African politician says to the Turkish politician you look white but you act black, saying as if you have air of European well acting as an African. This malleability of the European identity allowed for Turkey to be accepted as a nation that looked to help Africa more than other European states.

I went to an art museum

by Blaise Rego

all photos in this post were taken by me unless linked in photo caption

Over the past week I was in Montreal and was able to go to the Museum of Fine Arts (MBAM), an incredible art museum that bridges art and cultural history. What stood out to me was art from German artist from the post war period that used abstractism to convey deeper ideas and emotion. Three paintings stood out more than the rest did, they each expressed the nature of post war Germany but each painting did it a unique way.

Abstractism in art links the philosophical idea abstractism, the idea that your mind links new concepts with ideas that you have already learned with the artistic properties of abstract art. In a sense it explains why heavy brush strokes and dark colours can create emotions such as anger and sadness whereas light brushstrokes and light colours can harken happy or lighter emotions.

In Nazi Germany art was heavily censored. Adolf Hitler had rigid views on the art that the Third Reich would produce. He sponsored a campaign against “degenerate art” (i.e., what is viewed as modern art) stating that it had no place in Nazi Germany. Similar to most fascist ideology, they viewed artistic modernity as an extinction of modern ideals and wished to go back to “the good old days”. Hitler felt that art being produced at the time was too contaminated by Jewish influences and instead wished for Nazi artists to be inspired by Roman and Greek painting and art styles (romantic realist art). The postwar art on display at MBAM used the degenerate art style that was banned against by the Nazi to display the emotion and conflict that engulfed Germany in the post-World War 2 period.

Couple in Landscape – Ludwig Dettmann, an example of romantic realism

The painting “Landscape near Koblenz” struck me as I walked into the gallery as unlike the rest of the room, it seemed photo realistic and vivid. What struck me when reading the plaque was how the painter Gerhard Richter looked to weave a space in-between socialist realism  (art that was viewed to be communist) and abstraction. His painting described by the artist himself was stated to be “capitalist realism”, it evokes memories of the art the Nazi’s pushed to the forefront of the German art world with one striking difference. He states that any landscape that he creates is only temporary and it could be wiped out and erased in a moment. This harkens back to the idea that the war and the devastation that followed the invasion of Germany was still in the German collective imagination.

The other two paintings “Rechts und links eine Kirche – Jörg” (Right and Left a church – Jörg) and “Deutschland Café XIII” deeply pull at the idea that the German collective imagination was still fractured in the post war state. In “Deutschland Café XIII” by Jörg Immendorff (the subject of the other painting) there is clear symbolism of a broken Germany in the dead eagles strewn on the left side of the painting. With their necks seemingly broken it pushes the idea of the once strong and powerful German culture being killed in the conflict between the east and the west. 

The second painting “Rechts und links eine Kirche – Jörg” by Georg Baselitz evokes the divide between the east and the west using one white church and one muddled colour church with the painter Jörg Immendorff strung upside down between them. The dark colours contrasting with the bright paint and heavy brush strokes surrounding the strung up Immendorff create emotional weight when looking at the painting.  The red brush stokes give the viewer a sense that a violent act occurred and that the body that it upside down is being pulled in between the two churches. It evokes a notion that Germany was being pulled in two separate ways and the end result may be bloody.

Rechts und links eine Kirche – Jörg – Georg Baselitz

When viewing these paintings in person they evoked deeper emotions than I was expecting. The feelings of brokenness and conflict were palpable and the small placards beside the paintings gave greater depth to these feelings. I realized that the greatest asset of modern art was the ability for greater depth of emotion for the viewer through colours, textures, and symbols. This flies in the face of the Nazi logic about painting as realist art cannot always convey the emotions brought through abstractism. In the post war period German artists use degenerate art to demonstrates the conflict and the discontent that was created within the German collective imagination following World War II.

