Societies: A Complex Web – Cultural Memory, Progression and Narrative Manipulation

Wesley M.

We’re currently in December 2021, over 76 years since the end of World War II, and of fascism within Europe. In reality Europe’s struggle against fascism never ended, the false narrative that fascism was eradicated was entirely because of the Allies victory, which created the belief that the fascists were gone forever, and that genocide would never be allowed to happen again. In reality, this was a complete hogwash for the masses as several genocides have occurred since 1945, and neofascists returned by undermining the developed societal narrative of progression within their countries through creating a counterpoint for the criticism of said progressive ideals and policies.

Societal narratives are about portraying an acceptable viewpoint, primarily that of the elite. The Dirk Moses articles points this out through his criticism of contemporary Germany not engaging with existing racism and their colonialist history. He points out that by creating the narrative of progress as well as repentance for the Holocaust after WWII, the reunified Germany is able to ignore much of its unpleasant past by making the countries seem more moral. By forming this narrative, the German state has also allowed for a kind of limit are to be placed on comparing other levels of crime to that one particular event all throughout Europe; with the Holocaust serving as a kind of yardstick for level of inhumanity and brutal horror, with differing genocides that occurred since being deemed un-comparable by the international community due to the belief that it any comparison demeans the overall Holocaust repentance narrative (Israel has particularly used that belief to their advantage to deflect any criticisms of their policies regarding Palestinians). Sadly countries reckoning with its past would as Professor Jennifer Evans points out, undermine or completely destroy any created narrative if a full accounting of any country’s past ever truly took place.

Any societal narratives or myth that is constructed simply refers to manipulation and a narrative that will allow the citizenry to be able to sleep at night (all societies either want to believe they have the moral high ground or at the very least that they are working on their way towards morality, when the fact is that every society has skeleton in the closet somewhere within its past; some unacknowledged unpleasantness or horrific event).

Any narrative that is created within a society is manipulated by default because it never shows the society as a whole, rather it can only portray a limited perspective: there will always be facets of that society that are missing from that shown perspective, it is unavoidable (as anyone who has ever seen an archive: there are always stories that are left out, archivists have to pick and choose as they can’t fit everything within). Despite this unpleasant reality, all countries should reckon with all of their past not just some of it, in order to be able to create a better society for all of their citizens.

Bibliography:

Evans, Jennifer. “Ends and Beginnings.” The New Fascism Syllabus (blog), June 16, 2021. https://newfascismsyllabus.com/opinions/ends-and-beginnings/.

Moses, Dirk. “The German Catechism.” The New Fascism Syllabus (blog), May 23, 2021. http://newfascismsyllabus.com/opinions/the-catechism-debate/the-german-catechism/.

Moses, Dirk. “Dialectic of Vergangenheitsbewältigung.” The New Fascism Syllabus. The New    Fascism Syllabus (blog), June 15, 2021. http://newfascismsyllabus.com/opinions/dialectic-of-vergangenheitsbewaltigung/.

Left/Right Comparisons of Populists – Same As They Ever Were

Wesley M.

This week’s readings touch on something I have been eager to discuss for quite a while, which is the irony of populism. If you’ll forgive a little digression, the way our society views populism we often think of the far right populists (which is in part helped by the media biases, but as this week clearly indicates the fact that, many people in society who are not aware of populist impacts, far-left populism does exists and is often times just as prevalence as the far right. The main difference being the far-left populists do not necessarily use the same tactics as the far right. Despite that the facts remains populism on either side on both sides of the political spectrum is not really all that different (oh it may appear different on the surface, but in reality, they both use the same playbook of xenophobia). One appears respectable wearing a smile on its face while espousing division of in and out groups and subtly encouraging societal disunity through the promotion of one group over the other. The other one snarls, foams at the mouth, and angrily rants in front of a group of disaffected people about how they should blame another group of people for their problems.).

The article by Catherine Fieschi, was intriguing because it talked about how populism is symptomatic of the failure of democracies institutions (when I say failure I’m referring to the fact that populists want quick action and democratic institutions are notoriously slow as is any bureaucracy, though populists don’t make that specific point of bureaucratic weakness to their followers as it would undermine their claim to be a better alternative). She points that both groups of populists argue against the elite claiming give people a voice, favour easily fixable solutions, and regardless of opens in a phobia that both sides use a with us or against us attitude.[1] The Matthijs Rooduijn and Tjitske Akkerman article analysing European populism shows that left-wing populists uses the argument of morality to justify its policies of grouping people for and against their own policies labelling the people for is good and the people against them as the opposite.[2] The Cas Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser article is fascinating as looks at the difference between the populists methods the right-wing populists exclude openly while the left-wing populists use inclusion to further their goals while subsequently subtly excluding those who don’t fit up to their standards or agree with their policies while avoiding direct accusations of exclusion through their inclusive model, and repolarizing politics to accomplish their goals.[3]

Luke March’s article looks at how both kinds of populism are not the same, he discusses different methods of measuring populism with a lot of statistical graphing that almost made it seem like a mathematical article while doing various case studies of Britain’s main parties to show that populist rhetoric is not highly common among them while still occasionally being used.[4]


[1] Catherine Fieschi, “A Plague on Both Your Populisms” Open Democracy (April 19, 2012):  https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/plague-on-both-your-populisms/

[2] Matthijs Rooduijn, and Tjitske Akkerman. “Flank Attacks: Populism and Left-Right Radicalism in Western Europe.” Party Politics 23, no. 3 (May 2017): 193–204. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068815596514.

