The Digital Age and Populism

Sara Dix

Populism and media go hand in hand. In the modern times, journalism has become incredibly important in spreading populist ideas and “fake news” which can contribute to increasing numbers of people moving to the far-right. Des Freedman’s “Populism and Media Policy Failure” discusses the failures of media to curb the spread of the far-right online. But this also goes well with the EU’s ambitious Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act.

Freedman mentions the argument that Mazzoleni makes in that all neo-populist movements rely on indirect and direct complicity with the mass media as well as politicians who are capable of being “newsmakers” themselves. This is really evident through Donald Trump who made great use of Twitter to express his opinions easily to the public whether he was factually correct or not. The use of Twitter further spread Trump’s ideas that attracted many Americans to believe his Tweets and it wasn’t until the recent attack on the Capital that his Twitter account was banned for inciting the violence.

As for the Digital Services Act, it does include rules and restrictions surrounding the scrutiny of how media platforms work, obligations for large platforms as a way to prevent abuse of their systems, and transparency rules that include online advertising and algorithms used for content recommendations for users. The Act is very comprehensive and intent on maintaining a safer and fair online presence within Europe that represents the values of the EU. While it encompasses so many obligations, it is questionable on how well it will be maintained and who is in control because depending on the Commission, it could vary as the Commission changes its leadership.

Conspiracy Theories in Europe

Sara Dix

The spread of conspiracy theories has become a major influence in spreading disinformation, particularly as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The QAnon conspiracy, while maintained in the fringes throughout Europe, it has taken a strong hold in Germany as described in the YouTube video about TV Chef, Attila Hildmann, and briefly in Mark Scott’s QAnon goes European article. Aside from QAnon, Ivan Kalmar focuses on the utilization of conspiracy theories and the “Soros Plot” by Orban and his Fidesz party in Hungary.

In general, there are a variety of conspiracy theories that have attracted people from various groups such as the Yellow Jacket movement in France, the anti-vaccine community in Italy, and Brexit followers in Britain. The main conspiracy theory that has grown recently in Europe is QAnon; a theory that blends anti-government, anti-lockdown, and anti-Semitic rhetoric with the unfounded belief that the global elite is running a vast pedophile ring. But the main reason that this conspiracy has spread is due to the coronavirus crisis.

While this conspiracy began in the US, it has become a problem in Europe, particularly Germany. I found it interesting how many Germans found themselves believing the QAnon conspiracy because Germany was not as effected by Covid-19. They were able to handle the coronavirus more effectively than other places through lockdowns. I’m also not surprised that conspiracy theorists are negatively impacted both economically and emotionally as conspiracies do appear to be extremely unsound by those who did not fall into the conspiracy trap.

The Struggle of Accepting Multiculturalism in Europe

Sara Dix

Since the event of 9/11 (and even prior), there has been a widespread fear of Muslims and increase in xenophobia throughout the West. But, any sort of multiculturism in the West has recently been seen as a threat and this is shown clearly in Onishi’s article about the writer, Renaud Camus, and Dan’s article as well. Coman’s argument regarding the role of churches within the multiculturism debate also highlights the predicament that churches are in, specifically in Hungary.

Not only do far-right extremists in France believe that they are currently undergoing a “great replacement”, but this is occurring in many places within the West. Camus believes that immigrants are “colonizing” France and making its cities and towns unlivable. It’s unfortunate because by having a multicultural society, I feel there is more understanding between people because there are discussions to freely ask questions that helps create empathy. There is a general misconception of how easy it is for immigrants to come into a country, but it’s really tough and a lengthy process that people who have never experienced it just don’t understand.

Stone focused on Holocaust memory and Europe’s refugee crisis. I also found myself confused where he compares the attitude of the British government towards the Jewish refugees and Muslim refugees. The former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth argued that the British government should “allow at least 10,000 refugees into Britain in a modern version of the programme that brought some 10,000 Jewish children fleeing Nazi persecution in 1938-1939.” I thought that was really interesting because why shouldn’t they help refugees who are fleeing to save their lives and how does the preconceptions of these refugees affect whether a country will take them in or not? What made Jewish children fleeing Nazi persecution different than Muslim refugees fleeing the chaos in Syria?

The Transnational Nouvelle Droite

Sara Dix

Tamir Bar-On’s “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite” and Riccard Marchi’s “The Nouvelle Droite in Portugal” were really interesting. They both focus on the spread of the Nouvelle Droit (ND) on an international level, but also how it has placed itself along the political spectrum.

