“Not that much attention is paid to the relationship between populism, media and popular culture” (Özçetin, 2019).
I find this to be a statement that is both true and false at the same time, true in the fact that there is a general problem with scholars ignoring the power media and popular culture has on the masses, being a central tool in populist rhetoric in modern times. However, on the flip side I think on a much lower level populist formations are well known with the younger demographic, these being the people who are not yet old enough to have obtained PhD, and do not have the experience of an acclaimed researcher. In a digital age you would think that their populist formations would be under more intense scrutiny due to how the internet makes this type of platform dangerously accessible to anyone anywhere, but even as global societies become more interconnected than ever before it becomes a readily expanding force that is impossible to control and more importantly keep up. It has become a tool for the far-right to make subtler, hidden behind “other messages.” These messages can come mainly in social media content, but can also arise from social & political movements of the 2010’s, such was the case for the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015. The attack against the satirical French newspaper was arguably for some the point where an increasing amount of far-right hate was generated as a backlash response. Furthermore, facism has been able to crowdsurf and lock in on easy exploits through easily corruptible continent, which is becoming increasingly easier to do with even the tamest of topics.
Below is a link to a source about the right-wingafying (if that even is a word) of cottagecore. An aesthetic that has grown popular through its romanticization of a simple life. With many mommy bloggers using this aesthetic to reaffirm domesticity and gender roles:
Neo-facism extends itself to many sentiments revolving with an ultranationalist outlook. It seeks to continue the narrative facism during its role in WWll, while transitioning its tactics to almost catch up in a sense with the then ever changing European political sphere. A past that in the hyperallergic article likes to point out isn’t exactly the past as there is a steady progression from the 1960s and 1970s to conceal or ignore rising neo facism. Each of the readings describe that while the major and blatant characteristics of facism have disappeared they have only been replaced by more subversive concepts by parties to get their message across, they find other ways such as appealing to the working class using terms then and even now like “shared values.” In the beginning neofascist movements were appealing to those who were angry (although that aspect has still remained)-at Europe’s departure from fascist ideology, the idea that this was no longer deemed acceptable and was being replaced with a suspicious and in their eyes week democratic system provided all the necessary tools to build up hateful attacks. Fast forwarding to the present day and not much has changed, the two major departures that can be seen across all European societies is the growing number of women at the forefront of extreme right wing parties and a discrepancy between government and the population. Both of which are factors of a population who feel left behind by their democratic counterparts, to the point where democracy seems as if it is actively working against the native (namely white) inhabitants.
Angelique Chrisafis, “From Le Pen to Alice Weidel: How the European far-right set its sight on women” The Guardian January 29, 2019
Charlie Jarvis, “Milan Museum Commemorates Fascist Past at Expense of the Present” Hyperallergic (August 2, 2021),
Grant Amyot, “The Shadow of Fascism over the Italian Republic,” Human Affairs 21, no. 1 (2011): 35–43
One thing that really stuck out to me in the readings for this week was the Guardian article, by Angelique Chrisafis in Paris, Kate Connolly in Berlin, and Angela Giuffrida in Rome; as well as the Hyperallergenic one by Charlie Jarvis. Perhaps this is because my major is journalism, but reading more recent examples of a fascist-leaning movement than older ones brings a more meaningful understanding as it is happening in real time.
In the Guardian reading, it really struck me how more women are moving towards a nationalist populism that was once so dominated by patriarchal ideology. Perhaps it is suggested that they are moving away from feminism as the article says. However, Le Pen rejects the term “feminism” because they associate it with an instrument of leftwing nonsense, replacing it with what the definition is, “women’s rights”. The Italian rightwing populist parties are targeting women as well with controversial messages that immigration brings misogynistic cultures that threaten freedom in Europe. These immigrants are mostly from countries with high Muslim populations. It all seems like a very manipulative scheme which we have seen in the west too, particularly in the United States.