[3] Cas Mudde, and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. “Exclusionary vs. Inclusionary Populism: Comparing Contemporary Europe and Latin America.” Government and Opposition 48, no. 2 (2013): 147–74. doi:10.1017/gov.2012.11.

[4] Luke March, “Left and right populism compared: The British case” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations. 19(2) (2017): 283-301.

Bibliography:

Fieschi, Catherine. “A Plague on Both Your Populisms” Open Democracy (April 19, 2012): https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/plague-on-both-your-populisms/

March, Luke. “Left and Right Populism Compared: The British Case.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 19, no. 2 (May 2017): 282–303. https://doi.org/10.1177/1369148117701753.

Mudde, Cas, and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. “Exclusionary vs. Inclusionary Populism: Comparing Contemporary Europe and Latin America.” Government and Opposition 48, no. 2 (2013): 147–74. doi:10.1017/gov.2012.11.

Rooduijn, Matthijs, and Tjitske Akkerman. “Flank Attacks: Populism and Left-Right Radicalism in Western Europe.” Party Politics 23, no. 3 (May 2017): 193–204. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068815596514.

Media Constructing Populist Networks – The New Societal Issue

Wesley M.

Populists incorporating their rhetoric within the current hybrid networked media to create a network and thus have become a societal issue.

Associate Sociology Professor Nicole Doerr discusses how the far-right has become more mainstream within our society, point out the populist transnational linkage’s power with the specific example of the Swiss People’s Party’s black sheep poster campaign, arguing how populists use cartoons to create solidarity within their political fearmongering discourse against immigration to mobilize and connect far-right supporters.[1]

Benjamin Krämer discussion of populist’s uses of the medium of the internet has allowed them to spread their anti-elitist/othering believes in such a way as to create a more fluid ideological base while using online platforms to appeal in a top-down way to the people, utilizing cyber-populism to promote their outgroups, ethnocentric, nationalistic intentions, while using provocative language strengthens them against their critics because it allows for their followers belief in them to grow (echo chambers).[2]

John Postill’s discussion of the influence of social media on populism is unique in the sense that he doesn’t solely focus on social media, he acknowledges the effective populism and media as a whole rather than that specific subset of media type, he discusses how the left/right/centre of the political spectrum each use social media, he touches on the specific subset called theocratic populism and it’s contestation of traditional media also pointing out how non-populists use social media too ultimately pointing out that the social media is merely a portion of the media, and that overall the effects of all media types have allowed for populism to return.[3]

The other two readings this week both discuss specific examples of how media can be used by the far-right in order to promote an agenda. Imen Neffati discusses the French magazine Charlie Hebdo: briefly discussing the Philippe Val and Sine debate over Israel/Palestinian, before touching on how post-9/11 Val who was already anti-extremist-Islam became even more so, the overall argument Neffati is seeking to make is that the magazine is actually anti-Islam which has in the authors viewpoint helped promote this sentiment within France.[4] I actually disagree with this last argument as it seems rather weak: while the magazine does seem to highly critical of any religion, it seems to be more anti-Islamic-extremist or indeed being against any kind of extremism rather than subtly attacking one religious group of people, that said I will admit the French populace possibly conflating extremists with members of the non-extremist religion is definitely an issue, I just don’t think it can be blamed on this magazine. Burak Özçetin’s discussion of how the Turkish populist AKP party utilizes popular culture specifically the historical television show Diriliş: Ertuğrul in order to promote their ideology of an anti-elitist restoration of a specific group of ‘people’ while demonizing the ‘other’ group within Turkish society, as well as to project nationalist rhetoric through the show, with his discussion of the fallout of the Butterfly Awards controversy successfully showing the struggle of Islamic influence versus Western influence.[5]


[1] Nicole Doerr, “Bridging language barriers, bonding against immigrants: A visual case study of transnational network publics created by far-right activists in Europe” Discourse & Society 28(1) (2017): 3-20.

[2] Benjamin Krämer, “Populist online practices: the function of the Internet in right-wing populism” Information, Communication & Society, 20:9 (2017): 1293-1305.

[3] John Postill, “Populism and social media: a global perspective.” Media, Culture & Society. 40(5)(2018): 754-763.

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

[5] Burak Özçetin, “‘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): 942-952.

Bibliography:

Doerr, Nicole. “Bridging Language Barriers, Bonding against Immigrants: A Visual Case Study of Transnational Network Publics Created by Far-Right Activists in Europe.” Discourse & Society 28, no. 1 (January 2017): 3–23. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926516676689.

