Challenging Cultural Norms and Anti-Genderism

Jacob Braun

Anti-gender populism has been on the rise since 2016 across the EU and beyond. Ringing very similar to the Republicans of the United States, proponents of anti-genderism put forward a number of far-fetched claims that mainly revolve around “saving the children” or the “corruption of society.” Anti-genderists seek to maintain the status quo of patriarchal society, which is in direct contrast to the aim projected by LGBTQ communities/academics which challenge current norms. Though anti-gender movements hold much in common across borders, the way they respond to the perceived “LGBTQ threat” can be very different.

In the British Isles, violence against LGBTQ communities skyrocketed following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. Under successive Tory governments and the populist spectre of UKIP, barely anything has been done to protect these communities. In contrast, Poland has opted to target LGBTQ communities through legislation with their decision to create “LGBT-free” zones throughout the country. As shown in the VICE news clip for this week, the threat of violence in Poland also only seems to be increasing.

In Hungary, the Orban government sought to target academics in the field of gender studies, getting rid of their ability to receive degrees in the field. Gender studies (both in Hungary and Poland) is derided as “communist” or “totalitarian,” because it challenges the staunchly catholic-conservative norms of eastern European governance. Overall, attacks on “gender ideology” all seem to spring from the same conservative corner of preserving the past, with the populist aspect of “save the children!” (and other added conspiratorial nonsense) sprinkled in.

Fratelli D’Italia- Party like it’s 1922? [BLOG POST 5]

The Plague of Populism

By Jacob Braun

Giorgia Meloni and the center-right coalition at the Quirinal Palace, Quirinale, via WikiMedia Commons

On October 22, 2022, Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Fratelli D’Italia party, became Prime Minister of the Italian Republic. Based on a platform of anti-establishment rhetoric and populist nativism, Meloni’s coalition would take 44% of the vote— a resounding majority compared to her leftist opponents. As of yet, it is too early to determine Italy’s future under the new PM, but it will certainly be a blast to the past. As the phase of full populist transition ends, the battle for a new Italian identity begins.


Fratelli D’Italia (or Brothers of Italy) emerged primarily from two neo-fascist Italian political parties: the Movimento Sociale Italiano and the Alleanza Nazionale. The party itself is relatively new having been founded in 2012, touted by Meloni as a “new party for old…

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War in Syria- What Does This Mean For Italy? [BLOG POST 4]

The Plague of Populism

By Jacob Braun

Italian Customs boat enters port in southern Italy with Syrian Refugees, UNHCR/F.Noy, Copyright

Spurred on by widespread unrest within the Arab world caused by the 2011 Arab Spring protests, the Syrian Arab Republic was flung into a brutal civil war in early March of the same year. Until the breakout of the Russo-Ukrainian War, the Syrian Civil War would be the source of the largest refugee crisis in human history since the Second World War. With large amounts of majority Arabic, Muslim immigrants crossing the Mediterranean into Italy and Greece, a chain of events would unfold leading to an explosion in populist rhetoric within the EU.


On entering the new millennium, the geopolitical landscape of the Mediterranean would change dramatically. Dictatorial regimes like Ben Ali’s in Tunisia and Qaddafi’s in Libya would be overthrown with the Arab Spring— with Al Assad’s regime seemingly…

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Italy Swings Populist- The Beginning of the Second Republic

The Plague of Populism

By Jacob Braun

Silvio Berlusconi, Italian House of Representatives 1994, via WikiMedia Commons Public Domain

Coming out of the major scandals that rocked the Christian Democrats and Italian Socialists, an unlikely political outsider takes the reins of Italy in the 1994 election: Silvio Berlusconi. Poised on bringing populist politics into the spotlight, Berlusconi and his centre-right coalition Forza Italia would prime the Second Republic to be a conservative European stronghold. Along with the official formation of the European Union in 1993, Berlusconi’s populism would prove to be beneficial to fellow conservatives later down the line…


Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party was the main point of a three-party alliance which also included Lega Nord and the Alleanza Nazionale. These radical right-wing parties were strongly associated with the new Prime Minister’s anti-elitist and anti-corruption platform. Most notably, Alleanza Nazionale is the direct successor of the old postwar…

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Fuel for the Fire- Corruption and the End of the First Republic [BLOG POST 2]

The Plague of Populism

By Jacob Braun

Former Italian Prime Minister Benedetto Craxi, Unknown Author, via WikiMedia Commons Public Domain

For the first time since the Second World War, a Socialist Party in Italy came to power with Benedetto “Bettino” Craxi as its Prime Minister in 1983. With promises of reform and continued efforts to improve the economy from a devastating recession, the situation in Italy seemed to be getting better as the Years of Lead came to a close. Corruption and scandal would rock the Craxi government, putting an end to the First Republic and giving rise to a new, populist type of politician.