Jarvis talks in his article about a massacre at Piazza Fontana in Milan, Italy. He also touches on how far-left groups (yes, left. Not right) like the Brigate Rosse waged war against the state through kidnapping and targeted assassination. However, the neofascist cells also sowed terror with massacres such as the one at Piazza Fontana. I liked how one journalist worded it, “the bombs that changed Italy.” Jarvis makes a connection with these relationships in regard to a museum. He explains that remembrance enables reconciliation between victims and perpetrators and also between the far left and extreme right.
Of course other articles this week also touched on Italy and its fascist past and present. But these two went really well together in explaining not only what has happened previously between the left and rightwing parties and supporters in Italy, but also what has been going on recently as a “look forward” type of ideal.
Activists march in solidarity with trans people at London Pride, 2010, reclaiming the image of the pink triangle, once used as a symbol of persecution for queer and trans individuals under the fascist and eugenic mission of the Nazis.
“An imported culture war,” decry critics in response to Drag Queen Story Hour UK. Despite the organization’s commitment to inclusivity and literacy, British conservatives, TERFS, and the Far-Right see it as an attempt to “indoctrinate” the youth into foreign “woke” principles. For them, trans inclusion is not only antithetical to the British nation but a threat to the nation’s future, represented here by children. This Far-Right vocabulary is becoming increasingly popular with anti-trans groups across the political and social spectrum, as a recent study by Global Action for Trans Equality [GATE] found. As GATE sees it, the decrease in popular support for trans rights in Britain is driven by mainly Far-Right actors “enmeshing” the two ideologies. However, this perspective fails to account for the innate historical connection between transphobia and the Far-Right. This connection, often surrounding eugenic talking points on ‘moral’ health and reproduction, negotiates the place of transphobia in alarmist, nationalist claims, one that breeds an incredibly fascistic potential.
Recent queer histories reveal that transphobia, as we know it today, was unfortunately born not long after trans identities were named in western culture and science. Much of this early transphobia was (and continues to be) centred around the western, Christian gender binary; grounded in the biblical dichotomy of pure versus sinful, anything outside of that, particularly non-Christian, non-White gender-sexual constructs, was quickly labelled as “deviant.” In the fascist worldview, trans people remained “deviants” who signalled the moral decay of the nation and represented an “ideology” imposed by ‘liberal elites’ in universities, medicine, politics, etc. It was, and is, in this climate of hate that fascists attacked trans people and systemically destroyed trans culture in the name of ‘tradition’ and ‘morality’.
Today, anti-trans movements in Britain continue to propagate the image of the “sexual deviant.” When polled, the British public remained divided on many trans issues. In particular, there was less support for the presence of trans women in women’s bathrooms and other ‘women’s only spaces.’ As in earlier Far-Right ideas about trans womanhood, many transphobes present trans women and the trans rights movements as granting “male-bodied people” access to women and girls in ‘intimate’ spaces; they imply that trans women would harm cis women and girls morally or physically. This rhetoric, in presenting trans women as naturally deviant and dangerous, also biologizes vulnerability for cis women. Furthermore, children are often seen as being corrupted by the supposed ‘inherently’ sexual nature of trans inclusion and education. Not only does this present an overt moralist image of imperilled innocence around which people can rally, but it again assumes passivity in children, subtly evoking the fascist image of the paternalistic family. These assumptions ultimately uphold the gendered fascist status quo, as they have done historically.
Historically, the conflation of trans identity with ‘moral deviancy’ justified the idea that being trans was an “illness” and one that could “contaminate” the nation, which underpins eugenic anxieties about race, reproduction, and the nation. Today these ideas play out in the recent Far-Right obsession with “de-transition” narratives—stories posited by transphobes about young people regretting transitioning and professing the supposed harms that it caused to their bodies. One of the most popular pieces of anti-trans literature, Irreversible Damage: Teenage Girls and Transgender Craze, posits (falsely) that the world has seen an increase in white middle-class teen girls seeking gender affirmation surgery due to “mental illness” and being “groomed” into “thinking” they’re trans. Much like Irreversible Damage, the de-transition narratives that circulate widely in these transphobic circles emphasize the loss of “natural womanhood”, that is reproductive organs like the uterus. In centring the reproductive capabilities of middle-class white girls, these narratives continue the fascist trend of designating women as “walking wombs”. Presenting young trans men as ‘groomed’ by outsider ‘sexual deviants’ and weakening the ability of (white, middle-class) “women” to reproduce, these narratives also prop up white supremacist anxieties about race “replacement.”
