The Dark Side of Social Media

Well… it is a dark side if we are talking about right-wing populists’ mobilization. In theory, social media could be used to mobilize other kinds of powerful movements, like the Arab Spring. Dark sides or bright sides aside, this week’s readings offer interesting insight about the more creative ways right-wing populists have spread their ideas and fostered support. Nicole Doerr discussed how visual images are used to garner support. Des Freedman focuses on the populists’ skills in utilizing social media to communicate with supporters. Niko Hatakka outlined some of the drawbacks of using social platforms to promote a party’s or group’s image.

Doerr’s discussion of how imagery was used was particularly interesting. In the EU, there many different languages spoken. If a group, for example a right-wing populist group, wants to have its message reach a transnational audience, images are a good way to transcend language barriers. Additionally, the same image, in this case the black sheep, can be used in different settings or countries. The design of the poster or the caption may be adapted to best suit the environment, but the core symbols stay the same. Using simplified cartoons like the black sheep reinforces Freedman’s summarization that populists are able “to transmit ‘sentiment’ over ‘fact’…to exploit the mainstream media’s appetite for sensationalist stories.” The black sheep is an unfortunately perfect example of how an over-simplified cartoon can unite people across national boundaries, against immigrants.

Freedman’s arguments and reasoning a(C)cur(a)tely pointed out the shortco(m)ings of the media scene, including social media. In addition to the pro(b)lems concent(r)ated ownersh(i)p, one of the most important issues currently is the failure to regulate tech companies. Free(d)man points out that (g)oogl(e) and Facebook ‘not only rule the pl(A)yi(n)g field but (a)re ab(l)e to set the rules of the game as well.” Freedman drew the parallel between lack of regulations here and wh(y) (t)he turnout of the last US elect(i)ons was (c)ostly and question(a)ble. This involved lack of transparency about privacy on social media and that many people did not even know they were being targeted with ads on social media.

I found Hatakka’s arguments interesting because they pointed out the potential drawbacks of populist groups using social platforms. On one hand, social media is a great way to reach ‘new digital foot soldiers’, on the other hand, allowing more people to be actively part of the discussion could lead to ‘decreased message discipline’ and a tainted image. Not only does this argument point out the risks of using social media to mobilize people, it also highlights how important the image and messaging is for the group. Why populism claims to speak for the people, in reality the message needs to be controlled. Social media is a detriment here.

When analyzed together, Doerr, Freedman and Hatakka provide a balanced assessment of the mobilizing and transnational powers of social media, while acknowledging the risks of using social media for populist groups.

Intellectual Populism – The Chameleon of Truth

TORONTO, ON – DECEMBER 6 – Profile of Dr. Jordan Peterson. The U of T prof at the centre of a media storm because of his public declaration that he will not use pronouns, such as “they,” to recognize non-binary genders. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

By: Nadiya Alexandra

The rise of political populism has been seen across Europe, the United States, and Canada (amongst others). While far-right populist movements have taken centre stage the term ‘populism’ is migrating to realms beyond politics. In an article by the New York Review of books, Jordan B. Peterson (a professor at the University of Toronto) was branded an ‘intellectual populist.’

Unable to find what the term ‘intellectual populism’ means, I try to frame a definition drawing on elements of political populism and Jordan B. Peterson’s teachings. The elements of populism that I will use to structure intellectual populism are a sense of crisis; identifying the ‘other’ that is the enemy; speaking on behalf of ordinary people and standing in opposition to the corrupt elite; offering clear solutions to complex societal problems; and the added benefit of charismatic leadership.

Sense of Crisis

Reaching into history to start our definition, Robert Paxton defined one of the “mobilizing passions” of fascism as the “sense of overwhelming crisis.” It appears that populism follows in the same vein. The rise of populism has been attributed to several crises, including the economic crisis, ‘refugee crisis’, and globalization. Peterson classifies the crisis of our society as “a loss of faith in old verities.” This includes (in the West), withdrawing from our traditions, religion, and nation-centered culture. Peterson seems to have identified a potent crisis, as he has gained a massive following.

