Mainstreaming the Far-Right in Media

By Jackie Howell

Media in all of its forms have played a key role in facilitating the spread of far-right populists’ messages. While media is not the cause of these movements, tabloid media, elite media sources, and social media platforms are responsible for their part in spurring the far-right’s current momentum. These platforms give populists a voice, regardless of the media source’s intentions.  They frame certain narratives that the far-right manipulate to fit within their agendas. Far-right populists can thank the media for their visibility in mainstream news. From tabloid media circulating populists’ ideas to elite media playing a repeated message of outrage and ridicule of far-right leaders and supporters, media has given the far-right the attention they crave most – a direct line to the people.

This week’s readings illustrate how communication is key to spreading the far-right’s anti-immigrant and nationalist rhetoric. Media outlets frame narratives that influence the public’s perception of minorities, as demonstrated in the case against the Roma community in the Czech Republic. The use of tropes in media can manifest harmful stereotypes and emotive terms that evoke hatred toward minorities. Also, mainstream media’s constant repetition of its televised news cycle helps ferment these stereotypes, as repeating news stories increases the media outlet’s target audience.   

In the digital age, social media platforms have become an easy way to spread populist messages. Before social media, far-right leaders relied on in-person rallies, printed manifestos, and organized meetings to spread their agendas. New forms of media are tools that can help spread messages for others to digest regardless of their location. Social media platforms are easily accessible for users of nearly all ages. This allows the far-right to reach their target audience by connecting with users that share, retweet, or post similar messages, creating an online community of far-right supporters.

Social media platforms allow the far-right to spread their culture of conspiracy theories, white nationalism, and anti-elite sentiment. Memes, videos, and blog posts allow the far-right to unite and share ideas, support sister movements, and spread via hashtags and reposts. The far-right can radicalize and influence social media users, and in turn, users can post their manifestos for others to read and copy. For example, eco-terrorists like the El Paso shooter and the Christchurch shooter (and even the mass murderer in Norway) left behind manifestos to provide a mass murder guidebook for others to follow and study.    

As the course comes to an end, this week’s readings reflect on the most contemporary issue regarding far-right populism: far-right in the digital space. It is fitting that at the beginning of the course, Trump’s Twitter account was suspended, which raises the following questions: how can media and social media platforms prevent the spread of harmful messages? Is it even possible to stop or slow the spread of misinformation, racist propaganda, and far-right memes? As we move further into the digital age, it will be interesting to see how liberal democracies police the digital space without fueling far-right populists’ anti-elite rhetoric.

References

Freedman, D. (2018). Populism and media policy failure. European Journal of Communication, 33(6), 604-618. DOI: 10.1177/0267323118790156

Slavíčková, T., & Zvagulis, P. (2014). Monitoring anti-minority rhetoric in the Czech print media. Journal of Language and Politics, 13(1), 152-170. Doi: 10.1075/jlp.13.1.07sla

von Moltke, J. (2019). The Meme is the Message [lecture video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7e7lSGlSWs

The Far-Right’s Blame Game: From COVID-19 to the Migrant Crisis

by Jackie Howell

COVID-19 presents an opportunity for practically anything – a chance to learn a new hobby, a chance to learn to work remotely, and a chance to reflect. While some have mildly enjoyed the ability to stay at home, these unprecedented times have allowed the far-right to prey on those affected the most by COVID-19. When there is a crisis, the far-right uses this opportunity to their advantage to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories to attract supporters. As COVID-19 disrupted economies globally, it was only a matter of time before the disenfranchised – now with idle time – turned to QAnon and the far-right for comfort.

Across the world, states are witnessing a surge in anti-government protests and a rise in violence. From anti-maskers to protests against lockdowns, those on the fringe have joined the far-right’s movement. Referring to people that follow the rules as “sheep,” far-right populists have managed to spread their anti-liberal, anti-immigrant agendas. As a Japanese Canadian, I am not surprised by the increase in anti-Asian violence and hate crimes. During the beginning of the pandemic, my mother and I were accused of bringing the virus to our hometown. We faced disgusted glances, racial slurs, and the not-so-subtle attempts to give us more than six feet of space – even though neither of us presented with symptoms, we spoke English, and we were wearing masks before the mask mandate. To the disenfranchised, we represented the virus and all of its destruction simply by our physical Asian traits.  It is shocking and sad how a pandemic could bring out the worst in people, but these qualities are what the far-right looks for when recruiting supporters.