What’s most unique about the ND is that it is neither a political party nor an extra-parliamentary outfit, but a kind of school of thought and metapolitical movement that are culturally focused. I found it somewhat confusing, especially since it does not associate itself with the far-right but the world-view is a transnational synthesis of revolutionary right-wing and left-wing ideas. This is shown in Marchi’s article when the ND appears in Portugal and the two young intellectuals, Jaime Nogueira Pinto and Antonio Marques Bessa, who were most influenced managed to increase its popularity within Portugal.

However, the ND in Portugal did not seek to modernize radical-right thinking during the post-Franco period but it actually stressed the need to locate its cultural background within the fields of innovative scientific knowledge. The Portuguese intellectuals were more interested in the methods of the French ND rather than its content. This is not unheard of either. When ideas travel beyond a nation, other people will usually take what they like and transform it into their own. But it’s interesting to see that both right and left-wing groups have criticized the ND for its unique stance as a school of thought.

Far-Right Representation in Media

Sara Dix

Far-right groups around the world have been able to connect easily through the internet and continue to increasingly become more vocal about their beliefs. This also includes promoting far-right beliefs through all sorts artistic mediums, such as music, as a way of expressing themselves and promoting their extremist views.

A rapper by the pseudonym, “Mr. Bond,” was recently arrested in Austria and accused for producing music that was neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and racist, as well as encouraging neo-Nazi forum members to commit terrorist attacks since 2016. He was prosecuted for producing and spreading Nazi ideas and inciting hatred.

The AFP news agency reported that one of his songs had been used during an attack in Halle, Germany in October 2019.

The Interior Minister, Karl Nehammer, mentioned how “the lyrics of his songs glorify National Socialism and are anti-Semitic, racist, and xenophobic . . . the fight against right-wing extremism is our historical responsibility.”

The music is described to portray “violent fantasies” and thus have attracted many far-right, neo-Nazi listeners in online networks. It’s appealing due to the neo-Nazi humour that’s infused within the lyrics and so the songs are explicit in their promotion of anti-Semitism and racism.

In fact, Mr. Bond is known to be involved with a global network of young, radicalized men who idolize the recent wave of far-right shootings. However, Mr. Bond is unique from other far-right German hip-hop acts. The fact that his music was geared towards hip-hop has even caused serious debate within far-right groups on whether it could even be accepted to have extremely politically-charged music within a genre that was originally a tradition for Black people.

An interesting comparison that’s used is that Mr. Bond is also known as the “far-right Weird Al.” The comparison focuses on the fact that Mr. Bond creates parodies of already existing songs, but instead of using over-the-top satire, he uses violent and racist lyrics.

Historically, as one of the first countries to be invaded and controlled under the Nazi regime during the Second World War, Austria has had its fair share of immense Nazi propaganda that flooded various means of communication and mediums to spread the ideology.

While Austria was politically weak after the First World War, it was fairly easy for Nazi propaganda to spread and it intensified so that by the early 1930s, a group of Nazis attempted a siege on the Austrian government and assassinated the chancellor at that time.

Once the plebiscite vote by the citizens of Austria, the Anschluss, passed to unite Austria to Nazi Germany, the 99% voter support was definitely contributed by a combination of Nazi propaganda, manipulation, and terror. While hip-hop music did not exist during this time, or was not as wide-spread, the main medium that the Nazis used to spread their propaganda was newspapers that also included political cartoons that demeaned the nature of Jews. So, it was prominent in Austria as well as they were controlled by the Nazis as well.

In modern times, it is much easier for far-right groups and individuals to connect with each other as well as to become more influential through the realm of the creative arts, such as music, art, and writing. In terms of social media, they have created specific social media apps for far-right groups to express their opinions and provide alternative interpretations and conspiracy theories.

These social media apps are much smaller with less policing or limitations to what people can say. For example, Gab is an alternative app where far-right groups gather, including Trump supporters, believers of QAnon conspiracy theories, and other right-wing extremists.

Because social media is such an influential aspect of everyone’s lives, it is far easier to pass on fake news and conspiracy theories that people can believe on a global scale. It has created many new far-right organizations since social media emerged as it provides a platform without any traditional rules of conduct or formal facilitation for some social media platforms.

It’s through these smaller, less facilitated groups where far-right extremists can upload their own expressions and perspectives. This includes the Austrian rapper, Mr. Bond, who has become popular through his hip-hop music that promotes far-right attitudes and violent behaviour.

It’s through these platforms that far-right ideals and beliefs can spread quickly and music, especially, tends to be favoured and listened to by younger people. It doesn’t help that Mr. Bond’s music is catchy and easy to understand because it is in the hip-hop genre than the usual genre of heavy metal. So it’s possible that it will go viral within the far-right communities.

