First Responder: Bye Bye Britain

While Brexit might have come as a shock to the rest of the world, history teaches us that its sentiments have been around for a long time.  This weeks readings and videos circled around the idea that Brexit has historical roots, with a long past of Britain feeling anxiety about their economy and immigration.

A major factor in Britain’s decision to leave the EU, is its fear of immigration. In Enoch Power’s speech, “river of blood” we begin to see how the anti-immigration sentiment is one that is present in the past. We see how the fear of immigrants and the idea of losing national identity has been something that has effected prior times as well.

Britain’s involvement in the EU has also been historically problematic according to the Meon and Selter article which highlights how Britain was not apart of the European coal or Steel community and that they still used the pound as currency. This disconnect is also a factor in rising tensions between Britain and Europe.

What I found interesting about this week’s readings was the Hobolt article, and the explanation of how Brexit occurred due to many differences in its demographic. Some of these factors include difference in age and education. This idea of old and new mentality and its impact on citizen’s political opinions was fascinating to me, and something I can see in other cultures as well. We can see how many older citizens feel nostalgic to times when Britain was a superpower. This idea of importance of nationality and superiority is something that we have discussed in our class, and it is interesting to see it played out in our time. Just as though immigration has been a fear of the past, it is a fear that is still evident in the present.

Will Britains exit from the EU lead to more nationalism amongst its country? Could this been seen as a problem? What does Britains need to stop immigration over its economic security say about how its citizens feel about immigrants? Is this an example of the “fear o the other” sentiment that we have discussed at length in class? In Brian Lewis’s video, he discuses right wing politicians used strategies such as support of same-sex marriage as a tool for political gain. Is it fair for the government to alley with groups such as same-sex supporters as a political tactic? What does this say about the government and its willingness to do whatever it takes to win a vote? Is this democratic?

South African White Genocide and Why You Should Tie Your Shoes – Op Ed 2 (Late)

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton calls to fast track visa extensions in response to South African White farmers who claim “We are being hunted,” and has offended South African officials, and brought wider international attention to an issue that’s obscure to most.

Recent South African farm land seizures has been the latest racial tension between white property owners and the poorer black South Africans, in a long history of racial transgressions. Property owners feel disenfranchised by the State, which comes at an especially vulnerable time as the shadow of Apartheid inequality looms overhead. White Farmers cite anecdotes of the murder and rape. These are examples of an alleged ‘white genocide,’ taking place in South Africa today.

Context is important, and while violent crime including murder and rape has historically been quite high in South Africa, there is no evidence for white genocide. The South African Institute for Security Studies says that white farmers did not appear to be targeted more than any other citizen – racial motivation for these crimes is falsely ascribed.

Leading up to the American Civil War, Southern behaviour paralleled that of the South African white farmers in at least a few ways. In each case they identify an ‘other’, and establish themselves as victims at the hands of this other, and falsely ascribe motif to further entrench the Us vs. Them dichotomy.

In the American case, the Northerners disallowed the spread of slave institutions beyond what were known as the Slave States. Despite the majority not having any stake in slave trade expansion, this hypocritical victimhood complex reframed the restrictions on slave expansion as an attack on all Southerners.

The confinement of slavery was stigmatized as an oppression of states’ rights, akin to attacking Southern families ‘at their firesides’, humiliating their honour and to bring ruin on them. Notice the parallels in the rhetoric from the Southern American slave advocate, and the South African farmers, who both invoke family as a point to defend. This very effectively generated popular support to push the expansionist agenda of slave holders, which precipitated the Civil War.

It also has been an effective strategy for South African Farmers. By building solidarity with a larger group through victimhood, Southern Farmers too receive much greater political support. Despite no evidence for targeted violence against whites, this allegation has brought international recognition to white South African Farmers.

Closer to the truth than ‘white genocide,’ is that violent crime indiscriminately plagues South Africa. Probably whites are not targeted disproportionately as there is a high degree of black on black crime to consider. The statistical gap creates uncertainty on racial characteristics of rural South African crime, and needs to be filled in order to fully discredit claims of white genocide.

The lack of data on this topic implies much about the claims for ‘white genocide’, when no clear picture of farm murder statistics by racial demographics exist. It is an assertion based on anecdotal evidence, much less a systematic issue.

For economic reasons, land owners who are the haves, surrounded by have-nots, will expectedly be targets of violent crime in a violent country like South Africa. Though lies will circle the globe before the truth has a chance to tie its shoes.