The ‘Other’

Also voiced by Paxton was the element of believing that ‘one’s group is a victim.’ Again, while this was a key factor in defining fascism, it also applies in defining populism. In the populist response to the ‘refugee crisis’, the ‘other’ has been identified as Muslims. Peterson has identified ‘social justice warriors’ (which he also calls ‘postmodern neo-Marxists’) as the corrupt other that ‘we’ need to worry about. These social justice warriors, according to Peterson, are responsible for our crisis and loss of faith in old verities.

Speaking on Behalf of Ordinary People

Although academics have trouble defining populism, it appears there is consensus on two core ideas: populism speaks on behalf of ordinary people; and these people stand in opposition of the elite who block the achievement of popular political goals. Peterson claims to speak for the protection of his students and particularly men. Peterson speaks for these ‘ordinary people’ against the ‘corrupt elite’, which he defines as the faculties of women’s studies, sociology, anthropology, English literature, and the faulty of education. Peterson identifies (inherently corrupt) feminists as waging an assault on masculinity. In 2017, Peterson said public appearances and videos that “he wants to lower the enrollment in courses that have been “corrupted” or that lead students to become “social justice warriors.” Peterson was planning on building a website that would rank courses and professors that were likely to turn students into, heaven-forbid, ‘social justice warriors.’

Offering Clear Solutions to Complex Societal Problems

In her 2017 article on hybrid populist movements, Ina Schmidt highlights a key element of populism: it “often offers seemingly clear and easy solutions for political problems within a society.” In Peterson’s popular book 12 Rules of Life: an Antidote to Chaos, he offers constructive advice, but it comes “with some dubious traditionalist baggage.” Peterson wrote that “healthy women” want men who “outclass” them in intelligence, dominance and status. It seems the clear solution that Peterson is presenting is a return to more ‘traditional’ times when men were men and women were housewives.

Charismatic Leaders

Paxton also cites charismatic leaders as key elements of fascism, again, this applies to populist leaders also. Viktor Orbán, Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump are prime examples of right-wing populist charismatic leaders who have the power to mobilise the people. Undeniably, Peterson is an effective public speaker. No doubt his ‘charisma’ has added to his rise in popularity and to his following (despite the questionable ideals he preaches).

Peterson has amassed a huge following, besides being a professor of Psychology at UofT, he is a YouTube Star (2.38 million subscribers), his public talks sell out, and his 12 Rules of Life book sold millions of copies worldwide. While some of his teachings seem backward and disturbing, he appears to have tapped into a real frustration: even decades after the feminist revolution in the 1960s, “we have yet to figure out new rules for partnership between men and women.” Drawing on the parallels between political populism and Jordan Peterson, a case can be made for defining intellectual populism.

What is most worrying is that Peterson’s ‘truth’ has resonated with many people. Peterson has been a proud proponent of the freedom of speech, but the outcome of this democratic value has been questionable. Why have so many people bought into this truth? Why have so many people bought into the truth of right-wing political populists? One answer could be that the pragmatism and fluidity of populism allows it to adjust to its environment. In this case, Peterson’s truth and intellectual populism has become the hope for “young men perplexed by cultural upheaval.”

Populism: The Political Chameleon

Discussing the similarities and differences of how populism plays out in different contexts is a little tricky. By this week, we seem to have come to a consensus about the pragmatic and fluid nature of populism. Therefore, despite some key similarities, any given populist movement will adapt to the environment it has been planted in. The fluidity of populist movements is highlighted in the interview with Jan Werner Mueller, and the articles by Zack Beauchamp and Ina Schmidt.

In the “Dangers of Populism” interview, Mueller uses the term “real democracy” that leads to the question being raised, do realists believe in “real democracy”? Mueller explains that populists believe that they do support “real democracy.” This idea can be interpreted as both a similarity and a difference of how populism plays out. The similarity would be that populist movements believe they are supporting true democracy, the difference is that the definition and reactions can differ between regions, movements, and time periods.