“COVID-19 has been an intelligence test” (Vice) is quite an ironic statement to make by anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers considering the lack of logic in their arguments against lockdowns, vaccines, and the health threat of COVID-19. Often, I see tweets on the low death rate of COVID-19, spurring online movements against lockdowns and masks. In my hometown (Chatham-Kent), protesters from Windsor to even Toronto came to support our local group of anti-maskers. The result? A rise in COVID-19 cases. The rejection of science and evidence is becoming a successful tactic of the far-right to gain supporters on the fringe.

The idea that COVID-19 and the migrant crisis contribute to the elites’ global agenda is absurd and unfounded. This conspiracy theory resonates with QAnon supporters, the far-right, and those on the fringe. When far-right populists present misinformation in a clear consumable manner, the far-right can attract new supporters that may not identify with the political right or those outside of politics. For example, the woman that changed her opinion on Trump after watching YouTube videos and reading social media posts illustrates how the far-right can manipulate logic to gain supporters. As crises continue to occur, the far-right has the opportunity to seek new supporters by blaming a common enemy.

References

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

Kalmar, I. (2020). Islamophobia and anti-antisemitism: The case of Hungary and the ‘Soros plot.’ Patterns of Prejudice, 54(1-2), 182-198. DOI: 10.1080/0031322X.2019.1705014

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

Multicultural Europe: Europe’s Past and Present

by Jackie Howell

What does it mean to be European? Can we easily define characteristics traits to create a European national identity in a contemporary world? Could we ever? How do memory and culture shape Europe today? These questions reflect the themes in this week’s readings, posing a need for serious reflection on how Europe treats migrants and minorities. Immigrants from non-white countries have faced racist and xenophobic attitudes in Europe, but it is certainly not a new phenomenon.  Race and religion and the act of “othering” are tools that the far-right (and the left) employ to mobilize supporters against a common threat. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are tools for populists and progressives to manipulate, isolate, and scapegoat. As Europe continues to experience demographic change, how will the far-right and progressives adapt to a new Europe?

With the influx of migrants coming to Europe, the makeup of urban centres and Europe in general has changed. Admittedly, if you asked any member of my small-town community to describe the “typical” European identity, 9/10 would respond with an image of a white, thin Christian individual. However, this stereotype does not accurately reflect the changing landscape of Europe today. As migrants and refugees settle in Europe, political parties have continued to demonize and isolate these groups to further separate Europeans from “Others.” The far-right has spread their anti-immigration agenda by portraying immigrants as dangerous outsiders that should return to their original country. France’s Renaud Camus even called the influx of migrants an “invasion,” which is reminiscent of North America deeming the influx of Chinese immigrants in the 1800s as an “Asian invasion.” Europe and the West have historically excluded non-white or non-Christian migrants. It is not surprising that EU member states refuse to accept incoming refugees from Syria and Africa, nor is it a surprise that the left deems Islam as oppressive to women. It has been the norm for the West to treat those that are different as “wrong” or not as “modernized.”  

The weaponization of religion is a tactic that both the left and the right employ in their discourse. Europe has continuously created a dichotomous society of us-versus-them by “othering” the outcast in question. From using the Jews as scapegoats to creating an Islamic threat, Europe has continuously produced a narrative of binaries that reinforces Europe’s white superiority complex. Hungary’s Orbán further reinforces this narrative by weaponizing Christianity to demonize minorities and outsiders. The weaponization of religion and the threat of “Others” in Europe are tools reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s anti-Semitic policies. Dan Stone (2018) highlights the historical roots of Europe’s mistreatment and neglect of minorities, and he draws the pointed conclusion that the death of nationalism in Europe was declared prematurely. Is Europe doomed to repeat its past mistakes, or can Europe learn to adapt to a multicultural identity?