Katie Hopkins does not tie shoes. She announced in January that she will be visiting South Africa, alongside many other far right personalities, desperately staking a bid to be the first to record a documentary of this alleged genocide.

Such zeal from these outsiders is misplaced when considering the statistical facts available, or the lack there of – but will history repeat itself? It is no longer a question of whether these farmers could succeed in drawing wider popular support on the false pretense of racially motivated crime – we have seen how successfully a minority interest can co-opt wide support in history. Lies have already circled the world, so tie your shoes.

 

FYI, the “War on drugs” is not a solution… OP-ED#2

The War on drugs started by the US President Nixon in 1971, has been an issue in the United States ever since then President dubbed it as an issue almost 47 years ago. To this day the United States is still wasting millions of dollars every day on this endless “war” that was started by Nixon , yet they still have not realized they have lost the war from the first battle.

It has been proven by experts that this war mainly affected minority groups, especially the ones living in poverty. The war has been referred to as a racist move by President Nixon by starting this war to create a racial divide, due to the “popularity” of marijuana in the “hippie culture” and heroin in black culture, while others are arguing that he saw it as a social “rot” that is going to ruin the US, and it bothered him. It has been noted that 15 – 20 % of the soldiers during the Vietnam war were addicted to heroin.

The United States have been fighting this war well-over 45 years, yet they still don’t seem to give up. The government haven’t realized that their costly attempts is actually not working, and they have not even considered to take a different approach

The war on drugs isn’t only taking place in the US, but it’s a huge problem in the Philippines as well that started not that long ago. President Rodrigo Duterte began the very costly “war on drugs” on June 30th 2016, and by costly, I’m not only referring to money.

According to the Human Rights Watch, the Philippines’ war on drugs has been responsible for the deaths of over 12,000 Filipinos in less than 2 years, and over 2,500 have been attributed to the Philippine National Police. To make matters worse, the police have been caught falsifying evidence to justify the killings, yet the president won’t take action and vowed to carry on with the war.

Between December 2017 and February 2018, just under 50 people that were suspected for using or selling drugs have been killed by the National police. During the two months, the police have carried out 3,253 raids that lead to the arrests and the deaths of 46. In 2017, a few police officers have been found guilty to the deaths of three teenagers, then they attempted to lie about the teenager’s deaths.

The Philippines should have learned from the US’ approach and how it has been unsuccessful for decades, and instead look at some of the European countries who have managed to solve the problem.

 Instead of dealing with the problem as a criminal justice issue, the US and Philippines could learn from Europe and deal with it as a health issue, it actually has been proven to be successful and cut down deaths by overdose more than 50% and decreased the spread of infections and diseases by needles, such as HIV, for over 50% as well.

Switzerland for example, stopped punishing offenders and instead lent them a helping hand. The Swiss government started to deal with the problem as a public health issue, so they started to supply clean needles, syringes, and safe & hygienic injection rooms. These precautions have decreased the spread of HIV by over 50 percent in 10 years.

Portugal had a heroin epidemic that used to affect 1% of the population, but then they also decriminalized illegal drugs in 2001. In 2012 they had 16 drug related deaths opposed to a 10.5 million population. The Portuguese view the matter of drug addiction as a health problem which helps in the acceptance of an addict in society. If addicts were to be viewed as criminals, this will affect their future in finding jobs since it’ll be on their criminal record. Therefore, decriminalizing illegal drugs encourages people to seek professional help without feeling ashamed or scared.

Dr. Christian Jessen have released multiple reasons on why waging a War on drugs has been quite unsuccessful. By criminalizing drugs, minors won’t get the proper education on drugs, they will be scared to seek proper & professional help and they could get their hands on illegal drugs without notice which will lead to possible fatalities.

Also, another reason for drug related fatalities, actual drug wars. It has been mentioned by Dr. Jessen how leaving the drug market to criminals could lead young people to get caught in the crossfire between drug gangs. When young people join drug gangs it could also lead to them being enslaved by the gang to smuggle or grow drug crops.

 If youth were to be caught taking drugs this will lead to a permanent crime on their criminal record which won’t help with the unemployment rates, and if it was the children’s parents taking drugs, they will be taken away from their parents.