Krämer, Benjamin. “Populist online practices: the function of the Internet in right-wing populism” Information, Communication & Society, 20:9 (2017): 1293-1309. https://doi-org.proxy.library.carleton.ca/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1328520.

Neffati, Imen. “Anti-Sociologisme, Zionism, and Islamophobia in Philippe Val’s Charlie Hebdo.” French Cultural Studies 32, no. 3 (August 2021): 280–95. https://doi.org/10.1177/09571558211027041.

Özçetin, Burak. “‘The Show of the People’ against the Cultural Elites: Populism, Media and Popular Culture in Turkey.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 22, no. 5–6 (October 2019): 942–57. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367549418821841. Postill, John. “Populism and Social Media: A Global Perspective.” Media, Culture & Society 40, no. 5 (July 2018): 754–65. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443718772186.

Anti-Gender Populism – Institutionalized Religion and the Far-Right

Wesley M.

The Anti-Gender movement in contemporary Europe that has been made a tool for far-right populists as well as institutionalized religions so that they might be able to reinforce their influence and thereby solidify control over the society in which they occupy.

Professor Piotr Żuk and Paweł Żuk discuss how the far-right’s arguments against gender, and sexual minorities have been aided by the forces of institutionalized religion, specifically using the example of Poland and the Catholic Church within Poland which allowed for them to portray their repression in the post-communist era to the public as a kind of compromise, under the belief that far-right changes could be worse, which allowed for acceptance of the far right process of othering both people internally as well as Poland internationally against the EU.[1] Both authors explore how right-wing media tactics are used to generate fear, as well as how the othering can be used to simplify and demonize any narrative as well as twisting it so that it’s false such as the narrative that claims that abortion has false ties to the Stalinist regime when it doesn’t, which in turn allows for ideological manipulation of the population by state as well as the institutionalized religious forces.[2]

Professor’s David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar argument about scholars urgent need to disentangle the global right’s Anti-Gender from the far-right narrative is interesting as both movements are very similar but distinction would clearly assist further analysis of how the right-wing criticism mainly comes from what they deem to be threatening European progressive policies in order to argue gender ideology as a kind of Marxist/Totalitarian conspiracy by legitimate democracies, specifically utilizing five target areas in order to further their populist discourse: 1. same-sex marriages. 2. Reproductive rights. 3. Sex and gender education. 4. Gender. 5. Gender Ideology in the far-rights view being politically autocratic.[3] In the same breath the authors also acknowledge that the tactics used by the far-right populists as well as have been able to use the anti-gender campaign, as well as institutionalized religion’s support, in some cases, to be able to gain a far wider audience for their rhetoric, specifically focusing around the politics of fear that they are able to use in order to create or exasperate anxiety within society.[4]

The reading by Andrea Peto argues that how Hungarian populists are using their discourse to attack the subject of Gender Studies has in fact made it more relevant, and that the reason behind the attack is to allow the Populists to shift public attention from governmental corruption within their country.[5] This viewpoint if true shows a classic autocratic move: create a crisis in order to target a group as a distraction to secure their hold on power (cough…Reichstag Fire Decree…cough…). As the Parsons reading indicates, the Hungarian government continues to repress sexual diversity by cracking down on the LGBTQ community.[6] Given the upcoming Hungarian election, this speculation of a distraction tactic does seem likely.


[1] Piotr 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): 575.

[2] Żuk and Paweł Żuk. “‘Murderers of the Unborn’ and ‘Sexual Degenerates’:”: 576-585.

[3] David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 6-10.

[4] Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling”: 11-13.

[5] Andrea 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-gender-studies-hungary.

[6] Vic Parsons, “Powerful Film about Non-Binary Teen in Transphobic Hungary Is Heartbreaking for the Right Reasons,” PinkNews | Latest Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans News | LGBT+ News (blog), March 24, 2021, https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2021/03/24/colors-of-tobi-bfi-flare-alexa-bakony-hungary-transgender/.

                                                                  Bibliography:                         

Parsons, Vic. “Powerful Film about Non-Binary Teen in Transphobic Hungary Is Heartbreaking for the Right Reasons.” PinkNews | Latest Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans News | LGBT+ News (blog), March 24, 2021. https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2021/03/24/colors-of-tobi-bfi-flare-alexa-bakony-hungary-transgender/.

Paternotte, David and Roman Kuhar. “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe.” Politics and Governance 6, no. 3 (2018): 6-19. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v6i3.1557. https://proxy.library.carleton.ca/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fscholarly-journals%2Fdisentangling-locating-global-right-anti-gender%2Fdocview%2F2132729168%2Fse-2.

Peto, Andrea. “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-gender-studies-hungary.

Żuk, Piotr 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, DOI: 10.1080/17405904.2019.1676808.

Cut Off Fascism and Neo-Fascism Will Grow In Its Place: Regrowth Destabilization ; the ‘Other’

Wesley M.