References

Coman, J. (2019, December 29). The pastor versus the populist: Hungary’s new faith faultline. The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/29/pastor-v-populist-viktor-orban-hungary-faith-faultline

El-Tayeb, F. (2012). ‘Gays who cannot properly be gay’: Queer Muslims in the neoliberal European city. European Journal of Womens Studies, 19(1), 79-95. DOI: 10.1177/1350506811426388

Onishi, N. (2019, September 20). The man behind a toxic slogan promoting white supremacy. The New York Times, nytimes.com/2019/09/20/world/europe/renaud-camus-great-replacement.html

Stone, D. (2018). On neighbours and those knocking at the door: Holocaust memory and Europe’s refugee crisis. Patterns of Prejudice, 52(2-3), 231-243. DOI:10.1080/0031322X.2018.1433038

The Nouvelle Droite and its Cultural Strategy

by Jackie Howell

The post-war period left the far-right in a transitioning state. It is easy to associate the far-right with fascism or Nazism. As discussed previously, there are various definitions of these groups that go beyond the Third Reich. Griffin reiterates this perspective when examining the conceptual foundations of the Nouvelle Droite. The post-war transition period presented an opportunity for the far-right to rebrand itself. Although the Nouvelle Droite’s ideological position is unclear, its leader Alain de Benoist repeatedly emphasized the Nouvelle Droite’s opposition to traditional forms of fascism (anti-Semitism, racism, imperialism, colonialism, etc.). Instead, de Benoist argued that the Nouvelle Droite is a metapolitical movement aiming to provide cultural space for far-right intellectuals and politicians. However, Griffin provides evidence that de Benoist’s Nouvelle Droite is not as far removed from the far-right space as de Benoist portrayed. Given the fresh wounds of WWII, it was a clever tactic for de Benoist to remove the Nouvelle Droite as far as possible from fascism. Alain de Benoist directed attention to protecting Europe’s diversity and culture instead of the Nouvelle Droite’s connections with fascism.

Magazines, speeches, and traditional press are tools of the political elite to spread their cultural strategy. Magazines and print can disseminate information and influence the public on cultural, social, or political issues. Riccardo Marchi highlights the cultural strategy of the Nouvelle Droite and focuses on the role of various magazines, including Futuro Presente. Futuro Presente published analyses of Portugal’s political situation and the consequences for the far-right, texts on the new sciences, and studies of classical themes of the extreme far-right. Futuro Presente also translated texts of far-right thinkers and advertised similar European magazines. These magazines provide the cultural space for far-right intellectuals to share ideas between sister associations, creating this transnational network of far-right thinkers.

The idea of transnationalism resurfaces in this week’s readings. Tamir Bar-On examines the French Nouvelle Droite’s approach as a cultural school of thought, referring to the movement as the “European New Right.” Bar-On argues that the Nouvelle Droite was shaped by transnational influences, and in turn, the Nouvelle Droite itself shaped a right-wing culture throughout Europe. The Nouvelle Droite leader Alain de Benoist proved the movement’s transnational reach, as various leaders and intellectuals in other European countries looked to Alain de Benoist for inspiration. Riccardo Marchi further expands on this transnational approach. The political and cultural group, the Associação de Estudos e Intervenção Política Impulso (i.e., “Impulso”), built relations with liberal-conservative actors in other Western European countries and hosted a conference to reinforce links with sister associations. While these meetings and conferences occurred in the late 1970s, they are reminiscent of the congresses that anti-colonial nationalists attended in Berlin during the Third Reich. These conferences reinforced the New Right’s cultural strategy by creating a web of shared networks and beliefs.

