Peculiar Media and Modern Populism

M. Nagy

If this is a horse, I fully intend to beat it dead at this point. I will be blunt and paraphrase the words used by Brubaker in defining what populism is simply, it is rhetoric.1 In framing the term in such a way, it can then be analyzed in a fashion rather than be used as a journalistic cliche. Identifying populism the term as such is important as it strips away the fanciful nature of populism being used to attach the concept as a synonym for bad politics.

Now, why bring up the arguments by Brubaker when they are detached from this weeks readings by nearly 3 months? Simply put, there is nothing special or unique about the fashion in which populism is conducted now compared to the historical precedent. Neffati demonstrates how traditional print media has the capacity to, at the minimum, convey and cultivate a deep-seated aspect of fear in its readers.2 Whether this is something crafted by the paper or merely drawing out from the popular conscious; I think is an argument that goes far beyond the data the author presents however. Regardless of that, its certainly not a new form and is a direct continuation of traditional print media. I disagree with their analysis that this is a development in pushing of boundaries, at least in the grander scheme; as maintaining a freedom of speech, and to offend, is typical in any form of hyperbolic media such as Charlie Hebedo.

With the movement from print to visual media, there is the possibility for adaption into something wholly unique from its predecessors. As Özçetin notes that, “certain parts of the media may act as agents of populist rhetoric themselves; how media figures, including journalists, columnists and commentators may resonate with the populist discourse of the party in power.”3 There is indeed a growing emphasis on the tools and, in particular, the individual nature of the spread of populist rhetoric between those who agree with the message inherently. I would point to this being more a form of elaboration of the previous iterations of media however, as it is the natural evolution of the democratizing nature of more easily accessible creation, distribution, and consumption of media.

Viewing the different iterations of media as something new and unique can sometimes be a productive and useful tool in determining the effects they are having on a society. It also runs the risk of oversimplifying the situation in establishing a new effigy to rally around and burn at the stake. As Postill puts it succinctly, “Just because a populist – or indeed a non-populist – social media campaign preceded an electoral victory, we cannot assume that this triumph was a result of that campaign.”4 There is a desire to make things special and unique, it makes it easier to understand why things do not go as planned. However, Populism and the methods it uses to spread through modern media are not new; after all, Plato did outline it two and half millennia ago in his allegory of the cave.

1Rogers Brubaker, “Why Populism?” NUPI Podcast (51 minutes) https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/why-populism-rogers-brubaker/id1200474003?i=1000449389000 .

2Imen Neffati, “Anti-sociologisme, Zionism, and Islamophobia in Philippe Val’s Charlie Hebdo” French Cultural Studies (2021) 32(3):280-295.

3Özçetin B, “‘The show of the people’ against the cultural elites: Populism, media and popular culture in Turkey” European Journal of Cultural Studies. 22(5-6) (2019):942-957.

4John Postill, “Populism and social media: a global perspective.” Media, Culture & Society. 40(5)(2018): 754-765.

Mobilizing the Masses

M. Nagy

To quote Brubaker from the second week, populism is the successful use of “politics of fear”.1 The effective ability to categorize and separate a population into insiders and outsiders creates a dynamic of constant anxiety that fuels a desire for stability. In this respect, the new and the uncertain go hand in hand with one another; why else would populist leaderships seek to shut down or re-appropriate prestigious institutions if they disagree with their conceptualization of reality?2 It provides not just a rallying point for discourse on the nature of these foreign and different ideas, it also allows for a managing of the future messaging on a given topic. This is also not a new phenomenon, as it has been demonstrated in how Italian populists took control over the news media within their nation to secure a platform of expression and dialogue.3