Op-Ed # 2: The New Enemy? The Misconception of the Muslim “Invasion” of the West

The rise in nationalist movements seems to be directly tied to the perceived invasion of Western spaces by Muslims. There is a deep-seated fear of “losing” their culture in the heart of many Westerners due to an increase in refugees and immigrants since the Arab Spring of 2011. There have been reports that hate crimes towards Muslims have increased dramatically in recent years, and the topic of immigration and refugees is still a largely controversial and divisive topic. Islamophobia seems to be at an all time high, and there have been dire consequences, not just for those at the receiving end of these damaging stereotypes, but also within Western society as well.

Doug Saunders, journalist and frequent writer for the Globe and Mail, discusses in his book The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West? many of the common misconceptions circulating that fuel the belief of the “Muslim invasion of the west”.

This fear of “losing” culture seems to partially stem from the belief of high reproduction rates of Muslim people. To some, Western culture will literally be engulfed by Middle Eastern culture due to exponential growth of their populations. Saunders references research completed by the Pew Research Centre in 2011 that studied Muslim population growth. Though statistics vary by country, they estimate that by 2030 the Muslim population will account for 7.1% of the European population. These numbers are not as high as many make them out to be. Saunders states that “none of these studies project anything close to a Muslim majority…even the highest estimate of these trends would not produce a Muslim majority in any Western country during the twenty-first century” (Saunders, 2012, pg.42-43).

Additionally, their ability to integrate is brought in question. The answer to this is varied and complex, but studies seem to indicate that assimilation is embraced by most Muslims and this is especially true of their children raised within Western society. Furthermore, many who do wish to integrate may find a very difficult time doing so due to language barriers, prejudice and the need for adjustment to Western labour markets. Saunders quotes a Canadian study that indicated that skin colour, and not religion, was a major influence on the ability for an individual to assimilate into Western society and mentioned the existence of “ethnic penalties” within job markets (Saunders, 2012, pg. 75). Are immigrants refusing to adjust, or are we not giving them the tools to do so?

Image result for islamophobia cartoon

image source: https://5pillarsuk.com/2015/02/19/will-europe-ever-take-islamophobia-as-seriously-as-anti-semitism/

There are also claims of an increase in violence (specifically sexual assaults) and susceptibility to terrorist attacks within Western countries who have accepted refugees. The Swedish government has stated that “studies show that the majority of those suspected of crimes were born in Sweden to two Swedish-born parents. According to the most recent study, people from foreign backgrounds are 2.5 times more likely to be suspected of crimes than people born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents” (http://www.government.se/articles/2017/02/facts-about-migration-and-crime-in-sweden/). They do point out that there has been an increase in crime in Sweden, but that the number is actually equal to levels in 2005 – which was before the current refugee crisis. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that an increase in migrants from the Middle East has contributed to this increase in crime. If anything, they are more likely to commit crimes such as theft due to a lower socio-economic status as a result of language barriers, discrimination and adjustment to a new country.

This fear of invasion and the “take over” by a minority group is not something new, and we have seen xenophobia and isolationism rear its monstrous head time and time again throughout history with other immigrant minority groups. I am hesitant to compare this situation to other historically prejudiced parts of history like the Holocaust and the African slave trade as the circumstances, victims and motivations are different. But, the psychological and sociological causes and effects are hauntingly similar, and this is not an issue that, in my opinion, should be swept under the rug and allowed to fester any more than it already has.

I am not arguing for a certain solution to this issue, for the answer is undoubtedly multifaceted and more complex than I can begin to imagine as a third-year university student, but I think it’s safe to say that our attitude towards the discussion and deliberation surrounding this topic could be more empathetic and less prejudiced. I also believe that open-mindedness and respect for others’ cultural beliefs is something that is inherently lacking from this conversation, which is ironic considering we pride ourselves so much on having the autonomy and freedom to do as we please in the West.

I believe that we should try and learn from history instead of playing into the patterns that we’ve seen time and time again, and the first step is to properly educate ourselves on the reality of the current situation and not give into hyperbolic claims.

Do Environmental Leaders Support Pipelines? Op Ed #2

19 people were arrested on Monday at a pipeline construction site in Burnaby, BC. Hundreds more have been arrested since demonstrations began including Green Party leader Elizabeth May on Friday, March 23rd. In August 2017 a Carleton student was arrested at the protest of an oil exploration site in Quebec.