The Beauchamp article summarizes last week’s discussion nicely: “everyone and everything that’s non-native – that is, alien – is threatening.” While Europe’s anti-migrant sentiments focus mainly on Muslims, there was also resistance against migrants from East Europe (in West Europe). While East Europeans are sometimes included into the “European group,” when they came in large numbers to the Western Europe, they received similar hostility to what non-Europeans would experience. This ties into our discussions of the “other” as a whole. The “other” can change and has changed through history.

Quick side note on globalization: while it has become a reality and has promoted easier movement of people across the world, it has clearly been met with fierce opposition (that is not unique to Europe). The reality of globalization seems to have failed in making humans accepting of diverse others. Instead, it seems to have pitted the “us” and “them” ever more against each other.

Going back to the differences and similarities of how populism plays out, the Schmidt article uses a different definition of populism. The definition presented seems more like a description of similarities of how populist movements play out rather than a definition of populism. Going back to earlier discussions, the basic definition of populism is that it speaks on behalf of ordinary people, and these people stand in opposition of the elite who block the achievement of popular political goals. Of course, the “people” is a fluid term that can take on whatever form is most convenient. However, this term allows for populism to be used for good (ex. Environmental populism). Schmidt however, defined populism as “a policy that appears to act in close connection with the people and uses their emotions, fears, and prejudices for its own purposes.” While not wrong, I think it narrows the definition too much. Either way, the other elements of populism discussed in the Schmidt article appear to make sense. Furthermore, most of these elements are also fluid and can be applied differently in different environments.

On a final note, Schmidt describes that populist movements can result from crises, when “whole groups of a society lose their orientation and values, are scared of the future and have their fears channeled by strong leaders into a certain direction.” This links nicely to the definition of fascism that Paxton outlined.

Challenges to European Self-Understanding

The European Commission has put forth a clear objective to “reinforce EU citizens’ commitment to Europe’s common democratic values” (fundamental values of respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law). The EU’s goal is to defend these values and promote peace and wellbeing among its citizens. However, when faced with the challenges of mass migration, these values seem to falter for a number of reasons.

Firstly, as Fatima El-Tayeb summarized, the West, or in this case the EU, does not see Islam as a religion practiced in many forms, but an all-encompassing ideology. This thinking strips away all individuality from Muslims. This is what Edward Said argued was part of the Orientalist tradition. The West has defined itself as a civilizing power in the uncivilized East (the other). This means that the EU has committed to common democratic values, but only as long as they fall within what the EU defines as correct/civilized/democratic. I found El-Tayeb’s discussion of the exclusion of Muslim Europeans “through the claim of Islam being incompatible with a European commitment to human rights” very convincing. This is particularly evident and relevant with the rise of far-right populist movements across Europe. However, I was unsure about the argument of marginalizing queers of colour for not being “properly gay.” I wondered to what extent they were marginalized by (the implicitly white) gay community because they were queers of colour, or just because they were of colour?

Secondly, as Nilüfer Göle argued, “Europe cannot be approached as a pre-established entity equipped with a given structure and narrative with which others are expected to comply.” This line of thinking creates a problem for the idea of acceptance and freedom of expression and religion. That being said, I don’t exactly buy Göle’s statement about Europe. I do not think we should see Europe as a pre-established entity, it was very much consciously established with consciously created objectives and commitments to Europe’s common democratic values. I think this raises a bigger question of migration and assimilating/integrating into a new society or culture. To what extent can we expect migrants to adopt new customs and social norms? To what extent are these norms based on historical claims to the area? Should migrants to Europe fully adopt the “civilized West’s” way of life while rejecting their past?

Thirdly, while there may be clear objectives to common democratic values now, this was not always the case. As Dan Stone argued, some parts of Europe may not have come to terms with the memory of the Holocaust, which is why they were not prepared to respond to the refugee crisis. I think Stone offers many interesting reflections on this line of argument, but I could not help but think of other reasons for the response to refugees in Eastern Europe. Stone brings up Viktor Orbán as well as Poland’s readiness to accept refugees as long as they are Christian. In the case of Hungary, I think anti-migrant sentiment runs much deeper than Orbán. I would argue Orbán capitalized on anti-migrant sentiment among the Hungarian people (that are ethnically homogenous). The population in Poland is also very ethnically homogenous, which would exacerbate the difficulties of “the Other” to integrate into society. There are other concerns in Hungary and Poland, such as lack of media freedom, that make these problems worse.