References

Bar-On, T. (2011). Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite. Patterns of Prejudice, 45(3), 199-223. DOI: 10.1080/0031322X.2011.585013

Griffin, R. (2000). Between metapolitics and apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s strategy for conserving the fascist vision in the ‘interregnum.’ Modern & Contemporary France, 8(1), 35-53. DOI: 10.1080/096394800113349

Marchi, R. (2016). The Nouvelle Droite in Portugal: A new strategy for the radical right in the transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Patterns of Prejudice, 50(3), 232-252. DOI: 10.1080/0031322X.2016.1207924

#JeNeSuisPasUnVirus: Anti-Asian Racism during COVID-19

By Jackie Howell

COVID-19 does not discriminate, but people do. Anti-Asian violence has spiked since the start of the pandemic. Are these hate crimes tied to Trump and the far-right’s racist messages of blame?

Asian communities are fighting two pandemics at once. From labelling COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” to vowing to “make China pay,” far-right populists have used COVID-19 as an excuse to further their anti-immigrant and racist agendas. 

Anti-Asian Racism around the World      

Public figures have increasingly made derogatory or xenophobic remarks targeting Asians and people of Asian descent. The significant rise in hate crimes in North America, Europe, and practically everywhere else marks a new danger for East Asians, Southeast Asians, and Pacific Islanders.

As infections spread across the U.S., President Trump repeatedly pushed the disproved theory that COVID-19 originated from a Chinese lab. In March 2020, Representative Judy Chu estimated that 100 hate crimes were being committed against Asian Americans each day. Asian-American businesses have been vandalized with racist tags, and random Asian individuals have been assaulted, harassed, and shunned. By April 2020, three in ten Americans blamed China or Chinese people for the virus.

Since March 2020, Canada has had a higher number of anti-Asian racism reports per capita than the United States. Asian Canadians have experienced verbal threats, graffiti, micro-aggressions, and physical confrontations. Asian Canadian women have been impacted the most, accounting for 60% of all reported incidents.

Anti-Asian violence has been reported across Europe. Hate crimes have increased in the U.K., as the far-right continues to use COVID-19 as an excuse to attack Asians. French Asians have reported abuse on public transit and social media by using the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus (“I’m not a virus”). Europe’s far-right nationalists have blamed Asians for spreading COVID-19, contributing to their anti-immigrant and xenophobic conspiracy theories.

In 2015, the World Health Organization urged governments not to name viruses after geographic locations, people’s names, or terms that would incite undue fear. COVID-19 highlights the negative impacts of nicknaming a pandemic after a country, as the rise in anti-Chinese messages has led to more attacks and racial division. Even political leaders have spread racist messages. Brazil’s education minister suggested that COVID-19 is part of China’s plan for world domination.

Historical Roots of Anti-Asian Racism

Anti-Asian racism is not a new concept in the West. The recent resurgence in anti-Asian racism is similar to incidents during the SARS epidemic. Disease fosters fears, which far-right parties have exploited to urge border closures and toughen immigration restrictions. When a crisis strikes, panic and fear can lead to acts of bigotry, racism, and xenophobia. COVID-19 is no exception.

Asian immigrants have historically been the target of discriminatory policies. With the influx of Asian immigrants, fears of an “Asian invasion” in North America led to the head tax (Canada) and the Chinese Exclusion Act (U.S. and Canada), which aimed to discourage Chinese immigration. In 1907, an anti-immigration rally exploded into three days of violence and vandalism in Vancouver’s Chinatown and Japantown, now known as the “Anti-Asian Riots.”  During World War II, war propaganda depicted the Japanese as “crafty” and “cunning,” leading to the internment of thousands of innocent Japanese immigrants in the U.S. and Canada.

From spreading anti-Semitism to mistreating the Roma population, Europe cannot deny its racist past. After World War II, far-right parties rebranded and began to argue against immigration. The far-right continues to spread its anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant rhetoric – but they are not the only problem. Media outlets in Europe have continuously produced anti-Asian images and stereotypes when reporting on COVID-19. France’s Le Courier Picard caused an outcry after pairing the headline “Alerte jaune” (Yellow Alert) with the image of a Chinese woman wearing a protective mask. Images that associate Asians with COVID-19 fuel the far-right’s racist conspiracy theories.