The Far-Right’s subtle attempt at re-legitimizing their movement into acceptability within mainstream politics has met with marked success. Why have the democratic governments struggled greatly against this rising tide of neo-fascistic groups when the fascists were defeated in 1945? Well to answer, I’ll explore a quote from a 2014 Marvel film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, specifically where Armin Zola is describing how the Fascist/Nazist terrorist organization HYDRA has returned from within the democratic security organization S.H.I.E.L.D.

What we did not realize was that if you tried to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly.  After the war, S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded, and I was recruited. The new HYDRA grew, a beautiful parasite inside S.H.I.E.L.D. For 70 years, HYDRA has been secretly feeding crises, reaping war.

There’s a lot to unpack within this for explaining how the real-world fascist movements have regrown within our current era.

The first thing is this line “What we did not realize was that if you tried to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly.” Referencing how fascists post-1945 changed tactics from fighting the system, to instead work from within the system in order to re-establish their own legitimacy in the public eye and one day regain their former power from the willing masses. This working within the system strategy became a heckuva lot easier because of how many fascists were able to evade justice after World War II due to Cold War realities necessitating the reintegration of various fascistic officials into a democratic societal structure to help with the war effort against the communist forces of the Soviet Union (for example see Operation Paperclip on Wikipedia). This decision by the victorious powers inadvertently allowed many fascists the opportunity to be able to successfully reintegrate into society.

Upon reintegrating then the fascists had to 1. capitalize on or 2. create the necessary conditions that would ensure their return to power (This will be explored below). For capitalizing on necessary conditions one has to look no further than the French’s Nouvelle Droite (ND) giving various French far-right leaders the focus on cultural hegemonic preservation, specifically preserving “‘authentic’ regions of Europe against the onslaught of non-European immigrants.” Contemporarily this refers to European difficulties accepting Islamic culture, which combined with the migration crisis of the past decade, has allowed for far-right neofascist ideas to seem acceptable within many European countries, such as Hungarian fascist leader Viktor Orban legally promoting repression and anti-immigration loss against his ‘Other’ Muslim migrants.

The second relevant quote’s part is where Zola says “The new HYDRA grew, a beautiful parasite inside S.H.I.E.L.D. ” This can be used to explore how fascists have been able to undermine democratic institutions from within in a wide variety of countries. In postwar Italy for example neofascists were able to achieve deep state influence from 1970s-1990s behind the scenes as well as directly through their wide network of supporters in key positions within the Italian government, military, civil service, which in turn recompensed their lack of public power. This turns us to the final relevant part of the quote is “For 70 years, HYDRA has been secretly feeding crises, reaping war.” This is relevant because it can be used to explore how fascists have been able to use the destabilization within the democratic structures over the past several decades in order to destabilize society. For example postwar Italy had un-persecuted fascists retaining  political connections, allowing neofascists to use the high level of influence let them orchestrate various conspiracies against the Italian democracy from within, while preventing any politically left party gaining power, with the eventual result being Italy’s government being exposed as corrupt, which in turn allowed for the re-legitimization of the Italian far-right within the public political sphere as an acceptable alternative. In addition a more contemporary example would be how a destabilized France has far-right Marine Le Pen seeking support of other far -right leaders like Orban to support her on topics such as France’s problems with migrants and the EU to shore up her power bases before the election.

Looking at the world today, have geopolitical issues such as migration become so fearful and have democratic institutions become so ineffective “that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security” which could lead to neofascist/far-right groups gaining power en masse? The answer is worth pondering as the upcoming French and Hungarian elections loom.

Bibliography:

“Operation Paperclip.” In Wikipedia, November 11, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Paperclip.

Amyot, Grant. The shadow of fascism over the Italian Republic. Humaff 21, 35–43 (2011). http://link.springer.com.proxy.library.carleton.ca/article/10.2478/s13374-011-0005-9.

Chadwick, Lauren. “Why Are France’s Far-Right Politicians Paying Visits to Viktor Orban?” Euronews, October 29, 2021, sec. World. https://www.euronews.com/2021/10/29/why-are-france-s-far-right-politicians-paying-visits-to-viktor-orban.

Griffin, Roger. “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum.’” Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 8, no. 1 (Feb. 2000): pp. 35–53. https://doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2011.585013.

Kalmar, Ivan. “Islamophobia and anti-semitism: the case of Hungary and the ‘Soros Plot” Patterns and Prejudice Vol. 54 (1-2) (2020): 182-98. https://doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2019.1705014.

Moeller, Robert. “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” German History Vol. 31, Issue 4 (December 2013): 497-522. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerhis/ght065.

Russo, Anthony, and Joe Russo. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 2014. https://www.amazon.ca/Captain-America-Soldier-Blu-ray-Bilingual/dp/B00KHD5FK0/ref=tmm_trd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=.

The ‘Others’ Enter Europe – How Populist Leaders Legitimize Their Arguments

Wesley M.