Overall, I think this week’s readings brought up many good points that highlighted the challenges that mass migration has posed to European identity. They are however parts of bigger questions: to what extent should ‘European identity’ be preserved? What is European identity? What are valid threats to European identity and what are not valid threats? Can we classify mass migration as a valid threat to European identity? Is this inherently a bad thing?

1968 and a “New” Understanding of Fascism

Throughout the weeks, I still try to connect new readings and ideas back to our first discussions of defining fascism. While we have discussed that fascism was pragmatic, adaptive, and fluid, having a somewhat rigid frame of terms is still helpful in recognizing fascism or far-right movements elsewhere. Additionally, the fluid nature of fascism helped it take on a transnational form. Either way, whether seeing fascism as a fluid concept, or existing within a rigid framework, I find Roger Griffin’s article to be quite convincing.

Bringing back some of the key factors of fascism that Paxton highlighted include: a sense of crisis that is beyond traditional solutions, need for closer integration of a purer community, dread of a group’s decline because of corrosive liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences. These elements of racism, reaction to crisis, and superiority of one’s group are present in Andrea Mammon’s and Griffin’s articles. Another important element we discussed is modernity, which is a core pillar in Griffin’s definition of fascism (Griffin calls it re-birth).

Throughout Mammon’s article, crisis is discussed in both the Italian and French cases. Racism was also present in the French case, as was biological racism and the promotion of ‘white civilisation.’ Of course, there are elements of Paxton’s definition that are missing here. However, Griffin elaborates on the most important parts of Paxton’s definition I think. Griffin’s core of fascism rests on populist ultra-nationalism and palingenesis, or re-birth. Interestingly, both of these elements are, as Griffin calls them, “highly flexible” concepts.

When first reading Paxton, I interpreted the elements of fascism as quite fluid and adaptable. “Crisis” can be many things, it can be anything the leaders of a fascist movement want it to be. Dread of a group’s decline can also be applied to many issues. These elements that Paxton described fall neatly into Griffin’s term for re-birth. Since there can be “a vast array of diagnoses of the causes of decline and the sources of renewal.”

It may seem contradictory that in a definition of fascism, main elements are subject to change, and expected to change. I particularly liked how Griffin described fascism’s eclecticism and tendency to absorb, what I assume are only the useful elements of “potentially contradictory ideologies.” However, this is in line with how we discussed fascism in previous weeks. Key factors of fascism are pragmatism and fluidity, which is why it is impossible to draw concrete definitions from historical examples of fascism. Although there were common elements of crisis, nationalism and superiority of race, they were applied very differently across time and space. Of all of the definitions of fascism we have come across and discussed, Griffin’s appears the most convincing, while being succinct and encompassing of the adaptability and morphing of fascism.

Collective Memory of the Nazi Past

By: Nadiya Alexandra

Germany’s past was brutal. Dealing with the memory of the past proved very difficult for victims and perpetrators alike. Keeping the memory alive seems both painful but crucial to ensure history does not repeat itself. Perhaps Germany’s evolution into a bulwark for democracy was a result of the collective memory and the guilt that came with it. Joachim C. Häberlen referenced “Hayden White’s terminology… a heroic story of overcoming evil for good.”

In her book Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice, Mary Fulbrook writes about the memories of survivors and perpetrators during the Nazi regime. What is surprising is the “bizarre reversal in the representation of power and agency.” Fulbrook classifies the victims as mainly feeling guilt, whether it was guilty of survival or for not helping others. In contrast, the perpetrators downplayed their agency and constructed a “good self.” Fulbrook’s discussion is fascinating because it shows a spectrum of manifestations of guilt and coping strategies. Additionally, it shows just how much people wanted to forget and move on from the past.

During the “era of the survivor,” it was curious that the term “survivor” was not universally accepted. Fulbrook acknowledges those that many (survivors) wanted to shed the past. Instead, they had to wear the classification of “survivor” like a “tiny new yellow star.” Similarly, the perpetrators wanted to shed the past as well. On one hand, public culture rejected the past, but accepted responsibility.