The COVID-19 Blame Game

Far-right parties continue to push the narrative that Asians are to blame for the pandemic. In the long-term, the social and economic impacts of lockdowns and slow vaccine rollouts risk alienating the demographics that far-right groups target for recruitment. Governments and media must stop using images of Asians wearing masks when discussing COVID-19. Otherwise, the media will continue to perpetuate the narrative that all Asians carry the virus.

Denazification: Victims of Circumstance or Mass Murderers?

Jackie Howell

While I studied at the University of Windsor, I participated in an elective course on German cinema. I am neither a film major nor a German history major, but films and the political aspects of their dissemination intrigued me. What struck me most was not the documentaries of the Holocaust but the films produced in the 1930s and 1940s and post-war. The films created during the Third Reich illustrated how German identity transformed post-WWI to adopt a prideful, nationalist sentiment with anti-Semitic undertones. The post-war films juxtaposed these films by addressing the collective guilt of the Germans. Mapping the transformation of the German identity is best illustrated in the cultural texts produced during this period. Sollors situates his argument through a cultural context and uses books and songs to depict the limits of the Fragebogen in assessing Nazism in Germany. Cultural texts can help unpack the shortcomings of the denazification process, particularly focusing on the extent of justice and guilt in Europe.

One of the dangers of remembering Nazi Germany is oversimplifying the Germans’ participation in the Third Reich. Fulbrook speaks to the myriad of participation in the podcast interview, examining how some Germans felt they were a “victim of circumstance” while others enjoyed their involvement. This begs the question: how do you bring a population to justice without considering the circumstances? Is each individual responsible for the actions of the Third Reich, or are some considered innocent bystanders? Fulbrook illustrates how participation is not simple to define, which the Fragebogen failed to consider. Sollors reaffirms the shortcomings of the Fragebogen by also addressing the oversimplification of “weeding out” Nazism through a questionnaire.  

However, it is also dangerous to underestimate the Germans’ accountability in the Third Reich. While they may not have pulled the trigger themselves, the Germans’ complicity deserves recognition and proper punishment. West Germany failed to properly punish all of those involved in the Third Reich’s atrocities, as the mismatch between the scale of horror and the number of those punished was massive. While East Germany did convict perpetrators with more severe sentences, one must question if the Soviets’ underlying hatred for the Germans fueled their higher conviction rate.

It is not sufficient to say “never again” to the atrocities. To right history, historians must examine how and why people become involved in a system of mass murder and how to deal with it afterward. Perhaps commemoration can be a start to remembering the atrocities and identities lost in collective violence. However, it is equally important to address how this act of collective violence occurred in the first place to prevent future atrocities.  

References

Fulbrook, M. (2019). Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi persecution and the quest for justice [podcast]. https://soundcloud.com/historyhit/coming-to-terms-with-the

Smith, H. W. (2021, Jan. 11). It takes a village to create a nation’s memory. Zocalo Public Square. zocalopublicsquare.org/2021/01/11/post-war-germany-jewish-return-memory-national-reckoning/ideas/essay/

Sollors, W. (2018). ‘Everybody gets Fragebogened sooner or later’: The denazification questionnaire as cultural text. German Life and Letters 71(2), 139-153.

Women and the Far-Right: The Secret Weapon

by Jackie Howell

Women’s participation in politics has been limited or unreported, as women tend to occupy positions outside the scope of analysis. Stereotypes like “women are not dangerous” or “women are peaceful” have led to omissions of women’s roles in history. Historians have also failed to include LGBTQ individuals in their historical analysis. This omission has painted an inaccurate picture of the participants in historical movements. Women have often have been relegated to secondary roles to men during World War II, civil rights movements, or diplomatic missions. What was the true impact of women’s participation in politics, and why did these women participate?