Bringing the nation once again into the picture is the eugenic policy enabled by this continuation of historically fascist rhetoric on trans people and reproduction. While past fascist regimes have been more overt in their attacks on trans people, modern Britain practices passive eugenics, namely the denial of safe medical care and preventing immigration. In 2021, one in seven trans individuals in Britain reported being denied medical care; conversion therapy remained legal for trans youth longer than it did for their gay counterparts; the use of puberty blockers, a life-saving procedure in many cases, was banned for minors; trans refugees are routinely denied entry. These systemic policies, not including the numerous attacks and harassment received by trans individuals every day, are dependent on the belief that trans identity is an ‘illness’ that deviates from the “healthy norm” (that is, in their eyes, cis heterosexuality) and poses a threat to the reproductive capabilities of (as they see it, predominately middle-class, white) girls and young women. As such these actions are passed off as ‘protecting’ the nation’s youth, health, women, tradition, future, etc.
Unfortunately, transphobia is an ideology that is growing, mobilizing alongside its historical companion, the Far-Right. While identifying these historical continuities is not to say that Britain is now fascist or will rapidly become fascist, they make us aware of our blind spots in anti-fascist work. If anything, this perspective emphasizes why we must see supporting trans-inclusive initiatives and the trans community as a distinctly anti-fascist action.
The intriguing aspect of post-war politics has to be the extreme shift and impact the left and right had democratically, so much so that I believe we can still feel the effects today. Each of this week’s readings seamlessly flowed over one another to provide a detailed perspective of both the historical events and thoughts of societies who were looking to reestablish themselves. Bar-On’s work delves into this matter by discussing the birth of Nouvelle Droite and many French national’s subsequent scramble to defend cultural identity. The need for a cemented identity in France took two turns, one in a liberal standoff for the emerging adolescent portion of the population in the 1968 student riots, and the other form of cultural homogeneity.
The riots challenged the democratic foundation to change traditional institutions as well as a contempt for leftover imperialist attitudes that were embedded in the conservative system (Confrontation Paris, 1968). This far-left movement wanted to uproot the seemingly unchanging right wing to move to a new era that better represented the rapidly growing interconnectedness more youths were feeling that the access of post-secondary education was allowing them. This unprecedented confrontation between the state and students changed the cycle of conservatism, shutting down the Gaullist Regime and the economy.
In a measure of opposition Alain de Benoist (founding member of the Nouvelle Droite) sought to annihilate the far-left as it was up-rooting societies across Europe. There was a belief that hierarchy was key in maintaining a functional and secular society away from international influence. The founding of the ND provided “new spaces” for other far-right wing political parties to emerge (217, Bar-On). Benoist provided growth for the extreme right wing in Europe that can still be seen to this today, which circles back to the present day facist movements that were discussed two weeks ago, which I believe further shows how widespread and rooted the ND has become since its inception more than fifty years ago.
As I stated prior, when anlyazing each of the readings closely the remnants and more so the influence WWll has had can be easily spotted when looking at the actions and beliefs of those around this time. On one hand we see a part of society who wanted to permanently get as far away as possible from the past, seeking to change it and move their nation into the then “global/modern” liberal concepts. On the other there is a seeking out of fascist concepts, masquerading them as traditionalism, to focus on internal matters such as recementing ideas of hierarchies, ethnic identity, and Judaeo-Christian world-view. All of which are straight from Nazi rhetoric. What is interesting to me as a final thought is the internal struggle that comes up each week with these readings, there is a present “need” to hang onto the past however it seems that when it comes to discussing the past and pulling back the layers of the rationale and history behind these concepts there is almost a denial of fascists to state that what they are doing is derived from Nazism.
georgelmosseprogram. “Confrontation: Paris, 1968.” YouTube. YouTube, November 1, 2012.