In much the same way, we see the use of “Creating uncertainty, managing fear and building an atmosphere that makes everyone feel that he or she can become a victim always requires some demonised enemy.”4 The simultaneous attack on academic institutions and gender dynamics through the effective othering as a means of ‘re-establishing’ a hierarchy from the past in times of turmoil and uncertainty as a means of creating stability. Through this charismatic approach to the modern issues, populist can engage and spur their supporters into the approaches that further this dichotomy. It establishes the precedence for more than institutional attacks, but personal ones as well. As seen in the case of the United Kingdom, failure to address the deep-seated issues that cause a distrust of what these people consider foreign; can have massive reaching impacts of bodily harm to both the individual and the public.5

1Rogers Brubaker, “Why Populism?” NUPI Podcast (51 minutes) https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/why-populism-rogers-brubaker/id1200474003?i=1000449389000 .

2Andrea Peto, “Report from the Trenches: The Debate around Teaching Gender Studies In Hungary, 10 April 2017. Heinrich Böll Stiftung – Green Political Foundation, https://www.boell.de/en/2017/04/10/report-trenches-debate-around-teaching-genderstudies-hungary .

3Anna Cento Bull, “The role of memory in populist discourse: the case of the Italian Second Republic” Patterns of Prejudice, 50:3 (2016): 213-231.

4Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’: Analysis of the ‘Anti-Gender’ Discourse of the Catholic Church and the Nationalist Right in Poland.” Critical discourse studies 17.5 (2020): 566–588.

5 Sarah Marsh, Aamna Mohdin and Niamh McIntyre, “Homophobic and Transphobic Hate Crimes Surge in England and Wales” The Guardian, 14 June 2019, https://www. theguardian.com/world/ 2019/jun/14/homophobicand-transphobic-hatecrimes-surge-in-englandand-wales

Preying on the Past

M. Nagy

How do you build a nation?

The simple answer is that you start with the people, but there is more to it than that. A people need something to believe in, something to strive towards, something to rally behind. They need symbology, iconography, and a future; but most importantly, they need a history. When looking at Bull’s analysis of the Italian Second Republic, there is a stark emphasis on the manner in which “the First Republic behaved as mnemonic warriors, collapsing the distinction between the Second Republic and its predecessor, and constructing their opponents as corrupting the ‘foundations of the polity’, to which end they did not shy away from utilizing the label of ‘terrorist’.”1 In Molnar’s recounting of the reunification of Germany, they rely on marking how, “Germans insisted, in often apocalyptic terms, that the arrival of foreigners in large numbers would lead to death, war, and perhaps the destruction of the German state and people.”2 Kalb maintains the mould through their dictation of the Visegrád Four’s political unity, admitting that, “In some areas in the 1990s, a majority of actually employed or self-imagined working people, the working poor, were coping with household income levels around two hundred to three hundred euros per month and were structurally dependent on benefits, remittances, and in natura support from kin.”3

In each of these cases, there is a strong underscoring of how these groups relate the fears of the past into the modern perspective. These actors distance themselves from their contemporaries by emphasizing these key aspects of their national histories. They are creating their national antemurale myth. Antemuralism is the use of both contemporary and historical relations to establish a precedence for developing a national character around being a bulwark, shield, or wall against an ideology.4 It is derived from the Latin of ante, meaning before; and murale, meaning wall. Much in the same way as antemuralism was developed following the chaotic and turbulent times of the early modern period; it is now being used to relate a generational past and the fears associated with it. The authoritarian parties of today have made effective use of the historical correlations in contemporary events to develop a cohesive ante-mural myth of what the nation and the national identity stand for. They are using a politics of fear to drive their national discourse into admitting them the power to stop these events from transpiring again. They are establishing themselves as the bulwarks against a chaotic and uncertain future; and they are doing it well.

1Anna Cento Bull, “The role of memory in populist discourse: the case of the Italian Second Republic” Patterns of Prejudice, 50:3 (2016).

2Christopher Molnar, “Greetings from the Apocalypse”: Race, Migration, and Fear after German Reunification” Central European History, (2021).

