The “LEFT”?

BY: Francesco Sacca

Hello again everybody! I have not been responding for some time and I apologize for that. So, without further delay, welcome back.

This week, a 180 degree turn occured in the material and some views that I had not originally been aware of, were revealed. For so long I have considered myself to be leaning left as I have searched for a basis of equality and had a desire to “set fire” (as one of my classmates had once stated during a class debate) to the inefficient ideologies of modern democracy. Although, have I possibly not looked hard enough to notice fallacies within leftist thought? Or perhaps, even more concerningly, have I knowingly ignored the signs?

Before this week, understanding who exactly was responsible for the spread of ideals like xenophobia was quite clear (lying with those in the far right). However, articles like; Flank attacks: Populism and left-right radicalism in Western Europe, and; A plague on both your populisms, have both left me skeptical of this once clear understanding. Further research into this topic has only confirmed these worrying beliefs that there are some who belong to the Left Wing that align themselves with xenophobic ideals (whether they acknowledge it or are ignorant of it). This understanding is also supported by other, peer reviewed Carleton University articles, including one titled; Left-Wing Xenophobia in Europe, which has stated that: “Europeans who identify as extremely left-wing on the political spectrum hold anti-immigrant attitudes”.

Is there becoming a blurred line that separate the two sides? Will there be a eventual solution to these competing forces?

Please feel free to message me on your own personal research on the topic as I am keen to learn more (whether you agree with this outlook or have criticisms about it).

Two-Faced Societies

-Hannah Long

I believe the question of European identity failing in the wake of a postcolonial society can be boiled down to a push by many (not all) governments and their respective medias to reflect a more utopian society, one that is more multicultural and representative of a wider population than what the majority is still composed of. This challenge however is that it only shows one face of a two sided society, the opposing side to this push in mass migration is just as if not more active and is only given mass attention during times of crisis, even though their extreme views and actions are still done in an everyday setting. Take Atilla Hildmann’s initiative towards spreading conspiracy theories along with anti-semitic rhetoric, the way Hildmann approaches his work is of an identity that is rooted with extreme nationalistic views.


There is an attempt to tie back to a past that is more sought after, and can be more blatantly seen in countries such as Turkey where there was once a high level of white colonial interference that there is still a present day modern yearning to see Turkey in a white context. Politically the White Turk and Black Turk as is described in Güner’s article, are pitted against each other a tale of the working class vs the elite, and in history’s case a white supremacy. Both progressives and populists use narratives like this in their own political agendas as it is an aspect of history that has affected all nations in some regard, with the main difference between the two political sphere’s is either using this as a way to bring about change or going against it. Ironically both wanting to create a way of uniting a prospective group of people, it is just done so in fundamentally different ways.


Ezgi Güner “Rethinking Whiteness in Turkey Through the AKP’s Foreign Policy in Africa South of the Sahara,” Middle East Report 299 (Summer 2021).

How this TV Chef Turned COVID Truther Helped QAnon in Germany

QAnon and Garnering Support

By Felix Nicol

A key part of the VICE interview that I felt was only briefly touched upon were the reasons behind the growth of QAnon in Germany in particular. If Germany hosts the second largest QAnon group, the feelings of isolation due to COVID seem insufficient in underlining this growth, as this was certainly not exclusive to Germany. A point made early in the documentary suggested that German disillusionment with the pandemic was especially present because Germany was relatively unaffected (keeping in mind that this documentary was made over two years ago, when the second wave had not yet occurred). Once again, this hardly seems exclusive to Germany, with some other countries having even fewer cases. Perhaps the most appealing suggestion is that QAnon is good at including their rhetoric into local causes, which leads to the understanding that somewhat similar movements were already booming in the country. Still, it is impressive (and scary) to consider the effectiveness of QAnon in co-opting local rhetoric to garner support.