Tamir Bar-On, “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite.” Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 45, no. 3 (July 2011): 199–223.
Son of a blacksmith, born in 1883, Benito Mussolini was named after the Mexican revolutionary leader, Benito Juarez. He was a born revolutionary as people may say. Growing up, Mussolini saw the hunger and the struggles people in the working class had been experiencing; he was one of them. Later on, he became a leader of the Socialist party and editor of its newspaper but broke ties with them over an issue of Italian neutrality in WWI. When Mussolini began his banner, an army of followers soon came underway, some of them known as the “Blackshirt Militia”. People funded this movement when seeing Mussolini as a tool to suppress the radical revolution that they were afraid of.
Mussolini’s fascist movement promised a lot of things like extreme radicalism and extreme conservatism. But its main goal was action, which was achieved through violence. Fascism was fought in parliament, the press, etc. The arguments and fights to get rid of it were stopped when those of the opposition had been sent off to prison, exiled, and in some other cases, murdered. Fascism later turned out to be a more subtle reason to win the support of the Italian people.
In 1935, the Ethiopian war rallied nationalists more strongly around the fascist regime and showed Italians that fascism meant war. During and right before WWII, (1936-1943) there was a bigger distinction between fascism and antifascism. Underground movements were increasing in popularity, and fascism did not collapse entirely until Mussolini’s lieutenants cast him away, allied military victories got involved, and there was a rebellion of the people. Although fascism did eventually fall, could it be on the rise again? Could it be seen in North America?
On 25 September 2022, Giorgia Meloni (leader of the nationalist Brothers of Italy) took the lead in a far-right victory for Italy. She is set to become the first female PM in Italy, with her party that is directly descended from the fascist movement of Benito Mussolini. Meloni is known to pummel the European Union (EU), international bankers and migrants, and this has all spread concern about the reliability the nation has in the Western alliance. The Brothers of Italy party had won 26 percent of the vote, the highest of any single party. In 2018, her party won only 4.3 percent of the vote. This makes Meloni the “prohibitive favourite” to become the first female prime minister in Italy. Undoubtedly, the Italian population is slowly gaining interest in a far-right nationalist group.
Even though Meloni is a strong supporter of Ukraine, many of her coalition partners have a deep-rooted admiration for Vladimir Putin and have criticized sanctions against Russia. This is another issue the West is seeing. Seeing as Meloni is the leader of such a far-right party which comes directly from the fascist Mussolini, it is no wonder that people are worried about a rise in fascism. It’s happening in Italy right now. But is fascism an issue in the West?
Food and gas bills are skyrocketing under the “onslaught of inflation and prolonged wage stagnation.” Billions of dollars have been redirected by Western nations in this time of economic crisis to fund a war in Ukraine. The liberal class is terrified of a rise in neo-fascism and characters like Donald Trump who subserviently bid in the war industry and corporations.
The liberal class is in debt, and that means that those who publicly denounce the foolishness of permanent war and NATO expansion, exploitation of workers in globalization, neoliberalism, etc, come increasingly more and more from the far-right. This rage from right-wing people has been classified as “Christian fascism” in the United States and is making gains in Hungary, Poland, Italy, France, and others. Extremism is a holding of extreme political or religious views, also known as fanaticism. It is essentially radicalism, and there are political leaders (demagogues) who are promising moral and economic renewal, revenge on “enemies” and a return to lost glory. Remind you of a guy with orange skin, yellow hair, and who shouts, “Make America Great Again?”
Fascism has always been with us, and it might never truly go away even though it was already thought to. Far-right activists are gaining more supporters, especially over the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it may not rule out democracy, fascism and far-right nationalists are on the rise and the groups keep getting bigger.