In Memory of the Holocaust

Sara Dix

When looking at history, it is the memory that holds the most impact. It gives insight to a specific event in time that has impacted so many people, yet memories of various events can vary from person to person. Sollors discusses the “Fragebogen” questionnaire that asked people to recollect their role during the Holocause whereas Smith provides an anecdote to explain how the cooperation of between Germans and Jews has created a nationwide memory of the consequences post-WWII.

It’s interesting how the questionnaire appeared as a part of the denazification campaign by the Allies during the second half of the 1940s. It was a way to identify people who affiliated themselves with the Nazi Party and prohibited any sort of Nazi activity or benefits. The “Fragebogen” was important in the process of denazification, but even if they were completed under the oath of honesty, it would have been extremely difficult for the Allies to ensure that people told the truth. In that respect, the Germans who felt too ashamed and guilty for their actions could have easily lied about their experiences and associations.

The story of Hugo Spiegel shows how it takes a collective from both sides to come together and find some kind of reconciliation. Smith emphasizes that a country cannot face up to its past alone which is why Germans needed help from Jews in order to work towards a more inclusive and accepting environment. Even though his own daughter was killed in a concentration camp, Spiegel was still able to work with Germans in order and that just shows how the Jews who did return to their hometowns were willing to work with people who may have antagonized them just to create a better life in Germany.

Works Cited

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

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/

Women in the Far-Right

Sara Dix

The role of women within far-right groups, both in the past and the present, is quite unique and interesting. Lopez and Sanchez discuss the role of women during the Spanish Civil War which shares similar patterns that are discussed in Lower’s book about German women that had roles within the Nazi regime. Even in modern times, women continue to be extremely important for far-right groups.

During the Spanish Civil War, the milicianas were young women dressed in worker’s overalls who marched alongside other women and men to defend the Republic. However, even in academia, there are few studies done on the Nationalist women who participated within the Civil War as historians mainly focused on the more active conservative women who were active participants in politics. This was also the same for German women in the Nazi system. However, Lopez and Sanchez emphasize that women were most important for espionage, counterespionage and information processing. So, they did maintain important roles. As for those during the Third Reich, women became nurses, prison guards, and secretaries as support under the Nazi regime.

Even in modern times, women are increasingly more involved as far-right groups are shifting to appeal to female voters. Just like in the Spanish Civil War and during the Nazi regime, far-right groups focus on the working-class and women who feel they are being left behind along with their male counterparts. Not only that, but more far-right groups are willing to accept women and LGBTQ within their policies. It’s interesting because far-right groups are typically seen as being conservative and completely against any liberal idea that doesn’t follow the typical patriarchal hierarchy.

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

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)

Poland’s Anti-Abortion Debate

Sara Dix

The topic of abortion has been an important issue that many women are struggling with around the world as there are an increasing number of far-right groups that use it as an argument to support their ideology of a patriarchy. Women deserve to have the right to decide what is best for themselves as well as their unconceived children.

However, the far-right government in Poland is attempting to completely ban any abortion, even if the decision is based on the risk of a fetal deformity. This decision, made by the Constitutional Tribunal, has resulted in mass protests as it declared that abortions made in the case of fetal defects will be considered unconstitutional.

While there may be some ability to work around this new law, Poland’s current abortion law is already one of the strictest among European Union (EU) members besides Malta. This will have major implications for women who are looking to having an abortion and they may have to travel to other countries in order to have the possibility of getting one.

The current limitations and restrictions for abortions only includes cases of rape, incest, or when the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life, so the protests are essential for the livelihood of Polish women. The destructive consequences of a complete ban of abortions will be catastrophic.

The complete ban on abortions will effect the majority of all abortions within Poland as it was found that 98% of the abortions in 2019 were carried out within these cases.

The Polish government’s reasoning for the ban against abortions is also unclear and vague as to what constitutes as protecting human life and whether a fetus is considered a human being.

From the historical perspective, Poland has a unique perspective on abortion. It can be attributed by the fact that legal abortion existed for forty years under communism and so it was based on instrumentalist and needs-based approaches rather than the concept of rights.

Not only was it believed that, as a result of being a product under communism, there was no need for a woman’s movement but gender equality was not considered to be a part of the strong cultural traditions within Polish society.

Poland has frequently flip-flopped between legalizing and de-legalizing abortions since 1932 and this inconsistency has a major impact on the struggles in the modern day. The mass protests against the Constitutional Tribunal’s recent decision reveals the continuous struggle that women in Polish society face.