Europe is full of many cultures and in our contemporary era there is much ongoing debate over which culture will be predominant or whether all these separate cultures can actually coexist peacefully. The far-right European populist groups do not want to see that happen, rather they would want to see their own version of a culturally homogenous Europe be fulfilled. The populist playbook for uniting and vastly diverse populace is quite simple set them up against an enemy, in this case, the far-right chooses to target a wide variety of ethnic migrants that are of the Muslim faith within Europe as a threat against European hegemonic culture.[1]

            The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 left a power vacuum in Europe, in terms of an enemy to fight as well as issues reconciling supposedly defunct claims of European cultural superiority, in turn leading to tensions over the next three decades. Part of this tension has to do with the growing number of Muslim migrants that are coming into Europe and are seen as a threat to the formally Christian European culture. The modernity that Europe has traded itself is bringing to the Middle East appears to be no longer applicable as the transnational network the migrants have as a result of their Muslim identity uniting them across borders has led to religious and secular tension, a debate over religious clothing, and in the view of the Nilüfer Göle’s article from 2012, she believes these cultural tensions could possibly be resolved through Turkey serving as a mediator to unite the Middle East and Europe into a state of cooperation and coexistence.[2] Suffice to say given Turkey’s current political issues and in general a serious democratic backsliding within the Middle East as a whole, it would appear that Göle’s theory has been proven currently inapplicable.

            Part of the reason for the cultural tensions of course is far-right nationalism. Dan Stone argues that Eastern Europe’s issues coming from them not reckoning with their Nazi collaborating past has allowed for populists to blame inherent state problems on an influx of migrants as a result of the European crisis, which he argues is somewhat legitimized by the fact that Europe as a whole doesn’t actually want to take in refugees.[3]

This reticence by Europe to accept Islamic culture allows far-right beliefs into acceptable mainstream politics by portraying themselves as being against what many Europeans see as being a legitimate target: such as QAnon adopting the blood libel myth within their conspiracy theories.[4] In a more straightforward example, Ivan Kalmar’s article argues that Viktor Orban’s use of Anti-Anti-Semitism (helped by Netanyahu’s support for him) against claims of him being an anti-Semite for his campaign against George Soros has allowed Orban to legally promote Islamophobia and anti-immigration policies against Muslim migrants, as well as anti-Semitism, without the resulting negative fascistic label such actions would normally receive.[5]


[1] Somewhat like a very early seasons Game of Thrones parody: A fringe and crazy Night’s Watch guard Westeros against a disbelieved cultural threat (the ‘Others’), given how the legitimacy of populists is questioned: what will happen in the next few years will be crucial to the overall result.

[2] Nilüfer Göle, “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam” New Literary History, Volume 43, Number 4 (Autumn 2012): 665-685.

[3] Stone, “On Neighbours and Those Knocking at the Door:”: 234-240.

[4] VICE News, How This TV Chef Turned COVID Truther Helped QAnon Boom in Germany, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1yOqtbWrdg.

[5] Kalmar, “Islamophobia and anti-semitism:”: 185-194.

Bibliography:

VICE News. How This TV Chef Turned COVID Truther Helped QAnon Boom in Germany, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1yOqtbWrdg.

Göle, Nilüfer. “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam.” New Literary History 43, no. 4 (2012): 665-685. doi:10.1353/nlh.2012.0041.

Kalmar, Ivan. “Islamophobia and anti-semitism: the case of Hungary and the ‘Soros Plot” Patterns and Prejudice Vol. 54 (1-2) (2020): 182-98.

Stone, Dan. “On Neighbours and Those Knocking at the Door: Holocaust Memory and Europe’s Refugee Crisis.” Patterns of Prejudice 52, no. 2/3 (May 2018): 231–43.

1989 Redefinition: The Far-Right’s Return To Legitimacy – Demonizing The Other

Wesley M.

This week’s readings look at how the European far-right was able to use the momentum of 1989 involving the reunification of Germany as well as the overall collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to redefine their own position and use the resulting chaos of those two events throughout Europe to slowly regain the public perception of their own legitimacy by channeling fears of authoritarianism against the far-right’s enemies; the chosen ‘Other’ instead of against themselves in order to legitimize themselves, helped by criticism.

In Professor Bull’s article, she discusses how populists utilize and redefine popular memory in order to clarify  the notion of who is considered ‘people’, specifically arguing constructing of ‘people’ involves “developing empty signifiers but also constructing powerful myths that draw on a collective memory of an imagined past in order to define who belongs to ‘the people’.”[1] Using examples of Italian populist leaders from the Second Republic: Silvio Berlusconi, Umberto Bossi, and Antonio Di Pietro, Bull demonstrates how all three used strategy of rejecting elites and constructing people so as to “redefine the polity in terms of legitimization and de-legitimization of friends and enemies.”[2]

The Molnar article expands on this issue of redefinition and legitimacy by relating it to the reunified the German state and how they inadvertently allowed the reunification to stoke fears of either a societal collapse or a civil war, against minority groups such as non-European Germans or foreigners, resulting in vast scepticism about the governments policies towards immigration and migration, despite the fact that a significant amount of the violence during this period was not caused by migrants at all.[3] This demonstrates that the German government’s policy of allowing migration actually weakened their own legitimacy in the eyes of their people, thus directly correlating to an expansion of the far-right’s influence.