In a similar sense, the examples of Indonesia and Turkey have shown examples of where the importing of racial biases from abroad have been effectively shifted for a local audience. Especially in Turkey, which took American racial terms and instead shifted them towards religion and culture. Similarly, the imported “real antisemitism” in Indonesia perhaps represented the effectiveness of European Nazis in propagating their ideology abroad. I feel both of these cases kind of bring further discussion to the assessment that while populist and fascist movements are inherently local, local ideas can be adapted abroad successfully.

The mailability of the European identity

By Blaise Rego

This weeks reading looked at how European identity deals with the changing dynamics of the 21st century and the issues that come of it. The notion of European exceptionalism, one that was seemingly put to bed following the rise of the USA, had begun to rise once more in the face of modern issues.

The media prescribed this week had two different pieces of content about “Q” and the conspiracy that surrounds it and how it has morphed in Europe. The conspiracy has become more global in scale while keeping Trump and the American cause in the centre. It demonstrates how fringe groups in Europe have begin to look to the Untied States for support, this flys in the face of what we would assume European nationalist would want. By this the citizens are looking to be culturally colonized as they see the answer to their problems (migration, elites and covid). The subversion of the dominant European and be seen in the turkic activities and identity in Africa.

In Africa, Turkey looked to move in and be a leading investor and help in development. Turkish politicians use the malleable identity of being European without being taken as a white Westerner. This is seen in the quote where the African politician says to the Turkish politician you look white but you act black, saying as if you have air of European well acting as an African. This malleability of the European identity allowed for Turkey to be accepted as a nation that looked to help Africa more than other European states.

Collective memory and distancing

By Kaileigh La Belle

Like previous videos that we’ve watched in this class, the video on Qanon in Germany interviewed people who were close to or even directly involved with the conspiratorial, Far-Right leaning movement. When individuals were asked why people joined this movement, many outsiders noted the idea of gaining control over uncontrollable circumstances. While I think that there is some merit to the argument that feelings of control/lack of control can be mobilizing factors, I think that there is a deeper issue going on here, especially after reading some of the other readings on the subject of xenophobia and Far-Right Hate. The Stone reading, which highlighted the role of collective memory in dictating responses to current crises, is applicable here. Throughout the video, the anti-vax, anti-mask protesters made numerous visual or oral references or parallels to Germany’s nazi past, presenting COVID-preventative measures as a style of eugenic, authoritarian plot. For them, this is evidently a morally motivated movement that draws heavily on the idea of preventing history from repeating itself. While the idea that these preventative measures are anywhere close to a fascist dictatorship is, as the video makes clear, ludicrous, I think that it represents an attempt to distance themselves from the fundamentally antisemitic conspiracies they push and therefore “validate” their involvement. They see their motivations as being “civic” and hinged on “protecting” people (especially the vulnerable like children) from a shadowy authoritarian government or secret society. In their eyes, this makes their movement incompatible with hate, or, at the very least rationalizes it for them in a sort of “greater good” situation. It prevents them from seeing the antisemitic origins and impacts this movement has and thus they continue to involve themselves in it. Overall, by coupling this sort of moral argument with imagery of preventing another genocide/authoritarian regime, they distance themselves from any type of critical thought about their actions or blame for them.

The Malleability of Race

By Lauren McCoy

While the subject of race has been discussed a lot within our seminar, I was really struck with the malleability of racial identities in this week’s reading. Previously we discussed how Jewishness in far-right rhetorics could be transformed to encompass whatever flavour of anti-semitic conspiracy was most resonated with a national population. A similar flexibility is visible in Güner article in regards to whiteness in Turkey. It’s interested that just last week we discussed anti-turkish violence in the context of anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalism sentiments in German, where this week they become associated with Whiteness as a way to legitimize their “development” in Sub-Saharan Africa. Turkish Whiteness seems to be entirely relative to who they are surrounded by – being white enough to be associated with Europe, yet still not white enough to actually be European.

