Though the right has been on the rise for a while now the Covid-19 pandemic really sped things along. The Covid-19 pandemic opened a lot of people’s eyes to the faults in our system of government in society, it was a major shift in the way things were run and how things operate, but it also opened up the governments of all nations to criticism over how things were being run. This pandemic damaged a lot of people’s relationship with the government, because of a number of reasons, such as lack of transparency, many people started to begin to believe their government was lying to them which pushed people to seek out groups which agreed and validated them. With waves of misinformation, it was hard what to believe on one hand the government was trying to vaccinate people, but a number of notable people spoke out against vaccines, and pushed alternatives. From celebrities like Joe Rogan spreading tons of misinformation about Covid-19 and vaccines, to Donald Trump suggesting that people should inject a disinfectant as a cure people really didn’t know what to believe.
But all this led to large groups of people abandoning their trust in the government and seeking groups which spoke out against the government and spoke to people who wanted a change in leadership. I’m sure everyone in Ottawa remembers the Freedom Convoy which was a far right led protest against Covid mandates and travel restrictions. Many people who might not typically be far right were supporting this far right movement because they masqueraded as a workers movement. I personally knew a lot of people who supported this movement which came to Ottawa and held up downtown Ottawa for what seemed like forever. This movement led to similar organizations trying todo the same thing all over the world. But this is just one far right group which gained traction.
Many other far right political parties gained traction over the pandemic promising to fix economies and the countries that have been ruined by the liberal governments in charge, when in reality the whole world is going through hard times because we just went through and are still somewhat going through a global pandemic
The far right and Russia have always had a strange relationship. After the cold war many nations and citizens were still wary of Russia but things have gotten a bit better, but with their recent international actions its hard to want to trust Russia or support them. If you think to a few years ago the far right were probably the most against Russia, especially the far right conservatives in the States, but now if you go down to the states it wouldn’t be strange to see Russian flags and people supporting Putin even while he’s invading Ukraine. It’s weird to see far right Americans supporting a Russian leader even more than their current President Biden, but you see people like this all the time nowadays in the States.
Putin also has a lot of friends in Europe and they are making themselves heard. Lately the far right leadership in Europe has been aligning themselves closely with Putin. Politicians like Viktor Orban are clear supporters of Russia and he and his government have not been quiet about criticizing the U.S. and NATO for their involvement with the Russo-Ukrainian War. Even though Hungary is a part of NATO it stands closer with Russia than to its Western allies, which signals big problems if NATO can be divided like this. Orban and his government are now planning on not giving and aid to Ukraine, and to try and block NATO from giving aid. If NATO stays divided like this with dissenters like Hungary how can it act effectively against nations like Russia.
Fascists are bad right? That’s something I’ve known all my whole life. We should always avoid hate speech and try to be inclusive of everyone. Seems pretty simple, right? But then why has it become more common to see people overtly push far right hate fueled rhetoric with little to no consequence. And we aren’t just seeing this kind of far right speech on fringe internet chatrooms, we now see high profile politicians and influential figures in society openly pushing hateful ideas on the population.
The far right and their ideas have always been somewhat taboo topics which were only seriously discussed in more fringe groups or at least not so much in the mainstream. But lately the far right has become part of mainstream society just like any other political group. And with society becoming more polarized this poses a big problem. Politicians on the right are no longer just conservative they embody many fascist traits, focusing on race and religion as major issues. People like Giorgia Meloni and Vikotr Orban, two far right politicians who pride themselves on defending Europe’s borders from immigrants. They are both Christian as well and want to protect Christian values in their respective nations, which means anti-LGBT, and stricter control over womens rights. And in the states of course there is Donald Trump who was extremely anti-immigrant and used a lot of fascist rhetoric. It’s becoming clear that all over the world the biggest and most popular right leaders are the ones who are the most extreme such as the ones I’ve mentioned.
This normalization of extremist hate speech is a huge problem for society as it makes it seem normal in society to speak like this. We have been seeing a growing number of hate crimes all over the world which corelates with the hate speeches people are hearing on TV from politicians. And its not just politicians, celebrities such as Kanye West, Andrew Tate, and Kyrie Irving have all been publicly spreading hate. If this normalization continues it will make people think its okay to talk like this which needs to stop.
The Neffati piece focuses on print journalism and specifically the editorial reign of Philippe Val at Charlie Hebdo. This is old media at its richest: Charlie Hebdo had a loud voice in France and an engaged readership. During the Second Intifada in late 2000, Val engaged in a public debate via sequential weekly columns with other Charlie Hebdo journalists. It concerned the left’s support for Palestinians against Israel. Val received an “abundance of angry letters” (how clunky is that?!) from his readers due to his Islamophobic stance. Did his work aid populist villainization of Muslim immigrants? Not directly: the medium uses too many words and too much subtlety.
In the Doerr piece, we see the (right-wing) Swiss People’s Party’s use of a cartoon with white and black sheep to promote deportation of immigrants who commit crimes. This cartoon was important because it was adopted and applied by right-wing operators “across Western Europe”. These groups felt they were engaged in a transnational community of like organizations. This use of “visual communication” was powerful and re-usable: its full message could be understood easily by a mass of people.