The Kalb reading discusses how following 1991 conciliation of the former Soviet bloc territories was not evenly done thus the economic devastation of the 2008 crash created a widespread way for populist rejection of liberal influences within those devastated countries (such as Viktor Orban), resulting in the far-right gaining legitimacy through targeting minority groups, as well as setting up their own version of Europe as being against the liberal EU, with the EU’s weaknesses becoming the far-right’s strength.[4]

The Mamonova article discusses how due to the failure of neoliberalism, a capitalist crisis involving farmers and agriculture, and COVID-19 resulting in major rural alienation, the far-right populists have been able to use resulting rural dissatisfaction as a powerbase: with German villages seeking to revive the Nazi concept of Volksgemeinshaft, with Spain the far-right party Vox gained support due to the massive rural depopulation, the UK’s Brexit has allowed for claims of people against elites in a rural vs. urban argument, in the Ukraine the far right’s capitalized on all of the land reform issues in order to assist their use of selective memory; claiming democratic weakness, inequality and emptiness result in stagnation.[5]


[1] Anna Cento Bull, “The role of memory in populist discourse: the case of the Italian Second Republic” Patterns of Prejudice, 50:3 (2016): 217.

[2] Bull, “The role of memory”: 219.

[3] Christopher Molnar, “Greetings from the Apocalypse”: Race, Migration, and Fear after German Reunification” Central European History, (2021), 1-25.

[4] Don 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). 208–26. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvr7fcnz.17.

[5] Natalia Mamonova, Jaume Franquesa, and Sally Brooks, “‘Actually Existing’ Right-Wing Populism in Rural Europe: Insights from Eastern Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and Ukraine,” The Journal of Peasant Studies 47, no. 7 (2020): 1497–1525.

Bibliography:

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

Mamonova, Natalia, Franquesa, Jaume, and Sally Brooks, “‘Actually Existing’ Right-Wing Populism in Rural Europe: Insights from Eastern Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and Ukraine,” The Journal of Peasant Studies 47, no. 7 (2020): 1497–1525.

Molnar, Christopher A. “‘Greetings from the Apocalypse’: Race, Migration, and Fear after German Reunification.” Central European History 54, no. 3 (2021): 491–515. doi:10.1017/S0008938920001090.

Kalb, Don. “Post-Socialist Contradictions: The Social Question in Central and Eastern Europe and the Making of the Illiberal Right.” In The Social Question in the Twenty-First Century: A Global View, edited by Jan Breman, Kevan Harris, Ching Kwan Lee, and Marcel van der Linden, 1st ed., 208–26. University of California Press, 2019. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvr7fcnz.17.

Insight And Adaptability – The Key To The Regrowth Of Neofascist Movements:

Wesley M.

Neofascism, unlike the old fascist movement, were able to gain the insight that by taking the long view and showing a willingness to be adaptable they were able to influence events either behind the scenes or directly, in some cases directly co-opting the political system that was currently operating from within various European countries to bolster their own agenda.

The way in which neofascism was able to influence events in Italy is rather unique as they were able to both take the long view but influence events both from behind the scenes as well as directly through their wide network of supporters. These supporters being placed in key positions within the Italian government, military, civil service, allowed for a network with the level of power that as Grant Amyot describes in his article, was akin to the description of a deep state level of influence, which in turn made up for the neofascist lack of public political control.[1] Italian neofascists were able to orchestrate various conspiracies (the SIFAR Affair 1968-1969 protests, the Borghese Coup, Weathervane), which allowed for the weakening of the political left as well as the prevention of a left party coming to power.[2] This in turn allowed for Italy’s neofascists to eventually use more fascistic techniques in the open by the mid-1990s.[3]

The French neofascists were also able to use the 1968 protest by political leftists in the resulting fear this created it with the public to promote themselves as keepers of peace and gain legitimacy by for time gain legitimacy by standing under the shield of Gaullism, and later on gain further success by adapting policies and incorporating new fascist theorists as they sought to gain further legitimacy in order to and what they perceived as the political left’s hold on culture.[4] contemporarily, Marie Le Pen has been able to appeal to disaffected women using anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment while softening her party’s image by adopting a less traditional view of the woman’s role as well as trying to appeal to LGBTQ voters.[5]

Contrasting these is the British National Front and their concept of the Third Wave. They sought to adapt their image by emulating authoritarian Middle Eastern dictators such as Moammar Gadhafi, with Roberto Fiore’s introducing Evolian thinking, failing to gain support for the radical proposed changes to their neofascist group.[6]

Relevant to this commentary on insight and adaptability regarding neofascism is the discussion around reliability of accounts. Ruth Glynn’s discussion of how former female left-wing Italian terrorists seek to revitalize their image by providing insight on their activities while distancing themselves in a confessional model to insulate themselves, reminding the audience that these accounts are not neutral.[7] Charlie Jarvis’s article on the power of memory describes how representation in the form of a museum regarding Milan’s fascist past actually allows for the creation of inaccuracies via historical revision by pointing out how the Milanese governments involvement in the violence is not mentioned.[8]


[1] Grant Amyot, “The Shadow of Fascism over the Italian Republic,” Human Affairs 21, no. 1 (2011): 36-37.