Under the Craxi government, Italian inflation rates would drastically be reduced in tandem with the reduction of the indexation of wages. However, the growth of the economy spurred on by this change would incur unsustainable fiscal deficits, plunging Italy into a long-lasting cycle of debt…

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Collective Memory and Adapting Identity

Jacob Braun

European identity has a lot to do with collective memory. It’s how states like Italy and Germany came to unify, and how new states emerged within the European continent following the end of the First World War. Fast forward to the end of the Second World War, decolonization and the dissolution of the USSR, this collective memory has been diluted by years of immigration and emigration. Faced with the challenge of adapting their identity, Europe has been divided amongst their responses.

Memory also serves in determining this response. Among progressives, imagery of the Kindertransport (the rescue effort of children in Nazi-occupied territory) and Jewish refugees seeking to escape Nazi persecution are conjured. In response to the Syrian Civil war and the ensuing migrant crisis, Germany was one of the most eager European states to open its doors to migrants because it had come to terms with its Nazi past; “remembering to remember.”

Populists on the other hand in states like Poland and Hungary have not been confronted about their country’s Nazi-collaborationist history, and have thus not been able to come to terms with their pasts. Political action in these states is dependent on having immigrants as an “other.” As G.M. Tamas puts it, “only racism promoted by the state can persuade people to vote for the ‘dismantling of the few remaining elements of social services and social assistance.’” Through this rhetoric, we see groups like QAnon take root in circles with already similar thought processes.

The myths surrounding European identity buckle in the face of postcolonialism and mass migration because they were created by “othering” foreigners more so than engineering their own identity. It’s a lot easier to say “you’re not me!” to someone who looks and speaks a different language from you than to instead stop and question yourself, “who am I?”

The Years of Lead: the First Republic is put to the test [BLOG POST 1]

The Plague of Populism

By Jacob Braun

A Photo of the Aftermath of the Bologna Massacre, Beppe Briguglio, via WikiMedia Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

The Years of Lead (Anni di Piombo) began with the Hot Autumn strikes of 1969, where massive amounts of workers joined students protesting for social reforms in a similar fashion to the May 1968 demonstrations in France. Violence from both left- and right-wing sources would emerge, and for 15 terrible years the internal cohesion of the Italian First Republic was truly put to the test. This blog post looks to answer: is its failure what set us in motion to where we are now in 2022?


In efforts to avoid an economic collapse following the Hot Autumn, the Christian Democratic Party reached out in a historical compromise (compromesso storico) with the Communist Party. With the tensions of the ongoing…

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The Right’s Favourite Pass-time: Othering Migrants

Jacob Braun

The topics of migration and democratisation stand out to me most succinctly in this week’s readings. In the years following German reunification and the dissolution of the USSR, these topics were on the minds of everyone in the Western Bloc; how to manage the influx of migrants from formerly Communist states, and how to properly integrate those states into the Capitalist free market world order. Combined with the increasing globally-interconnecting environment of the 1990s and early 2000s, issues that arose during this period continue to plague European politics to this day. Most notably, I would like to draw parallels between increased foreign migration to Germany after reunification and increased migration to Europe as a whole resulting from the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011.

As we’ve discussed together in class, racism and “othering” seems to be a constant in the ideology-bundle of right-wing populism. Throughout the Cold War, large numbers of Turkish immigrants migrated to West Germany to rectify their postwar need for labour. Many of them were unable to become German citizens, as West German citizenship law operated under jus sanguinis (meaning your parents must be German for you to be German). It would only be until 2000 when Germany would reform their citizenship law to jus soli (meaning if you are born on German soil, you are German). Yet, the presence of a large non-German population would spark a wave of neo-Nazi resurgence and attacks on foreigners from people desperately trying to keep Germany for the Germans. Come 2011 with the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War and subsequently the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War*, the German right-wing would capitalise on a large influx of non-white Muslim immigrants to popularise their platform. Similarly to the influx of Turks, discrimination and violence would befall these populations.