On February 1st, 2018 Justin Trudeau stated that Trans Mountain expansion from Burnaby, Bc to Strathcona County, AB will move forward and is in national interest during an interview with CBC Radio. Pipeline projects move forward despite overwhelming cases against gas companies in the supreme court and National Energy Board (NEB) including Chippewas of the Thames First Nation v. Enbridge Pipelines Inc and Clyde River (Hamlet) v. Petroleum Geo‑Services Inc.

The liberals committed in their platform to making scientifically informed decisions that represent public interest for the environment. On February 16th the city of Burnaby filed to appeal the NEB’s decision to approve Trans Mountain construction despite violation of Burnaby PPA and Tree Bylaws. Thousands of people are out impeding pipeline construction including Terry Christenson from Burnaby who was arrested for hanging in a tree hammock near a construction terminal, March 19th.

As of 2018 Canada is the 3rd largest producer and 4th largest exporter of oil in the world. Due to the geographic location of oil refineries, Canada also imports and exports oil in almost every province and territory, across indigenous landscapes, national parks, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Indigenous and environmental groups are among Canadians leading the legal battles against oil companies.

It is the decision of publicly elected government workers to approve the investments made in the country. Controversy over pipeline expansion and where to get our energy sources has been causing tension among Canadians for over a hundred years.  In an increasingly energy dependent society Canadians are torn on where to invest. As passion for the environment grows people are encouraged to find more sustainable options.

The issue creates tension among citizens. During a provincial assembly on March 8th Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced that her government would restrict oil exports from Alberta to British Colombia if B.C continued to impede on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. This threat of oil restrictions follow the Alberta government’s 2 week boycott of wine imported from B.C in February. “The wine industry is very important to B.C.,” Notley said at a news conference from the Alberta Legislature. “Not nearly as important as the energy industry is to Alberta and Canada, but important nonetheless.”

During a speech on March 15th, Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna stated that the Trans Mountain expansion will make B.C coasts safer. McKenna argued that pipelines cause high environmental damage, however improvements in marine safety associated with the project including $1.5 billion investment into Ocean Protection Plan would help restore B.C coastline. In response to why the environment minister would support expansion of the fossil fuel industry, McKenna argued that the economy and the environment must go hand in hand.

Do Canadians agree with the actions of politicians who pride themselves on being committed to the environment? Are the commitments to invest in environmental restoration projects enough to compensate for the destruction caused by fossil fuel infrastructure? Would it be more sustainable to divest in fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy? What is the popular opinion of Canadians in a society of increasing environmental awareness as well as increasing dependence on fossil fuels energy services.

In 2015 Canada was ranked 7th in world production of renewable energy. Hydro provided 67 per cent of renewable energy consumption. One example of a growing renewable energy company in Canada is Algonquin Power. Algonquin Power distributes sustainable energy from assets including wind, thermal, and solar power facilities across North America.

Many Canadians support the oil industry, however as public protests grow the government is called to reconsider their pipeline agenda. Despite overwhelming legal battles with oil companies, projects continue to move forward. While exercising their democratic rights through protest, citizens are arrested and left to wait in the court system. How many more people will be criminalized before the government’s actions represent the opinion of the public which elected them?

 

 

 

Op/Ed #2: Decline of newspapers could jeopardize democracy in Canada

Postmedia Quebecor 20141006
Photo: Huffpost

Last month the new Canadian Federal Budget set out $50 million for news companies and journalism hoping to aid in the decline of news outlets. While most Canadians agree that a trusted media and an informed public are key to democracy, the public does not seem to be interested in keeping this vital part of representative government alive. Based on a report done by the Earnscliffe Strategy Group, 3/4 Canadians say there would be a threat to democracy if news from TV, radio and newspapers disappeared. However since 2010, 225 weekly and 27 daily newspapers have been shut down or have merged operations.

Last year the Public Policy Forum released a report entitled the Shattered Mirror which discusses the importance of maintaining a news presence in an age of social media and online news. It stresses the importance of having real news in order to make educated decisions about the government and to keep the powerful accountable. The policy reform contains twelve actions on the part of the government. The first five are designed to improve the economic landscape whereas the next seven are measures to enhance the supply of quality news.

While the Shattered Mirror provides important suggestions for the government this will be done in vain if Canadians continue to lose interest in the news. Today, Canadians’ demand for news remains at approximately $29 per person, relatively low to countries such as France who spend around $73 per person, and Norway whose number sit around $180. This lack of interest is concerning as democracy relies on accurate and reliable journalism and it is the citizen’s responsibility to seek accurate news and remain well informed.