[2] Amyot, “The Shadow of Fascism over the Italian Republic,”: 36-42.

[3] Amyot, “The Shadow of Fascism over the Italian Republic,”: 42.

[4] Andrea 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): 220-222, 225-235.

[5] Angelique Chrisafis, “From Le Pen to Alice Weidel: How the European far-right set its sight on women” The Guardian January 29, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jan/29/from-le-pen-to-alice-weidel-how-the-european-far-right-set-its-sights-on-women.

[6] Benjamin Bland, “Global Fascism?: The British National Front and the Transnational Politics of the ‘Third Way’ in the 1980s,” Radical History Review 2020, no. 138 (2020): 108–130.

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

[8] Charlie Jarvis, “Milan Museum Commemorates Fascist Past at Expense of the Present” Hyperallergic (August 2, 2021), https://hyperallergic.com/667010/milan-museum-commemorates-fascist-past-at-the-expense-of-the-present/.

Bibliography:

Amyot, Grant. The shadow of fascism over the Italian Republic. Humaff 21, 35–43 (2011). https://doi-org.proxy.library.carleton.ca/10.2478/s13374-011-0005-9.

Bland, Benjamin. Global Fascism?: The British National Front and the Transnational Politics of the “Third Way” in the 1980s. Radical History Review 1 October 2020; 2020 (138): 108–130. doi: https://doi-org.proxy.library.carleton.ca/10.1215/01636545-8359443.

Chrisafis, Angelique, Kate Connolly, and Angela Giuffrida. “From Le Pen to Alice Weidel: How the European Far-Right Set Its Sights on Women.” The Guardian, January 29, 2019, sec. Life and style. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jan/29/from-le-pen-to-alice-weidel-how-the-european-far-right-set-its-sights-on-women.

Glynn, Ruth. “<writing the Terrorist Self: The Unspeakable Alterity of Italy’s Female Perpetrators.” Feminist Review, no. 92 (2009): 1–18. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40664029.

Jarvis, Charlie. “Milan Museum Commemorates Fascist Past at the Expense of the Present.” Hyperallergic, August 2, 2021. http://hyperallergic.com/667010/milan-museum-commemorates-fascist-past-at-the-expense-of-the-present/.

Mammone, Andrea. “The Transnational Reaction to 1968: Neo-Fascist Fronts and Political Cultures in France and Italy.” Contemporary European History 17, no. 2 (2008): 213–36. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20081402.

The French Far-Right’s Legitimacy: A Danger to Democracy – The 2022 French Election

Wesley M.

France is facing an unprecedented challenge to their established democracy in the upcoming 2022 French election. This challenge comes from the forces of the far-right populists seeking to change the course of French policies to something more befitting their viewpoint of how France should be governed, and which values the populist element of France believe should be prioritized. You might be asking yourself, why is this important?

Indeed, I am aware that many readers may not have followed the previous French election or maybe just do not know or care about French politics, assuming that the far-right is merely a fringe movement of disgruntled extremists. Unfortunately, in France, this is not the case. The fact is the French far-right are well organized and the leading far-right party, the National Rally (formally known as the National Front (FN) until its attempt at a rebrand in 2018), was able to win enough support in the previous 2017 French election that it was granted opposition party status. Hopefully now the reader sees why this upcoming election is incredibly important.

The reality is that the National Rally’s party leader, Marine Le Pen has grown steadily more popular since her rise to being party leader. The question is why? Why has her leadership of the party allowed it to become legitimate within French politics? How has the situation in France become so perilous that voters have allowed far-right extremists to have a legitimate voice in the government as the opposition party?

To explain this rise of the far-right to actual legitimate status, I must briefly explore the history of how the far-right has grown in France over the past 40 years from illegitimate to a legitimate political power once again. To begin with, I will explain how the far-right’s ideology has shifted from the early 1970s to being less openly fascist and adapted to the times. According to Professor Tamir Bar-On the French far-right group the Nouvelle Droite (ND) aided the French far-right by giving them a reinterpretation in terms of focus while creating the argument that cultural hegemony specifically within a European framework focused on “publicly recognizing differences in order to preserve the ‘authentic’ regions of Europe against the onslaught of non-European immigrants.” Basically it would allow the party who used the idea to have greater legitimacy against the label of fascist as well as boost her popularity by uniting her with those anti-immigration voters, which as you can see from remarks here, she has taken to heart.

The fact is that Le Pen is able to hide her party’s unsavoury qualities by disguising it as a critique of French society in the Evolian school of thought, specifically within the context of claiming her party is merely traditionalists and making an anti-globalist argument rather than a targeted critique against a specific group. By portraying herself within this acceptable context, Le Pen has been able to tap into greater support as well as fortify her party’s radical base. She has also sought to seem more democratic to voters by purging her party of radical far-right people including her father, to distance her party from claims of being extremists.