              A similar malleability is visible in ideas of race and Jewish identity in Moses article, where Indonesian anti-colonialism sentiments surrounding Europe and Israel became interlocked in acts of anti-Chinese racism. While it may seem strange to associate Jewish people and Chinese populations, invoking ideas of anti-semitism global conspiracies seem to have less to do with an actual dislike for Jewish people and more so as a justification for violence against Chinese populations. This isn’t the only example of where a false association with Jewish people was used to imply the threat an ethnic group posed to the national population. In England’s interwar era, a similar conspiracy of a Jewish-Irish alliance was evoked by fascist parties like the League of Fascist and The Britons to showcase the threat of an independent Ireland to empire and as justification to re-conquer the nation.

              I’m not entirely sure how these ideas connect with some of the other readings/videos this week, but I think the malleability of identity, especially around social constructed categorizes of race, will become an important theme in examining European identity in regards to mass migration and de-colonial movements.

What do Hungary and the UK have in common?

By Frank

I find Kalmar’s (2020) four steps of mainstream anti-Islamic populism to be a very helpful explanation of the phenomenon, although it is somewhat unsettling that mainstream politicians like Viktor Orban can descend into racism and xenophobia by following a few simple steps. What struck me was a parallel between the sanitization of racist rhetoric in contemporary cases like Hungary and those of late-20th century far-right movements like the British National Front.

According to Kalmar, the “sanitization” of Islamophobic rhetoric through the rejection of antisemitism allows populists to promote Islamophobia openly without the fear of being labelled Nazis. In the Hungarian case, the “Soros Myth” could be unapologetically touted by Orban and Fidesz, despite it’s antisemitic nature and roots in the Elders of Zion conspiracy theory of the early-20th century.

The National Front in 1980s Great Britain also voiced their anti-antisemitism through a statement issued to a Jewish organization, stating that they accepted Jews into their organization and were explicitly opposed to anti-Semitism (Bland 2020, p.121). Perhaps this was also a measure to deflect accusations about being Nazis and shield their xenophobic and ethnocentric rhetoric. Bland explicitly states that neofascism and neo-Nazi ideas were at the core of the National Front (p.109), and that they saw conspiracy theories like “Zionist Imperialism” as significant threats to Britain (p.118), demonstrating that their anti-antisemitism was disingenuous (what a surprise!). Moreover, anti-immigrant discourse was also espoused by Margaret Thatcher and mainstream British Conservatives, perhaps as a way of normalizing the rhetoric coming from groups like the National Front (p.110).

While it is unknown if Orban was aware the history of the sanitization of racist and xenophobic discourse in Europe, the fact that is being done by an increasing number of European politicians today is troubling.

Is Antisemitism the Same as Racism?

By Louis Lacroix

A recurring theme in the lectures so far this semester is antisemitism and how it evolved through time and particularly the 20th century. This week in particular, it focused on antisemitism in Indonesia after some waves of Jewish immigration in the 1920s and the Holocaust memory in Europe that brings today a trauma of outsiders and the ongoing bad perceptions of Jews. Racism is considered to be the profound hatred and denigration of a group of humans defined by skin color and/or culture by another one or various. We could think of white Americans having racial issues with black Americans or from a more radical perspective the genocide in Rwanda of Tutsis by Hutus. Antisemitism would be a more precise definition of racism, specifically applied to Judaism believers, but one big difference that can set them apart from a normal case of racism would be the globalisation of their defamation and bad reputation. Everywhere their communities seem to go outside of Israel, they’ve had to deal with racism of some kind. Particularly in Europe, a culture of hatred towards Jews was brewed and it almost became a consensus on the continent that Jewish populations are bad, even between bitter rivals like France and Germany. When this hatred culminates in the worst genocide in History orchestrated by one of the worst regime of all time and a sentiment of racism toward that people still persist, it becomes truly concerning. In my perspective, antisemitism is in its own category that transcend racism, because it is a culture that is temporally and globally discriminated against, which seems to have no end and no logic reasons behind it in these modern times.