In a country as free and liberal as Canada, its citizens are taking media outlets and journalism for granted. The loss of the free press greatly affects societies. Take Soviet Russia for example, which was impacted by a harsh censorship initiated after the Bolshevik Revolution. Due to this, Soviet citizens did not have access to media or literature about the true state of their nation, or anything that resembled a critique of the Soviet Union. Under Stalin’s rule there was a lack of reporting on the secret police which lead to many of his political opponents to be obliterated without the general public having any idea.

Journalism is also important for the preservation of democracy. After WWII, the US occupation zone of Germany placed an emphasis on the importance of reestablishing the free press, which they believed was vital to denazification and recreation of democracy. Journalism was used to make sure that the government would be kept in balance and that there was counter-arguments and truth to threaten propaganda. The free press is just as important to conserving democracy today in Canada.

The total loss of journalism is linked to the total loss of democracy as demonstrated by many authoritarian countries. Can you think of a totalitarian country that does have free press? When there is no journalists to report accurate information to its citizens they lose complete control, and often this leads to the government being able to leave its citizens without vital rights and liberties. This is not something we want to see happen in Canada.

The downfall of print newspapers may assure in a new era of online media, however the difference in quality of the news will directly impact society and therefore is not a reasonable alternative. Newspapers are based on truth and neutrality, often taking several days, weeks or even months to research, fact-check and verify. However online news does not have these same safeguards. Due to this, giant online news platforms such as Facebook and Google produce news that is not well researched and often reinforced prejudices. In fact, studies show that approximately 83 per cent of online news found on these platforms is false.

Canadians need to redirect their interests towards the news and support journalism. By keeping citizens educated, they gain skills to spot fake news, authenticate sources, and read through bias. Most importantly they keep the government accountable. Remember, democracy dies in the dark.

Reconciling with a Troubled Past

In an article on CBC, professor Samir Husni claimed that National Geographic was one of the first ways for Americans to learn about the rest of the world.  In publication since 1888, National Geographic has almost been around for as long as Canada has been a country. Similarly to Canada, National Geographic has also had problems with racism in their past, and struggle to reconcile with those in a contemporary setting.  Recently Susan Goldberg, the editor in chief of National Geographic claimed their coverage of other races had been racist for decades and they wished to move beyond it.

This example speaks to a broader issue that we’ve discussed of how a corporation, or even a country, should deal with its past actions.  This issue raises several interesting questions because it has aspects to it that exist in a moral grey area. The world in 1888 was vastly different to our own and along with that came different beliefs and values that people had.  The idea of the freedom and equality of all races was not yet universally accepted and this was reflected in their media and beliefs. National Geographic portrayed people indigenous to Africa, Oceania and Asia with fascination as if they were a foreign and exotic, different entirely from the ‘civilized world’ of the West. 

As this changed and this portrayal of people of colour became less accepted, National Geographic published increasingly less racist issues but they would always have their origins in exploring the ‘other’.  So how does one reconcile with a troubled past? Is the solution to pretend it never happened and move on? Should they attempt to erase the past or reconcile for it? These questions speak not only to National Geographic, but nations and people as well.  Take for example the contrasting example of post-war Germany and post-war Japan.

Germany has attempted to reconcile for their actions by acknowledging the crimes they committed during the Second World War and integrating that into their education system, so new generations understand their past, and are able to move forward from it.  Through actions such as declaring January 27th to be Holocaust Memorial day and erecting several memorials to those who lost their lives during the Holocaust, Germany shows their attempts to reconcile with their past by acknowledging their crimes. The difficulty of this is that there is no quantifiable way through which to atone for the actions of one’s ancestors.  This is a difficult question with no easy answer for Germany. Japan on the other hand takes a different approach by stifling the events of the past.

One author in BBC discussed how their experience in the Japanese education system left much to be desired regarding the history of the twentieth century.  The Japanese education system plays down many of the crimes Japan committed during the early twentieth century including the Nanjing massacre and the comfort women Japanese soldiers took from Korea and China.  This approach indicates that Japan as a whole preferred to approach their past by attempting to take their actions out of public memory. This is made problematic by the fact that in China and South Korea, there is still animosity towards the Japanese for their role in the Second World War.  This creates a dynamic where children in Japan can’t fully understand why China and Korea would bear them any animosity because they do not fully understand the severity of what their country did during the war.