The following is just a quick art museum review – NOT PART OF OPED

So it was awesome, I had no expectations but the collection was extensive. The permanent collection had artists ranging from Picasso to Salvador Dali to Monet. Seeing paintings by these painters was bit awe inspiring and felt a little like checking a box off on the ever growing list of artists and art that I want to see before I die.

I was super fortunate to go when a Jean Michel Basquiat exhibition was being shown. I knew a little about him and his life before but I was blown away by his story and his artistic range. Before his death at 27 he worked with Andy Worhal, created TV and films, painted and created music. I will not do him justice by explaining here but if you are at all interested take an hour and do so research on him, it is well worth the effort.

The only criticism I would have of the museum was that the flow (ie. how you walk through and see everything) was less than optimal. Over the course of 4 hours I was only able to see maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of the collection. There is a who collection of Canadian art through history that I wasn’t able to get too but it gives me something to look forward to next time I am in Montreal.

Migration and the end of the Cold War

By Blaise Rego

The idea that Europe changed massively 1989 is no shock to anyone. This year was the triggered the collapse of what once was the competing lead world power, the Soviet Union. Revolution’s across the eastern bloc overthrew communist leaders and helped establish shaky new governments that altered the power balance of the European sphere.

New governments being established across Europe meant new ideas and political sensibilities began to govern in places that had stagnant policies towards many of the problems that plague modern Europe. This is clearly seen in the issue surrounding migration in europe. The collapse of communist regimes, releasing of the steel curtain and troubles across Southern Europe (the balkans) and Africa massively increased the migration to Eastern Europe. Migration to eastern Europe was not met with enthusiasm as economic issues troubled many of the post Soviet states. States like Hungary were forced into “shock doctrine” neoliberal economic policies that massively hurts their economy resulting in social unrest towards the government.

A societal base that is unhappy with the government, is dealing with internal political/economic issues, and external issues (migration) is fertile grounds for the growth of extremist ideas such as neo-fascism. These fertile grounds have allowed for political parties such as “Fidesz” in Hungary to blossom into the leading political organization in the country. Fidesz and Vitkor Orban have allowed for Hungry’s slow slide towards an “illiberal democracy” a term coined by Orban himself. These readings have shown how a series of events can have massive ripple on affects if there are external forces at play that shift how the events affect the world.

Neofascism – Growing and Changing to be Suited for Today

By Blaise Rego

At one point fascism was a topic that was hard to define but you knew it when you saw it, but that’s all changed with the advent of neofascism. Neofascism is an insidious part of modern political discourse that has altered what we once thought of far rightwing movements and leaders.

In the past the alt-right has be lead by angry men who raged against immigrants, modernization and changes to the societal fold. The neofascist movement has be co-oped be women in recent years. Across Europe women have begun to take power in alt-right by modernizing their parties and their movements. Leaders such as Marine Le Pen and Giorgia Meloni began to realize that the younger generation was unattracted to the male dominated racist politics that had symbolized the alt-right movement for generations. These leaders changed how their parties were viewed by the greater public. Le Pen is a single mother who still argues for the nuclear family as a core part of society.

The movement has become more flexible ideologically allowing for greater variance of identities within the movement. Individuals were part of the LGBTQ community have ascended to high ranks within these fascist groups showing that there has been modernization within the ranks. It has to be said that certain identities are allowed within these groups to modernize them allowing the group for focus more specifically on their other. Most of the European alt-right groups “other” immigrant populations as they feel that immigration is the root of societies problems. Neofascist groups have modernized in some respects to become more appealing to a younger generation while maintaining most insidious parts of their ideology to suit their base.

The Conspiracy Media and It’s Dark Origins – OP-ED

by Blaise Rego

I was 6 or 7 the first time I was introduced to cryptozoology,  thesearch for and study of unknown, legendary, or extinct animals whose present existence is disputed or unsubstantiated. I vividly remember this because it has sparked a lifelong love of the unknown, from speculating about bigfoot and aliens to watching bad TV with my dad, it has given me hours of entertainment and enjoyment. With that in mind,  you can imagine my horror when I come across this article recently. In a piece by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the author lays out an in-depth the connection between some famous conspiracy’s and their link to the ALT right. 