It was never in my mind to draw such a strange comparison, but history is indeed like playdough. As anyone can alter the frame of the events, key figures, and ultimate outcome. It possesses the unique quality of being adaptable, for better or worse people of the past and present still use it today to come to terms, most often with prominent events in world history.
A week like this wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of Nazism, more specifically the aftermath of it all. Each author from this week focuses on some aspect of Germany having to figure out how to deal with the resulting consequences of the war on top of the sheer number of atrocities committed by their regime on a global stage. Arguably this was the first major time in which a single country in the aftermath of the war became the center of the world’s attention, with the major on everyone’s mind being what now? Author Werner Sollors describes the ensuing response by Germany to be both “a bureaucratic nightmare” and a “a site of German cultural memory… And denazification” (Sollors, 139).
On one part of history there is the political side of Germany, pushing the narrative of denazification on all of its citizens, wanting to instill into the minds the dangers of this ideological sphere and muting any remaining members of the Nazi Party/Nazi affiliation (Sollors, 141). Sollors goes on to describe the lengthy measures made to ensure the group would never rise again and also how the public was made to go through a re-education and lengthy process themselves to become a part of this “new Germany” (Sollors 142).
While the state wanted to refocus German society the media seemingly wanted to counter that idea by staying on the topic of Nazism by deconstructing it to its very core. The media of which I speak of is that of global media of the time, as Author Robert Moeller discusses in his work, “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg”(Moeller, 497). 1961 seemed to be rife with a global re-examination on the Second World War, with Adolf Eichmann’s trial bringing about much public discourse and reflection of the past sixteen years (Moeller, 498). Kramer himself was inspired to release the film in Berlin as he felt it was a testament to “how far Germany has come” (Moeller, 498). Personally I have always found the post-war media’s fascination of the fallout of the War to be interesting in itself as it almost demonstrates how different people come to terms with something so monumental.
History became a useful tool for the rebuilding of Germany post-war, as for them it became an opportunity to reflect and formulate a plan to reform their fractured society. Vergangenheitsbewältigung was never about re-imagining their own history but rather process of coming to terms with it all.
Robert Moeller, “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” German History Vol. 31, Issue 4 (December 2013): 497-522.
W. Sollors, “Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text.” German Life & Letters. Vol 71, Issue 2 (2018): 139-153.
As someone who had great grandparents who either fought on the front lines of WW2, nursed the injured or yielded crops, the topic of West Germany and Nazism is not completely unfamiliar. The main question in regard to this week’s readings is “What did coming to terms in the past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung) look like in postwar Germany?” If we look at the reading from Fulbrook, “The Diffraction of Guilt”, we see that a West German judge could still appear to have more sympathy with former Nazis than with their victims, even more than 20 years after the end of the war. It was added that a long prison sentence for the accused, in their advanced stage of life, also destroys their economic existence; and this makes it difficult to build it up again after the sentence is done (Fulbrook 323). West German interpretations of the law offer the idea that killing was a less odious crime if the victim had no suspicion that it was going to happen. From what I’ve gathered from these readings, the Nazis and West Germans were simply coming up with excuses to make their crimes come off as justifiable – which they are not.
In Sollors’ work, I found the explanation of the title of the reading quite interesting. “Everybody gets fragebogened sooner or later”, was described to summarize the American literary responses of the period (Sollors 147). It is seeming that Sollors makes many connections to America and its involvement and perhaps progression toward Nazi Germany. In Salomon’s version of the questionnaire in the chapter, it not surprising to Sollors that Americans are viewed as the true anti-semites (Sollors 150). He tries to expand on this, but I find this particular reading did not do fantastic in translating or explaining the quotes written in German. But in Moeller’s “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” there is also a connection to Americans being that Mann asks: was postwar America inching toward Nazi Germany? (Which I will be asking in this week’s discussion for those who stumble upon my reflection). In this article, in particular, Moeller gathers the theory that Kramer and Mann used the film to reflect on what America had done, and America’s transgressions. They did this, according to Moeller, by focussing on the fatalities and presenting German fascism as a tool to measure the forms of injustice that permeated the daily life of Americans in 1961.