These examples, along with the recent news on National Geographic, paint a complicated picture of acknowledging the events of those that came before us.  Although there are no clear answers to any of these questions. The fact that any sort of reconciliation is being attempted is promising. Our social values and norms have shifted significantly in 100 years and this is reflected through how we treat our past.  All nations, as well as each of us, have something to learn from National Geographic’s attempt to reconcile for their past.

Italian Populism 2.0 -Op Ed II

In a world overrun with constant political scandals, internet debates and conspiracies, the results of the Italian election this month has largely blended in with all the other headlines here in North America. However, this headline in particular should not be ignored. The result of the election was that approximately 55% of the voters chose right-wing populist parties who based their platforms on xenophobia, Euroscepticism, and anti-establishment policies. This may come as a shock to some, especially as it contradicts the image of an idealistic multicultural Europe, but this outcome did not come out of nowhere. For one, the results are definitely related to the underlying causes of both the Brexit vote and the 2016 American election. However, the current rise of populism in Italy can also be directly linked to the rise of Mussolini in the 1930s.

This is not the first immersion of 21st-century populism in Italy either. For many years, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was the face of Italian populism. His big promises for Italy made him popular despite many scandals and corruption accusations. However, he was ultimately ousted from power in 2011 and barred from holding office following a tax fraud conviction. It would be easy to say his influence has largely diminished, especially considering his Forza Italia party polled poorly in the recent election. In reality, his influence in promoting populism has become bigger than him, with his more extreme right allies and opponents winning more power.  The two parties most notable for performing well this election were The League, an extreme right party known for their xenophobic views, and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

So, why did these parties do so well this election? For one, economic problems are a huge factor. Time and time again, economic hardship leads to disgruntled population, which in turn leads to the rise of populism. In the 1930’s, this was mainly due to the aftermath of WW1, which led to high debts, unemployment, and inflation. It’s no coincidence that Italy is also currently plagued by high unemployment, debt, and other economic troubles. The Five Star Movement received a large percentage of votes from youth in the South, an area in which youth unemployment is incredibly high. There is a sense of the necessity for change, which coincides with anti-establishment ideals. The League, on the other hand, is more Trump-like as they put the blame on the left, immigrants and the European elite.

This leads to another commonality; hyper-nationalism and the need to blame an “other”. In the 1930’s and 40’s, fascist leaders like Mussolini and Hitler infamously promoted antisemitism in their parties. Europe had had a long history of tensions between Christian and Jewish populations, and as such, Jewish people made for an easy scapegoat at the time. Nowadays, the primary scapegoat in Europe is Muslims. Recent terrorist attacks in Europe, as well as the refugee crisis, has lead to rampant Islamophobia across the continent. Italy is no exception. The sheer amount of refugees from the Middle East has only exasperated Italy’s problems even further, which makes them a convenient target for the right. Indeed, the League, in particular, has been promoting “Italian First” anti-immigration policies, many of which call for mass deportation. Both parties also look to blaming the EU in order to promote nationalistic ideals. There are a number of reasons why Europe itself makes for a good scapegoat. For one, the adoption of the Euro in Italy means it cannot rely on inflation and devaluing its currency as a tactic for an economic boost. There is also the sentiment of unfairness, as countries such as Germany are doing better economically and are seen as having more political power.

In the end, all of these factors create a perfect storm for the rise of the populist right. It may seem hasty to compare the current parties to Mussolini’s government. However, the circumstances are certainly similar. The parties platforms are certainly similar. Perhaps most importantly, the hatred permeating into politics is certainly the same.

Best and Brightest?

College and University campuses across North America are becoming ideological echo chambers. Universities have historically been a place where the best and brightest minds of our societies would have their ideas challenged. It would provide students and academics a place where all ideas could be presented, debated, and depending on how much evidence you’ve shown to support your ideas accepted or rejected.

Today, campuses have become the exact opposite.  Constant de-platforming and an exclusively left-wing bias that is enforced with an iron fist that even the KGB and Stasi would be proud of. Any conservative speaker who is invited to speak at any university is heckled. Protesters often interrupt the events by taking the stage with chants or pulling the fire alarm. Protests and hecklers reached their peak at the University of California Berkeley campus where riots were organized by students, and the far left group ‘Antifa,’ outside of the auditorium where speaker Milo Yiannopoulos was invited to speak.