3Don Kalb, “Post-Socialist Contradictions. The Social Question in Central and Eastern Europe And the Making of the Illiberal Right” The Social Question in the Twenty-First Century: a Global View edited by Jan Breman et al. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2019).

4PålKolstø, “Antemurale thinking as historical myth and ethnic boundary mechanism,” Rampart nations: Bulwark myths of East European multiconfessional societies in the age of nationalism (2019): 347-373.

Nothing New in a Neo-Fascist?

M. Nagy

With the birth of Fascism in the 1920’s following Benito Mussolini’s assumption of the name for his political movement of the time; it seems only fitting that the new wave of fascism would find itself taking root in Italy once again. This resurgence is almost poetic except for the movement being always predicated on a glaring level of violence.1 In the wake of extreme economic and social divides of the 1960’s and 70’s in Italy,2 there came a rebirth of the old violence under the same systems which had led to Mussolini’s rise to power over half a century prior. These Neo-Fascists built their ideology on the foundations of being oppositional to the, as they saw it, ‘red tide’ which had been a growing support of leftist movements among the youth.3

While the movement of Neo-Fascism in Italy was founded under the same peculiarities of the Fascism of yonder, it stressed some unique angles from its predecessor. As articulated by Amyot, the movement, especially under Berlusconi, took great focus on being more delicate than its forbear. This is exemplified in the Amyot’s statement of, “Berlusconi’s re-evaluation of Fascism also is consistent with his own conception of democracy … near-monopoly over private television coupled with attempts to control the content of the state channels, and the sophisticated use of media and public relations techniques to gain consent.”4 The contrast between the old and the new is vivid here, while they still both use the same methods to achieve their goals of political rule. The differentiation is the persona in which is being outwardly applied; the fluidity of the Neo-Fascist movement is precisely why it was able to endure. Beyond that is the nature of the movement drawing from the Nouvelle Droite. It echoes the Nouvelle Droites emphasis of ante-mural philosophy as a bulwark against the growing left. Further is the nature in which they engage in a transnational context that was not present in the former incarnation of Fascism. 5

1 Grant Amyot, “The Shadow of Fascism over the Italian Republic,” Human Affairs 21, no. 1 (2011): 35–43.

2 Ruth Glynn, “Writing the terrorist self: the unspeakable alterity of Italy’s female perpetrators” Feminist Review (Jul 2009): 1-18

3Andrea Mammon, “The Transnational Reaction to 1968: Neo-Fascist Fronts and Political Cultures in France and Italy.” Contemporary European History, vol. 17, no. 2 (May 2008): 213–236.

4 Grant Amyot, “The Shadow of Fascism over the Italian Republic,” Human Affairs 21, no. 1 (2011): 42.

5Andrea Mammon, “The Transnational Reaction to 1968: Neo-Fascist Fronts and Political Cultures in France and Italy.” Contemporary European History, vol. 17, no. 2 (May 2008): 234.

Normally Radical

By: M. Nagy

Radical is the conception of an abrupt and far reaching re-work of an established paradigm; mainstream on the other hand is that of an idea or attitude that is regarded as a conventional norm. These two should be viewed as traditionally opposing views set against one another. When they group together in a synonymous form, there is something uniquely wrong with their conceptualizations. In this sense, there is an disconnect which has been established between what is thought should be the general consensus, and what is the actual general consensus on the norms and values of societies’. Evolian philosophy promotes a method of fascism based on, “the primacy of Tradition, which he (Evola) understood to be a set of archaic truths revealed in the most ancient human documents”1. It suggests that the leaders of a future radical change will be a unified and steadfast group who can usher civilization back into a more traditional era of society. In such a designed reality, there is a mainstream liberal worldview to push back against by a select few individuals who are capable of bending societies to their wills.