My attention was caught by a story from the show “America Unleashed”, where the show’s host, Scott Wolter, continually endorsed a theory on the show about how Celts and Scots settled north America and “hybridized Native Americans centuries before Columbus”. I remember watching this show and being confused but impressed because Wolter was presented by the show as a leading expert in his field. This theory, like most others, is appealing because it is built upon some fact before expanding into the world of fiction. 

It is true that there were European settlers in North America before Columbus but not in the ways Wolter tries to attest. The only Europeans to arrive pre-Columbus were Viking settlers that arrived in what would become Canada’s Maritime provinces. The myths being presented by Wolter may seem harmless but historically they’ve been used to perpetrate some horrendous crimes against the native population of North America. The idea that there once was a “great white race” that populated North America was an idea peddled by Andrew Jackson who stated “In the monuments and fortifications of an unknown people, we behold the memorials of a once-powerful race, exterminated to make room for the existing savage tribes.”. This unknown group was known at that time as the mound builders.

The mound builders were a myth perpetrated by English settlers of North America who claimed that mound structures across the American Northeast were built by an ancient “superior” race. It is claimed that they built structures  like the snake mound in Ohio and other Adena culture sites.

The snake mound in Ohio

Settlers assumed that the builders must have been one of the lost tribes of Israel, who were than massacred by the Native American population. Though this may seem like a pseudoscience conspiracy theory this was a popular held notion in the 19thcentury that was the basis for the removal of North America’s native people from their land. North American colonizers thought that if the indigenous populations colonized this land than they (European settlers) had as much right to that land as the native populations did.

The salient idea that alt-history is an acceptable way to view the world has permeated much of the far rights ideology. The Nazi’s used the Ahnenerbe think tank to research the “great Aaryan race and it’s history”. They used pseudo/alt history to back up fascist ideology, a trend that has continued with neo fascist groups across the world. They use this alternative history to back up their own bigoted ideology in which they can claim that “Jews, oppressive government’s and other enemies” have persecuted them and that they are right to feel self-righteous and angered.

Television channels such as the History Network and its family of channels use pseudo history to dramatize or aggrandize history. Though this can be entertaining and amusing it has a dark undercurrent as many of the theories presented on their shows have controversial, if not racist, origins. 

 Imagine you get home from work and you turn on the television to have some background noise.   There is a show that’s on H2 (History 2) called “Uncovering the Himalayas”. The show is hosted by a man with a beige explorer’s hat who talks to a PhD who says “there have been studies that have shown that pre-history, 2000 BCE, Nordic peoples migrated across Eurasia to the Himalayas where they intermingled with the native populations and help establish communities there. This might be humorous to you or it might stick out in your mind as bizarre and you might mention it to a family member or a friend. The main danger with programs like this is that it is impossible to unhear something, so the next time you think about the Himalayas, this fact might pop in to your brain and you may start wondering if it was a true fact or not. The theory outlined above is not a figment of imagination it is actually a true theory that the Nazis investigated and collected research on in the 40s to justify why the Nordic people were superior to others.  In conclusion, if you enjoy consuming conspiracy media, continue doing so but be wary of what the underlying message may be or of where the origins of conspiracies may lie.

Entrenching racism in politics

By Blaise Rego

The extreme poles of the political spectrum are threats to the foundation of democracy as they are inherently built upon unstable myths that often lead them to conflict with other groups. This post will focus upon the myths that entrench racist fears into every day politics.

The phrase “great replacement” has become a commonly held view by the far right across the world. It refers to the xenophobic idea that immigrants are coming to replace white people in North American/European societies. This idea was first penned by a homosexual writer from France, Camus, the author, began their career as a writer who position them-self on the left of France’s political spectrum. He then turned to the far right when he moved to rural France and saw that there was an increasing amount of muslim immigrants living in rural France.