They proceed to graffiti the windows, light fires, through objects and assault those who were waiting for the speaker. Having a make America great again hat made you a particular target for the angry mob. Something very similar happened again at UC Berkeley when Ben Shapiro a conservative jew who was also invited to speak.

Image result for uc berkeley milo
(https://beinglibertarian.com/saw-anti-milo-uc-berkeley-riots/)

The university had to brunt the bill for both events that cost them more than USD 800,000 for security fees.

In Canada, things are very similar to the United States. De-platforming in universities and an ultra-liberal bias in academia. The most high profile case here in Canada has been that of Jordan Peterson. Who was reprimanded for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns in class to one of his students and was opposed bill C-16. His lectures became popular on youtube after the massive wave of media attention. He became a symbol for many young Canadians and Americans of the excess of the liberal left and the importance of freedom of speech on university campuses.

A cellphone video captured by fourth year student Ali Yazdankia has been widely viewed on Facebook. It shows the second leg of Peterson's talk, when he was outside, speaking both to and over the crowd surrounding him.
A cellphone video captured by fourth-year student Ali Yazdankia. Peterson’s talk, when he was outside, speaking to the crowd surrounding him at McMaster University (Ali Yazdankia/Facebook).

The second most highlighted incident was at Wilfrid Laurier University.  Where Lindsay Shepherd a teacher’s assistant was reprimanded for showing a video of Jordan Peterson in her class. Her reasoning for showing the video was to show what the other side of the argument said about the gender pronoun debate.

But what is causing this?

Universities have become very dominated by progressive ideology. A study in the United States found that in university programs of economics, history, communications, law, and psychology Democrats outnumber Republicans in a ratio of 11 to 1. I suspect that the trend is very similar here in Canada. What is concerning is that the left-wing bias has bled over into the education where only progressive and leftist ideologies are expressed to the students.

Teachers instead of showing both sides of the argument often cement their bias into the courses they teach. Furthermore, sometimes classes will be overwhelmingly in agreement with their ideas and instead of playing devil’s advocate or encouraging students to look at the other side they demonize, exaggerate, underrepresent and discourage these ideas.

College Republicans began a twitter campaign called #MyLiberalCampus where they asked Republicans at colleges to express their experiences in liberal campuses. Unfortunetly for them it did not catch on.  However, the conservative Leadership Institute opened their first the website called Professor Watch.  Because of its success it later became merged with the main site called Campus Reform. The website became a place where students and professors would submit instances of liberal bias in Academia as well as to report instances where students where being reprimanded for expressing their political opinions at universities.

A diversity of opinion?

Universities should stand as complete free speech zones where all people can feel safe expressing their opinions regardless of political affiliation, race, gender or even if they a considered controversial. Often if a student disagrees with common perceptions such as, but not limited to ideas of diversity, affirmative action, or immigration they are immediately branded with the now unfortunately common terms of  ‘racist’ or ‘bigot.’ Even if they formulate a solid argument or have a legitimate concern about the topics they are still subject to all types of vitriol, scorn, and censorship.

What is important to highlight is how many of those who call for diversity in other aspects of life do not bat an eye at the lack ideological diversity in today’s campuses. Keeping a diverse set of opinions in colleges will only add to the quality of the education. If universities are in charge of training our best in brightest, they should be allowed to question anything and everything.

If we cant, have these hard conversations and converse the issues at the university where is it acceptable for them to happen?

The ideological echo chamber in universities is only fueling the political divide in our societies. The climate has pushed people to the discuss the controversial topics on the internet, not in the classroom.  Even though the internet is a convenient tool that has made out lives much easier it is also home to very radical ideas.

One of my professors told the classroom once: “on the internet, you  are always two clicks away from the daily stormer”.

It is clear to see the direction the internet is going. On the popular video hosting platform Youtube, which is considered one of the most popular websites for young people,  hosted a debate stream which featured Richard Spencer and other prominent members of the ‘alt-right’. This stream was number one trending video on the platform and amassed more that 300,000 views. Pushing ideas to the fringes, de-platforming speakers, the rhetoric sometimes used by liberals and hostility to anything not progressive or left wing is why the ‘alt-right’ has begun to multiply on the internet. Preying on young people who cannot express their feelings and opinions. They are susceptible to arguments by pseudo academics of the likes of Dr. David Duke or by descoussion blogs like the now infamous /pol/ board on 4chan. These ideas will only fester and grow if they cannot be addressed, debunked and clarified in the classroom.