This conceptualization however exists before, during, and after the Second World War. They are neither constrained nor maintained by the conflict, in effect they exist in conjunction with it. They also are not disciplined to any designed borders (one of the true travesties of ideas is that they are not bound to territory the way people can be). The development of the Nouvelle Droite is one such example of this. A ‘New’ right wing movement based on the ideas of Alain de Benoist, an movement which challenges ideas of globalism through the use of regionalist and heavily identitarian ideology.2 It was birthed from the philosphies of Evola, but grew into a far more utilitarian and global-anti-globalist creation under de Benoist. The Nouvelle Droite is as much a part of history as it is a part of modernity. In such it exists in a space of both of the traditional and the new; a hybridized form which can call for radical change and embrace a mainstream conception of the past.

This leads me to questions on a nature of the newness that these movements claim to be, but further in how they are regarded by the general public. Should radical movements, based in century old foundations, be regarded as something new? In doing so, is there not a claim of legitimacy being made to their arguments. Further, are they not being given the spotlight in doing so for them to grow larger than they would have otherwise? Or is it best to expose and shame these anti-social philosophies back into the recesses which they were born?

1Robert Deam Tobin, “The Evolian Imagination: Gender, Race, and Class from Fascism to the New Right” Journal of Holocaust Research vol. 35, Issue2 (Confronting Hatred; Neo-Nazim, Antisemitism, and Holocaust Studies): 75-90.

2Tamir Bar-On, “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite.” Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 45, no. 3 (July 2011): 199–223.

Finding in Fascism

M. Nagy

Time and again we see the importance of personal interests in following an ideology; interests that run deeper than an individuals political or societal beliefs. As Miller-Idris alludes to the reality that the individuals who make up the contemporary fascist movements are filled with people who are seeking a sense of purpose that they feel is missing from their lives.1 They are driven to these movements from a distinct lacking in their own lives, in particular, a lack of community. They view themselves as compatriots with one another, more-so than simple patriots in a common ideological cause. This in itself is an echo of the historical context of fascism in Spain in the case of Nationalist women; as Lopez and Sanchez describe, “The Auxilio Azul Maria Paz recruited individuals based on kinship and friendship. They only helped or worked with people whom they already knew… Most participants of the network ignored that they belonged to an organization and thought that they were part of a group of like minded friends.”2 The cause itself does not matter in this case, it is the communal angle that provides the leverage over the members of these groups. With the social relationships binding these groups together, they maintain a stronger and larger presence in their societies.

The value of these social connections for these people cannot be underestimated. For the outcasts, for the forgotten, and for those who simply find it difficult to find companionship in this world; a strong communal identity can be incredibly appealing, and effortless to fall into. In words dripping with fear, Tom De Groot describes that, “Democracy is shit. There’s a lot of decadence, uncontrolled immigration, invasion.”3 These are not the words of someone who is a fascist, they are the words of someone who is scared that the world they new and fought for is simply slipping away from them. Even taking the words at face value, they are unsurprising to come from an ex-serviceman; the shocking aspect is his veneration Franco, but even that seems to maintain be a facade. De Groot views his interviewer Carla Parmenter in the light that, “We’re against each other ideologically, but I think we’re friends, right?”4 If he were following in the bloody footsteps of Franco, he should not be able to see an ideological opponent in such a positive light. De Groot’s relationship and friendly candour with Parmenter should challenge his worldview, it should run in stark contrast to the teachings of Franco and the Spanish Fascists. That would be the case, if it weren’t for Parmenter pointing out that, “It seemed like Tom was more into the social side of fascism and the celebrity status he’d garnered in Spain by turning his home into a shrine to Franco.”5 De Groot was an outcast until he found a group that welcomed him in open arms. All of this leads to the very open questions that is suggested through Miller-Idris research: just how many of these individuals are simply societal outcasts craving basic human companionship and can they be reconciled back into the fold?

1 Cynthia Miller-Idris, “The Extreme Gone Mainstream” IIITMedia lecture, May 2018.

2 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.

3 Carla Parmenter, “Dutch Franquista” VICE FRINGES, https://video.vice.com/en_uk/video/vice-dutch-franquista/5f5b98a20c4ad6583d018ee6.