When the ruling was first announced in October 2020, it was followed by a month of protests that had not been witnessed since the collapse of communism in 1989. The timing of the decision furthered the anguish and was further accentuated by the current pandemic and the economic recession that has negatively impacted the Polish population and revealed gender disparities.

The lead protest organizer of Women’s Strike, Marta Lempart, stated that “this decision is a declaration of war” and considering that during the revolution against communism, women were also an important force for Poland’s independence.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, far-right supporting groups and lawmakers support the ruling and legal enforcement of it. A Polish member of the European Parliament, Beata Kempa, even stated that abortions should be prohibited, even with the case of fetal abnormalities and that the unborn child has its own rights to live.

Karolina Pawlowska, from the Ordo luris international law centre, stated that by having a ban on all abortions, it will mean that there will no longer be “discrimination against children who are sick or disabled”. But this is not a viable reason for all cases as fetal defects are not the only causes for getting an abortion.

It does not account for pregnancies caused by rape, pregnancies that put the mother’s life and health at risk, but also for specific circumstances such as if the mother is unable to financially or emotionally support the child once it is born.

Unfortunately, as a result of having strong ties with the Catholic Church, the government attempted to cast the abortion debate as an attack on the church, thus an attack on the people. Since it has been a long contested topic, it has really emphasized the division within Polish society between the traditional and religious values and the more secular, open-minded values.

Gender Studies and Fascism

Sara Dix

Gender studies has had a complicated relationship within fascist societies and far-right groups throughout history and to the modern day. David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar’s analysis on anti-gender campaigns in Europe really emphasize the idea of “Gender Ideology” and its importance to the arguments made by far-right groups. On the opposite, and historical, side Dan Healey analyzes the role of sexuality within Stalin’s Gulags through gender studies and how it laid the foundation for the modern prison system in Russia.

Paternotte and Kuhar’s article focuses on anti-gender campaigns that have become more widely visible since the mid-2000s. “Gender ideology” or “gender theory” is a commonality that appears to trigger mobilizations that oppose women or LGBT rights. It is seen as an ideology that is imposed by Western societies and ignores the cultural traditions and beliefs in non-Western countries which then causes disagreements and chaos within those societies. It is interesting that while anti-gender campaigns can be regarded as another element of the right-wing populist wave, these occurrences should not just be lumped together. There are some right-wing populists that have increasingly endorsed women’s and LGBT rights, particularly in Northern Europe.

During Stalin’s regimes, Gulags were mainly used for punishment, but they also provided an economy that relied on forced labour. It is interesting how the types of queers within these Gulags were split between “criminals” and “politicals”. The “criminals” were also considered to be “socially friendly” prisoners as they consisted of prisoners who were considered sympathetic to Soviet values and amenable to reforging while “politicals” were intellectuals who were seen as a threat to the communist regime.

Works Cited

Dan Healey, “Forging Gulag Sexualities: Penal Homosexuality and the Reform of the
Gulag after Stalin” Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (London: Bloomsbury Press,
2017).

David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”:
Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe” Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 6-19.

The Culture of Fascism

Sara Dix

It’s interesting how there is more emphasis on the brutality of fascist regimes in history, but the aspect of “leisure” and “tourism” as a form of propaganda is rarely discussed. Baranowski’s article focuses on the organization, Strength Through Joy, during the Nazi regime as a way to build a racial utopia with German tourists. This goes the same for Spain during the 1960s, as Crumbaugh explains.

The Strength Through Joy organization’s goal was to improve the living standards for Germans until living space was achieved. So, it provided leisure activities for people of various as a way to compensate for the wage freezes, longer working hours, and restrictions on private consumption by the German government. Tourism for this organization was an “attempt to create a non-Marxist, non-Fordist, and characteristically Nazi mode of consumption” (Baranowski). This was similar in Spain during the 1960s and it was a form of propaganda that created a sense of normalcy against the background of fascist brutality. The Strength Through Joy organization needed to boost productivity among Germans, but it also enforced the idea of a “master race” by bringing tourists into countries that were doing poorly, such as Italy, and those that were doing well, such as Nordic countries.

Crumbaugh explains that tourism was a device for Spain that includes “the modes of representation associated with both bureaucracy and commercialism” (Crumbaugh). The film he discusses shows that the tourism trope operates as an “invention necessary for its own (re)production” (Crumbaugh). In 1951, the Ministry of Info and Tourism (MIT) was created with the idea that tourism was not just for economic means, but to collect information. This ministry was used to promote a relatively normal and pleasurable environment to cover up a violent government that did not tolerate any liberal freedoms.

Works Cited

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), pp. 15-41.

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