She and her radical far-right policies regarding anti-immigration have been supported by the radical French author Renaud Camus, infamous for coining the Great Replacement conspiracy theory that refers to the “replacement of a people, the indigenous French people, by one or others; of its culture by the loss of its cultural identity through multiculturalism.” The reiterated fact of her party’s opposition status means that her Eurosceptic, anti-immigrant policies must be highly popular in France, which is troubling.

The destabilizing force of the COVID-19 pandemic on France, resulting in economic downturn across the globe makes French society’s stability more important than ever. The fact Le Pen has switched her stance on the EU and the Euro currency to keeping both, claiming that she wants “a union of national states”, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, given politicians change unpopular policies to get into office and once there, they enact those policies anyway. If Le Pen chooses to enact her initial policy of leaving the EU and abandoning the Euro, it would likely harm France’s economy.

So, what are the far-right’s chances of winning the French election? I’d say a significant possibility and yet they may not succeed. Only time will tell if the infamous statement at a National Front party conference by Steve Bannon: “history is on our side and will bring us victory” was true or just a boast.

Regaining Legitimacy –  The Far-Right Rebrands Itself:

Wesley M.

After the fascist powers were defeated by the Allied forces in 1945, the far-right were regarded politically as responsible for the war by the victorious powers. The result of this viewpoint was that the majority of fascist parties were outlawed in many European as well as American countries in the hopes of allowing for a lasting peace. The ideology of fascism did not in fact die with the many outlawed parties, rather the political ideology survived and thrived, though the shadow of WWII’s devastation loomed heavily over society’s perception of far-right politics making it extremely difficult for them to appear legitimate. So, how did the far-right get around this issue of appearing illegitimate in the eyes of the country’s citizens and how in fact were they able to re-grow themselves into the political power they represent today?

The answer is quite simple and lies within a conscious decision by far-right ideologists to rebrand themselves into seeming more acceptable by society while continuing to spread their ideology throughout various countries in hopes of eventually returning to power. As Roger Griffin explains how post-war fascism had splintered into “three basic constituents: ‘respectable’ right-wing democratic parties with an anti-democratic, illiberal subtext; minute associations of violent activists and self-styled cadres harbouring and sometimes carrying out revolutionary fantasies; dispersed intellectuals and artists who spurn activism and confine themselves to a ‘purely’ cultural or theoretical role as contributor’s to study circles and periodicals.”[1] This resurgence would be helped by their established transnational network exploiting the weaknesses within the democratic structure. For example, Professor Tamir Bar-On explores how the French Nouvelle Droite (ND) used the idea of cultural hegemony and multiculturalism as a major talking point: specifically focused around a “pan-national European framework in order to promote a ‘multiculturalism of the right’, aimed at publicly recognizing differences in order to preserve the ‘authentic’ regions of Europe against the onslaught of non-European immigrants.”[2] Griffin points out how the ND used ideas from fascist theorists Moehler and Evola to assist the rebranding: Mohler by creating new discourse for fascists, while Evola’s Apoliteia allowed for criticizing democracy while permitting them to deny being labelled as fascists.[3] Robert Deam Tobin argues that the Evolian belief in tradition has been used by the far-right in their portrayal of traditionalists versus globalists to gain support.[4] Though the far-right, with the ND serving as example, claims to not be fascist, the similar language used by them makes this claim appear hollow and rather self-serving.[5] It shows that rebranding aside, the similarities are too many to comfortably ignore. In an era where mass immigration is taking place, many are reacting quite negatively to this influx of different cultures, with the far-right capitalizing on this fear of excessive immigration causing a loss of “cultural identity through multiculturalism.”[6] This focus has allowed them to re-legitimize themselves in an era where traditional political parties are viewed with scepticism.


[1] Roger Griffin, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum.’” Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 8, no. 1 (Feb. 2000): 38.

[2] Tamir Bar-On, “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite.” Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 45, no. 3 (July 2011): 208.

[3] Griffin, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia:”: 38-48.

[4] Robert Deam Tobin, “The Evolian Imagination: Gender, Race, and Class from Fascism to the New Right” Journal of Holocaust Research vol. 35, Issue 2 (Confronting Hatred; Neo-Nazim, Antisemitism, and Holocaust Studies): 88-89.

[5] Bar-On, “Transnationalism”: 222.

[6] Norimitsu Onishi, “The Great Replacement and Renaud Camus” New York Times (September 20, 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/world/europe/renaud-camus-great-replacement.html.

Bibliography:

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

Deam Tobin, Robert. “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.

Griffin, Roger. “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum.’” Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 8, no. 1 (Feb. 2000): pp. 35–53.

Onishi, Norimitsu. “The Great Replacement and Renaud Camus” New York Times (September 20, 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/world/europe/renaud-camus-great-replacement.html.