The Ozcetin article introduces a multi-season TV show built to spread the government’s message on Turkish pride. A perceived slight of the show at an awards ceremony by “cultural elites” was seized on to make the populist message even stronger. Television is the insidious medium: a long-running show can bend the cultural fabric over time, establishing a new reality for the masses.
Finally, the Strick article, separate from its bewildering definition of fascisms as based on reaction to developments (isn’t that just regular – admittedly reactionary – politics?), introduces us to memes used by far-right actors. Similar to the sheep cartoons above, these are easy to create and share broadly; and they can deliver powerful messages. As internet memes these can go viral and be seen by huge numbers of people, beginning with radicals, and spreading to the potentially radical-izables.
Lately everyone has been worried about the rise of the political right, we’ve seen many right leaders take control over the past few years such as Giorgia Meloni who was recently elected Prime Minister of Italy, and she is the furthest right politician elected in Italy since the father of fascism himself, Mussolini. But since then, not much has happened with the right, they have been losing elections and seem to be losing some of their base, something that seemed impossible only a few weeks ago.
But now all over the world far right and populist leaders are beginning to lose support in their countries. In France Marine Le Pen was beaten again by Emmanuel Marcon in the most recent Presidential election. And the same thing is happening in Brazil where Jair Bolsonaro the far-right leader of Brazil has lost the Presidential election and will be giving that position to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who will take office in January 2023. Even in Britain, the conservative leadership is falling apart, Brexit is a clear failure in the eyes of British people and the world, and Liz Truss showed the world the incompetence of the conservative party.
But probably most indictive of the right beginning to fall off was the 2022 U.S. midterm elections, in which predictions where stating that a red wave would take over America, but when it came to voting day the red wave amounted to little more then a splash. The republicans were able to take control of the House but were not able to take the Senate from the Democrats. This election had a massive turnout from young voters and maybe this is the trend that will continue especially with the Republican party being torn apart by Trump. Almost everyone he supported failed miserably like Dr. Oz for example. And with Trump announcing his bid for the 2024 presidential candidacy, republicans have never been more divided, with Trump supporters on one side and Republicans who want to distance themselves from him and his craziness on the other. Either way Trump is not looking as threatening as he did back in 2020, he and the rest of the Right have begun to fail.
Over the past few decades Russia has been going through a phase of reinvention. The dissolution of the Soviet Union changed the way international politics and foreign policies play out all over the world. With the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia was left weakened and not the international powerhouse it once was. Once the Cold War ended the U.S. had thought they had won the war, which in a way they did, but it gave them the freedom to undertake more foreign missions without the worry of angering the Soviet Union, essentially the States were free to do whatever they wanted internationally, and they did. Immediately after the dissolution of the Soviet Union the EU emerged and rapidly expanded, pushing Western ideals further East and closer to Russia’s borders. Following this the U.S. led a coalition of Western allies to engage in the Gulf War. Without needing to worry about Russia, the U.S. and the West have been able to push their new world order on any nation that resists, which has continued over the past 30 years in many nations, especially in the Middle East, where the U.S. many times has left a nation in a state of total destruction.
But as time has gone on Russia under Putin has begun to become a player on the international stage once again. And there is clearly one goal in mind for Russia and Putin, to push back against the West encroaching on their borders. With NATO continuously pushing nations to become more Western oriented Russia has been pushed to the brink and when in 2014 Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was removed from office by pro-Western forces, Russia had had enough and Russia has felt it needed to respond with an Iron Fist. This prompted the Russian annexation of Crimea, and since then Russia has backed opponents of Western allies in places such as Syria.
Putin wishes place Russia back into its place of power it held for a majority of the 20th century and he is doing that by his military campaigns and proxy wars to install pro-Russian leadership, the same way the U.S. has been doing for the past 30 years. But unlike the Soviet Union, Putin is much more proud and less willing to back off from his goals when it angers the West. With the current war raging in Ukraine, Putin is clearly showing he is ready to push back against the West and recreate a buffer zone around Russia.
You’ve probably seen someone say the title of this post before. You’ve probably thought about how “”jokes”” can still carry political messages (political cartoons are a thing after all). Maybe you’ve even applied the term “post-irony” to it. This is the underlying theme I noticed in the readings this week.
The Doerr article makes this point the most clearly in discussing the ‘black sheep’ political ads. The ads are creating a moral panic over an issue that doesn’t really exist, and are doing so using subtly racist dogwhistles. However, they can get away with this by playing up the cartoon aspect and using a logo with a cute sun rising over a field. If anybody sees through this facade, the ad’s creators can simply deploy “it’s just a joke” and a series of rehearsed “”free speech”” soundbites.
This series of rhetoric is also present with Charlie Hebdo as shown in the Neffati article. Under Philippe Val, Hebdo published comics portraying muslims as dark, barbarian invaders aiming to colonize Europe. When this was criticized, Val simply labelled his critics as anti-semites. Val’s reaction exemplifies the next stage of this rhetoric: the victim complex.