This week’s readings, particularly Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies, uncover the role women played in nationalist movements. Traditionally, historians reflected on women’s roles as subordinate to men. Women were depicted as the nurturing, motherly type, either caring for the wounded or children at home. Rarely were women depicted as dangerous in a military sense, as men (and historians) underestimated the extent of women’s participation. While historians have described women’s actions on the home front, they fail to analyze women’s participation in acts of war. Uncovering the gendered bias in historical analysis is a crucial step in illuminating the role that women can play in conflict and political movements.

This week’s readings target gender stereotypes in historical analysis, primarily focusing on how women participated in wars. Lower’s chapter, “The East Needs You,” discusses the four key roles that women played in the expansion of the Nazi regime: teachers, nurses, secretaries, and wives. Interestingly, secretaries and wives turned out to be the most murderous of the group, even though some nurses did participate in the murders of those with disabilities. Historians often underestimate women’s participation in a male-dominated ideology. This brings one to question the extent of women’s participation that has been unreported or missed. For example, the media depiction of the Capitol riots in January often focused on white men, as they seemed to form the majority. However, Women for Trump has gained popularity since 2016, and Europe’s far-right parties have increased their women supporters. The narrative that the far-right ideology is for “white men only” has seemingly been disproven.

 Moreover, Rodriguez Lopez and Cazorla Sanchez point out that women failed to receive an equal punishment to their male counterparts, as women were rarely punished or executed. This failure to punish further perpetuates the narrative that women are not as dangerous or intelligent as men, which is still evident today. For example, a handful of women were arrested from the U.S. Capitol riots, and one woman was even granted permission to travel on a work-related trip to Mexico. This glaring act of (white) privilege further illustrates how (white) women are punished differently due to their portrayal as less dangerous individuals.

To advance the discourse on fascist and populist movements, women’s participation must be analyzed, for it is a disservice to history to only study a portion of participants.

References

Chrisafis, A. (Jan. 29, 2019). From Le Pen to Alice Weidel: How the European far-right set its sight on women. The Guardian, theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jan/29/from-le-pen-to-alice-weidelhow-the-european-far-right-set-its-sights-on-women

Lower, W. (2013). Introduction. In Hitler’s furies (pp. 1-14). Houghton Mifflin.

Lower, W. (2013). The East needs you. In Hitler’s furies (pp. 32-74).Houghton Mifflin.

Lower, W. (2013). The lost generation of German women. In Hitler’s furies (pp. 15-31). Houghton Mifflin.

Rodríguez López, S., and Cazorla Sánchez, A. (2018). Blue angels: Female fascist resisters, spies and intelligence officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9. Journal of Contemporary History, 53(4): 692–713.

The European Green Deal: A Solution for Post-Pandemic Recovery?

By Jackie Howell

2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record, sparking a need to address climate change. The European Union (EU) aims to combine climate efforts with a post-COVID recovery plan. However, can member-states overcome their political differences and come to a consensus?

COVID-19 highlights the relationship between health, the economy, and the environment. The European Green Deal, introduced in December 2019, seems like the perfect opportunity to address the effects of COVID-19 and climate change. Local and regional leaders are prioritizing a green recovery from COVID-19, as outlined in the ENVE Commission of the European Committee of the Regions’ 2021 work program. Over the next decade, the EU will mobilize €1 trillion of investments to create a clean circular economy, restore biodiversity, and reduce pollution.

Responses to the Climate Crisis

Climate change has already been on most governments’ agendas. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report detailing the impacts of global warming, arriving at the conclusion: Earth is experiencing a climate emergency.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has prioritized greening the EU economy. In 2019, the European Parliament voted in favour of declaring a climate emergency and committed to becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The EU also committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to at least 50% of 1990’s levels.

However, ongoing divisions between the East and West and the North and South pose additional hurdles for EU consensus. Dissenters such as the right-wing European People’s Party (EPP) warned against giving this impression of panic, downplaying the urgency of climate change. A few right-wing political groups even advocated to postpone the European Green Deal and refocus on economic recovery.

The 2008 Financial Crisis vs. the COVID-19 Recession

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new wave of green measures, such as renewable energy investments, reductions in fossil fuels consumption, support for electric vehicles, and investments in infrastructure. These green recovery packages are reminiscent of the green stimulus packages launched after the 2008 financial crisis. Can lessons from the past help governments from repeating past mistakes?          