The great white replacement was then spread internationally by far right groups who represented a new age of this movement. They capitalized on traditional conservative fears about immigration and created new conspiratorial fears that immigrants were colluding globally to replace white people in North America and Europe. The new right has normalized bigoted racism as concerns about policy. This has given greater credence to myths that immigrant groups are looking to come and “steal jobs and opportunities”.

Racist idea’s such as these have allowed for groups in the new right to pull racism back into real policy discussions. Across Europe tensions have gotten much more taught as far right groups stoke the flames of bigotry. From Sweden to Italy, the new right has gained power and influence by using racist myths to propel their ideas.

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions, The Fragebogen

By Blaise Rego

A copy of part of the Fragebogen, this section is about Nazi affiliation

I’d like to hope that everyone reading this post would agree with the idea that after WW2 Germany needed less Nazi and even less in positions of power. This idea was the basis of the allied task following the end of the war. Germany had to be rebuilt, institutions must be reconstructed and Nazi must be punished but figuring out who would be able to help on this task and who would hinder progress being made was the primary task before much could be accomplished. The American military government created what became a 131 question questionnaire most commonly know by its German name, Fragebogen, the German word for questionnaire. This questionnaire asked everything from eduction history to voting history to questions of ones height and weight. This was deemed to be a necessity as there were millions of germans living in allied occupied areas and it was deemed inefficient to interview and investigate very single person in the country. So this bureaucratic form was made to root out who needed to be sought out and investigated deeper.

This is were the crux of the issue lies, this questionnaire is good on face value, if people are honest, at determining who was or was not a collaborator with a Nazi regime. However it lacks the nuance necessary to root out deeper reasons why people join the party. Some as the reading state joined out of fear, in one particular example from the book Small Victory a man joins the party in an attempt to save his implied jewish daughter. Stories such as these, fictional as they may be place the idea in our brains that maybe individuals might’ve had deeper reasonings for joining the party than just antisemitism and hate.

This leads to the deepest issue with the Fragebogen the hypocrisy of the American state. In the “everybody gets Fragebogened sooner or later” reading there is a story of American officers being openly antisemitic in post war interment camps. This story demonstrates an idea that the Americans were doing this less to root out those with hatefully beliefs but more to push their enemy even in defeat. When speaking of American hypocrisy on hate, it must be mentioned that at this time segregation was still alive and well and wouldn’t be made illegal for another 20 years. The idea of the Fragebogen was well intentioned as a way to root out those who may have participated in heinous acts during the war but it turned into a bureaucratic nightmare that exemplified American hypocrisy and insensitivity to what those in Germany may have truly believed.

Community in far right movements – Blaise Rego

These readings touch on topics that ranged from transvestitism in Nazi Germany to tourism in Franco era Spain, in this post I will focus on far right movements, both modern and historic and how individuals look to navigate the idea of community. In the Cynthia Miller Idriss personation she talks about how Neo nazi clothing brands market their clothes in a coded manner to create group acceptance and notification to like minded individuals. In Idriss’s presentation she talks about her interviews with with members of Germanys far right who feel that the clothing helps them join the far right “scene” and identifies them to like-minded individuals.

The idea of community is essential in the Thomas Kuhne Reading on masculinity in Nazi Germany. The article revolves around the idea that masculinity as a construct was more fluid than one would originally anticipate when regarding Nazi history. Masculine ideals such as hardness ( in a mental, physical and emotional way) were propagandized to be seen as the only way a man could act in this culture. The reality though was much different especially in the military. In the military, men had to able to take on more feminine roles as it was an all male society, which required some men to take on the roles that women would do back in civilian life. This idea of flexible gender roles helped shaped community in the Nazi military. Multiple members of the German military are quoted saying that the sense of community built on emotional connection, a feminine trait, was an essential aspect of getting through the war. The soldiers rely on their emotional connection with one another in order to create a deeper bond within the military community and to trust one another when going into battle.