You gotta believe

By Jim Dagg

We get a very depressing look at multicultural intolerance out of our readings on Europe this week. The 2015 refugee crisis was the largest such challenge since the Balkan convulsions of the 1990s and the largest of non-European stock in … a very long time.

It is depressing to see that in Hungary this was seen as an opportunity for a party with an anti-immigrant message to establish a super-majority (able to change the constitution) in parliament. The Fidesz party, under Victor Orban, accomplished this by building a populist platform targeting the EU and financier/philanthropist George Soros that could mobilize the strong socio-economic discontent in rural Hungary. Hungary’s unprocessed history of antisemitism didn’t hurt either: they were primed to be angry about “other” refugees entering the country.

The Soros Myth was clearly an important tool for manipulating the Hungarian people. The campaign included 1) claims that Soros financed the Muslim migrant “invasion” 2) an all-citizens survey on alleged non-credible instructions from Soros to the EU for smoothing the way for immigrants in Europe, and 3) ominous “Big Brother” posters showing a (very creepy) Soros face. How did this campaign convince the Hungarian people? I’d say they just wanted to believe it all. It gave them an excuse for their antisemitism, and their islamophobia – which really amount to other-phobia. And it allowed them to vent their frustrations and anger at a target that was not their own government.

The Qanon pieces this week show that it is a malign twin to the Soros Myth. The details in this extended conspiracy theory are too fantastical to be believed by a rational person. But consider people who are suffering under COVID restrictions. They don’t know anyone who has been sick, and they’ve been in forced isolation from their friends and family. They are feeling manipulated, suspicious, and angry. Once they are suspicious of a conspiracy, Qanon allows them to dig as deep as they want. But you have to “want to believe”.

Stupid Like a Fox by Aimee Brown

Last week, the Anna Cento Bull article introduced the related concepts of the ‘empty signifier’ and the ‘chain of equivalence’. This week, they’re everywhere. To review, empty signifiers are symbols invested with a different meaning for multiple groups through a chain of equivalence. Thus, A also means B and C so TERM X means whatever you want it to mean. Empty signifiers are necessary for populism because if a signifier (a word, term, or symbol) had a fixed meaning (if it only meant one thing), then it would only be able to capture the imagination, or represent the interests, of one group. Populism needs to be popular with multiple groups by being all things to all men. It does this by taking a term and abstracting it until it loses all actual substance, so that it can then be invested with multiple diverse significations simultaneously.    

For example, the Kalmar article describes how, in Hungary, ‘George Soros’, a signifier accurately representing one very rich man, has come to signifier ‘the Jews’, Freemasons, the Illuminati, immigrant hordes, being anti-Christian, and being anti-Hungarian. ‘George Soros’ has been emptied of its particular meaning through a chain of equivalence (now this guy means all of these things), until it has been rendered a universal negative. As Kalmar says, “Orban and Fidesz blamed George Soros for just about everything they opposed” (189).

This is all pretty boilerplate European antisemitism, but the Moses article explicates a less familiar linguistic taxonomy in Indonesia. There, a complicated history of colonialism has resulted in ‘antisemitism’ being emptied of meaning and conflated with anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism. Actual Jewish people are a very, very small minority in the country, so ‘the Jew’ becomes ‘the colonist’ becomes ‘the foreigner’ becomes a rationale for violence against Chinese people.

Finally, in the Vice video about Germany, being opposed to Covid vaccinations is, through a chain of equivalence, connected to a shadowy cabal plotting to enact a new world order, which leads to antisemitism, because the shadowy cabal is Jewish, because of course it is. And herein lies the power of a movement like QAnon. It’s not ridiculous and nonsensical, it’s an infinitely big tent constructed to accommodate all of the empty signifiers in the world. It’s stupid like a fox.