It probably did not help that West Germans were forced to address the past in the early post-war years. Werner Sollor’s article, “‘Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Late’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text,” outlines the mandatory American questionnaire that was part of the de-Nazification process. However, the aversion to this questionnaire shows the discomfort and perhaps unwillingness to report on the memory of such a recent horrific past.

Self-defence strategies of perpetrators ranged from ignorance and self-distancing, to constructing different “selves.” From the opinion of someone who has only read about Nazi Germany, it is understandable that there was a desire to forget the traumatic past. I wonder if, or how, the collective memory of the past figured in what Häberlen called the “communicative culture” in Germany. How did the guilt from the memory of Nazi Germany shape a new democratic society and communicative culture?

It is important to note, as Fulbrook did, that not everyone’s stories and memory of war time was treated equally. There was a hierarchy within victims that dictated the degree of speaking or silence. Patterns of marginalization continued to exist.

With the global patterns of democratic backsliding, it may be more important than ever to keep such memories close. Angela Merkel was “presented as a last defender of Western liberalism,” was it because of Germany’s traumatic past? What is the link between the collective memory of WWII and today’s values?

Protecting Canada’s Youth from Right-Wing Populism

By: Nadiya Alexandra

With the defeat of the People’s Party of Canada, it may seem like Canada has kicked the threat of right-wing populism. To think so would be a mistake. We need to focus on protecting our democratic values more than ever, but how? The answer is civic education. We need to turn to our youth to ensure they understand the dangers of democratic backsliding and how to meaningfully participate in a democracy.

Many opinions converge to say that populism has already taken root in Canada; what happened in the U.S. could happen here; and there could be a Donald Trump in Canada. It is a scary thought, but Canada should take the United States (U.S.) and the European Union (EU) as cautionary tales, and act soon. 

Why should we focus on youth? For starters, the majority of North American youth know little about the consequences of authoritarianism. For example, Canadian history is mandatory in schools, but not world history. Joel Westheimer, a prominent civic education scholar outlines the problems associated with this lack of knowledge. 

In the U.S., about 25% of youth between the ages of 16 and 24 think that democracy is a “bad” or “very bad” way of governing. Perhaps more concerning is that 70% of millennials believe it is not essential to live in a country governed by democratic law. It would be interesting to see how Canadian millenials answered these questions. Would we have better results? 

In Ontario, the high-school civics course is a half-credit that is lumped together with careers and can also be taken online. The majority of students say this course is a waste of time, and doesn’t teach how to get involved politically. 

The problems don’t end there. Even if civics is mandatory in Ontario high schools, how we teach civics is possibly entirely wrong. According to Joel Westheimer, there are three main approaches to teaching civic education for democratic participation. The most common approach is teaching students to be personally responsible. While this moulds students to be “good people,” it does not teach them about how to participate or think critically. The second approach focuses on participatory actions like getting involved in student council and the community. The third, and least common, but most important approach is justice-oriented. 

Westheimer’s social-justice oriented citizens need to analyze and understand the interplay of social, economic and political forces. These students ask questions, challenge the status quo, and aim at solving the root of social problems. This is how we should be teaching civics. 

If Canada’s brush with populism is not enough to convince you, we need not look far for examples where populism has a strong hold. Our neighbours to the south have been grappling with far-right populism for years now. The EU is facing rising populism, which shows itself through Brexit, racial intolerance, a so-called “migration crisis” and rising euro-scepticism. If we teach our students how to question and analyze social problems, perhaps we could stop the same things from happening in Canada. 

Scholars in the EU have started making the link between civic education and populism. An 89 Initiative report argues that civic education can restore civic faith among Europe’s youth. This report uses case studies of populism in the United Kingdom (Brexit) and Italy to prove the link between populism and civic education. We should learn from the U.S. and the EU before it is too late for us. 

In the wake of Doug Ford’s education budget cuts, popular dissatisfaction with Canada’s electoral system and the global trend of democratic backsliding, we need to turn our attention to Canada’s youth. We need to ensure high standards of education, which should include how to spot fake news and how to think critically about politics. We need to teach students how to get involved beyond elections. We need to promote democratic participation through civic education. Let’s keep right-wing populism at bay.