In response to the 2008 financial crisis, the 2008 European Economic Recovery Plan introduced a budget of €200 billion, investing some of the funds in energy efficiency, low-carbon or clean technologies, and green infrastructure. Investments in clean energy helped countries build up competitive industries after the 2008 Recession. For the EU, each $1 in green investment boosted GDP by up to $1.50 across the region. However, the 2008 financial crisis led to a new wave of support for far-right populist parties due to the rise in unemployment and a decline in trust in institutions.

In the case of COVID-19, populist parties are now losing support as the bloc finds it more integrated than before. Even coal-dependent Poland shifted its tone on the Green Deal. However, clashing interests can still constrain the EU’s ambitious climate goals, leading to stalemates and a disintegrated EU.    

Challenges to the Green Deal

The EU recognizes that environmental pollution, climate change, and issues of inequality are linked, so the EU is committed to making a “just and inclusive transition for all.” However, public backlash presents a challenge for the EU Green Deal. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel faced pressure from automakers as German car brands faced plummeting sales due to COVID-19.  An overwhelming majority of Europeans and companies support climate action, but their desire to change their own behaviour is quite limited.

While climate change is a less polarized topic in Europe than in the United States, opposition can quickly grow. Far-right parties are increasingly taking a stand on climate change, spreading messages of denialism, inaction, or apathy. The European Green Deal presents far-right populists with the perfect target to divide voters.

COVID-19 is a unique opportunity for governments to create policy that reduces exposure of environmental, social, and economic risks in crises. Lessons from the 2008 economic packages can guide European policymakers in designing green stimulus packages that work for the environment and for all workers. Now is the time for the EU to convince Europeans that climate inaction will only lead to more health and economic crises before it becomes too late.

Gender Identities in Europe: What makes an Ideal Citizen?

By Jackie Howell

Fascism goes beyond its political characteristics of authoritarian power and nationalist movements. Exploring the intricacies of gender, sexuality, and identity provides further insight into how fascist ideology resonates at the individual level. Gender and sexual policies of fascist regimes are a tool of policing and defining society to reflect certain ideals (such as strength, prestige, and superiority). While gendered and sexual policies are not unique to fascism, exploring how fascists manipulate identity (whether individual or collective) provides a unique view into the psyche of fascist regimes.

The cultural movement of fascist regimes often focuses on defining the roles of men and women in society. From the depiction of hegemonic masculinity in Nazi Germany to the Romanian Legionary Movement’s “New Man” quest, defining gendered and sexual relations is key to shaping and controlling the collective identity. The gendered and sexual politics of fascist regimes were depicted in the various forms of cultural propaganda, from fascist Italy’s films to Germany’s posters of strong men (as soldiers, workers, and farmers). Targeting the individual and collective identity of heterosexual men and women allows fascist and communist regimes to further control society by deeming what is “right” and “wrong,” as illustrated by the attitudes toward homosexuality in Russia and attitudes toward masculinity in Nazi Germany.

Gender norms are not unique to Nazi Germany, as gender norms can be applied internationally with the spread of values, ideas, and beliefs. Kühne’s depiction of masculine identity in Nazi Germany can be compared to examples of masculinity in modern Western societies. Nazi and military propaganda depicted men in the Wehrmacht to be stoic, emphasizing an image of invincible and immortal warrior men. Comradeship was another defining feature of the Wehrmacht. This social bond provided men with friendship and reinforced the notion that one must suppress the individual identity on behalf of the community. Similarly, in the West, sports are a modern example of an opportunity to educate or influence men on their masculine identity. For example, strength, endurance, and invincibility (“no pain, no gain”) are defining features of the individual identity in the sports industry. However, the collective identity (i.e., the team) is prioritized above the individual. This creates a social bond merging men (and women) of different civilian identities, religions, and regions into a homogenous communal body. It would be interesting to see the historical impact of comradeship in the military on social bonds between men (and women) today.