Whats more dangerous however is that those calling for censorship do not realize that political paradigms do not last forever. In the 90’s they censored what they thought was satanic and demonic content. It failed and only put these ideas into mainstream thinking. In the future who knows who will be in charge and what ideas the censorship we have today will bring into the mainstream.  It is dangerous and totally irresponsible to set to limit what can be said and discussed in the bastions of knowledge and progress of our societies.

Can the EU survive the Migrant Crisis ?

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The Italian election which took place earlier this month brought on yet another painful blow to supporters to the EU. The Eurosceptic populist parties the Five Star Movement and the Lega Nord, dominated the ballot box gaining a combined 330 seats. The Italian election is only the most recent in a long string of disasters to plague the EU.

In the short span of less than 2 years, the UK has left the EU, Marie Le Pen and Geert Wilders were both only narrowly defeated in their respective elections, the far right Alternative für Deutschland party has gained seats in the German Bundestag, and the Italian Parliament has been overtaken by Eurosceptic populist parties.

This shift towards the populist right has done more than simply destabilize the EU, it has put the very existence of EU at risk. Although few of these rising populists would openly advocate for their nations to pull out of the EU they openly challenge the fundamental values which form the foundation of the EU. Values such as respect for human dignity, equality, freedom of movement, and pluralism.

The rise and success of these populist movements has been increasingly rooted in one particular issue which has come do dominate European politics, that issue being the migrant crisis.

  • Those who campaigned for Brexit notoriously scapegoated migrants as the cause of Britain’s economic decline.
  • Both Le Pen and Wilders made the supposed threat posed by Muslim migrants to secular Europe the xenophobic foundation their far-right campaigns.
  • The AfD in large part owes its success to the decision of chancellor Angela Merkel to admit nearly a million migrants to Germany in 2015.

The results of the Italian election are simply the most recent example of the issue of immigration resurfacing to the benefit of Eurosceptic populist parties.

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While many are quick to dismiss this tactic of exploiting the issue of migration and scapegoating migrants as xenophobic propaganda, what has become abundantly clear is that regardless of it’s validity it’s a tactic that has the potential to succeed.

What does this say about European voters?

While many are eager to point to the populist right’s successful use of scapegoating and propaganda as evidence for deep seeded racism within European society, few are examining the situation with proper consideration for its historical context.

This pattern of scapegoating a vulnerable minority in order the reinforce the view of a victimized majority is nothing new to historians who have studied the rise of historical populist movements. While this aspect of populism is widely acknowledged by both the media and the political establishment which have gone as far to describe emerging populist parties such as the Front National as neo-fascist. There is a second aspect that has contributed to the historical rise of populism which is almost entirely ignored.

Like its historic counterpart the modern rise of populism within Europe has been facilitated by a catastrophic economic collapse which has created victimhood among ordinary Europeans. Like the Great Depression which proceeded the rise of populism in Europe during the 1930’s, many have seemingly forgotten the European Debt Crisis which proceeded the migrant crisis and the following rise of populism.

In the face of insurmountable debt, nations such as Spain, Greece, and Italy accepted austerity cutting social spending in exchange for debt relief. This dismantling of social services has disproportionately impacted the poor and the middle-class.

This newfound sense of fear brought on by rising unemployment and a rapidly declining standard of living was unfortunately coupled with the sudden influx of an unprecedent number migrants into Europe which naturally have required a significant degree of aid in order to resettle within European society. Taking this into account it is hard to imagine a situation in which right wing populists would not have experienced a dramatic rise by scapegoating migrants.

The political establishment of the EU can no longer afford to simply ignore the efficacy of the populist right and its xenophobic tactics. It can also no longer dismiss the fears of migration as being inherently rooted in racism while ignoring the historical context in which this migrant crisis is occurring. The EU must walk a fine line between maintaining the support of its member states and defending its core values by living up to it’s humanitarian obligations. The only way in which both of these needs can be met while also disarming the populist right is by reprioritizing public welfare and the protection of welfare state. It is only by addressing the genuine economic fears of working class Europeans that the political establishment of the EU can effectively dismiss the fictitious fears which the populist right is desperately attempting to propagate.

Photo Credits
1. Maclean’s
2. New York Times