The ones that got away – Women’s roles in Nazi Germany

By: Nadiya Alexandra

Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies takes on a sizeable task; to explore women’s roles in Nazi Germany. Lower goes beyond the well known female criminals of the time, and documents the stories of more ‘average’ women: secretaries, nurses, schoolteachers, wives. This cannot have been easy. There were few records and fewer women that wanted to speak about their experiences during WWII. For a number of reasons, Hitler’s Furies left me unsatisfied. In my opinion, the individuals’ stories could have been more effective, and I kept asking myself the same question throughout the book: so what?

At the start of the book, I thought the stories of Liesel Riedel and Gertrude Segel among others quite interesting. By the end, I did not see how they were connected. What could have offered us some insight and analysis was left as a mosaic of individual snippets. There were few elements that linked these stories together and not all of them were convincing.

One argument that I wanted to read more about was that the majority of these women (and men) were quite young. These were baby boomers that were born around WWI and grew up with the Nazi regime, which fed “on the idealism and energy of young people.” Lower did not focus much on education and the differences in female and male education. All Germans were taught about the superiority of the Aryan race and the sub-humanity of the Jews, but was there a difference in how this was taught to men versus women? I thought it might have been one of the answers as to why these “killer” or “accomplice” women acted the way they did. Maybe I am wrong.

Lower did argue that these young women who went east to Ukraine, Poland and Belarus were ambitious. They wanted careers and adventure. New training and professions opened up to them with the war. I can relate to the desire for adventure and something new, but where is the link between being ambitious or adventurous and killing Jews? I understand this is a hard question to answer, but it leaves a hole in the argument. Of course, there were other explanations offered, such as the environment of war, wanting to prove themselves as strong, and simply carrying out orders. But, what was the difference between men and women here?

When the book describes the more gruesome stories (of how German women murdered children) many of the previous arguments start to fall apart. How did we get from growing up during the Nazi regime and smashing a toddler’s head? How did we get from moving east for a career and adventure to pushing children off of balconies? I think it is important to ask why these things happened, but between all the stories Lower recounted, there was little linkage and purpose.

From previous readings, we know that men were not punished for not being able to carry out murder of Jews. I assume that women had less pressure to perform such acts because of the differing gender roles of the time. If there was less expectation for women to murder Jews, why did they? Even more sad is that at the end, we find out that most of the women who committed these crimes got away with it.

Environmental Populism

By: Nadiya Alexandra

The likes of Donald Trump, Brexit, and far-right movements have given populism a bad name, but is populism really that bad? In light of the global protests on climate change, and Greta Thunberg of course, we need to change how we think about populism. We need to recognize that populism is a function of democracy, and we can use it for the greater good, just as Trump has used it for evil.

There is a reason why ‘environment’ and ‘populism’ are rarely seen in the same sentence, let alone in the same article. In recent years, ‘populism’ has taken on a negative connotation. Populism has been closely linked with authoritarianism and anti-immigration movements. Furthermore, populists are seen as disruptive, which is seen as a bad thing. There is no surprise that Trump’s right-wing populism has given populism a bad name, but now we have a chance to re-define what it means to be a ‘populist.’

Even academics have trouble defining populism, but it appears there is consensus on two core ideas:

  1. Populism speaks on behalf of ordinary people.
  2. These people stand in opposition of the elite who block the achievement of popular political goals.

The most prominent modern case of the embodiment of populism is Donald Trump. In his campaign he fused a radical right ideology with populist language such as ‘we’ and ‘our.’ Through this language, Trump has tried to create a homogenous American people, who strive for ‘America First’ and ‘Make America Great Again.’ In this way, Trump has created an enemy out of Mexicans and Muslims. This is why populism has a bad rep. In this case, populism has divided people within America, and further created an ‘us versus them’ mentality. This has also lead to increased violence based on racial prejudices.