Mary Fulbrook, “Diffraction of Guilt” and “Voices of the Victims” in Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice (Oxford University Press, 2018), pp: 314-336, 361-377.
W. Sollors, “Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text.” German Life & Letters. Vol 71, Issue 2 (2018): 139-153.
Robert Moeller, “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” German History Vol. 31, Issue 4 (December 2013): 497-522.
In this week’s readings, we learn about fascism and its conflict with internationalism. From what I gathered from the readings, largely from David Motadel and Paul Hanebrink, is that people very strongly believed that communism was a Jewish plot to destroy the nations of Europe which took hold during the Russian Revolution. Fascists instigated fears of a Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy which sparked a genocide, and was a part of what led to the hatred of the Jewish people in World War Two.
In Hanebrink’s articles, I think it is evident that this paranoia persists in today’s culture in right-wing nationalism. We see this largely in the United States today with their “patriotism”, and I believe an example in the article was of August 2017 where in Charlottesville, Virginia, white-supremicists and neo-Nazis gathered to demonstrate their disapproval of the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee – his military tactics were actually studied and used in WWII. Throughout this reading it is also evident that many people in France, Poland, Hungary, Sweden and the UK advocated strongly for a “white Europebof brotherly nations.” There is no doubt that fascism was getting to be more popular in this era of history as these far-right groups believed in a natural social hierarchy, and a subordination of individual interests for the perceived good of the nation and race. One of the literal definitions of the term. They did this by blaming Jewish “communists” – which some, yes were communist, but not the entire nation as a whole- for promoting homosexuality and multiculturalism. Which we again are seeing this today in parts of North America where these far-right groups stand. Essentially, all of these far-right groups were very anti-communist, which most people are today. However, the way they went about things in a way as fascist which is still not known to be a great thing as we’ve talked about.
In Motadel’s reading, we see that around the world, nationalist anticolonial movements were influenced by these ideals of strong leadership, militarism, by authoritarian principles of governance, and by the adoration of violence. This was also said in the reading to be superior to the liberal values of individualism, parliamentarism, and democracy.
To wrap up, we have learned this week that there are different faces or sides to fascism, and that through propoganda during the early 1900’s in which these readings are focussing on, people can be manipulated into siding with it. Not to mention Berlin’s “anticolonial nationalists illuminates the broader phenomenon of right-wing authoritarian anticolonialism that emerged in the shifting political landscape of the interwar years and reached its peak during the Second World War.”
Paul Hanebrink, A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism (Harvard University Press, 2018), pp. 1-10, 11-45.
During the readings for this week, as we have all read, the terms fascism and populism come up often.
When defining the term fascism, a lot of examples had come up, particularly in the reading by Frederico Finchelstein. There, I enjoyed the definition of the term populism as “a political form that thrives in democracies that are particularly unequal…” etc. But yet, this also proves that populism is capable of undermining democracy without breaking it. Finchelstein put it into good words by saying if populism extinguishes democracy, it becomes a dictatorship.
With regard to fascism, I liked that Donald Trump was a key topic of conversation. I found it interesting, yet it made sense to me, that Roger Griffin did not see Donald Trump as a fascist because of his own definition of the term. In his definition, for someone to be fascist, they need to have a longing for a new order, a new nation, and not just an old reformed one. Trump’s catchphrase is “make America great again” which to me, indicates that he did not necessarily want to go a new way in government, but back to how it used to be, I’m assuming prior to Obama. So by this definition, Griffin is correct in saying that Trump is not a fascist.
I am running a bit long here, but I just wanted to add lastly that there was a question in one of the readings about if fascism has really returned from its 1945 grave. As of now, I would agree that fascism hasn’t truly come back as much as others may disagree. Not by true definition. However, populism seems to be the bigger issue now as there is a rival between the common people and the “elites” or the 1%.
You must be logged in to post a comment.