*This title may now go to the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War, which has produced almost 15 million refugees displaced worldwide compared to Syria’s 11 million.

European Football and Populism: More than a Coincidental Connection? OP/ED #2

by Jacob Braun

Football and right-wing populism in Europe are irrefutably intertwined. Although FIFA ostensibly supports an apolitical stance at its games, spectators and players alike engage in right-wing sloganeering and nationalist displays. Attracting large numbers of predominantly white, male spectators who get riled up for their club’s victory, it’s no wonder there’s a problem in the pitches. Whether FIFA likes it or not, their football arenas are used as political tools by European populists to take advantage of the xenophobic and racist sentiments rife within them. If we want to deal with this issue, we really need to kick it out!

European football fans are notorious for being quite violent at times. With such an aggressively charged macho atmosphere surrounding the sport, it’s easy for passionate crowds to erupt into thuggish mobs. For star black players, football spectators channel their anger towards them for anything from missed goals to lost games. Take the 3 black players for England’s Euro 2020 team, who faced racist abuse after their loss to Italy in a shootout. When also taking into account the fierce nationalism which pervades the realm of football, populist rhetoric can effortlessly take root among amped-up spectators.

A defaced mural of Marcus Rashford is covered with supportive messages against his abuse following England’s 2020 Euro loss. Source

Populists love their dichotomies. The us versus them dynamic is integral to the populist ideology; denoting a clear enemy of the cause. It makes sense then why the “Donald Trump of Portuguese Football,” Bruno de Carvalho, used this binary rhetoric during his tenure (with the addition of some colourful language). De Carvalho rose to prominence thanks to his fiery personality and disdain for the old guard, echoing many other eminent populists. Thankfully the aggressive president-fan was ousted in June 2018, but his presence as the head of Sporting CP serves as an insight into how populists make names for themselves and take root in the football world. 

Bruno de Carvalho, the “Donald Trump of Portuguese Football.” Source

The purpose of football has evolved past solely kicking a ball around and scoring goals for amusement. In Hungary under the auspices of Viktor Orban, it has become a political tool. With every match that takes place on a Hungarian pitch, he pits his illiberal democratic values against the liberal democracies of western Europe. Because of his presence at matches in Hungary, football has become a meeting place for populist politicians and businessmen who are supportive of Orban. It has also become a place of populist rhetoric dissemination among the spectators, resulting in homophobic chants.

A fan runs on to the field protesting the Germany-Hungary Euro 2020 football match. This match took place in early June of 2021, shortly after Hungary’s legislation of anti-LGBTQ laws. Source

Football in Europe and right-wing populism go hand in hand. In the modern age football has evolved into a platform for political discourse, which has been co-opted by populist fans. As much as the governing agencies try to discourage its games from becoming political arenas, there is nothing that can be done other than actively recognizing and combating the issue. Holding an apolitical stance will do nothing! Overall, the need for the football to populism pipeline to be recognized is at an all time high while Europe is threatened by populist leaders. Maybe by shutting it, we can make a significant change down the line.

The Neo-Fascist Chameleon

Jacob Braun

Neo-fascist movements, for all intents and purposes, I believe to be at their core the same as their fascist predecessors. Both movements seek to attain the same end goal- it is instead the means they use to reach it which are unique. Interwar and wartime fascist movements were characterised by their violent tactics and militarism. On the other hand, postwar neo-fascist movements did perpetrate violence but shifted radically in the advertisement of their cause. Instead of purely pragmatic alliances engineered by wartime fascists, postwar neo-fascists sought to actively learn from other “third way” groups in some form of fascist transnational cooperation. 

It would also be during the 60s, 70s and 80s that neo-fascist groups would focus more on increasingly conspiratorial rhetoric, such as “the deep state” which was targeted by Italian neo-fascists. Combined with the fear which was sown within the Italian public about a socialist takeover, neo-fascist or neo-fascist-adjacent groups were easily able to create authoritarian policies. Arguably during the years of lead in the First Italian Republic, fascism was in name only eradicated from the echelons of its government. In practice, it would only be until the Second Republic where its influence would die down; but not completely.

The unique aspect of postwar neo-fascism is its ability to veil itself as “respectable discourse,”— seemingly beginning as a popular grievance which reveals itself as a totalitarian rabbit-hole.