To starkly contrast Trump and right-wing populism, let’s examine the September 2019 global climate protests. Millions of people marched in climate strikes across an estimated 185 countries. In Ottawa, the largest school board encouraged students to take part in the climate strike on September 27, 2019. A clear message echoed among students: “there is no point of me going to school today if I have no future,” referring to the demise of our planet. Is this not populism? The climate marches spoke on behalf of ordinary people. The marchers were standing up to the elites who are blocking environmental conservation attempts, or not doing enough to save the planet. This aligns closely with what academics agree to be the two core principles of populism.

John Keane, a political scholar, described populism as a “recurrent autoimmune disease of democracy.” Looking at Donald Trump, Keane’s message certainly resonates. Trump’s right-wing populism has resulted in racism, violence, and a backsliding in global democracy.

Climate action can turn things around for populism. First of all, as Mark Beeson writes, climate change does not adhere to boundaries of race, religion, gender and nationality; it affects us all. Therefore, unlike right-wing populism, which has divided people, climate populism has the potential to unify us. Second, as the affects of climate change get worse, unified action from ‘the people’ should intensify and put more pressure on governments to act. The September 2019 climate strikes are proof of unity, and solidarity across the globe for climate action.

Greta Thunberg identifies as an environmental populist, she stands for a clear moral vision of protecting the environment. ‘We,’ the people, stand with her against a corrupt, greedy, unresponsive and elite system, which continues to exploit the environment at our cost. Greta Thunberg proves that ‘populism’ is not a dirty word, and as climate populists, all who marched this September have exercised their democratic rights to peacefully protest for change, for our future, for our planet.

Pragmatic Protean Masculinity

By: Nadiya Alexandra

Male gender norms and expectations were vital for the success of militarism. Much like in last week’s discussion, the ‘fascist ideology themes’ that stick out most to me are militarism and race. This argument also ties into our frequently discussed theme of pragmatism, which I think applies even in Thomas Kühne ‘Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich.’ ‘Protean masculinity’ allowed men in the Third Reich to be both hard and soft. While at first, this seemed like a rather progressive view, in the light of militarism, it is just pragmatic. Male hardness was required to carry out an aggressive war effort, while typically feminine softness and caring was required to foster a deep comradery in the troops. The most important point in my opinion is that the fluidity in protean masculinity “did not undermine the hegemony of hard martial masculinity; it made it liveable.” 

Kühne’s protean masculinity seems to encompass every quality that the German regime needed for its troops to be as successful as possible on the battlefield. Besides the stereotypical qualities of physical and moral strength, one of the most important qualities for the regime was the ability to rid oneself of “scruples and pangs of conscience, civilian sentiments of humanness.” This was especially important in the murdering of Jews, including women and children. This “epitome” of manliness may have been needed to carry out the massacres, but it was also not realistic. It was interesting that Kühne noted that “weaklings” who were not able to do this, were not ousted from the group. Again, I think there was a very pragmatic reason for this, the Germans could not afford to oust all the “weaklings” as they also needed strength in numbers to carry out the war effort. 

Allowing soldiers to show care and warmth for each other was on one hand important to promote team work in units and ensure survival of the units, but, more importantly, it reinforces the point that this made martial masculinity liveable. Even if the fascist regime may have wanted men to be heroes “in the warlike sense…social sense…hero of labour,” (Valentin Sandulescu, “Fascism and its Quest for the ‘New Man’: The Case of the Romanian Legionary Movement.”) I do not think definition could apply to many people. Therefore, fascist militarism had to compromise and on one hand promote hardness, but on the other be inclusive to a certain extent. 

One minor point that I interpreted differently from Kühne’s article is the representation of the cover of NS-Frauenwarte, May 5, 1940. The three male figures are in the forefront of the picture. Kühne describes the woman in the background as having a barely-there effect. However, to me the woman has a very important role in the painting. Everything that is being done by the men in the picture, would be to protect and nurture the woman. Without this aspect of the painting, nothing the three men in the forefront are doing would make sense. 

Otherwise,  I enjoyed Kühne’s nuanced explanation of what it meant to be ‘a man’ in Nazi Germany. The fluidity of masculinity was essential to make martial masculinity liveable and inclusive. This reinforces the view that German fascism was very pragmatic.