Policing gendered and sexual relations is key to controlling the collective identity.  “Othering” homosexuals and the Jewish identity (whether by Nazi Germany or Romania’s Legionary Movement) created a dichotomy of “us-versus-them” or even “pure-versus-impure.” While the readings cover different periods, movements/regimes, and identity issues, the intertwined theme focuses on the use of gendered and sexual policies to police the cultural dimensions of a state.

References

Healey, D. (2017). Forging Gulag sexualities: Penal homosexuality and the reform of the Gulag after Stalin. In Russian homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (pp. 27-50). Bloomsbury Press.

Kühne, T. (2018). Protean masculinity, hegemonic masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich. Central European History, 51, 390-418. doi: 10.1017/S0008938918000596

Sandulescu, V. (2004). Fascism and its quest for the ‘New Man’: The case of the Romanian Legionary Movement. Studia Hebracia, 4, 349-61.

Soft Power and the Culture of Fascism

By Jackie Howell

Tools of soft power can be useful in expanding a state’s sphere of influence. Soft power is the ability to attract rather than coerce and typically involves exerting cultural, social, or economic influence. Great powers, such as the United States, use soft power as an extension of their hard power (i.e., their physical military strength) through the arts, science, and culture to further their goals. Soft power, a concept coined by Joseph Nye, mostly defines the post-Cold War era. However, promoting a distinct national culture helped achieve Nazi Germany’s goal of dominance and legitimacy. This week’s readings highlight the soft power of Nazi Germany through their cultural influence, most notably through mass consumerism and photography. Similarly, Franco’s Spain framed consumer tourism as part of Spain’s cultural identity, which helped Spain overcome its international isolation post-war and reinforce the idea of Spanish cultural exceptionality.  

Notably, this week’s readings highlight the social and economic benefits that reinforce a regime’s legitimacy. For example, German workers who previously did not have access or the means to embark on luxurious trips received the chance to witness life outside Germany by Kraft durch Freude (KdF). KdF used tourism to showcase the benefits of National Socialism. The opportunity to see different workers in other countries gave German workers the impression that Germany’s standard of living was higher than in other countries governed by Social Democrats or Communists. KdF linked leisure to politics by capitalizing on the opportunity to unite class lines to showcase Germany’s economic successes and redefine the German racial community. Tourism development in 1960’s Spain also linked economic development and politics with leisure activities, as the regime restyled its image of government to promote a higher standard of living and modernity through tourism.

It is easy to question why Europeans accepted or supported Nazism or fascism in retrospect of the horrific acts committed by these regimes. However, Nazi Germany and Franco’s Spain framed economic and social benefits in a manner that appealed to the masses. These benefits allowed Europeans to dismiss the known horrors of the regime in favour of the benefits they gained. Similarly, the perceived economic benefits under the “America First” argument allowed Trump supporters to dismiss the political horrors of the Trump administration. Those that remain silent during these periods – ignoring the political chaos around them to live in their alternate, blissful reality – must be questioned for their complacency. Shelley Baranowski highlights this issue by briefly examining middle-class tourists who avoided discussing the political situation if the consequences of Nazi Germany’s policies did not concern them. The lack of engagement indicates a high degree of privilege of those that experienced the social and cultural benefits of Nazi Germany. Overall, this week’s readings highlight the unique role that culture can play when expanding a state’s power and legitimacy.

References

Baranowski, S. (2004a). Introduction. In Strength through Joy: Consumerism and mass tourism in the Third Reich (pp. 1-10). Cambridge.

Baranowski, S. (2004b). Racial community and individual desires: Tourism, the standard of living, and popular consent. In Strength through Joy: Consumerism and mass tourism in the Third Reich (pp. 162-98). Cambridge.

Crumbaugh, J. (2009). 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 (pp. 15-41). Suny Press.

Umbach, M. (2015). Selfhood, place, and ideology in German photo albums, 1933-1945. Central European History, 48(3): 335-365. jstor.org/stable/43965175