Present in both Hebdo and the online circles discussed in the Strick article are islamophobes comparing themselves to Holocaust victims. Obviously, none of these people are anywhere near as oppressed as Jews were, but as Strick points out they still (falsely) claim to be victims of a genocide – the “great replacement” conspiracy theory. The great replacement conspiracy theory was already present in Hebdo, but it takes much longer to write and debate these ideas in magazines than it does online, so these online discourses accelerate the conspiracy theory.
This week’s content looked at Anti-Genderism and largely how Right-Wing Populism ties into the conversation on the issues. Notably, the reading from Paternotte and Kuhar go into detail outlining the differences between these topics and makes clear that these are not the same, despite might what be the expected association. At first glance, even before doing any reading I make the connection straight away seeing only the words “anti-genderism” next to “right-wing”. As a rule of thumb I understand the further right leaning a person is the more they might subscribe to ideologies like anti-genderism, alongside a whole host of other hateful thought patterns. I associate right-wing ideologies and stereotypical thought to be largely associated with hate and enforcing often religious beliefs on to others, which is often a key point in the discussion on anti-genderism. The discussion concerning the divergence of the two topics is interesting because of how often associated aspects of each are associated with the other. Anti-genderism is understood to have grown from Catholic and Evangelical origins; religious origins, with the parallel being that right-wing arguments and ideologies often hold religion close the heart of them. Obvious examples being that of arguments against abortion or in homophobic or trans-phobic thought.
This subject matter is very important and very topical, understanding anti-genderism alongside many other right leaning ideas about gender and sex are unfathomably harmful and serve only to hurt innocent individuals who don’t fall within the worldview of those who subscribe to these ideas of right-wing populism. Despite the arguments that these are separate issues present in the readings it is important to identify and understand the intersection of these topics to best comprehend and work to abolish issues of hate and bigotry.
The role that anti-gender populism plays is either an overt game or is subvert, all of which heavily depends on the social and political factors of a given nation. The two best examples from this week’s readings to prove this are the analysis of Poland, Hungary, and the UK’s struggle with anti-gender populism. All have the similar struggle of overt opposition towards members of LGBTQ+ communities but it is only the latter where this growing problem is seldom seen as a major issue both nationally and internationally. The fact that some countries are under more scrutiny than others over anti-genderism comes down to their international reputation and their further relationship with the Western World, as both Poland and Hungary are two countries in Europe who are constantly discussed as being one of the most dangerous places for LGBTQ+ members to live, with the homophobic rhetortic being much more inforced than other countries such as the UK. Both Hungary and Poland have had difficulty transitioning into a democratic society Post Cold War, with having no direct sense of where and how each government wants to direct national politics this can provide some clarity as to why both are leaning in to the far-right agenda more than the UK, as they both were countries in a constant state of transition due to two World Wars and the resulting aftermath of the Cold War.
Now all of this is definitely not to excuse the behaviours of those who continue to play into anti-gender populism and the growing intolerance towards LGBTQ+ communities, it does provide a basis to understand how these issues are allowed in their own countries to continue to grow without any direct consequences. In the Vice mini documentary it introduces Aleks Bach-Gapinski, a member of the LGBTQ+ community who lives in a constant uncertainty over the direction Poland will go during the 2020 elections, there is one part of his interview where he discusses being the victim of homophobic related attack. The video does not provide any sense that this attack was taken into just action by the police, seemingly being ignored with Aleks being left with no real justice. The Guardian article highlights a similar issue that took place with two women being targeted and assaulted in another homophobic attack, the only difference being that the attack here became blasted across national media, condemning the attack, the growing far-right, and the attackers themselves. Two completely different responses to two attacks that stem from the same problem, and while it may be easy to champion the national response in the UK over Poland’s, the problem still doesn’t go away, in fact it only provides a façade that populism isn’t as much of a concern in comparison to countries like Poland. Which is part of the problem itself, a condemning reaction can only provide so much protection towards political ideologies.
While the reading on homophobic and transphobic crimes increasing in Wales and England is of course something that should be of concern, I certainly wonder if Right-Wing populism is really the key factor in this increase. While I of course do not mean to undermine the dangers of populism and their antagonism towards the LGBTQ+ community, I feel that the article fails to consider perhaps the opposite lens, which I would assume is a general increase in openly trans and homosexual identification. I assume that in the same years that these crime rates increased (in this case between 2013 and 2018), there was likely a similarly large increase in openly LGBTQ+ members in the community. Especially because the article focuses on crimes per capita (rather than crimes proportional to the size of the community or perhaps the increase in crime in proportion to the growth of LGBTQ+ communities in the UK), I feel that the conclusion drawn is largely meant to incite fear of a proposed “huge” growth in homophobic and transphobic crimes. I feel the article is right in addressing right-wing populism hate, but the methodology of this article certainly seems flawed.
On another note, I felt it important to talk about the CEU. While our reading talks about a bill in April 2017, it was written at the time of it happening. Of course not to the authors fault, but this means it fails to highlight that the CEU was actually forced to move its main campus to Vienna as a result of this bill, which I feel is a big loss and alarming thought for gender studies in the country. In this regard, the article was perhaps a bit over-optimistic in their outlook on the situation, which certainly looked much grimmer only a year later.
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