The Scott article and the Vice news video provide interesting insight into an issue that I’ve not considered until now. Qanon has been a pseudo cult like conspiracy theory for years now. Traditionally they would often only be associated with their unfounded claims on things like the existence of a global elite group of pedophiles. “Its roots date back to late 2017 when an anonymous social media user — using the name Q — published several cryptic messages on 4Chan, a platform often used by fringe conspiracy theorists and online extremists.” (Scott) However, the spreading of their influence has also led to a spread in their beliefs across the pond. As the Scott article also notes, the outbreak of Covid-19 has allowed the conspiracy to do exactly that. Many groups within Europe like the one highlighted in the Vice News video have embraced Qanon and reinterpreted it by adding their own spin on it in the form of anti-vaccination conspiracies, anti-Semitic beliefs, or even believing in Chancellor Angela Merkel being a puppet of the previously mentioned global elite. Specifically with the anti-Semitic part, this has been a trait that has remained particularly synonymous with Qanon conspiracies wherever they go. In all honesty, this conspiracy group stands testament to the fact that Societies will always have loonies, and if you give them the means to communicate easily with one another (like with the internet), they can spread and thrive in sometimes uncontrollable ways. In other words, we should tread carefully to not enable groups like these to evolve into anything more than what have seen, as this leads down a dangerous path that Germany unfortunately took in the 30’s.
European identity has a lot to do with collective memory. It’s how states like Italy and Germany came to unify, and how new states emerged within the European continent following the end of the First World War. Fast forward to the end of the Second World War, decolonization and the dissolution of the USSR, this collective memory has been diluted by years of immigration and emigration. Faced with the challenge of adapting their identity, Europe has been divided amongst their responses.
Memory also serves in determining this response. Among progressives, imagery of the Kindertransport (the rescue effort of children in Nazi-occupied territory) and Jewish refugees seeking to escape Nazi persecution are conjured. In response to the Syrian Civil war and the ensuing migrant crisis, Germany was one of the most eager European states to open its doors to migrants because it had come to terms with its Nazi past; “remembering to remember.”
Populists on the other hand in states like Poland and Hungary have not been confronted about their country’s Nazi-collaborationist history, and have thus not been able to come to terms with their pasts. Political action in these states is dependent on having immigrants as an “other.” As G.M. Tamas puts it, “only racism promoted by the state can persuade people to vote for the ‘dismantling of the few remaining elements of social services and social assistance.’” Through this rhetoric, we see groups like QAnon take root in circles with already similar thought processes.
The myths surrounding European identity buckle in the face of postcolonialism and mass migration because they were created by “othering” foreigners more so than engineering their own identity. It’s a lot easier to say “you’re not me!” to someone who looks and speaks a different language from you than to instead stop and question yourself, “who am I?”
Going into these readings I already knew a lot about the Hungarian government’s disdain towards George Soros. They believe that Soros is behind some plot to destroy Europe and Christianity by filling it with Middle-Eastern refugees. Of course the idea that these refugees are dangerous is islamophobic, but the use of Soros also implies a Jewish-ness to the conspiracy. However, Hungary can escape accusations of anti-semitism by dancing around the question and using dogwhistles (the triple-parentheses dogwhistle comes to mind). This was the focus of the Kalmar article, but the Stone article and the articles about QAnon also discuss this.
In the Stone article, the connection is made between Eastern Europe not dealing with its anti-semitic past and the existence of its islamophobic present. Open anti-semitism isn’t allowed, but anti-semitism can be rerouted through conspiracies that are subtly implied to be Jewish in nature. It reminded me of the movie Look Who’s Back where (as far as I remember) Hitler comes back in modern Germany and becomes a far-right, anti-refugee “””comedian””” who mirrors the islamophobic rhetoric Stone is talking about.
The Guner article feels slightly separate from the others in discussing the ‘whiteness’ of the Turks. The racial ambiguity of Turkey reflects the social construction of race: the Turks originated from Central Asia but have been often considered white and now have a perception of themselves as black (in what seems to be a spiritual/cultural way). I remember Looks Who’s Back very briefly poking fun at this as well.
When looking at Bulls work as well as Molnar’s work they both play with an idea of illusion, it is more so the illusion of progress. While there is no doubt that progress was seen in terms of widespread change across various countries and governments that is where the similarity ends, as this transitional period almost forced European countries to come face to face with many of the problems in their own respective states that they were ignoring for years. There were many blatant and ongoing problems related to migration and immigration then, and still remain so today. Interestingly, the issue of immigration (i.e. illegal & asylum seekers) into countries such as Germany seems to have had more attention in the spotlight than issues surrounding shrinking native populations migrating abroad, due to corrupt governmental structures or a depletion of jobs. Countries like Germany were now living in a more multicultural world, with many Germans already having nationalistic outlooks they became increasingly more extreme in their views against foreigners, specifically those of minority and non (white) European backgrounds. As Molnar explains in his work the 1990’s in Germany were marked with a fear of the “unknown,” or in this case a fear of what a more multicultural society would bring to Germany’s future, as a poll conducted in 1993 had over 60% of participants stated that the fear of over-foreignization should be taken seriously.
Anna Cento Bull, “The role of memory in populist discourse: the case of the Italian Second Republic” Patterns of Prejudice, 50:3 (2016): 213-231.
Christopher Molnar, “Greetings from the Apocalypse”: Race, Migration, and Fear after German Reunification” Central European History, (2021), 1-25.