4 Ibid

5 Ibid

A Plague of ‘ists’ and ‘isms’

M. Nagy

It is easy to make someone into an ‘other.’ The need to self identify and outwardly codify is as inherent to the human condition as the need for the safety and security of the group. In a sense, it is this form of ‘tribalism’ that has helped to establish the systems that we hold near and dear to our existence. Our ways of life and understanding have been compartmentalized and clarified down into subsets of singular terms that carry vast intentions and meaning.

The terminology that is applied against certain topics and ideas maintains a great weight against them in establishing the preconceptions that a term is typically associated with. As Brubaker put it in his lecture, ‘populism’ is the “Politics of Fear”.1 More than that however, the use of these terms of great ‘ists’ and ‘isms’ without clearly dictating the manner in which they are being applied is rife for problematic usage and manipulative logic. With each reading bringing a constant through-line of logic to the use of the terms of ‘populism’ and ‘fascism’, they nonetheless maintain keep points of deviation. While Brubaker, Mudde, and Finchelstein come to agree on the conceptualization that ‘Populism’ is a trans-atlantic issue which is characterized by the use of outgroup dynamics and the inherent reactionary nature of the policy that ‘populists’ develop; a major facet they cannot reconcile is the nature of how it develops and which groups can be assigned to the term.

These are central issues to the topic of term application as without them the use of the terms are, at worst, inherently meaningless; while, at best, they require constant affirmation of the context in which they are being used in. Brubaker takes the assumption that a ‘populist’ system is based around fear. Crafting an ideology of immediacy and responsiveness that rejects established forms and employs protectionist policies.2 Mudde takes the approach that it is an inherently secondary ideology that is used to further the goals of a main ideological framework and galvanize a public for the common cause of the people.3 With the assertion by Finchelstein that the current issues of ‘populism’ are driven from the historical nature of the adaption of ‘fascism’, that would maintain Finchelsteins argument that ‘fascism’ was a coalitionist movement against ‘leftist’ elements of the societies, then populism would as well.4 This is disputed by the straightforward argument by Brubaker that ‘populism’ is far too big a term to concentrate down along the political spectrum and is instead a cross-spectrum issue.5

These terms are weighed down from the abstract to the practical by the associations they are placed against in real, rather than the hypothetical, world. In doing so they are supposed to convey a greater sense of meaning and continuity between incidents that bare a similarity between them. This is not always the case though, as the overuse of terms can lead to their redundancy in an ability to clarify or codify various incidents. These terms have been too loosely applied to incidents which are disparate from one another to the point that the use of a term to link them becomes a pointless exercise of crafting a catchy byline or establishing a moral superiority.

1 Rogers Brubaker, “Why Populism?” NUPI Podcast (51 minutes) https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/why-populism-rogers-brubaker/id1200474003?i=1000449389000

2 Ibid

3Cas Mudde, “Populism in Europe: An Illiberal Democratic Response to Undemocratic Liberalism” (The Government and Opposition/Leonard Schapiro Lecture 2019). Government and Opposition, (2021): 1-21.

4Federico Finchelstein, “Introduction: Thinking Fascism and Populism in terms of the Past” in Federico Finkelstein, From Fascism to Populism in History (University of California Press, 2017).

5Rogers Brubaker, “Why Populism?”

Introduction: Nagy

Hello all!

My name is Matt, or really any derivation of Matthew as I’ve probably been called it before; and luckily for once there doesn’t seem to be another Matt in the class, so you will not have to learn how to pronounce my last name. I did a bachelor’s at Carleton in History and Political Science with a minor in Russian and I’m now a second year graduate student in EURUS. My research topic is on how Russia is structuring its foreign policy towards the individual nations of the Visegrád Four. I took this course in part because there are shockingly few courses that handle Central Europe to any significant degree. I am also fascinated with the use of language and terminology to establish oppositional relationships.